The story changed on another game ( oh,no! ) at the Excel Energy Center when Jim Benning did what everyone expected, and quickly signed his 2015 1st round ( 23rd overall ) pick. After 43 goals and 94 points in 74 regular season NCAA games with the North Dakota University Fighting Sioux, there was a lot to get excited about. Nice that it worked out that his debut is in his home state. The Burnsville Minnesota native will probably have a lot of family in the stands today. Ditto for Joseph Labate, who has been in the lineup a bit longer, but who will have his home state first today as well.
The other thing a few of our Canuck nation citizens ( no papers needed here, no travel bans or asking about your social media comments at the border here, all are welcome. ) had to get excited about, was the idea of “tanking”. It happens in the NHL markets that math denies the dance to, where we do the reverse look at the standings, checking how the Wings, Coyotes and Devils are doing instead of looking forward to more hockey in spring. There was none of that in the dressing room today, however.
While I am still impressed by how hard this team plays ( that win against the Hawks, for all the shit that happened in that game, the young guys will all look at each other and have that common reference going forward ), and while I do not think that they are “tanking” at all, when you announce you are playing the kids, and then sign one of your top rookies and insert him into the lineup against one of this year’s NHL Western powers, you are certainly giving the better team a chance at getting the points. Unless they play as well as the visitors did today.
- Is it just me, or did this lineup get you excited ? There is a potential for goals from every line. Hell, every line but the Sedin one got on the scoresheet today!
- Let us remember, Willie gets the most out of young players of any coach here since Marc Crawford was teaching the Twins, Bieksa, Edler, Burr and Kes et al on how you do play the game. This game was an example of that. For all the second guessing and whatnot on Willie, his lines, and his team, were well balanced and played wirth speed, heart, and pressure all day, regardless of the record they have. Nothing changes, I guess. Crow was fired here multiple times before April 25th, 2006 sent him on his way.
- It is just me on this one, but I am totally OK with burning a year on the ELC. If he is as good as advertised, then if he has an unctuous negotiation in a couple years because he is as valuable to the team as , say, Johnny Gaudreau is to the Flames, then HELL YES!
- Meh. If he can score at this level like he did in the NCAA , he can wear # 666 and throw the horns after every goal, for all I care about the “debate” on Boeser wearing #6.
- Let the record show that Boeser’s first shot was on Kuemper, ( off the rush, and he showed good speed recovering the puck first ) his first hit was on Marco Scandella to snuff out a puck entry at the line, and his first shift was ceremoniously with the Sedin Twins before he played the first period, very well, with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi. He had a shot and 3 hits, and his nice criss cross at the line with Bo drew the late period power play, as Horvat did his power move to the net and probably would have scored without the Suter slash. ( Brock’s final stats ? 1 goal, 4 shots, 3 hits, and a takeaway in 12:44 TOI. Quite impressive )
- The first period was pretty competitive. Both teams had some chances, it was fast, and intense, with the Canuck rejigged lines all showing well. There is speed, growl, and size on each line, with scoring threats everywhere. That is a good thing. The stats showed a pretty competitive visitor in a rink they usually struggle in. ( See here ). Boeser’s contribution noted above, but fellow UND alum had 2 shots, and Jack Skille had 2 blocks and 2 hits in that first period in 6:58 ( !! ) TOI. His centre was 4 for 6, and Goldobin was noticeable on that line as well. A solid start all around.
- But that second period. WOW. It was maybe the best period the Canucks have played all year. Perhaps the Wild struggling helped that along a tad, but damn, that was fun to watch, on the road in a city that usually produces horror shows.
- They got the scoring started early on the power play, where Troy Stecher made a nice play holding the puck at the line. Reid Boucher helped it along to Bo Horvat, who then tried to feed him in front. There were lots of sticks in a confined space, and Boucher showed good instincts to get a quick shot off the post and in for the opening goal.
- After Parise had a couple of shots ( he had 4 of the Wild’s 8 to the four min mark of the second ), the fourth line got in on the forecheck again. Drew Shore and Labate had almost produced a goal in the first, but Shore got the post at that time. This time, Drew Shore made a slick play at the line, giving Boucher the space to go to the net with Labate. He made a sniper shot top shelf, short side that was so good that it initially was thought to just have went off the post, before the horn sounded to let the game know it was in.
