Another night in the dark cold shadow of Albertan hockey hospitality on HNIC. But wait... what’s this...this praise from Elliot and the HNIC talking heads. Must have landed in an alternate hockey universe.
A winter wonderland universe where the Canucks win 8 points in 2 games against division rivals to start a 6 game road trip with a winning Marky road streak that covers the width of 8 NHL road lanes...uh.. games.
No one could have predicted another road win tonight. Other than the pre-cogs in the NM SPW fan fiction pre-game fracas. And yet, despite the pre-cogs being spot on and Westy
(and me) being reverse psychos, the Canucks again win a game by playing a full 25-35 minutes.
Not quite the same as the tussle in Oil country, but similar style - let the other team wear themselves out with grade A scoring chance after grade A scoring chance while Marky stops them all. Until the Nucks 2nd PP unit tilts the ice. The wrong way.
Oh...I’ve said too much. Only thing left is to count the goals and tally the winnings.
Vancouver seems to hold the power of play. And the play on power. Let the Flames have an early taste of powerplay futility.
After having dipped their futile sticks in that powerless pool of wasted space and time, the crack Calgarian PK was sent over the boards to get the other taste of power.
From the Canucks! I’m not making it up! The Canucks score on their first PP of the game!
It’s true. Pretty sure. Because Sven is back, baby. Back to getting his first point in 2 months. And Brock firing Brockets.
1-0 Nucks. Early in the first. On the road. Remember last game’s good road strategy? If you forgot already, like I have, seems it’s best to open the scoring on the road. Takes the home crowd out of the game. Allegedly. Didn’t count all the red faces, but looked like the same number as before the goal.
No matter. It’s a solid strategy for a good road game. The other part about getting the lead early on the road, is to keep it.
And the Canucks did.
Until the next Nucks power play. Yes, cue the 2nd unit music of doom.
The Flames are known for being aggressive on the PK - will jump on errant passes at their blueline. While NHL teams scout other team’s special teams, this special aggressiveness scouting data wasn’t relayed to Granny.
Granny tries to make a pass at the blueline to Leivo through 2 or more defending players...and this happened...
More embarrassing, the Nucks power play has to finish the power play, like it wasn’t a big deal, even if it was.
Mercifully, the Nucks power play ended with out any further GA moments.
It’s a good thing the first unit got the lead...because...the 2nd unit needs some sober 2nd thoughts... because... they didn’t learn too much from their 1st mistake.
Oh well. Game is tied. A good road game also includes the possibility that a tied game is the next best thing to a lead.
Not wanting to be greedy on the shot clock, the Nucks let their unfriendly hosts out shoot them 13-6.
Doesn’t matter. Marky is dialed-in. Even if the Nucks defence is still looking for where the dial might be and when they can twist it.
Fine. It’s a tie game in a hostile rink. That’s road hockey life. The Nucks know their second periods are always better than their first periods. Even when the stats might not always confirm it, we know it’s true.
The period is going pretty good. Then the Nucks luck turns sour.
It’s another Nucks power play and the first unit doesn’t score early. And that means the 2nd unit gets to...taste... the freakin’ bitter twist of turnovers in the o-zone.
Which means the angry Flames lick the lips of a 2-on-1 breakaway and kiss the post with a short-handed goal. Again.
That’s not good. Not good for a couple of reasons.
One: Because the powerplay as a concept, is meant to give the team more power to make plays to score a goal against an under-manned opponent.
Two: Because good road game strategy does not include the home team taking the lead in the second period. Or any period.
However... despite the good mood in the saddle, we know something that HNIC now knows too...
Between periods, Elliot and the now likeable HNIC crew are singing EP’s gift to hockey. And they’re handing out the silverware. Pretty much all of it to Pete. Yes, even the heavy stuff they display in Vegas after the Cup.
Elias didn’t disappoint. Receives a nice stretch pass from Tanev and swoops in to his fav shooting alley. Rittich, who’s been on a hot streak, knows about the high glove side snapper that stung Smith for Pete’s 1st NHL goal - so he cheats a little and gets his glove ready.
Poker-faced Pete gives nothing away, but sees the cheat and stings Rittich far side. That’s sweet, Pete!
Let’s see more.
The crowd goes crazy! The Canucks part of the crowd. The game thread is spilling woo-woo monitor thump-shots around the web.
It’s a tie! At the end of the 2nd. We’re back on an even bumpy road game strategy.
Since we and the Nucks know that 2nd periods are the best periods, the stats back them up on the shot counter - it’s 10-9 for Vancouver. Obvious better team, with the better goalie, as long the Nucks 2nd unit isn’t on the ice again.
But...as the last part of the last second of the second ticks past, Guds takes a high-sticking penalty. He offers to serve it during the intermission, but his generous offer is declined by the on-ice authorities.
Between periods, the HNIC gang are singing rookie scoring songs. In Swedish. It was cute.
