After a tough shootout loss to an ailing, borderline-AHL team in New Jersey Friday night, despite a quality start from Jacob Markstrom, the Canucks look to rebound against a Dallas squad that finds themselves sitting in a wildcard spot just trying to hold on.
For what it’s worth I’m still drooling over that absurd Pettersson shootout goal:
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) March 16, 2019
The notable lineup story today was Goldobin getting a seat in the pressbox in exchange for Tim Schaller, who had yet to score for Vancouver after putting up a career high 12 goals last year for Boston.
Tim Schaller scored in the first minute after winning a puck battle behind the net. He circled around uncontested to the front of the net and flung the puck at former Bruins teammate Anton Khudobin where it trickled threw an open seam under the arm.
Vancouver went to PK at the 6:30 mark. The Stars top unit kept things mostly to the outside. While Markstrom looked sharp to start the game, the Canucks caught an early break on the PK. In a broken play in front of the net with Markstrom scrambling in front, the puck kicked out of the crease and away from a wide open net because Jamie Benn threw it into the post from less than five feet away.
The Canucks were the recipient of more good fortune when, because of an errant pass, they got a change 1:05 into the PK. The second power play unit for Dallas was considerably less dangerous than the first until L’Esperance fanned on a one-timer with ten seconds to go and threw a point-blank shot off a rebound over the glass.
The teams continued to trade chances with one of the most notable occasions being when Jake Virtanen walked through the Dallas defense at the midway point of the first for a short breakaway, but fired high over both goaltender and crossbar.
Just a minute later Schaller potted his second of the night, burying a one-time feed off the stick of Elias Pettersson from the top of the left circle. Schaller’s shot just beat Khudobin’s leg pad to the inside of the far post.
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) March 17, 2019
Continuing the one-and-done, end-to-end hockey that defined the first 10 minutes of play, Tyler Seguin fired a shot from the left circle just over Markstrom’s shoulder and the crossbar after he received a long stretch pass at the blue line and marched in without much pressure.
Similar to the sequence that led to the Canucks’ second goal, Boeser forced another turnover on the back check with six minutes to go in the first but fired the shot into the Dallas netminder’s leg pads. The hounding defensive play of the Pettersson lined was a hallmark of the first and is certainly the type of play you’d like to see from their energy lines as well.
There was a peculiar stoppage at 14:30 when Khudobin lost a skate blade and, because the referees either didn’t notice or didn’t care, he proceeded to push the net off its moorings. This should technically have led to a delay of game penalty as the only valid reason an equipment malfunction can lead to a stoppage of play without penalty is if the mask has come loose of its own accord.
The Hintz-Seguin-Benn line had been the main source of trouble for the Canucks in the first and it got worse with two minutes to go when the Dallas coach, desperate for some offense, swapped Hintz for Benn on the LW.
We kicked off the second period on a snipe hunt, continuing our search for the elusive Tim Schaller hat-trick.
Dallas had the only three shots on net in the first four minutes of the period, not including an in-close crossbar again for L’Esperance. The Stars modified second line – Hintz swapped for Benn – was circling Markstrom like s shiver of sharks.
With fifteen minutes to play in the second, Vancouver caught their first break of the game. Seguin blew a tire at blue line leading to an Elias Pettersson breakaway. As Pettersson dragged Klingberg, the trailing defender, down the ice he managed to make a nice feed to Sautner who was stopped with the blocker. Khudobin again got his own set of rules, however, as he threw his stick at the puck but received no penalty. In this case the reward should have been an automatic goal and a 3-0 lead, but instead the Canucks were left with an offensive zone faceoff.
— Vanessa Jang (@vanessajang) March 18, 2019
Valeri Nichushkin, in the midst of the least remarkable season in NHL history, nearly got Dallas on the board at the half-way mark of the game as he threw a puck at the net that bounced dangerously off Brock Boeser, but ended up harmlessly in Markstrom’s glove.
The Canucks received their first Power Play opportunity of the night when Jamie Benn attempted to skate through Markstrom behind the Vancouver net. Markstrom didn’t leave a whole lot of room between himself and the boards for a man the size of Jamie Benn to get by.
Their first shot on the man advantage came forty second in and was a harmless lob from the blue line. That was followed by Boeser one-timer that stopped dead on the leg pad of Khudobin. The Canucks were unable to capitalize but, if we’re looking for positives, did a remarkable job of getting almost every shot attempt through traffic and on net, finishing with four total shots on goal.
With the Dallas fans heading for the concession stands during the final minute of play, a botched dump-in by Tyler Motte led to a quick counter for Valeri Nichushkin and Jamie Benn. The Canucks technically had an extra man on what was technically a 2-on-3 rush, but was essentially a 2-on-2, when Benn snapped a wrist shot past the blocker of Markstrom while using Edler as a screen.
Like the second, =the Stars came out pressing again in the third. Nichushkin nearly scored on the rush, but then drew a trip from Stecher at the 1:15 mark of the third.
The power play was a firing squad from Dallas’ top and second tier shooters on Markstrom. They ran their Power Play from behind the net and were making cross-seam passes at will. The Vancouver goaltender looked like his bubble-hockey equivalent, sliding quickly from post-to-post, hoping to just get in front of the one-time shots from each circle.
