Well, that went poorly.
The Vegas Golden Knights took the Canucks to task in this game, particularly in the second period, which might have been the worst period the Canucks have played all season. It was painful to watch, so I can’t imagine how painful it was to play.
Let’s discuss some caveats, here. The Canucks were playing their second game of back-to-backs. It was their third game in four nights, with travel to deal with between each game. They were playing against the Golden Knights, who are arguably the best team in the Pacific Division.
Of course, the Golden Knights were also playing their third game in four nights and just got back from a road trip, so maybe fatigue shouldn’t have been a major factor. The Canucks are supposed to be a team that can compete with the best in the NHL, with a lot staked on making the playoffs, so the quality of competition is neither here nor there. They can't afford a performance like this.
The Canucks looked a step slow all night: slow on the forecheck, slow to loose pucks, slow to pick up their checks. Slow and steady sometimes wins the race, but only if the speedy folks stop to take long naps and for some reason T-Mobile Arena played excusively pump-up jams instead of lullabies, which kept the Golden Knights awake all game.
I was awake too, because if I fell asleep, I would have been able to watch that game.
- The Canucks got walloped in the shot totals: Vegas out-shot them 46-to-29, with the second period skewed furthest towards the Knights. Shots were 19-to-5 for Vegas in the middle frame, but even that felt like the stats-counters were being very charitable towards the Canucks.
- Seriously, this was one of the shots credited to the Canucks in the second period: a bank pass from the defensive zone that missed all its intended targets and happened to slide in on Marc-Andre Fleury.
- Before we get to the second period, however, we have to address the first, where the Canucks once again found themselves chasing the game after giving up the opening goal. Earlier in his Canucks career, Markstrom struggled with giving up goals on the first shot of the game, but that hasn’t been an issue lately. Against the Golden Knights, however, he couldn’t see past a Valentin Zykov screen and Nick Holden’s point shot went off his glove and in.
- Elias Pettersson responded with a goal of his own on a tremendous effort after Chris Tanev’s shot got deflected to him. Marc-Andre Fleury robbed him on his first shot attempt, but the effort slid Fleury sideways, like he was strafing in a first-person shooter, sending him right out of his net. Pettersson dove out with one hand on his stick, and swatted the rebound into the open net with what was technically a backhand.
- There’s an argument to be made that the Canucks should have started Michael DiPietro against the Golden Knights, giving Markstrom some rest on the second night of back-to-backs, but given the way the Canucks played, that would have been a tough second-career start for DiPietro. In any case, Markstrom was fine, even if more than fine would have been preferable.
- The one goal Markstrom could have done better was the 2-1 goal, where he juggled a rebound on — to be fair — a hard-shot one-timer, with the puck dropping onto the stick of Zykov. Even then, Zykov’s shot ramped up Chris Tanev’s stick and just under the bar; Markstrom might have made the save otherwise.
- Given the number of Grade-A chances the Canucks gave up, there’s no blaming Markstrom, and he made some fantastic saves. It’s understandable, though, that Travis Green pulled him after five goals against, the first time he’s been pulled since March 9th, 2019, when he also gave up five goals to the Golden Knights, albeit all in a 13-minute span in the first period.
- The second period got ugly, as the Canucks were chasing the play like William Shakespeare’s 16th-century groupies. On the 3-1 goal, it was Pettersson losing track of Jonathan Marchessault at the backdoor. On the 4-1 goal, Horvat, covering for a pinching Quinn Hughes, didn’t recognize the danger of a potential 2-on-1, leading to an easy goal for Mark Stone.
- Frankly, the Canucks were lucky to only give up two goals in the second period. At one point near the end of the period, the Canucks were stuck in the defensive zone for a literal minute-and-a-half, with the shifts for Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Tyler Motte, Jordie Benn, and Troy Stecher all lasting longer than two minutes. They were dog-tired — like, a really old dog with dog arthritis — but the closest Vegas came to scoring was a post from Max Pacioretty.
- The Canucks looked to start a comeback in the third period, with two of their young guns combining for a goal. Boeser dropped a puck off at the point for Quinn Hughes, who jumped down the boards and looped behind the net. Meanwhile, Boeser cut in from the point and went unchecked to the top of the crease, where Hughes found him with a soft touch. Boeser went with a harder touch, going top shelf, right next to the elf.
- This was not a good game for Tyler Myers, who probably misses October a lot. His decision-making wasn’t great, like on this bizarre neutral zone gamble that nearly turned into a 2-on-0 for the Golden Knights, but for Hughes alertly getting back to break up the play.
- Myers looked particularly bad on the Knights’ fifth goal. First off, he was in too deep, without meaningfully affecting a puck battle that already had two Canucks in it. Then, instead of beating feet back to his position to replace Adam Gaudette, who was covering for him, he stopped skating entirely. Pacioretty beat Gaudette wide and deked around Markstrom, while Myers didn’t even pick up the trailer on the play, Chandler Stephenson, who would have been wide open for a rebound. It wasn’t his finest moment.
- That brought DiPietro into the game for his second career NHL game. He looked great in relief, which was a great relief after his disastrous first game. He made a stunning stop on William Carrier after an end line pass, flashing out his blocker to turn aside the point blank chance. Also, goodness gracious was Carrier ever wide open.
- Jake Virtanen just keeps scoring, which will help quiet the concerns surrounding the rest of his game. He scored in his second-straight game, this time on the power play, with some great speed down the left wing, and a nasty little snap shot past Fleury’s blocker.
- Pacioretty restored the three-goal gap before the end of the game, however, taking advantage of a loose gap from Jordie Benn on a Vegas power play to rip a wrist shot under DiPietro’s right arm. DiPietro got a piece, but just like with pizza, a piece is never enough.