If the 2021 season needed a Cinderella story, the Vancouver Canucks would be it. Now without the weight of Travis Green and Jim Benning, the Canucks have been flourishing under new coach Bruce Boudreau.
Just in time, too, for Jonathan Dahlen to face off against his former club, who reportedly did not treat him well during his AHL career. You can read more about Dahlen’s journey to the NHL here, but for now, we’re all ready for his revenge tour (though considering the outcome of the game, we may have to wait for his Canucks revenge tour).
The San Jose Sharks suited up in their stealth jerseys, which despite looking phenomenal, have yet to see a win. Adin Hill was back in the net for the Sharks, and recent San Jose Barracuda call-up Jayden Halbgewachs made his NHL debut. He’s the eighth Shark to do so, which puts San Jose far ahead of the rest of the league in rookie debuts — no other team has had more than six rookie players this season.
The Tank was relatively empty crowd, but the energy was there for the Sharks, who had spent last game slogging their way through the neutral zone. The two teams are relatively evenly matched in firepower, speed and talent. Dahlen came out of the gate bringing the rest of his line, Logan Couture and Timo Meier, with him into the offensive zone.
The Sharks were a little sloppy in the neutral zone to start, but their transition game picked up speed as the team started to roll the top three lines (the fourth wasn’t seeing a ton of ice time), and leveled consistent shots at the net. Despite a multitude of close chances, the Sharks just couldn’t finish on anything. Halbgewachs had his own close chance after he came sprinting off the bench on a change, deked his way through half the Canucks, and was thwarted only by an aggressive Thatcher Demko.
The Canucks opened scoring with a top-shelf shot from winger Brock Boeser that rolled over the glove of Hill and into the net, less than seven minutes into the period. Not long after that, Couture was called for kneeing on Jason Dickinson. It was a tough call, and Couture did try to plead his case, but the referees are under orders to keep an eye out for knee on knee contact, to try to mitigate it.
Vancouver scored again just a few seconds into their power play, again on a high glove shot. The curse of Hill’s glove hand continued — he’s struggled with controlling shots on his high left side.
As time ran out in the period, the Sharks were determined to not let the game get out of hand. Going into the second period down by two goals isn’t easy, so Timo Meier took it into his own hands. Meier sent a clapper high on Demko’s left side off an Erik Karlsson slapshot rebound. The goal marked Meier’s 12th of the season, his 100th NHL goal and a sorely needed energizer.
Career goal No. for Timo Meier (@MeierTimo)! pic.twitter.com/A5xrTbDpKE— NHL (@NHL) December 17, 2021
San Jose entered the second period, down 2-1.
The first 10 minutes saw some extended zone time and chances for each team, with the Sharks looking to even the score and the Canucks to extend their lead. Dahlen was looking for a goal, and so was Halbgewachs, but nothing was going in, even if the Canucks were kept on the backcheck for most of the period. Both teams traded penalties and equally unsuccessful power plays.
It was clear that whatever confidence Boudreau had instilled in the Canucks, they were playing with it. Even if they weren’t tallying the same amount of shots on goal as the Sharks, (the Canucks had just 5 shots to the Sharks’ 15), but they were making them count. With less than five minutes to go in the period, Hill was far out of the crease and Brock Boeser took advantage of his weak glove side, snapping one off the post and in, catching just a bit of Hill’s glove, but not enough to keep the goal out.
The Canucks went up, 3-1. The Sharks’ had their fair share of chances, and the first and second lines were seeing a lot of playing time, but lazy passes (I’m looking at you, Tomas Hertl), and bad clearing attempts, plus an inability to capitalize upon rebounds kept the team scoreless in the second.
The third period started with the Canucks looking to extend their win streak and seeing it in sight. The Canucks were controlling play, despite Halbgewachs and Barabanov trying early, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic doing his best to test Demko. Andrew Cogliano and the rest of the fourth line, Jasper Weatherby and Lane Pederson saw some extended ice time in the third, and it paid off. Cogliano tempered a rolling puck from Pederson and then it was in the net, giving the Sharks a chance to bring the game to overtime, if they could just score one more.
The Sharks were buzzing after Cogliano’s goal, and despite huge opportunities, Dahlen especially was struck by a lack of puck luck. That, and the Canucks’ defense and goaltending were just too good.
A late goal by J.T. Miller (high glove, again) and an empty netter with a minute remaining sealed the deal — the Sharks (and their stealth jerseys) dropped another game, 5-2.