I once heard Slash describe
Guns ‘N Roses lacklustre cover of the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil as ‘the sound of a band breaking up’. Well this failed power play attempt signified the Canucks’ 2021 season and playoff hopes coming to an end.
On Wednesday afternoon in Ottawa, the Vancouver Canucks lost 6-3 to the Ottawa Senators, a game they desperately needed to win. With just under twelve minutes to play in the 3rd period and down 5-2, the Canucks were awarded a power play for Nick Paul removing his helmet in a fight with Travis Hamonic. As the season hung in the balance, you would expect the team to leave everything on the ice in an effort to cut the lead to two. Instead, what we saw was a series of events outlining the problems with the team we had seen all year.
Within the first 10 seconds of the power play, the Canucks lost possession of the puck resulting in Braden Holtby handing the puck off to Quinn Hughes who nonchalantly lost control and resulted in a 2 on 1 for Ottawa and an incredible save from Braden Holtby. While Quinn Hughes is by far the best defensemen and one of the most talented players on the team, he shown many moments of defensive lapse throughout the season. Since the Canucks returned to play, he has shown flashes of brilliance with the puck but just hasn’t looked himself since the COVID-19 outbreak. And rightfully so.
The Canucks were eventually able to regain possession and entered the offensive zone. What happened next is something that has plagued the Canucks all year long, especially in those difficult games early in the season when the Canucks searched for their identity. JT Miller carelessly throws the puck to the middle of the ice in a high danger play attempting to target Brock Boeser. When the Canucks are struggling, they always seem to panic with the puck. The extra thought and care that should go into making a play isn’t there and they begin to make lazy decisions that never work in their favour. Remember those losses vs the Montreal Canadiens in January? The Canucks seemed to throw the puck to nobody or into the middle the ice countless times a period. This was one of those plays…
Miller’s careless pass to nobody results in another 2 on 1, the second shorthanded odd man rush in roughly :24 seconds. Braden Holtby bails out his team once again while Tyler Myers’ defensive flaws are on full display. Obviously Tyler Myers isn’t at fault in this situation, but when you see your lone defensemen sitting on his knees swatting at the puck, it can be a bit concerning.
The Canucks get possession for a third time and enter the Senators’ zone. JT Miller has been such a great addition to the Canucks and been a total game changer playing big top line minutes and putting up 105 points in a Canucks uniform. Unfortunately, when the Canucks or Miller are struggling, he tries to do everything himself and seems to forget he has four other targets in white jerseys to pass to. As Miller enters the zone he attempts to deke through FOUR Senators before goaltender Marcus Högberg poke checks the puck to the side boards.
After JT Miller’s failed attempt at a one man power play, the Senators were able to gain possession again as Alex Formenton splits Boeser and Hughes for the Senators’ third odd man, shorthanded rush of the penalty kill. The most noticeable thing in this play is not the defensive breakdown, but just how tired Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes look on this back check. The Canucks have had the worst schedule in the Canadian division before their entire team was ravaged with COVID-19 and now they seem to be playing every other night and still have five back to backs games in the season. This is a team that is giving everything they can give , but are running out of time and energy. You can’t blame the Canucks for running out of steam the way they have this week, you can only sympathize. The Canucks are a flawed team this year and they just aren’t good enough. With Elias Pettersson likely done for the year, the weaknesses on this team are on full display. A complete lack of offensive depth and a bottom six who can’t keep up or defend against the better teams in the Canadian division. All of the concerning trends of the 2021 Canucks’ season were on full display in this lacklustre two minutes in Ottawa this week. You can only hope the team can finish strong and with pride and return for the 2021/22 season with a healthy rebuilt roster.