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Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin - USA TODAY Sports

CanucksArmy Post Game: Brendan’s Breakout

Puck Drop

On the heels of Tuesday nights thrilling overtime victory against Colorado, Tsawassen native Brent Seabrook and the Chicago Blackhawks were in town Thursday night.

The Canucks had their legs early in this one, and they needed them. The first whistle of the period didn’t come until 5:55 into the game.

Erik Gudbranson returned to the line up after making headlines with his comments about the lack of pushback from the Canucks in last week’s LA game, after Trevor Lewis sent Brock Boeser head first into the boards. The Canucks looked like a team that had been called out physically, and clearly made a point of playing the body tonight. After twenty the hits were 9-3 in favour of Vancouver, with several being of the noteworthy variety.

 

The teams would trade penalties, with both units getting their looks. However, the game remained scoreless until Nick Schmaltz broke the deadlock with 4:45 left in the first. Taking the feed from Brandon Saad just inside the blueline, Schmaltz had a step on the Canucks defence and cut to the net, where he pulled the puck to his backhand and around Markstrom to open the scoring.

 

 

2nd Period

The Canucks would start the second period without Sam Gagner who appeared to injure himself on an open-ice hit he made in the first period. Canucks head coach Travis Green was forced to put the lines in a blender, and we saw a variety of combinations for the rest of the night.

After killing off a Troy Stecher hooking penalty, Brendan Gaunce (still on the ice from the PK) broke in on a 2-on-1 with Bo Horvat. Gaunce was keeping all the way and snapped a shot five-hole on Anton Forsberg tying the game at one.

After the Canucks tied it up, the pace picked up. Chicago applied pressure trying to get back the lead but it would be the Canucks who would strike next. Stecher wristed a puck on net, doing a good job of finding a lane through traffic and Horvat tipped the puck perfectly beating Forsberg five-hole.

 

3rd Period

Three minutes into the third it would be the Canucks again, going up by a score of 3-1. Blackhawks centre Artem Anisimov broke his stick along the boards in the Chicago zone and went directly to the bench to fetch another. This left the Blackhawks outnumbered in their own end. Jake Virtanen picked up a loose puck in the high slot, he turned and fired the puck on net where Daniel Sedin was parked in front of Forsberg, who was once again beat five-hole as Daniel Sedin deflected the Virtanen shot.

Chicago didn’t register a shot until the twelve-minute mark of the third period. From there it was all hands on deck as the Blackhawks pushed the pace trying to come back as they chase a playoff spot. After Markstrom made a spectacular save on a bang-bang play off Alex DeBrincat in the slot, Chris Tanev failed to clear the puck. Off the turnover it would be DeBrincat again, this time walking in and ripping a puck over Markstrom high glove bringing Chicago within one.

The Canucks didn’t sit back and defend a one-goal lead. They forced the issue and answered DeBrincats goal with chances of their own by the Sedin’s with Jake Virtanen, as well as the Horvat line which created a mad scramble in the Chicago crease.

The Blackhawks opportunity to tie the game up came with 7:21 left as Virtanen reached in on Patrick Kane, who had a head of steam carrying the puck through the neutral zone. Virtanen was called for the trip.

Markstrom stood tall for the Canucks on the penalty kill and would continue to fend off the pressing Blackhawks as the teams traded chances late. It would once again be the Canucks getting the better of the exchange, Gaunce skated the puck out of his end and passed to Loui Eriksson on the right side. Gaunce followed up the play and went to the net where he was rewarded as Loui Eriksson fed the puck to the front for Gaunce to chip in. It was the first multi-goal game of Gaunce’s career. It has to be a great feeling for Gaunce who’s up to four on the year after a 95 game goal drought.

The Blackhawks pulled their goalie down by two with 2:45 left to play. Gaunce had a couple chances at the hat-trick but ultimately would settle for two. The Canucks held on to win by a score of four-to-two.

The Numbers

 

  • After having just 29.31% of the five-on-five expected goals in the first period, the Canucks rebounded nicely. They finished the night at 55.79%
  • The Canucks scored four goals, on eight high danger shot attempts.
  • Jacob Markstrom gave up one goal on five high danger shots.
  • Michael Del Zotto led the Canucks with seven shot attempts, while Bo Horvat had four shots on net.
  • Markus Granlund had a team-best 78.57 Corsi-for percentage.

