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Photo Credit: ( Canucks / Twitter )

Vancouver Canucks vs Detroit Red Wings Post Game Recap: Vaulting Vanek

The Canucks came into their Sunday matinée looking to extend their four game point streak against the Austrian ageless wonder, Thomas Vanek, and the Detroit Red Wings. After picking up only six points on the six game road trip preceding their extend stay at Rogers Arena, Vancouver has earned six points in their last four at home. A win or OTL today would give the team their longest point streak since winning five straight from December 6th through the 16th.

They had some help as Elias Pettersson returned to the lineup for the first time since he suffered a knee sprain on January 3rd at Montreal. In his absence, the Canucks have gone 2-2-2 posting a .667 points percentage.

With an early start today, many hoped they’d still be riding their morning coffee and skip their becoming-a-concerning-trend slow start.

1st Period:

Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the case. Through the first ten minutes Detroit held a 6-1 lead in shots and as we can see in the handy shot tide below, the lion’s share of the momentum. If this looks like I copied and pasted this from the Buffalo game, well, it’s pretty darn close.

shot tide courtesy hockeyviz.com

Their first shot would come on a Sutter shot from the right circle, looking for Virtanen on the rebound. Bernier made a nice stick save, paddling the puck away from both the goal and Shotgun Jake who was crashing the net.

Thankfully, the home team was able to come out of the period with the lead after a nice tip from Elias Pettersson on a Brock Boeser point shot. To start the play, Pouliot fired a shot wide and Gudbranson pinched to lift the stick of former Canadien second-rounder Jacob de la Rose, who now finds himself on the fourth line of one of the league’s worst teams. Boeser, covering for Gudbranson, whipped the puck high towards the net where Pettersson working on Hronek just kissed it into the far corner with 9:45 to go.

Fourteen minutes into the first, Markstrom made a strong sliding save as Larkin fed Vanek in front for the in-tight shot. Larkin, standing in the low right circle, received the puck on a cross-ice feed and looked like he wanted to shoot. Markstrom slid over to challenge Detroit’s dangerous young center, putting him a bit off balance as Larkin made his pass back in the opposite direction. The 35 year old former Canuck was robbed in front as Markstrom was able to get back over and make the play.

Virtanen and Sutter had a nice 2-on-1 with 2:05 left in the first, but Virtanen fired the puck right off of Bernier’s chest protector and Sutter had closed in quickly leaving him with no chance on the ensuing rebound once he was pushed off the puck by Hronek.

2nd Period:

A minute and ten seconds into the second, Markstrom made a big leg save on Andreas Athanasiou. The speedy winger skated through the center of the ice right past Derrick Pouliot to pick up a nifty pass from Luke Glendening, who redirected Nick Jensen’s point shot right to Andreas. After making the first save, Marky  made a strong push over to contest the put-back attempt, but Pouliot batted the puck away to keep the Canucks up 1-0.

With 16:45 to go in the second, Elias Pettersson drove the net and nearly scored off a wrap-around. He put the puck of Bernier’s far pad where it bounced just out of reach of Josh Leivo. I like Leivo in the T.J. Oshie spot with Boeser and Pettersson, as the third most important player on his line who happens to have a good shot and a knack for knowing where the puck is going to be.

Detroit tied things up at the 8:34 mark of the second on a beautiful Nielsen one-timer. Vanek made a controlled entry off of the exit pass from his defenseman. As Vanek crossed the blue line, he dumped the puck to Anthony Mantha, waiting along the near boards. Mantha brought the puck up the boards a bit as Vanek crashed the net and Nielsen crept into the right circle. The former Islander kneeled down to take the shot on the feed from Mantha and went to Markstrom’s far side, past the blocker.

Detroit almost pulled ahead at the 11:30 mark in the second. Gustav Nyquist easily knocked the puck off of Motte’s stick while he tried to make a controlled exit. Larkin was able to wait paiently along the boards as Nyquist drifted towards the near hash marks and Bertuzzi crept behind Edler to the far side of the crease. The young center expertly through a pass off of Markstrom’s leg pad to the waiting stick of Bertuzzi who was just unable to hammer it in. Edler avoided embarassment as Markstrom covered things up to halt play.

In today’s edition of goalies should rarely-if-ever play the puck, Bernier wandered out of his net to play the puck. The Vancouver forecheck of Motte and Pettersson left him with no option up either side of the boards, so naturally he went with his backhand in the direction of Pettersson, rather than Motte. As the Detroit defender tried to reach around Pettersson, he fed the puck easily to Motte, who shoveled it to Eriksson driving to the net, racing the recovering netminder.

