It was a loss so tough, Mr. T would have cried if he had to sit through it all.
There are tough losses, and then there’s whatever the hell happened to the Canucks on Thursday night against the Detroit Red Wings.
Here are some thoughts on the loss and the current state of the Canucks as we try to make sense of what the $&%^ just happened.
1. Perimeter hockey at its finest
Perimeter hockey is back? Somebody call Nikolay Goldobin.
After the game, Bruce Boudreau wasn’t thrilled with his team returning to Willie Desjardins-era hockey.
“You can’t score on the perimeter,” Boudreau said post-game. “When a goalie is playing good and he’s seeing everything he’s seeing, he’s stopping. You gotta find ways and we didn’t.
“We didn't get in his way, we didn't sacrifice enough to get in his face so he couldn't see shots and consequently, he’s making all the saves and he’s making it look easy.”
You know what they say, the charts don’t lie.
Who cares about getting 40+ shots, the Canucks didn’t wreak nearly enough havoc around Alex Nedeljkovic’s crease last night.
The luck of the Irish Canucks luck running out
What a bad time for the Canucks to suffer through some rotten luck.
That’s three games on this homestand now where bad luck played a factor in a Canucks loss.
There was Kuznetzov’s flukey goal, among other unlucky moments, that occurred against the Capitals last Friday.
One of the weirdest goals you’ll see. Puck gets sent around the boards, deflects off a stanchion, off an unsuspecting Kuznetsov and in. Lol pic.twitter.com/l4vcnXgeKm— alberto (@twistedleafs) March 12, 2022
Then against the Tampa Bay Lightning, there was Garland’s goal that was waved off
Finally there was last night, where Pius Suter’s game-winning goal certainly wasn’t the prettiest.
Here’s hoping that the “bad things happen in threes analogy” applies to the Canucks here, and that their rotten luck is in the rearview mirror.
The funny thing about luck though? It’s been going in the Canucks favour for quite some time now.
You could argue that all the bounces went against them in the first two months of the season, but most of the bounces have been going their way of late.
Since the All-Star break, the Canucks have the 6th highest 5-on-5 shooting percentage at 10.02%.
What’s more telling is that all but three regular Canucks players have an actual goals total that’s higher than their expected goals total.
That’s a good sign that things will likely regress back to the mean a bit for the Canucks at 5-on-5.
Based on actual goals vs. expected goals since the All-Star break, here are the luckiest Canucks.
- Bo Horvat (13 GF, 6.99 xGF)
- Tyler Motte (14 GF, 7.95 xGF)
- Luke Schenn (16 GF, 10.04 xGF)
- Quinn Hughes (16 GF, 11.26 xGF)
- JT Miller (15 GF, 10.11 xGF)
The gap between Horvat’s GF and xGF is especially telling. Only Miller and Motte have been on the ice for more Canucks 5-on-5 goals of late among the forwards, but Horvat’s xGF total is fifth-worst on the team, trailing only Jason Dickinson, Kyle Burroughs, Matthew Highmore and Alex Chiasson.
Simply put, the puck has been going in for him, but Horvat hasn’t been good enough lately.
3. The unluckiest Canucks...
So 17 of 20 regular Canucks skaters have an actual goals total that’s higher than their expected goals total.
Here are the three that have been “unlucky” in that regard.
- Elias Pettersson (9 GF, 9.82 xGF)
- Nils Hoglander (7 GF, 8.34 xGF)
- Jason Dickinson (0 GF, 1.82 xGF)
Calling Dickinson unlucky isn’t really fair, he just hasn’t been good.
I’ve been saying for a while now that Hoglander’s had some bad puck luck, although his defensive gaffes have masked that. It’s a good sign for the Canucks that although Pettersson has played well lately, he’s probably due for another goal or two to go his way at 5-on-5.
4. The death of OEL/Myers
Last night, Boudreau split up the Tyler Myers/Oliver Ekman-Larsson pairing, citing the fact that they weren’t very good.
Here’s the thing though: this pair has been trending in the wrong direction for more than a month.
Take a look at their numbers over the first few months of the season vs. how they’ve looked post All-Star Break.
- Pre All-Star Break: 1.56 GA/60, 2.29 xGA/60, 52% xGF
- Post All-Star Break: 2.79 GA/60, 3.21 xGA/60, 41% xGF
That’s an ugly decline for a duo that was the Canucks de-facto shutdown pair for most of the season.
If they can’t figure it out defensively, the Canucks playoff hopes might already be squashed.
5. Boeser slumping at the wrong time
Thursday was a tough night for Brock Boeser.
He couldn’t get his passes to connect, the puck was bouncing over his stick and honestly, he looks less engaged than most of his teammates.
Here’s the thing though: after his initial burst under Boudreau, Boeser has had far too many quiet nights.
During Boeser’s first 22 games under Boudreau, the 25-year-old had 11 goals and 18 points.
In the last 12 games, Boeser has just two goals and seven points.
This is a scenario where the eye test probably tells you more than the numbers. Boeser just hasn’t looked like himself for the last few games.
6. What happened to Pettersson & Boeser?
If the Canucks want to get Boeser going, why not reunite him with a linemate whom he’s had a lot of success with in the past?
One of the strangest things that hasn’t transpired under Boudreau? A reunion of Pettersson and Boeser.
The Canucks head coach has put his lines in the blender on a number of occasions lately.
Despite the organized chaos, one combination we’ve yet to see with any regularity under Boudreau is Pettersson with Boeser.
On the season, the pair have played together for a total of 246 minutes at even-strength.
Under Boudreau, they’ve only seen 64 minutes of even-strength ice time together.
So, what gives?
Here’s a list of forwards who have spent more than Boeser’s 10:13 of 5-on-5 ice time with Pettersson in his 14 games the All-Star break.
- Nils Hoglander (103:54)
- Vasily Podkolzin (63:14)
- Conor Garland (63:04)
- Alex Chiasson (37:48)
- Tanner Pearson (26:48)
- Tyler Motte (17:27)
Hell, even in just one game last night, Nic Petan nearly passed Boeser after spending 9:00 minutes with Pettersson against the Red Wings.
Pettersson and Boeser were an incredible duo for the Canucks from 2018-20. It’s odd not to see Boudreau even give this duo a sniff together at even-strength.
7. Can we get a Boudreau bump?
Since the affable bench boss took over, the Canucks have gone 9-3-0 in games after a loss.
Calgary should be pissed off after losing 7-1 during their last game in Vancouver. It’s not going to be an easy game, but if the Canucks want to play meaningful games in April, they’ll need to find a way to get at least a point from the Flames.