The injury bug. Let’s talk about him for a second.
Every year, there’s an NHL team that just seems to almost get laughably hurt. It’s obviously not funny to watch player after player go down with injury, but there seems to be nothing to do BUT laugh – if the fans think about it too hard, they may cry instead.
This year, the award has to go to the Anaheim Ducks; they’ve lost so many costly players that they’re sinking $300-$400 THOUSAND in lost salary every single night. The Canucks, on the other hand, haven’t seen a player miss the entire season so far (although at this point, Derek Dorsett falls under that category moving forward).
Still, it’s hard to ignore; the Canucks, once again, just can’t seem to stay consistently healthy. The injury bug doesn’t paralyze them, but it knocks them down, little by little, as the season goes on.
Fingers crossed for a speedy Brock Boeser return.
FINAL SCORE: CALGARY FLAMES 6, VANCOUVER CANUCKS 1
The game didn’t start off too bad for the Canucks, all things considered.
The Flames held the edge in shot attempts, putting the puck at the net from the get-go with a pair of blocked shots in the first few seconds of the game.
The Canucks held their own, though, delivering a few big hits and finding their way to Flames starter David Rittich on a few occasions before the Flames opened up scoring six minutes in.
The workhorse line of Sam Bennett, Mark Jankowski, and Garnet Hathaway made their presence known when Bennett fed Jankowski off a solid backhand right to the front of the net, where Jankowski quickly slipped the puck past a partially-screened Jacob Markstrom to get things going.
The Canucks wouldn’t manage to answer with a goal of their own, but the team did manage to get a few solid looks towards the later half of the period. They went into intermission optimistic, if trailing by a goal.
Then… well, then the thing happened.
that time you left two players wide open on the back door pic.twitter.com/lyYDyRsQmq
— Jason Botchford (@botchford) December 18, 2017
The period started out poorly, when Brock Boeser took a shot off of his left foot from Flames defenseman Mark Giordano.
I know that hockey players are tough and gritty and we don’t pity them, but I physically felt pain watching Boeser crawl/drag himself over to the bench while the play continued. The only time this year I’ve cringed more was when Luongo was injured earlier this month, and you could hear him screaming on the broadcast as he lay in the net.
Before Boeser went down, the Canucks had looked like they, at the very least, were still in the game. They’d only been outshot 9-7 in the first, and were down by a perfectly respectable score of 1-0.
After that, things more or less flew off the rails.
The Flames would outshoot the Canucks 10-6 in the second period, scoring four more goals to chase Jacob Markstrom with a .737 save percentage and just 14 saves on 19 shots. They’d get two goals from Giordano (just rubbing salt in the wound of losing Boeser, if you ask me) and one apiece from Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett, with Bennett and Jankowski putting up three points apiece through the first two periods (Bennett would end the night with four points, grabbing an assist on the Micheal Ferland powerplay goal in the third as well).
Is this one even worth talking about?
As the game progressed, the Canucks got progressively worse, while the Flames got progressively better.
Every time I point out that the Canucks fall off a cliff in shots in the third period of games they win, I get bombarded with angry reminders about score effects. I know: they exist. And they tend to really stand out the bigger a team’s lead – up to a certain point, of course, after which it becomes apparent that the lead is because one team is mercilessly thrashing the other.
By the third period, the Canucks only recorded four shots on goal in the final 20 minutes, while the Flames – who entered the third up 5-0 – took a ridiculous 19 recorded shots on Anders Nilsson before the frame ended.
Let’s give him credit, though. He most definitely deserves it.
Of those 19 shots, Nilsson allowed just one, when Micheal Ferland capitalized on a rebound in front of the net to pot his 13th of the year with just under nine minutes left in the game.
The rest of the period, he was busy doing stuff like this:
Nikolay Goldobin had a couple of seemingly good looks towards the end of the period, but he just couldn’t finish (possibly because the Flames had a rock-solid defense and he had little in the way of offensive support). If that period is any indication of what the team will look like without both Boeser and Bo Horvat, the team may as well buy both Nilsson and Markstrom large bottles of scotch for Christmas in advance.
One Canuck did manage to score in the final frame, though: we can’t forget about Markus Granlund’s lone goal, which brings him to seven on the season (and counting).
Six minutes into the third, the Sedin line found themselves in a scrum battling for the puck along the boards behind the goal line, sending it out to Alex Edler to set up a centering pass to Granlund in front of Flames goaltender David Rittich.
Granlund’s first shot went off the top post, but rebounded nicely to his left for an easy rebound shot past Rittich high on his blocker side. Whatever he’s been doing over the last few games, he needs to keep doing it; he now has three goals in his last two games, nearly doubling his scoring total coming into the weekend.
His tally wouldn’t be enough to help the team, though, and a whopping four total shots in the period would make it all too easy for the Flames to skate away with a big win.
- As mentioned at the start, the Canucks really can’t seem to catch a break this year. First, they lost Dorsett for good, then Bo Horvat went down with a broken ankle. Now, this. The team has no update on Boeser yet, but it doesn’t look good either; expect, at the very least, him to miss games with a bone bruise. At worst, he could be out with a broken foot, which means weeks – if not months – of recovery time.
- The final period was the first time this year that we’ve seen what this team looks like without either Brock Boeser or Bo Horvat on offense. Should they continue to be this bad without both forwards? No. They aren’t going to get outshot 38-17 by every team, and they still have plenty of games against the Arizona Coyotes left to earn some extra points. But it’s a clear reminder that these two do an excellent job of driving the team’s offense; it may not be that bad every night, but expect a few ugly games until they get back.
- This really wasn’t Jacob Markstrom’s night. It happens. There’s no real point in dwelling on it. That being said, huge credit to Anders Nilsson. He allowed a goal at the end, but he also kept an already ugly matchup from getting even worse. We’ve seen teams lose with double digits goals-against this year; he prevented that, and deserves a huge nod as a result.
- The Calgary Flames hadn’t scored a power-play goal since December 6th before tonight, and the Canucks almost held them from scoring again. That’s a small win, especially in what ended up being a fairly chippy game.
*update: previously stated that Nilsson will take this loss. Double checked and the loss goes to the GWG-allowing goaltender, which is Markstrom. Huge kudos to the diligent comment section for catching what a tired brain did not!