As is appropriate for this season, the Canucks earned a moral victory in their final road game. Not only did they lose, thereby giving themselves the opportunity to clinch the 6th overall pick in the upcoming draft with a loss to the Calgary Flames on Sunday (and simultaneously worsening Edmonton’s draft position), but they also managed to get a rival team’s fans to call them classy.
As CBC constantly reminded us all game, this was Ryan Smyth’s final NHL game and, like Jarome Iginla and the Calgary Flames did for Trevor Linden, the Canucks came back out on the ice after the game ended and, led by Henrik Sedin, shook Smyth’s hand and wished him the best.
The reaction was immediate and universal. Even the most ardent Canucks haters could only muster a weak joke about it being the first instance of class ever shown by the Canucks. For one brief moment, Oilers fans were forced to like and respect the Vancouver Canucks. If that’s not a moral victory, what is?
Also, they played something resembling hockey before all of that. I watched this game.
Canucks 2 – 5 Oilers
- In all seriousness, it was great to see the Canucks come back out on the ice to shake Smyth’s hand. The highlight was Frank Corrado, who said, “Hey Smytty, I met you when I was ten at Sorrentino’s!” I don’t know what Corrado, an Ontario native, was doing in Edmonton in 2003 to visit a local restaurant (perhaps a hockey tournament), but that likely bought him some good will from Edmonton natives.
- Heading into the game, Smyth was tied with Glenn Anderson for the all-time franchise record in power play goals. The Oilers did everything in their power to get him the record-breaking goal, at one point leaving him on the ice for a power play shift that lasted a whopping 5 minutes and 36 seconds. At the end of the shift, Smyth was wheezing at the bench like Seth Rogen in Superbad. Either that or he was crying again.
- Seriously, Smyth cried so dang much during this game. You’d think he was leaving Edmonton in a trade after a contract dispute over $100,000 rather than retiring from the NHL.
- I really appreciated the class move by the Canucks to come out and shake Smyth’s hand, but I am thrilled that they prevented him from scoring a power play goal. Alex Edler even went the extra mile, blocking Smyth’s stick from tipping in a shot with his chest, deflecting the puck in himself. He then cross-checked him to the ice, shouting, “Take that, old man!” I only made up the quote. Everything else Edler actually did.
- I swear, Edler’s better than this. He’s been better than this in the past and he should be better than this in the future. But he had a lousy game. He was also partly at fault for the Oilers’ second goal, chasing Taylor Hall up the boards even after he gave up the puck. This left Yannick Weber alone to defend the front of the net and there was little he could do as three Oilers came in on him and Jeff Petry, who David Booth lost coming in from the point, scored an easy goal. Everyone was out to lunch on that goal and they all picked Arby’s.
- Steve Pinizzotto scored his first point of his career with an assist on the Oilers’ first goal and added a second assist for good measure. There was a time when I thought he had a solid future on the Canucks’ fourth line. Now he’s barely on the Oilers’ fourth line. Sometimes I am wrong about things. Still, it was good to see him get a small measure of success and I wish him the best. Seriously, that guy had a rough go and I hope he gets re-signed by the Oilers.
- Jacob Markstrom got his second straight start and, like a Garbage Pail Kid, it was ugly. I mean, like the trading cards, not the movie. It wasn’t that awful. While the shots he faced were generally good quality scoring chances without much help from his teammates in front of him, he still gave up 5 goals on 22 shots, including 3 on the Oilers’ first 6 shots. Markstrom was considered an elite goaltending prospect as recent as last July, but he’s struggled at the NHL level. There are reasons not to give up on him and it’s difficult to judge him in these meaningless games for the Canucks, but he hasn’t looked good so far.
- The other half of the return for Roberto Luongo, Shawn Matthias, had a much stronger game, finishing with a goal and an assist. That was partly because he was playing with the Canucks’ best player all game, but he made things happen for himself as well, including an unexpectedly fantastic dangle 1-on-1 against Justin Schultz, walking right around him to get a scoring chance in front. He was playing like he really wanted to convince Trevor Linden to keep him around. I’ve been in Florida my entire career…please don’t send me back there. Please, I’ll do anything. I’ll even try in a meaningless game.
- The Canucks’ best player, though, was Zack Kassian, who also finished with a goal and an assist. The assist was a thing of beauty, a perfectly weighted saucer pass that would have made the Sedins from two seasons ago proud and the current Sedins befuddled. How the hell did he do that?
- Kassian’s goal was kind of hilarious, because it came in the dying seconds of the game while everyone in the building was on their feet cheering for Ryan Smyth. Kassian can’t help but be a pain-in-the-neck-and-elsewhere for the Oilers. Trying to enjoy an emotional farewell for one of your favourite players, eh? TAKE THAT!
- Seriously, Kassian was very good and has been for a while now. He’s got 10 points in his last 9 games and, with his goal in this game, tied Daniel Sedin for third on the team in goalscoring. Granted, that’s only 14 goals, but you have to admit it sounds really good when I don’t mention that part.
- Michael Zalewski played his first NHL game and was a pleasant surprise, leading the team in Corsi%, as the Canucks out-attempted the Oilers 12-5 when he was on the ice. While that was only against fourth-line competition, it was still a solid performance. I don’t have a joke here, he was just good and I liked him.
- In the end, the Canucks played like they were completely demoralized from missing the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, while the Oilers played like they weren’t even aware that you could play games after the regular season ended.
, I Watched This Game