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Five Takeaways from Vancouver Canucks 3 – Rangers 2 in OT



Vancouver Canucks, Demko
Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko makes a "scorpion" save in a scramble against the New York Rangers.

Vancouver Canucks 3, New York Rangers 2 – OT

In a remarkable comeback victory, with incredible moments of drama, the Vancouver Canucks charged back in the third period, forced overtime, and beat the New York Rangers 3-2. JT Miller picked up the game winner at 2:22 of the extra session, following up his stopped breakaway chance with a wraparound goal.

After the Canucks had tied the game 2-2, they took back-to-back penalties at the 14:55 and 16:20 marks of the third period, leading to a :35-second 5-on-3 for the Blueshirts. The save sequence by goalie Thatcher Demko, who had lost both his stick and his blocker, was one of the more remarkable you’ll ever see. With defenceman Tucker Poolman and forward Miller flailing around trying to help him, at one point with all three of them face down in the crease, Demko made a save with a pad stack on Artemi Panarin, and then threw his leg up behind him while on his face, and made a skate save. The Rogers Arena crowed went absolutely bonkers.

Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Travis Green on whether he’d ever seen anything like it:

“No quite honestly, I haven’t,” he said with a smile. “That was pretty amazing to watch.”

The Talented “Shift” Disturber is Back

Conor Garland was back to his early season self. He was a catalyst all evening long and when the team was still struggling to find some offence early in the game, he came the closest to scoring for either club in the first period. His wrister from the left wing circle through traffic hit the crossbar stick side of Igor Shesterkin and moments later he rushed in and hit the high side of the net next to Shesterkin’s mask. He came very close to popping it in that little space above the goalie’s shoulder and under the bar on the backhand.

What remains uncanny is his use of a stick that’s been cut short by four inches. Garland stands about 5’9″ which means his stick in only 5’5″ or so. We may have to measure it. The more you watch him the weirder it seems, but he loves the control it gives him. He can spin, and duck, and cut without ever worrying about his stick dragging or getting in the way. As he pointed out in training camp when we asked, it does take a little bit of intensity off his shot, but he’s obviously adjusted to it.

Vancouver Canucks Special Teams Woeful

I’ve seen it before, and it’s consistently happened to this Canucks team throughout the preseason and regular season thus far. A power play that destroys the momentum of dominant even strength play. It’s not every power play, but it’s most of them. Through the first three PP’s of the night against the Rangers the Canucks had a grand total of 2 shots. The man advantage tripped up momentum at five-on-five. The irony lies in the fact that solid even strength play and opportunities often forces the opposition to take penalties.

When teams are in this special teams funk, you may hear the old hockey quip, “maybe they should decline the penalty.” Funny, but a lot of it has to do with simple confidence, and now that the Canucks have won a home game and scored in any which way, they’re power play might come along for the ride.
Shot Blocking with your Stick

Yes, it’s instinct. A hockey player will try to stop a puck however he can, tossing up an arm, or throwing out a leg, and often times, unfortunately, responding by trying to block shots with their stick. Note to everyone: If you’re standing in the slot you are not going to block a slapper or a hard wrister that’s off the ice with the shaft of your stick, you’re going to deflect it. You see it frequently. I’ll bookend it for you. Go back to the Canucks first game of the season in Edmonton, the Canucks comeback started on an Oliver Ekman-Larsson goal that Oiler Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tried to stop in the slot with a stick save. It re-directed instead past goalie Mike Smith.

Fast forward to game 10, at home Tuesday night against the New York Rangers, and it was Poolman deflecting home an Panarin point shot past his own goalie Demko. What really doesn’t make much sense in this case is the fact Poolman tipped it down near or at the blade of his stick. That’s a very unpredictable manoeuvre to pull off. No chance for him or his goalie.

Momentum and Confidence

Imagine the difference between the Vancouver Canucks winning or losing that New York Rangers game with two days off before the Nashville Predators visit Rogers Arena on Friday night. Had Vancouver not scored, not comeback, they would have been faced with 72-hours of frustration and doubt, with quite frankly, a heap of pressure on the coaching staff, particularly with the special teams struggling. It would have been a long wait to take on a team “they should beat”, but likely wouldn’t have the confidence to necessarily guarantee it.

Now, the Vancouver Canucks can approach the Predators as an opportunity. The Predators will be playing their third game in four nights after back-to-backers in Calgary Tuesday and Edmonton Wednesday. With travel and a day off before taking on the Canucks, they might just be a little worn out. Vancouver can hope. Meanwhile, the Canucks have Wednesday as a complete off day, before having what should be a lively practice Thursday.

“It’s easy to hand your head when things aren’t going well,” Green said, “and when they’re not, you’ve got to stay spirited and eventually it’s going to turn, and it turned in the third.”

By the way, the New York Rangers also have a couple of days off and you may run into them wandering around Vancouver. Rather than head to Edmonton, the club will hang in Vancouver, practice here Thursday, and then travel to Alberta for a Friday and Saturday night combo against the OIlers and Calgary Flames.

Simmer’s Vancouver Canucks 3 Stars:

3) Thatcher Demko – Outside of one of most amazing save sequences you’ll ever see on the Rangers 5-on-3 power play late in the game, Demko didn’t have to consistently make saves all night to keep his team in it. There were a couple, but with other very worthy candidates, we finally get to bump him down two notches.

3) Conor Garland – As I pointed out just from first period observation alone, the pesky waterbug was all that throughout the night, providing the primary assist on both of the Canucks 3rd period goals.

1) JT Miller – Managed to get a troubled offensive team off the snide in the third period with his hard tap-in to put the Vancouver Canucks on the board, and then finished the evening with some stick-to-it-tive-ness on the overtime game winner. Stopped on a breakaway, he followed his shot off the pads of the goalie, picked up the loose puck and beat everyone to the far post for a wraparound.

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