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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski - USA TODAY Sports

CanucksArmy Post-Game: Canucks Catch Fire

Canucks Win Second Half of Back-to-Back 5-3 Over the Flames

The Canucks are nothing if not pesky under new head coach Travis Green this season, and efforts like tonight’s go a long way towards helping build that reputation.

Down some of their more accomplished forwards and defencemen, on the second half of back-to-backs, this game didn’t have the makings of a Canucks victory. And the Flames, smelling blood in the water, were ready to pounce. They jumped on the Canucks early, but a coach’s challenge from Green erased a would-be 1-0 goal for Calgary. Sam Gagner opened the scoring, legitimately, with a power play marker shortly after, but Flames defenceman Dougie Hamilton would do the same to knot things up at one at the end of the first frame.

In the second frame, it was a little more frantic. The Canucks and Flames went shot-for-shot, trading a pair of goals apiece. Micheal Ferland and Johnny Gaudreau scored for the Flames. Thomas Vanek, playing in his 900th career NHL game, sent a cannon of a shot past Flames netminder Mike Smith. And on the 3-3 goal, Brandon Sutter beat out T.J. Brodie on a loose puck in the Flames zone shorthanded and bounced it off of Derek Dorsett for the goal.

The Canucks pulled away in the third frame. On something of a fluky passing play, Brock Boeser finds Bo Horvat through a couple of Flames defenders, and he puts the puck into the yawning cage to give the Canucks the 4-3 lead on the power play. Then, to seal the deal, Daniel and Henrik Sedin went in on a two-on-one, with Daniel finding Henrik who put the puck past Smith for his first goal of the season.

Markstrom, in one of his better games of the season, stopped 30 of 33 Flames shots. Smith stopped 16 of the 21 Canucks shots.

Stats

Quick Hits

 

  • Brendan Gaunce made his return to the Canucks lineup tonight in place of the injured Markus Granlund who’s day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Did Green ease him into the lineup? No, not really. Gaunce played almost 17 minutes tonight, more than all but five of the Canucks forwards — seems like a bit much for someone playing their first NHL game in months after shoulder surgery. By that same token, hard to argue with the results. Gaunce played a decent game. He was strong defensively right from his first shift when he broke up a Flames scoring chance in the slot and cleared the zone not long after. Gaunce was a minus-two in shot attempt differential at evens, which isn’t great, but it was also the second-best mark among Canucks’ forwards. Overall, it was a strong debut effort by Gaunce.

  • It’s not often that the goalie is the star in a victory after giving up three goals on a night, but that’s the case with Markstrom. It was one of if not Markstrom’s best performances of the year. He kept the Canucks in the game through the first two periods when they probably shouldn’t have been, and then slammed the door shut on Calgary in the third period. There was even a save of the year candidate mixed in there. And this, in the second half of a back-to-back in which Markstrom played both games.

  • Sam Gagner had probably his best night as a member of the Canucks. The power play goal was nice, and surprise, surprise, it happened in the home plate area of the offensive zone and not on the point — take note of that Canucks assistant coach Newell Brown. That was one of five shots by Gagner on the night. In the second period, Green noticed, moving Gagner up the lineup for a shift with Sven Baertschi and Horvat as a reward for his strong play. So too was the 17:30, a season-high with the Canucks, a reward from Green, I am sure. The Canucks need more of this from Gagner. Here’s hoping it’s a trend.
  • A hearty round of applause for Vanek, who played in his 900th career NHL game tonight. Vanek had a goal and an assist, and he drew two penalties, too. In typical Vanek fashion, during an intermission interview Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy, he was decidedly “meh” on the achievement, joking that he hopes he has another few games left in him. If he keeps taking slap shots like the one that he scored in the second period of tonight’s game, he just might have more than a few games left in his NHL career.

