If you want to blame anyone for the Abbotsford Canucks’ disappointing overtime loss to the Bakersfield Condors in game 1, blame the marketing team that chose to air a commercial on Sportsnet 650 that advertised playoff home games “next week at the Abbotsford Centre.”
The hockey gods do not look upon such displays of confidence kindly. The decision to advertise ticket sales to home games before their series against Bakersfield had started was begging for a result like the one they got on Tuesday night.
Before analyzing the Farm’s first playoff game since 2016-17, let’s examine their opponent.
Heading into Tuesday’s match, the Canucks and Condors had a bit of a “twinsies” vibe about them. The two teams finished the regular season tied in points and win percentage, with Bakersfield edging Abbotsford via the ‘regulation wins’ tiebreaker, 32 to 30.
Abbotsford finished the season with the league’s fourth-best powerplay, but their powerplay struggled in the games leading up to Tuesday’s matchup. During Abbotsford’s final five regular-season games, the team managed two goals on twenty powerplay opportunities, a 10% success rate.
The Condors finished the regular season with the worst powerplay in the Pacific Division at 18.7%. Like Abbotsford, the team managed only two goals on fifteen attempts over their final five regular-season games, a 13.3% success rate.
The Farm’s penalty kill has been up and down all season. Reaching 12th best in the league was the high watermark before cratering to 19th best in the AHL. Over the Farm’s final five regular-season games, their PK operated at 70% effectiveness, allowing six goals over twenty opposition powerplay opportunities.
The Condors’ penalty-kill finished 11th best in the league and operated at a remarkable 91.3% efficiency rate over their final five games of the regular season.
Abbotsford head-to-head versus Bakersfield
The Canucks’ season record versus Bakersfield was somewhat deceiving heading into Tuesday’s matchup. Though the Farm lost their first four games by a combined score of nineteen to eight, three of those losses came during a COVID outbreak that forced the team into playing down to ten forwards and five defencemen for two weeks.
- The Canucks’ overtime loss on January 7th saw them using ECHL PTO Brandon Cutler as their second-line center!
- The Canucks’ loss on January 9th had one forward from the opening-night top-six in its rotation, Justin Bailey.
Canucks 1/9/2022 forward lines
The erratic season series may have influenced Abbotsford’s lineup and game planning decisions. Rather than stick with what worked all season against other opponents, Trent Cull and company threw the lineup in a blender while employing a very Bruce Boudreau-ian punt-and-hunt playstyle. One that they hadn’t typically relied upon during the regular season. At least, not to the degree they were on Tuesday night in Bakersfield. A bold strategy given how little room for error there is during the Calder Playoffs opening round.
- The most notable omission from Game 1’s starting lineup was rookie forward Danila Klimovich. Though Klimovich struggled this season, he still finished his season strong with three points at 5v5 over the final ten games.
- Jett Woo substituting for Klimovich on the fourth line was a bold choice. Woo finished his season playing exclusively as a fourth-line forward without any ice time on special teams. Woo finished his year with eight points in 42 games, one point over his final twenty games.
Splitting up the Sheldons, Jett Woo over an actual forward, John Stevens playing with two guys he’s barely played with, and Petan back on the wing; Abbotsford’s coaching staff gambled their playoff odds on a lot of unusual changes and lost.
Despite the disappointing result, there were many interesting takeaways from the Canucks’ playoff loss in game 1.
The first period began with a brutal neutral zone pinch by Madison Bowey that handed the Condors some early offensive zone possession time and truly set the tone for the next twenty minutes. The Condors spent the period entering the Canucks’ zone uncontested, with Abbotsford struggling heavily to deny entry attempts.
Vasily Podkolzin looked like a deer in the headlights for his first AHL shift. Whether it was the bizarre passing attempts, the missed assignments, or the poor d-zone coverage, Podkolzin struggled to process when and where the team needed him to be. It was pretty funny. Even at the NHL level, we had never seen Podkolzin look as flat-footed as he had on his first shift. The conclusion of his first shift saw the Condors generate a dangerous rush attempt while Podkolzin struggled to react.
Conclusion of Podkolzin’s first shift
Canucks earned themselves an early powerplay opportunity when Noah Juulsen drew a tripping penalty against ex-Canuck Tim Schaller.
