The Canucks passed the quarter mark of their schedule this week. After 21 games, the Canucks are third in the Pacific division, two points back of the Arizona Coyotes and 5 points back of the resurgent Edmonton Oilers. The week began with news that Jay Beagle was not available to play with a lower body injury (more on that later). Then Brandon Sutter lasted all of 90 seconds before leaving with a groin strain (more on that later). The Canucks got a further scare in the morning skate Thursday when Bo Horvat left the ice early with a trainer following close behind. Luckily Horvat was ok. Tuesday against Nashville, the Canucks rallied to show Jacob Markstrom the team was going to play hard for him after he revealed his father passed away in recent weeks from cancer. Thatcher Demko was the benefactor of a solid effort and he did his part too, stopping 34 shots. Elias Pettersson score twice and Adam Gaudette had a goal and an assist as the Canucks won this one on the strength of a four-goal 3rd period and holding off the Predators, who also tallied twice. On Thursday, the Canucks honored the Canadian armed forces. Jacob Markstrom was back in net. Tyler Graovac and Zack MacEwen were recalled as Sutter was placed on the IR and defenseman Jalen Chatfield was sent back to Utica. Graovac was in the lineup Thursday and saw minimal ice time.The Stars, who have been red-hot of late, played a patient game and took advantage of turnovers and a not-so sharp Jacob Markstrom, who gave up four goals on 29 shots and will want one or two of the goals back. Troy Stetcher had a couple of defensive miscues that led directly to goals, but he did score the second Canucks goal. Thursday’s game had a playoff feel to it and will be what the Canucks will face in the playoffs. Saturday, the clock was set back to the 90’s as the Canucks donned their downward skate jersey they wore the bulk of that decade. The game was end to end much of the night, with both teams trading goals. Adam Gaudette was the best Canuck on a night where the team looked a little off their game, scoring 2 PP goals and was promoted to the first unit for the 3rd period. The Canucks came back late with 2 goals (one that arguably should have been blown dead with an injured Av on the ice) in 97 seconds. Nathan MacKinnon quickly ended the game with a final end to end rush and quick snap shot past Demko.
Looking at the week ahead, the Canucks kick off a 6 game 11 day road trip in Dallas, where they will get a second chance to snap the Stars 3 game winning streak and end their own 2-game losing skid. The Canucks best learn from the costly turnovers if they want to prevail. The Canucks then face a rematch vs. the Predators, who no doubt will be ready for the rematch. The Canucks cap off the week with a tilt against the best team in the NHL, the Washington Capitals, who edged the Canucks in a shootout a month ago. This road trip will be challenging, both in terms of travel and opponent. Every team they’ll be facing, except the Predators, are currently in a playoff spot. They’ll also be criss-crossing the US and playing in three different time zones. Here are ten random thoughts from week 9 of the NHL.
1. The Canucks had a pair of deja vu moments this week in terms of injury. First, Brandon Sutter lasted barely 90 seconds and just 2 shifts before pulling up when he was skating up the ice. After a brief time in the locker room, Sutter returned for three seconds before leaving for good. There has to be some major concerns, given Sutter’s history with sports hernia surgeries. He’s had two prior sports hernia surgeries, with the most recent one being in March 2018. The frustrating part about this latest injury is Sutter had been playing his best hockey in a Canucks uniform, only to be dealing with another core injury. MRI results revealed the injury was minor, but don’t expect him back before the team gets back from the road trip.
2. The other deja vu injury this week was to Olli Joulevi. He was removed from the Utica Comets active roster Saturday and was flying to Vancouver to have a lower body injury examined by the Canucks medical staff. If this sounds familiar, it was pretty much exactly a year ago when Joulevi injured his knee, flew to Vancouver, was told he should be back in the lineup in a few weeks, only to have season ending surgery to repair a bucket handle tear that he was still rehabbing at the start of training camp. Joulevi did not appear in a preseason game. Joulevi had played 14 games and had 5 assists before this latest injury setback. The concern has to be that Joulevi is missing out on valuable development time with these recurring injuries and other prospects, such as Jalen Chatfield and Guillaume Brisebois could pass the Finnish defenseman on the depth chart. Hopefully he puts the injuries behind him soon.
