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Canucks and Capitals Game Recap : Moral Victories ( 5-2 L )

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These are tough times for Canuck fans. What happened to the four game winning streak ?

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

After the offence was too anemic to overcome some lapses in coverage, structure, and execution , "general give a shitness" many facets of the game against the Senators, the Canucks were much better against the Oilers, but could not overcome a breakdown with a goal of their own to get back in the winning column.

With the danger of losing all the feel good of their first four games, this early season tilt against Ovie and Co was a big game.  Well, as big as a game in the first ten games can be.

With Hansen reuniting with the Twins, and Jake Virtanen remaining with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi, Loui Eriksson joined Sutter and Granlund.  Though, like with all lines, coach reserves the right to shift the deck.  He stayed, mostly, with his lines tonight.  Though I am sure the armchair coaches in the fanbase and media will have their input on who plays with who.  It is like a party game in Vancouver now.

After losing in a shootout, losing outright, and then losing two at home, the feel good of the first four wins at home has dissipated. The team is still trying to play the structured game ( sometimes better than others...ah youth. Actually, not all youth, more on that later ), but the scoring has dried up.  More likely, the team I bet on to make the playoffs is simply not deep enough yet to withstand injuries.  Burrows and Dorsett may get stick in this town, but they are hard playing vets who are usually in the right spots.  More importantly, they put others in their right spots in the lineup.

1st

Washington started Philipp Grubauer, while Willie put in Jakob Markstrom.  ( Before we go any further.  If you did not see the game, and see the five goals at the top, you might be confused by this...but... ) Markstrom was the best Canuck on the ice.  Regardless of how it goes in the next while ( and a six game road trip awaits ) goes, goaltending is not a problem here.

It actually started out as a pretty entertaining back and forth game.  Faceoffs, shots and time in the offensive zone were pretty even, and the game was an entertaining back and forth.  The Canucks had the first power play, and while it was just OK, it was still a game the Canucks look "in".  Maybe you had to squint a bit to see it, as the chances started to look better at our defensive end than theirs.  Sven Baertschi was robbed of the opening goal, and then Markstrom did the same thing to Ovechkin.  His line, with Berekovsky and Backstrom, was threatening all night.  Right after Berekovsky was stopped by Markstrom, iffy play in the Canucks' own end by the fourth line led to a Niskanen shot from the slot that Johansson tipped home for the first goal.

That was followed by more of the same along the boards, this time Eriksson cheating on the pinch by Alzner. He got ialong the boards, it got to Berekovsky, who fed in front for Wilson.  A hard one timer was pretty tough for the goalie, and it was two goals in 15 seconds, against a team struggling to score. Ugh...

The Twins and Honey Badger showed some jam though. A good Sedin forecheck got it to Gudbranson, who's shot was saved. Honey Badger jumped on it and put it through a Daniel Sedin screen for a late ( 5 seconds left ) goal that made it 2-1 after one period.

OK, the shots were 15-11 after one, and the hits 9-5 against.  But the faceoffs were 12-12 each, and the Canucks were only trailing by one.  Another cool number ?  A rookie defenseman, Troy Stecher, led the team in ice time in the first, with 8:05 TOI.  And earned it all.

2nd

They say that you can coach a game in the first and third, and have an actual bearing on the game, because of the short change.  With the long change, the team with the greater skill will usually shine.  That was the case in the second period.  The Capitals are the defending President's Trophy winners, and are definitely a more talented team than our young heroes.

What I am saying is, the second period was a shitshow.  It seemed almost all the time was in Markstrom's end.  His crease was under siege, and it looked like they had scored the third goal on a goal mouth scramble.  But after a long delay ( and here is my HNIC bitch for the night. Louie Debrusk almost BEGS the NHL to make it an OK goal, when you clearly see Backstrom in the crease.  He went in there himself, and stayed there, sprawled in the crease, interfering with the goalie.  Yet this guy is begging for it to count.  Then, when the call is rightly overturned, he says "that last late look convinced me...". Dude.  It was the same replay over and over. WTF man ? )...that goal was iverturned, and it was still 2-1.

The defenders were a little better, but still under extreme duress.  The Caps finally got the goal they missed out on when Marcus Johansson tucked it home on a smart looking power play, and they had a well deserved two goal lead.  But guess what ?  The Bo Horvat line, with Virtanen and Baertschi put together a dominant shift.  Jake Virtanen had a great shot, Sven a chance on the rebound, and his rebound made it to Bo Horvat, for his team leading fourth of the season.

Some late pressure from the Caps was repulsed in the last 90 seconds ( Stecher and Edler out for all of it ), and a period where they should have been blown out of the game in was, instead, a one goal lead going into the last 20 minutes.

No way the shots reflected that in the second.  The Caps only tallied an 11-8 edge in the period.  The hits got closer ( 14-13 visitors ) and the Canucks even took an edge at the dot, with a 25-22 edge after two periods.  Troy Stecher was still in the lead as far as ice time, with 14:15 TOI to this point.

3rd

The Canucks had much better structure, push back, and compete in the third.  They pushed the play with all four lines.  A Hutton penalty was killed pretty easily, and they drew one themselves 7:52 in.  That was their best power play of the season, without scoring.  The puck moved, Stecher was getting his shot through, and there was traffic.  But Grubauer was able to get in front of them, or his defense blocked the puck.  Sutter was robbed in the slot.  It was a shame they did not score, but I do like Larsen and Stecher instead of the four forward lineup.

That might have felt like the best chance, in retrospect, and perhaps it was.  The Capitals stopped several other good chances, and as the minutes ground away, they showed their better talent.  Berekovsky made a nice play on the rush to set up Oshie, who buried a shot high blocker for the 4-2 killer goal.

The final tally was just after the goaltender was pulled, as a puck was banked and made it into the net on a lucky one.  a 5-2 final will not show that the canucks were in this one all game.  It won't show that they had a chance to break a losing streak, and played well.  It will just show a 5th straight loss, to a really good team.

I get those Canuck fans that will complain darkly.  Ones that will backseat coach, or go on twitter and call Jim Benning and Trevor Linden idiots because they don't agree with something.  This is hard.  They were once again competitive.  You see things like Sven Baertschi having a great game, but still be unable to score.  You see a raw rookie be anything but.  You see Jake Virtanen earning that ice time he asked for.

The final stats are here. They showed that the Canucks may have had a solid third, but only had 6 shots ( outshot 9-6 in the third, for a 35-25 deficit ) while they lost the hit tally ( 17-16 ), and the faceoffs ( 37-32 ).  That Stecher kid ? Well, Edler took over the ice time ( 23:34 TOI ) , but still played 21:42, and was pretty solid once again. ( he isn't going back... )

But you don't see the win.  So, next up is the Habs.  Remember last year ? They were off to a great start, and the Canucks beat them ?  Perhaps they can do that in Montreal Wednesday.