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I Watched This Game: Canucks fell flat on their faces in Game 6 versus Oilers

The Vancouver Canucks' powerless power play was emblematic of an ugly performance against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 6.
The Vancouver Canucks underwhelmed with their opportunity to eliminate the Edmonton Oilers in Game 6 of their second-round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It ought to have been the turning point of Game 6. Already with a two-goal lead, the Edmonton Oilers got a 55-second long 5-on-3 power play. It was an opportunity for the the NHL’s best power play to put the game away for good.

But the Vancouver Canucks came up the kill, only allowing one shot on goal. Then, a couple of minutes later, the Canucks got a 5-on-3 of their own — 56 seconds with the two-man advantage after the Oilers’ penalty kill got caught with too many men on the ice.

The stage was set for the Canucks to kick off their comeback: kill off the Oilers’ 5-on-3 then score on their own to make it a one-goal game heading into the third period. It would make up for what had been a lacklustre game so far for the Canucks, who didn’t show much killer instinct with the opportunity to eliminate the Oilers.

Instead, the Canucks had just one shot on that 5-on-3 — a long-distance wrister from Quinn Hughes that didn’t challenge Stuart Skinner much — as they stopped moving their feet and overpassed the puck. They let the Oilers off the hook.

“I don’t know if we overdid it. I don’t know,” said Elias Pettersson. “Just got to look on video. We have to take our chances on that. If we score there, it’s 3-2 going into the third. Missed opportunity.”

It’s actually startling how much special teams were a non-factor in this game. 

The Oilers’ stars handed the Canucks two golden opportunities with the power play in the first period. First Leon Draisaitl took an undisciplined penalty by hitting Conor Garland while going off the ice for a line change for an interference minor. Then, later in the period, Connor McDavid whacked Carson Soucy in the visor with his stick for a high-sticking penalty.

Those two power plays came and went without a single shot on goal from the Canucks. 

“I thought we got a couple of good looks on the power play and didn’t score on them,” said Brock Boeser. “Those would have been some big goals for our team to get back in the game and we didn’t execute.”

The Canucks didn’t get any goals on the power play in Game 5 either but at least their power plays in that game looked dangerous and helped keep the momentum rolling in their favour. On Saturday in Game 6, their power plays killed their momentum.

“There’s some looks there we’re missing,” said Rick Tocchet. “We’re going to the same look a couple times, I thought. We’ve got to make sure there’s some other looks that we’ve got to go to. That has to happen organically. I think we just missed a couple of reads. If we did, somebody would have had a really glorious chance. It kind of sapped us a little bit, our energy.”

It was emblematic of the entire game. Facing a shaky goaltender in Skinner, who had struggled so much through the first three games of the series, the Canucks never truly tested him, finishing with just 15 shots on goal.

“We made it easy for him,” said Tocchet. “I mean, he played well, give him a lot of credit, but we didn’t really give him much.”

“It’s not a recipe for success,” said Pettersson. “We have won games when we have not many shots but it is what it is.”

So, the series will come down to a do-or-die, winner-take-all, insert-cliché-here Game 7 on Monday night at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The Canucks played 82 games in the regular season to earn the right to host this crucial game on home ice; maybe it will make all the difference.

“You’ve got 48 hours to get your energy back,” said Rick Tocchet. “It’s a Game 7. People would kill to be in this situation right now. We’ve got to make sure that we act like we would kill to be in that situation.”

Some might kill to be in Game 7 but I just wanted to die after I watched this game.

