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Photo Credit: www.nhl.com

Vancouver Canucks at New Jersey Devils Post-Game Recap: New Year’s In New Jersey

The Rundown 

Is there any better time for NHL hockey than 10:00AM on a Monday?

Of course there is, but that didn’t stop fans of the Vancouver Canucks from dragging themselves out of bed for this earlier-than-matinee New Year’s Eve matchup. The most dedicated among the fanbase were likely still coming down from the disappointment of watching Kevin Bieksa and Team Canada lose the Spengler Cup in a 3:00AM shootout, and there was some reason to believe that the game between the Canucks and the Devils would also result in a letdown—as Vancouver entered the day winless in their last seven against New Jersey.

As always, Jeff Paterson had the lineup notes on Twitter. :

There were no changes to the Canucks’ lineup, but a few to the lines themselves—most notably, Nikolay Goldobin remaining stapled to the fourth line while Antoine Roussel took his place aside Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser.

The goaltending matchup featured Anders Nilsson and Mackenzie Blackwood. Those hoping to see former Canuck Cory Schneider would be disappointed to learn he was on the IR with yet another injury—and doubly disappointed to learn that he’s gone more than a calendar year without an NHL win.

 

1st Period 

The Roussel-Pettersson-Boeser line started for Vancouver, with Boeser suiting up for the 100th game of his career. He celebrated the occasion with a deft soccer-pass to Pettersson in the neutral zone, but nothing else came of their first shift.

 

After a understandably tentative start from both teams, the first real action of the game came just before the five-minute mark, with Will Butcher taking a hooking penalty to grant the Canucks their first powerplay of the game. The opportunity didn’t produce much more than a handful of shots, leaving the Canucks with a 7-2 shot advantage heading into the first TV timeout.

Coming out of that commercial break, the fans at home got a glimpse of young John Shorthouse on Sports Page—and it was glorious.

 

The speedy Miles Wood broke free on a semi-breakaway for the Devils’ first legitimate scoring chance of the game, but a combination of Nilsson and a backchecking Troy Stecher prevented him from converting on it.

On the next shift, another nice example of neutral zone play by Boeser resulted in a turnover and a quick chance for Pettersson, but Blackwood once again proved equal to the task and kicked the puck into the corner.

The Devils opened up the scoring just over 12 minutes into the period. Rookie Brett Seney put an innocuous-looking shot on net and the enormous Brian Boyle broke free from the check of Nikolay Goldobin to sweep in a juicy rebound. It wasn’t a play that boded well for Goldobin’s chances of escaping the fourth line anytime soon.

 

Pettersson absorbed perhaps the stiffest legal check of his career on the next shift when Devils captain Andy Greene caught him with his head down crossing the blueline. As the entire fanbase collectively held their breath, however, Pettersson bounced right back to his feet and got back in the play immediately.

The hit seemed to spark a fire in Pettersson and his linemates as he, Boeser, and the newly-added Loui Eriksson got the puck deep on their next opportunity and proceeded to bang and crash behind the net. All three players engaged in physical puck battles on the shift, and Boeser in particular threw his weight around like never before. It was a great example of the team’s best players—and Eriksson—leading by example and trying to inspire the rest of the squad.

The Devils received their first powerplay opportunity of the game with just under three minutes remaining in the period after Bo Horvat took a tripping penalty. Once again, the fleet-footed freshman Seney was involved. The New Jersey powerplay operated like a well-tuned machine and set up Wood for a clean shot off the half-wall—and it was clean all the way, beating Nilsson on his blocker side for the 2-0 lead.

At period’s end, Vancouver had a 12-7 advantage in shots, but it didn’t make much of a difference on the scoreboard.

 

Intermission Highlight 

 

2nd Period

The second period opened up with a literal bang, as Antoine Roussel decked Travis Zajac away from the puck—and somehow managed to escape without a penalty. The tone seemed to be set for a more physical middle frame.

A few minutes later Anders Nilsson made his best save of the game on a cross-ice play from the Devils, adroitly leaping across his crease to get a pad on the puck. Twitter didn’t seem to notice.

