November 30, 2022

Even when he gave up four goals, Spencer Martin shone at the net for the Vancouver Canucks.

It’s pretty unusual for a goaltender to give up four goals and still steal a game from their team, but Spencer Martin did just that on Tuesday night in Ottawa.

The Vancouver Canucks were besieged by the Ottawa Senators in the first two periods of the game and were outclassed by a more than 2-to-1-35-to-16 lead. Even that seems kind to the Canucks, who have been solidly outplayed in every facet of the game. At one point in the second period the shot clock showed 31-to-10 for the Senators, but the result was only 2-1.

That’s because the Canucks were overplayed in every way except goalkeeping.

Martin was phenomenal, repeatedly saving his teammates from turnovers and defensive breakdowns. He flashed leather like a photographer for a saddle catalogue. It was still a one-goal game after 31 Ottawa shots because of Martin, and that 31st save — a brilliant toe save on Brady Tkachuk in an odd-man Senators onslaught — seemed to finally wake the Canucks from their slumber.

After that save, the Canucks beat the Senators 18 to 10 and dominated them as thoroughly as before. For once, they had no disappointment in the third half as they never let up, repeatedly attacking the forecheck and dashing the circle to score some greasy goals.

Sure, the penalty was still cruel and gave up two goals in the third period that made Martin’s night look a lot worse than it really was, but the Canucks still clung to the win.

Ironically, it was exactly the kind of game Jim Rutherford ridiculed on Monday: over-reliant on goalies, with a loose defensive structure – whether by systems or staff – and utterly unsustainable over a long period of time.

But it was sustained enough to get the win in Ottawa on Tuesday watching that game.

  • With the win, Martin has now earned at least a point in ten straight starts for the Canucks. Appropriately for Vancouver, he’s 6-0-4 as a Canuck.
  • Vancouver’s famous son Ryan Reynolds was at the game, though he didn’t appear to be supporting the Canucks. He confirmed on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon that he’s interested in buying the Senators, with a little help from a consortium of partners with deeper pockets. Treason!
  • “I love Ottawa. I grew up in Vancouver, which always has my heart, but I also grew up in Ottawa and have lived in Vanier for a long time, which is a small town in the middle of Ottawa,” Reynolds said. All I hear is, “I don’t love you anymore, Vancouver.” Heartbreaking.
  • The Senators took a quick lead in the first minute when Oliver Ekman-Larsson failed to hit Alex DeBrincat with a cherry on top and Martin failed to come out to play the puck. Ekman-Larsson sluggishly snaked behind the net rather than stopping up front to defend, then DeBrincat’s pass made it through the middle to Drake Batherson for a wide-open net as Martin had to expect Derick Brassard’s shot to come ahead of him.
  • A bit of blame can also be laid on Andrei Kuzmenko, who didn’t stay with Batherson when the game collapsed in the Canucks’ zone. But if Kuzmenko gets half a piece of the debt, Ekman-Larsson gets 60 pieces like selling BB-8 to Unkar Plutt.
  • Jack Rathbone was back in the lineup and he was paired with Ethan Bear, leading to some potentially amazing pairing nicknames: BoneBear, WrathBear, BearBones, Napoleon Bone-a-Bear – okay, maybe not the last.
  • No problem – the BearBones pairing probably wasn’t as good as it looked. Sometimes they moved the puck well, and since the Canucks’ benchmark for puck-moving defenders is somewhere below the Canadian Shield, they looked pretty impressive. At other times, they turned the puck over repeatedly, like a shift where both coughed up the puck, resulting in two Class A scoring chances for Alex DeBrincat, a two-time 41-goal scorer, and only Martin’s heroics kept the puck. The Senators had a 7-1 high threat odds when Rathbone and Bear were 5-5 on the ice.
  • On the other hand, both Rathbone and Bear got assists on the Canucks’ first goal. Rathbone held the puck at the blue line, went D-to-D to Bear on the opposite side, and Bear threw a puck toward the net. The puck went wide, but it hit Bo Horvat, who returned it with a backhand while Cam Talbot was still looking over his shoulder for the puck like a dog whose owner was only pretending to throw a ball (which you don’t should do).
  • The positive mood of tying the game against the flow of the game quickly evaporated when the Senators hit back 16 seconds later. Dakota Joshua couldn’t get the puck out in a fight along the boards and the puck got to former Canuck Travis Hamonic, who slapped a slapshot past Martin. As good as Martin was, that goal, like Alan in Perfect Alan mode, was a stinker.
  • However, Martin was at his best in the second half, making 19 saves, including the toe save against Tkachuk, which was the PITB Transformative Moment of the Game™ (not to be confused, especially in a legal sense, with TSN Turning Point).
  • Martin’s brilliance allowed the Canucks to scrape back into the game, with Ilya “Mix Master” Mikheyev snaking into the offensive zone after a pass from Quinn Hughes and then hitting the net faster than his check could handle Hamonic, alone for a fast Move to the forehand to tie the game against the flow of the game.
  • Horvat put the Canucks ahead early in the third with his 12th goal of the season in just 13 games. Conor Garland won a fight with Hamonic behind the net and focused on Horvat, who was kind of completely exposed up front despite having three Senators players in his general vicinity – General Vicinity, *salutes*.
  • Folks, Bo Horvat has 76 goals this season, which would break the franchise record and put him fifth all-time in the NHL behind Mario Lemieux, Brett Hull and two seasons of Wayne Gretzky. And yet, even with 12 goals in 13 games, he’s still second in the NHL scoring list behind Connor McDavid, who has 14 goals in 14 games, the Tryhard.
  • Brock Boeser was back in the line-up after recovering from hand surgery and it looked like he might have scored his first goal of the season. Shortly after a power play ended, Boeser shot into the net as Ekman-Larsson made a point shot and he appeared to tip the puck. Instead, it was actually typed in by Travis Hamonic — you guessed it — he scored one goal for the Senators and was at least partially responsible for three goals for the Canucks.
  • The Senators regained the power play when Tim Stützle ran straight to the middle to accept a back pass on the give-and-go and move in alone on Martin. Bear left Stützle to chase the puck carrier, thinking he had help behind him, but it was a massively over-aggressive play for the penalty kick. Bear needs to take a page from his cousin, Smokey Bear, and play it safe.
  • The Canucks received a major insurance target from an unlikely source. Jack Studnicka interfered at the forecheck and stole the puck from Thomas Chabot only to immediately hand it to Erik Brannstrom. Luckily, Brannstrom returned the puck right to Studnicka with an absolutely terrifying pass, and Studnicka capitalized on his second opportunity, snapping the puck off Talbot’s glove and into it.
  • Studnicka’s goal was crucial because the Canucks can’t end games without drama. Vasily Podkolzin lifted the puck over the glass in the defensive zone, giving the Senators another power play on the game-delay penalty. Claude Giroux’s shot caught Nils Åman’s racquet as it came off Giroux’s blade, turning the fastball into an off-speed sinker that dived under Martin’s blocker to make it 5-4.
  • That was all the Senators would get, though, although a last-minute turnover from Tyler Myers caused some hairy moments. JT Miller got his racquet on the next shot, grabbed the loose puck and fed Elias Pettersson to the empty goal to seal the game for good.
  • That puts the Canucks 4-1-1 in their last six games, which sounds pretty good as long as you don’t look too closely at how some of those games have been won or lost. The Senators are arguably the only team that’s a bigger mess than the Canucks right now, but a win is a win. It will be a while before Canucks fans feel comfortable with any kind of leadership, but as my husband Zed Necrodopolis says, “Baby steps are still movement.”

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