After Friday’s debacle against the Washington Capitals, you’d think the last thing the Canucks would want to do is take a 5-1 lead. Really, that’s just tempting fate: you already gave up a 5-1 lead a few days ago and now you want to risk doing so again? That’s just foolhardy.
And yet, there the Canucks were in the first period, tempting fate in every way possible. With a minute left in the first period, they were up 4-1, a nice, safe lead. A respectable lead that you can take home and introduce to your parents.
The Canucks couldn’t leave well enough alone, though, and scored a fifth goal in the opening 20 minutes, giving them a 5-1 lead and giving the Florida Panthers 40 minutes to erase it. It was pure hubris.
Really, the Canucks were incredibly lucky to escape Monday night’s game with a 7-2 win. It was a close shave.
Hopefully they can get back to the usual one-goal victories from recent years, so we can all feel more relaxed going into the third period, safe in the knowledge that they’re not about to give up a four-goal lead. All the anxiousness caused by these large leads isn’t good for my heart.
Despite the lack of a heart-check certification checkmark on it, I watched this game.
- All jokes aside, this was an absolutely dominant performance against an admittedly-tired Panthers team on their second night of back-to-backs. Perhaps this was in the back of the Canucks’ minds as they jumped all over the Panthers in the opening minutes, racking up 4 goals on 13 shots in the first ten minutes alone. The Canucks were relentless and merciless, attacking in wave after wave, like a pod of killer whales that senses blood in the water.
- Rogers Arena has suddenly become a very unfriendly place to play for visiting teams. The Canucks have now scored 27 goals in five home games and have yet to lose a game in regulation on home ice. Of course, as the season progresses, this statistic will surely get more esoteric — “They have yet to lose a game in regulation on home ice on a day that starts with ‘T’ when scoring three or more goals” — but it’s still a strong start to the season.
- The Canucks did a lot of damage in transition by attacking with speed to back off the defence. It was strange to see. I mean, I’ve seen other teams do it against the Canucks all the time, but it’s really weird to see the Canucks do it to other teams.
- On the opening goal, Thatcher Demko came out of his net to play the puck up to Josh Leivo quickly and Leivo one-touched it to Sutter, who was gaining speed to attack through the neutral zone. Sutter chipped the puck through Mark Pysyk’s legs for Micheal Ferland to skate onto, then Ferland made a lovely return feed through Anton Stralman’s legs. Rookie goaltender Sam Montembeault, recognizing the pattern, dropped down to stop the puck from going between his legs and was shocked when Sutter shot it over his shoulder instead, but as any improv comedian knows, you subvert the pattern in the third repetition in the rule of threes.
- Loui Eriksson got into his second game of the season and made an impact on his very first shift. After Jay Beagle dumped the puck in, Eriksson got in on the forecheck and poked the puck away from Montembeault behind the net. Beagle got to the loose puck first and sent it to Tim “Schalatov” Schaller, who dragged the puck in front and jammed it past the addlepated netminder for his fourth goal in three games.
- EDIT: In what is being described as "The most Loui Eriksson thing to every happen," the NHL has taken away Eriksson's assist from last night, on the flimsy reasoning that he "technically never touched the puck" or whatever. As a result, Eriksson is the only Canucks forward that did not register a point in the Canucks' 7-2 drubbing of the Panthers.
- At this point, Schaller is nearing Cowan the Brabarian levels of fourth-line goal-scoring, so be aware of flying undergarments in Rogers Arena.
- Jake Virtanen extended his scoring streak as well, netting his third goal in three games by doing what fans constantly clamour for him to do: go hard to the net. Again, it was an attack in transition, as a nice cross-ice pass by Tanner Pearson sent Bo Horvat through the neutral zone with speed. Horvat chipped the puck off the boards to himself to get past Mackenzie Weegar, then threw the puck on net, where Virtanen made like Josh Smith and slammed home the rebound.