PP1: Petan, Rathbone, Rempal, Dries, Podkolzin
The first powerplay unit earned plenty of rope on the man-advantage, playing 1:18 before a shot from Sheldon Dries drew a whistle. Podkolzin looked decent in the Bo Horvat spot, as he generated PP1’s best look, with a slick tip-pass to Sheldon Dries at the side of the net.
Podkolzin powerplay tip-pass
PP2: Di Giuseppe, Stevens, Dowling, Lukosevicius, Bowey
PP2 was unable to generate any offence, but the Canucks did manage to stifle the early momentum swing generated by the Condors.
It wasn’t long after the Canucks powerplay opportunity when the Condors got their groove back. By the seven-minute mark of the period, the Condors were outshooting the Canucks eight to two!
The Canucks exclusively relied on “punt and hunt” during the opening frame. Unfortunately, the Canucks did not have the speed to fulfill the “hunt” aspect of the strategy. Time and time again, the Canucks’ would chip the puck into the offensive zone only to immediately lose possession on the retrieval.
With five minutes left in the period, ex-Canuck Adam Cracknell went knee on knee with Noah Juulsen behind Martin’s net, causing serious discomfort for the Abbotsford native. Unsurprisingly, Trent Cull threw out his fourth line on the next shift, resulting in Vincent Arseneau delivering a crushing hit to Michael Kesselring from behind that sparked a line brawl.
Arseneau’s crushing hit on Kesselring
PK1: Stevens, Di Giuseppe, Bowey, Brisebois
Martin was sharp throughout the Condors’ powerplay opportunity, turning away three shot attempts before a rinkwide clearance allowed for a wholesale line change.
PK2: Podkolzin, Dowling, Bowey, Stephens
Yes, you read that correctly. Vasily Podkolzin played a shift on the (Abbotsford) Canucks penalty kill, a concept that will surely prompt one to two articles from Chris Faber over the coming days.
PK3: Dries, Petan, Sautner, Juulsen
The 70% PK didn’t get any better when Ashton Sautner accidentally threw the puck over the glass on an attempted clearance. Bakersfield earned themselves 34-seconds with a two-man advantage. Fortunately, Spencer Martin remained sharp, making his seventeenth save of the period, turning away a high-shot from Philip Broberg.
Spencer Martin’s 5-on-3 save
After twenty minutes, the Condors had outshot the Canucks twenty to seven. The PK successfully prevented a goal, but it was mainly off the back of Spencer Martin’s stellar netminding.
The Canucks looked to rebound from a dismal opening frame, with Nic Petan landing two shots on goal within the first minute.
The Condors answered back with a couple of high-danger scoring chances. The first chance followed a crushing neutral zone hit by Dylan Holloway on Matt Alfaro. The Canucks’ d-zone coverage struggles continued as Dino Kambeitz walked into Martin’s crease for a backhander chance at point-blank range.
Dylan Holloway hit on Alfaro and a high-danger chance
After tripping over themselves on the backcheck, Devante Stephens and Madison Bowey gave Brad Malone a scoring chance on a wide-open net. Fortunately, even he was blown away by the Canucks’ poor coverage and sent his shot wide of the net.
Brad Malone misses the wide-open net
Devante Stephens’ period got worse after he gave away the puck to Dylan Holloway while retreating on the backcheck, gifting the 2020 14th overall pick a glorious scoring chance.
Devante Stephens oopsy
Jack Rathbone finally generated a clean look for the Canucks eight minutes into the period with a quick one-timer chance off an offensive zone faceoff win.
Jack Rathbone slapper off the draw
Though he was not tested often in the middle frame, Stuart Skinner stood firm. Justin Dowling capitalized on a giveaway by Michael Kesselring to set up Jarid Lukosevicius on the doorstep, and Skinner looked unphased by the scoring chance.
Dowling set up for Lukosevicius
Just past the midway point of the period, Madison Bowey took a roughing penalty to send the Canucks back to the penalty kill.
PK1: Stevens, Di Giuseppe, Juulsen, Sautner
The Canucks PK continued to work out of its slump, with Ashton Sautner blocking a point-shot that allowed John Stevens to clear. The 2nd and 3rd PK groups repeated the block/tie-up/clear process, killing Bowey’s penalty and holding Bakersfield to zero shots on the powerplay.