The Baertschi-Granlund-Leivo line put together the Canucks’ best stint of sustained pressure yet near the seven-minute mark of the period, with Sven Baertschi nearly setting up Josh Leivo for an easy goal. In general, Baertschi continued to make smart plays in the offensive zone, and it really seemed like an inevitability that he’d end up back in the top-six before the game’s conclusion.

The Canucks picked up their second powerplay of the game when Damon Severson tripped Elias Pettersson—and the Sportsnet cameras picked up Pettersson having an interesting-looking conversation with Andy Greene after the whistle. There’s been a lot of pushback in Pettersson’s game of late, and this could be another example of it—or it could be Pettersson simply saying “That was a solid hit, pal.”

Either way, their brief chat was more exciting than anything the Canucks accomplished on the powerplay. At the very least, after Pettersson’s defensive play in overtime last game, the fanbase appears to be much more comfortable with him covering the point:

 

In a reverse of their fortunes from the previous few games, Vancouver continued to drastically outshoot their opponents but generated little in the way of actual scoring chances. On the other hand, they also effectively shut down the Devils—preventing them from taking a shot on net for a consecutive ten minutes at one point. This looked like a all-new, all-different Canucks team, but unfortunately it was also a Canucks team that remained down by two goals.

A bizarre play occurred at the five-minute mark, as Nilsson came out of his net to play the puck and then put it directly on Kyle Palmieri’s stick. Palmieri missed his shot at the empty net, then went tumbling backwards over Alex Edler’s leg and into the boards. Palmieri got up furious at Edler, but it looked like incidental contact rather than a malicious play. In any case, the dramatic crash Palmieri made when he hit the boards conveniently distracted from Nilsson’s giveaway.

With less than two minutes remaining in the period, Ben Hutton made a nice defensive play on Blake Coleman along the boards—and Coleman responded with an elbow that put the Canucks on a late powerplay.

After dueling dashes by Pavel Zacha and Horvat, the Canucks’ top unit was finally able to get set up, resulting in some fine passing but no clean shots. When the Devils took the puck up the ice upon regaining possession, Pettersson—perhaps taking exception to the results of the 2017 draft—decked Nico Hischier to the ice, inciting the New Jersey crowd.

 

Markus Granlund did little to change the minds of those demanding he be removed from the second powerplay unit when he earned a tripping call against Hischier to take the Canucks off the powerplay in the midst of a Goldobin scoring chance.

The period would end with a brief stint of four-on-four play, and with the Canucks outshooting the Devils to the tune of 21-13—but still down by two goals.

 

Intermission Highlight 

Learning just how differently the New Jersey fanbase felt about that Edler on Palmieri play than I did:

Though at least one fan saw the light after this wholesome exchange:

 

3rd Period 

The third period started with a handful of seconds of four-on-four play, followed by a truncated New Jersey powerplay. The Devils looked disinterested with the man advantage until only 20 seconds remained—at which point Miles Wood drove the puck into the zone and dished it to Sami Vatanen, who blasted it past Anders Nilsson for the 3-0 lead.

New Jersey was now two-for-two on the powerplay.

The blowout was officially on less than two minutes later as Stefan Noesen darted into the Canucks’ zone and dropped the puck to Pavel Zacha, who hammered it past Anders Nilsson. A collision between Alex Edler and Wood had opened up some extra space on the ice—perhaps karma for Edler’s inadvertent trip of Kyle Palmieri the previous period.

At the five-minute mark of the third period, the Devils had scored two goals on five shots, and the Canucks had yet to take a shot on goal.

Erik Gudbranson injected a bit of life into the game with a massive hit on John Quenneville that sent the young forward flying, but it failed to inspire much of a shift in momentum. Antoine Roussel followed this up by knocking over Mackenzie Blackwood with his own defender and then raining down punches on a turtling Damon Severson—resulting in a two-and-ten call and his ejection from the game.

The Canucks killed the penalty without incident, but gave up a two-on-one chance just as it expired. Nilsson stretched out his pad to make a nice kick save, denying the chance with a play that definitely falls under the category of “too little, too late.”

Thereafter, coach Travis Green threw his lines into a blender, and the results were interesting, to say the least:

 

In a rare occurrence, New Jersey took a delay of game penalty for dragging their heels and farting around too much after an icing call. It was a bold move by the referee, and the luckiest break the Canucks could have asked for at this point in the game–but it didn’t even result in a shot on net.

