By: Brayden Fengler and Trent Leith / February 19, 2023
While many happy couples were exchanging gifts of flowers and chocolates, the relationship between Spencer Martin and the Vancouver Canucks went in a different direction this past Valentine’s day.
On Tuesday Spencer cleared waivers and is now backstopping a different Canucks team for the time being. Martin with a .871 save percentage in Vancouver this year, has had quite a disappointing season, especially in Thatcher Demko’s absence. The goaltending plan for the Canucks this season started with an intended 70/30 split between Demko and Martin, with Demko of course carrying the bulk of the workload. This then evolved into a 50/50 split between Martin and Collen Delia, after Demko’s injury, and then it further changed to a 70/30 split in favour of Delia.
Arturs Silovs has gotten the call-up to the main club to replace Martin, and with Demko hopefully sidelined for the rest of the year, Silovs and Delia look to be the Canucks netminders until 2023-24. At 27 years old Martin has a lot of work to do if he wants to re-enter the NHL.
Game 52: February 13th vs. The Detroit Red Wings
Spencer Martin has lost ten games in a row as we know, so with him waived, Colin Delia got the start, and Martin would back up.
Dylan Larkin would open the scoring on a rush play where he would split the defenders. Larkin beat OEL in a foot race, not much surprise there, but the second defender was Pettersson covering for his teammate. Larkin would score once again late in the period on a power play goal. Larkin had himself a very strong period with four of the seven shots on net recorded by the Wings. No Canuck had more than one shot that period.
The Wings only had one more shot on net, but they beat the Canucks in almost every advanced stat, but most importantly in goals. The Canucks will once again have to play from behind.
Sheldon Dries scored his seventh of the season 1:31 into the second period to bring the Canucks within one. Garland would make a cross-crease pass into Dries’s feet, but Dries was able to redirect the puck with one hand into the net. This wasn’t a scramble play either, he made this look silky smooth.
The Red Wings then scored an ugly goal to reclaim a two-goal advantage. Delia would make a save and the puck would fall in the crease, just outside of his control and Fabbri made no mistake to nudge it over the goal line.
The Canucks had some strong, dominant stretches in the second, but ultimately, they couldn’t close the gap in the second, leaving all chances of a comeback to the third period.
Forty seconds into the game the Red Wings scored in another scramble in front of Delia to score a fourth goal. Two more goals would be scored against the Canucks in the third period, but the period wasn’t without its dramatics. Husso would pull the net over at 59.4 seconds remaining in the period. Apparently, there is an obscure rule that says if a goalie pulls the net off for a delay of game penalty in the final minute it automatically becomes a penalty shot. Phil Di Giuseppe would take the shot and hit the post.
The Wings would take a second straight season sweep against the Canucks with a 6-1 victory in Vancouver.
Game 53: February 15th vs. The New York Rangers
The Rangers are not a team that the Canucks should or need to be contending with at this point in the season. However, despite that point, Wednesday’s contest against the New York club stayed closer and more exciting than it needed to be.
Dakota Joshua opened the scoring for the Canucks, immediately after getting his bell rung on a hit entering the Ranger’s zone. Joshua’s late entry allowed him to be the third man in on a sloppy rebound that gifted Joshua a clear shot through a mad scramble situation in the crease.
This Canucks lead however would not be long-lived, as Mika Zibanejad on a rush into the Canucks zone made Silovs look like the AHL goalie he may very well still be. When Zibanejad briefly shuffled his shoulders in an effort to disguise his next move, Silovs second-guessed his positioning, allowing Zibanejad to slide a fast and purposeful shot along the ice and between Silovs legs to make the game 1-1.
Not too long after this goal former Canuck Jimmy Vesey on a wide break-in would find Artemi Panarin across the Canucks crease, and connect with him to make the score 2-1 NYC. It was an efficient goal, simple yet skillful in its playmaking and teamwork. It’s the kind of goal the the Canucks in their current form, struggle to pull off consistently.
Later in the period, the Canucks would get yet another goal out of a decent cycle on the power play. The puck would ultimately find its way to J.T. Miller who snuck a fast shot just above the right pad of Shesterkin. Notably, Shesterkin was missing his stick during this play, which based on the position of Miller’s shot, could’ve been a difference-maker.
The period wouldn’t end in a tie though. Vesey was in the spotlight again with a nifty little deke around the Canucks defence as he broke into their zone. The play would ultimately evolve into yet another goal by Artemi Panarin.
The last item of note from this period is that OEL suffered a lower-body injury, causing him to leave and not return to play for the rest of the game. The actual event that caused the injury doesn’t look too spectacular, but it was clear from the aftermath that OEL was in some discomfort.
In the second period, the Rangers would waste little time, with Chris Kreider scoring at the 50-second mark of period number two. For the next half of the period however, action between the two clubs would remain somewhat muted, until Andrei Kuzmenko, took it upon himself to break towards the New York Rangers net while skating backwards, in a play that not only looked cool, but resulted in a Canucks goal, after Kuzmenko sent his initial shot off of the crossbar, where it found Garland’s stick, and then the back of the net.
K’Andre Miller would later score for the Rangers with just over five minutes left to play in the period. New York was clearly winning more battles, and converting on their chances in a way that Vancouver was struggling to do. Yet Vancouver was handily dominating the Rangers in terms of faceoff wins with the Canucks at 22-7 at that point in the period. It’s unfortunate for Vancouver that they could not leverage this added possession into better opportunities
In the last frame of the game, the Canucks remained tied with New York in shots, yet they still could not produce quality chances in the way the Rangers were, even given the two teams comparable opportunities. This game really came down to finishing power.