Vanek would make up for his earlier failure to capitalize with 5:30 to go in the second. He would redirect a feed from Danny Dekeyser, shot-passing from the near point, while standing in Brett Hull’s office. This play began with Elias Pettersson being unable to clear his own zone up the wall when Nick Jensen kept the puck in on the blue line. Jensen, skating away from the play, slapped the puck back up the boards to Nielson, who made the feed to Dekeyser.

3rd Period:

The Canucks entered the third period down 2-1 after the Vanek goal.

The went on the power play with 15:17 left in the game. The top unit worked the puck around for a marvelous opportunity only to be spoiled by a sprawling Jonathan Bernier. Boeser, on the near boards fed Edler at the point. Edler worked it around to Pettersson who centered the puck to Horvat. Horvat put the one timer right into Bernier’s leg pad and the goaltender was able to cover the rebound.

Horvat got another opportunity on this power play, receiving a neutral zone drop pass from Alex Edler. One that looked fairly reminiscent of Ristolainen’s botched attempt in Vancouver’s previous matchup. Horvat picked up the drop pass with a head of steam and walked Philip Hronek with a nifty, quick toe drag to get in all alone on Bernier. Horvat would unfortunately fire this shot just wide.

Vancouver had their next prime opportunity on the power play when Edler threw a one-timer from the point on net. Unfortunately, Boeser was unable to get to the rebound before the Red Wings’ goaltender covered the puck.

Bo Horvat took Josh Leivo’s spot and the faceoff with Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson with 12:34 on the clock and the Canucks still down. He’d win the faceoff back to Boeser who was cheating back behind Horvat’s left shoulder near the top of the circle. Boeser’s shot on the on the set play knocked Pettersson to one knee, but Horvat was able to power the rebound through Bernier’s five hole with Kronwall hanging on him and Larkin bearing down on him.

Roussel took a high-sticking call with 11:40 left to play. Detroit would fail to generate any meaningful attempts with the extra man, but Roussel had a prime opportunity coming out of the box. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get the puck settled as he picked it up on-edge with speed in the neutral zone and fired it into the chest of Jonathan Berrnier.

With 6:55 to go in the game, the Canucks had finally (nearly) caught the Red Wings in shots. Vancouver was pressing and had Roussel and Horvat parked in front of Bernier. Stecher made a nice pass through traffic, past the stick of Vanek to Roussel who tipped the puck off of Horvat. At this point Detroit had all five skaters at or below the hash marks and skating towards the net when the puck deflected off the Vancouver pivot and was batted away by Vanek as he pulled off of Stecher. Virtanen had cross-checked Nielsen to the ice to begin this sequence and had drifted back a bit to the high slot where the Vanek clearing attempt landed right on his stick. Vanek and Mantha, instead of contesting Virtanen’s shot both turned around to watch the result.

To their disappointment, Roussel was able to bat Virtanen’s shot onto and into the net behind Bernier. He was fired up when he made up for the missed opportunity earlier on the breakaway.

While Nielsen and Vanek had proved critical in Detroit getting caught up to and ahead of Vancouver in goals, their play on this sequence cost Detroit the game and allowed Vancouver to extend their point streak to five.

Recap:

The Nielsen-Vanek line was all over the Canucks early in the game. The Hutton-Stecher pairing appeared to carry the majority of the obligation to shut these three down and appeared to struggle at times with the assignment. Edler and Tanev carried the majority of the weight with the task of covering Larkin’s line. They appeared to handle the task admirably, keeping Detroit’s top unit off the board.

matchups courtesy hockeyviz.com

While the point streak has certainly been enjoyable for Vancouver fans to watch, you have to wonder when and from where is the depth scoring going to come. Travis Green was forced to fire up the ol’ line blender in this one to get things going. The hope, I’d think, would be that you can successfully separate Horvat and Pettersson on your first and second lines, leaving Sutter and Beagle to center the third and fourth. Perfectly balanced as all things should be.

Unfortunately for Travis, Vancouver’s wingers don’t exactly play nicely with this approach, leading to the spaghetti mess you’ll see below.

Look, it works. So maybe (and I’m sure someone will say it below) I shouldn’t complain, but when you look at what guys like Motte, Baertschi, and Sutter are giving you on a nightly basis, why not give a guy like like Gaudette another shot or let Goldobin back in the lineup? I don’t think anyone believes this incarnation of the Canucks is going to win on the prowess of their backend. Realistically, they need at least three goals a night to keep this streak alive and keep within a whiff of the playoffs, especially now that Markstrom has come back down to earth a bit.

