After an encouraging couple of games from the Canucks, they couldn’t capitalize on their opportunity to claim first in the frantic Pacific division where the top five teams are separated by 2 points. Their struggles against the Jets continued tonight and they have now dropped each of their last ten matchups. The Canucks outplayed the Jets in every facet of the game tonight except in net, where Connor Hellebuyck did his best Jacob Markstrom impression and stole this game for the Jets, stopping all 41 shots he faced. The Canucks won the shot battle, but lacked the finish needed to beat Hellebuyck. With this Jets win, the Western Conference rivals are now are tied with 54 points and as of the end of this game the Canucks are still holding on to the 3rd seed in the Pacific Division. They will be back in action on Thursday in Vancouver to take on the division-leading Coyotes, which means another chance to snatch a couple points from a Pacific Division rival.
The Canucks were playing from behind right from the jump in this game. After the Jets had a goal disallowed for going in under the loose net, it only took 1:22 for Kyle Connor to put them up 1-0. Sudden nervousness started to creep in 33 seconds later when the Jets scored again. However, Travis Green came to the rescue with a successful coaches challenge for offside and the Canucks remained down just one goal.
When the Canucks were caught up ice, Adam Lowry fed Jack Roslovic a perfect pass, sending him on a breakaway which he capped off, going glove side on Markstrom to put the Jets up 2-0. The Canucks had some great chances on their lone power play of the first period. Late in the third, Elias Pettersson hooked a shot thru Hellebuyck’s crease and followed that up by ringing the puck off crossbar but couldn’t find the back of the net.
The slow start struggles from the first continued into the second period. This time it only took 1:12 for Blake Wheeler to score on the power play and make it 3-0 Jets. The Canucks continued to generate chances and had 3 power plays in the period. They were coming close but lacking the finesse to finish.
It was all Canucks to start the third period and they were doing everything they could but score. Captain Bo nailed the bar early and it began to feel like it was just one of those unfortunate nights. Petey hit the post for the second time with only 10 minutes left. Everything they put on net was stymied by Hellebuyck, or took an unlucky bounce or just hit the post. In a last-ditch desperation move with 5 minutes left, Green pulled Marky and unfortunately all that came of it was a Kyle Connor empty net goal, sealing the game 4-0. The Canucks continued their onslaught of shots but still couldn’t beat Hellebuyck and the Jets would go on to close out the game.
Jacob Markstrom does it all for the Canucks. He has stolen games, covered up defensive deficiencies, and is a major reason the Canucks are in the playoff hunt. He is an All-Star after all, but he has played 15 of the last 17 games and deserves a break, especially when he will be busy during the All-Star break. Thatcher Demko is more than capable of winning a game or two for them and he has done so earlier this season. So it’s time to give Marky a game off every once in a while and let Demko remind everyone that he can steal the show, too.
After his successful challenge tonight, Travis Green leads the NHL with 6 coaches challenges this season. Three other coaches have challenged 5 times. He has won 3 offside challenges, 2 goaltender interference challenges and his only loss came on an offside challenge.
Travis Green shook up the lines once the Canucks were down 3-0. He needs to trust the process more and let his lines continue to build chemistry, especially Bo’s line with Tanner Pearson and Loui Eriksson. It appears the Canucks may have found permanent linemates for the Captain, thanks in part to Eriksson’s sudden resurgence. After the revolving door he’s hosted on his line over the past two years, having the same linemates for 10 games in a row has been a breath of fresh air for Horvat. In those 10 games with Tanner and Loui, Bo has a 5-on-5 CF% of 50.37% and is the only Canucks forward with a 5-on-5 CF% over 50%. Loui’s 49.80 CF% is second best. Loui is a veteran who is solid defensively. Bo knows he can trust Loui to be in the right spot to make a play. He’s not worthy of his price tag, and that’s not his fault, but it is nice to have Loui contributing on a more regular basis.