With sticks in front of him and with little room to maneuver Kuzmenko would score a nice goal from the slot, almost halfway through the period, to bring the Canucks back to within a goal. This goal was the result of a smartly timed drop pass by Elias Pettersson, and clearly demonstrated the power that still exists within the Canucks mighty few, when they are able to work together.
That goal however would end up being the last one for the Canucks on the night. As who else but Zibanejad would pocket an empty net goal with a minute and a half left to play, unofficially closing the book on the game from there on out.
This game was fun at first, exciting in later moments, and honestly closer than it should’ve been.
Game 54: February 18th vs. The Philadelphia Flyers
The Canucks opened strong against the Philadelphia Flyers, with multiple dominant cycles and shots from the point after extended moments of control in the Flyer’s zone. The Flyers however would not be pushed around so easily, this game started rough and would continue to be rough throughout its entire 60 minutes. Tyler Myers for example took a hit into the boards early on in the first and showed signs of visible pain immediately after. No players left the game due to injury, but that doesn’t mean it was an easy one for Canucks and Flyers players alike.
The first goal of the game came from the Canucks as Anthony Beauvillier would tip a sharp wrist shot from Luke Schenn, and helped the puck find the back of the net with ease. The entire sequence although not particularly smooth, was fun to watch, as even before the goal-scoring shot, was an equally exciting and powerful one-timer from Elias Pettersson that nearly found the back of the net as well.
In typical Canucks fashion however, they could not take this lead of theirs into the second period as not even two minutes after the Canucks open the scoring Scott Laughton and the Flyers opened the scoring for their team. Similar to Miller’s goal on Shesterkin a few days before, Laughton’s goal just squeaked under the armpit of Silovs and found the back of the net. The only difference between the two goals really, is that Silovs was fortunate enough to still have his stick during the shot. Unfortunately for Silovs, that did not make a difference, as the Canucks would leave the first tied 1-1
The Canucks kicked off the second period in style, specifically Luke Schenn and Andrei Kuzmenko, as Schenn delivered a picture-perfect pass to find Kuzmenko camped out at Carter Hart’s back door. A pass that Kuzmenko redirected into the back of the Flyers’ net with nothing but ease.
The first penalties of the game came one after another towards the end of the second period with Travis Konecny vocally kicking off the game’s first two-minute time out after tripping Quinn Hughes along the boards. A call that he very clearly did not agree with, as he shouted a very distinct “F*** You” near a refs very, very hot mic. Sorry kids.
During Konecny’s penalty, the Canucks would capitalize almost immediately, and in a similar manner to the first goal as Beauvillier would put his hand-eye abilities to the test yet again, tipping a sharp shot by EP40 to increase the Canucks’ lead.
The rest of the period would go pretty well for the Canucks. Podkolzin had a decent number of high-danger chances. Nothing came close to resulting in a Canucks goal, but the young Russian was no doubt in the right place at the right time, a lot of the time throughout the game. Further to that, Silovs was continuing to do a solid job in net for the Canucks. He was consistently facing more contentious shots than Hart was, and he managed to handle the pressure like a pro.
Yet again though, the Canucks could not leave the period without allowing the Flyers to claw back into the contest, as a sloppy and scrambly play in front of the net resulted in Morgan Frost scoring to bring the game back within one. This is despite Silovs’ genuinely respectable efforts to be everywhere at once in the crease.
The third period was the least eventful of the game. The Flyers continued to pepper on the shots and pulled ahead of the Canucks in that category, but this did not change the results much for the Philly team. Scrambles and fumbles in front of the nets at both ends of the ice continued to be the name of the game, as Phillip Di Giuseppe would earn his second of the year and the Canucks fourth of the game. The goal was far from pretty, but it resulted from a solid team effort and control of the Flyer’s zone that was impressive to see.
The Flyers would pull their goalie with over three minutes left to play, and with just over two minutes to play Di Giuseppe would find himself in the penalty box, prompting a Flyers timeout and a 6-4 opportunity. This opportunity though would be quickly ruined by Elias Pettersson, as after pickpocketing a Flyers player in the slot, EP40 would send the puck down the length of this ice and into the back of the net, bringing the Canucks to a 5-2 lead that would stick… only until Petey scored yet another empty net goal moments later, making the Score 6-2 Canucks. Silovs would secure his first-ever NHL win, on top of Petey making it a five-point night for himself.
Demko has been out of the rotation for 10 weeks now and hasn’t played a single game in 2023. He seemed to be near returning to the ice when he faced an apparent setback on Thursday during practice. It didn’t seem like anything major happened, but he tweaked his groin once again.
Demko would not return to the ice, and on Saturday’s game day skate it was confirmed by Tocchet that he had a setback with a groin injury and his absence from practice was a “maintenance day”. At this point, there is no reason the Canucks should be rushing Demko back to the ice. Cold water has been thrown on a lot of the trade rumours, and with not only an injury but a setback to said injury, the market would likely be cold on the young star.
Let Demko recover for the rest of the season so he is in tip-top shape come next season, this season is a loss anyways. Buckle up, it’s time for the tank!