The Canucks were again able to keep the Dallas special teams unit off the board and hold on to their 2-1 lead thanks in large part to the play of their goaltender.
Loui Eriksson, who at this point you might not have realized was playing, much less in a top-6 role, broke up a dangerous scoring chance for Dallas with a stick lift on the back check in his defensive zone with 12 minutes left to go in the game.
The pressure from the home team continued to build as made evident by the increase in shot attempts for as well as turnovers and icings forced. Outside the Canucks top unit, there was little answer for the increased load the Stars placed on the Canucks defense. In the last thirteen minutes I counted two sequences of sustained zone time for the Pettersson line and one for the Horvat line.
Finally and unavoidably, on their thirty-eighth shot on net, Dallas broke through.
Taylor Fedun received a puck at the top of the left circle with enough time to tee it up before shooting. He waited until the Stars were able to park both Edler and Schaller in addition to Hintz and Radulov in front of Markstrom. While Markstrom was able to get a piece of the shot, it managed to trickle through to tie things up with four minutes to play.
The Canucks were able to hang on to their goaltender for dear life and draw things out into overtime.
Pettersson drew a trip from Jamie Benn a minute into the period. Benn inexplicably stopped playing upon committing the penalty which left Stecher wide open at the top of the slot with the puck. Khudobin made what might have been his best save of the night when he flashed the glove on the high wrist shot from the defenseman.
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) March 18, 2019
Vancouver’s best opportunity on the power play was a one timer on a cross-slot pass that Pettersson fired into the side of the net. The had at least three other quality chances, one each from Edler and Stecher sliding down the weak side for the one timer, and one from Boeser as he stepped stepped into a shot just above the hash marks.
Upon Benn’s return Markstrom made consecutive impressive saves on Benn, Hintz, and finally on Seguin with 1.9 seconds remaining.
The hockey gods smiled on Vancouver today as Markstrom carried them to a shootout. He proceeded to stop Seguin, Radulov, Benn, and Hintz in quick order.
For Vancouver, Pettersson fired his attempt off the crossbar and Boeser fired high over the crossbar. Tanner Pearson at least manage to hit the target, but fired the puck into Khudobin’s glove.
Leivo finally picked up the win for Markstrom firing the puck high blocker past the Stars’ backup goaltender.
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) March 18, 2019
There’s not a lot to say about this one. We’ve heard the story over and over this year, thankfully, Markstrom got a ‘W’ for his efforts, but Vancouver nearly let another sensational game from their goaltender slip away. On a positive note, we had two more Pettersson penalty shot/shoot out attempts and a multi-goal game from an energy guy.
The cumulative expected goals chart really tells the story tonight. The Canucks let their foot off the gas after the second Schaller goal and let Dallas take over the game. They had no answer for the home team’s top two lines who went through Vancouver’s top defensive unit like a revolving door. The matchup chart below makes this abundantly clear.
What’s also startling that we see here, is that every Vancouver forward unit besides the Pettersson line got rolled by their peers on Dallas. So while we can see distinct tiers in matchups from Travis Green, it appears as though none of them were at all favorable. Is this a result of poor roster construction and lack of depth? Or maybe is it a result of poor utilization? When you compared minutes played between the Vancouver and Dallas second and third lines, they’re nearly identical, so why the big difference in results?
It’s also interesting to note that the bottom two defensive units from the visiting team were much more balanced in their shot shares against Dallas’ forward corps. This is an odd result given the lopsided performance of the forwards. There’s really only one way this could have happened and it’s easy enough to verify:
It’s clear here that Boeser played a majority of his ice time with Sautner and Schenn. Let’s check Pettersson for good measure:
It’s even more dramatic here, look how little time this unit spent against Dallas’ top forward unit, which also meant away from Edler and Biega. For comparison, I’ve tweeted the player summaries for Edler and Biega here:
Yes, this is a matchup that's working so well I'd think neither of my other four defenseman could do any better. pic.twitter.com/VoGX8Bv8hB
— alex (@gableingaround) March 18, 2019
Now this isn’t a rag-on-Edler-and-Biega thread, but more so an observation of how matchups can lead to counter productive results. If you know your best forward unit is going to bring up your bottom defenders, once you have a two goal lead, why not play them against the other teams’ top forward lines with your top defenders? I didn’t think either of the bottom two pairings played poorly enough to warrant such drastic splits, again, especially with a two goal lead.
I think Travis Green might have over-leveraged his top defensive unit unnecessarily tonight and got away with it. Thanks, of course, to the stellar play of Markstrom. Besides Frederick Anderson in Toronto, and Gibson in Anaheim, I’m not sure there’s another goaltender who has compensated more for his team’s lack-luster defensive play. And only Gibson has less to show for his efforts than Markstrom, whose stellar play has surely been a bright spot for Vancouver fans this year.
Vancouver has an early start tomorrow in Chicago against the team with the highest points percentage in the league since 1/20. Chicago has been on a tear largely due to the emergence of Dylan Strome who was reunited with junior linemate Alex DeBrincat after his acquisition in exchange for Nick Schmaltz.
Chicago also welcomed back Corey Crawford, who recently posted a shutout against Montreal on the 16th with a career high 48 saves. I’d lean towards Crawford getting the start tomorrow, but would certainly welcome an appearance from Cam Ward.