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Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Vancouver Canucks @ San Jose Sharks Post-Game Recap: Better, But Not Enough

Warm Up

The Vancouver Canucks were looking for a little redemption, and maybe a little payback, as they visited the Shark Tank in San Jose on Saturday night. For those with short term memory loss, these teams last met just one week ago at Rogers Arena. The home team was soundly embarrassed, and not just by the score, but by the fact that they found themselves in the position of being forced to play a 19-year-old OHL goaltender against their better judgement. A 19-year-old goaltender who promptly got destroyed by one of the best offences in the NHL.

That aside, the Canucks entered this game just a single point out of the last wild card spot in the Pacific Division; the Sharks 3rd overall in the Western Conference. By the end of the game, San Jose would move up to 2nd overall in the west, while the Canucks would see St. Louis, Arizona, and Las Vegas all earn points in the standings around them.

Lineups provided by Jeff Paterson via Twitter:

Side note: Interesting that Antoine Roussel joins Jay Beagle and Bo Horvat as an alternate captain with Tanev out of the lineup. It’s nice to see the impact Roussel is having on the team be recognized like that.

1st Period

There was good news and bad news in how the Canucks started this game.

Obviously not interested in experiencing a repeat of last week’s embarrassing loss, the good news was that the Canucks looked motivated and energetic right out of the gate. They spent most of the first few minutes of the game pressing the Sharks hard in the attacking zone.

Adam Gaudette in particular had a moment where he used a sudden burst of speed to complete an offensive zone entry, before setting up Tyler Motte for a scoring chance. It didn’t work, but it sure looked good.

The bad news was that Sharks fans wouldn’t have to wait very long for their team to put the puck in the back of the net. Derrick Pouliot took the first penalty of the game at 2:03 by accidentally sending the puck over the glass on a clearing attempt. The Sharks have the NHL’s 6th best power play, and their first unit would pounce early with a good series of chances coming from multiple players. Timo Meier would finish off a tic-tac-toe play from Evander Kane and Erik Karlsson at the 3:45 mark:

The Canucks continued to play well in spite of being down 1-0 to start the game. Their effort would pay off just 57 seconds later, as Roussel suddenly found himself on a breakaway after taking a long pass from Alex Biega:

This was Roussel’s 7th goal this season, and he’s only four points short of tying his career high of 29.

The Frenchman has been an unexpectedly pleasant surprise this season, but it was especially nice to see him show why he was chosen to wear a letter so quickly on the ice. Antoine Roussel is most definitely a leader on this team, and I would argue that he even finds himself in the same conversation as Horvat when we talk about the players who represent the emotional heartbeat of the Canucks. Roussel isn’t an engine the way Horvat is, and he obviously doesn’t score at anywhere near the same level, but he plays a crucial role in keeping the team’s energy and focus levels as high as possible at all times.

Soon after the goal, Horvat had a great personal effort entering the Sharks zone. He skated in aggressively on Erik Karlsson, made a little outside-inside move with the puck, and was tripped up and taken down by Karlsson’s stick. This gave Vancouver their first power play of the game and sent one of San Jose’s best defencemen to the penalty box.

Unfortunately, nothing would come from the man-advantage (in fact, the Canucks wouldn’t force Martin Jones to make a single save), but I continue to really like Stecher playing a role on the power play. He doesn’t have a booming shot, but he walks the line better than almost anyone else they have to throw out there, and he helps to keep the puck moving from Pettersson on the half-wall to Boeser at the top of the circle on the far side.

Also notable was Zack MacEwen being rewarded with power play time, lining up with Gaudette and Eriksson on the 2nd unit.

A little after the halfway mark of the period, a dangerous situation arose when the Canucks became almost helplessly trapped in their own end. It started off well enough, with Markstrom making a big right pad kick save on a shot by Evander Kane, but the Canucks on the ice were quickly fatiguing under Shark pressure. Josh Leivo blocked a shot with his foot at one point, and though he tried his best to stay in the play, he was obviously in a ton of pain and desperate to get back to the bench. As often happens when you’re tired and under pressure, someone took a dumb penalty. Biega blatantly cross-checked Joonas Donskoi behind the Canucks net, sending San Jose to the power play. The Canucks would go on to kill the 18th of their last 19 penalties, but not without needing yet another right pad kick save by Markstrom to save a cross ice pass deflection by Kevin Lebanc.

