7:00 PST - Rogers Arena, Vancouver, B.C.
TV: SNP, Radio: Sportsnet 650
At last, the moment all Canucks fans have been waiting for.
After two straight healthy scratches and days of Canucks fans scrolling through angry reactions on Twitter, Brock Boeser will make his long-awaited season debut.
It was a surprise to everyone around the league that Boeser was scratched during the Canucks first game. For a club who struggled mightily to score last season, it was bad optics to scratch one of your most talented players for the first game of the season.
In Travis Green’s defence, he offered a good rationale.
Boeser might have had a good preseason, but it’s hard hard to argue against Green’s assessment that Boeser got slower as the preseason went on. In that last game against the Edmonton Oilers, he had zero shots and zero shot attempts.
Current Canucks Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher slowed down during their rookie seasons after making the jump from college to the NHL. Even if they do play more minutes on defence, there’s a big difference when you jump from 40 to 80 games per season.
Green has mentioned that he has the intention to play Boeser in 60-70 games. If Boeser plays up to his Calder potential, it’s going to be difficult to sit him for another 12-20 games.
There were high hopes for the Winnipeg Jets coming into the season. Their top-six on offence is arguably one of the best in the league. They have some pretty talented young defenceman as well, even with Dustin Byfuglien set to miss tonight’s game.
Even if the Jets lose, Byfuglien can be happy with his recent trip to B.C.
Maybe he’ll huck it on the ice from the rafters if the Jets win.
The Jets problem is still their goaltending and coaching. Steve Mason has gotten off to a miserable start with 11 goals against in two games. Their powerplay also went 0-8 in the home opener and their penalty kill is currently last in the NHL at 66.7%.
After two terrible games, the Jets righted the ship with a victory over the Edmonton Oilers. Connor Hellebuyck could be the real deal in goal after a mediocre season last year, and he gets the nod versus the Canucks tonight.
After two games, the Canucks still haven’t lost in regulation. Cue the parade!
The Canucks played an exciting and up-tempo game versus the Oilers, but they lost part of that against a tight, defensive Ottawa Senators team. Even though the Sens are lauded as a defense-first team, the Canucks still gave up 40+ shots.
At even-strength, the Canucks are still performing like an inferior team. Only the Sedin twins and Jake Virtanen have a scoring chances for percentage above 50%, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Ehlers vs virtanen tonight— Tanbir From Surrey (@TRana87) October 12, 2017
Now, there’s talk that Virtanen could sit tonight in place of Boeser. That doesn’t make much sense against a physical Jets team, especially since he’s looked good through two games.
He wasn’t perfect. Virtanen did miss the net a few too many times and he did give the puck away in his own zone in the third period against the Sens. However, he’s actually noticeable on the ice in terms of creating chances and being physical. You can’t say the same about Sam Gagner, Alex Burmistrov or Loui Eriksson through the first two games.
Perhaps former Jet Burmistrov will be motivated to play against the team who drafted him eighth overall and then waived him last year.
The players who do suit up will look to turn the Canucks recent fortunes around against the Jets. The Jets have won six of their last seven games against the Canucks, with the only loss being a 4-1 defeat at the MTS Centre, right before Christmas last year.
Game Day Battle Hymn
While some lucky Jets players got spend their day catching sturgeon in B.C., the rest of the players suiting up tonight were stuck practicing and prepping for Game Three of an 82-game season.
I wonder if Byfuglien and Matt Hendricks will jam out to Shap Rapp’s 1996 song “U Can’t Catch Fish” when they meet up with their teammates prior to tonights game. Maybe the young Canucks are also hoping that the Jets can’t catch the orcas.
Don’t hold your breath.