- That was (temporarily) the end of the night for Montembeault, who was pulled after allowing three goals on nine shots in just over three minutes. Entering the net in his place was Sergei Bobrovsky, who came into the game with a sparkling .874 save percentage, because sometimes bad things sparkle too. That is slightly worse than what the Panthers were hoping for when they gave him a seven-year, $70 million contract.
- Bobrosvky’s save percentage got worse. After the Panthers got a goal back off a Josh Leivo turnover at their blue line, the Canucks’ top line went to work. Elias Pettersson gained the offensive zone, lateraled the puck to J.T. Miller, then ran a blocking route up the middle, blatantly interfering with Josh Brown. Instead of following his blocker like a good running back, Miller shot the puck instead, beating Bobrovsky with a rocket over the left shoulder. It’s a shame; he could’ve gotten the first down.
- That was a goal from every line for the Canucks and the game wasn’t even ten minutes old. The only Canucks forward that didn’t have a point was Brock Boeser and he was robbed by Bobrovsky a few minutes later. Basically, every single Canuck was on top of their game all at once, and it was pretty marvelous to watch.
- That included Ferland, who had his best game as a Canuck. After a superb cross-ice pinch by Alex Edler to keep the puck in at the Panthers’ blue line, Ferland played a neat give-and-go with Edler, dropping the puck to him at the blue line then chasing down Edler’s bank pass off the end boards. Spotting Leivo coming off the bench, Ferland found him unmarked at the back door for the easy finish into the open net.
- That read by Edler on the Leivo goal is something else. He spotted exactly where the Panthers’ breakout was going and made a bee-line from the left point to break it up. It was part of a three-assist night for the veteran defenceman, giving him 9 points in 11 games, good for 10th among NHL defencemen in scoring.
- So, that was the first period. Goodness gracious.
- Surprisingly, Montembeault came back into the game for the start of the second period, as the Panthers decided that it might be best if Bobrovsky got a little more rest with the game pretty much over. The two goals against on six shots bumped his save percentage for the season down to .870.
- The outcome of this game was never really in doubt. The Panthers got a second goal off a power play one-timer by Mike Hoffman that busted Thatcher Demko’s water bottle, but that’s all they would get. Demko made 28 saves on 30 shots to secure his third win of the season.
- The first line restored the four-goal lead heading into the third period with another goal in transition. Pettersson picked off a pass in the defensive zone, then drove up the right wing, shoulder checking constantly like he was taking a driver’s test. Then he pulled a U-ey, instantly failing his test, then set up Edler for a point shot, which Miller tipped past Montembeault.
- The most important moment of the third period came early on when Elias Pettersson came out on the ice for his very first defensive zone start at 5-on-5 of the season. He still didn’t take the faceoff — he didn’t take any faceoffs all game — but he started a shift in the defensive zone. Shockingly, nothing terrible happened and Pettersson, in fact, immediately helped the Canucks exit the defensive zone with possession of the puck and attack the Panthers in transition. Weird.
- Nothing was going right for the poor Panthers, as exemplified by Jayce Hawryluk, who could’ve sworn he scored midway through the third period, but his shot went off Demko’s arm and off the crossbar. “No?!” he said incredulously to the referee, then gave the ref one more wide-eyed stare, gathered his thoughts, and shouted a very distinct expletive before skating off.
- Boeser very clearly did not want to be the only Canucks forward without a point in this game. He had the breakaway chance in the first, rung a crossbar on a power play one-timer, and hit another post in the second period. He and his linemates were utterly dominant, with the Canucks out-attempting the Panthers 21-6 with Boeser on the ice at 5-on-5, but he just couldn’t score.
- Finally, Boeser broke through after an aggressive pinch down low by Quinn Hughes. The puck came free to Pettersson behind the net and he put a perfectly-weighted pass on Boeser’s tape, but it was off his stick in a hurry; unlike Kanye West, Boeser wasted no time with his latest release.
- Just like that, the Canucks have points in eight of their last nine games and are tied with the Colorado Avalanche for the league’s best goal-differential at plus-14. The good times are rolling and now the Canucks will look to keep them rolling as they head out on the road down the coast of California.