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.
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.
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.
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 Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) January 20, 2019
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.
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.
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) January 20, 2019
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.
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) January 20, 2019
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.
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.
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.
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.