The Canucks have been a hard working, always in it team this year. Sometimes it is with verve and élan, and sometimes it is grinding the hell out of a game and relying on one of two solid goaltenders, but a game versus the Canucks is a tough one, regardless of records.
They are close enough that a run would do wonders, and tonight was a chance to make a point against the Connor and the McDavids. ( sorry, reflex. There is no sports media in any sport that can hold a candle to Canadian hockey reportage when it comes to overkill... ).
The Oilers have had a great season so far, on the back of having said generational talent to make the rest of that young bunch have someone to follow. But that team and the Canucks play entertaining, close games most of the time too. Tonight, they won a game they deserved to win, in spite of some calls. They did it by simply outworking the young Oilers in their own Rogers named barn.
- Lets get something straight off the bat. I have a negative impression of one Kelly Sutherland. Never forget, this is the ref that gave Daniel Sedin a penalty for getting punched in the head multiple times in the head, amongst myriad other things he has called to the detriment of this team. He got involved in tonight’s game in many ways. There were a couple dives by the Oilers ( Maroon on the first of five penalties was a total dive, as soon as he felt a stick near his feet, and the last call that gave the Oilers an underserved charity point was a play where a diving Daniel Sedin got the stick twice, never got the hands, and was called hooking because the checked player fell over the sprawling Daniel...both were weak calls by Sutherland ) that got them a point. They had more shots too. But the visitors were the better team.
- On the disallowed goal. There was modest contact, and it is a question of interpretation and which ref you get on that one. I disagree emphatically with the call ( the puck was by the hand before the “impeding” happened ), but whatever. Put it this way. I guarantee that will be a goal in the playoffs.
- On those shots. The Oilers outshot the Canucks 44-32, but it felt like a lot of those were on the five power plays they had. Not to put them down, they made some great plays, and Jakob Markstrom was definitely the first star of tonight’s festivities. He made some great saves on some great plays. But there were a lot of one and done too, and the Canucks did a superlative job in their own zone keeping things to the outside, and an even better one in the neutral zone, neutering the Oiler speed on the rush with aggressive play and pinches.
- The first goal that counted came from the Canucks, and it was from the Bo Horvat line, with Alexandre Burrows finishing off some great play by banging it into the empty net. The Oilers challenged this one too, and you got the feeling Sutherland wanted to kill this one too, but the contact was long after the puck was in.
- The faceoffs were 11-5 Canucks after one, 24-12 after two, and 35-21 after the third and O/T. Bo Horvat was 10 of 15 ( 66.7% ) and Brandon Sutter a very slick 16 of 23 in the circle ( 69.6% ) . It is very nice to start a shift with the puck. The Oilers won a few draws late when they pressed, but the dominance on the draw was a big part of the win tonight.
- The penalty kill was pretty good too. Against the 8th ranked PP, they played strong on the kill, kept their shape, blocked shots, and got sticks in the passing lanes all night. Nikita Tryamkin and Luca Sbisa were good at that, but the master was Christopher Tanev, who seemed to get his stick in the way on every break up play. Drake Cagguila scored just after one penalty kill, when his shot just got through Markstrom, and the tying goal late by McDavid was just a great play, but mostly, the Canucks rejected the shitty whistle they were getting by just outworking their opponents. Always the best way to deal with a bad whistle...
- The Canucks blocked 19 shots, to 13 for the home team, ( the rest of the stats are here ) but it was Eriksson and Sutter joining Tanev and Edler with 3 blocks each that was a good thing. Defenders block the puck all the time. When forwards are matching them, that is a good thing. And a special shout out to Big Nik’. The big Russian was solid all night, with 3 shots and one hit in his 16:44 TOI. I thought he was especially good at moving the puck tonight.
- The winning goal was another great rush by Bo Horvat, as he pulled his Power Move to the net. He was denied, but Sven Baertschi was johnny on the spot to put it home. That line was the best the Canucks had tonight, but all four lines were good. The Sedins played inspired, whether it was with Chaput or Megna ( a fun thing to do. I like to say his name in a Dr Evil voice. Remember the scene where he is sitting with his minions around the table? “...Liquid hot Megna...”...it’s fun! ), and Sutter and Granlund both had great games. Hell the fourth line was very noticeable. On the second night of a back to back, with travel, they outplayed and out skated their hosts. That is impressive.
- This is not to hate on Connor McDavid. Anyone that follows hockey can see his talent. But he was not much of a factor tonight. He had 2 shots until late. Anyone could have scored the tying goal on that play. Mostly, the Canucks did a solid job on him tonight. He did have 4 shots on goal, and missed 3 more. But he was not the playmaker and table setter the Oilers count on. Credit the entire Canucks team. He was out versus Bo and Sutter most the time, but the fourth line did a great job when out on him too.
- Once again, special mention to Jakob Markstrom. He made so many outstanding saves tonight. Whether it was a glove save late, a tip that was tracked and denied by the pad, or his going three for three in the shootout, he was the man who made this third game won in a row possible with his wonderful performance. And another special mention to Bo Horavt on the shootout winner. He flipped that puck over Talbot while changing speeds with a great touch.
- Numbers that stand out ; Burrows had 4 shots on 6 attempts, Baertschi 4 on 5 attempts, and Granlund led the team with 5 shots. Who had the most hits ? Well, Edler had 3, as did Gaunce ( one of his better games of the year tonight ), and Tryamkin ( team leader in hits ) , Chaput, Stecher and Sutter all had 2 hits each. But if you had Sven Baertschi as the leader with 4 hits, raise your hand. I know I didn’t predict that myself.
You can see by the highlights this was an entertaining game. The Oilers are not an easy mark for points anymore. But let us give credit where it is due. The better team got the extra point tonight. I would say the Oilers would not have gotten a point at all without the help of Kelly Sutherland either. But that is just me...
Happy New Year to one and all. 2016 is in the rear view. Thank goodness. Best wishes to you and yours