The Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings played each other on Thursday. Tonight, these two teams would meet in Salt Lake City, Utah for the rematch. With both teams featuring a lineup that fans could very well see on the ice come opening night, this one had the makings of a competitive hockey game. In the end, it was clear what work the Canucks need to do in order to be competitive again.
The game was a battle tonight right from the get-go, but not in the sense of team versus team competition. Both goaltenders were having some major troubles with the goalposts on their pegs. This caused a ton of stoppages and ultimately killed momentum numerous times for the teams as they tried to ease their way into the hockey game.
The net issues were finally resolved, but the Canucks play certainly wasn’t up to par. The Kings would send a barrage of shots at Jakob Markstrom early and often throughout the 1st period, forcing the netminder to stand his ground. Markstrom made a couple nice stops before robbing Dustin Brown to keep the Canucks in it.
The Canucks would not escape the first period unscathed, however, as Tyler Toffoli would snap home a wrister to give the Kings a 1-0 lead to head into the 1st intermission. A Troy Stecher 2 on 1 shot was the closest the Canucks would come to tying the game up in the 1st. Link for the highlight down below.
Canucks came into the period having to kill off a penalty being served by Sam Gagner. As soon as the penalty expired, Gagner received the puck and came in on a 2 on 1. To my surprise, Gagner wound up and clapped a slap shot past Jonathan Quick to make it a 1-1 hockey game.
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) September 25, 2018
Only a few minutes later though, the Kings would retake the lead. Erik Gudbranson attempts a pinch but gets beat handily. Tyler Toffoli would glove the puck down, proceeded to come in on Olli Juolevi, and snapped a shot through the five-hole of Markstrom. A goal Markstrom likely wishes to have back. Link to the highlight down below.
The Canucks would do their best to regain momentum. With Gudbranson trying to make his detractors forget about his poor pinch by flattening Kyle Clifford along the near boards. The Canucks top line of Nikolay Goldobin, Bo Horvat, and Brock Boeser would set up a couple nice plays at 5 on 5. Finally, a few good Canuck chances on their power play, including a Stecher Spin-o-Rama to fool Drew Doughty and draw another penalty. Nothing would translate to a tally in the goal column, and it’d be 2-1 for the Kings heading into the 3rd.
The 3rd period would be the dagger in the hearts of the Canucks. Starting with another gaffe by the Gudbranson – Juolevi pair. Alex Iafallo would streak down the left wing, blow by Erik Gudbranson, and fed a streaking Kopitar with a cross-crease pass for a perfect tap in putting the Kings up 3-1. Would like to see Juolevi backcheck harder on the play, as the rookie faded and let Kopitar slide in basically unchecked.
— LA Kings (@LAKings) September 25, 2018
About a minute later, Utah boy Trever Lewis would feed Dion Phaneuf right above the left circle for a slap shot one-timer that rocketed past Jakob Markstrom for the 4th goal of the hockey game for Los Angeles. Link for the highlight down below.
As far as highlights are concerned, that was it for the 3rd period. Both teams exchanged a couple of chances, with Goldobin setting up Stecher in the slot being the Canuck highlight of the period. Near the end of the game Virtanen and Phaneuf would get into a little tussle, but nothing serious. The game would end 4-1 for Los Angeles as they get revenge for their shootout loss 4 days ago.
As the game was not aired on live television, there’s no advanced statistics up for the contest… Quite sad really.
So, there’s a lot of negative things to say about this performance from the Canucks. With a veteran-heavy lineup and a few kids sprinkled in. There were some glaring mistakes.
Where’s the team’s defense?
As the question states, the team defense seems to be nonexistent for this team right now. The Canucks have not had a game in the preseason where they have given up less than 3 goals. This will not get it done at the NHL level. It’s one thing to have a couple of games where things don’t go right, but it’s early in the preseason and the Canucks can’t seem to keep the puck out of their net.
Where’s the team’s offense?
In the same breath, the Canucks have 4 even strength goals in 5 games. Again, it’s only preseason but this is still unacceptable with so many players battling for jobs on the main roster. Would just like to see something out of someone other than Elias Pettersson.