If you know you need to score as a team and you’re getting off to slow starts, why not embrace it?

The Canucks are playing well lately, for 60-80% of a game, against mediocre teams. Let’s hope the continue to build on this success and don’t take the run for granted or as proof that they’re actually a contender now. Especially as the currently sit on the outside looking in on things. On a positive note, they’ve closed out the last two games with particularly strong efforts down the stretch.

Up Next:

The Canucks look to match their season-long six game point streak as they take on Carolina at home Wednesday. This game will close things out for the Canucks heading into the All-Star break. Here’s to hoping this time they can’t get started at puck drop and not ten minutes later.

  • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

    I said it a few days ago that sooner or later the teams incredibly slow starts are going to catch up to them and when they do, they’re gonna get buried… People didn’t like that (surprise surprise). Now literally ALL media is talking about it and questioning TG, who has no answers. The resolve of the team can’t be denied, but eventually, if they can’t figure out how to wake themselves up for the first half of hockey games, they’re in for a rude awakening….. tick tock Travis Green….tick tock

  • TD

    I read this article fromthe Edmonton Journal yesterday and was shocked at how poor the 4th overall prick has been over a prolonged period. While I’m not ready to give upon Virtanen yet, I think everyone can agree he was not the right pick. Juolevi was less certain at the time, but has not progressed as well as hoped. Obviously Tkachuk and Sergachev were the better picks in hindsight. I won’t include McAvoy, as no one saw his quick assention to a very good NHL defenceman. Hopefully Juolevi becomes a good d man, but he will likely never be as good as some other picks. On the flip side, Pettersson and Boeser are huge wins, well exceeding their draft position.

    The article below is quite shocking for the number of outright busts and the number of mediocre players. Ladd is looked at as a success in the article, but who really is looking for an excellent 3rd line centre with the 4th OA? Obviously the teams with the fewest busts will have shorter rebuilds and win more, but this article provides a pretty convincing argument about the unpredictability of the development curves if 18nyear old kids.

    https://edmontonjournal.com/sports/hockey/nhl/edmonton-oilers/oilers-arent-the-only-ones-who-know-no-guarantees-come-with-fourth-overall-draft-picks/wcm/e6d7e82b-24b7-40b3-9f1e-4460c6e14fef

    • truthseeker

      That’s a bit misleading. The writer should have really taken a look at this work which has already been done for him.

      https://www.tsn.ca/statistically-speaking-nhl-draft-pick-values-1.1119528

      The 4 spot is 32% behind the 3 spot for producing top 6 top 4 players, but look a little deeper and it’s not that bad. The 4 spot is only 12% worse than the 5 spot and 4% worse than the 6 spot. Dead even with 7, and better than everything else below it.

      But more importantly is the “average player rating”. It’s still a 6.1 and only spot 5 with a 6.6, is better, of the spots beneath 4. Basically picking 4 is still really really good.

      Look at the 10 spot. lol. 8%

      The average player rating is a better number to look at than what a few big failures (or big successes) will do to throw off the top 6 top 4 numbers. I also think it’s better to group a given range of the top 6 top 4 percentages and average those out to get a slightly more accurate picture. So the average of the top 10 and then 10 to 20, or even 1 to 5 and then 5 to 10.

      None of these numbers are perfect, but the way that article is written, it’s drifting way to far into superstition.

      Where you hit the nail on the head is with your last sentence. That’s exactly it. What kids will do is nearly impossible to predict. Even with the top guys like McDavid or Crosby. You just never know. We’re dealing as much with human nature here as we are with hockey skill, and human nature is not quantifiable. Scientists can’t even figure out why an insect turns left or right. It shouldn’t be surprising that the vast majority of hockey prospects become failures given all the pressures they are under.

      • TD

        Hi TS, don’t agree with anything you have said. I didn’t read the pre-game report until after the game was over and noted the repeated debate/criticism in the pre-game report comments section with the usual posters criticizing Benning for not picking certain players over other players. I had just read that article and I waited to post it until the game report as it demonstrates the difficulty in drafting 18 year olds and how many do not meet their draft expectations. It also adds to the validity of using as much data as possible prior to picking.

        The pressure the 18 year old draft has on the players may be a good argument for an older draft. Obviously the superstars are ready, but most players and organizations would probably benefit from an older draft age.

          • truthseeker

            no worries. I figured that’s what you meant…lol.