Josh Leivo made a nice solo effort on net after the penalty expired, but was unable to convert his original shot or the rebound he gathered into a goal.

Noesen made the mistake of taking a shot after the whistle on an offside play, and he received a rough ride from Gudbranson in the corner as retribution—though he was lucky enough to escape without being on the receiving end of an uppercut. Gudbranson was sent to the dressing room, and that was the last moment of excitement for the Canucks in 2018.

 

Wrap Up 

Fans had to get up early to watch this one, and many probably wish they’d stayed in bed. There aren’t a lot of positives to take away from a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of a Taylor Hall-less New Jersey team, but it’s important to remember that the Canucks traditionally underperform in matinee matchups—and this one took place on a Monday, to boot.

After another streak of solid—but statistically “lucky”—play, the Canucks were probably due for a loss, but it’s unfortunate that it had to be such an uninspiring one. This game made for an unfortunate end to a stellar month of December, and a sour New Year’s note—though Vancouver fans certainly have a lot to look forward to in 2019, and that’s probably better to focus on right now than this one anomalous loss.

And, of course, Lil Shorty:

 

Advanced Stats

 

Gameflow from Canucks at New Jersey December 31, 2018 (Courtesy of naturalstattrick.com)

 

Heatmap from Canucks at New Jersey December 31, 2018 (Courtesy of naturalstattrick.com)

 

Top Performers 

Elias Pettersson

There’s still a lot to love in Pettersson’s game even when he’s not scoring. Pettersson demonstrated a rare physical element to his game, made several key defensive plays, and generated chances with his offensive creativity—as per usual. He also led the team in faceoff percentage, solidifying what has usually been considered the weakest part of his game.

Josh Leivo

Leivo didn’t receive a lot of support from his linemates today, but he managed to generate a couple of chances through his own offensive acumen. Leivo hustles hard enough to fit in on the third line and his spurts of creativity make him a dangerous checking line forward—which proves that he’s a valuable member of the team even when he’s not skating in the top-six.

Ben Hutton

Hutton played more than 20 minutes of effective hockey tonight, making smart plays with the puck and limiting shot attempts against whenever he was on the ice. Hutton may not be demonstrating his occasional dynamic offense right now, but his defensive game has come leaps-and-bounds from where it was at the beginning of the season.

 

Next Game

The Canucks ring in 2019 with a visit to Ottawa on Wednesday, January 2—with a start-time of 4:00PM PST on Sportsnet Pacific and 360.

  • Well, the first goal squeaked through and on the second, Nilsson was a little out of position. This one was over after the first period. Nilsson has to find a way to stay sharp.
    Too bad, on paper this was an easy one to win.

    I kind of feel sorry for former Canuck Cory Schneider. Even Melanson can’t get him out of that slump he’s in. No resurgence of Eddie Lack neither.

    “Young John Shorthouse” He was a handsome young man. What happened?
    Just kiddin Shorty.

    I like Elias in the new Audi add, can’t say the same for Granlund and his Metro Motors add though.

    Oilers picked up a couple of third pairing Dmen yesterday. I wonder if a deal for DelZotto was on the table.

    Happy New Year!

    .

      • I thought the same! I remember Shorthouse taking over on radio from the legendary Jim Hughson, who replaced the legendary Jim Robson. And I was thinking there’s no way this was going to work. Now we have the legendary John Shorthouse.

  • If this was a stinker this A.M. it’s one of the very few this year. The incongruity of the Canucks playing at the crack of dawn and in the NY Metro area as well seems quite apparent. It just wasn’t their day. And as the Ancient Egyptians would say, “ mar wepet renput wah neb.” (Happy New Year, everyone)

      • A 10 A.M. PST game time brings the players out of bed and to the rink like this is pee-wee and bantam hockey.
        It’s absurd and it’s comical and the score reflected that.

    • Canucks and now almost all the west coast teams get shafted going east for weekend or holiday games. Those noon EST starts in Philly were brutal and I think NYR games were at 1:00. Funny though, the Kings rarely ever got them, but we would have two a year…… that’s the whine of the day.
      Happy New Years everyone.