  • It maybe should have been a sign that this wasn’t going to be a great game for Arturs Silovs when he got stuck behind his own net in the opening minute, caught by the Oilers forecheck. He was fortunate not to give up a goal. Not that this loss can be blamed on Silovs — it’s not his fault the Canucks only had 15 shots on goal — but it was definitely his worst game of the playoffs.
  • Highlight-reel goals have been hard to come by in this series, as time and space have come at a premium. Surprisingly, it wasn’t one of the Oilers’ stars that bucked the trend — it was Dylan Holloway, who may not be a star but looked like one when he drove through the neutral zone then cut inside on Quinn Hughes at the Canucks’ blue line to get in alone on Silovs. As Silovs reached out his stick for a pokecheck, Holloway tucked the puck five-hole for the opening goal.
  • The Canucks’ quick response was deceitful, making it seem like this game would be a lot closer. Nils Höglander gained the zone, then cut back to buy time like he was Justin Timberlake before dropping the puck to Elias Pettersson. A stutter-step by Pettersson got him past Ryan McLeod, then he looped below the goal line and set up Höglander for a chance in the slot. His first shot was stopped but he whacked in the rebound for his first goal of the playoffs. 
  • McDavid’s high stick looked awfully suspicious. As much as colour commentator tried to say McDavid went for the puck “and his stick rode up,” it looks an awful lot like McDavid intentionally tried to hit Carson Soucy under the visor. I'd like to give McDavid the benefit of the doubt but I honestly don’t know how to interpret this as anything other than intent to injure. Maybe he thought he saw a bee on Soucy’s visor and panicked like Anthony Bridgerton but with less romantic results.  
  • Evan Bouchard thought he had the go-ahead goal in the dying seconds of the first period but McDavid had blatantly interfered with Silovs, crashing into the goaltender in the crease. Sure, Teddy Bluegers was checking him at the time but going into the crease was entirely McDavid’s doing. For a moment, it seemed like all McDavid was going to do in this game was take bad penalties and cost the Oilers goals.
  • Instead, McDavid set up what stood as the game-winning goal and then set up two more. The J.T. Miller line and the pairing of Tyler Myers and Carson Soucy, who have been very good at shutting down McDavid at times in this series, seriously struggled against him in Game 6. To be fair, he is Connor McDavid.
  • Like a partially constructed house without sheathing in a storm, the Canucks lost their structure on the 2-1 goal. Miller moved to the boards to throw a hit and no one rotated to the rails to cover for him. That left Zach Hyman wide open in the slot, where McDavid found him. Brock Boeser recognized the danger in time to make a play but didn’t play the body and whiffed on an attempted stick lift, leaving Hyman plenty of time to kick the puck out of his skates and beat Silovs.
  • “I’ve got to get Hyman on that one,” said Boeser. “I’ll take the blame on that. I’ve got to make a better defensive play there.”
  • The one goal that could be pinned on Silovs is the Oilers’ third goal. It was a long, unscreened shot by Evan Bouchard from the point that Silovs saw the whole way. It seemed like he wasn’t quite on the right angle for the shot, so couldn’t get his blocker out in time to stop it. In his defence, it was a well-placed shot that went off the post and in, but it’s surely one he’d want back. 
  • Full credit to the Canucks’ penalty kill, which has been outstanding over the last couple of games. They did a brilliant job killing off the 5-on-3, then Conor Garland came out of the penalty box to help kill off the remainder of the 5-on-4 and looked like he really ought to be on the penalty kill on a regular basis, even coming up with a big shot block as the second penalty came to an end. Get him some shorthanded ice time and maybe he’ll get more than three votes for the Selke next season. 
  • As good as the penalty kill was, the power play was equally as bad. There were too many chances to put a puck on net that turned into a pass into a less dangerous area. Doesn’t anyone on this power play want to score a goal? Be a hero, shoot the puck. 
  • The Oilers scored two more goals in the third period but they seemed wholly unnecessary in terms of the the end result of the game. Sure, Soucy and Myers completely botched a rush by McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, with Myers giving McDavid vast acreage with a lovely view on the right wing and Soucy completely failing to tie up any part Ryan in front of the net, either his Nugent or his Hopkins. Sure, who cares? The Canucks weren’t coming back in this game.
  • If there’s one positive to this game, it’s that Pettersson’s line with Lindholm and Höglander looked good again. Pettersson hit the post with a hot shot on one of the Canucks’ few chances in the third period and had a team-high six shot attempts. That’s something, at least. Maybe the Canucks can do something with that in Game 7? 
  • Oh yeah, Evander Kane scored one last goal with a shot that Silovs never saw off a Leon Draisaitl faceoff win. It was kind of neat because the Rogers Place crowd were in the midst of singing “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi. Personally, I’ve always preferred “Dying on a Prayer” by Jon Bovi, the Bon Jovi opposite band.
  • Look, this was a bummer of a game but the Canucks get one more chance to eliminate the Oilers on Monday. The Canucks have done well all season at bouncing back from poor performances; Game 7 is just another opportunity to bounce.  
  • “I’m excited for it,” said Pettersson. “I know the barn’s going to be loud, fans going to be into it, and those are the types of games you want to play.”