Friday August 7 - Vancouver Canucks 5 - Minnesota Wild 4 (OT)
It's official. This group of Vancouver Canucks has shown something special.
On Friday night, the Canucks came back from three different deficits before Chris Tanev's winner at 11 seconds of overtime officially advanced the team to the first round of the 2020 playoffs.
Here are your highlights:
Credited with his first career playoff shutout in Game 3 on Thursday, Jacob Markstrom called it a "team shutout." Vancouver held Minnesota to 27 shots in the game that didn't see the Canucks get on the scoreboard until late in the second period. Once Vancouver established its lead, the Wild were credited with just seven shots in the third.
With Game 3 scheduled for lunchtime on Thursday and Game 4 starting late on Friday, Markstrom did effectively get nearly a day and a half off between games, which may have lessened the impact of the back-to-back situation a little bit. But we've seen Markstrom play consecutive games before — he'll play every chance he gets — and Alex Stalock also went the distance for the Wild at the other end of the ice.
The Canucks' goaltending was supposed to be an advantage in the series but overall, Stalock played pretty well. And Markstrom did not have one of his stronger games on Friday — particularly on the two bad-angle Minnesota goals where the puck inexplicably found its way through his body.
“I screwed up and I want to thank all the players that we scored one more goal than I let in,” Jacob Markstrom on his performance tonight and getting the win. #Canucks
That 'one more goal,' of course, was Chris Tanev's wrister, which beat Stalock at 11 seconds of overtime and ended the third elimination game of the day at Rogers Place at 11:47 p.m. local time.
"It's an awesome feeling and I'm happy for all the boys. It just shows how hard we worked all year, we were down, but we made some big time plays by some big time guys." - Tanev pic.twitter.com/xMO1JIdUfM
That goal kicked off the Canucks' seven-game holiday winning streak — the segment of the season that really drove home the idea that this year's team might be able to exceed expectations.
Friday's goal was Tanev's first ever in the playoffs. In his 514-game NHL career, he has 22 regular-season goals — but six of them are game winners. Not bad!
It's clear that Tanev has been an emotional leader for the Canucks this season. He has been particularly important in supporting Vancouver's young players, especially his defense partner, Quinn Hughes. The two are close off the ice. On it, their playing styles compliment each other well, which has been a key component of Hughes' success in his rookie season.
After his three-assist outing in Game 3, Hughes added a goal and an assist in Game 4, which gives him six points in four postseason games so far. That ties him for fifth overall in postseason scoring — with Auston Matthews, Sean Monahan, Dominik Kubalik and Leon Draisaitl. And he's the leader among all defensemen. Nine blueliners are tied for second with four points, including Shea Weber, Duncan Keith — and Tanev.
With six potential elimination games on the schedule on Friday, the Canucks were one of five teams to finish the job. The only club that didn't was Columbus, thanks to that stunning comeback by the Maple Leafs. That series will be settled on Sunday evening, then the schedule for Round 1 will be released.
Monday is the draft lottery — which is no longer of any concern to the Canucks. The win against Minnesota absolutely seals the transfer of Vancouver's 2020 first-rounder to the New Jersey Devils — and Arizona's win over Nashville also means that their first-rounder won't be in the top three, so it also transfers to the Devils, giving them three first-round picks this year.
On Monday, the Canucks will also have the option to switch hotels. The fifth-seeded Oilers and sixth-seeded Predators were both eliminated, so the Canucks are the next highest-ranking club that's still alive behind the round-robin group. So, Vancouver now qualifies for the nicer digs at the JW Marriott.
Of course, playoff tradition dictates that teams don't like to change anything when they're winning. But I expect the league will be looking to consolidate the four remaining Western clubs into the Marriott at the end of Round 1. If the Canucks are really thinking they'll stick around, why not make the move now rather than potentially mess with your juju later?
Typically, hockey players talk about not looking too far ahead. But Bo Horvat was happily envisioning a long run on Friday night.
"We're excited," he said. "We're obviously going to celebrate the win here tonight but we've got some more work to do. This is just one of many series that we're planning on playing and we can't wait to start the next one here."
If you somehow missed it, the celebration started in the dressing room right after the game. No social distancing here!
And as yet another example of what J.T. Miller brings to this team, his read of the starting lineup before the game is also pretty awesome. Look at the grin on Quinn's face the background of the still moment in this Tweet:
As for the Canucks' first-round opponent, that'll be determined on Sunday afternoon (noon PT), when St. Louis and Dallas square off in the final game of the Western Conference round robin. The Blues came into the tournament in first place in the West, while the Stars were fourth, but both teams are 0-2 so far, with losses to Vegas and Colorado.
The winner of Sunday's game will grab the No. 3 seed and play No. 8 Calgary. The loser will finish 0-3 in the round robin, and be ice cold when they take on the Canucks.
It's counterintuitive, but I think we want that to be the defending Stanley Cup Champions from St. Louis. Vancouver's recent record against the Blues is pretty good — 2-0-1 this season, while they were 0-2-0 against the Stars, including that ugly 6-1 road loss in November. If I remember correctly, those patterns hold across several seasons, too. I feel like I've written often about how Vancouver can't beat Dallas, and how they match up well against St. Louis.
But obviously, the matchup is not something that can be controlled, and any hockey player or coach will tell you that teams are going to tell you that they'll take what they get.
Of course, given the history of Canucks' ownership and the falling out that happened between Francesco Aquilni and his one-time business partner Tom Gaglardi back in the day, a Canucks-Stars series would carry a little extra spice within the Vancouver business community.
Don't mean to get ahead of ourselves here but if the Canucks advance and St. Louis beats Dallas on Sunday, the Stars and Canucks will meet in the playoffs which, if you're familiar with the history between the two owners, is noteworthy.
And one final footnote for now — Travis Green snuck Olli Juolevi into the lineup on Friday for his first career NHL game!
"He was solid, I don't think he got a lot of minutes," said Travis Green when asked to assess Juolevi's debut. "He didn't seem too nervous and I think, to be honest, the coaches were probably more nervous than him.
"I haven't seen him a lot, but we just felt like he was the guy to go in. He had a good camp.
"You know, he played heavier than we thought he would. Moves the puck quick, he's got a good release on his shot. He didn't seem intimidated at all, throughout camp, through our scrimmages and in the exhibition game.
"I'm happy for him. It's been a long grind for him with his injuries. And to play your first game in a game like this — you never forget your first NHL game you play and to play a game like this is extra special for him."
Juolevi swapped into Oscar Fantenberg's spot and played 6:16, including 34 seconds on the penalty kill. Not surprising that his minutes were quite low, given that the Canucks never led in the game until Tanev scored the game winner.
Juolevi's stat line from Friday is blank — which is not a bad thing in a pretty high-event game.
Fantenberg had been a plus-one through the first three games of the series, averaging 13:07 of ice time. It's unclear if Fantenberg is injured — the way Green was talking, it sounded to me like it may have been his decision to give Juolevi an opportunity.
Jordie Benn is also now in Edmonton, following the birth of his daughter in Dallas last week. He has a bit more isolation time to serve before he can join his teammates, so he probably won't be available for Game 1, which should happen on Tuesday or Wednesday.