Photo Credit: @Canucks Twitter

Vancouver Canucks at Nashville Predators Post-Game Recap: The War Room Sends Their Regards

The Warmup 

With the playoffs out of sight and two away games remaining in the regular season, the Vancouver Canucks entered Thursday’s game against the Nashville Predators with little to play for.

Perhaps that influenced coach Travis Green’s decision to try something fans have been clamouring for all season—Jake Virtanen on the left wing of Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser.

That, and other lineup notes—including Jacob Markstrom playing in his 60th game of the season and the newly-signed defenseman Brogan Rafferty making his NHL debut—were provided by Jeff Paterson on Twitter:

Rafferty lined up on Ben Hutton’s right-side, wearing Kevin Bieksa’s old #3:

1st Period

With the Predators in a dead-heat with the Winnipeg Jets for first place in the Central Division, one might have expected the home team to come out flying against the already-eliminated Canucks—but that’s not what happened.

Though they failed to earn any significant chances and gave up a Kyle Turris one-timer that narrowly missed the net, Vancouver controlled the majority of the play in the game’s opening minutes.

One might have also have predicted that Mikael would be the Granlund brother most likely to notch a goal in this game, but it was Markus who opened the scoring at 8:49 of the first period. After Wayne Simmonds was sent to the box for hooking Quinn Hughes and the top unit was unable to get anything going, Granlund came out with the second group.

Though the second unit immediately gave up a shorthanded breakaway to Viktor Arvidsson, Jacob Markstrom made a fine save—allowing Hughes to get a hold of the puck and get to work. After a couple failed attempts, Hughes facilitated a zone entry via a give-and-go with Granlund—and then took the puck down the boards, drawing three penalty killers with him. This left Granlund wide open in front to receive a perfect backhand dish from Hughes—and Granlund finished the play by sliding it past Pekka Rinne.

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Hughes’ second assist in the NHL was arguably as nice as his first. And the calls for his placement of the top powerplay unit continued:

On his next shift, Hughes absorbed the biggest hit of his career thus far from Craig Smith, but the contact was clean—and there was no response from Luke Schenn or anyone else. Vancouver’s newest hype-god wasn’t about to let that stop him.

After another stint of uneventful play that took up most of the period’s latter half—aside from another crushing check from Filip Forsberg on Troy Stecher—the Canucks received another powerplay thanks to a Nashville too-many-men infraction with just over two minutes remaining.

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The top unit again failed to get anything done, and Quinn Hughes again led the second group onto the ice. After skating the puck out of the zone past a chasing Forsberg, Hughes ended up with it at the point and fired a shot that didn’t make it through. It did, however, land on the stick of Tanner Pearson, who ripped it off the bar—and then off Rinne’s back—and into the net for his 18th of the season and eighth as a Canuck.

It was Hughes’ third assist in his fourth career game and his second primary powerplay point of the period. The Canucks were ahead 2-0 with just seconds remaining in the period, and that’s where they stood heading into the intermission.

Intermission Highlight

Watching the Quinn Hughes hype reach Chernobyl-esque levels:

2nd Period

The middle frame opened with one hell of a controversy. Less than a minute in, Colton Sissons wired a shot that slowly trickled through Jacob Markstrom and into the net—but after the whistle had blown. However, the War Room in Toronto ruled that—due to an obscure rule—the puck was in “continuous motion,” and thus the whistle was overturned and a goal was awarded.

It’s really impressive that the league is finding such innovative ways to screw the Canucks this late in the season. (Foreshadowing Alert!)

The Canucks failed to get a shot in the first six minutes of the period, and then things got worse when Quinn Hughes took the first penalty of his NHL career—a hooking infraction against Mikael Granlund. Fortunately, Hughes’ teammates were able to pay him back for all those assists by killing the penalty.

Upon returning to the ice, Hughes was high-sticked—Craig Smith again—but no call was made.