2nd Period

More good news for Canucks fans, as the team once again started strong at the beginning of the middle frame. The Canucks obviously felt much better about their game overall compared to last week, and it was awesome to see them keep their foot on the gas and not simply quit in the face of a clearly superior opponent. By this point in that last game against the Sharks, it was already over. Here in San Jose, they had earned themselves a 1-1 tie going into the first intermission and a chance to earn back a little bit of lost respect.

A good start by the Canucks was accompanied by a Meier penalty at 2:34 for goaltender interference. Pavelski was net front when Meier suddenly crashed in from behind while being pursued by Gaudette. When Vancouver gave up control of the puck on the power play, Pettersson made an excellent diving play while back-checking to break up a shorthanded scoring attempt by Kane.

Once back in control, the top unit looked threatening several times. EP40 made a series of great passes looking to set guys up, while Boeser worked on getting shots through to Jones. Nikolay Goldobin had an excellent chance in close with a backhanded shot that had the San Jose goalie beat, but rang annoyingly off the crossbar.

This great effort was, unfortunately, immediately followed by a terrible pass by Goldobin to a completely out-of-reach Ben Hutton. The puck was collected by Meier as he burst out of the penalty box and centred a pass to an open Marcus Sorensen that was luckily too hot for him to handle.

A moment to talk about Elias Pettersson:

One of the biggest takeaways from this game is that, if you were somehow unaware, Pettersson’s game is not simply limited to offensive production. He would go on to finish the game with a single assist, but it was his defensive play that was truly exceptional tonight. Always the first guy back when the puck is being carried in by the opposition, Pettersson was a defensive force in this game.

So much so in fact, that comparisons to Pavel Datsyuk were made at least once by the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast crew. I counted at least a dozen moments where Pettersson imposed his will on the flow of the game by impeding San Jose’s ability to execute passes, to make plays, or to enter the attacking zone altogether in some instances.

Rarely in hockey is defensive play a treat to watch, but EP40 is a rare kind of player.

Jacob Markstrom was taking a noticeable amount of physical punishment in this game, and it continued when Timo Meier skated wide around Troy Stecher and cut in towards the net at the last minute. The result was a bowled over Markstrom, who was slow to get up, and no penalty on the play. Roussel intentionally/unintentionally “fell” on Meier in response, and Travis Green had a long conversation with the officials about how he felt his goaltender had yet again been interfered with.

A poor pass in the San Jose end by Motte to Granlund became a turnover when Erik Karlsson intercepted the puck and sent it back the other way, along with four other Sharks at speed. Markstrom was quickly boxed in and had no chance to stop the Sharks from taking a 2-1 lead, as Logan Couture became the 2nd Shark of the night to score his 21st goal of the year:

Before the puck could even be dropped on the following face-off, Zack MacEwen decided that this would be a good moment to further endear himself to Canucks fans (not to mention management and the coaching staff) by fighting Barclay Goodrow:

Fighting in the NHL these days isn’t what it used to be, but this was a pretty epic tilt. It goes without saying that MacEwen is obviously highly motivated to prove that he, like Adam Gaudette, deserves consideration for a more permanent spot on the big club’s roster. If his goal is to make himself indispensable, he’s definitely off to a good start.

The 2nd period ended much like the 1st: with each team trading penalties at 14:30 and 16:07. Joe Thornton made a series of slick passes on the attack before breaking his stick, and Markus Granlund had an exciting chance in close on Martin Jones. It was, unfortunately, the only time Granlund would be noticeable in the entire game. Stecher, on the other hand, did nothing but continue his outstanding play.

3rd Period

Both teams traded chances throughout the final period of the game. The Canucks gave the Sharks everything they had, trying to push and push and wear them down to eke out a victory, someway somehow.

At one point early in the period, Vancouver led 32-19 on the shot clock, and at 4:31, Brock Boeser became the third player of the game to score his 21st goal of the season by tying the game at 2-2:

Pouliot flipped the puck in from centre ice. Pettersson retrieved the puck by the boards in the corder and snuck it behind when challenged for a Boeser heading in the opposite direction around the back of the net. Martin Jones looking the wrong way. Boeser turned, waited, picked his spot, and whiffed on the shot he intended to make. It didn’t matter, however, as the puck still found it’s way past Jones for the equalizing goal. Boeser officially took 118 games to score 100 points in the NHL, 2nd in the Canucks record books only to Pavel Bure, who took 96 games to score his first 100 points.

