Not all wins are the same. For some, there’s a level of satisfaction that differs from others, and last night’s 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators was, for me at least, one of the most enjoyable of the season.
With Bo Horvat and Conor Garland unavailable thanks to this f’ing virus, Bruce Boudreau was forced to do some line shuffling, and it couldn’t have worked out much better, especially for Elias Pettersson. After a convincing performance against Washington paired with Bo Horvat, Pettersson, who was playing on the wing was shifted back to center, between Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Hoglander. That line was an absolute beast, giving Nashville’s vaunted defence fits all evening long, especially after they combined (along with a fantastic pass from Thatcher Demko to start the play) for the tying goal in the second period.
Nashville’s one of those ‘heavy hockey’ teams. Big, physical and grinding, they’re able to wear down good teams, and take advantage of mistakes. The Canucks, often accused of lacking in the physicality department, absolutely refused to back down against the team with the most fights so far this season, as Tyler Myers and Kyle Burroughs both squared off against Preds players. I have to say, it sure doesn’t seem to take much to set Nashville off, as clean, unassuming hits both led to Michael McCarron and Tanner Jeannot challenged Myers and Burroughs to scraps. The Myers/McCarron tussle was a draw, but Burroughs clearly got the better of Jeannot.
Thatcher Demko was rock solid again for the Canucks, though he was beaten cleanly by Philip Tomasino on that first period power play for the Preds. Oliver Ekman-Larsson should have done more on that play, but Demko’s got to stop that shot. Apart from that, he was dialed in yet again.
Brock Boeser garnered first star honours last night, with the GWG, five shots on goal and a two-way game that he really needs to be getting more credit for. Another big factor in last night’s win was the Canucks forcing turnovers. The Preds coughed up the puck nineteen times, compared to just four giveaways for the Canucks. Speed and relentless forechecking can pay dividends, and Bruce Boudreau has this team moving in the right direction defensively. If they can sort out the ongoing penalty kill issues, they just might keep themselves in the hunt, as crazy as it sounds.
I also want to talk about the defensive pairing of Quinn Hughes and Tucker Poolman last night. While Hughes continues to be morphing into an elite rearguard, Poolman has struggled often this year. Last night though, they were solid, and Poolman put forth one of his best nights since signing as a free agent last summer. And when I say Hughes is elite, I mean he may even be underrated with how good he’s been this year:
Hughes led the Canucks with three takeaways last night, and was on the ice for all three goals. Time to start inserting his name into the Norris Trophy discussion already.
And with that win, the Canucks now head home for a massive three game set against the Florida Panthers on Friday, St Louis Blues on Sunday, and a crucial Pacific Division matchup against the floundering Edmonton Oilers Tuesday night before heading back out on the road. Thanks to the postponements in December, the Canucks played their last nine on the road, coming out of it with a 5-3-1 record, which certainly takes the sting out of the three losses at the beginning of this 5 game swing. We’ll be getting an announcement soon on the replacement dates for postponed games that will fill what would have been the Olympic break.
AROUND THE NHL
It was a perfect night in Boston last night. The Bruins raised Willie O’Ree’s #22 to the rafters in a moving ceremony to honour the groundbreaking pioneer, then proceeded to absolutely stink up the joint, getting embarrassed 7-1 by the Carolina Hurricanes. Perfect.
As far as game winning goals go this year, they won’t get any weirder than Mark Jankowski’s last night for the Buffalo Sabres in their 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. And when I say weird, I mean ‘What the actual hell are the officials doing in this game allowing this goal to stand?’ because there’s no way play should have continued.
Pierre-Luc Dubois sent it to OT with 1:05 remaining, but Tom Wilson had the OT winner as Washington beat the Jets 4-3. Cole Perfetti had his first NHL goal for the Jets in this one, and Alex Ovechkin scored his league leading 27th. Dmitry Orlov will have a hearing with DoPS today for this gross knee on knee hit on Nikolaj Ehlers.
Christian Dvorak had a pair to help the Montreal Canadiens to a big 5-3 win in Dallas over the Stars last night. Samuel Montembault was fantastic for the Habs, stopping 48 Dallas shots for his first win since Nov 20th. Jonathan Drouin was given 5 and a game for crosschecking in this one, and I have absolutely no idea why he’s not getting a hearing for this one today.
The Bruins weren’t the only team that got clowned last night, as the Calgary Flames dummied the Florida Panthers 5-1 in Calgary. The Canucks host the Panthers on Friday night at Rogers Arena.
(Content warning: sexual assault)
The details of Reid Boucher’s guilty plea earlier this week to sexually assaulting a 12 year old girl from the family he was billeting with in 2011 continue to frustrate and outrage, and surprise, surprise: there’s a USA Hockey angle and it makes it even worse.
The victim told friends in 2011 about the assault and a friend's parent contacted USA Hockey, according to a police report obtained by The Free Press.— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) January 15, 2022
Boucher was removed by USA Hockey from his billet home, The FP reported.
He played for the US in the U-18 worlds weeks later.
Sarnia Sting President Bill Abercrombie wants answers about why sex abuse allegations involving Reid Boucher were "kept quiet from everybody."— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) January 19, 2022
Boucher played for Sting in 2011-12 ... after USA Hockey "proactively" pulled him from a billet home in Michigan.https://t.co/0GfzvlznB2
Boucher’s sentencing hearing is set for Jan 31st.