The Big Picture: In their lone game prior to Saturday, the Detroit Red Wings had blown a three-goal lead with under 6-and-a-half minutes to play in regulation Thursday night and lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in overtime 7-6. The Vancouver Canucks were arriving from a 5-4 shoot-out victory Friday against the Philadelphia Flyers in which the BC boys blew a two-goal lead with about 2-and-a-half minutes to play but still managed to win.
In the 2nd half of back-to-backs, not a strong suit for the Canucks last year at 1-8-2 on the season, the key in Detroit Saturday was short shifts and trying to play another solid road game.
The Canucks did play well, as did their back-up goaltender Jaroslav Halak, but Thomas Greiss at the other end was better. He had to be. The Canucks dominated the chances and outshot Detroit 41-21 on the evening. Through chippy play, special teams, or lack thereof in Vancouver’s case, and Greiss’s goaltending, the home team Red Wings were able to skate away with a 3-1 win.
The first period: Very few stoppages, decent flow, but no solid scoring chances either way in the first six minutes. A ref’s quick whistle took us to the first TV time-out, despite the fact that the puck had squeezed loose of Detroit goalie Greiss and Canucks centre Elias Pettersson had gained possession by the Detroit goal. Oh well, these things happen.
Being the third game in four nights, coming off a busy overtime in Philadelphia, keeping shifts short on potentially weary legs would be an important factor in this game for the Vancouver Canucks. Nine Canucks played more than 20-minutes Friday night. Two forwards, Pettersson and JT Miller, both played more than 23-minutes in Philly. It was Pettersson who iced a puck midway through this period that led to trouble. The group that had to stay on the ice for the D-zone draw failed to get the puck over centre ice after the faceoff and had to stay on for an extended shift. Detroit eventually controlled play and worked it to defenceman Marc Staal. His shot-pass was redirected by Robby Fabbri past Halak for a one-nothing lead.
The first minor penalty was called at the 19:41 of the period to Detroit’s Nick Leddy, so the Canucks, having failed to score in the final :19-seconds, would have a carry over power play to start the second.
Detroit – Robby Fabbri (1) – Marc Staal, Gustav Lindstrom, 11:05 ES
Detroit Red Wings 1, Vancouver Canucks 0.
2nd Period: The carry-over power play failed for the Canucks despite generating four shots and forcing Greiss to make a great toe save to rob Bo Horvat on a one-timer from the slot. The Red Wings had a brief surge of post-PK momentum but for the most part the period developed into chip-chase-and-cycle at both ends. Moderate scoring chances, capped off by an incredible, impossible angle top-shelf-shot from Conor Garland for his first goal of the season. He shot it over Greiss from the goal line below the right wing circle.
Soon after the Red Wings were given a power play when Jason Dickinson went off for hooking and Detroit cashed in. Filip Zadina’s point shot went off the stick of Canucks defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and deflected past Halak.
All this in the first ten minutes. Play continued to open up.
We went four-on-four at 11:35 with penalties to Givani Smith of Detroit and Garland of Vancouver. No result.
Griess robbed Nils Höglander on a two-on-one opportunity with Garland 17:12 into the period. To this point, Greiss had the two biggest saves of the night.
Canucks went shorthanded again with 1:40 remaining as Hughes was called for holding Adam Erne in front. He lost the physical battle for a lose puck and wrestled down Erne.
This was a much more entertaining period than the first. A bit of chippiness, some scoring chances at both ends and a tight game heading to the third.
Vancouver – Conor Garland (1) – Horvat, Tanner Pearson, 4:56 ES
Detroit Red Wings 2, Vancouver Canucks 1.
3rd Period: The Vancouver Canucks started the third period shorthanded for just the first 20-seconds. Hughes came out of the box to join the rush and after that we went back and forth. The Red Wings had a good cycle extended when Garland turned the puck over at his own blueline trying to make a fancy between-the-legs breakout pass. The Canucks survived and moments later earned a power play. Detroit’s Vladislav Namestnikov went off for tripping.
The power play was feeble and following a trend they established in the preseason, the Canucks were much better on the ensuing 5-on-5. They re-established momentum.
At 11:05 of the third period, all heck broke out. On a hit in the offensive zone left wing corner, Garland started a melee after backing into Zadina’s head. Zadina went down, but it was a hit with Garland’s back, not his elbow. After first giving Garland a 5-minute-major, the play was reviewed and it was reduced to 2-minutes. Two players from each team went to the penalty box and we remained at even strength.
The Canucks piled up chances, Justin Dowling hit the post, and Greiss came up big. The Canucks out-shot the Red Wings 23-6 in the third period and fell short on the scoreboard.
Final: Detroit Red Wings 3, Vancouver Canucks 1
Simmer’s Three Stars:
3) Quinn Hughes – Played about 27:00 in the first two games and another 29:00+ minutes tonight, with five shots on goal and two blocked shots along the way.
2) Conor Garland – Had the lone goal, and I have a feeling I could put this guy at least 3rd every night. He injects energy into the Canucks every time he’s on the ice.
1) Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Was Garland-esque in mixing it up this evening and played a productive 24:38 with six shots on goal and two hits.
— Oliver Ekman-Larsson the “shift” disturber?! Sure looked like it in Detroit. Got mixed up with multiple Red Wings in the second period and at the 5:52 mark of the third he was called for “slashing” Seider in the “oh-my-God-whatever-you-do-don’t-hit-me-there’s”, and before it was over was attacked by Bertuzzi, who had witnessed the nutcracker and went off for roughing.
— The top-line for the Canucks, adapted on the fly in Philly (sort of a pun), remained in place for most of this one: MIller with Pettersson and Höglander. They had countless chances as did many Canucks, but the goal posts, traffic, or Greiss always got in the way.
— There was a legendary university coach in the US named Jack Parker, at Boston University, who I believe first said it: “They should change the name of the game to ‘goalie’.”
Hockey Gods: Vancouver’s comeback to earning a point in the 3-2 shoot-out loss in Edmonton Wednesday night started when Ekman-Larsson’s shot deflected off Oiler Ryan Nugent-Hopkin’s stick and past goalie Mike Smith. It was the Canucks first goal of the season and it started the charge late in the third period. Saturday night in Detroit, the winning goal fired by Zadina in the 2nd period, deflected in off the stick of a Canuck, you guessed it, Ekman-Larsson. No chance for Halak, tough break, difference in the game. That’s hockey.
The Vancouver Canucks will have a team day off Sunday, practice on the road on Monday, and be back in action Tuesday in Buffalo against the Sabres.