Later that shift, Dan Hamhuis nearly tied it up—but Markstrom was able to stop his shot from in close. Elias Pettersson took a holding penalty against Viktor Arvidsson on the play, giving the Predators their second powerplay of the period—but again the penalty killers proved equal to the task. The PK didn’t give up a single shot against—though they did nearly give up a garbage goal and several subsequent chances after Pettersson’s minor expired.

Despite the success on the penalty kill, the Canucks had yet to earn a shot on net with six minutes remaining in the period—while the Predators had 11. Brock Boeser finally broke the goose egg with 5:49 remaining—and he also rang one off the post earlier in the same shift.

Boeser continued to drive the offense and increase those shot totals in the final minutes of the frame, but was unable to increase the Canucks’ lead. The last two minutes were particularly physical, with Stecher heading off the ice in pain—only to return next shift—and Josh Leivo absorbing a questionable check from Austin Watson.

Intermission Highlight

The league cutting a video to explain the lengths they’ll go to screw the Canucks: 

3rd Period

With the out-of-town scoreboard showing leads for Winnipeg and St. Louis, the Nashville Predators entered the third with a lot on the line:

For his part, Jacob Markstrom came out looking for a stronger start to the third period than the second, and he delivered—stoning Nick Bonino and then Roman Josi in the frame’s opening minutes.

In between those saves, Austin Watson tried to level Brogan Rafferty in the corner and found the rookie to be surprisingly solid—and also found himself flat on his ass.

Alex Edler made the questionable decision to tackle his own goaltender with no opposing players anywhere in the vicinity—but Markstrom was somehow able to make a sprawling glove save with his teammate still leg-locking him.

Up in the broadcaster’s booth, John Garrett busted out the rulebook to highlight the NHL’s hypocrisy, and John Shorthouse’s reply reminded fans why he’s the best in the business:

MVP Markstrom continued to hold the Canucks in the game, stopping another Viktor Arvidsson breakaway with his blocker.

Most of the rest of the period passed without further controversy—despite increasing urgency and pressure from the Predators—but not all of it! With 4:20 remaining in the period, Nick Bonino appeared to tie the game—but Travis Green challenged for goaltender interference. Upon further review, Watson dove into Markstrom of his own accord and directed the puck to Bonino with his hand—but somehow, the goal was still awarded after the refs conferenced with Toronto for several minutes.

#TeamTank celebrated on Twitter, but the rest of the #Canucks fanbase was less than impressed:

That makes two goals against Jacob Markstrom that probably shouldn’t have counted, and his tough night didn’t end there.

With less than 30 seconds remaining, Elias Pettersson turned the puck over and Ryan Johansen was able to bank the puck off Troy Stecher on an attempted pass and into the net for a late game-winning goal. The Canucks attempted to challenge for offsides, but it wasn’t particularly close.

Markstrom spent the last moments of a game he deserved to win watching from the bench as his teammates fruitlessly tried to tie it up.

The Wrap-Up

What more can be said about this one? If you’re on #TeamTank, you’ll be a happy camper tonight. But if you’re just the kind of fan who likes watching the team play, you’ll undoubtedly be furious about the NHL pulling a 2011 throwback and doing the Canucks dirty.

In the end, this was a relatively meaningless game—and there’s plenty to be happy about considering Quinn Hughes’ performance—but it’s hard not to have a sour taste about the team’s MVP getting robbed. Jacob Markstrom played one of his best games of the year, but he lost 3-2 because of two highly questionable calls and a bad bounce—and that just sucks.

Fancy Stats At A Glance

Gameflow from Canucks at Nashville April 4, 2019 (courtesy of naturalstattrick.com)


Heatmap from Canucks at Nashville April 4, 2019 (courtesy of naturalstattrick.com)

Top Performers

Quinn Hughes

Four games and three points—all of them assists and two of them on the powerplay. Hughes isn’t just collecting secondary points either—he’s driving the offense with his superior skating whenever he’s on the ice. He’s already the lifeblood of the second powerplay unit, and—like Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson before him—he’s somehow outperforming the seemingly impossible hype that preceded him.

