Photo Credit: @Canucks Twitter

Vancouver Canucks at New Jersey Devils Postgame Recap: Brotherly Shove

The Warmup

It says a lot about the anticipation surrounding the first NHL matchup between brothers Quinn and Jack Hughes that almost all of the pregame discussion centered around the burgeoning sibling rivalry—and not the fact that the Vancouver Canucks were attempting to extend an early-season four-game winning streak to a nice, round five-in-a-row.

The Saturday morning matinee marked the first of two consecutive 10AM games for the Canucks—but there was no way anyone in the fanbase was sleeping in for this one.

Given that aforementioned four-game winning streak—and coming directly off a dramatic comeback shootout victory against the reigning Stanley Cup champs—it came as no surprise that the Vancouver lineup, as provided by Jeff Paterson, was the same as it was on Thursday night.

Jacob Markstrom returned to the team after a personal leave, but he started on the bench in lieu of the red-hot Thatcher Demko—who faced Mackenzie Blackwood at the other end of the ice.

1st Period

Storylines clearly weren’t a priority for either Travis Green or John Hynes, as neither Hughes brother was on the ice to start the first period—though Quinn got out there for the second shift and Jack joined him shortly thereafter. It would be the still-undefeated captain Bo Horvat, however, who made the first play of note in the game—drawing an interference penalty against Damon Severson a minute in and giving the Canucks an early powerplay.

Faced with some aggressive penalty killing from the Devils, the Canucks’ top unit was stymied on their first attempt—and the second unit didn’t fare any better.

On the next shift, the Canucks put the puck in the net—seconds after the referee lost sight of the puck and blew a quick whistle. The close call—and a heavy hit laid on Brock Boeser shortly thereafter—seemed to inspire a segment of sustained pressure from Vancouver, but the game remained scoreless five minutes into the period. The shots, however, read 4-0 in favour of the Canucks.

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The Devils’ first real chance of the game came with one of PK Subban’s trademark coast-to-coast rushes, but Jordie Benn shut him down quite effectively. As could be expected from a 10AM start-time, the game reached its halfway mark without much more excitement of note—though at least the officials were putting on a show.

After a stint of nearly five minutes of whistle-less play, Tyler Myers handed the Devils their first powerplay of the game via a holding call behind the net. Vancouver’s best-in-the-league PK corps were overwhelmed by the New Jersey powerplay right from the get-go—resulting in pressure that ultimately culminated in Jack Hughes’ first career goal on a beautiful setup from Taylor Hall. 1-0 Devils, 1-0 Jack.

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Jack was pumped, and even #Canucks Twitter seemed to be at least a little pumped for him despite themselves.

An exhausted set of Canucks found themselves in danger of going down by two after a couple of consecutive icings—but a combination of Brandon Sutter and Micheal Ferland were able to get the puck deep and draw an icing of their own. That set up a scoring opportunity for Horvat in close—Vancouver’s first shot in more than ten minutes—but Mackenzie Blackwood was well-positioned to make the save.

With 38 seconds remaining in the period, the Devils took a too many men penalty—despite Taylor Halls’ best attempts to prevent it—giving the Canucks their second powerplay of the morning, though the period would end before they could get set up. As time expired, the Canucks may have had the man advantage, but the Devils were still in control of the game—ahead 8-6 on the shotclock and 1-0 on the scoreboard.

Intermission Highlights

This author’s internal debate as to the merits of a 16-minute powernap. (Decided against.)

2nd Period

When play resumed, Vancouver’s top powerplay unit ate up the entire 1:22 remaining in the powerplay—but they were unable to convert on the fresh sheet of ice. Before the next whistle, however, Brandon Sutter and Micheal Ferland again combined to produce a scoring opportunity that Mackenzie Blackwood turned aside—further evidence of the surprising chemistry those two appear to be developing.