    • Greeny is once again out-thinkin’ himself. Just start Markstrom dude. His infatuation with Granlund is hurting the team. The second PP unit is a mess. Way to go Nilsson, just lost a few rounds on your trade. Now if we give up a pick and your lameness, we get back some twine and rubber. I was debating others going down, but I’m all in on waiving Nilsson, Biega, Schaller, MDZ.

  • I don’t know which game was worse. The Canucks playing New Jersey or Team Canada against Russia. Wasn’t impressed with either team. Hopefully they both play better next game.

  • Complaining about the start time is just whiny biased thinking. Every team gets games like that. Every team travels and plays games out of their comfort zone.

    The canuck controlled the majority of that game and simply weren’t good enough to get quality chances. That loss is on the team with no excuses.

    A reversal indeed. Carry the play, shoot from the outside, and maybe get a handful of actual quality chances and the other team scores on the counter attack and the PP. And their goalie was excellent.

    Oh well…shake it off and make sure the effort is better in the capital.

    • I think it’s a fair comment. It’s a lot about routine on gamedays, so a 10:00 start has to throw everything off. The Canucks gave to play enough 4:00 pm home starts for eastern TV that they should be able to stop playing these morning games.

      • I travel a lot and 4,000 km flights,airports,customs and a change of three time zones is an issue that is glossed over by the schedule makers. If they wanted a game day tilt they should have enlisted a rival in their own time zone.
        Try to get to sleep early when your body isn’t adjusted,then forced to get up early when you still have to sleep,then throw food down your gut when it is resting and try to get it together to perform when you have been at a home routine for the last two weeks at that very same time.
        It’s not a performance enhancement routine or schedule.
        Then again,most bean counters haven’t a clue to begin with so there’s the result.

        • whining. These are grown men getting paid to play a game. Suck it up and work harder.

          it all comes around when eastern teams need to play the end of or start a road trip in Vancouver. Same for them. They’re going to be “off” because of travel. It’s just whining.

          • So says the guy from the comfort of his couch. Bud, TD, Locust and others made fair comments after watching that stinker and you call it whining? From a pure entertainment value I believe no western club should play matinee games in the eastern time zone. The schedule maker can find another Eastern team for those. Players are in a well established game day routine that gets messed up, the results are there to see if you choose to.

        • What the hell are you talking about… Making excuses for 20 millionaire hockey players. They are paid well to play at whatever hour is dictated.. are you that stupid..

          • You could pay them more and the results don’t change. The body clock struggles in that scenario. Try it sometime.

          • It does not matter how much money they make; players on both teams make the money. It is essentially about fairness in competition. Travelling west to east, with one day off between games is challenging.

            Having them in for a 1pm local start is just poor scheduling. Last year (or the year before) they had a similar crazy schedule where they played one night in either Carolina or Florida, and then had to travel for a 1pm start the next day in Washington. Back-to-backs are one thing, but that was basically a scheduled loss.

            If it had been a 6pm local start, then the travelling team at least gets a morning skate and is ready to play.

            That said, they did not play poorly, they carried the play (and then some) until it was out of reach in the third.

  • In a continent-wide, 4 time zone 31 team league you’re going to get scheduling that helps no one in all divisions from time to time. When SEA gets in to make it a 32 team affair I’m all for making it a more regional league per division and teams to NOT play anyone else outside of their DIVISION more than home-and-home. VAN should be stay mostly in or close to their own time as much as possible. Better for Vancouver to play SEA 6 times than play NASH, CHI or DAL 3 times. Chop the damned travel, Bettman.

  • It does not matter how much money they make; players on both teams make the money. It is essentially about fairness in competition. Travelling west to east, with one day off between games is challenging.

    Having them in for a 1pm local start is just poor scheduling. Last year (or the year before) they had a similar crazy schedule where they played one night in either Carolina or Florida, and then had to travel for a 1pm start the next day in Washington. Back-to-backs are one thing, but that was basically a scheduled loss.

    If it had been a 6pm local start, then the travelling team at least gets a morning skate and is ready to play.

