The Canucks opened the final game of the road trip tonight with a tilt against the Nashville Predators, who had something to play for tonight, as they were locked in a tight 3 way battle for the Central division title with winner of the Central division title taking on Dallas, who are locked in as the 1st WC team. Jacob Markstrom started his 60th game of the season. By the way, three of the five other goalies on the list of goalies who have played 60+ games are playoff bound (Connor Hellebuyck, Martin Jones, and one of Carey Price or Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus likely gets the last WC spot after Montreal lost to Washington tonight). Pay attention to how these goalies perform in the playoffs because the Canucks will have difficult decision of work load in a year or two as they prepare for playoffs. Jake Virtanen returned to the lineup after missing the last game with a lower body injury. The latest college free agent signing, Brogan Rafferty, made his NHL debut paired with Ben Hutton. Could the Canucks play spoiler and cost Nashville the Central division title? Here is tonight’s game recap.
- The Canucks opened the scoring 8:49 into the 1st period as Quinn Hughes hit a wide open Markus Granlund, who backhanded it past Pikke Rinne.
- Just under 11 minutes later, Tanner Pearson ripped a shot through Rinne, who got a partial piece of the shot
- The Predators got one back 37 second into the 3rd period as Colton Sissons snapped a wrist shot through the wickets of Jacob Markstrom
- The Predators tied the game 15:40 into the 3rd period as ex-Canuck Nick Bonino was johnny on the spot to stuff a rebound past Markstrom
- Just under 4 minutes later, the Canucks turned the puck over in their zone and Ryan Johansen was left wide open in front of the crease to backhand it up and over Markstrom
- Jacob Markstrom stopped 30/33 shots
- Final score: Predators 3 Canucks 2
- Forget about the outcome of the game. The most important two moments of the game occurred in the span of eleven minutes. The Canucks converted on both power plays in both the period and the game and Quinn Hughes got the primary assist on both goals. Hughes has come as advertised in his first three games, demonstrating an elite hockey IQ, smooth skating skills and superb puck moving abilities. On the 1st goal, Hughes won a puck battle and fired a no-look pass to a wide open Markus Granlund. Eleven minutes later, Hughes whipped a shot through traffic that Rinne could not handle and Tanner Pearson was johnny on the spot for the rebound. The power play has been one of the Canucks weak points and Hughes is showing the potential this power play has for next season.
- Jacob Markstrom had another strong night, stopping 30 of the 33 shots the Preds fired his way, although he will want the 1st goal back.
- The difference in this one was a costly turnover with 30 seconds left. Credit Nashville for pressing late with the division title on the line.
- IMO, the game tying goal should have been called back on goalie interference as Markstrom was unable to make the save with Bonino in his grill
- The Canucks won 43% of the faceoffs, led by Ryan Spooner and Markus Granlund, who both won all their draws. Jay Beagle (67% success rate) and Adam Gaudette (50% success rate) also had good nights in the faceoff circle.
- The Canucks had 13 hits tonight, led by Luke Schenn with 3 hits
- The Canucks had 11 blocked shots, led by Troy Stetcher, who had 3 blocked shots
- Up next, the Canucks wrap up the 2018-19 season with a matinee against the St. Louis Blues, who still have a shot at first in the Central division. The Canucks won the first two meetings this season, including a big 5-1 victory with me in the building December 22nd. Brock Boeser scored his 2nd career hat trick nine days earlier. I’m rooting hard for the Canucks to close out the season strong and feeling good about themselves in the off-season and finish .500.