Tim Schaller incited a scrum—and earned a two-minute minor—for a knee-on-knee collision with PK Subban, sending New Jersey to their second powerplay of the game. This time, the Canucks’ penalty killers looked more like their league-leading selves—keeping the Devils largely to the outside for all two minutes. Thatcher Demko still had to make a couple of saves—and he also got directly involved in the PK work by taking a solid chop at Miles Wood.

A middle frame that was nearly all powerplay continued when Travis Zajac sent Elias Pettersson flying with a trip to put Vancouver back on the man advantage. #Canucks Twitter rejoiced as Quinn Hughes, not Alex Edler, came out with the first unit and immediately made a difference—rocketing a shot that just missed, setting up a one-timer for Pettersson, and making a brilliant defensive play to prevent an odd-man rush. Unfortunately, none of this resulted in a goal, and the Canucks fell to 0/3 on the powerplay as the game neared its halfway mark.

Shortly thereafter, it was Jack Hughes breaking toward the Canucks’ net with speed—but Edler was there to save the day with a sprawling, desperate stick-swing.

The good times didn’t last for Edler, as he took an interference penalty against Taylor Hall on a defensive zone draw and with 9:14 remaining in the period. Hall kept the pressure on as the Devils went to the man advantage, twice forcing Chris Tanev to give up the puck and then directing the powerplay from the half-wall. New Jersey came close to converting on a jam-play at the crease, but Thatcher Demko proved equal to the task once again.

Edler burst out of the box and onto a breakaway—and he managed to get two shots away before the Devils’ defenders could catch up, though neither went in. Kevin Rooney picked up a high-sticking penalty on Edler shortly thereafter, sending the Canucks back to the powerplay.

Edler continued to be the center of attention after a crouching Blake Coleman collided with his extended forearm in the corner, setting off a near-line brawl when several Devils responded to the questionable hit. Out of the scrum, Sutter and Mirco Mueller dropped the mitts for a brief scrap—the Canucks’ first of the season—before tumbling to the ice. They each received five minutes for fighting, Mueller got an extra two for roughing, and Edler picked up two minutes for an illegal check to the head. After all that, the Canucks remained on the powerplay—but they did not convert on it.

After play returned to even-strength, the Devil’s John Hayden went looking for revenge—viciously crosschecking Chris Tanev up high after the whistle before Tanner Pearson arrived on the scene to pin Hayden to the boards. Hayden also accidentally got his stick up on Quinn Hughes while he was in the midst of assaulting Tanev. This time, Hayden was the only one to head to the box as the recipient of two minutes for hi-sticking—though he arguably earned at least six.

Hughes stayed on the Canucks’ top powerplay unit—but the focus remained on the physical play as Damon Severson buried Elias Pettersson and was then thumped by JT Miller in response. The Canucks managed two solid attempts on Blackwood, but he maintained his shutout with a couple of positionally-sound saves—and another on Tanev after play returned to five-on-five.

As if the second period hadn’t had enough penalties, Tyler Myers and Kevin Rooney took coincidental minors on a collision at center ice with 7.1 seconds remaining. The frame ended with the teams at four-on-four, the shotclock reading 20-18 in favour of the Canucks, and the scoreboard at 1-0 Devils.

Intermission Highlights

Jumping jacks and tea to stay awake. Also, this replay of Edler’s staredown:

3rd Period

Cooler heads seemed to prevail after the intermission, as both teams skated out to a rather mundane few opening minutes—though the opening seconds did include the first actual on-ice meeting between the Brothers Hughes.

Bo Horvat earned the Canucks’ first scoring chance of the period—and the second as he picked up his own rebound—but again Mackenzie Blackwood looked strong in turning him away.

The Canucks looked to be heading to their sixth powerplay as the period reached its first TV timeout when Tyler Motte was clipped and sent tumbling, but the offending Devil somehow got away with it. It was an afternoon in which nothing seemed to going right for the visiting team.

