Canucks Weekly Fares: Two Losses to Playoff Teams and a Win in Arizona

By: Trent Leith / April 8, 2024  

The Vegas Golden Knights Take Two Points From The Canucks

The Canucks went into Las Vegas on Tuesday looking to make an impact against a team they might square off with in the first round of the playoffs. Just like we all wanted, important games are being played in April, and they are all games the fans want to win, not games they want to lose for better draft lottery positioning. These are real, important games with big implications in playoff seeding. Entering Tuesday’s game felt like yet another measuring stick game.

A big win in a game like this could set the tone for a first-round match-up. So when the Canucks gave up a goal 1:37 into the game, it immediately became an uphill battle. Casey DeSmith did a great job of stopping a breakaway bid, but unfortunately mishandled the rebound, something he has done a lot lately.

DeSmith passed the puck to his glove with his stick. Unfortunately, after shovelling it toward himself, it slid past his glove to an open Anthony Mantha.

The Golden Knights scored again with a wrist shot from Jonathan Marchessault that beat DeSmith cleanly. As DeSmith plays more in Demko’s wake, his cracks are starting to show causing fans to wonder if it is time to let Arturs Silovs get a run of starts until Demko gets back.

The Canucks also got on the board in the first with a greasy goal in front where Nils Höglander jammed home his 23rd of the season to give the Canucks some life.

Unfortunately, the wind was immediately taken out of the Canucks’ sails when Jack Eichel scored 20 seconds later. Vegas ended the period with a 4-1 lead thanks to Noah Hanifin’s first goal as a Golden Knight. To his credit, DeSmith had a fantastic save at the end of the period getting his stick on a potential cross-crease goal.

The period ended with the Canucks down 4-1 and Ian Cole was on the ice for all four goals against. There are enough healthy bodies in the Canucks depth that they should rest a guy like Cole, who has not been looking his best in recent games and has historically looked better after taking a game off.

William Karlsson scored on the powerplay after it trickled past DeSmith. As I said earlier, DeSmith has been doing well to stop the initial chance but has struggled to absorb rebounds or corral loose pucks. This was another example of that.

Quinn scored next on the powerplay to bring the game to 5-2, thanks to help from a great screen from Pettersson. Podkolzin had a chance shortly after with a perfect rush down the wing and drive to the net. While nothing came of it, it piqued the interest of Canucks fans everywhere who hope the Podz can find his scoring touch soon.

Quinn Hughes scored again, this time from a distance early in the third period to bring the game back within two. Unfortunately, Vegas kept the foot on the gas scoring 24 seconds later and keeping the three-goal lead through the rest of the night.

Zadorov had a rough night. He was assessed a high sticking penalty on this play because Pietrangelo threw his head back…despite Zadorov not touching his head.

Shortly after, Zadorov was assessed a five-minute major and a 10-minute game misconduct, ending his night from a dangerous hit on Brett Howden.

Not the best showing from them outside of Hughes, and not what we want to see this close to the playoffs. But hey, they can’t unclinch, so no matter what happens, we will have at least two home playoff games hosted in Vancouver.

The Canucks Leave Arizona With a Win

The Canucks’s first road game of their trip against Vegas was disappointing. So they entered Mullet Arena the following day looking to feel better about themselves by taking on the Arizona Coyotes who are not a potential playoff team.

The Canucks have only played the Coyotes one other time this season, and that was at home, so this was the team’s first trip to Mullet Arena. Much has been said and continues to be said about the quality (or lack thereof) of Arizona’s current arena situation, but it still seems to be THE topic of conversation for most visiting teams upon their arrival, especially if they do not share a conference with the Yotes and aren’t used to it.

There is not much that can or needs to be said about the first period of this game. By the time it was well over the halfway mark of the period, both teams combined for only four shots on net. Both teams traded power-play opportunities in the opening frame, but neither capitalized.

The second period finally saw some action. Quinn Hughes opened the game’s scoring with a power play goal assisted by J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson. However, it was another event just minutes later between Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, and the Coyotoes Jack McBain that really put some life into the game.

While on another power play, Pettersson was breaking into the Coyotes zone when he was stopped dead with an open-ice hit at the blueline by McBain.

The puck immediately started going the other way, but play was quickly stopped as J.T. Miller sprung to Petey’s defence and started throwing hands with McBain.

Quinn Hughes got called for two penalties in the third period a hooking and a tripping call three minutes apart. Arizona’s Dylan Guenther was able to capitalize on the second power play chance that evened the score.

However, just as it looked like extra time would be needed, Conor Garland did the sensible thing and ended the game in regulation, picking up a missed shot from Hughes and sending the puck rifling in on the short side.

