Boeser and Demko shine as the Canucks down the Kings
Friday November 18 - Vancouver Canucks 4 - Los Angeles Kings 1
With the entire hockey world watching the only game on Friday night's NHL schedule — or at least, as many of them as were willing to stay up for a 10 p.m. ET start — the Vancouver Canucks engineered back-to-back wins for just the second time this season when they took down the Los Angeles Kings by a score of 4-1 at Rogers Arena.
Brock Boeser scored his first two goals of the season, including the game winner midway through the second period on the power play. And how nice was it to see the relief on his face when that puck went into the net?
Elias Pettersson scored the other two goals. And in the midst of all the turmoil around the Canucks this season, he’s now up to 22 points for the year, tied for ninth in scoring with four other players. Out of that group, Tage Thompson and Jesper Bratt have been getting the lions’ share of attention this season. While Canucks fans know that Pettersson has been solid and consistent all year long, I think he's flying under the radar a bit from a league-wide perspective. And I'll admit, I'm a little surprised to see that Artemi Panarin and Matthew Tkachuk are also at that 22-point threshold. I would not have pegged those five as having similar seasons so far.
Friday was also a huge night for Thatcher Demko. He came out with swagger and looked confident while stopping 37 of 38 shots — and even got some help from the officials with a couple of quick whistles along the way.
At last, Demko records his first game of the year with fewer than three goals allowed, and gets his second win of the year (and first on home ice). With any luck, his recent struggles have been more mental than physical, and he’ll now be able to find his rhythm — especially with a lighter travel schedule on the horizon. Between now and Christmas, the Canucks will play nine of their 15 games on home ice, and won’t venture further east than the Mountain Time Zone.
Also, let's give a shoutout to Curtis Lazar. He returned to action after missing 10 games with a hand injury and did exactly what the Canucks signed him to do. On a night where Vancouver out-hit Los Angeles 30-14, Lazar led the way with seven hits, including some bone-crunchers in the first period. He set the tone in the game, and perhaps discouraged the Kings from becoming fully engaged, two nights after they eked out an impressive win over Edmonton.
And it's interesting — even as the Kings are on the upswing, they're still having trouble with Vancouver. Since returning to regular divisional play last season, the Canucks now hold a 3-0-1 edge in head-to-head action against Los Angeles.
As well as delivering a second-straight win, the Canucks' penalty kill was also perfect for the second-straight game. It helps when the players don't spend too much time in the box. Just two minors were issued against the home side on Friday, following three penalties in Buffalo last Tuesday. For the moment, the Canucks have actually moved out of the league basement on the penalty kill, with their 65% success rate half a percentage point above Anaheim. And for perhaps the first time this season, their team goals-against average has dipped below four. They're still 30th, but have improved to 3.89.
We really didn’t hear a peep from L.A.’s offensive forces like Kevin Fiala or Gabriel Vilardi on Friday, either. The Kings did outshoot the Canucks 38-25, but they were led by six shots from Adrian Kempe and four each from Matt Roy, Trevor Moore and Carl Grundstrom. Blake Lizotte scored the opposition’s only goal of the night, pulling the Kings to within a goal late in the second period. But — I feel strange saying this — when no lead has felt safe, the outcome of this game didn’t feel like it was in doubt after Pettersson opened the scoring against the flow of the play, early in the middle frame.
So — standings check.
This has been a dangerous endeavour for much of the year. But we are now a week away from American Thanksgiving, so it’s worth taking a peek.
After Friday’s win, the Canucks remain in 13th place in the Western Conference, with a 6-9-3 record and a .417 points percentage. But as I’ve mentioned previously, the results in the West have been so topsy-turvy this season that Vegas is the only team that has truly separated itself from the pack. The Golden Knights are first in the Pacific with 28 points. But going into Saturday's games, the fourth-place team in the West is Edmonton. Their 178 points are just three more than Vancouver, although with one fewer game played.
The teams currently below Vancouver probably belong there: San Jose, Arizona and Anaheim. But six teams are three points or less above them — and that’s where the intrigue lies. The Oilers, Predators, Blues, Flames, Wild and Blackhawks have also shown vulnerabilities of their own this season. And Nashville and St. Louis are currently demonstrating how quickly a team can rebound this early in the year. After a dismal start, the Preds have won their last three games and are now sitting in the second wild-card spot with 17 points. Meanwhile, the Blues have bounced out of their eight-game losing streak with five-straight wins.
For the Canucks, the bad news is that they don’t get another chance to collect points until Monday — and they’ll face the 14-4-0 Golden Knights at that time. But the good news is that they get another two days to rest up from the road trip and work on some things before Vegas comes to town. The Golden Knights are also playing in Edmonton on Saturday, in the much-ballyhooed revival of the McDavid vs. Eichel narrative, while the Canucks are scheduled for an off-ice workout on Saturday.
Finally — I have to say that I like the new Reverse Retros a lot better now that the Canucks have gotten a win in them!