In the second half of a back-to-back at home, the Canucks saw the return of a few players: Pouliot, Baertschi, and Goldobin. Josh Leivo was out ill, and Schaller was a healthy scratch. Demko drew the start after Markstrom drew the short straw to start the game last night against Calgary.
Columbus is fighting for their playoff lives and we’d expect them to play like a desperate team coming into tonight’s game because they find themselves on the outside looking in.
The Canucks started strong, with a point shot from Biega leading to an Eriksson tip and a scramble in front of Bobrovsky. After firing a number of shots at the net they found themselves retreating a bit when Luke Schenn took an interference penalty against Oliver Bjorkstrand trying to block him out when a teammate drove to the net.
The Canucks would have one of their best scoring chances in the first when, short handed, Granlund recovered a Columbus shot off the goal post and took it end-to-end. He fired the puck off the leg pad of Bobrovsky.
After the penalty the game opened up a bit, with play moving quickly from end to end. Demko’s first save of the night wouldn’t come until after the 5:00 mark in the first, although he had confidently challenged Pierre-Luc Dubois on a 2-on-1 just prior.
What was notable in the first half of the opening frame was the significant offensive contribution Travis Green and the Canucks received from their defenseman. Pouliot, Stecher, and Biega all had drives to and put shots on the net.
Columbus had their first legitimate scoring chance with 11:00 to play in the first as Wennberg first a shot from just below the hash marks of the right circle, but Demko was there to make the save. 30 seconds later, Josh Anderson boarded Alex Edler, but there was no call made on the play. Edler took exception to the bad hit.
— Vanessa Jang (@vanessajang) March 25, 2019
With 8:45 to play in the first Luke Schenn hit Ryan Dzingel in a similar fashion. Again, no call was made on the hit which left Dzingel on the ice long enough for the referees to stop play. Schenn would be credited with six total hits in the first, including this one on the former Senator.
The Canucks went to the power play when Oliver Pjorkstrand hooked Troy Stecher at the 12:15 mark. The top unit generated a scoring chance off a good controlled entry when a point shot was deflected just wide of the net. The second unit took over with fifty seconds to go. Goldobin had their best opportunity as he fired a shot from the near circle off the blocker of Bobrovsky. Both units would fail to convert.
Columbus opened the scoring as Josh Anderson fired a laser over the glove of Demko. Anderson saw Pouliot had pinched in the neutral zone and took advantage of the open space to gain speed through the zone. He entered the Canucks end of the ice relatively uncontested all the way to the net and beat the young goaltender cleanly over the glove.
While the Canucks started strong in the first, Columbus pushed back significantly in the last three minutes after the Anderson goal. The Canucks struggled to make clean entries and exits. This trend continued in the second as the Canucks were generally over matched from the initial puck drop after intermission.
The Blue Jackets worked the puck behind the net and Cam Atkinson caught the Canucks defense puck watching and found Panarin open from ten feet out. Demko challenged the shooter and made the save.
Demko wouldn’t be so lucky on the next attempt as a broken play in the neutral zone led to an easy entry for Pierre-Luc Dubois. Josh Anderson cut across the middle of the ice between the d-men and Dubois caught Demko deep in his net, perhaps anticipating a pass to Anderson. Seeing the goalie deep in his net, Dubois fired the puck over Demko’s shoulder to give Columbus a 2-0 lead.
Vancouver would end up on the power play at the 2:30 point in the second when Bjorkstrand cross-checked Biega face first into the boards. The top unit’s best chance came from a pass into the slot from Pettersson to Horvat, but again, Bobrovsky was there for the save. The Canucks would again fail to covert with the extra man.
Capitalizing on the momentum from the kill, Columbus kept their foot on the gas. This time Dzingel forced a turnover in the neutral zone and makes his way into the offensive zone uncovered. Josh Anderson, who brought the puck into the zone, threw a back hand dish to the front of the net where Dzingel was waiting uncontested to pot the Blue Jacket’s third goal of the night six minutes into the second period.
Tyler Motte would not return after this point after taking a stick to the face late in the first. He was listed as out with what was deemed an upper body injury. On the back half of games in consecutive nights, this third goal really let the air out of the tires for the home team.
