The Canucks wrapped up the pre-all-star portion of their schedule tonight with a tilt vs. Pacific division rivals the San Jose Sharks. Tonight’s game featured two teams going in opposite directions. The Sharks, after making the Western Conference finals last year, have struggled this season, currently 7th in the wild card standings, nine points back of the Oilers, who hold the 2nd WC spot. San Jose has an ugly -34 goal differential and had lost 2 straight and were 5-4-1 in their last ten games. The Canucks have been exceeding expectations and then some and seem poised to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season. The Sharks and Canucks split the first 2 games, both in San Jose, of the season. Tonight’s game featured the 1st and 2nd picks of the 1997 NHL entry draft (Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, who are both 40 years old. To put that in perspective, that’s a year before Elias Pettersson was born and two years before Quinn Hughes was born. Tonight was the annual Chinese New Year game. As per tradition, the Canucks wore red warm-up jerseys. Thatcher Demko got the start in goal. Could the Canucks make it two in a row and eight straight wins at home? Here is tonight’s game recap.
- The Canucks opened the scoring just over 14 minutes into the 2nd period as Loui Eriksson whipped a backhander past Sharks goalie Aaron Dell. The goal stood after an offside challenge by the Sharks
- The Canucks added a goal just over five minutes into the 3rd period as Tanner Pearson tipped home a shot by Jake Virtanen for a PP marker
- Just over two minutes later, the Sharks got on the board as Barclay Goodrow jammed a loose puck past Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko on a goalmouth scramble
- Thirty-nine seconds later, Quinn Hughes restored the lead with a bouncing shot through a crowd
- Just over seven and a half minutes later, the Canucks added a goal as JT Miller whipped home an outstanding pass by Virtanen
- Thatcher Demko stopped 17/18
- The Canucks played arguably their best game of the season. It was a full 60-minute effort on a night where virtually everything went the Canucks way in the standings (Calgary and Arizona lost in regulation, Vegas gained just a single point). One thing the Canucks have improved on the past couple of weeks is their defense. They held the Sharks to just 7 shots through 2 periods and 18 shots overall.
- Loui Eriksson continues to ride a hot streak. He opened the scoring tonight and his line had a combined 8 shots on goal. Is Eriksson still going to be a Canuck after the trade deadline. At this point, how can you trade him? The Canucks have time on their hands with Eriksson still having two years left on his contract. Besides, he’s been making his linemates Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson better
- Thatcher Demko looked sharp despite lack of playing time partially due to missing ten days with a concussion and partially because Jacob Markstrom has been playing out of his mind.
- It was a rough game with 74 penalty minutes combined and some heavy hits thrown by both teams. Surely Brandon Sutter and Alex Edler will be sporting ice packs after this one
- The game finished with just three refs after Kendrick Nicholson had a puck deflected off the boards and hit him in the face
- With the win, the Canucks were atop the Pacific division standings for the first time in a couple of years at least. There is now an 11-point gap between the 5th place Arizona Coyotes, who are in the 2nd WC spot and the 6th place San Jose Sharks. Oh yeah and that’s 8 straight wins at home. The Canucks had 20 wins at home ALL LAST SEASON. They are at 16 with 17 home games remaining
- The Canucks won 62% of the faceoffs, led by Brandon Sutter and Antoine Roussel, who both won every draw they took. Bo Horvat (71% success rate), Jay Beagle (63% success rate) and JT Miller (60% success rate) also had good nights in the faceoff circle
- The Canucks outhit the Sharks 25-19, led by Oscar Fantenberg, who banged out 7 hits
- The Canucks blocked 13 shots, led by Alex Edler, who had 4 blocked shots
- Up next, the Canucks start their bye week. Jacob Markstrom, Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson will see their next action at the all-star game in St. Louis next weekend. The Canucks return to play on the 27th, where they will wrap up the home stand against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the St. Louis Blues before embarking on another 5 game road trip that starts in San Jose on the 29th.