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Canucks kick off home schedule with electric 6-5 shootout win over the Habs

January 21, 2021, 2:18 PM ET [1096 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Were you not entertained?

I don't imagine the game turned out how Travis Green drew it up, but the Vancouver Canucks untapped their offensive production and kicked off their three-game series with the Montreal Canadiens by picking up two points in their home opener on Wednesday night.

Let's start with the good stuff: special teams.

The Canucks tightened up in terms of discipline, taking just one penalty on the night. Tyler Toffoli did score on that man advantage, but when wasn't Toffoli scoring?

The way this is going, I'm already starting to wonder if Erik Gudbranson is going to light up Rogers Arena next week when the Ottawa Senators come to town...

But back to Wednesday night. The Canadiens gave Vancouver lots of time to practice their power play, taking six minors on the night. And it worked. The Canucks got a pair of power-play goals from Bo Horvat and one from Brock Boeser. And J.T. Miller came out with the ferocity that was his hallmark last season, with two of his three assists coming with the man advantage.

Horvat and Miller were also the two Canucks who beat Carey Price in the four-round shootout. And wow, did Nick Suzuki put on a show as the only Montreal player to get a puck past Braden Holtby.

It was a see-saw game. The Canucks scored first, then responded each time Montreal tied it — until the third period, when Toffoli's hat-trick marker followed a goal by Jesperi Kotkaniemi to put the Canadiens up 5-4 with 3:41 left in regulation.

How great was it to see Boeser answer, just 32 seconds later? That guaranteed the Canucks a much-needed point and set the stage for the eventual shootout win.

Going into the game, I'd been thinking about last year — how the Canucks started the season with two losses in Alberta, but came out on fire in their home opener and beat the Kings 8-2 after that marvellous 50th-anniversary pregame ceremony and the official announcement of Bo Horvat as the team's new captain.

With no fans in the stands, I knew the club wouldn't be able to match that fanfare for this year's home opener. But I was still disappointed that they didn't at least do a full round of player introductions — especially with so many new faces this season. In addition to helping bring casual fans up to speed, I felt like a little pomp and circumstance could have created a positive team-bonding moment, and perhaps helped jack up the players to start well after their disappointing games in Calgary and Edmonton.

To their credit, the Canucks were ready to play from the opening puck drop. But the more the score went back and forth, the more I lamented the lack of fans on hand. Habs Nation is always well represented when their team comes to town, and the emotion of the crowd would have been electric.

Oh well.

Other not-so-good stuff: I was apparently a few days early in expressing my concern over the prospect of an Alex Edler injury.

Edler managed to get past a Matthew Tkachuk skate cut in Calgary last Saturday with no significant damage, but left Wednesday's game in the second period with what has been called an upper-body injury, and did not return.

Sportsnet has video of Edler taking innocuous-looking contact on the end boards from Arturri Lehkonen, which wasn't even credited as a hit.

But in my alternate universe watching the Flyers, I've seen some similar plays cause pretty significant damage. Sean Couturier's out for at least a couple of weeks after a hit that looked like nothing caused a rib injury. On Tuesday, defenseman Philippe Myers also suffered a rib injury, and Morgan Frost is now on IR with a dislocated shoulder — also from a hit that didn't seem like much.

No amount of offseason skating or even scrimmages can prepare players' bodies for the kind of contact that they deal with in real game situations. All we can do is hope that Edler's issue isn't too serious.

Making matters worse, Travis Hamonic was also lost to the Canucks for the last six minutes of the third period and overtime. Given that the Canucks finished the game with four defensemen, and one of them was raw rookie Jalen Chatfield, it probably shouldn't be a huge surprise that the shots were 6-1 in the third after Hamonic went down — the only Vancouver shot was Boeser's tying goal. Then, Montreal outshot Vancouver 6-0 in overtime.

It was a bit of a lucky win, wasn't it?

With the back-to-back games — and an earlier-than-usual puck drop at 6:30 on Thursday night — the Canucks are not skating on Thursday morning. Travis Green is expected to address the media a couple of hours before gametime, but he's always so cagey with injury updates. I imagine we'll have to wait till warmup to see who's available, and how he re-works his pairings if Edler and/or Hamonic aren't able to go.

Given the circumstances, Chatfield had a pretty solid debut. In 15:30 of ice time, he managed two hits, two shot attempts and one block, and was on the ice for just one goal against — Brendan Gallagher's goal, late in the second period, when he was out with Quinn Hughes. He started the game with Edler, but was used with everybody as the game went on and Nolan Baumgartner's options became more limited.

Other blueliners who are around if Green chooses to use them: Jordie Benn, who's now out of Covid jail and has had a couple of skates with the team, as well as taxi squadders Brogan Rafferty and Jack Rathbone, and Olli Juolevi.

The Canucks also announced on Tuesday that, as rumoured, they've reached an agreement to stash three players with the AHL's Manitoba Moose, instead of sending them to Utica.

By staying in Canada, defenseman Ashton Sautner, forward Tyler Graovac and goalie Arturs Silovs will be available to the team after briefer quarantine requirements than if they were across the border in Utica.

Enjoy the game!
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