  • The Canucks changed up their defensive pairings tonight, with Alex Biega taking Erik Gudbranson’s place on the second pair with Michael Del Zotto and Biega skating with Derrick Pouliot. Maybe it’s just the short-term struggles associated with getting used to new partners, but neither pair seemed to work for the Canucks. It’s an interesting decision on Green’s part regardless. I think Gudbranson is more suited for the role he played tonight — that of a third-pairing defenceman. His underlying metrics from tonight’s game suggest that I might be onto something, too — although, he was on the ice for two penalty kill goals and on one of them his positioning was, ahem, spotty. I also think Biega’s earned a shot to play ahead of Gudbranson on this team when everyone is healthy. Green’s been a fan of the bulldog this season, so I wonder if tonight was an attempt to explore what that might look like for when Troy Stecher is healthy. Biega didn’t look great, either. Interesting times on the Canucks blue line. They’re going to have some interesting decisions to make in the coming days/weeks as Alexander Edler and Troy Stecher return to the lineup. An interesting note to add: Green had Gudbranson back with Del Zotto to finish off the game and seal the victory.
  • Boeser didn’t play a tonne tonight. He still managed to get on the scoresheet with an assist on Horvat’s power play goal in the third period. Only the Sedins and Virtanen played less than Boeser at even strength. Green admitted after the game that he thought Boeser looked tired. I wonder what this means for back-to-back games when the Canucks have a full complement of forwards.

 

  • Lemmy Kilmister

    excellent road victory tonight Markstrom in particular stood out as did Vanek with that old school slapper, so far the team has been pleasantly entertaining.

  • NeverWas

    Hey, they keep finding ways to win!! Not bad considering 2 of there top 3 D men are out… And I can’t believe you guys actually listened to my comment and adjusted the cell references on the the defense zone exits! Appreciate you guys listening and adjusting!!!

  • Killer Marmot

    Sutter outracing Brodie for the puck during a penalty kill and feeding the Saskatchewan Sniper for a goal was awesome. That was pure determination, the sort of thing that gets the whole team going.

  • Naslund

    I don’t understand all the love for Gaunce. He’s big, but gentle. He has slow feet. It takes him forever to get a shot off. I think it’s just another classic case of a big guy getting chances over and over again because they hope that one day he’ll be good. Time’s running out.

    • Acronix

      Yup everyone loves his “defensive game, and good analytics.” But you watch th guy he’s always playing catch up like he’s a step behind, hockey iq and foot speed. Most boring vanilla player to play for nucks, the guy has what 1 goal In 70 nhl games?!!! Ya most overrated Canuck of all time.

    • Cageyvet

      Patience. I’m not saying he’ll progress beyond a solid bottom 6 forward, but given your choice of a namesake to use as your handle…..well, sometimes patience is rewarded.

      • Acronix

        Ok “cageyvet” really original to go after the name. Do you always find a way to be an inflammatory douche??? Just saying my opinion but I guess it doesn’t agree with you. Gaunce will be done by the end of the year not even nhl 4th line caliber. Keep riding the “bottom six” gaunce train till it derails.

    • Rodeobill

      I thought Gaunce had an OK game for his first game back. Like Gagner, I think he just needs to find the right deployment and linemates. I didn’t see any errors, but I did see him finish checks and get open in case the pass came around in the O zone. Is he Granlund? No. But he’s definintely worth having on the team. I wouldn’t mind him playing a few games with Vanek and Gagner in Lieu of Burmistrov to see that chemestry.

    • canuckfan

      every player has a role not all will score some will just play hard and be hard to play against the Canucks are building a team not all the future players are in Vancouver as they are learning their place and getting to know their role…the future looks bright feel sorry for the Oilers one year of success and back to the lottery only to trade those players for plumbers as they won’t be able to put a proper team together with what they are paying the top two players

  • Dan-gles

    I think the story tonight was markstrom. Wow did he make a lot of clutch saves and highlight reel bailouts for the defense. Impressive. Can’t wait to hear the chatter if he strings together a couple more games like this.

    • truthseeker

      Honestly I think by this point it’s fairly safe to say the canucks are going to get pretty good goal-tending all year. I don’t see any reason why either of them can’t continue to play like they have been. And the fact neither is really the “starter” makes that even more likely. Neither of them will take anything for granted.