Quick Hits

  • Erik Gudbranson made his return to lineup; he hasn’t played since being hurt in a game against Edmonton on January 20th.
  • Since losing Cory Crawford to post-concussion like symptoms on December 23rd, the Blackhawks record is 7-5-2
  • With a healthy group of forwards, Nic Dowd was a healthy scratch for the second straight game. Green likes to match up with a defensive centre and with Brandon Sutter back in the line up he’s taken over that role from Dowd.
  • Over the past 10 games, Alexander Edler leads the Canucks in ice-time, is tied for the team lead in points, and sits second on the team in shots and shot attempts. Edler’s strong play continued against Chicago, not only picking up another point but he was physical and engaged all game.
  • NeverWas

    Troy stretcher was lights out tonight. Kid was all over the place. I totally don’t think he gets the respect he deserves. He’s a bit small but a heluva good defensemen and man can he move the puck. Great skater too. How old is he? I wonder if he’s hit his ceiling yet?

  • TD

    I’m glad Chicago didn’t tie the game on the penalty Virtanen took in the third. I though Jake had a decent game and was the driving force on Daniel’s goal. His forecheck on two Blackhawks caused the turnover which he recovered for the assist.

  • Dirty30

    Nice to see Gaunce score — two no less!

    Also nice to see Jake do the work to get an assist on Daniel’s goal.

    Appreciate having Jason taking on post-game write ups.

  • Sandpaper

    It was Boeser that couldnt get the puck out on 2nd goal, not Tanev. Also, it was Boeser who was puckwatching on the 1st goal and let Schmaltz blow by him to get wide open.
    Rough game for the kid tonight.

    • Rodeobill

      He still needs to iron out some spots in his game, his board battles for one, and he being considered high priority to defend and match against too, but if he is humble and a student of the game as everyone says, he’ll get there

      • Sandpaper

        I wasnt trying to knock the kid, as his is a gem, just pointing out the writer made a mistake on who didnt get puck out and him not picking up a man in the defensive zone.
        A little constructive criticism.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    Brendan Gaunce looked fantastic tonight. Not only were the goals he scored excellent in quality, he was a force defensively and on the fore-check. He was very noticeable all night. I’m happy for him I was thinking this would be a breakout year for him and I’m happy with his progress overall.

  • Brent

    Overall, that was great. Sure it does not help us in the draft lottery, but hey, it was Chicago, and always great to beat them! Happy for Gaunce! Happy for Virtanten but but it would be good if he had some more minutes. Guddy and Vanek were at the button of Corsi for, so that is not good for their trade value. Unless Toronto doesn’t look at that kind of stuff

    • fretallack

      Guddy is always going to be at the bottoms of the Corsi list,he gpes off the ice so often when the team transitions to offense hes not on for nucks shots.

  • Wise_Canuck

    Nick Schmaltz – another fantastic player passed on by Benning along with Larkin, Tuch, Ehlers and Nylander in favour of Virtanen ffs.

    Get this bum off our club like yesterday – i personally want playoff hockey back in Vancouver and under this Dim Jim clown show it simply isn’t happening.

  • wojohowitz

    In the first 40 games Edler had 1+8=9 points. In the last 10 games (playing with Stecher) Edler has 1+9=10 points. Considering that these two played as a pair last season what does that tell us about Green?

    Another topic recently discussed was; Which of the young Canucks has improved his game in comparison to last year and the answer is none of them and – again – What does that tell us about Travis Green?

    It tells us he does not take advice from the people around him and he is not really teaching the young players on how to be better. I suspect Green spends most of his time proving to everybody that he is in charge and that is where all his time and energy go – a typical rookie coach but we expected more.

    • Goon

      Gaunce and Virtanen are both playing better than they have in the past. Boeser’s absolutely killing it. Horvat continues to improve – the only reason he’s not on pace to beat last year’s totals both on the scoresheet and by underlying numbers is due to injury. The idea that no young players have stepped up their game this year just isn’t the case.

      As for deployment – there have been lots of injuries and lineup changes on the backend. There’s plenty to quibble with with how Green has deployed the defense this year, but the mere fact that he’s experimented with various defensive pairings is not an issue.

      Every coach has his issues and his blind spots, but Green’s done a pretty excellent job of getting the most out of a lineup with significant holes in it this season.

    • east_van_joe

      It’s not truly living, if you do so with albatross-sized blinders on. Horvat, and Boeser are playing better than last year, are they not? Admittedly, Boeser’s sample size was limited last year.

