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Photo Credit: © Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Canucks Army Postgame: All in for Dahlin

Final Score: San Jose Sharks 5, Vancouver Canucks 3

THE RUNDOWN

Coming into the game, the Vancouver Canucks quite literally had nowhere to go but up.

According to Friend Of The Site Kevin Woodley (my boss over at InGoal Magazine), the Canucks set a 32-year-strong scoreless record back in 1984, going 223:10 without finding the back of the net before beating that in 2016 with 228:10 of goal-less ice time.

This past week, the team came obnoxiously close to beating that record AGAIN, hitting 227:57 before stopping 13 seconds shy of the current record in the first period of Saturday night’s game.

It was hardly a surprise to see the team finally end their scoreless drought; for the first time in ages, they came out of the gate looking like the dominant team by a wide margin.

Where they’d looked ineffective and lethargic during their Southwest road trip, they put up 10 shot attempts in the first six minutes of play – and then, just a few minutes later, Nikolay Goldobin finally broke the spell. While Evander Kane sat in the box, Virtanen moved into the San Jose offensive zone, banked the puck around behind the net, and then watched as Reid Boucher wove back behind the net a second time to put the puck out in front for Derrick Pouliot – who passed out to Goldobin on the left wing and watched as the forward ripped one high blocker side past a screen on Aaron Dell to open scoring:

The Canucks would try to keep up the pressure, but things would head downhill quickly in the second half of the period; both Logan Couture and Kevin Labanc would find the back of the net, scoring the equalizer and the go-ahead just over a minute apart to leave Vancouver trailing after 20.

For a team that seemed to be ready for a 2015 Buffalo-esque tank job just a few nights ago, Vancouver did an admirable job of staying in it through the next 20 minutes of play, outshooting San Jose 12-11 in all situations and drawing three penalties – a stark contrast from their own three consecutive calls following Goldobin’s tally in the first.

They started off the period letting the game get further out of hand, allowing Timo Meier to earn his 19th of the season just 1:47 into the second with a slight deflection off of his back on a Brenden Dillon shot from the blue line.

The Canucks would battle to get back into it, though, scoring another two goals before the period was over to enter the final frame tied at three goals apiece – and doing so both times on the man advantage, going three for four on the power play throughout the night.

First, they would see Bo Horvat cash in for his own 19th of the season. Aaron Dell would come out in an attempt to bat away a centering shot by Sam Gagner, but Horvat’s position right on his doorstep would make for an easy deflection past Dell’s left pad for goal number two.

Finally, the Canucks would earn a power play tally on a powerful shot from the point by Alex Edler, who earned goal number three of the season after Gagner fed him a perfect one-timer.

Then, the third period saw it all relatively fall apart.

For the first time all game, the Canucks would get outshot in a period, watching San Jose put up 11 recorded SOG to Vancouver’s 10 during the final 20 minutes.

Neither team would get another chance to deepen the game’s special teams wounds, but Meier’s second goal of the game (and 20th on the season) would pull San Jose ahead by one with just over six minutes left to play after using Del Zotto as a screen for his shot just outside the hashmarks.

Tomas Hertl would cash in on the empty net with just under :30 seconds left in the game, and that would be all she wrote.

NUMBERS

The Sharks really kicked things up a notch down the back stretch of the second period shot attempt-wise, but a huge amount of credit goes to the Canucks for coming out strong and maintaining the shot attempt advantage through the entire night.

Sometimes, Vancouver looks like a mess right out of the gate, and other times they almost seem to completely implode in the countdown to the final buzzer. Tonight, they failed to hold off their opponents in the final minutes, but put up an admirable effort in the process. This game – scoring, shooting, playmaking – looked like night and day compared to their games earlier in the week, from start to finish.