Past the halfway point, the game’s momentum began to turn again. The Canucks continued to push for every last inch of ice they were capable of, but the Sharks simply have another gear that Vancouver lacks. They locked things down and went to work, producing Pavelski’s 31st goal of the year on a terrible play by Biega:

Biega gloved down a long, high dump in by Marc-Eduard Vlasic. It was snapped ahead by Meier and corralled by Markstrom behind his own net. Two Sharks were bearing down on him at high speed; one pressuring from each side of the net. Markstrom was able to get the puck past Pavelski on his right to Biega, who failed on a clearing attempt and turned the puck back over to “Little Joe”. It was passed from Pavelski to Couture to Meier, whose shot was denied just before Pavelski banged home the rebound for his 13th multi-point game of the season. Biega was seen smashing his stick behind the net in frustration, but I think it would be unfortunate for Biega to take too much of the blame here considering how well he was playing in the rest of the game.

The period ended with Jacob Markstrom being pulled with 1:54 left in the game in a last ditch effort to force overtime, but this game was fated to end 3-2 for the home team.

Summary

The frantic, scrambling feel of this game did wonders for it’s entertainment value, and it continued right up to the final buzzer.

These guys play each other with so much emotion that you have to wonder where it comes from. Left over resentment from the Jannik Hansen trade? Maybe. Probably not. The sadist in me almost couldn’t help but think about how much fun a playoff series between these two teams could be. Almost.

Canuck standouts? Brock Boeser played 24:05, had 1 goal, 5 shots on goal, and was the only Canuck to finish +2. Elias Pettersson had a monster defensive game. Antoine Roussel continues to be a difference maker. Troy Stecher played 28:13, and Ben Hutton wasn’t too far behind with 26:54 in ice time. Jacob Markstrom also continues to be a revelation in net.

Despite the final result, the bottom line is that this game was a far better effort by the Canucks than last week’s embarrassing disaster. They were fighting and pushing for the entire game. To their credit, this game was far closer in reality than any of the stats would suggest it should have been. After weathering an initial surge, the Canucks actually outshot the Sharks for the rest of the game.

The San Jose Sharks are simply a class well above where the Vancouver Canucks are skill wise, and their record and play prove it. They are a well-oiled machine. With this win, the Sharks improved to 12-0-1 in their last 13 games against Vancouver.

Canuck-Killers, indeed.

Next up on the schedule, the Canucks play host to the Arizona Coyotes at Rogers Arena on Thursday, February 21st.

  • I watched the game. After Zack’s fight I don’t think he played another second of the game. According to the NHL stats summary he only played 2 minutes, 34 seconds and had 6 shifts in total. What happened?

    Otherwise an entertaining game and we deserved a better fate.

  • The play and positioning by Biega, Pouliot and Goldobin on the 3-2 goal makes it abundantly clear why they are in and out of the lineup.

    Otherwise, this was still a really good effort against a team that is clicking on all cylinders right now. I have to admit I took much more pleasure watching the end of the Jets, Leafs and Oilers losses last night.

    • Now that we have traded Gagner, perhaps they should consider burying Pouliot’s contract in Utica and bringing up a prospect. He is a hot mess yet he plays game after game. His contract ends this year and hopefully he doesn’t figure into the Canuck’s future so what do they have to lose by demoting him.

    • Agree. Biega started things off badly along the boards, but Goldobin was the culprit in front of the net. He drifted through in front of the crease, a kind of scenic luxury cruise. Had he stopped and tried to take a check, he might have been able to break up the play.

      Good spirit by the team, putting up a battle against a clearly superior team.

  • A tale of two *ONCE* rival franchises…

    Remember when Vancouver lost in the cup final and completely blew it up to adopt the “Boston Model” of their Beantown conquerers? It’s been a trainwreck ever since.

    Remember when San Jose lost the cup final and decided to stay the course, make the neccessary tweaks and adjustments? They are still an ELITE CONTENDER.

    The Sharks made the correct decisions and are the team the Canucks SHOULD BE. True story. Here endeth the lesson. Benning OUT.

    • Valid points man. The Sharks just keep retooling on the fly and are able to keep winning in style. Wish the Canucks had followed the same path, I am personally tired of losing and the excuses that come with it. Just so sick and tired of the losing man.

