By Scott Rosenhek
It’s Hockey Night in Canada! Don Cherry is looking great in an appropriately themed suit and Ron MacLean looks like he is in permanent “please don’t say anything offensive” mode. The Canucks may be out of the playoff hunt, but when they stroll into Rogers Place, things get competitive and fun to watch (usually). Tonight’s game marks the 71st on the schedule and Willie Desjardins has decided to go big …by putting Michael Chaput on the first line.
The first period was rather uneventful except for a nice shot Chris Tanev had that dinged off the iron. The Oilers left the first frame, outshooting the Canucks 8-7. So much for that competitive back and forth I was hoping for. One thing that I took note of was something colour commentator Louie DeBrusk said. He talked about the Oilers’ greatest asset being Connor McDavid (well, duh). When DeBrusk got around to mentioning the greatest asset that the Canucks have, he said it was their compete level.
Well, if that’s what you need to help you sleep at night, thanks, I guess. Canuck fans know the team is not good, but the pity party is just a little insulting. DeBrusk could have mentioned Bo Horvat, Ryan Miller, or maybe even Alexander Edler. Whatever.
Like I said, the first period did not have much going for it. As the game continues its molasses-like pace, we get to see the Oilers mail it in as well. Shots being dumped into corners without much animosity between the two teams. And just when I was about to wonder how long it would take for something exciting to happen, Connor McDavid breaks open the scoring, 16:42 into the second period.
Seriously, you could drive a couple of zambonis in that gap left by the Canucks. McDavid puts one past former teammate Richard Bachman to give the Oilers the lead. Troy Stecher could only swing his stick while McDavid easily gets a clear shot on goal. Connor is fired up and if the Canucks don’t want to be another team to surrender a touchdown in Edmonton during this home stand, this better light a fire under them.
Yeah… Number 97 scored that one, but anything to get on TV, right? It’s okay if you forgot that Connor McDavid scored the goal, Oiler fan. Milan Lucic never finished high school either.
Through two periods, the Canucks trail 1-0, but visitors in white are outshooting the home team 19-16. At this point, you can’t say the Canucks are not trying anymore. The Third period starts with a nice push by the Canucks, putting the pressure on the Oilers.
Thankfully, Bo Horvat is getting his opportunity with the Sedins on the first power play unit. Although, it resulted in few official shots and no goals, the unit looked very dangerous tonight.
Dare I say it, but did I see shades of a young Ryan Kesler on that unit? It’s still far too early to say. Offense may be in Horvat’s wheelhouse, but he still needs to round out his defensive game, especially on the penalty kill before I can confidently make that comparison. Which is funny, since Horvat was drafted for his defensive prowess. How times have changed. For now, I can only dream and wait to see what happens.
The Canucks keep applying pressure and then the bottom falls out as Leon Draisaitl sends a perfect pass to Mark Letestu, puting the Oilers up 2-0.
How does WillieD respond to a near back-breaking goal? Jayson Megna goes out with the Sedins. I guess it’s true what they say, old habits die hard. Canucks fall to the Oilers on Hockey Night in Canada 2-0, being shutout for the 9th time this season.
I have been piling on the Canucks in this post-game report, but in all honesty, they battled hard after that first period. Not to use a common coach cliché, but I really liked the effort by the Canucks overall. Unfortunately, they were just overmatched in skill and goaltending.
There are 11 games left in the schedule and I am going to be honest, it won’t be easy. Games against Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota, Anaheim, Winnipeg, LA, San Jose x2, Arizona and these very Oilers 2 more times. The Canucks may have a chance to play spoiler for teams on the cusp of the playoffs. However, if wins continue to be hard to come by, their draft lottery odds should be pretty favourable.
NEXT GAME: Tuesday, March 21 at Chicago 5:30 pm PST (TV: Sportsnet, Radio: TSN)