1) Give the Vancouver Canucks credit. They backed up arguably their best period of the season in the second period on Saturday in Winnipeg with another solid effort in the third. That was important because we had seen on a few occasions already this season the Canucks let down their guard after a promising period. On Saturday night, in the opener of a six-game road trip, the Canucks were all business as they held the Jets in check outshooting them 15-5 in the second period and 16-6 in the third. The 24 shots they surrendered on the night was a season-low, it was the first time they held any of their first 11 opponents under 30 on the night and was the first time since opening night in Edmonton that they outshot their opponent. The Canucks looked structured almost all of the night save for a frantic final five minutes of the first period. Otherwise, they did a terrific job of keeping the Jets at bay offensively and limiting chances in front of Thatcher Demko. Winnipeg’s top line of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Kyler Connor accounted for just four shots on the night. That trio was outshot 9-4 at even strength and was on the ice for the Canucks first two goals of the game. The Canucks won the battle of the top lines and they won the hockey game.
2) The biggest storyline heading into the game was the Jets absolute dominance over the Canucks over the past six seasons. Winnipeg had won 14 of 15 head to head meetings including the past 10. The numbers were even worse in Winnipeg where the Canucks had scored just nine times in their last nine visits. So it was important that the Canucks kicked some sand back at their bullies. They play the Jets nine times on the season and there’s reason to believe both teams will be in a battle to the finish line for a playoff spot in the Division. The longer the Canucks went without beating the Jets, the longer that black cloud of doom would hang over them. It was a line of questioning to Travis Green and the players prior to the game and would have continued to hang over them with each subsequent loss. So the Canucks did what they had to do. They flipped the script in the first meeting of the year which not only earns them the early leg up on the Jets in the season series, but allows the Canucks the peace of mind to know they can beat their nemesis. It was a long time coming, but the blueprint is in place and the Canucks now have a template to follow the next time they see the Jets.
3) Further to finding a way to beat the Jets, it was probably important for the Canucks to get a pair of quick goals against Connor Hellebuyck. Had this game worn on without anything to show for their efforts, the Canucks may have had last year’s Vezina trophy winner setting up shop in their heads. Instead, Brock Boeser scores just 29 seconds after the opening face-off and Nils Hoglander scored what turned out to be the game winner giving the Canucks a 2-1 lead 8:17 into the first period. For a team that had scored just two times in its last four trips to Bell MTS Place, the Canucks had two goals before the first period reached the midway mark. It was the start the team was looking for to the game and to its six-game road trip. The Canucks are now 6-1 when they score first this season and have opened the scoring in each of the games on their four game win streak.
4) The 2021 Brock Boeser redemption tour is off to an incredible start. Just 11 games into the season, Boeser leads the National Hockey League in goals with eight. He has four of his goals in the past two games and continues to score in bunches with four two-goal games on the season. More than the goals themselves, though, is the varied way he is scoring. Known as a shooter, Boeser has beaten goalies with his powerful shot this season. But on Thursday against Ottawa, he showed finesse from the down low spot on the power play. On the opening goal Saturday, he corralled a bouncing puck in the slot and pulled the puck to his backhand to beat Hellebuyck. It was the second backhand goal of his eight. Boeser is rounding out his arsenal which should add to his confidence and ultimately make him more dangerous. If he remains unpredictable it will just make him that much harder to defend and more difficult for goalies to read.
5) Coaches always talk about the process. Nils Hoglander’s goal was a big one. It restored the Canucks lead after the Jets had tied the game 1-1. And, as it turned out, it stood as the game winner. But even if the young Swede hadn’t scored, the post-game discussion would still have centred on the process that led to his third goal of the season. With his power and persistence, Hoglander generated an initial scoring chance by beating Josh Morrissey wide and then taking the puck hard to the net. Undeterred, he was just getting warmed-up on the sequence. As the Jets regained possession and tried to move the puck up ice, Hoglander held the puck in the offensive zone with a great read and reaction at the blueline. He then beat Morrissey again in a puck battle along the boards and, with some help from Tanner Pearson, got the puck behind the net. Sure, there was some good fortune as Bo Horvat’s centering pass bounced off the top of the Jets net confusing Connor Hellebuyck momentarily. But Hoglander never lost sight of the puck, swooped to the goal mouth and bunted the puck out of mid air on his backhand. It was another incredible shift from Hoglander who just continues to prove he not only belongs at this level, but is the catalyst on that line on many shifts. His motor was revving, his hand-eye co-ordination was spot on and if wasn’t for Brock Boeser and all of his offence, Hoglander’s start to the season would probably be getting more attention. As it is, he’s quickly making a name for himself as much for his hard work as his point procurement.
Vancouver Canucks reporter
TSN 1040 Sports Radio