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The Canucks Host A Botchford Project Reunion

Anyone who reads this and has even the most fleeting interest in working within the media should sign up for the Botchford Project at every chance available to them. For those not familiar with the program, every year Kat Botchford, Jason Botchford’s widow, selects from applications for a handful of up-and-coming media members to get a day covering the team in Jason’s honour. You get to attend morning skate, a one-on-one interview with a player, watch the game from the press box, have an article published by the Canucks and gain countless memories and opportunities.

Jason always propped up the next wave of writers and encouraged up-and-comers to keep going and pursuing their dream of covering the team.

I (Trent) was lucky enough to be selected in 2022 and it was something I encourage everyone to sign up for. It can be a springboard into a career in sports media. The Editor in Chief at CanucksArmy, Senior Writer for the Canucks, and beat writer at the Daily Hive have all come out of this program in just five years. There are also many more writers, announcers and content creators in many positions around the industry who have graduated from this program as well. It is too hard to list everyone’s accomplishments, but those selected have all made a dent in their own way.

It is truly a fantastic program. And Canucks PR hosted an Alumni event at a Vancouver Warriors game on Friday. Many of these participants have never actually met each other in person before so it was great to finally get to meet everyone. Kat has also not been to many of the Botchford Project nights because she lives out East. Many of us got to meet and talk with Kat for the first time in person and thank her for her involvement in the program. It was a great event and the Canucks did an awesome job putting it together.

It was a great time and so cool to chat with everyone involved in the project. Next season, when the project opens again, I highly recommend signing up, it is a great experience and you join a great group of people eager to prop each other up and share in each other’s success. Just how I am sure Jason would have wanted.

Canucks Get Skunked in LA

Vancouver started last week against a possible playoff rival and they ended it with a match-up against another potential candidate. The Canucks’ final stop of their three-game road trip was in Los Angeles to face off against the Kings.

Immediately things started going sideways for Vancouver. Teddy Blueger earned a slashing penalty with just under two minutes of play having elapsed. This resulted in a power play that the Kings capitalized on thanks to Adrian Kempe. A few minutes later, Dakota Joshua was called for roughing, giving the Kings their second power play of the night. This time, Drew Doughty earned a goal for his team on the man advantage.

To recap, after just over five minutes of play, the Canucks’s penalty kill was performing at a 0% success rate after two opportunities. All the while, Vancouver had only placed one shot on net as the Kings sat with two goals in five shot attempts.

The Canucks did answer back with one of their own in the first period, which stopped the game from getting out of hand before the first 20 minutes were through. A Boeser shot on net resulted in a bobbling puck that made its way reluctantly over the goal line as many Canucks and Kings sticks converged on the crease.

Initially, it looked as though Ian Cole may have touched the puck at the last minute before it crossed the line, but ultimately the goal was awarded to Boeser from his initial shot attempt.

The tides turned once more in the second period, however. Just as the Kings scored two goals in the first period, they scored two more early in the second, just a few minutes apart. The only difference this time around was that neither goal by Alex Laferriere nor Kevin Fiala was on the power play. Leaving only Vancouver’s overall poor even-strength performance to blame.

There was more action in the third period, but unfortunately for the Canucks the work from both teams was nearly symmetrical. Both clubs scored an even-strength goal earlier in the period, and then well past the halfway mark each team traded off with a shorthanded goal of their own. Teddy Blueger earned that notch for Vancouver, while the team was busy killing off a Tyler Myers tripping call.

All and all it was a very disappointing outing for the Canucks. A 6-3 final against a club that’s nearly a wild card team, is not something that should be happening to the first place in the Pacific Division Canucks. This entire week was not encouraging as the Canucks failed to show dominance over two teams that they could very easily face in the Playoffs.

The Playoff Picture

After Saturday night’s loss to Los Angeles and Edmonton’s win against Calgary, the Canucks found themselves waking up on Sunday morning with only a 56% chance of clinching first overall in the Pacific Division (courtesy of Dom Luszczyszyn’s Playoff Projections).

Edmonton is now a mere 3 points back, with a game in hand. They have 6 games left and 3 are against playoff teams. One of those teams? The Canucks. This makes their matchup on April 13th by far the most important of the season. With the two teams’ point totals so close, Saturday’s game will likely decide who wins the division.

The Canucks, meanwhile, have 5 games left, with 3 also being against playoff teams. With their last win against a playoff team coming March 9th, the Cancuks need to find some magic to end their season on a run above .500 to increase their chances of securing 1st overall.

The implications are rather large, and having home ice for a potential second-round match-up could swing the series for the home team. The Canucks’ two most likely opponents in the first round either way? According to Dom’s model, the Los Angeles Kings (41%) or the Vegas Golden Knights (37%).

Buckle up. With the Canucks locked in, Monday’s game against Vegas will be the first of many intense and important games to come over the next two weeks, building up to the grand finale.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are back, baby.