      • I wonder if PQW carries on similar conversations with himself while watching Winterhawk games?

        Imagine: Matty T says “Coo -deeey” … pheenster01 {petey40 etc etc etc etc etc etc etc} says “Glass”.

        • All this bs is easily fixable. No other Nation site allows it except CanucksArmy. I can see JD liking the trolls, they have the same mindset.
          Don’t understand why Ryan allows it. Page hits more important than integrity?
          I see Ryan occasionally replying to a comment…. let’s see if he’ll respond to this one.

          • If you follow Biech on twitter, his only problem with these message boards is the whiners who complain about the “negativity” of the writers.

            Or, in other words, they aren’t hearing what they want to hear so they moan… endlessly.

            So, good luck being the problem while asking for your perceived problems to be fixed.

          • @ Fraud…except this comment wasn’t about the negativity (or lack of it) from CA writers, it was about the shameless trolling here and the inability or unwillingness to deal with it.

          • CA is an avenue for exposure and paying jobs.
            Not many complaints about Biech on these boards ,Freud.
            With PQW writing Biech thirty times every day under thirty different names and addresses trying to get rid of Killer,Crofton and myself Ryan has probably had enough of this gig ,already.

  • not a bad result for playing on the road with a slew injuries against the top team in the conference. stetcher is looking better every game and biega might make a few mistakes but he’s still fun to watch.

  • That was a game almost every Canuck fan should have enjoyed. There was a good effort, high entertainment value and for team tank, no points to show for it. San Jose is a solid team. Good on the Canucks for giving them a run.

    The Sharks 2nd goal is the first time in weeks I remember Markstrom looking like he had lost his net. Typical Goldobin game, a couple nice flashes of offensive talent and a barrage of bad passes and lost puck battles. I hope Baertschi’s injury doesn’t stop the Canucks from trying to trade him. Maybe Leivo’s best game as a Canuck. Hutton and Stecher are playing well. The Canucks would be a very good team if they had the depth to use those two as the 3rd pairing. I won’t argue Gudbranson doesn’t have some value but he is not a good Dman. I’ve seen enough of him, Poulliot and Beiga. Brisebois doesn’t look like a difference maker either. Let’s see what Sautner can bring.

    • I would like to see how we’d make out with
      Edler Tanev
      Hutton Stetcher
      Sautner Biega
      Though Tanev made terrible errors in 5 of his last 6 games prior to his injury and in each case it lead directly to a goal at critical times…hopefully he plays better when he comes back.
      I’d like to see a long stretch of play by Biega…he shows a lot of good things, but any time he makes a mistake he gets skewered here by the CA commenters, even though our usual top 6 make as many or more mistakes.

      • I don’t hate your suggested line-up for the rest of the season but it’s gotta be different next year. We have seen long stretches of Beiga before. He is fine as a 7th Dman but what we have seen in this stretch of games will only get worse. Not sure it’s fair to be critical of Tanev’s last few games playing his off side as Guddy’s partner. Unfortunately the desperate need for an overall upgrade on D probably means the Canucks will sign a UFA this offseason. If they do Guddy has to be gone and they need to be working hard to move out Sutter and Erickson as soon as the NTCs are off.

        • “We have seen long stretches of Beiga before”
          True, but he somehow he manages to keep improving his game, even while being in the press box for months at at time. He looks better every time he gets a chance to play. His energy and passion is what we need. I’d rather take a hard penalty for that crosscheck against the boards than the Poulliot puck flip over the glass.

    • I cannot believe that interference was not called on the Sharks second goal. The replay makes it clear that Burns tripped Gudbranson as he went through, thus opening it up for Couture.

      The Sharks are a veteran team that gets away with a lot of (subtle) pick plays. I like Garrett Rank as a ref in general, but he had a brutal game in my opinion.

      • Referees are bad in general for most games now it seems. You’re right about Burns, but there were a few things Vancouver did that were not called too, and given the Sharks PP, (and Canucks general lack of one) for me it’s tough to pick on that play.

    • Green is a pu$$y and doesn’t like fighting, so McEwen is done like dinner already. That’s why teams take libertys with Pettersson et al and get away with it.

      Greener needs to be shown the door along with Benning and all the joke coaching staff except for Ian Clarke. Time to clean house – this is a results league.