- The 3-0 goal was perhaps a harbinger of things to come, as it showed everything in one play the Canucks hope they have going with their “Killer B’s” line. Sven Baertschi showed his overall game with a solid block at the line, and then a shockingly good back heel of the puck to Boeser, who quickly sent Bo Horvat on a rampage to the net. He beat the defenseman handily, and his shot forced a great save from Kuemper. Brock Boeser then showed those goal scorer’s instincts by not going by the net and driving the puck laying in the crease into the net.
- While the crowd was still settling down from booing the turn of events that saw their really good team down and thoroughly outplayed by the young Canucks, the visitors got an offensive faceoff. Hanzal had been winning a lot of draws to that point, but lost cleanly to Sutter, who drew it perfectly to Jack Skille, who ripped it short side high for a very well executed goal to make it 4-0.
- Daniel Sedin was not taking shit from anyone today. The Sedin line played hard, at both ends, and were good, if not very good, without scoring. But after an easy backhand by Daniel, he went to the corner with Suter, who gave him a healthy shove, while Koivu followed up with a grab around the head from behind. He was physically involved all night, but was even more so after that play, and finished with, according to the stats keeper, no shots ( huh? ) no hits, ( I saw three at least ), no anything on the stat sheet. #ArenaBias ? I’m sure the team noticed.
- Poor Jack Skille. He has been playing some very good hockey when he has gotten in, and his goal was a prime example of the great shot he has, to say nothing of his speed and physical play that were both on display today. He had 3 shots, 3 blocks, and 2 hits in his 10:17 TOI before disaster struck. FTR, it was a clean hit by Coyle, from my view, ( They have some dirty players, like Neiderreiter, and of course, the dirtiest Euro in the NHL in Martin Hanzal, but this was not a dirty hit ), but Skille’s ankle buckled somehow. He was in severe pain on the ice, and is no doubt done for the year. Hope he stays on the fourth line next year.
- Minny pushed back in the third. How could they not ? Boudreau probably peeled the paint in the dressing room between periods. They were the aggressors in the third, but even there, you have to credit the hustle, drive, and effort of the young Canucks. The entire team, every line, was solid in their own end, with good sticks, great hustle plays and reads, and strong physical and positional play. Minny had a few chances, but it was only on a breakdown and a fluke that they got their two goals. They came late, after the Canucks did a superlative job of grinding the hell out of the third period through most of it.
- Before we get to those goals, credit all the players for their effort in a game where the results mean little. A perfect example was after a play in the corner, when Hanzal got the elbow right in the face of the smaller Stecher. Not only did he go right back at the much larger guy and get the puck, but hit Granlund HARD on the next shift for some payback. When you have guys like Daniel Sedin pushing back physically, I guess everyone notices.
- It was Ryan Sutter that got the first goal for the home team, as the Wild did a great job of sustained pressure with a little over three minutes left. With the Sedin line tiring, Hanzal times a screen perfectly, skating through and eclipsing Backman as the Wild’s most expensive defenseman got his first in 17 games on a nice writer.
- The next one gave the home fans a small, small degree of hope, as a shoot in by Brodin took a bounce off a stanchion to the front of the net, where Bachman tried to get his stick on it. He got the perfect amount of the puck to basically direct it right to Stall in the slot, who scored the easy goal to make it respectable.
Respectable is about it. The Wild, in the throes of their busiest time of the year ( 16-17 games in 35 days )continue to struggle, were simply outplayed by a better team today. Maybe not a more talented team, or a team more respected by the experts. Yet. But the Canucks played hard, and deserved to win. Sorry #TankNation . That result, and the way they played today, is worth more than a few ping pong balls. Besides, the Puck Gods won’t respect them if they tank like that. Playing the kids, and playing some great hockey, taking whatever results happen ?
Sure. That is how you do it. They are going to get a good pick regardless, but maybe the Puck Gods will have greater pity on the Left Coast if they don’t try to tank like the Sabres did.
Hell, they played the back up today, against the Wild, one of this year’s powerhouses. What more do you want ?
See you tomorrow for the Jets. Boeser may or not play in that one, depending on visa issues or tiredness from just too much damn hockey in the last few days. He sure looked great playing on adrenaline today. Until then.