By: Brayden Fengler and Trent Leith / April 9, 2023
Game 74: April 2nd vs. The LA Kings
The Canucks got off to a good start against the L.A. Kings during last Sunday’s matchup with the So-Cal club. Just into the second quarter of the first period, Boeser demonstrated his Johnny on-the-spot ability. Scoring on a net-front rebound off of an initial wide-angle J.T. Miller chance.
After the opener by the Canucks, the two teams exchanged chances well into the second half of the period, with Vancouver being gifted two separate power-play opportunities. One was drawn from a Trevor Moore hook against Anthony Beauvillier, and the other was gained off a high-stick on Elias Pettersson (It’s nice when Petey is on this end of high-sticking calls).
Yet on both man-advantage opportunities, the Canucks could not convert and it was ultimately the Kings who scored next as Alex Iafallo converted on a cross-crease one-timmer, beating Demko and tying up the game heading into period number two.
Early in the second period Alex Iafallo struck again, netting his second goal of the night off of a scramble in front of Thatcher Demko early in the second frame. Iafallo would be the player to find the puck and push it past Demko to allow a 2-1 Kinds lead.
The Kings didn’t give Vancouver any more man-advantage opportunities this period, and as the game continued to drag on, the ice tilted more towards L.A. The period ended 2-1 with no further damage done by the boys in blue.
The third period started with more onslaught attacks by the Kings, all of which were denied by Thatcher Demko, with the team in front of him doing little to deny L.A. quality scoring chances.
Eventually, the Kings broke through and increased their lead as Arthur Kaliyev capitalized off a scramble in front of the net that Vancouver could not clear. The game was capped off by a Kings empty-net goal and Vancouver left being handily defeated by their Pacific Division counterparts.
Demko kept this game from being much worse than it could’ve been. But all the saves in the world can’t help your team score more goals.
Game 75: April 4th vs. The Seattle Kraken
The Canucks were set to take on the Seattle Kraken in the Battle of The North West on Tuesday night. The Kraken have only beaten the Canucks once to date, and they entered Rogers Arena looking to get a second win against the Canucks, and first in Vancouver.
The Kraken started strong with a breakaway from Jordan Eberle in the first minute. Collin Delia turned away the attempt and the game’s first shot. The second shot of the game was another strong chance from the Kraken at nearly the three-and-a-half minute mark when Matty Beniers dropped a pass for Jared McCann that trickled through Delia but couldn’t quite get past the goal line.
Despite the Kraken’s strong start, the Canucks opened the scoring with a high-skill play from Andrei Kuzmenko and Elias Pettersson. Kuzmenko maintained strong possession in tight, stickhandling in a phone booth to feed a pass in front to Pettersson. Petterson made no mistake with a behind-his-back toe-drag into the net.
The next goal was just as nice and came off a beautiful play set up by Conor Garland. Nils Aman gained centre ice and dumped the puck wide of the net that set up Conor Garland for a one-timer off the boards. But here’s the kicker, everyone on the ice but Garland himself bought Garland’s fake slapshot. Instead, he fed a beautiful slap pass to Anthony Beauvillier who had a yawning net to score on.
Beauvillier now has 18 games on the season. Beauvillier has only scored more than 18 goals once in his career (21 goals in 2017-18), he might not break his career high this season, but he is certainly maintaining his pace despite playing for two different teams this season. That would be all the fun the Canucks had in this game, however.
Yanni Gourde scored in the last few minutes of the game off a relatively soft shot from the outside of the slot. I hate the saying “He will want that one back”, a goalie will always want every goal back, but I can say for sure that Delia wants that one back. The Cancuks, specifically Brock Boeser, had a few good looks on the powerplay, but they would amount to nothing.
To start the second period the Canucks had another strong chance on the powerplay but Martin Jones stone-walled them to keep the game 2-1. The Canucks even had a two-man advantage and failed to capitalize on it. When Vince Dunn left the penalty box he was sprung on a short-handed breakaway, but Delia made a glove save to send the play back into the Seattle zone. To end the power play. the Canucks gave up a two-on-one with Branden Tanev and McCann rushing in. Tanev tied the game 2-2 on a bullet of a shot that beat Delia over the shoulder.
The Canucks have now given up a league-leading 14 short-handed goals. Who says the Canucks aren’t among the league leaders? The Kraken scored a third when Eberle stole the puck in the Canucks’ zone and walked right in front of the net. 3-1 Kraken.
Will Borgen challenged Ethan Bear to a fight after Bear was fishing for a puck in the goalie’s feet, Bear obliged, but Borgen would win the scrap. It was the sixth fight between these two I-5 rivals this season.
Pettersson took a penalty and the Kraken scored again, this time on the power play. Daniel Sprong put a wrist shot on net and it was double-deflected past Delia for Kraken’s 4th goal of the game. Jaden Schwartz ultimately got credit for the final touch.
Just in case you lost track in there, the Canucks went into the period up 2-1 and left it losing 4-2. Not a good second for the home team.
The first ten minutes of the third period were rather uneventful, but Garland got another chance for a slapshot streaking down the right wing, but this time he didn’t forego a backscratcher for a pass, his clapper rang the iron going 93 MPH. Matty Beneirs would ice the game 5-2 with an empty net goal from deep in his own zone.
The Canucks were in this game, arguably in control of it in the first period, but the following 40 minutes showed how fragile a Canucks lead can be. The Canucks weren’t saved by stellar goaltending and couldn’t outscore their problems on Tuesday night. The Kraken took this game 5-2 and won the shot share 28-18.