        • Lemmy Kilmister

          Now I know it’s a couple/few years later but, would anyone trade Horvat & Markstrom straight up for for Snieds & Loungo now?
          I admit that at that time it looked very lopsided but now, it looks rather appealing

          • truthseeker

            I never minded the Schneider trade in the first place. That was a pretty good return for a goalie. Historically goalie value is quite low. Gillis got the player he wanted in that draft and even at the time getting a big C with a fairly decent ceiling for a backup goalie (even if he was the “best” backup goalie) was excellent. I really don’t know why so many people were complaining about it. The only point I did understand was rather having Cory than Lu. But it was what it was and timing was everything.

    • Bud Poile

      Biega led the team in hits and blocked shots.
      As the new coach trusts/deploys the Bulldog he is getting media exposure.
      His game has been steady so it is Green’s trust and consistent record that creates the opportunity to trade Gudbranson.
      Utica is very thin on the right side making this an interesting decision for the .org.

  • Rodeobill

    I’m really starting to like Vanek. as someone on the PITB blog referenced, it always looks like he is winded after pressing the “hustle” button on the old NHL sega games too much, but because he carries so much momentum and is so hard to take off the puck, and good at stick handling, it doesn’t matter. He always gets there at his own speed.

    Markstrom needs to learn to warm up better. He really starts coming into his groove halfway through the first period. Man, what a game he had tonight, and good for him. That kind of confidence is good for his team too. Speaking of confidence, i wonder how a teams defense is related to a goalie’s confidence. Do you play differently as a goalie if you are backing up Byfuglien as opposed to Stetcher? Do you challenge more or less knowing that the other team is going to be in you face? Does Guddy (who didn’t have his best game tonight) bring an extra layer of assurance to his goalie in that he can know no one is going to be there agitating and screening him? I miss Tryamkin. He did that even better without bad penalties AND could pokecheck/clear the zone/break the cycle, etc. But he wasn’t a fighter or instigator. All shield no sword kind of guy.

    I’m glad Gagner finally found some redemption, as he has looked invisible some games (most), hopefully things click for him.

  • Flying V

    It always feels good to beat the Flames, and I know the people of Calgary will be sour after this one. First because they lost, and second because that arctic weather really bites.
    Kudos to Markstrom for making timely saves and preventing this game from getting out of hand. He kept the Canucks in it at a crucial part of the game when the Flames could’ve gone up 3-1.
    Why is Newell Brown around still? He was run out of town before and the PP, save for a couple of lucky breaks, looks worse than ever.

  • TheRealPB

    Thanks JD for this recap and for the one for the last game. I don’t know if it’s easier for CA when the Canucks are playing worse (as they seem markedly worse the last two games than the previous three) but these reviews are so much easier to digest as they are directly relevant to the game and team’s performance, rather than preconceived narratives or snark-fest. I would strongly urge you not to have Cat write them unless she can actually watch the games.

    I thought Gaunce looked good. When Granlund returns, I’d put him with Gagner and Vanek and sit Burmistrov, while slotting Gaunce in on LW with Dorsett and Sutter for a true checking line; it should help Granlund to play with more skilled players too. Not terribly surprised to see that Boeser was struggling on the second of a back-to-back (but maybe a little bit that he’s winded just 15 games into the season). The most he’s ever played in a season was 42 games his first year of college; last year between an injury-shortened college season and a brief NHL stint it was 41. Even with missing the first couple of games this will be a big push to go more than 70, so we might want to reserve pitchforks if his ice-time gets managed or even if he sits for a few games.