It’s the bottom of the 9th and everything to play for. Including cliches and poorly timed baseball analogies.
Let’s move on to the stats board. No one in the game thread seemed to know, or wanted to know, that two important league leading stats were about to meet.
The Flames lead the league in 3rd period Goals For and as we try not to know, the Nucks lead the league in 3rd period Goals Against.
Sometimes...it’s better not to know. The Nucks didn’t seem to know or care as they tightened up their defensive coverage and Marky only had to stop several 5-alarm fire shots.
The previous game’s good road game strategy playbook was playing out again, as no goals were scored in the entire 20 minutes of pretty intense hockey.
As the NHLOA is in full prep for playoff officiating, no calls were made during 20 minutes of some chippy play.
The good news for chipper Nucks fans was the Nucks held their end of the chippiness and no chips were broken or had to leave the game for re-chipping.
Close games on the road are becoming a theme in the long gruelling 2 game section of this road trip. The period ended with a tie on the scorecard and the shotcard, 8-8.
The sneaky Nucks even ragged the puck around their zone in the last 15 seconds to ensure the tie (AV would be proud). And even better, ensure the point.
Here we are in our almost fav period of the season. Almost. The good news is, we got to see some real 3-on-3 hockey, not that 4-on-3 special teams debacles we witnessed last month.
Instead it was some good action. Especially some great defensive play by Petey. Saved a goal. And after an icing, almost scored a goal. As did Brock. It was exciting!
And the excitement didn’t stop there. After Granny played hard to play against on Backlund, sorta checking him hard into Marky, Eddie and Brock roar up the ice the other way. And find themselves in the good place. That oh-so-good place where backdoor goals are scored.
Eddie wins the game in OT!
And that is how the alternate good road game strategy can work. True, the Nucks did give a single looser point to a division rival, so technically didn’t get the full 8 points from the two 4 point games, but they did get 4 points and do we really we need to math this really good road win steak so hard?
No, we don’t. Let’s just say, despite some sloppy play for some extended periods, the Canucks showed their determination to thrill NucksNation. And we’re thrilled.
Let’s savour this thrilling intense battle between the top team in the Pacific and the next top team in the Pacific’s middle earth.
With almost all the roster players back on the roster, the Nucks are looking like they can win more than lose. They’re 7-2-1 in their last 10. When Sutter returns, the 2nd PP unit may even be a plus. Stop laughing. It’s possible.
Want game stats?
The Nucks powerplay scored one goal and gave up two against. Not quite perfection. However, the Nucks PK was, as the Calgary SnowFires were snuffed out on 5 PP attempts.
|#||Forwards||GP||G||A||P||P||+/-||S||PIM||PIM||SOG||HITS||BLKS||GVA||TKA||FO%||TOI||PP TOI||SH TOI||PP||GW|
|#||Defense||GP||G||A||P||P||+/-||S||PIM||PIM||SOG||HITS||BLKS||GVA||TKA||FO%||TOI||PP TOI||SH TOI||PP||GW|
Bo was held off the scoresheet for the second game in a row. Only the second time this season. There won’t be a third time. Bo knows. Hattie in Jersey? That’s a good response.
Bo took his 1000th faceoff of the season tonight. Leads the team, the division, the league in the most faceoffs taken. Wasn’t having his usual team-leading success tho - was 29% on the night. Oh well. At least Pete was 100% in the dot.
Eddie was our Blue ‘n Green hero on the red mile.
Tonight's overtime hero, Alex Edler. pic.twitter.com/sG4RwIu0e6— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) December 30, 2018
The first star of the game was the Marquis De Save. Finished with a .939 SV% and made it looks easy when his defence was making it look hard. Cowtown’s season saviour was sub-90 at .889 SV%.
Fun stat - Marky is the best goalie in the league. In December. Not making it up. His time with Clark has helped his technique. And Marky’s confidence is in that special place reserved for elite goalies.
Let’s hear from the game’s first star and the Nuck’s best defender.
Over in the Green room it was high-fives and low-singles to the 2nd unit. At least that’s what we heard. The Green room was already packed and loaded for the Jersey shores.
The Nucks are one point out of a wild card spot. One. Yes, they’ve played the most games and could lose a few spots on the ladder even while winning. However, if they keep playing well, stay far away from Faery Factory Farms and winning more than losing, they might just sneak into the wild spot. From there... well that’s for a spring morning debate at the NM espresso bar.
For now the Nucks and NucksNation will need a few extra espresso shots. The next leg on their second 6 game road hockey tour of the season is in NJ. At 10 freaking AM PST. A New Year’s Eve morning game?! How inconvenient for many wet coast fans who will be practising their new year hangover rituals at that precious time of slumber.
Try to have a sober Sunday and get ready for a monster Monday morning. Let the evening take care of its own bar tab. We have a road win streak to extend.