There weren’t many players who really made me feel good about their performance tonight. Some started off well, while others finished off the game with a couple of noticeable performances.
Sam Gagner: One of the forwards who I felt was really trying to make things happen. Gagner had the only goal in the second coming out of the box, placing a slapshot in the right spot. He was also effective on the right wall on the power play. Getting the puck back to Edler and shooting a lot more than initially expected. He helped himself possibly earn a spot in the Canucks top 6.
Nikolay Goldobin: The only other forward who I felt was effective in the offensive zone tonight. Saw a lot of smart passes, good looks, and even a bit of pizazz as he tried to dangle his way to the middle of the ice for a shot selection. Now, he wasn’t perfect by any means, but in comparison to the rest of the forwards out on the ice tonight, I thought he showed a higher effort level than his last outing and looks to be in a good spot to win one of the other those top 6 forward roles.
Brock Boeser: I get he’s coming off a brutal back injury from last year, and he’s getting used to a fully healthy wrist, but I feel like we would’ve seen a goal from Boeser by now. Frankly, I was hoping that he would do something that would make me get out of my seat, and I just haven’t seen it. He could be conserving himself, unlike last year when he had to push himself to earn a spot on the team. I just would like to see a little bit more, call me selfish.
Jakob Markstrom: If Markstrom could keep the softies out of the net, we wouldn’t be placing him in the average category. Unfortunately, another game in which we see a puck squirt through Jakob Markstrom and we’re ultimately stuck with a situation where I just don’t feel confident with him behind the net for this team. He made some nice stops, including making a tough save on the Jeff Carter breakaway. He needs to close the door on basic saves if he truly wants to take the next step.
Tonight, I’m putting the whole defense on blast (minus Troy Stecher). Like, at some point I expect the Canuck’s current defense corps to hold a team to under 3 goals, or help out their goaltender. It’s just… disappointing but expected at this point. Tonight was no exception; Juolevi had a good 1st period, but ultimately couldn’t carry Erik Gudbranson, who looks like an absolute pylon at times. Alex Edler had a rough night, Alex Biega isn’t good enough to remain in a top 6, and Michael Del Zotto just seems to make a few too many mental gaffes. Now, we had no Chris Tanev and Ben Hutton against a Kings lineup that fielded what looked to be a full NHL roster, but I’d hope the team can improve their defense in the final tune-ups before the regular season.
Top 6 winger battles: Sven Baertschi, Nikolay Goldobin, Sam Gagner, Brendan Leipsic, Adam Gaudette, Loui Eriksson.
As the pre-season winds down, the battles for the top 6 winger spots are going to heat up. Tonight, I think Goldobin and Gagner had a better showing than Sven, but at this point, I’d have Sven riding the B-line and Pettersson surrounded by Goldobin and Gagner. I know head coach wants Travis Green to have Pettersson able to play in his defensive zone, but I feel like loading up some offensively gifted players with the young Swede could benefit the Canucks greatly. They can’t have just one scoring line if they want to try and resemble a team trying to win hockey games. I made mention of Adam Gaudette on the list, but won’t go into too much detail for him. He hasn’t done enough in my eyes to warrant placing him ahead of other Canucks forwards on this team. More seasoning in Utica will do him more than 10 minutes on the main roster.
Bottom 2 Left Defensemen: Michael Del Zotto, Ben Hutton, Olli Juolevi, Derrick Pouliot.
After Ashton Sautner got waived to start the day, it was an opportunity for Juolevi to make a case that he could be in the lineup on opening night. After a strong 1st period, Juolevi wasn’t able to keep up his play and got burned for a couple of Kings goals. Del Zotto isn’t a great option either, but Ben Hutton looked better versus the Kings on Thursday compared to both Del Zotto and Juolevi tonight. We’ll see what Pouliot can do in his next outing, but at this point, he’ll be starting in the press box and Juolevi will be down in Utica growing with the rest of the Canucks young core.
That’s all for tonight, thanks a ton for the read through!