OBSERVATIONS

  • On the plus side, the Buffalo Sabres pulled off a win over the Chicago Blackhawks tonight – which is both hilarious from the ‘Chicago free-fall’ standpoint and good for Vancouver’s chances at finishing dead last in the NHL this year. They’re now just one point back of the Canucks and their six straight losses, and both Arizona and Buffalo have been playing well enough down this back stretch that they just may accidentally play themselves right out of the Dahlin sweepstakes.
  • Of course, Arizona also lost their game on Saturday night, after dominating their first half against the Minnesota Wild. Arizona playing very well (but continuing to lose) is a worst-case scenario for Vancouver; if the Coyotes look like they’re on the cusp of being Wild Card contenders, but somehow land Rasmun Dahlin as well, they immediately become a threat (with an added option of then shopping Oliver Ekman-Larsson for a top scoring forward, to boot). Ideally, they manage to keep up their 100-point pace through the rest of 2018, playing themselves right out of a top-3 pick and leaving this draft year’s best rebuild pieces for the teams with rabid fanbases desperately in need of reassurance.
  • The joke about Markstrom playing better when his team isn’t scoring any goals made me laugh for about half a second, then stop. Thinking back, there have been plenty of games where the Canucks just couldn’t put together their offensive effort, but Markstrom absolutely stood on his head… and then, he has nights like tonight, where he just can’t seem to get it done. Is it because the team can only play one thing at a time – offense or defense – or a mental focus issue with Markstrom himself, where the no-chances, must-stop-pucks mindset only really shows up when he knows the team will sink without him? At the start of the season, I mentioned that Markstrom needed to show, finally, that he had the consistency and reliability to his game that was deserving of a starting gig. When these kinds of jokes aren’t actually all that funny, it’s pretty clear that that’s not the case. The team still has him under contract for the next two years, but this year has definitely proven that Thatcher Demko sorely needs to pan out at the NHL level.
  • The lack of an even-strength goal is concerning for a team that didn’t find the back of the net once in three straight games, since it speaks of a potential continued problem when the opposition doesn’t take a ton of penalties. On the bright side, though, the power play was buzzing – and in what essentially amounts to a lost season en route to full-scale rebuild, the little things make all the difference in the world.
  • Speaking of the little things, Sam Gagner had six shots on goal and two assists on the night. He thrived in the game, generating offense both through scoring chances and with well-positioned plays for other Canucks on the ice. He remains inconsistent at best, and it would take quite a few of his infamous eight-point games to sniff the 18 goals he put up last year; at this point, he appears to be a player whose only semblance of consistency comes when he’s played with higher point-generators in a playoff lineup like the one in Columbus. It is possible, though, to look at this as a bright point; when he plays like that, it’s easy to remember why the Canucks picked him up in the first place.
  • Finally, a huge stick tap to the fans in attendance tonight. I was in an entirely different arena, covering the Coyotes-Wild game, but all I saw on Twitter was how loud the building got towards the end. It hasn’t been an easy year to cheer, so it’s nice to see you guys get a chance to get loud – even if things didn’t quite end with a win. (although, in the long haul, one loss closer to Dahlin is a win… is it not?)
    • TheRealRusty

      Wrong, wrong and wrong again. Finishing last guarantees that they will have first pick in the 2nd round of the draft and each subsequent round after that.

        • Braindead Benning

          OMG…goldylocks woke up for a complete meaninless game…YAY… lets get the pom poms out and cheer for him and Gagner 2 points…clap, clap, clap…great 3 mil signing…

          Cant wait until next year when this inept regime spends to the max only to finish 28 at best…

          • Green Bastard

            @ Braindead. You and the other fake fan trolls sound almost suicidal. Remember the pork chop tied around your neck trick to get your doggy to play with you.

          • Braindead Benning

            Weird, i love pork chops grilled with a nice piri piri rub… i never heard of someone tying it around a neck…must be something that GB experinced as a youth?
            Anywho, call me a troll if that makes you feel like a “better” fan however, in the 35 years of being a fan i guess i am not entitled to form an opinion about this mess of a management.

            P

      • TD

        It does give you a higher pick in the following rounds, but a that point it doesn’t make near the difference it does in the top 5 picks. Once you get past the top of the first round, teams have their own lists that rarely match up and many of the players are interchangeable over a 5 or 10 pick range.

    • Green Bastard

      @Rolland… I don’t get why some are having trouble figuring out, or remembering… dead last means 18% chance to win first overall pick. Which also calculates to 82% chance of NOT getting first overall!!! Which one looks more likely?

        • Dirk22

          I’m not a draft scout but according to many there seems to be the top tier: Dahlin, a second tier: Svechinov and Zadina, a third tier of Boqvist, Hughes, Wahlstrom..maybe a Tkachuk or Bouchard in that 3rd tier depending on the source. Still time for that to fluctuate more but that’s what I’ve seen stated most often. Who knows what the Canucks have but it’s probably similar to the consensus rankings.

          Having a 2nd overall is better then having a 7th overall, yes. It’s better to draft high. End of story.

          • Beefus

            Another way it could help is if the Canucks opt to trade down. If they have the second or third pick another team may be willing to trade quality picks and prospects for Svechinov or Zadina.

          • truthseeker

            nope…it’s not the “end of story”. Of course picking higher is better than picking lower if that’s the situation we end up in.

            But for the team itself on the ice now, it’s better for them to play hard and win as many games as possible. It does matter. Psychology in sports matters. Get tagged as a loser and that’s what will be in your head come next year. And that will affect the team.

            It’s not a simple black and white issue like you tankers are making it out to be. Loses now come at a cost. In my opinion the 6 to 10 % “improvement” in lottery odds is not worth the psychological impact on the players on the team now. In real world probability in terms of a lottery the % difference is virtually meaningless. Combine that with the fact that the difference between your “second tier” and “third tier” is hardly well established and I just don’t think it matters that much if we’re picking Svechinov at 2 or Hughes at 5 or 6. Same thing.

            It’s a lottery with very very bad odds even if you’re the worst. Sure you can say technically that “every percentage point matters” but in reality it really doesn’t matter that much. The odds f…king suck and it’s going to come down to complete luck as to who gets number 1. The way you guys talk it’s like you actually believe a 6 or 8 % swing is of huge importance…lol. You guys must suck at poker.