    I know some are irritated by the volume of anti-Gudbranson articles, but I think it’s a completely legitimate question to ask about his value. I don’t think he’s been as bad as some of the critics suggest, but that doesn’t mean he’s worth whatever he’ll command on the open market. I think he’s still surprisingly mobile for a big man and still surprisingly poor in many of his reads — he leaves his side of the ice exposed far too often even when he’s not going for a big hit. All of that said, you cannot build your team just on mobile, shifty, small defensemen. Opposing teams just launch on all your D with an all-out blitz when you don’t have at least one or two who can absorb a strong hit, which in turn leaves you scrambling in your own zone way too often. We’ve progressively swapped some of our cannon fodder — Sbisa and Pedan, for example — for smaller and more effective players like Pouliot and Stetcher or even Biega — but right now you need to have at least one bigger player as long as Edler’s still out of the lineup. When he’s back I think you can start to have a conversation about who you have as a bigger player on the back end, but I have a hard time imagining it’s Gudbranson given his contract demands. If Benning’s goal is to inflate Gudbranson’s value by giving him enough ice-time till the TDL to be able to recoup some of the cost of getting him I am all for it. If not, I am in favor of not trying to get back those sunk costs as that other article suggested and cut bait rather than pay exorbitant prices for a low-end 4/5 d. In that case though I’m really curious as to who the Canucks might possibly have in the prospect pool that fits the mold of a more physical and mobile D. Juolevi if he fills out maybe, but even then he’s not that kind of player. Brassard is an unlikely candidate. Brisebois is big but not terribly effective. Are our future hopes pinned on luring Tryamkin back?

    • DJ_44

      The think the Trump-like (or should I say Putin-like) coordinated local media attack on Gudbranson is comical. It is carried out by the usual adgenda-toting suspects, while those same usual suspects provide huge amounts of shade for weaker players that fit their collective narrative.

      Gudbranson was on the ice for two PP goals against last night, and neither was directly attributable to him, although he was screening on the second goal. I wonder who was woefully out of position on the third (5v5) goal? Yep, Hutton.

      That said, the entire defence corp (including Hutton) played okay. Each one had rough spots/shifts (well, except for Poulliot who is looking more impressive). The last half of the second was more attributable to poor/non-existent back pressure from the forwards. I like the Poulliot-Gudbranson paring, by the way.

      When Edler returns (and I am not a big Edler fan), Hutton should be in the press box; he will not be missed. Holm is also looking good in Utica.

      • Locust

        When an “analytics darling” (like Flyin’ Frank Corrado) makes a great pass, CA breaks an arm patting themselves on the back saying “I told ya so” but when Brock hits Bo with a great pass it is flukey…….Hmmmm …..

      • Holly Wood

        Hutton led in icetime last night, 5 minutes more than Delzotto, Green must have liked something . It going to be interesting when Edler and Stecher return

  • Flying V

    What do people think of Gaunce over Burmistrov? I haven’t really minded Burmistrov. He seems to mostly make smart plays, is defensively responsible, and seems to have a higher end skill set offensively than what I have seen out of Gaunce the past few years. I don’t look at a lot of advanced stats, so maybe there is something there.
    I suppose Gaunce will get his opportunity, and based on his ice time last night Green seems to love him already. I just don’t see much there that 100 other fringe NHL’ers couldn’t offer.

    • Doodly Doot

      I’m thinking Gaunce AND Burmistrov. Gaunce is the right guy to take Granlund’s spot on the checking line with Sutter and Dorsett. Granny’s scoring skill is wasted there and he should be in a top 6 situation. I keep thinking of breaking up the twins and using Henrik with Granny and Virtanen. I think that could be an effective scoring line. Keep Burmistrov on the 3rd line and make it the audition line for Boucher and Goldobin. Actually, am I way off, or would a Boucher Burmistrov Goldobin line look dangerous? Anyhoot, I’m in favour of finding a way to keep them both. Gaunce got ‘Willie’d’ last year. So did a lot of other players. He’s a solid hard working bottom 6 forward and will get what he earns from a coach like Green.

