The Vancouver Canucks’ first playoff appearance in five years, and nine years after their Stanley Cup Final appearance, showed that they still have a bit of rust. In a 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild, the Canucks had no answers and were beat down by the Vegas oddsmakers’ favourite, Wild. Here are the three areas where they struggled the most in Game 1 and where they need to improve if they are going to make it through this series.
First, the Canucks struggled to break out of their zone. If the team had succeeded in their initial attempt to break out of the zone, it is unlikely Alex Edler would have taken the tripping penalty that led to the Wild’s first goal.
Unfortunately, the Canucks’ second penalty happened in a similar circumstance. Adam Gaudette panicked, shovelling the puck to the middle of the ice, and that turnover led to another penalty. That penalty did not lead to anything consequential, but these two instances in the first period set the tone for the game.
However, the second Wild goal was also caused by a failed breakout. Jacob Markstrom left his net, shot the puck around the end boards in an attempt to clear, and found a sharp-shooting Wild defenceman instead. The Canucks’ failure to move up the ice is what went wrong and expect that to be addressed come Tuesday night.
Possibly as a result of those unfortunate breakouts, the Canucks conceded both of their non-empty-net goals on the power play, and forfeited a power play of their own by sending out seven skaters instead of six on a delayed call against the Wild.
Discipline was a significant factor in the Canucks’ shutout loss, as all of their penalties were avoidable. The too-many-men call was unlucky, but the Edler penalty was a result of a costly turnover in their zone which caught all of the Canucks out of position.
Every team makes mistakes, and it was not the errors themselves that caused the Canucks to lose, but how they responded to them. In Game 2, they need to adapt when mistakes happen and not take costly penalties. The Wild have shown how lethal they are on the power play and how they finished Game 1 should be a warning signal.
Shots From the Outside
The first two Wild goals were from the middle of the ice. Taking advantage of the extra ice on the power play, the Wild crashed the middle and took high percentage shots on Markstrom. If we compare this to the Canucks, we can see how they were shut out.
Although the Canucks weren’t perfect, they were only shut out twice in 2020 before the regular season was cancelled, blanked by the Winnipeg Jets and the Boston Bruins, which were both 4-0 games. The Canucks failed to get good looks in those games as well.
Against the Wild, they had very few opportunities in the middle of the ice, and near none with a clear shooting lane. The Wild’s ability to push to the outside, but collapse if one of their defenders lost position gave the Canucks little to work with and demonstrated the value of a veteran defensive core.
The ‘Nucks were unable to crack the Wild defence and although they had near 30 shots, never looked a threat to score. In Game 2, the Canucks are going to need to use their speed and athleticism to create space around the ageing Wild team. The best offence may be a good defence, but you need at least one in the back of the net to win the game.
Although the Canucks lost 3-0, it would be irresponsible to say that the game was a write-off. Quinn Hughes played very well, and Micheal Ferland was the spark plug the team needed. Antoine Roussel was also a great pest, and Markstrom did all anyone could ask of him in the crease.
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Where do you think the team needs to improve heading into Game 2 on Tuesday? If you have any ideas, in particular, you want to discuss, make sure to submit to my colleague’s mailbag, with a chance to be featured in an upcoming article!
Aidan is a current Bachelor of Communications and Media Studies student at Carleton University, who always had a passion for sports. Aidan is also a Para-ice Hockey player, former arena announcer, and Hockey Canada licenced coach.