IWTG: Canucks lower the Capitals’ case in the shootout

Canucks 2 - 1 Capitals (SO)

Pass it to Bulis

Pretty much everyone knows someone that has been affected by cancer. For me, it’s my sister, who was first diagnosed with breast cancer when she was just 23, then again 12 years later. I was only 11 when she was first diagnosed and barely understood what was going on, but I could feel the fear from the rest of my family.

Now that I’m older, I understand how close I came to losing my sister and I’ve seen the ongoing health complications that have dogged her ever since. It’s hard to even think about sometimes, but I’m grateful for her fighting spirit that kept her advocating for her own health when doctors repeatedly misdiagnosed her, and for the doctors and medical staff that finally listened and helped her win both her battles with cancer.

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For those following the Canucks, cancer has been at the front of our minds over the last month. For fans that listen to sports talk radio or are part of the conversation on Twitter, we’ve all been shaken by the passing of Ian Cooper, aka. @1Cooop or “Ian from Maple Ridge,” earlier this month. Cory Hergott has arranged a GoFundMe to help Coop’s family.

A week earlier, Jacob Markstrom’s father passed away after a battle with cancer. It’s impossible to imagine what he’s been going through over the last several months.

On Saturday, the Washington Capitals held Hockey Fights Cancer Night and declared an “honourary starting lineup,” bringing out six young kids, who have battled or are currently battling cancer, with the Capitals’ actual starting lineup. It was an emotional sight and even re-watching the video brought tears to my eyes.

I got choked up and I couldn’t help but think of my sister before I watched this game.

  • A couple games ago, the Canucks had one of their worst efforts of the season against the Dallas Stars. On Saturday against the Capitals, they had one of their best. Just like the last time the Canucks faced the Capitals, the two teams needed a shootout. Unlike last time, the Canucks didn’t give up a four-goal lead, so likely gave Travis Green fewer grey hairs.
  • It looked like this might be another high-scoring game when the Capitals opened the scoring just 2:22 into the first period. Jake Virtanen lost a puck battle down low to Lars Eller, then got caught puck watching as Quinn Hughes moved to check Eller. Nobody picked up Jakub Vrana at the top of the faceoff circle except for Eller, who set him up for a one-timer past Markstrom. Either Virtanen or Adam Gaudette needed to pick up the check, but both forgot their wallets at home.
  • As has happened several times this season, the Canucks lost a defenceman in the first period. Alex Edler left the game with a reported upper body injury. There was speculation that he may have been injured on a big hit by Alex Ovechkin, but the Sportsnet broadcast suggested he may have been hurt while checking Travis Boyd a few minutes later; Boyd’s skate came up and clipped Edler in the arm.
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  • Losing the Canucks’ leader in time on ice is far from ideal. Hopefully he won’t be out for long, but the Canucks had no update on his status after the game.
  • Without Edler, the other Canucks’ defencemen stepped into the breach, with Chris Tanev, Tyler Myers, Quinn Hughes, and Jordie Benn all playing over 22 minutes. Benn, in particular, took over Edler’s role on the penalty kill, playing over four minutes shorthanded. Troy Stecher, meanwhile, played just 17:25. It seems telling that that’s his third highest ice time of the season.
  • Josh Leivo quietly had a strong game for the Canucks, drawing two penalties with his strong drive, one of which eventually led to the Canucks’ only goal in regulation. Not much of what he did hit the scoresheet, but he still had a big impact on the game. My six year old would describe him, as he describes pretty much everything these days, as “silent, but deadly.”
  • No seriously, my six year old the other day asked for the radio to be turned off. He said he wanted his ride home from school to be silent, but deadly. We did the silent part, but refrained from crashing our van into a river, or anything like that.
  • Elias Pettersson turned the first penalty Leivo drew into a 5-on-3 with some shifty moves along the boards, then turned on a J.T. Miller pass with a railgun of a one-timer from the PetterZone. Michael Kempny lost his stick on the penalty kill, and Miller and Pettersson took advantage. Miller looped up high, drawing Kempny out of Pettersson’s shooting lane, then set up Pettersson to beat Braden Holtby top corner, where heathens dog-ear their books to keep their place.
  • That’s the first one-timer goal on the power play for the Canucks all season, right after I pointed out they haven't scored one. It may have taken a two-man advantage and a lost stick, but a penalty kill finally gave Pettersson enough room to blast a one-timer. Fittingly, it came in Washington, where Alex Ovechkin has scored approximately a gazillion similar goals from the opposite side of the ice.
  • Surprisingly for two high-scoring teams, that was it for goals. Both teams came close — Myers pulled a puck off the goal line, while Horvat shoveled a great pass from Myers just over the net — but Markstrom and Holtby were both rock solid, which is much better then being liquid or gaseous when it comes to stopping pucks. Both goaltenders made 32 saves on 33 shots.
  • The Canucks came agonizingly close to scoring the game-winning goal with four minutes left. Off a scrambled draw, Pettersson sent a pass between his legs to Tanner Pearson in front, leading to chaos in front of the Capitals’ net. The puck squirted out to Hughes with an open net, but Holtby somehow got across to rob him. Even in slow motion, it’s not entirely clear how the puck didn’t go in, but Hughes’s shot was on target.
  • Overtime was a blast, with the Canucks getting a 4-on-3 power play, while the Capitals replied with two breakaways. The last one came with just 20 seconds left, as Miller tried an ill-advised deke around T.J. Oshie. Miller made up for his mistake, chasing down his alternate-universe counterpart: J.T. lifted T.J.’s stick at the last second to steal the puck.
  • Miller’s backcheck was impressive, but he couldn’t have done it without a boost from Hughes. Just before Miller lifted Oshi’s stick, Hughes gave Miller a shove with his stick, allowing Miller to close the gap a little bit quicker. That kind of backcheck boost isn’t uncommon, but rarely as well executed and important as that one was.
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  • That last 20 seconds of overtime was wild. There was the breakaway and the backcheck, then a point-blank one-timer from Ovechkin that Markstrom stared down and took square in the chest, then Ovechkin got fancy, flipping a puck in the air to set himself up on the other side of the crease, but Markstrom jabbed the puck away at the last moment. Look, just watch it, it was nuts.
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  • That led to a shootout where no one could score. It looked like Lars Eller had given the Capitals a lead in the fifth round, but video review revealed his shot hit both the post and the crossbar and stayed out. It took until the seventh round for Bo Horvat to end it, combining a head fake with a quick stick to put the puck just inside the post. It’s understandable the head fake worked so well: Horvat has a very commanding head.

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