    • crofton

      I would prefer Gaunce at this point. Burmistrov doesn’t really show much, either end of the ice. Not saying he really hurts the team, but he….well I dunno. Guess I’m just not that keen on him. And maybe that needs a “yet”

  • apr

    I’ve come to the conclusion that Markstrom’s stupid mask is the only hindrance from me going all in. Yah, he over-commits at times (which is highlighted when you see Nilsson play) – but he has been an MVP candidate to start the year. This would have been a brutal game for Demko to start. Also agree with what people are saying about Brock – he’s still just a kid, and he looked really slow and sloppy out there. JV looks like Burrows in his 3 goal season – just snake bitten but trying hard and doing the little things. It may not happen this year, but if the effort and professionalism is still there – he could break out next year, or the year after as Burrows did. Again though, what a stupid mask.

    • Doodly Doot

      But that ugly mask is what makes Marky Marky! lol I agree Virtanen is nicely getting his bearings. Green is deploying him nicely. It’s no small task for Bess, coming from college and getting acclimated to a huge role on a top line and playing the most intense hockey of his life, every night against the best players he’s even played against. It’s astonishing he’s doing as well as he is. It’s also amazing to think what he’s likely to be in a couple years. Kind of unreal.

  • Beer Can Boyd

    Obviously Edler and Stecher get back in when they are healthy. That means 2 must come out.If one of them is not Gudbranson, then the team is obviously showcasing him for trade value. Way out of position on 1 goal, and tipped in another with his stick. Chasing the puck all night long. He might have been a valuable contributor matching moustaches with Harold Snepsts on the 82 Canucks, but he is way behind the pace of play in todays game. Still hard to believe that he was a 3rd overall pick. I’d take a second rounder for him right now.

    • Doodly Doot

      I remember SO many games Bieksa would drive me nuts with those giveaways! Now I almost miss them. I really didn’t like his work against Detroit. Every game I like Pouliot more and Gudbranson less. Not sure anyone would agree, but when I think of how Guddy is disappointing, I also think of what a steal Pouliot may end up being. Don’t resign Guddy. Save that dough for Pouliot. And Stecher and DelZotto.

      • Beer Can Boyd

        At least Bieksa actually did what Gudbranson is alleged to be doing. He totally got under the skin of opposing players, and had a reasonable offensive upside as well. And agreed about Pouliot, he had a very good game last night.Looking forward to the return of Edler and Stecher. Now all they need is to convince the BFG to come back next year. We need to get his email address and start a campaign!

  • Rollercoaster thrill ride! One minute I’m laid back with my hair blowing in the wind, the next my knuckles are white from hanging on for dear life. That kind of describes last night.

    Great win! For some reason we often struggle against Calgary, so it’s nice to get that monkey off our back.

    I like Vanek. He has that weathered, grizzled look about him, kind of like the Marlboro man. Maybe a little mean looking too.
    He’s doing what Eriksson is suppose to be doing.

    Plus a blast from the past with a little Sedinery. Nice goal guys.

    • wjohn1925

      Yeah. The highlight for me was the expression on Hendrick’s face when he got to the bench. I haven’t seen him smile that big in quite some time! Great game… especially against the Flames.

    • Rodeobill

      He really looks good playing with the sedins, but it is all contingent on keeping possesion in the O zone, if they get taken off the puck, better hope our 2 best D are backing them up!

  • FireGillis

    I was at this game and there were so many Canucks fans. We actually got some chants going (go Canucks go) but the flames fans would take over (go flames go)

  • Bure94

    I am no stats expert but it seems that much of the analysis here is way too simplistic i.e., X player was on the ice for more shots against than for, thus they must be a bad player. This doesn’t take into consideration the percentage of defensive zone starts, the quality of the competition the player is playing against, or the quality of the shots. For instance, Gudbranson gets ripped on here constantly but when I look up particular stats it doesn’t look so bad. To me an interesting stat is even strength team save percentage while a player is on the ice. I would think that this would help indicate the ability of a player to suppress quality scoring chances at even strength. Well Gudbranson is at 97.5% which is good for second in the entire league for defencemen that have played 5 or more games and is miles ahead of Tanev (92.4%) who plays in front of the same goalies and is generally considered the gold standard for defensive defencemen. Yes we know Guddy isn’t an offensive dynamo and has other shortcomings but let’s use all the stats we have available when analyzing a player and not pick and choose to fit the narrative. Maybe, just maybe, he is tough to play against and is forcing a lot of weak perimeter shots rather than giving up quality chances against.

