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Photo Credit: © Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

CanucksArmy post game: ‘Tyler Myers versus hockey’ as the Canucks drop an embarrassing 7-3 decision

The Warmup

The good news? The Vancouver Canucks bumped a three-game pointless slump on Wednesday night’s home opener against the Montreal Canadiens, and simultaneously snapped an 0/16 streak on the power play.

The bad news? They achieved victory in what can only be described as Balboa-esque fashion; taking an absolute beating, but still somehow coming out on top.

The Canucks won 6-5 in the shootout, but they gave up four leads in the process and saw four different players leave the game with injury. And, speaking of pointless, Elias Pettersson’s own pointless streak reached its fourth game, leaving him visibly mirthless even as the rest of his teammates celebrated the win.

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Suffice it to say, then, that many in the fanbase were still holding off on their own celebrations heading into the back-half of a back-to-back, and the second in a three-game series, against the Habs on Thursday evening.

But, as they say in Montreal, “Que sera sera,” which roughly translates to “Let’s drop the puck and see what happens.”

The Lineup

Despite some heavy urging from the universe — gameday being the 21st day of the 21st month of the 21st century CE — coach Travis Green made the decision not to reinsert Loui Eriksson into the lineup. But there were still a couple of roster changes to be had.

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With both Alex Edler and Travis Hamonic out with undisclosed injuries, Olli Juolevi returned and Brogan Rafferty suited up for his season debut. And after a stellar debut of his own, Jalen Chatfield remained in the lineup.

Up front, Jay Beagle and Brandon Sutter stayed in despite a series of painful shot blocks Wednesday. There thus were no changes to the forward corps — unless you count the ‘A’ sewn on to JT Miller’s jersey in Edler’s absence.

There were no changes whatsoever on the Montreal side of the lineup card.

Thatcher Demko got the start for the Canucks, while Jake Allen subbed in for Carey Price at the other end.

1st Period

Well, it probably wasn’t the way Brogan Rafferty imagined his first NHL shift in two years going.

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Slow to move the puck out of his own zone, Rafferty gave up the puck to Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s shins. From there, Joel Armia shoveled it toward the front of the net, where he and Tyler Toffoli had several cracks at the puck before Toffoli finally bashed it past Demko for a 1-0 just 1:54 into the game.

It was, as we’re sure you’re all aware, Toffoli’s fourth goal in four periods against the Canucks thus far in 2021.

Fortunately, Tyler Myers was on hand to stem the tide.

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Pinching in from the point, Myers forced a turnover out of Tomas Tatar, then picked the puck up himself and fired it quickly toward the net, where Bo Horvat was already in position to tip it by Allen. With his fourth of the year, Horvat tied it up at 1-1 less than a minute-and-a-half after Toffoli’s marker.

A shift later, the Canucks were on the powerplay after Jonathan Drouin took a two-minute minor for Drouin something he wasn’t supposed to, but special team woes reared their ugly head again.

As the last man back, Nate Schmidt fanned on his pass and gave it away to — who else — Toffoli. The short-lived former Canuck made a quick and clever pass back to Armia, sending him alone against Demko to make it 2-1 on the shorthanded tally.

Minutes later, Brett Kulak chopped Brock Boeser hard in front of the net and sent the Canucks right back to the man advantage after a lengthy segment of six-on-five play.

This time around, the Canucks busted out their tried-and-tested bumper play, slightly-modified, and were immediately rewarded.

Boeser slid into the trapezoidal spot normally occupied by Miller, while Miller slid up the wall on the left side. But beyond that, the top unit executed the exact same goal they’d broken the power play slump with on Wednesday. Quinn Hughes to Miller, and then to Horvat in the slot for a snap-rocket past Allen. Déjà vu, 2-2, and Horvat’s second of the period.

With his fifth of the season, Horvat moved into sole possession of the NHL goal-scoring lead, passing Boeser and a slew of others tied at four.

Shortly thereafter, Myers got caught flat-footed and then got caught taking down the Canadien zooming by him, putting the Montreal power play — coming in just a shade below 50% efficiency — to work. The Vancouver PKers, including an all-Comets Juolevi/Rafferty pairing that Cory Hergott must have loved, proved equal to the task.

Speaking of legends, Olivia Newton-John would have been pleased as things got physical between Jake Virtanen and Ben Chiarot in the neutral zone heading into the period’s second ad break, resulting on four-on-four action as play resumed.

Back to five-on-five with about five minutes left, Chatfield became the latest Canucks defender to head down the tunnel ominously. He did not return.

Already down a defenceman, the Canucks then went back to the penalty kill when Myers took his second interference minor of the period, but again the PKers bailed him out — and they were even kind enough to spring him on what John Shorthouse referred to as an “all-Tyler rush” with Tyler Motte as he exited the box.

Presumably wanting to round out the period with a little extra dumb excitement, Joel Edmundson took a big run at Tanner Pearson just as time expired, picking up his own interference minor and handing the Canucks a full two minutes of power play to start the second.

Intermission Highlight

Have to take this opportunity to shout out John Garrett’s new “silver fox” look. Who’s starting the petition to make it a permanent feature?

And while we’re on the subject of petitions, more panel-time for CanucksArmy alum Harman Dayal is always welcome.

2nd Period

That two minutes of fresh-ice man advantage was interrupted by some clock issues, but then the top unit got back down to business — the business of making the decision to not re-sign Toffoli look even more foolish, that is.

On this occasion, it was Pettersson’s turn to turn the puck over to Armia at the blueline. Armia then sprang Toffoli on the breakaway, and we all knew what was going to happen from there. A smooth deke around Demko, and it was 3-2 for the visiting Habs just 1:13 into the period (and thus the man advantage).