Game 77: April 6th vs. The Chicago Blackhawks
This basement battle started with a lot of firepower from both teams as both Thatcher Demko and Alex Stalock faced poorly defended odd-man rushes that could’ve tilted the ice early for one of the teams.
It wouldn’t be until the last five minutes when dominant Canucks control in the Blackhawk’s end resulted in Andrei Kuzmenko being fed the puck at the point. An opportunity which he capitalized on by riffling a shot through heavy net-front traffic, with the shot finding the back of the net and putting the Canucks up 1-0 heading into the second period.
The Canucks took advantage of the late momentum gained in the first period and kept the shots coming as they played into the second period. Heavy Canucks pressure early on even resulted in a vintage paddy stack save by Alex Stalock.
Although Stalock was making a wide range of potentially game-defining saves, he was unable to prevent the Canucks from dominating control of the puck in his end. Just two minutes into the frame Jonathan Toews was called for hooking on Nils Aman, and if the Blackhawks were having trouble controlling the play at even strength, their problems were multiplied on the penalty kill. Canucks control allowed Vitali Kravstov to net the Canucks their second goal of the game on the power play.
The Canucks continued their pressure after Kravstov’s goal, clearly showing their dominance over one of the few teams in the league worse than they are. Stalock robbed the Canucks of a few more chances heading towards the end of the second period, and even after another power play opportunity given to the Canucks, the period still ended with Vancouver leading, only by two.
The third period saw the Blackhawks flip the script ever so briefly and force Demko to make a series of saves off of one of the Hawk’s few controlled plays in the Canucks zone throughout the game.
This sudden Chicago burst of energy handcuffed the Canucks for the bulk of the third period, as although they controlled possession to a similar degree as during the rest of the game, they failed to develop any more successful scoring chances throughout the balance of the game at even strength.
Notably, Quinn Hughes took offense towards Andreas Athanasiou towards the back half of the third period, and after a stoppage of play went directly up to Athanasiou, sent him a few jabs, and slammed him to the ground.
Hughes got a double minor for roughing, but ultimately even this didn’t give the Blackhawks enough of a chance to put a goal up on the board as the game wrapped up 3-0 Canucks, thanks to an empty net goal by J.T. Miller, earning Demko the third shutout of his career.
Game 76: April 8th vs. The Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames are in dire straights, currently on the outside looking in for the last possible playoff spot. The Flames and the Winnipeg Jets are tied at 89 points, but the Flames have one more game played (79) The Flames can not afford to lose any games if they want to clinch their playoff berth, and the Canucks, well it doesn’t matter, they never really had a chance anyways.
Demko returned to the crease, and the Flying Skate returned to Rogers Arena one last time this season before the Canucks head out on the road to end their season. Andrei Kuzmenko also got fourth-line deployment and would end the game as the low-minute man with only 7:25 of ice time at five-on-five. Kuzmenko had a Loui Eriksson-esque stat line to end the game with zeros across the board except for two giveaways and one hit. Not a great performance from a player trying to score 40 in his debut season.
Cole McWard scored his first-ever NHL goal on his first-ever shot with a shot along the ice through a crowd that beat Jacob Markstrom. This is McWard’s second game in the NHL after the Canucks signed him out of college.
Pettersson kept the party going with his 38th goal of the year. Pettersson is now only two goals away from the coveted 40-goal mark for the first time in his career. Oh, did I mention he scored this short-handed? He has now scored five short-handed goals this season.
The goal came off a smart play by Pettersson forcing Jonathan Huberdeau to play the puck along the blueline but he knocked the pass off its target and it landed on J.T. Miller’s stick. Miller made a give-and-go pass to Pettersson into open space where Pettersson forced Markstrom back into his net and scored the second game of the night.
Fun fact, Pettersson scored the Canucks’ first short-handed goal of the season against the Flames, and he very likely scored the last one of the season against them too.
The first period was a strong one for the Canuck, with a 65% Corsi and 64% scoring chance share, but unfortunately, it would be the only strong period the team had on Saturday night.
The Canucks had a few strong chances in the second period, as would the Flames, but the only real highlight reel play was a Thatcher Demko save on a short-handed two-on-one chance from the Flames.
Despite a combined 30 shots in the second period, nothing found the back of the net. Early in the second period, Elias Lindholm scored on a play that started with a turnover from Quinn Hughes. Only 38 seconds into the third the Flames found themselves within one.
Kadri tied the game with nearly 14 minutes remaining when the puck was just barely kept on-side at the blue line before being passed to him right in front of the net. Kadri made a quick move in tight to beat Demko to tie the game at two a piece.
The Canucks held on to force the game to overtime in this must-win game for the Flames. In the final minute of OT Kadri almost won it for the Flames on another two-on-one, but Demko did his thing and absolutely robbed Kadri of the game-winner.
Pettersson got a buzzer-beater chance on net, but ultimately Markstrom made the save and a shoot-out would be required to settle this game.
Kuzmenko shot first, backing Markstrom in deep and baiting him in with a poke-check. Kuzmenko was able to maintain possession after Markstrom’s poke-check and had no problem elevating the puck over a sprawling Markstrom, it’s a shame that won’t count as a goal or a shot on net for his barren stat line.
Demko saved all three attempts in the shootout and secured the win for the Canucks. The Flames ended the night one point behind the Jets, with one extra game played. You’re welcome Winnipeg.