After a well-deserved five day break, the Canucks were back at it, looking to pick up where they left off before the Xmas break, going for their 4th straight win. The Canucks finished the pre-Xmas schedule strong, with big wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Edmonton Oilers. Going into the next stretch of games, the Canucks are as healthy as they’ve been in a long time with just Brandon Sutter (upper body injury), Michael Ferland (post-concussion syndrome) and Josh Leivo (broken kneecap) on the injured list (none of the three skated in the morning skate. Sutter and Ferland should be ready relatively soon while Leivo will be out until at least the trade deadline and possibly until the final couple of weeks of the season. The Canucks end the 2019 calendar year with a final home game tonight vs. the LA Kings (followed by a tilt in Calgary tomorrow), who are near the bottom of the NHL standings and will almost certainly be looking at trading some of their veteran players in the coming weeks. They’ve started the process by effectively terminating the contract of Ilya Kovalchuk. The Canucks went with the same lineup that pulled off the huge win five days ago vs. Edmonton, meaning Jacob Markstrom was between the pipes for the 9th consecutive time. Could the Canucks make it 4 wins in a row? Here is tonight’s game recap
- The Canucks opened the scoring just under ten and a half minutes into the game as Jake Virtanen found his own rebound and whipped it past a sprawling Jonathan Quick
- Just over nine minutes later, Tyler Motte grabbed a loose puck, wheeled into the left faceoff circle and snapped it home far side on Quick
- The Kings got one back Almost 12 minutes into the 2nd period as Anze Kopitar jammed on by the pad of Jacob Markstrom
- The Kings tied it just under 7 minutes into the 3rd period as Tyler Toffoli was johnny on the spot to whack a rebound past a screened Markstrom
- Nineteen seconds later, Elias Petterson drilled a one-timer by Quick
- Jacob Markstrom stopped 49/51 shots for his 100th career win
- Final score: Canucks 3 Kings 2
- Unlike the last time these two teams net at Roger’s Arena during the home opener, the Kings were good and ready to face the Canucks. After the home team jumped out to a 2-0 lead after 1 period, the Kings amped up the pressure big time, outshooting the Canucks 39-16 over the final 40 minutes. It was clear early and often that a five day break did not cool off Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom, who made many huge saves to keep the Canucks in the lead for most of the night, save for nineteen seconds when the Kings tied it. It was the Swedish goalie’s 100th career win and arguably the best game for a 100th win in the history of the NHL. Markstrom has shown he performs better when facing a lot of rubber. Markstrom is now 6-0-0 this season when facing 40+ shots with a 2.10GAA and .950Save% and a shutout. You really have to look at where Markstrom’s game was when he first came to Vancouver. He didn’t even make the team his first training camp. Then when he came up, he was prone to giving up bad goals and letting it affect him. Thanks in huge part to the Canucks goalie coaches, and especially Ian Clark, Markstrom has refined his technique. No doubt he’s had a few sessions with the team psychologist because you can see the transformation. Now, he gives up a goal and he’s refocused right away more often than not.
- One Kings player who has taken a lot of flak for comments made after that home opener beat down is Drew Doughty. He was on the ice for all three Canucks goals. I’m thinking he’ll keep his trap shut from now on
- Another reason why the Canucks won this game is because they bested the Kings in every statistical category (faceoffs, hits, blocked shots). The Canucks won 62% of the draws, led by Elias Pettersson, who won every draw he took. Jay Beagle (82% success rate), Adam Gaudette (67% success rate), Bo Horvat (59% success rate) and JT Miller (55% success rate) also had good nights in the faceoff circle
- The Canucks outhit the Kings 23-16, led by Troy Stetcher, who had 4 hits
- The Canucks blocked 31 shots, led by Alex Edler, who blocked 7 shots
- Up next, the Canucks head straight to the airport because they play in Calgary tomorrow night. Expect the Canucks to stick with the same lineup that faced the Kings tonight. There’s no question that Markstrom will get the start tomorrow, provided he’s not feeling sore. Thatcher Demko might not play until the Canucks are on the 5 game road trip that commences Jan 7 in Tampa Bay.