We can see that, while the Canucks were holding things together in the first, they really began to unravel in the second, especially so at even strength. This was exemplified by a sequence where Panarin was able to make two cross-slot one-time passes to Wennberg, who fired away at Demko. Had you not been paying attention, you might have believed the Blue Jackets were on the power play as they were able to move the puck at will.
The Canucks received another power play with 6:40 to go in the second. This was their worst power play yet, having trouble just getting set up, but they were able to generate a scoring chance when a puck dibbled across the slot to Granlund whose slap shot was knocked out of the air by Bobrovsky’s glove. Again, both units would fail to convert.
When the Canucks did get shots off, they appeared to be aiming for the crest on Bobrovsky’s sweater.
This play by Jake Virtanen could do a better job describing Columbus pulling away from Vancouver than I ever could:
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) March 25, 2019
The never-say-die Canucks had a quality scoring chance to open the third period when Horvat found Pearson in the slot. Pearson fired five-hole, but Bobrovsky slid over and locked up his leg pads to make the save.
At the 7:30 mark in the third, Oliver Bjorkstrand found his way onto the score sheet. The Canucks allowed another shooter relatively uncontested into the slot as Sautner and Baertschi miscommunicated about picking up the man through the zone. Bjorkstrand was able to easily fire the puck over the glove of Thatcher Demko.
Columbus took yet another penalty with 11:15 to go in the game. Panarin went off for holding in the offensive zone. The Canucks won the opening draw, but had trouble making consistent passes, leading to a turnover that allowed Columbus to clear the zone. Their best opportunity came one a Stecher point shot that was deflected past Bobrovsky, but just a bit wide of the net as well.
With nine minutes to play, almost immediately after the power play ended, Josh Anderson potted his second goal of the night to put Columbus ahead of the probably-should-have-said-die Canucks. The Blue Jackets had a 3-on-1 with Panarin included, but Anderson elected to keep the puck and fired from the right circle to the far side of the net, past Demko’s blocker.
Gaudette took a hooking minor with five minutes left to play in a 5-0 game. A bright spot here was seeing Stecher with Edler, which I believe should be a more frequent sight. The Vancouver penalty kill looked more organized and reliable than the team had almost the entire game preceding the Columbus power play.
Maybe Columbus is starting to gel for the first time since the trade deadline. Maybe the Vancouver Canucks just aren’t good. Tonight’s 5-0 result is likely a combination of both. The last two periods consisted mostly of the Blue Jackets pushing and the Canucks getting pushed. Sure, Luke Schenn had 68 hits in 15 minutes of play, but even still, the Canucks offered little in the way of resistance.
There’s a couple of goals Demko would have liked to have had back, but, as is often the case in shut outs, you can’t hang this loss on the goaltender. I thought he was aggressive with his positioning tonight in the way young goaltenders tend to be. This left him and his teammates scrambling at times, especially with the rebounds he was kicking out. I would describe his movement tonight as a bit “erratic”, especially in comparison to Bobrovsky.
If we’re looking on the bright side, I thought Sautner had flashes of exceptional skating, puck moving, and shooting. I’m not at all a fan of the Edler-Biega pairing, but I’m cautiously optimistic about pieces of this current D-corps. Stecher showed earlier this season he can carry an increased load, as did Hutton. With Hughes joining the team and an off-season to get healthy and maybe add another piece, you’d wonder if this group can move forward a bit in the offseason.
I’m a late arriver on the forward depth train, but especially this late in the season, you’d hope the Canucks could find someone to contribute along side Pettersson, Boeser, and Horvat.
Travis Green tried to get things going tonight by moving forwards around, but it appears as though none of Goldobin, Baertschi, Pearson, Leivo, or Virtanen can consistently produce in a complimentary fashion to Vancouver’s top forwards. When Markus Granlund is your best forward, you need to seriously re-evaluate your forward depth and deployment.
The Canucks get a reprieve from playoff hockey as they take on Anaheim on Tuesday and the L.A. Kings on Thursday. Hopefully their forwards find these two defenses a bit more porous than the stifling pairs from Columbus.