            Yeah I’m a bit torn on that myself. Making it a bit older and having it more connected with university education might be a good thing for the players, but at the same time your an adult when your 18 and if you want to join a pro sport you should have that right. The NBA has that 19 year old age restriction and I kind of think it’s stupid. I don’t know how much pressure they get from the NCAA to keep the limit as high as possible but seems to me all it does to some of those great players is force them to play a year of ball for no salary and risk career ending injury before they’ve ever earned a pay check.

            There is a lot of greed in systems like the NCAA and the CHL. Those CHL teams are making bank off the backs of these kids and adding another year onto them doesn’t seem fair. All the risk is on the players and absolutely none is on the leagues.

    • kermit

      One of the problems here is the small sample size. There is nothing cursed about picking 4th, or 10th, or 15th. If there was more data, these numbers would tend to normalize and you could plot a smooth declining curve based on a statistical fit. If there was a particular pick that was outside this fit, then that would worth looking at. Is the number 4 spot always a winger, what type of winger, what is it that scouts are drawn to in this type of player? I doubt there’s anything there. And isn’t this what analytics are for anyhow? The Edmonton Journal article goes back to 1997, analytics weren’t around then. Don’t all teams now use analytics to some extent? Are we now seeing fewer draft busts because of this? That would be a more interesting subject.

  • TheRealPB

    I have less issue with Goldobin being sat yesterday than in the previous games; with Pettersson coming back, he obviously takes Schaller’s place. Goldobin’s spot in the top six has been taken by Leivo who has been more effective in play if not points. Goldobin simply wouldn’t be as good in a bottom six role as we have two grinder lines. You could certainly make the argument that a sheltered scoring line of Gaudette, Goldobin and maybe Eriksson might be good, but you could also say that Gaudette has the highest upside of those three and would be better served with some top six time in a pro role in Utica.

    It is a bit odd to hear you ask where the secondary scoring is going to come from when the winners the last two days are from Roussell and Eriksson, and the previous games have witnessed goals by Granlund, Sutter, Hutton, Beagle and Baertschi. The fact remains that we are still in the thick of the playoff race for the first time in a while by late January. EP has a lot to do with that but the reality is that we actually DO have some secondary scoring this year. We’re still nowhere near the skill level of the top of the conference — Calgary, Winnipeg, SJ and Nashville would make short work of us, though I still think Las Vegas is a mirage. Colorado, Dallas, us, Minnesota and Anaheim are all cannon fodder for those top teams. If we don’t crash out for a lottery pick in the draft, it’s probably more worth making the playoffs and getting some experience than just getting a pick in the teens from just missing.

    Regardless, these shot-less starts for half the first and yesterday second periods cannot keep happening. Glad we made it back but not sure what’s needed to get going for a game.

    • There was stats floating around a week ago or so saying that the Canucks have some of the best depth goal scoring in the league. I believe it was on Oilersnation to show how poor Edmonton’s depth scoring was. That being said, it sure doesn’t feel like we have depth scoring. If we back out garbage time goals and focus on more important scoring (e.g. clutch goals, game tying/winning goals), we’re probably much lower.

      • Puck Viking

        We have depth but not enough great players. Im really hoping for a top 7 pick, sell of vets at the TDL maybe add Stone, a decent Dman as UFAs. Then next year I think not only do we make the playoffs but we will be that middle of the road playoff team and start to have a chance to compete.

  • wjohn1925

    Starting the games with our 3 and 4 centres (Sutter and Beagle) means that we are passively pushing the opposition to the outside and absorbing their offence. These checking lines have been very effective, but they are not aggressive in their approach (on the forecheck, they only send one man in, if that, and the D don’t pinch with these lines). I don’t know what the solution is as long as we shelter and line-match Petey’s line. On top of that, our defence is slow in decision-making (Guddy and Pouliot in particular) or the forwards are slow in getting to a position to receive the outlet pass. To my mind the slow starts are a combination of the line-matching and general lack of high end puck-moving defencemen. I’m waiting to see of Quinn will change this scenario.

    • canuckfan

      Looking forward to Quinn to join the team at the end of his season.I think if we are not looking like we are going to get a playoff spot we will see some of the other Utica prospects getting into the lineup. Those who are at the end of their contract may end up not being dressed so that these prospects may get into the lineup.

    • Smyl and Snepsts

      Agree with you 100 percent. He has to find something negative to say about his favorite whipping boys every article true or not. Sutter also played well the last couple of games but gets dumped on.

