If the Canucks could win tonight’s game, they’d sit just two points removed from the final playoff berth in the Western Conference. Instead, the visiting Philadelphia Flyers left tonight’s contest one win removed from a playoff spot in the East.
One can hardly blame the Canucks. We don’t call the second half of a back-to-back a scheduled loss for nothing. I tend to think that adage is doubly true when the unrested team plays the same goalie twice, as the Canucks opted to tonight with 36-year-old Ryan Miller. That’s tempting fate.
It looked like that decision would sink Vancouver right off the hop, too. Five minutes in Wayne Simmonds sent home a Shayne Gostisbehere point shot that squeaked through Miller and into the yawning cage. By the second period, the Flyers had a three-goal lead on fifteen shots with fifteen-plus minutes left in the second.
As they have all season, the Canucks refused to go gentle into that good night, though. They fought back. Markus Granlund started the attempted comeback with his fifteenth goal of the season. A Ben Hutton breakout pass keyed a Bo Horvat rush, and Jannik Hansen was there to pot the rebound and claw the Canucks to within one. This, with room to spare in the second frame.
That’s as close as the Canucks came to accomplishing the improbable and hitting the bye week on the highest of high notes. Miller stopped 25 of 28 shots for the Canucks. Michal Neuvirth stopped 18 of 20 Canucks’ shots. The Flyers take today’s match 3-2.
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) February 20, 2017
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) February 20, 2017
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) February 20, 2017
- Per www.SportClubStats.com, the Canucks playoff chances sunk to 2.3% today. I don’t know what to add at this point. The Canucks aren’t a good hockey team, that should have been evident months ago, and no matter how successful the Canucks could be on their last road trip or the ‘five games’ Benning referenced as an evaluation period for their deadline plans, it doesn’t change the fact that they’re a not very good hockey team and shouldn’t kid themselves with the notion of playoffs. This team has a week off, and they should be using it to parade their assets around the league with a conviction. Time will tell if they do.
- Was Miller the reason the Canucks lost tonight? Hardly. In fact, he played a sound game from about the start of the second onwards. I take umbrage with the first goal and tend to think he has the third on most nights, but his body of work on the evening was, by large, positive. I prefer to judge decisions based on the merit which they’re made, though. I’m very much a process-oriented analyst. In general, playing a goalie both games in back-to-backs is a losing proposition. This isn’t a general scenario, though. This is a 36-year-old goaltender who’s complained in each of his prior two seasons about how much he’s played. In a word, I’d describe playing Miller in this situation as sheer madness. Considering how much Miller’s played since the turn of the calendar, it’s a miracle the Canucks can even get league average goaltending out of him. How much longer though?
Willie on Miller: “He certainly wasn’t the reason we didn’t win.” Blames special teams instead.
— Jason Brough (@JasonPHT) February 20, 2017
- Well, at least Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins acknowledges the power play has problems. That’s a step in the right direction. As an aside, I find it interesting that he’s had this change of heart on a night where Brandon Sutter spent 0:11 on the ice with the man advantage — probably coincidence. I wonder what Desjardins will do to fix this mess, though. The Canucks had four power plays and mustered three shots and zero goals. Desjardins seems averse to changing the personnel in the worst way. The Canucks haven’t shifted for more than one power play at a time from that awful 1-3-1 formation they seem destined to use until season’s end. So, what gives?
Willie still playing Megna on the first unit PP. Must be a rational explanation. So which is it?
— Pass it to Bulis (@passittobulis) February 20, 2017
- Brendan Gaunce played the least of any Canuck tonight, at just a hair over five minutes of ice-time. Gaunce had a +3 on the night by 5v5 Corsi For, which is great, but he’s not exactly an offensive dynamo, so I understand the decision to a certain degree, especially considering the Canucks were chasing this game right from the start. The difference between Gaunce and his linemates appears to be, mostly, special teams. What that tells me is that as the Canucks paint themselves further into a corner and their playoff lives falter further, Desjardins will shorten the bench. Seems like a banal kind of observation, but that’s new. I wonder what extremes he’ll take this to on the other side of the bye.
- Hutton played a hell of a game, I thought. This pairing the Canucks have going with him and Nikita Tryamkin seem to be developing instant chemistry. Each left tonight’s game in the black by Corsi for. Hutton had a beautiful breakout pass that led to the Hansen goal. The sophomore duo might be worth looking at long-term.
Flames GM Brad Treliving staying here in VAN to scout #Canucks vs Flyers — his team’s last two opponents. Hmmm.
— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) February 20, 2017
- I wouldn’t discount the Flames having some level of interest in one of Jannik Hansen or Alexandre Burrows. They have a massive hole down the right side of their forward group, and look poised for a push to the playoffs. The Flames also have fewer quality forwards than expansion requires protection for ahead of the draft. Not only can they take on Hansen — they can protect him too! Then again, I’m just speculating here.
- Horvat’s assist on Hansen’s goal tonight set a new career high for the Canucks lone All-Star at 40 points. The kid is getting paid — this much, we know. How much longer until Horvat’s line is the first? Should it be already? These questions will arise sooner than later, and that’s definitely to the benefit of the Canucks long-term plans. Can’t say I ever expected even this much from the kid. I thought third line centre was his ceiling when the Canucks drafted him. By the end of this year, he’ll probably have points that would align with a first line centre, playing third line minutes. That’s neat as hell.