    • Dirk22

      It’s been proven time and time again that a goalie’s save % is not a repeatable skill attributed to the defender they’re playing with. Case in point, Canuck goalies had an 88.8% 5 v 5 save percentage when Guddy was on the ice last year, 93.2% before that. Heaps of data much like this lead people to conclude that the defenders have little influence over save % – it’s the whole basis of PDO. If anything, that high save % means that a regression is likely to come. I’m not an analytics junkie by any means but this is fairly basic stuff – if someone has a better understanding of this feel free to correct me.

      • Holly Wood

        Statistical data can be very subjective, ie who won the face off, was that a giveaway, a hit, a takeaway. Over the course of a game statisticians can make a lot of judgement errors. I speak with over 10 years of experience at the junior level

      • Bure94

        I agree that this stat isn’t perfect but it’s no worse than corsi. Let’s just look at all stats not just one to define a player. Can we at least agree that corsi is relatively useless without context? Also, not that it matters, but last year it is widely known that Guddy was not 100% so perhaps those numbers should be discounted.

        • Bure94

          p.s., I’m also no any way suggesting Gudbranson is the second best defender in the league. I just think it’s silly to state that he is traded for a player that can’t crack the Panthers line-up on a regular basis just because one stat is not flattering.

        • Dirk22

          There’s nothing wrong with the stat – it’s just how you interpret it. If you were to judge a defender’s quality by his goalie’s save % when he’s on the ice you would be looking at players like Curtis MacDonald, Haydn Fleury, Michael Kempny, Carl Gunnarson at the top. Even Yannick Weber would make the top 10. The theory goes that, for the most part, save % will balance out to the goalie’s ability. That’s why Corsi (which is just shot attempts) can be an indicator of a defender’s abilities. Give up a high percentage of shot attempts against, assume a percentage of those will hit the net, assume you can’t control the goalie’s save percentage, assume that will lead to goals against. It’s not the be-all stat but if year after year you’re on the ice for more shot attempts against than for, that has to say something about the defender.

          I think what you may be looking for is a heat map that shows where most of the shots are being taken. I’m sure there’s some out there. ..probably in past Guddy articles.

          • Bure94

            Agree to disagree. I don’t see how a goaltenders save percentage cannot be influenced by the quality of defenders. If you put the Sedin’s on d I’m pretty sure the goalies are going to get lit up because the percentage of scoring chances over shot totals will spike. However, obviously that stat is also skewed against the competition. Yannick Weber is not playing against Crosby on a regular basis but rather 3rd liners most likely. I’d like to think Gudbranson is used in more of a shutdown role against 1st or 2nd lines. Again, I’m not saying he’s the best defender around but I don’t agree that he’s a fringe player either. My guess is that a lot of the hate is due to trading a good young centre and a second rounder for him. Not his fault that happened.

    • Holly Wood

      I like your position on this, some of the pro analytic folks on here rely way too much on stats. Here is a question, who is compiling these stats and what qualifications do they have? Even teams in the BCHL have “stats guys” some good, some not so good

  • InternetRookie

    Great game to watch; I missed being on the edge of my seat knowing it could go either way..God I love hockey. Question though: Did anyone see Sutter and Dorsett looking up into the stands as they got to the bench after that shorty? Looked as if someone was yelling at them, kinda curious to know what was said, lol.

  • Doodly Doot

    I speculated last year that Markstrom would get better and better the more he plays. I bet some others did as well. I was frustrated that Miller got the lions’ share of starts. We all know what Willie did and why. And of course there was the injury. Perhaps now with Green we will get a glimpse of it. The coach knows what he has in Marky and going back-to-back with him like this is evidence he is getting his chance. And it makes sense.