    • TheRealPB

      Yes, aside from the Ottawa, Toronto and Arizona games, he has still been pretty lights out. The TO and AZ games he had a sub-900 SV% but the last three he has had a .958, .933, and a .946. He’s really shed his tendency towards really soft goals and is so dialed in. He’s suffered from a lack of run support in a few games but he’s overall playing far better than at the beginning of the season.

    • FairPM

      totally agree. what’s with these writers??? They want someone to fail, want to see someone fail, just to prove their thoughts correct. Even when the #s show otherwise, they will still stick to their biases.

    • Puck Viking

      Markstrom looking like a top 20 goalie right now. Maybe he can continue to get better over the next year or so. If he keeps this up he will more than likely end up in Seattle in 2 years.

  • Hockey Bunker

    Sorry Alex but that gratuitous shot at Markstrom “coming back down to earth” ruins your credibility. All the colourful pretty charts can’t offset an unsupported assertion. Every word counts. It’s the kind of thing that can kill a career so be careful dude, you never know who’s reading this stuff.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    I gotta say, Canucks goal tending is allowing them to win games they probably shouldn’t be winning. The Canucks seem to have had a slow first period the last 3 games and it’s been Markstrom and Demko that have kept them in to the game until the Canucks rally. A good sign is that the Canucks have had strong third periods lately, but that may be due to score effects. The long and short of it is that this team, points-wise, looks better than it probably is.

    • timmay

      Lot of whinging about slow starts here but this has actually been going on for years with the Canucks.

      The book on the ‘nucks is to jump on them fast and early, establish a forecheck, get physical and put them away. The Cali teams have been owning them doing this for years.

      Only diff’ right now is that Marky has finally been stepping up and the Pacific is sucking outside of the top three. Nothing new whatsoever with the slow starts though, it is what it is.

      • Ragnarok Ouroboros

        I can’t say I agree with you. Canucks have more often been known for having soft 3rd periods and blowing the lead to lose games. Just look how many times last year that the Canucks lost the game in the 3rd period. This year is a huge improvement in that department and the stats prove it.

  • FairPM

    what’s with the vanek love? did you want the canucks to keep Vanek? Where would he fit in with the current line up and how would that be helpful? I wouldn’t want Vanek playing on the Canucks, and am happy that they traded him at the last deadline. JB got what he could. There was little love for him at the deadline, and little love for him as a free agent…

    • Beer Can Boyd

      Agree 100%. Benning got Tyler Motte for Vanek. He has been everything the Canucks have asked of him and more. 6 goals, 13 points, only 4 minutes in penalties, and probably the Canucks most tenacious forechecker.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    Radio Pundits keep saying that Thatcher Demko is the next savior for the team and will eventually take the number one job away from Markstrom. I don’t know what they are smoking because, Markstrom has been amazing this year, and that is with a poor defense in front of him. Markstrom has been one of the best goalies in the league so far this year and he should get more recognition than he has been getting for his great work. I’m sure Demko will be great for the Canucks in the future, but right now Markstrom owns the net and no one is going to push him out anytime soon.

    • FairPM

      Demko’s the new shiny object. If Markstrom continues to develop, then maybe he is a 1A material. Goalies take longer to develop but they can stay strong longer too. If so, then Demko can be left to simmer a little longer. It may prove to be a Seattle issue but would Demko be eligible?

  • Holly Wood

    It’s just wrong that our team can be playing well, picking up points and gradually moving forward and the writer assigned to cover the club has to take shots at some players to generate comments and clicks on this site. We don’t need a cheerleader to write columns but stop with the negativity. To me Alex is following the JD Burke philosophy

      • timmay

        Then why bother coming here, as you have since at least 2015 – whining! Seriously WHY keep coming back, it’s beyond weird?????… and sad.

        Locust… WHY ARE YOU HERE?

          • timmay

            Boom… there we go guys, played like a fiddle – two douches sharing half a brain… Locust and Green Turd are the same poster. Outted again. Too easy.

            ‘Your douchebaggery isn’t fooling’ – Green Bastard
            ‘Second paragraph douchebaggery’ – Locust

          • Green Bastard

            Nice try multi troll. You’re called a douchebag, and your antics are recognized as douchebaggery for a reason. You’ve earned it, we all agree with your mom. Boom, factoid, run away with your tail between your legs, again… second verse, same as the first.

    • Ragnarok Ouroboros

      For me, I don’t mind if some players get criticized if it can be backed up with statistics. We all want the Canucks to do well, and statistics can shine a spot light on where the team can improve. There is nothing wrong with that. Just like a mom can be disappointed with their kid but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love their kid, a fan can be disappointed by some aspects of their team and still love their team.