Adam Gaudette killed off most of the remaining power play himself by taking a slashing penalty. But then, Nick Suzuki took his own slashing minor to send it back to four-on-four for 1:35. Both penalties ended without further scoring, but Suzuki got absolutely rocked by Miller shortly after leaving the box.

Another whistle, and another power play for the Canucks — their fifth of the night — with Philip Danault heading off for tripping Nils Höglander. Miller drew the turnover card for this hand, giving it up to Jake Evans and sending the rookie forward on yet another shorthanded breakaway, though this time Demko made the save. The second unit looked decidedly more dangerous than the first, dogged on the puck and generating plenty of zone time even after Danault’s minor was done.

“And it’s Tyler Myers again. His third trip to the box for interference.” Even Shorthouse sounded exasperated as Myers blatantly and lazily took Brendan Gallagher out of the play in the neutral zone. Not only did the penalty killers again stymy Montreal, they also generated more shot attempts than the previous power play.

With just over five minutes left in the second, the Canucks recorded their third shot on goal of the period and tenth of the game. Moments later, Suzuki was sent on yet another free-and-clear breakaway after Myers made an ill-advised pinch. Demko made the save, but Josh Anderson was immediately on the scene to bat in an airborne rebound and make it 4-2. But not for long…

Less than ten seconds later, Demko got caught up by a wobbling puck in the trapezoid that he wanted to play, but couldn’t. Paul Byron took advantage by snagging the puck for himself and wiring it over to an onrushing Evans, who knocked it into the yawning cage for a 5-2 advantage with 4:55 remaining in the period.

And we hate to tell you this, but they weren’t done yet.

Less than a minute-and-a-half after Evans’ marker, Rafferty was outmuscled by — guess who — Toffoli in front of the net, sending both of them crashing into Demko. Meanwhile, Armia dangled around the whole situation and deftly tucked it into the net, looking almost guilty as he did so, for the Habs’ third goal in 1:34 of play.

Travis Green challenged on the basis of goaltender interference, but the call on the ice stood and it was officially a 6-2 blowout — with the Canucks assessed a two-minute minor for delay of game, to boot.

The ensuing penalty kill was successful, but that was pretty small consolation for the final five minutes of pure suck.

Shots were 30-10 heading into the second intermission. Do we really need to tell you in favour of whom?

Intermission Highlight

Probably that the Canadiens couldn’t score any more goals during it.

3rd Period

Defying expectations, Demko remained in the net to start the third.

And about four minutes into the final frame, the Canucks had equalled their shot tally from the entire second period and looked to be, at the very least, settled down.

Then, out of freakin’ nowhere, came one of the nicest goals in recent Canuck memory from none other than Brandon Sutter. Spinning all the way around off a check from Alexander Romanov, Sutter maintained possession of the puck and then ripped an over the shoulder backhand past Allen, off the bar, off the crossbar, and in. And then the absolute madman grinned knowingly, as if that had been exactly what he was planning to do to cut the lead in half, 6-3.

Myers and Rafferty got the assists, marking the first point of Rafferty’s career and Myers’ second helper of the night.

The Canadiens received another power play with a little over five minutes left when the Canucks were caught with too many players on the ice. Myers leapt back onto the bench when he noticed his mistake, gave up a two-on-one chance to do so, and got called anyway. Thursday night, if it was anything, was thematically consistent.

The Habs, for their part, played it safe; though Toffoli came close to another goal with Montreal’s own spin on the bumper play.

Shortly after that, Myers exited the game the way he played it — ugly. He caught Armia unaware with a blindside, shoulder-to-head hit that incurred a five-minute major, drew a scrum, and quite possibly earned Myers a sizeable suspension.

Another power play, and one more goal for the Canadiens, with Gallagher tipping in a Chiarot shot from the point.

And then, after Beagle took a late penalty to ensure that the game ended as painfully as possible, that was it, with the final buzzer sounding on a 7-3 score and a 42-17 trouncing on the shotclock.

Elias Pettersson’s pointless streak hit five games for the first time in his career, and the Canucks fell to 2-4 on the truncated season.

Fancy Stats At A Glance

Gameflow from Canucks vs Montreal January 21, 2021 (courtesy of naturalstattrick.com)

Heatmap from Canucks vs Montreal January 21, 2021 (courtesy of naturalstattrick.com)

Top Performers

Bo Horvat

The captain is carrying a lot of the weight right now. Horvat notched two goals, and although his line also got scored on twice, he was one of the few Canucks to not look like they had given up on the night entirely.

Brandon Sutter

For that goal alone, but also for a better-than-average game overall.

Olli Juolevi

Juolevi played a career-high 21:59, including a staggering 8:46 of shorthanded time. He ended the night with an even rating after being on the ice for one goal for and one against. A 20% Corsi is nasty, but Juolevi was still the Canucks’ best defender.

The Wrap-Up

What more can we say?

Negatives coming out of Thursday’s game include a crushing blow to team confidence, two more defensemen out of the lineup, and another game without a point for Pettersson. The Canucks folded like a cheap tent made out of laundry tonight, and in doing so they let a division rival blow them out in embarrassing fashion.

One of the major positives coming out of this game was that it ended.

Next Game

The Canucks and Canadiens complete their three-game series on Saturday, January 23, with a start-time of 4PM PST. The game will be broadcast on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.

Special Note

This author is fully aware that “Que sera sera” is Spanish, and not French. They are also fully aware that many are going to miss the joke and comment on it anyway.