These aren’t your fathers #Perds. Nor is this year’s incarnation of the Vancouver Canucks your one-year older brother’s. With less than desirable results last season, both teams underwent a series of changes to recapture the buzz of their respective markets and rekindle their offensive fire.
The early returns have these teams planted firmly in the playoff picture with room to spare. Best of all though, both clubs are watchable again. Despite the Canucks playing last night in Edmonton, it was a high-paced game with scoring chances aplenty, at least early. Unfortunately for the Canucks, the bounces didn’t go their way and their winning streak was ended with a 3-1 Nashville victory.
More on the other side of the jump.
Vancouver raced out of the gates with a surprisingly high amount of pep in their step, all while controlling the flow of play in the first. The two teams traded chances for the majority of the first, with the Canucks playing a large part in making that period the most entertaining one I’ve ever seen played between these two clubs in the regular season. There were hits, fights, chances and even open ice!
The Preds rushing up ice shorthanded for a two-on-one with Olli Jokinen and Seth Jones leading the charge made it perfectly clear that this club had exercised the demons of their hauntingly boring past. The days of settling for a 2-1 win night after night seem to be over in Nashville. With this renewed sense of pace, so too comes an increased animosity. The shots and chances were plentiful, but it took a hard clean hit from Luca Sbisa to really kick things into second-gear. A Nashville forward was caught with his head down and was made to pay the price. Weber retaliated by initiating a fight with Sbisa and was given an instigator penalty for his troubles. The Canucks made them pay on the scoreboard with an Alexander Edler wrist shot off the post, then Pekka Rinne’s back and in.
The Canucks left the first leading in the scoreboard, but trailing heavily in the body count. They lost Kevin Bieksa to an errant puck to the eye on a scrum down low and Top Sixtito to a non-contact groin injury. Neither of the two would return. Bo Horvat and Ryan Stanton are finally healthy, and even took part in the pre-game skate. I expect we’ll see both draw into next games lineup.
UPDATE: Kevin Bieksa will not return tonight. Tom Sestito is also out for the rest of the game with a lower body injury. #Canucks
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) November 3, 2014
It wasn’t until early in the second that Nashville potted the equalizer, with a power play goal of their own from Filip Forsberg. Forsberg’s original plan on this play was to pass it cross ice to his teammate, but I’m sure he’s thrilled that Dan Hamhuis redirected it on net, past an unsuspecting Eddie Lack. That was the only goal in a period dominated by the Preds.
Entering the third period tied, I expected the game to slow down considerably. The Canucks were starting to show signs of exhaustion thanks to their second game in 48 hours, so it made sense that they play low-event hockey and hope for a bounce. Nashville had other plans. They kept the game wide open and capitalized on a pair of sloppy breakdowns in the Canucks zone to turn the score in their favor. Two-short and on the second-half of back-to-backs, the Canucks had nothing left in the tank to respond with.
Call it a schedule loss.
Things are about to get very difficult for Vancouver. They embark Tuesday on a four-game road trip, with all four teams having played in last year’s post-season. Even more frightening, three of these teams reside in California (and the fourth blew their doors off earlier in the year). The Canucks will get their first litmus test of how they handle the league’s best. Luckily, they start off with one of the league’s worst, facing Colorado on Tuesday. Hopefully they regain any confidence that was lost from tonight’s game.