3. Jay Beagle represents a big loss for the Canucks because he was one of the best centers at taking faceoffs and he was a big part of the penalty kill. He may be the closest to returning as he’s considered day to day and skated Saturday. He could join the team in the latter part of the road trip.
4. Another player who is inching his way to a return is Antoine Roussel, who is rehabbing an ACL tear that occurred March 13 last season vs the NY Rangers when he got tangled up with Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and fell awkwardly. He has been practicing with the team in a no-contact jersey, after getting the green light from his surgeon in Minnesota, this week. He will join the team on the road trip and could play at some point. He will be a huge addition to the Canucks with his versatility to play in different parts of the lineup. He played on the top line with Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson and the 3rd line with Josh Leivo and Jake Virtanen last year.
5. Saturday marked the end of Coach’s corner. Don Cherry was fired on Remembrance day for these comments made in the final segment of Coach’s corner. Personally, I am glad Cherry is gone. He has been a divisive figure for years and in recent years was on a seven second delay to give producers time to censor a controversial comment. Here is what his partner Ron MacLean had to say during the first intermission on Saturday. CBC/Sportsnet may eventually let MacLean go as well, but I don’t think that will happen until the end of the season. This is a great opportunity for Sportsnet to inject some new blood into their intermissions, perhaps a female. It’s time to get back to focusing on hockey.
6. The Canucks finished the homestand 1-2-1. A big reason why is in each of the three losses, the opponent blocked more than twenty shots. In fact, one blocked shot led directly to a Tyler Seguin goal as Tyler Myers could not get back in time to catch the speedy forward. Bottom line, you have to find a way to get shots through and that means being mobile in the offensive zone to open up shooting lanes.
7. A bit of a hot button issue this week in the hockey discussion boards has been the use of shootouts to end games. Many fans don’t like the shootout because it’s a crappy way to end a game after both teams played their guts out for 65 minutes. I don’t want to see ties back in the game. Maybe changing the points system could reduce the number of games that go to a tie. Currently, both teams earn a point for getting the game to overtime and whoever wins gets the extra point. What if the NHL gave two extra points for winning in OT and just one extra point for a shootout.It would give teams incentive to win it in overtime to gain an extra point. Please comment below with your ideas on how to reduce games going to a shootout.
8. It’s that time of year where we’ll see a coach getting fired and that coach could be Mike Babcock. The Toronto Maple Leafs are mired in an 0-4-1 streak in their last five games and they look like a team that is tuning out Babcock. Toronto is currently in the midst of a 6 game road trip that will end November 29 with a game the next day. They then have a few games before they travel to Philadelphia. Toronto has minimal injuries with Mitch Marrner being the only key player on the IR. The Maple Leafs are 5th in the Atlantic division and 4th in the Wild Card race. They need to right the ship because they are quickly losing ground in the Eastern Conference. Stay tuned…
9. Finally, I want to address an incident that occurred in Saturday’s game vs. the Avs. Right before Alex Edler scored the Canucks 3rd goal, Elias Pettersson accidentally hit Avs forward Matt Calvert in the head with a shot from the point. Play should have been blown dead immediately. In fact, anytime a player is injured, be it a blocked shot off the foot and especially when a head injury is involved, the play should be stopped immediately. Player safety should supercede a goal or scoring chance period. The GM’s should change the rules to reinforce this.
10. Canuck of the week: Adam Gaudette, who is making the most of his opportunity. He scored twice on Saturday and had a goal and an assist Tuesday. He’s going to make it hard for the Canucks brass to demote him once the injured players are ready to return.