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Game #2 – Vancouver Canucks (1-1) @ Edmonton Oilers (1-1) – game recap

After a solid performance and win to start the abbreviated 2021 (technically 2020-21 season, but play did not start until January 13) season, the Canucks were right back at it, trying to sweep the first mini series of the season and put Edmonton in an 0-2 hole to start the season. This was going to be a good test to see how teams react to playing each other 2 or 3 times in a row. Normally, you face a team once and move onto the next city, or sometimes you might see a home-and-home situation. However, to minimize travelling and (hopefully) positive COVID-19 cases, teams will play each other two or three times before moving onto the next city. This baseball-style schedule will no doubt enhance rivalries and create new ones as well. I’ll get more into that in my first random thoughts post (to be released Sunday night). The Canucks iced the same lineup as last night, except Thatcher Demko made his season debut after watching Brayden Holtby turn in a steady performance last night. Could the Canucks Make it two wins in a row to start the season? Here is tonight’s game recap

Game Highlights:

  • The Oilers opened the scoring eight minutes into the game as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was johnny on the spot to stuff a rebound off the post past Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko
  • Thirteen minutes later, Connor McDavid scored a buzzer beater, deftly sneaking behind Canucks defenders Nate Schmidt and Alex Edler and stuffing it past the left pad of Demko
  • The Canucks got one back just under three and a half minutes into the second on a howitzer by Nate Schmidt that eluded a screened Mikko Koskinen
  • Five minutes later, McDavid threaded the eye of the needle, deftly weaving through the Canucks defenders into a prime scoring locale in the slot before snapping it by a helpless Demko
  • Just under two minutes later, Tyler Motte tipped home a slapper by Travis Hamonic
  • Just over four and a half minutes after that, McDavid completed the hat trick, stuffing his own rebound past Demko
  • The Oilers added a goal just over eleven and a half minutes into the 3rd period on a tip-in by Nugent-Hopkins
  • Thatcher Demko stopped 41/46 shots
  • Final score: Oilers 5 Canucks 2

My Take:

  • Connor McDavid (3G 1A), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2G 1A) and Leon Draisaitl (4A) combined to score 11 points and were a major reason why the Canucks lost tonight. Last night, the Canucks held, arguably the best line in hockey to a Leon Draisatl assist. Tonight, the Canucks gave the three WAY too much space. Hopefully this is a lesson learned and the Canucks will tighten things up for next game vs. Calgary
  • Thatcher Demko wasn’t at his sharpest. He had some rebound control on a couple of the goals and should have just frozen the puck on the Oilers second goal of the game. You wonder if the Canucks have a certain comfort level playing in front of Demko. The team allowed many more shots than they did with Holtby between the pipes. Demko’s a great goalie and everything, but he needs his teammates to block some shots and clear pucks once in a while.
  • With losses usually come lineup changes. It will be interesting to see if the Canucks opt to have Loui Eriksson draw in to the lineup. Jake Virtanen would be one candidate to take a seat in the press box. His line was AWOL tonight and largely hemmed in their zone by the McDavid line. Another option would be Zack MacEwen, who played just 7.5 minutes. Eriksson has the ability to play on multiple lines and is good on the PK. Then again, Virtanen has more potential offensively.
  • The power play continues to struggle. Tonight, they were 0-5 with 8 shots. No question, the Canucks power play should be a strength in the long run, but they have to avoid making the extra pass. I did notice that they weren’t using the drop pass as frequently tonight (a play that drives me nuts because it wastes valuable seconds and can be easier to get a SH chance with just one defender back if the opposition knows that’s your move after a clear and they counter by pursuing aggressively). No doubt, the first unit is missing JT Miller, who will not be available until after the road trip due to COVID-19 concerns. The early PP struggles also speak to the lack of offensive power after the 1st unit. Last season, Tyler Toffoli or Josh Leivo would have been on the 2nd unit, but of course they chose to sign elsewhere.
  • The Canucks were beaten in virtually every statistical category, except faceoffs. As a team, the Canucks won 54% of the draws, led by Bo Horvat, who won 62% of the draws he took. Adam Gaudette (57% success rate) and Jay Beagle (55% success rate) also had good nights in the faceoff circle
  • The Canucks banged out 24 hits, led by Brock Boeser, who had 3 hits tonight
  • The Canucks blocked 10 shots, led by Alex Edler, who had 3 blocked shots tonight
  • Up next, the Canucks head to Calgary where they will take on the Flames. No question, former goalie Jacob Markstrom will be motivated to play well against the team he called home for seven years (as will Chris Tanev and Josh Leivo). Expect a spirited battle on Saturday.
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