The Vancouver Canucks have gone up and down the standings throughout the 2015-16 season, swinging from the top to the bottom within games on what seems to be a week to week basis.
The good news? Tonight’s game didn’t send them plummeting all the way to the bottom.
The bad news? With another win for the Arizona Coyotes, the Canucks moved farther from that elusive second-place spot in the Pacific Division – which, with the way that the Central and Pacific have played this year, is the spot of security for a team hoping to see the post-season.
For the Canucks fans who read CA often (but don’t know who I am), confession time: I’m an Arizona Coyotes development coach. I’ve watched most of Vancouver’s games this year, but there’s a chance that I may have seen more of Arizona’s games on the season – so this was one of those matchups that had me hooked from the start.
The general consensus? Both teams have some good young players coming up in the system, but damn. Those veterans can still get it.
Last season saw now-39 year old Coyotes captain Shane Doan score 14 goals on the season. It looked like he was on the decline – and while he may still be, Vancouver was certainly the unlucky recipient tonight of another game in his current white-hot goal scoring streak.
With Doan’s two-goal game, the veteran right wing now has 15 goals on the year, and a whopping 7 goals in just 3 games heading into 2016. With 919 points and counting, the 20 year league vet is closing in on the highly-elusive 1,000 point mark, and he’s made it clear in recent months that he plans on helping the Coyotes to their first-ever Stanley Cup championship. While he may fall just short of the centurian mark, it’s clear that the captain plans on giving it the old college try to hit the milestone so few players do.
Vancouver’s veterans were far from unimpressive tonight, though. Daniel Sedin’s third period goal from his brother and Christopher Tanev was absolutely filthy, putting him closer to his own 1,000 point mark as his career continues to progress.
The young players on each team looked sharp in their own right, but it was the veterans who really brought the momentum to the game. Doan scored the ultimate game-winner for the Coyotes, but the Sedins found the back of the net themselves just after the disallowed goal scored by Arizona’s Michael Stone; that could have been the tipping point that brought the team back to a tie game, and that’s credit owed to the Sedins in a big way.
Vancouver Canucks zone entry data at 5-on-5 pic.twitter.com/n6usWImXYG
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) January 5, 2016
Arizona Coyotes zone entry data at 5-on-5 pic.twitter.com/5vhigs63LI
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) January 5, 2016
I hate giving too much credit to ‘dirty players’; I know that grinders and role-players have an important place in the NHL, but I think that heart and soul are sometimes given too much praise over tangible assets.
That being said, I liked Bo Horvat’s game tonight. He’s been one of my least favorite Canucks prospects this year, falling behind Ben Hutton and Jared McCann despite my undying London Knights fandom. Tonight, though, he was pretty relentless around the net – and it paid off once, with a close call later in the game, as well. I liked the edge he brought to the game, and it reminded me why I missed him in the Knights lineup last year.
Conversely to how I’ve felt about Horvat, I’ve been pretty high on Markstrom this year. I didn’t love his game in the AHL, but he’s been holding strong as Ryan Miller starts to tire out throughout the season.
Tonight wasn’t his night.
Poor reads and sloppy save control made this a game that Markstrom will likely want to forget; even with the disallowed goal for Max Domi going off-sides, Markstrom’s head kind of checked out of the game after the second goal allowed. I’ve certainly seen him be better, and the Canucks will need fewer games like this if they want this season to finish well.
On to the Next One
It’s a light week for Vancouver, who play Carolina on Wednesday and then have two days off before facing the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both Carolina and Tampa Bay are doing poorly this year, but want to change that; Vancouver has a week of desperate matchups ahead of them, and it could set the tone for the rest of January if they can’t bring the stronger desire to win.