As the period hit its halfway point, the teams had combined for a total of five shots—but the Canucks also went on their sixth powerplay of the game with PK Subban in the box for holding the stick. Brock Boeser made a brutal pass out of his own zone that resulted in a shorthanded chance for Pavel Zacha—one that Thatcher Demko easily turned aside—and that ended up being the only real scoring chance of the entire two minutes. John Garrett dubbed this the Canucks’ “most ineffective” man advantage of their six thus far.

Quinn Hughes joined his brother on the scoresheet with 7:29 remaining in the third, though not in the way he would have wanted—taking a two-minute holding minor against Blake Coleman. The Canucks’ PKers went to work again with great efficiency, holding the Devils off long enough for Hughes to exit the box. Unfortunately, shortly before that occurred Brandon Sutter was reefed down at the blueline and left the ice in discomfort—an obvious infraction that was somehow missed by the officials. It seemed as if the refs had hit their penalty quota in this one.

Travis Green attempted to pull Demko with two minutes remaining, but had to delay it an extra few seconds when the puck was turned back up the ice. With 1:28 left, New Jersey iced the puck—allowing the Canucks to setup in the offensive zone with the extra attacker. The Lotto Line was joined by Horvat, Hughes, and Alex Edler—but even that sextet wasn’t enough to get the job done. After another New Jersey icing with 0:28.9 on the clock—and a subsequent Canucks’ timeout—and then another with 9 seconds remaining, the game ended in a 1-0 victory for the Devils.

Unnoticed by the Canucks on the ice—but not by the ref or anyone watching on TV—Travis Zajac buried Elias Pettersson with a crosscheck from behind into the boards as time expired. After the inevitable video review of the game, it was likely just one more reason why the teams’ next matchup—November 10 in Vancouver—is a good one to circle on your Pharmasave calendars.

The Wrap-Up

Despite the Canucks being shut out for the second time this season—and ending their four-game win streak—it’s tough to call this a boring game. The display of skill put on by the Brothers Hughes provided reason enough to get out of bed on a Saturday morning, and the second period was easily the tensest and testiest of the 2019/20 season thus far—though it unfortunately made way for an absolute snoozer of a final frame.

In the end, the story of this one has to be the failings of Vancouver’s powerplay—0/7 on the afternoon, and seeming to deteriorate as the game went on according to the eye-test. Though certain personnel—namely Quinn Hughes—looked effective, it wasn’t a good showing for Newell Brown—who will be on the hot-seat soon if he isn’t already.

The Canucks had countless opportunities to tie this game and squandered every one of them—a disappointing effort, but one that can hopefully be rectified as soon as tomorrow morning.

Fancy Stats At A Glance

Gameflow from Canucks at New Jersey October 19, 2019 (courtesy of naturalstattrick.com)

Heatmap from Canucks at New Jersey October 19, 2019 (courtesy of naturalstattrick.com)

Top Performers

Quinn Hughes

The storyline was all about Hughes facing his brother in the big league for the first time, but by mid-game it was all about his ascension to the Canucks’ top powerplay unit.

Despite Vancouver’s lack of success on the man advantage, Hughes had a noticeably positive impact when he was out there—something that hopefully gave the Vancouver coaching staff reason enough to continue the experiment.

Thatcher Demko

Demko didn’t face a ton of action—ending the afternoon with 23 saves—but he looked calm, cool, and collected throughout the entirety of the game. Demko’s positioning was as strong as it has been as a Canuck, making his stops look easy—though he never had a chance on Jack Hughes’ first period marker.

Alex Edler

Edler was all over the place in this game. We’re not here to celebrate his forearm shiver on Blake Coleman, but it should be noted that Edler had four shots, three blocks, and one of the coolest defensive plays Harman Dayal has ever seen. On the downside, he also had three giveaways—but in a 1-0 loss, that’s still enough to qualify him as a Top Performer.

Next Game

As was mentioned at least a dozen times on the Saturday broadcast, the Canucks’ next game comes less than 24 hours after the conclusion of this one—10AM PST on Sunday, October 20 against the Rangers in New York. Sportsnet Pacific will carry the broadcast.