On a cold Wednesday night at Rogers Arena, Canucks fans got a brief reprieve from the 24-hour soap opera circus known as “Vancouver Canucks hockey.”
Sure, they lost.
But the result was secondary to the big picture. The story of the game wasn’t the NHLPA’s pending investigation into Tanner Pearson’s hand surgery. The game wasn’t about the President of Hockey Operations’ decision to list every interviewee to replace current head coach Bruce Boudreau. The game wasn’t about the team’s desire to sign another winger to a multi-year extension in the range of $5 million plus. The game wasn’t about the ideological shortcomings of retooling via castaways and reclamation projects instead of high-value draft picks. Lastly, the game wasn’t about their 20th five-goal loss of the season.
It was about a fart on the broadcast.
I kid, sort of. On Wednesday night, Canucks fans got some healthy “me time” away from the organization’s laundry list of ongoing off-ice controversies, contradictions, and contentious cap issues. Instead, Canucks nation got together and spent the pre-game and intermission remembering a legend, enjoying the #FreeTheSkate movement, and simply enjoying the classic no-show Canucks home performance without all the other baggage popping up during the broadcast.
Also, have we mentioned there was a fart on the broadcast!?
Again, the Canucks sucked.
For the first three and the final 12 minutes of the game, the Canucks looked decent. While their speed was no match for the Lightning’s top nine, they did their best to hammer the Lightning with shot volume.
That middle 45-minute stretch, though? On a night meant to honour Gino Odjick’s memory?
Worst initial dosage of negativity before the Stanchies post-game recap really gets going
Did you know that since losing to the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Eastern Conference Finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning have compiled a record of 514-287-71, a .630 points percentage and a plus-387 goal differential, missing the playoffs just three times before going to the Cup Finals three years in a row, winning twice?!
Did you know that since losing to the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Vancouver Canucks have compiled a record of 405-366-101, a .522 points percentage and a negative-175 goal differential, missing playoffs seven times in nine years following back-to-back first-round exits?
Did you know that the Vancouver Canucks have more forwards making $4.5 million or more this season than the Tampa Bay Lightning? Depending on what they do with Bo Horvat and Andrei Kuzmenko, the Canucks could have as many as six $4.5 million+ forwards on its roster compared to the Lightning’s four!
Did you also know that the Tampa Bay Lightning will only have $25.7 million in cap commitments to six defencemen, with Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak, Zach Bogosian, Nick Perbix, Haydn Fleury, and Phillippe Myers signed through next year and beyond?
Did you know the Canucks will have $22.5 million in cap commitments to four defensemen, with Quinn Hughes, Tyler Myers, Oliver Ekman-Larson, and Riley Stillman signed through next year and beyond? Depending on Tucker Poolman’s status, the Canucks may potentially have $25 million in cap commitments to five defencemen.
Sorry, back to the game and the attempt of “good vibes!”
Best I’m trying to be positive, I swear
After a stirring pre-game ceremony featuring Odjick’s former linemates, the Canucks immediately tested 37-year-old Brian Elliott with shots set up from the point.
The 37-year-old Elliott was making his first start in over two weeks for the Lightning. Perhaps wanting to punish the rusty netminder, Boudreau had the Elias Pettersson line out for two shifts within the opening minute. After three minutes, the Canucks had thoroughly dominated the Lightning, outshooting their opponent 4-1.
Unfortunately, Steven Stamkos was out here chasing a milestone, and the Canucks are…well, they’re the Canucks. The following 45 minutes of hockey featured some of the worst stretches of in-zone awareness and defensive play from the Canucks all season. It was truly ugly stuff.
What can you even say about the Canucks’ defensive effort on Stamkos’ 500th career goal? The Vancouver Canucks are incapable of defending the rush and are prone to making the most baffling pinches known to man. Ilya Mikheyev abandoning the slot for the left circle, leaving the man with 499 career goals alone at the net front? Baby, you got a milestone stew going!
Again, I’m trying to be as positive as possible here, but that opening goal sequence looked as if the Canucks were trying to get Stammer’s milestone goal out of the way as soon as possible.