Team USA has obviously taken note:

Jacob Markstrom

Markstrom played so well in this game that the league pretty much had to invent new rules to keep him from winning. Yet another MVP-level performance from the Canucks’ starting goaltender.

Tanner Pearson

Who could have guessed that both the Canucks and the Penguins would be relatively pleased with the results of the Erik Gudbranson trade? Pearson notched a goal and an assist in this one, and his goal was his eighth with the Canucks in just 18 games—putting him on pace for 36 over a full season.

Next Game

The Canucks have made it through Game 81 of the regular season, and that means that Sunday’s matinee matchup with the St. Louis Blues will be their last of the year. The start-time is 1:00PM PST and the game will be broadcast on Sportsnet Pacific.

  • FairPM

    For the tankists, this is ideal. Ping pong drop from 9th to 10th is huge (relatively speaking, it’s 1.5 balls ). So in a twisted ironic way, maybe the war room decisions work in Vancouver’s favour.

  • Kootenaydude

    Last minute of the game and dumb dumb Green has Boeser and Spooner on the ice. Those aren’t guys you have on the ice when you’re trying to keep the puck out of your net. Boeser got his pocket picked hard!! Green hasn’t taught his team how to protect a lead in the 3rd period. I don’t know the stat, but it can’t be good.

    • canuckfan

      It is also a good lesson for Pettersson and Brock to work on their defense and never give up. No better lesson than being the goat on a goal like that. I listened on the radio and the commentators were correct in their analysis that the Canucks were defending and let up on the fore check. Rather than keeping the other team pinned in their end they let them skate out with the puck and tried to defend their blue line which is never successful. Fore check pin them in their end is a much better strategy.

  • Kanuckhotep

    The Preds ultimately had more to gain from this one than the Canucks while Vancouver played a meaningless game really. Pearson and Marky looked great and Hughes will be the anchor of the blue line for years to come. Daring, creative and swift this kid is plain naturally gifted. Now if the damned lottery balls can drop favourably for us next Tuesday 19-20 will look even better. I can dream, can’t I?

  • Rodeobill

    That was a fun game to watch. Marky made HUGE saves, and the goals that went in were questionable. I look forward to seeing the prospect stuff coming up, but it really seems that out of the top two, there isn’t huge consensus. A higher pick would be nice, sure. But ultimately the next tier of players all look good and no one knows who will pan out and who is a sure bet to become an impact or game-changing player. The other gamble is that the teams in front of you choose wrong.
    I would like to see an article looking at first rounders or top tens from last year and see how they have risen or fallen in ranking since then. What are Dobson, Bouchard, Wahlstrom, etc doing? What is their revised PGPS? Have they risen or fallen since then? I remembering myself thinking we need to take Wahlstrom if we can, but Hughes looked good too.

  • Rodeobill

    Unrelated to the Canucks…
    The Avs have a cool Super Mario Bros. “Extra man” sound when one of their guys come out of the box. That is a great idea.
    Also, I might be wrong, but I don’t think the Leafs are as good as everyone else seems to think. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate them, they are better than the nucks right now, and they have some serious talent, but they are missing something that separates them from powerhouse teams and I’m not sure what it is. Defense? Team spirit? I don’t know.

    • Beer Can Boyd

      Tavares has never been a winner, the defence is porous, Matthews still doesn’t like Babcock, Nylander is worth half of what he’s paid, and Andersen has yet to prove he’s a playoff goalie. Bruins in 5.

      • Goon

        Tavares with 2008 and 2009 World Junior Golds and the MVP of the 2009 tournament, 2012 Spengler Cup Gold, 2014 Olympic Gold, 2016 World Cup of Hockey Gold, and pretty much single-handedly dragged a garbage Islanders team to the second round of the playoffs in 2016.

        Tell me more about how Tavares has never been a winner.

