Shot fatigue: Canucks know they need to step up defence in Game 6 versus Vegas

Shot fatigue: Canucks know they need to step up defence in Game 6 versus Vegas

EDMONTON — The Vancouver Canucks are still alive in the NHL playoffs by outlasting the Vegas Golden Knights in a game that, by all statistical accounts, they had no business winning.

Vancouver head coach Travis Green isn’t apologizing for it, but says he also isn’t blind to the fact his team has to step it up in Game 6 Thursday at Rogers Place.

“I didn’t think we were at our best, but I’m never going to criticize a win too harshly,” Green said when asked Wednesday by reporters on a Zoom call about his team giving up 43 shots on net Tuesday, but still beating Vegas 2-1 to cut the Golden Knights’ lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven second-round series.

“Especially in playoff hockey, when you find a way to win a game that you probably shouldn’t have, it’s not just luck,” added Green. “It’s compete. It’s buying in as a group. It’s blocking a shot.

“I expect our team to play a better game tomorrow, as far as with the puck and our skating. We weren’t quite skating the way we could. We weren’t great with the puck and when those two are in our game, it’s usually a recipe for playing in our own zone.”

It was recipe for disaster saved only by a storybook performance from backup goalie Thatcher Demko. Demko, making his first ever playoff start in place of a presumably injured Jacob Markstrom, made 42 saves in front of a Gatling gun of rubber as the Golden Knights repeatedly swarmed the Vancouver zone, aiming, firing, reloading and repeating.

Vegas had 22 shots blocked and missed the net on 14 more for a total of 79 shot attempts. Vancouver in response, mustered just 17 shots on net and 38 shots attempts at Robin Lehner.

Vancouver defenceman Tyler Myers said they drew strength from fortuity.

“(Demko) did a great job of making some big saves for us to keep us in it,” said Myers.

“Basically after two periods, we said, ‘We’re not playing our best and it’s still a tie hockey game, so we talked about we just need 20 minutes. We’ve got to raise our level for 20 minutes.’”

Vegas forward Reilly Smith chalked it up to the breaks of the game.

“On the bench, we try to stay positive and maintain the idea that we’re going to stay patient and our opportunities are going to keep on coming and we’re just going to wait for the right bounces,” said Smith.

“It just seemed like we weren’t able to find any of those bounces last game.”

Markstrom started every playoff game prior to Tuesday, playing 14 games in 29 days. The NHL is not releasing injury information or status. Green declined to discuss who will start Game 6.

Tuesday wasn’t the first time during these playoffs that a Canucks’ goaltender has resembled a one-dimensional smiling duck inching from left to right in a carnival shooting gallery.

Vegas is averaging almost 38 shots a night through five games compared with 26 for Vancouver. In Game 2, the Canuck skaters stepped up and blocked 40 shots in front of Markstrom to preserve a 5-2 win. On Tuesday, not so much. They blocked 22.

Shot paucity is also a Canuck playoff theme.

Through 15 games they have outshot their opponent only twice — both times against the Minnesota Wild in the qualifying round.

In the playoffs proper, through six games against St. Louis in the first round and now five against Vegas, they have been outshot 418-298.

When it comes to shooting attempts, taking into account missed and blocked shots, that disparity widens to 821 to 594.

Myers said the key to stopping shots in their own end will be decided 200 feet away Thursday.

“If we can get on them quicker, create some more stalls in their D-zone, we’ll have the puck more and that will eliminate a lot of the defending that we were doing,” he said.

Vegas is known for playing a heavy game, and through the first 11 post-season games in 2020, win or lose, had always outhit their opponent. But in the last two games Vancouver has outhit Vegas by a combined 85-70.

Vegas defenceman Brayden McNabb, one of the three big Golden Knight hitters (along with William Carrier and Ryan Reaves), reminded reporters of the double-edged nature of that particular metric.

“Playoffs in general you want to play a heavier game and finish all your checks,” said McNabb. “But last game we had the puck a lot, so it’s a little bit harder to get the hits when you have the puck.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published September 2, 2020.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

NHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Central zone has 20 active cases of COVID-19

Province identified 143 new cases across Alberta on Wednesday

Province should set mask policy, says city councillor

Digital conference will raise issues of local concern

Education taxes, ambulance dispatch concern Red Deer city councillors at AUMA meeting

The digital convention will raise issues of local concern

High school’s student’s anti-racism video offers hope

Jose Jordan got dozens of high school students to participate

Trail closed near Red Deer water treatment plant until Nov. 1

Construction on intake in river continuing

Liberals vow wage-subsidy extension to 2021, revamp of EI system in throne speech

Canadian labour market was hammered by pandemic, when lockdowns in the spring led to a loss of 3 million jobs

Former Wales star Rob Howley returns to rugby with Canadian national team

Former Wales star Rob Howley returns to rugby with Canadian national team

Back to work: NBA’s non-Disney clubs start team workouts

Back to work: NBA’s non-Disney clubs start team workouts

“We refused to play,” Henry blasts team as Impact lose 3-1 to Revolution

“We refused to play,” Henry blasts team as Impact lose 3-1 to Revolution

4-nation Rugby Championship to be played as 6 doubleheaders

4-nation Rugby Championship to be played as 6 doubleheaders

For NBA players, Taylor grand jury decision ‘not enough’

For NBA players, Taylor grand jury decision ‘not enough’

Pozuelo scores on penalty in 90th, Toronto FC beats NYC 1-0

Pozuelo scores on penalty in 90th, Toronto FC beats NYC 1-0

Blue Jays dump Yankees 14-1 to inch closer to securing post-season berth

Blue Jays dump Yankees 14-1 to inch closer to securing post-season berth

Reactions to the minority Liberal government’s speech from the throne

Reactions to the minority Liberal government’s speech from the throne

Most Read