With less than two minutes remaining in the period, Sheldon Rempal drew a cross-checking penalty while parked in front of Skinner’s crease, giving the Canucks their second powerplay.
PP1: Podkolzin, Rempal, Petan, Dries, Rathbone
The Canucks late powerplay opportunity went about as poorly as it gets. Bakersfield first generated a shorthanded chance after Jack Rathbone gave away the puck off a zone entry. Then, while attempting to re-enter the offensive zone, Sheldon Rempal was stripped of the puck by Philip Broberg, who forced Spencer Martin into heroics with a dangerous 1-on-1 scoring chance.
Spencer Martin’s shorthanded save
The second-period shot clock read eleven to six, favouring Bakersfield, but the shot control felt infinitely more lopsided. The only thing working for the Canucks through the first forty minutes of play was their penalty kill.
Yanni Kaldis continued the Condors’ run of oppressive play by generating a point-blank shot into Martin’s pads seconds after the expiry of the Canucks’ powerplay.
The run of oppression did not stop after Kaldis’ shot either. For several minutes, the Condors pinned the Canucks inside the d-zone, where they were incapable of regaining possession for an exit.
The bounces started to go the Canucks way around the midway mark when Tim Schaller blindly threw the puck away to Guillaume Brisbois, who capitalized with a blast on Skinner from the point. It wasn’t the most dangerous look, but it was one of the few shots by the Canucks that had an inkling of danger behind it.
Schaller giveaway to Brisebois
Incredibly, despite the lack of shots, lack of structure, and lack of puck cycling, the Canucks managed to strike first! Who else but the debuting Vasily Podkolzin to break the stalemate with his first AHL goal! The Canucks caught a lucky break as two Bakersfield defenders collided at the blueline while defending the Canucks zone entry. The collision allowed Guillaume Brisebois to swing down the left wing with the puck, drawing Bakersfield defender Vincent Desharnais down towards him, and freeing up Podkolzin at the netfront for the pass and goal.
Truly, nothing more ‘Canuck luck’ than getting shelled for three periods, getting bailed out by the goaltender, then scoring a goal off of the opponent’s one defensive lapse of the game.
The Condors’ Brad Malone took a hooking penalty with less than seven minutes remaining in the third to add insult to injury. Despite failing to extend their lead, the powerplay was noticeably more dangerous. Momentum seemingly began to swing in the Canucks favour until the Condors gained possession of the puck and pulled Stuart Skinner for the extra attacker.
Naturally, in true Canuck fashion, the Condors tied the game with less than thirty seconds left in the game.
After being outshot forty-one to twenty-six in regulation, the Abbotsford Canucks went into overtime.
The opening minutes of overtime were incredibly intense, with both teams trading dangerous looks. The Condors generated several looks off the rush that tested Martin from range, whereas the Canucks finally found ways to test Skinner from up close.
With fifteen minutes remaining in OT, Michael Kesselring drew a tripping penalty against Noah Juulsen. Madison Bowey got away with a clear high-sticking infraction. Then, Seth Griffith faked a Michigan within the first twenty seconds of the Condor’s powerplay.
John Stevens generated a shorthanded scoring chance for Abbotsford to earn the Canucks a shorthanded offensive-zone faceoff. Off the ensuing draw, Justin Dowling led a shorthanded two-on-one with Podkolzin but was turned aside by the Condors’ defence.
On the ensuing rush by the Bakersfield Condors, they finally broke the Canucks PK. Upon entering the Canucks’ zone, Podkolzin and Brisesbois have a miscue on coverage that allows James Hamblin to waltz to Martin’s doorstep for the tap-in goal. A tough look for the rookie penalty killer Podkolzin.
2-1 Bakersfield Condors
The return to AHL Playoffs did not go as the organization had hoped. The Abbotsford Canucks laid their third goose egg in a row while the returning Spencer Martin stood on his head, stopping 45 of 47 shots. A rough start for the Farm’s playoff aspirations.
Bakersfield Condors def. Abbotsford Canucks 2-1 in Overtime
- Spencer Martin
- Spencer Martin
- Spencer Martin
Next Up on the Docket
The Junior Canucks are on the ropes, but they’re not out of it yet! Their do-or-die rematch is tomorrow at 7 PM PST.