November 15 2016 10:58PM
So tonight, my daughter and I sat down to watch the Canucks face off against the New York Rangers.
In cute news, I've never seen her more excited than she gets when the broadcast team says "Luca Sbisa".
In less cute news, the Canucks lost 7-2, meaning the team still has only two wins after their impressive start to the season. Y....ikes.
Final Score: Rangers 7, Canucks 2
The game started off surprisingly even, possibly even tipped in Vancouver's favor; the first three shots went to the home team, and the first period was an excellent 20 minutes of give-and-take hockey between one of the Eastern Conference's best and the Canucks.
Then the Rangers scored their first goal, and everything went downhill from there.
A few bright spots popped out - including a nice tally for Brandon Sutter and another for Markus Granlund - but ultimately, the final 40 minutes was just the Canucks playing catch-up while the Rangers wiped the ice with what was left of Jacob Markstrom in net.
JT Miller and Kevin Hayes walked circles around the Canucks defense all night, scoring two goals apiece. Mats Zuccarello continued to be lethal with a goal of his own, and Brady Skjei was one of the most noticeable defensemen for the Rangers - and that says something on a team with Ryan McDonagh. Add in goals for Brandon Pirri (oh, that's where he is this year) and Nick Holden (who??) and that's a wrap.
Both teams left a lot to be desired on the blue line, but good goaltending ultimately won out - and Henrik Lundqvist allowed just two goals in a tough loss for Vancouver.
Brandon Sutter. If you remember anything I said last year, you'll remember I was a fairly vocal skeptic of the Sutter deal. It still could have been better - I think the Canucks could have gotten Sutter for less - but what I've seen of him so far this year has been pretty all right. He was a great offensive presence during the game, and scored the team's first (and almost only) goal.
Troy Stecher. What a treat! Is he this year's Ben Hutton? Too soon to tell, but I wouldn't be mad about that.
Brendan Gaunce. My first thought about him - this dude skates like he's got lead painted on his toenails. My next thought - oh, he knows where to be in enough time to lift up his lead feet and get there. I'm not convinced he'll ever be a high-line forward, but I liked Gaunce's game enough in a poor showing for Vancouver.
The Sedins. (Duh. They're always good.)
Markstrom is having one of those days when you can't even dress yourself without help. pic.twitter.com/aJOl2vknCq— InGoal Magazine (@InGoalMedia) November 16, 2016
Jacob Markstrom has plenty of potential starting power. The Canucks are going to be perfectly fine with him and heir apparent Thatcher Demko in the coming years.
That being said, this wasn't his best game. I thought he played his depth wrong from start to finish, and he got burned on a few goals because he just didn't look comfortable enough with his reads. Probably just a bad game, but still a low point nonetheless. He finished the game with a .720 save percentage, stopping just 18 of a measly 25 shots faced.
The Defense. Oy. At best they were inconsistent; during Mats Zuccarello's third period goal, they were outright absent. The team's biggest problem seems to be scoring, but their defense sure ain't great, either.
Ben Hutton. If Troy Stecher is this year's blue line darling, Hutton has struggled - big time. It could just be his pairing, it could be he's in a slump, but he looked not great. It's hard to pinpoint how to fix him, because he looks almost like a different player from last year - but it hurts to watch him failing to shine like he did as a rookie.
The Canucks held possession for most of the game - but it's also indicative of them losing.
They did well in the first period, keeping things even against a tough New York team. Then, they outshot the Rangers the rest of the way because of score effects - and with Henrik Lundqvist across the ice, that just wasn't good enough.
The positive to this, though, is that the Canucks at least pushed to try and even things up, even when they got really out of hand.
The Canucks this year, when they're playing well, look significantly better than when the Canucks played well last year. Peak 2016-17 Canucks is a decided improvement over Peak 2015-16 Canucks.
Last year, though, the team found themselves trailing off in the third period fairly regularly; this year they've done the opposite, but that's almost certainly been because they head into the third period trailing so frequently.
Maybe every move Jim Benning has made so far has actually made the Canucks a better team. If that's the case, though, it certainly doesn't show every night. The defense is still a bit of an unmitigated disaster, the offense couldn't find a way to capitalize on second scoring chances (not that Lundqvist allows many of those, but still) and the goaltending was atrocious. It was a bad game, but the team can't just be judged on how well they play in their wins - with just two in 13 games, it's more indicative to look at how the team plays when they lose.
The bottom line is that the Canucks are only ahead of Arizona in the west - and with three games in hand, they should be just three points ahead of the divisional rival.