Worst, please Tampa, I’m trying to be positive…stahp
On the 2-0 goal, the Canucks did defend the rush decently and positioned themselves well. Unfortunately, Oliver Ekman-Larsson chose to join Tyler Myers at the net front, tag-teaming 1 goal and 2 assist defenceman Cal Foote instead of rolling out to block the obvious one-timer option from the NHL’s fourth-leading points producer Nikita Kucherov.
Like the Stamkos goal. You have to wonder if the Canucks are intentionally defending poorly to gain some weird “playing from behind” advantage.
Sure, on their recent road trip, the Canucks made a few late pushes against top competition. But that desperate playstyle only earned them one win in five games!
On the Lightning’s 3-0 goal, we have the patented Vancouver Canucks “nobody knows what to do” defensive deployment.
- Five Canucks’ skaters in the slot
- Tyler Myers and Oliver Ekman-Larsson hugging at the left side of the net
- Two forwards above the circles waving their sticks at passes around the perimeter
- Brayden Point receiving the puck alone at the left circle, resulting in the third forward reacting late and chasing
Again, are we sure the Canucks aren’t intentionally defending poorly?!
Look at how hard Tampa works to hold the puck inside the offensive zone by fighting for loose pucks.
I don’t mean to sound like the villain from Bird Box. But, DO YOU SEE?!
Before Ian Cole’s point shot is even off the tape of his stick, the Lightning are anticipating the rebound off the boards and on it behind the goal line. By the time the Canucks have figured out who the puck possessor is, the Lightning are already set up on the point, with a player at the net front and three skaters on the blue line working the cycle as if it’s a 5-on-4 power play!
Fortunately, the Horvat line came away unscathed from the above sequence with a breakout and dump-in to the Lightning’s zone for a merciful line change.
Unfortunately, the Lightning went rinse and repeat. Seconds later, the Lightning were back inside the Canucks’ zone, forcing misplays and helping Steven Stamkos get closer to the “600 goals” milestone.
Kyle Burroughs had a horrendous first period. After being late on the backcheck for the opening goal by Stamkos, Burroughs followed up his bad shift with an even worse one, blindly giving the puck away with a blind backhand pass to Alex Killorn behind Spencer Martin’s net. While Ethan Bear did his best to post up for a potential wraparound, Killorn curled the puck to Stamkos, who’d gained a significant step on Burroughs, and tucked the puck around Martin’s left pad for the 4-0 goal.
After trailing at home by four goals for the fifth time this season, Martin got the hook, and Collin Delia entered in relief.
Best you know it’s bad when the fart jokes start
You know it’s a really bad period when #FartGate is the only joyous moment from the broadcast.
Yes, the Canucks still managed to outshoot their opponent 16-11 through 20 minutes, but it didn’t matter. They were outclassed.
Best Travis Green’s line blender
To start the second period, Bruce Boudreau pulled out Travis Green’s dusty old line-blender to try and shake things up for the better. Unfortunately, he missed the post-it note on the blender that said, “out of order.”
The Lightning opened the period with a 5v5 shift so dominant that it looked like a power play opportunity. The Canucks looked completely flat and stationary while the Lightning cycled the puck with ease for five dangerous shot attempts.
Just look at how easily the Lightning work the puck above the circles. Almost completely unchallenged by any Canuck skater within five feet!
So much of Wednesday night’s action consisted of shifts like these: The Lightning working their tails off for shot attempts while the Canucks defencemen plant stuck around the crease (or nowhere near it), and the forwards are trapped in the slot like deer in headlights.
Midway through the second period, the Canucks finally got some wind underneath their sails with a power play opportunity drawn by Ilya Mikheyev against Ian Cole.
For the opening minute of power play time, the Canucks looked purposeful and dangerous. Bo Horvat nearly scored with his patented bump one-timer, and Conor Garland almost hooked an Elias Pettersson slap-pass over Elliott’s right pad.
In the first ten minutes of the period, the Canucks had generated just one shot on goal. While they didn’t score on the power play, it did ignite some offence life back in the club.
Best “we flew 2000 miles for this?”