    • DJ_44

      Edler has been paired with Stecher for most of the season; except when Stecher was injured. I am pretty sure that Stecher is not the reason why Edler all of a sudden remembered body contact was in fact allowed in the NHL.

      Which young players have improved under Green? Virtanen. Horvat. Stecher. Poulloit. Gaunce. Hmmm. Look at that, all of them.(We won’t consider Boeser for the moment).

      Let’s dispell the myth that Hutton is young, but even he has improved from last season; albeit from “absolutely brutal” to just “brutal”.

  • DJ_44

    It was a good game.

    Other than Gaunce and Markstrom (who still makes me nervous) others were solid.

    What’s with Edler? The last half dozen games he has looked like a top pairing D. Physical, skating, playing great.

    Virtanen was noticeable every shift. He is figuring it out. Nice hits at both ends. If he is beat, he stops and then recovers (thinking of a defensive play on Keith); and he hunted the puck on Daniel’s goal.

    And, like others have commented: Tanev is fantastic.

    • copey

      What? Markstrom was fantastic and lucky too. Hawks could have had 6 goals easily. They missed a few open nets, but Markstrom stoned them in the 3rd, minus the one shot over the shoulder (his weakness). His kick-pad saves were stellar. *** Virts and Stecher each took penalties they shouldn’t have, yet each played well overall; so maybe Green will cut them a little slack.

      • DJ_44

        Ya. I realized the sentence did not read as intended (cough….edit button…..couch). It should have been “other that the obvious and often mentioned solid performances by Gaunce and Markstrom . …..”

      • truthseeker

        and the canucks could have had 4 more easy as well. It’s never a good argument. All teams come close all the time and in every game. Missed chances are nothing more than that.

  • TheRealPB

    Great game — never really felt threatened even when Chicago scored the 2nd goal. Amazing what having your top forwards and D back will do for you, in addition to getting a really good stretch of games from your goalie…Credit to where it’s due; I’ve been a pretty vocal critic of Gudbranson and MDZ and both were really solid yesterday (though it really helps when Tanev and Edler are playing like top D and Stetcher is also really good, though Pouliot struggled — all those games sitting aren’t good for him) with timely hits, staying in position, and good play in all three zones. Nice to see Gaunce get rewarded for good play with and without the puck. I was especially impressed with Eriksson who must have made a dozen really good defensive plays; nice to see him get rewarded with the assist. Much as we’re no longer the powerhouse we used to be, neither is Chicago. Of course we don’t have $32 million locked up in 4 players who are on the decline for the next 6 years. I barely noticed Kane other than on the PP, though Toews and Keith were good if not dominant.

  • Nuck16

    If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice the the premier snipers in the league, and Boesser of that ilk, are scoring a lot of goals on the PP off one timers from the corner close to the boards and 5 to 10 feet above the goal line…very difficult to defend and if you can get a firm clean pass over and execute the one timer, quite likely it’s in…hard for the tendy to get all the way across on those. When will we try that with BrockStar?

  • I always knew Gaunce had untapped offensive potential, based on his AHL stats and how I saw him play in the AHL. But notice what happens when he’s not stuck with Megna, Chaput and Skille but playing with Horvat or Eriksson? When he finally got a chance to play with decent scoring players, he showed he can score. And his ability to play center and win board battles with his strength and size and we have a guy that can anchor a defensively responsible bottom 6 scoring line.

      • If you google site search CA, you’ll find my past comments over the last year. Unlike Goldobin who is fairly new, Gaunce has been honing his game until the Canucks watch for years. If there is a player development story to be had, Gaunce would be the player given how he’s transitioned from a junior game to an NHL game.

    • Cageyvet

      Absolutely, you hope for a home run with your 1st round pick, as in Boeser at 23rd, but better to hit a single than strike out. Gaunce was picked at 26th overall, but it’s slim pickings after him and it looks like he can be an everyday player in a bottom 6 role.

      He showed early on that he has good hockey sense, and is a big body who can work the boards. If he can gain some confidence he’s got enough skill to contribute the modest offense expected from your bottom 6, and is a noticeably disruptive forechecker.

      • Gaunce needs to learn to throw body checks like Virtanen. If he did, we’d have a rare shift disturber who could be more than an energy role playing minute muncher but a guy that could also play shutdown / PK hockey.

        • Nuck4U

          Good point instead of just being a big body he intimidates with it it too. But he’s so puck and positional focused Gaunce hesitates to put himself out of the play with a missed hit. I guess another aspect to try to work into his game with some offense too.