      Not that the armchair losers on here care, as long as they have ‘a game’ to watch on tv anywhere south of Port Hardy!

      • Please no one dignify this troll’s ridiculous posts with a response. It only motivates him to use multiple user names to create the illusion some one cares what he thinks.

      • I was impressed with how quickly the young man from PEI reacted once the Sharks scored.Veteran move.
        Travis commented upon it,as well:
        Sportsnet 650
        Green on MacEwen: “I thought it was a good job by him, he gets into a fight right after the score to try and change the momentum. Give the kid credit.”

      • Is it a sound criticism really? Is it wrong to put the best young players back together on the farm for a run at the playoffs? With the top Dpair injured is it a realization the playoffs are unlikely. If Spooner or Schenn show well in a couple games is there a chance of trading for a late round pick?

        I often don’t agree with the moves Benning makes and I don’t believe he is a great GM but the number of times people pretend to understand his motivations is tiresome.

        • Yeah, I think it is. These rookies are 21 and 22 years old. The benefit they’ll get from playing in the minors is fast decreasing. They’ll learn far more in the NHL, where any weaknesses will be fully exposed. Further, their presumed replacements (Schenn and Spooner) have been struggling. It’s questionable whether these older players would be an upgrade.

          • That’s absurd. You’re throwing out nonsense arguments. Saying one player would not be an upgrade on another requires no assumptions about Benning’s motivations.

          • We are all wrong on occasion. Few do it with your veracity. The are several potential reasons for putting Schenn and Spooner on the roster other than attempting to upgrade the Canucks.

  • Just look at that SJS line up. A completely stacked team and obvious contenders yet the Canucks played very well despite having so many injuries. (As usual) In the ANA game Marky loses his stick and they score. The Bulldog inadvertently falls down and they score. Little goofball misfortunes in this league lead to the puck going into your net. Clearly this shows how tight this league is but the Canucks are competitive and only the result was disappointing last night. If the opposition is going to get the 2 pts at least make them work for and Vancouver did. Two or three very key players shall make the difference in the future but honestly never thought the Canucks would have as good a team as they’ve had this year. At least the Habs, Oilers and Leafs lost.

    • They are indeed a very good team, but they paid handsomely with prospects and draft picks for their three key players Burns, Kane, and Karlsson. The assets given up for the first two haven’t really been missed, so far at least, but they haven’t yet finished paying for Karlsson. It will be interesting to compare these teams in five years, especially if the Sharks continue to build through trades and the Canucks through the draft.

      • The Sharks are an anomaly in how they built their team. A look at their roster shows; 3-4 of their own 1st rounders, 3-4 of someone else`s 1st rounders. 7-8 later round picks and 7-8 free agent signings. Wilson has no problem shipping out drafted mistakes like Goldobin or Mueller or quality like Norris for Karlsson and all the late rounders and free agents suggest an excellent scouting department.

  • I’ve been a Goldobin supporter for the most part this year, but after last night, I’ve seen enough. He seems to have no passion for the game, and he’s certainly showing that he is too timid to ever be a force in the NHL. Time to move him, and if Edmonton is really trying to get rid of Puljijarvi, Goldy and a 2nd seems a fair price. I also have issues with Boesers defensive play, but he has such enormous offensive talent that he can get away with floating in his own zone. All in all, great game to watch last night, the Canucks deserved at least a point.

    • Couldn’t agree with you more. Another issue besides his defence is Boeser’s habit of having the plays run through him all the time and not moving the puck quick enough. He’s not the best skater or dangler he should defer more to Petey or Bo and just get open for the shot.

  • To do some over the top speculation on what`s about to happen, when the TDL gets here in eight days the Canucks might have room for all of Schenn, Spooner, Brisebois and McEwen and still have one or two open spots on their 23 man roster, but only if Benning can handle something complicated like a three way trade.

    Part of my thinking is the timeline – being a serious Stanley Cup contender is not this year and not next year but the 2020-21 season when Pettersson enters his third year and the beginning of his prime. If Benning can plan that far ahead then maybe 8,9,10 players on todays roster will be gone. If Green wants to play Schenn and Spooner ahead of Brisebois and McEwen then he`s not looking farther ahead than the next game which ties in with the premise of competing in every game but is also very short sighted considering the ultimate prize is not realistic for a couple more seasons.