Despite having mom and dad in town, Andrei Kuzmenko did not feature on the team’s first power play unit through the first two periods. Even though he probably should have, given he was the Canucks’ best player through much of their play at 5v5.
The Lightning’s speed proved incredibly problematic for most Canucks’ skaters, except for Kuzmenko. Against the big boys of the Tampa blue line, Kuzmenko utilized his quick hands and shiftiness to evade pressure from the defence and set up his linemates with scoring opportunities.
Following the Canucks’ failed power play opportunity, Kuzmenko displayed said shiftiness, baiting in the Lightning’s defencemen with his hands before handing off to Boeser for a shot on goal from the wing.
Midway through the third, an errant puck clipped a kid sitting near the Lightning’s tunnel. After shedding a few tears, the “good guy Lightning” passed a stick along to the kid, drawing a thumbs up and a cheer.
It’s one thing to dominate the home team 4-0 after twenty minutes. It’s another thing, big-timing the home team by cheering up a crying child with gifts from the bench. The Canucks couldn’t exactly take the Lightning stick away from the kid and give them one of theirs. So naturally, the Canucks went out and gave the kid the only thing they’ve been good at supplying their fanbase with this season: False hope!
Best futile comeback attempt!
Following an interference penalty taken by Erik Cernak, the Canucks promoted Andrei Kuzmenko to the first power play unit, where he promptly tipped a Quinn Hughes point shot to make it 4-1, breaking Elliott’s shutout streak.
Ironically, until Kuzmenko’s goal, the Canucks’ power play had looked listless. That’s the power of pettiness. Would the Canucks have scored on the power play if the Lightning bench had not given the injured kid a stick? It’s hard to say. But, no.
The momentum kept swinging in Vancouver’s favour after Kuzmenko’s goal, with Elias Pettersson drawing a tripping minor against Steven Stamkos less than four minutes later.
Despite playing a team-high 26:49, Hughes looked no worse for wear when he casually walked through the Lightning’s entire PK group to make it a 4-2 game.
After Will Lockwood raced end to end to earn an offensive zone faceoff. The Canucks pulled Delia for the extra attacker with 3:42 left in the game. The early goalie pull was a bold move, and to the team’s credit, they deserved it after spending most of the final twelve minutes inside the Lightning’s zone, controlling play.
While the comeback wasn’t meant to be, the Canucks put up a great effort to try and bring themselves within a goal. Though most of the lower bowl had left by this point, the fans that stayed were treated to a wonderful defensive play from JT Miller!
It’s a shame the Canucks couldn’t score after Miller’s diving two-pad stack on Brayden Point.
Instead, after re-gaining the zone for more late shot attempts, the Lightning fought to clear the zone, eventually scoring the empty netter.
While I don’t think you can fault anyone on empty net goals. I do think it’s worth pointing out that OEL’s pivot on the initial pass from Stamkos to Kucherov looks very rough. Not long ago, Olli Juolevi was much maligned for pivots off the rush that looked similar to the one above. Again, it was an empty netter, so not blaming anyone here. But somewhat concerning that there are four more years left on OEL’s contract, and plays like the one above are bringing up memories of Olli Juolevi.
Great night if you’re on #TeamTank.
- San Jose’s regulation win against Dallas
- Ottawa’s overtime win against Pittsburgh
- Vancouver Canucks’ regulation loss to Tampa Bay
Best “Watch out, Dan Cloutier!”
Until the final twelve minutes of the game, this half-court goal stood as the most impressive shot of the night by someone in a Canucks jersey.
Worst “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.”
Four goals against in the first period? No fight? No bite? No fire? On a night you’re supposed to be tributing Gino Odjick?
Best goalie in a Canucks uniform was probably in the stands
Okay, that header is quite facetious, as Delia was excellent playing mop-up duty.
Just a few weeks after his 24-save gold-medal-winning performance against Czechia at the World Juniors, Seattle Thunderbirds’ netminder Thomas Milic was at the game, decked out in a #1 Roberto Luongo jersey. Born in New Westminster, Milic was no doubt scouting the team that could one day draft him to be the guy who gives up five goals 20 times by the halfway mark of the season.
Best “That’s all, folks!”