Hey, where’s everybody going? That had to be what Jacob Markstrom was asking as Nikita Kucherov walked in all alone to score the game winner in overtime. Inexplicably, both Daniel and Henrik Sedin were heading for the exits as if they had a Volvo waiting to help them avoid the post-game traffic crush.
According to the official game sheet, Sven Baertschi and Linden Vey were the Canucks forwards on the ice for Kucherov’s clincher. That’s why +/- can be a misleading statistic. It’s true that they were physically on the ice surface after the Twins brutal line change, but neither Baertschi nor Vey had anything to do with the game winning goal. As the Canucks stumbled to their eighth overtime loss of the season, I was curious to see who has been on the ice for the O/T goals they’ve given up. My research reveals there is no one offender in particular — they’re all in this together. Here is a list of who’s been on the ice for overtime goals against the Canucks this season:
3 — Alex Edler, Bo Horvat, Yannick Weber, Radim Vrbata
2 — Daniel Sedin, Chris Higgins
1 — Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter, Dan Hamhuis, Jannik Hansen, Alex Biega, Ben Hutton and last night Linden Vey and Sven Baertschi
So although hung out to dry on the winner last night, Edler moves to the top of that list. It was a tough go for Edler on Saturday. He was on for all three Tampa goals and even had the second one go in off his skate. Edler also took three minor penalties including a double-minor for high-sticking in the second period.
Get this: Edler had more penalties last night than Chris Tanev has had all season. And on the season, Edler now has 10 times the penalty minutes of his defense partner. They play together almost always against the same top opponents on the other team and somehow Edler has taken 20 minors now this season while Tanev has been sent to the box twice — once against Pittsburgh for hooking on November 2nd and once for roughing against Dallas on October 29th. Tanev has played his last 25 games penalty-free.
Derek Dorsett is no stranger to the penalty box although he has managed to stay out of it the past two games. He didn’t spend much time on the bench last night either. That’s because it seemed he was always on the ice. Dorsett played 17:41 of last night’s hockey game — a new high in ice-time for him in his year and a half as a Canuck. It was the most ice he’d seen in an NHL game in nearly three years since he skated 19:29 as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets on February 26, 2013. Considering Dorsett didn’t get a shift in overtime, all of his ice time came in the first three periods. And after 60 minutes, only Henrik Sedin had logged more time among Canucks forwards and Dorsett led the forward group in even-strength ice time. And it wasn’t as if the veteran forward was having the game of his life — Dorsett finished the night with one shot on goal, two hits and was on for two Tampa goals. It’s a strange call from the coach to continually run a guy out there in a tight game who has one goal in his past 32 games.
Bo Horvat has half the Canucks goals in 2016. Happy New Year. With another last night, Horvat now has four goals in his past three games and with linemate Sven Baertschi finishing off a beautiful feed from Horvat on a first period power play, those two have accounted for the last five goals and six of the eight goals the team has scored since the calendar change. Wind things back a little further to December 1st and Daniel Sedin leads the Canucks with six goals followed by Baertschi and Jannik Hansen with five apiece and Horvat has now matched the ice-cold Radim Vrbata with four each in that span. Alex Edler with a pair is the only other Canuck with multiple goals since the beginning of December.
With Ryan Miller back on the bench, the Canucks will have some difficult decisions to make in goal moving forward. Jacob Markstrom continues to give the Canucks a chance to win almost every game he has started since Miller’s injury. And he does it on a nightly basis with next to no goal support. With two Canucks goals last night, the team has scored 13 times in Markstrom’s last 10 starts. And somehow he has produced at least a point in six of those 10 games (4-4-2). Markstrom’s overall record is now 5-5-4. You may recall after a loss in Ottawa in November, Miller’s record fell to 5-5-5. With an overtime or shootout loss in his his next start, Markstrom would be 5-5-5 as well. That would surely be an NHL first having two goalies on the same team sport that unique record at some point in the same season.
And while we’re dealing with obscure statistics (my specialty), can Ben Hutton catch Garth Butcher? Does Ben Hutton want to catch Garth Butcher? With the tracking of zone exits and entries all the rage these days, Hutton successfully — and easily — skated the puck across both blue lines before dishing to Bo Horvat on the tying goal late in the third period. It was Hutton’s first point since December 7th and his 10th assist of his rookie NHL season. But he’s still looking for his first goal. Below is a chart of the most points by a Canuck in a season without a goal. Hutton has a long way to go to match The Strangler, but he’s joined a pretty select group of double-digit point getters who haven’t put a puck in the net:
And finally, I tweeted about it at the time of the deal on Friday afternoon, but have not written about the Canucks acquisition of Emerson Etem. Considering Nicklas Jensen looked like he was buried in Utica and was never going to get another shot with the Canucks, I think it only made sense to lob a late round pick into the mix to swap struggling forwards with the Rangers. I don’t know why it didn’t work out for Etem in the Big Apple and two trades in a six-month span certainly raises a red flag. But there is much to like about his skill set and the fact he has a track-record of success with Willie Desjardins and others in the organization makes it a worthwhile roll of the dice for the Canucks.
***UPDATE: Certainly a strange development Sunday morning with the Canucks issuing a statement explaining to the hockey world that they are exploring trade options for Chris Higgins. It may be an unconventional way of going about business to put the team’s intentions in black and white, but the course of action is the correct one. For whatever reasons, Higgins has completely faded into oblivion as an effective member of the Vancouver Canucks with 2+1=3 in 25 games this season. He returned to the line-up Saturday after being a healthy scratch on Wednesday against Carolina and showed no difference in his performance. He has gone 10 games without a point and had just 0+1=1 in his last 22 outings. Chris Higgins has always seemed like a good guy, but it’s been tough to watch him take a roster spot this season and do nothing with the opportunity. This is a team in transition and that roster spot can and will be better utilized by a younger, hungrier hockey player. That’s simply the bottom line. I don’t know where it goes from here for Higgins, but I can’t imagine that with his age, his contractual situation and his diminishing performance that there will be a taker for him in the NHL right now. My guess is he will wind up on waivers and ultimately in Utica with the Canucks having a decision to make at season’s end. My lasting image of Chris Higgins is one of a guy sitting in his stall in a relatively empty Canucks locker room in the moments after the Game 7 loss to Boston in 2011. Most of the players needed time to compose themselves. To Higgins’ credit, he was there when the crush of media entered the room and tried to articulate his feelings. It wasn’t easy, I’m sure. You could tell he was completely gutted. I didn’t think much of his performance this season, but always had a lot of respect for Higgins and the way he carried himself in the moments after the toughest loss of his hockey career. I hope things work out for him.
Next up: the return of Roberto Luongo and the hottest team in hockey on Monday night when the Florida Panthers come calling.
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