Canucks shut out by Flames, have no answer for old mates Markstrom & Tanev
Jacob Markstrom and Chris Tanev win Round 1.
Both former Vancouver Canucks brought their A Games, helping the Calgary Flames earn a 3-0 victory for their first win of the season on Saturday night.
Markstrom stopped all 32 shots he faced — earning his first shutout as a Flame in just his second start with the team. As I'm sure you remember, it took 129 NHL games before he finally did it for the first time in Vancouver, on Dec. 5, 2017. He ended up with five in Vancouver, through 229 games with the Canucks.
As for Chris Tanev — he made his first shot-block 13 seconds into the first period, and finished with eight, out of 14 in total for Calgary. He was especially impactful during Vancouver's 5-on-3 power-play opportunity late in the first period, chalking up two blocks on Bo Horvat.
Special teams were the difference in the game. All three of Calgary's goals came with the man advantage, while the Canucks are now 0-for-11 on the power play to start the year.
But even though we look back on last season fondly, it's easy to forget that Vancouver dropped its first two games in Alberta last season, too. The 8-2 win over L.A. in the home opener and Drew Doughty's "team like that" comment erased the memories of the 3-2 loss to Edmonton and the 3-0 shutout against the Flames — and the early struggles to get the power play going.
Still, J.T. Miller is going to have a lot of work to do when he gets back if he wants to get the Canucks living up to his early-season prediction of having the best power-play in the league.
Is the penalty kill more worrisome? That group is fully manned, but is now 9-for-14 for the year so far, which is a very unacceptable 64.3 percent kill rate. Even worse, they went a perfect 4-for-4 in Game 1, so they've been 5-for-10 since.
As Jeff Paterson points out, it's far from ideal that Tyler Motte's four minor penalties in the first three games lead the team.
Antoine Roussel's 10 penalty minutes lead the team, but that was a misconduct. He didn't leave the team shorthanded.
But even though Motte is taking penalties, at least he's doing something. After we saw Winnipeg take over their season-opening game against Calgary by getting physical, the Canucks left their workboots in the hotel room as they played their third game in four nights. Total hits were just 16-11 for the Flames in the game. Jay Beagle led the way for the Canucks, with three.
Beagle also had a good night on draws, going 7-for-11, while Bo Horvat was an incredible 20-for-28. He already leads the league with 72 faceoffs taken — seven more than second-place Auston Matthews and 17 more than third-place Leon Draisaitl. And with a 62.5 percent win rate, Horvat is easily among the top 10 players who have taken more than 30 draws.
In Edmonton, we saw the Oilers made effective adjustments for their second game against the Canucks — changing Connor McDavid's matchup and making other tweaks that allowed them to exploit their advantages.
Travis Green and the Canucks still won't have last change when they meet the Flames again on Monday, but they'll have to find a way to get their scorers into more favourable situations — and to let those scorers use their knowledge of Markstrom and Tanev's habits to exploit them, rather than seeing their old teammates react so effectively to their old teammates' tendencies.
I wonder, too, if the Canucks will have their full lineup on Monday night?
Tanner Pearson was badly hobbled by friendly fire in the first period on Saturday when he took a Nate Schmidt shot off his foot.
He did return, but finished with just 14:38 of ice time — his lowest total of the season so far. And other than a couple of fun close-in shot attempts by Nils Hoglander, it seemed like that line didn't generate much at 5-on-5 in the final 40 minutes.
Also, Alex Edler managed to get himself cut by Matthew Tkachuk's skate when he went in for a hit midway through the third period that also earned him an interference penalty.
On the broadcast, the announcers said that Edler returned to the bench. But according to the stat sheets, he didn't take a shift for the rest of the game.
At 35, Edler's now the graybeard on the Vancouver blue line by a long shot — he's got four years on Travis Hamonic and Tyler Myers. But through the first two games, he was still competing with Quinn Hughes for high-minute man. Hughes was averaging 23:34 over the two games in Edmonton, and Edler was right behind him at 23:05. He was at 14:44 on Saturday night, so he probably would have hit 20 minutes again if not for the cut. So — from the department of 'some things never change,' — if Edler's out for any period of time, that'll create a big hole on the Vancouver blue line.
The Canucks are practicing on Sunday afternoon, but with no Vancouver media on the road trip, I'm not sure if we'll get any roster clarity before warm-up on Monday. Game time will be 6 p.m. PT.
Ane one final note to wrap up for today — while the big club and the taxi squad have been in Alberta, the Canucks' Utica-bound players have been permitted to stay in Vancouver until this Wednesday. On the broadcast on Saturday, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman mentioned that the organization is working on a way to keep at least a couple of those players stashed in Canada, in case more call-ups are needed beyond the taxi squad.
In addition to he quarantine issues, roster spots are going to be tight in Utica this year, since the club is also accommodating the St. Louis Blues' prospects. I think it's a good strategy to give the team some extra insurance, if they can make it work.