Thursday January 21 - Vancouver Canucks 4 - Boston Bruins 2
I never would have expected that the Vancouver Canucks could get all the way through a game against the Boston Bruins without a single penalty being awarded, but that's what happened on Thursday night.
And it's not like the game didn't have feeling. The Canucks guaranteed that when they won only their 11th game in franchise history in Boston, beating the Bruins 4-2.
Here are your highlights:
Daniel Sedin's third-period game-winner gave him the franchise record for all-time goals scored and he added an empty-netter to seal the deal. Alex Burrows also scored—for the second straight game. Those goals must still feel special, five years after 2011.
Sven Baertschi scored again too—a dribbler against the flow of the play just 3:27 into the first period, sticking with the play despite being whacked by Kevan Miller after receiving a brilliant feed from Radim Vrbata. Baertschi's now up to nine goals on the year, seven of which have come since December 18.
In the midst of all the discussion about Jonathan Drouin's attitude and whether or not a team should take a chance on an underperforming first-rounder who's acting like he wants his career handed to him on a silver platter, it's interesting to remember that a lot of the same taunts were directed at Baertschi. He lasted into his fourth season before his relationship with the Calgary Flames broke down for good, but look at him now. He's a perfect example of a player who has been revitalized thanks to a little faith and a change in scenery—and his nine goals in 40 games as a Canuck now surpass the eight goals he scored in 69 total games with Calgary.
No signs of entitlement in this quote from last night's Provies
, where Baertschi talks about what he's picking up from Daniel Sedin:
“He’s unbelievable for a young guy like me,” Baertschi said. “He’s who you want to learn from. I watch him every day. It’s pretty much what I spend my days doing.
“At practice, I watch them. They are the best at practice. I see how hard they work. I see how they nail every fitness test.
“He deserves it all.”
Botchford also mentions that Daniel has stepped up his locker-room game with Henrik away from the team. "Without Hank, Daniel was described as being “loud in the locker room” during the team’s pre-game, ensuring everyone was ready for this, ready to go."
The kids are getting the glory, but this hot streak wouldn't be happening without the vets bringing them along. Wasn't that the much-maligned philosophy behind "rebuild on the fly?"
One sign that, for me, the 2011 memories still linger. Both times Boston scored, I thought the game was going to quickly spin out of hand.
Boston's first goal came in the last minute of the second period, after no penalty was called when Chris Tanev was drilled into the boards behind the Vancouver net by Ryan Spooner.
The puck ended up bouncing past Jacob Markstrom off the leg of a disoriented Tanev after he tried to get back into the play. Tanev left the ice after the goal, afraid he'd suffered a back injury, but returned to play in the third period.
Boston's second goal came off the stick of Brad Marchand due to a Jannik Hansen turnover, less than three minutes after Burrows had restored the Canucks lead.
That hurt. But hey—it was also Marchand who gave the puck right back to Hansen two and a half minutes after that, setting up the Chris Tanev shot-and-a-rebound that Daniel popped into the open side for the game winner.
The win gives the Canucks an impressive 3-1-1 record on their current road trip, with one of their easier opponents left to face when they play Pittsburgh on Saturday morning.
San Jose also won last night, beating Arizona 3-1, so the Sharks hold down second place in the Pacific with 51 points and the Canucks are back in third, also with 51 but with three more games played.
If the playoffs started today, we'd be seeing the usual collection of articles from across our great nation debating whether or not the rest of Canada can bear to cheer for the Canucks. Thanks to free fall in Montreal without Carey Price, the Canucks are now the only Canadian team in a playoff position.
The Canucks have already flown to Pittsburgh, where they're practicing today.
Since Saturday's game starts at 9:30 a.m. Pacific Time, I'll set that up now, then check back in with you on Sunday.
There was some talk earlier in the trip that Brandon Sutter might be ready to get back into the lineup to face his old team, but it sounds like that won't be the case.
After the effort we saw in Boston, I have no problem with the Canucks coming back with the same lineup on Saturday:
Rookie Mike Zalewski did just fine in his fourth-line role on Thursday night. He finished the night with 13:19 of ice time—actually one second more than nominal first-line center Jared Mcann as Willie was able to roll his lines for most of the night thanks to the no-penalty situation. Zalewski was a solid 5-for-7 in the faceoff circle against Boston. In fact, the Canucks won the overall battle in the circle for once, succeeding on 54 percent of their draws despite having to line up against one of the best in the league in Patrice Bergeron (who was 13-for-19, like usual). The Canucks centres easily bested David Krejci, Ryan Spooner and, especially, Max Talbot on the fourth line, who was just 5-for-16.
Jake Virtanen also had a good game—back in the lineup for the first time since last Friday in Raleigh. Jake played a responsible game and generated five shot attempts and three hits, including this beauty on Kevan Miller.
Though he didn't contribute on the score sheet, Virtanen was named second star of the game! It was nice to see the fourth line continuing to play in the third period, even after the Canucks got the lead.
The only change we'll see on Saturday is Ryan Miller coming back in for Jacob Markstrom in net.
Markstrom faced a relatively low 30 shots but was excellent on Thursday, especially in the first period when the Canucks were outshot 11-4. It looked like the team was going to be under siege again, but by keeping the door closed until the Canucks got their skates under them, Markstrom set the stage for the win.
As for the Penguins, they'll also be missing the man they acquired when they traded for Sutter. Nick Bonino has been out since Jan. 12 with a hand injury, but stopped by practice today to say hi to his old teammates.
The Penguins' fortunes really haven't changed much since they replaced one former Canucks assistant coach—Mike Johnston—with another one in Mike Sullivan on December 12. When the change was made, Pittsburgh was 15-10-3 and sitting just outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Under Sullivan, they've gone 7-7-4—and are sitting just outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
As always, injuries are an issue in Pittsburgh. Chris Kunitz is the latest player to go down, after suffering a lower-body injury on Thursday's 4-3 win over Philadelphia. He's said to be a game-time decision on Saturday. Kris Letang also missed practice on Friday, but Beau Bennett lined up with Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist and could see his first action since December 14.
It's also funny that Emerson Etem and Carl Hagelin will face each other again on different teams than the ones that initially traded for them, just over six months after the initial deal. Etem, of course, went from the Anaheim Ducks to the New York Rangers, then back to the Western Conference with the Canucks while Hagelin made the opposite journey, traded from the Rangers to the Ducks, then back to Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference last week in a deal that saw David Perron and ex-Canuck Adam Clendening go the other way.
That's now four teams in less than a year for Clendening, who was picked up by Vancouver from Chicago on January 29, 2015, then dealt to the Penguins as part of the Brandon Sutter trade.
Etem has been a good fit on the Canucks' third line while Hagelin has two assists in his first three games with the Penguins.
I'll leave it there for now. Don't forget to set your alarm for Saturday's 9:30 a.m. start time from Pittsburgh!