          • Dirk22

            Truthseeker – by record they’re the worst team in the NHL since the start of the 2015-16 season. If there is psychological damage occurring from losing (as you stated), that ship has sailed. A few more losses at the end of this season isn’t going to break their careers anymore than the last three years have. What would help them more than anything to shed the loser tag is a really good player on their team. The type of player you find at the top of the draft.

          • truthseeker

            What would help them is being professionals, working as hard as they can and letting the chips fall where they may. If that means the get a few more wins and end up slightly higher in the standings then so be it. If it means they still lose then that’s fine too. But if they quit on this season and do what you tankers want, then yeah…it could very well turn them into players that simply quit when things get a little rough in the future.

  • Brent

    Was at the game and agree with Cat, the crowd was really into it. I think all the boring season ticket holders have sold their tickets at a loss so more engaged fans can show up. It was loud and the wave in the third period just kept going and going. In reality it was a perfect game, great effort, a lot of goals, but we still lost in regulation! Goldy had a great game. Looked dangerous all night. Virtanen was up and down, some great plays, took a bad penalty, and some bonehead moves, but really, that is OK. Keep him out there learning, keep him focused and engaged. Definitely worth the money to go, especially since it was free!

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    The refs put away the whistle in the third period, and it gave the advantage to the Sharks who were able to hook, grab, and trip with impunity. The crowd was letting the Zebras have it too. I can’t understand why the NHL can not officiate a game consistently across the whole 60 minutes.
    Canucks played well, all things considered.

    • crofton

      The non-call for the trip on Del Zotto with about 5 minutes left, and with the Canucks buzzing, was appalling, but expected. I said to my wife after they scored their third PP goal that they likely wouldn’t get another one for the rest of the game. And yes it is league wide.

    • LAKID

      Have to agree on the officiating this year it is terrible but the Nuk’s should finish dead last as they are not going to win a game for the rest of the month.

  • Ken Priestlay Fan

    Of Gagner is, as you say, a “player whose only semblance of consistency comes when he’s played with higher point-generators” that could be to the Canucks advantage next year or the year after. As some of the young offensive players start to arrive over the next couple of seasons, Gagner’s numbers may be pumped by association with the Bowser’s, Petterson’s and Gaudette’s of this world. Gagner puts up 50 points next season (or the next) giving secondary assists to Pettersson and Boeser leads to lots of interest at the trade deadline. Even if they win the Dahlin sweepstakes, they will need to keep the prospect pool nice and full to actually bexome competitive in the longer term

  • Rodeobill

    Best case scenario again. I don’t need (or at this phase even want at times) them to win, but for me to watch these games I need them to play hard, not give up and play with resignation, play for each other and give a fug. This game had it. I may be rooting for the bottom of the standings away from the games, but I sure don’t want them to do so. This should be their stanley cup run for a spot on next year’s roster.

    It was an excellent game that kept me in it the whole way, and an arguement could be made that if the universe was fair, this game is ours. Posts, trickles along the goal lines, uncalled penalties, etc. this was our game and should have won it, but did win in the draft board, so yeah. Great game. Hope the rest look the same.

  • DogBreath

    Would be interested to see if CA can analyze the impact of injuries to all 31 teams over the 82 game schedule. Perhaps weight the analysis by avg minutes played/game to determine a players starting value and then quantify the impact of injuries. It seems we get hit inordinately each year. Why does Boston get hammered and then excel (yes, I know, depth).

    • There are a few sites out there that track this data, both as a pure “man-games lost to injury” stat as well as weighting the games lost by top six/top four players against bottom six / bottom pairing players. Check out ManGamesLost on Twitter.

      • According to MGL, Buffalo and Colorado have lost the most total games while Anaheim and Vegas have lost the most time from important players. Vancouver can’t be far behind, and may catch up by the end of the year with Boeser and Gudbranson out for the season.

        • DogBreath

          Thanks. I see Ed Willis took the issue up in Musings. It’d be nice to see what this team could have done without all the injuries. Not a playoff team, but interesting to see how Linden:Benning’s vision would have played out this year.

          Also, seems like the inordinate injury impacts are a trend. Seems the Canucks should investigate why and make changes,

          • This was something the Gillis/Gilman regime invested pretty heavily in – it’s a combination of luck (which you can’t control for), play style, and travel-related fatigue (which you can). The Canucks under Gillis/Gilman minimized fighting and were the first team in the league to employ sleep doctors, partly as a way to try to reduce the impact of injuries.

            Of course, there’s not much you can do about an errant puck bouncing off a stick and taking out the eye of one of your key players.

  • crofton

    The headline ticks me off. “All in for Dahlin” as if there was no (spirited) effort by the players. They didn’t look like a team that wants to tank to me.

  • DJ_44

    I agree with most it was a good game for the Canucks.

    It was really unbelieveable how there was no call on two trips on the same shift in the offensive zone.

    That said, what really stood out for me is why we trot out the Sedin’s on PP#1. Yesterday’s game stood out as the reason, despite the positives they bring, the Canucks should part ways with the twins in the off-season.

    Was anyone else hoping for the Sharks to send the puck down the ice with 1:05 left in the PP if only to see a more exciting “second” unit come on the ice?