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Conor Garland bags the game winner as the Canucks spoil Seattle's party

October 24, 2021, 2:48 PM ET [237 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Saturday October 23 - Vancouver Canucks 4 - Seattle Kraken 2

Mission accomplished.

As the Canucks headed out on their season-opening six-game road trip, I figured they'd be in good shape if they could come home with a .500 record, or at least six points in their pocket.

They did one better, going 3-2-1 for seven points after spoiling the Seattle Kraken's home debut on Saturday night.

Great night for Bo Horvat, who earned first-star honours with two big goals and a 16-for-27 performance in the face-off circle.

Great night for Thatcher Demko, who was named second star as he kept his team in the game when they went 16:41 without a shot on goal β€” from Oliver Ekman-Larsson's shot with 5:32 left in the first period all the way to Horvat's first goal with 8:51 left in the second.

From this angle, it's pretty incredible that this desperation swat actually cleared the post, isn't it?

And another great night for Conor Garland, who extended his point streak to six games with an assist on Horvat's first goal and a tremendous individual effort on the game winner with 4:02 left to play in the third period.

Garland's goal stunned the exuberant crowd at Climate Pledge Arena who had paid handsomely (in US dollars) for the opportunity to witness history.

Garland also became the first player ever to start his tenure with the Canucks with a season-opening six-game point streak. And, his eight points so far have him tied for eighth in NHL scoring β€” with J.T. Miller also part of that group.

When Garland was interviewed by Scott Oake on Hockey Night in Canada after the game, I appreciated his humility β€” which came off as sincere, not clichΓ©. Asked if this was the best start of his career, he talked about how the important thing was getting wins for the team. And when asked to describe the little fake that he used to beat Seattle netminder Philipp Grubauer, he immediately copped to the fact that he doesn't have the strongest shot in the world, so he needs to rely on other tools to be successful.

Of course, the enduring moment from this game will be the meme of him staring down the Seattle fan that had been heckling him right before he scored.

ESPN colourman Ray Ferraro was an undersized sniper who was fuelled by hate during his playing days. You can hear the admiration in his voice as he describes this moment β€” a man after his own heart.

Because Garland's game is driven so much by emotion, I figured we wouldn't really see what he's about during preseason. It's impressive that he has been able to capture fans' imaginations so quickly, before he has even played his first real game in front of a home crowd.

I wonder if we'll start seeing fans in Garland jerseys at the Canucks' home opener against Minnesota on Tuesday?

Another thing I like about this start for Vancouver is that it has come despite some adversity. The defensive depth isn't where they hoped it would be in the offseason, when Travis Hamonic was expected to play a top-four role and Olli Juolevi was pencilled in as a depth piece. Yes, Kyle Burroughs has been effective so far, but the Canucks have been forced to lean on Tyler Myers and Tucker Poolman more than they'd probably like. And it's probably no coincidence that the one really bad game on the road trip was the game where Quinn Hughes was out of the lineup with injury. His absence underscored his importance.

And I know people are already sounding the alarm on Elias Pettersson, but I'm not ready to go there.

First off β€”Β he didn't just miss training camp. He missed more than seven months of game action, going back to last year's injury.

Second β€” Brock Boeser's injury has meant that the Lotto Line and the projected first-unit power-play group haven't gotten many reps yet. But with the usual suspects β€” Boeser, Miller, Pettersson, Horvat and Hughes β€” the power-play has now connected in consecutive games. That's something to build off.

Third β€” Pettersson's shooting percentage is a gaudy 17.1% over his career. Even last season, which wasn't his best, he averaged 15.9%. He has been getting chances during the early part of this season β€” a respectable 18 shots over six games β€” but has just one goal, for a 5.6% accuracy rate. And he has actually gotten two-thirds of his shot attempts through to the goal this year, which is higher than his career average of 51.7%.

Give him time. He now has seven straight home games to make the fans pop at Rogers Arena β€” which will be operating at 100% of capacity starting with Tuesday's game against the Wild.

One final feel-good moment to mention before I sign off for today β€” the Abbotsford Canucks did what the Kraken could not, delivering a 3-2 overtime win over the Henderson Silver Knights in their franchise's home opener in front of a sold-out 50% capacity crowd on Friday night.

Madison Bowey scored the overtime winner, while Justin Bailey and John Stevens also scored for Abbotsford. Michael DiPietro picked up his first assist of the year on Bailey's goal, as well as stopping 22 shots, and Danila Klimovich picked up his first AHL assist on Stevens' goal, which tied the game 2-2 at 8:37 of the third period.

Abbotsford and Henderson will face off again on Sunday at 4 p.m. PT. Then, the team will enjoy four days off before hosting a back-to-back set against Ontario next weekend.
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