    That said, they did not play poorly, they carried the play (and then some) until it was out of reach in the third.

  • The Canucks definitely faded as this game went on. Hard to say how much of that was due to an early start or frustration from not burying chances or getting key saves.

    A 10 am PST is certainly some disadvantage but when Eastern teams play here the 3rd periods are starting after midnight Eastern time. Certainly not ideal and the Canucks definitely catch some tired eastern teams.

    The league has to schedule to fit arena availability and optimize revenue. Not going to change, better figure out how to best deal with a couple early games a year.

  • It’s funny how none of you arguing against this see your own biases or even lack of ability to comprehend the argument.

    No where did I say that the travel wouldn’t affect the team. Yet that’s the red herring you all keep harping on. Yes, the canucks will be tired or “off” by having to play a game like that. It’s a part of being an NHL player. You need to push through and work harder or you will lose games like that.

    But what’s even more interesting is how all of you keep ignoring the point I and D factory just made about the canucks being the beneficiaries of the same thing when eastern teams play here. Doesn’t fit your conformation bias so you just ignore it. I wonder, did you even read it? Comprehend it? Process the idea even just a little? Or was the bias totally instinctual? Like that part of the argument doesn’t even exist to you and you just see (or interpret it into) whatever it is you want to see? Honestly…I really want to know how someone can so totally fundamentally ignore the main point of an argument to see what they want to see, and think that it’s something that only affects the canucks, and they are the only victims of it. As if it’s some league conspiracy against “our team”…lol.

    And I hope you all realize that the exact same logic you are using right now to whine about the the canucks travel schedule while ignoring it for everyone else, is the same as those whiny Oiler fans YOU were complaining about just a couple of days ago, when they complained about McDavid being interfered with by the canucks while totally ignoring it when they were doing it to EP.

    Let that sink in. You’re acting like Oiler fans.

    • Argument? My point is that the traveling across 3 times zones then playing a matinee game results in a stinker of a game. If it was an evening game nothing would have been written. Jet lag is a real difficult thing to overcome, typically will take up to three days for your clock to reset. I don’t even party well on the first day after a three hour zone change, I try hard though. Your comment that they should “suck it up and work harder” is laughable.

      • Re: ” I hope you all realize that the exact same logic you are using right now to whine about the the canucks travel schedule while ignoring it for everyone else…

        Canucks have the most difficult schedule in the league next season

        Rob Williams
        Jul 11, 2018 5:07 pm

        Due to its geography, Vancouver famously always has a brutal travel schedule.
        No team spends more time on airplanes than the Canucks – something that improved slightly with Vegas’ entry into the league.

        But geography doesn’t seem to play into this graph.
        The -8 discrepancy is by far the worst in the league, with New Jersey (-4) the next closest.
        The Devils have traditionally one of the league’s easiest travel schedules.

        The Canucks get the benefit of playing a tired team while rested just three times – fewest in the NHL.
        Conversely, Vancouver will be tired while playing a rested team on 11 occasions – second-most in the league.

        No team in the NHL has a worse discrepancy than the Canucks, which seems like a cruel joke because this is a team that will need all the help they can get.

        http://dailyhive.com/vancouver/canucks-difficult-schedule-2018

        • Cherry picking one season huh?

          OK…so looking at that I see the pink side is the one that really matters. Playing a rested team when tired. There are 2 teams WORSE off than us, 5 teams in the exact same boat as us, and 7 more only a single game “better” than us. Hardly a drama to be whining about.

          As for the blue side…yeah…the league should probably pay more attention to that and try to balance the pacific out a bit more.

          Calculating a “discrepancy” number is kind of pointless. Creating a “stat” for the sake of the stat. It doesn’t matter.

          So…how about other seasons? Is it consistently like this over a significant span? 5 or 10 years? Cause…when I do a quick search of last year we look pretty good…

          https://twitter.com/ineffectivemath/status/878263521477144576

          I’m not seeing a pattern to get all hung up about.

          • You ,Bud and I are all coming at this from different angles. Geography creates a schedule that “ is what it is” and I have no problem with that. My point once is that “ no western teams should play matinee games against eastern teams”. The negative effects of jet lag and body clock add up to lousy on ice product that could be avoided.