Weekly Canucks Report: Week of March 20-26
Who Had a Good Week:
Brock Boeser- A storybook beginning to what the Canucks hope will be a legendary career. Boeser came exactly as advertised, with a hard and heavy shot and the hockey sense to know how to use it. The criticisms of Boeser’s skating seem a bit overblown, as Boeser doesn’t seem to have much trouble keeping up with Horvat and Baertschi. The instant chemistry with those two is just bonus.
Reid Boucher- Boucher continues to deliver no matter what sort of opportunity he is given. Willie Desjardins doesn’t seem to be his biggest fan, but there’s a lot to like about his lethal shot and his ability to fire it from tight quarters. Scoring two goals from the fourth line against Minnesota was extremely impressive. A must re-sign now.
Sven Baertschi- Baertschi has finally become comfortable in a top-6 position, and his creativity is starting to show on a regular basis. His amazing soccer play on Boeser’s first career goal is good evidence of this. It seems that Horvat and Baertschi take turns driving the play, and that makes them a tough line to play against.
Bo Horvat- Horvat had a bit of a slow start to the week, but he really came alive once Boeser was added to his line. Horvat cracked 50 points this week, and by no means does it look like he’s topped out quite yet.
Chris Tanev- After looking pretty shaky the week before, with rumours swirling about his health, Tanev turned around and delivered one of his best weeks of the season. He was his usual slow and steady self, but also made some noticeable defensive plays by winning some tough battles. He managed to chip in a couple of assists, and even stuck up for Jack Skille when he was hit by Charlie Coyle, chasing the much larger forward all the way down the ice.
Richard Bachman- Bachman is starting to gain a reputation for shutting down high octane offense. Bachman was great against the Wild, and what more could you want from a third-string goaltender?
Who Had a Rough Week:
Jack Sille- Poor Jack Skille. He finally returned to the lineup after nearly having his role usurped, actually looked pretty good, and was then promptly injured again. This likely hurts Skille’s chances of being re-signed, unfortunately.
Nikolay Goldobin- Goldobin was fairly invisible this week. That’s probably a combination of his recovery from illness and a severe lack of ice time, but it would be great if he could string together some production during the last couple weeks of the season.
The line of Sven Baertschi, Bo Horvat, and Brock Boeser sure looks like a future first line. The aptly-nicknamed BoBoBae line is sure to keep things interesting in Vancouver for the foreseeable future.
Reid Boucher now has to be a priority to re-sign. His hot play late in the season might remind some of Emerson Etem, who played his way into a contract last year and then played himself right out of the NHL in October, but that’s still a risk you have to take every time. Few would claim that re-signing Etem hurt the team, or that they shouldn’t have taken the chance.
Keeping Boucher around will create a bit of a winger glut going into next season. The Canucks have already signed Baertschi, Boeser, Daniel Sedin, Loui Eriksson, Markus Granlund, and Nikolay Goldobin for next year, each of whom will be looking for a top-6 spot. That’s not even considering Anton Rodin, who is still ghosting around, and whoever the Canucks draft in the 2017 first round. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem. Even the ranks below the top-9 are stocked up, with Derek Dorsett, Joe LaBate, and Joseph Cramarossa all likely to return, and the re-signing of either Michael Chaput or Jayson Megna for expansion purposes a near-certainty.
It might be time to retire this section for the season, as the Canucks don’t really have much to lord over the other teams than a draft position. They did top the 65 point barrier, but that doesn’t make too much of a difference in the end. At the very least, the antics of Eugene Melnyk in Ottawa ensures that the Canucks will never hold the title of worst ownership in Canada.
Canuck fans can prepare themselves for some vicarious schadenfreude via the NHL playoffs. Imagine the satisfaction of watching Alex Burrows and the Ottawa Senators knock off the Maple Leafs, or of seeing Jannik Hansen and the San Jose Sharks taking out the cocky Oilers en route to a Stanley Cup (and a free draft pick for the Canucks).
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Utica Comets played three games in three days this weekend. That’s right, lately the Comets are essentially working the same hours as a high-school student with a part-time job.
Utica began on Friday with a visit to Albany, which is still shockingly the capital of New York state. The game was a dull affair, with Carter Bancks scoring the only Comet goal in regulation, unassisted. Thatcher Demko led the team through overtime with 33 saves, before shutting out all opponents in the shootout. Chad Billins and Darren Archibald scored in the shootout to give Utica a 2-1 win.
Perhaps tired from the night before, the Comets dropped an embarrassing 5-1 defeat to the Syracuse Crunch, their most frequent opponent. Demko was in net again, and still made 28 saves, but it was not enough. Former Comet Cory Conacher sniped two of his own, and added an assist. Mike Zalewski had the lone Utica goal, assisted by Billins and Pascal Pelletier. The Comets only put up 21 shots, three of which came from Jake Virtanen.
The Comets made it three arenas in three nights with a visit to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday. Michael Garteig finally got into the net to give Demko a much-needed rest. Archibald opened up the scoring, assisted by Evan McEneny and Cody Kunyk, but this would just Utica’s third goal in the last nine periods of hockey. Garteig made 31 saves, but it was not enough, as the Penguins prevailed 2-1 on a third period goal. Potential signee Zach Aston-Reese got an assist for the Pens.
Bits and Bobs:
-What a start for Brock Boeser. If you’re like me and appreciate the fantastic storylines that can come out of hockey, you couldn’t ask for a better debut. Less than 24 hours after an intense double-overtime elimination game, in his home state, with his parents announcing the lineup, and then he scores a goal. After all Boeser has had to deal with in his short life, it’s great to see that the Legend of Brock is already off to a great start.
-I didn’t come up with this stat myself, GoldenHawk07 did, but Boeser played 11 periods in 48 hours in three cities for two teams this weekend. That is just insane.
-Sticking with the Minnesota game, I mentioned Brad Marchand last week as an all time Canuck killer. An elbow to the face of Troy Stecher reminded me that Martin Hanzal is also a good candidate for the list, albeit for different reasons. Who could forget the time he injured three Canucks in one game? The man’s a menace, but you rarely hear his name discussed as a league-wide dirty player, which makes me wonder if he saves all his malice for the Canucks.
-The Utica Comets are on quite a run, and have turned a miserable season around into a hunt for the playoffs. This is despite the team being ransacked by injuries and disease outbreaks at the NHL level, and spending the majority of their season without designated vets like Jayson Megna and Michael Chaput. Some folks had soured on the possibility of replacing Willie Desjardins with Travis Green, but I have to wonder whether Utica’s resurgence has more people hopping back on the Travis-Train. I, for one, would love to see him given a shot.
-Speaking of next year, the NHL announced that the Canucks and Kings will be playing two preseason games in China this coming September. This harkens back to the Canucks facing off against the Ducks in Japan back in the 90s, and is sure to be a memorable experience. I’m personally looking forward to staying up late to watch. Middle-of-the-night hockey rules!
-Before anyone says it, Troy Stecher’s injury will likely not mean an audition for Jordan Subban. Philip Larsen is still kicking around, and Utica are in the middle of a tight playoff race. Better to leave Subban down on the farm to play meaningful games.
-With seven games remaining, the Canucks are in a dogfight with New Jersey for the third-last spot in the standings, and thus the third-best chances in the draft lottery. Colorado has long since sewed up last place, and the Coyotes seem unlikely to make up the six point difference between them and the Canucks.
-The third position in the lottery draft would be equivalent to what the Canucks had last year, but they would have to share that slot with Las Vegas, lessening their chances. Still, this gives the Canucks a 10% shot at first overall, and that’s something.