        • Don’t forget that the CHL created the “exceptional status” exemption specifically for Tavares in 2005 so he could play in the OHL as a 15 year old. Only 4 other players have been granted it since: Ekblad, McDavid, Day, and Veleno.

        • Beer Can Boyd

          In the 2016 playoffs Thomas Greiss had a .944 save %. Pretty sure thats why the Islanders made it to the second round. As for the Isles being a garbage team, check the standings. They had 100 points that year. 2014 Olympics? He played in 4 games, 0 points. Can’t take that Spengler Cup away though.

    • Holly Wood

      This group of players don’t seem to respond to Babcock and his style. Wouldn’t be surprised if they went a different direction after next year if they don’t go a long way. Too much talent there to not succeed although their D may be the continue to drag them down

    • canuckfan

      Just like the Canucks had to slay the dragon with Chicago the Leafs have the same with Boston. Mentally they may already be beat but if their goalie wins a couple games they get a few nice hits they may build what is missing within their team at this point. I hope not because I hate the Leafs and want to be able to razz friends who are fans of the Leafs.
      If the Leafs lose it will be a tough summer for them and the big move to make changes may be a blockbuster trade with Edmonton trading one of the stars doesn’t have to be McDavid or Matthews as there are other star players that could be moved with each other that could be a shake up for both teams to excite their bases rather than getting slaughtered in the news and talk shows.

    • Tedchinook

      I don’t think so in that case. It looked like Markstrom thought he had the puck between his pads, so it’s unlikely he would have reacted to the puck behind him before it went in.

      • Bud Poile

        Considering our banned troll and ‘Benning bust’ whiner wanted to give Guddy away and Pearson is on a 36.5 goal pace as a Canuck AND Guddy is serviceable for the Pens I do agree.

        • ClassOF2011

          “The only thing that matters is the playoffs” – Bud Poile

          So could you explain to the group how you feel about FOUR straight seasons of MISSING the ”only thing that matters” Dud. Getting mixed messages from ya again here……….

          • ConfusedCanuck

            Yah, I’m confused. How can a so-called Canucks fan like Bud P slate the most successful Canucks GM of all time who gave the fans playoff hockey five straight including a SC final… and then back a loser GM like Jim Benning who hasn’t given the fans a sniff of playoffs in four straight! which equals a franchise worst streak!?

            Bizarre, hypocritical and very confusing…

      • When two GM’s can execute a hockey trade where both players can flourish, it’s good for the players, the teams, the fans, and indirectly the league. Fans should focus less on “fleecing” other GM’s and doing more of these trades (although fleecing can feel pretty nice when you’re on the benefiting end).

  • Burnabybob

    Most likely, the Canucks will be the 9th seed in the draft lottery. They cannot move down to 10th, but if the Canucks lose their remaining game and the Ducks win, the Canucks will move up to 8th seed. (They would have the same number of points and same number of wins, but the Ducks won the season series 3-1).

  • Tedchinook

    The other thing that was really noticeable about Hughes last night is that he really has to work on his defensive positioning. There was a number of times he wasn’t between the opponent and the goal and he’s too small to do anything about forwards who have position on him.

    • TD

      Hughes looks great, but I’m seeing the same things in all four of his games. No big deal for a 19 year old d man, but it makes me laugh when people are penning him in on the first pair next year. Give the kid a break and let him put up points, have fun and learn without the ridiculous expectations in his rookie season.

  • Kanuckhotep

    The Sharks, Jets and most particularly the Leafs have not looked that good going down the stretch in preparation for the playoffs. Either they’ve had nothing really to play for the last little while or there are team cultures of folding when there is the most on the line. Upon the Leafs getting bounced by the Bruins there will be hell to pay in the Centre of the Universe. All that cap coin and not having won a playoff round with this present group. The Jets? What’s up with Laine? The Sasquatch has been seen more lately than we’ve seen Laine score goals. I predict this is the last kick at it for the Sharks with this group. Then like the Ducks, Kings, Hawks and now the Wild will get old over night. Now bring on the playoffs.