The Boeser era begins in earnest
Rookie forward breathes life into lacklustre Canucks power play in season debut
The Vancouver Canucks lost their second straight in Brock Boeser’s season debut. This one was a 4-2 win by the Winnipeg Jets, who scored three straight goals in the first and second periods.
What follows is what we learned.
Canucks are going to need more from the Horvat line
Three games in and Vancouver’s best line has the Sedins on it and its most consistent goal-scorer is Chris Tanev. To paraphrase John Tortorella, this is good for the Sedins and Tanev, but not the Canucks.
This year’s team is supposed to be transitioning from the dark and drab final chapter of Willie Desjardins to a brighter future, one with more offence and, in turn, entertainment.
To accomplish that, the 37-yearold Sedins are going to need some help. That help is going to have to come from a line with Bo Horvat on it and probably Sven Baertschi.
Those are the two players the Canucks need to take the biggest steps this season and both were held in check Thursday by the Jets.
Markstrom deserves a long leash in net
Before the game against the Jets, the best guess had Anders Nilsson getting his first start on Oct. 20, when the Canucks play the second of back-to-back games in Buffalo.
That could change, but it probably shouldn’t.
Jacob Markstrom was never afforded the opportunity under the former head coach to develop what just about any goalie needs for sustained success: A rhythm. He should be given that opportunity now. The Canucks should show him this year will be different. They should show him they believe in him.
Really good in his first two starts, he was not in the third. It shouldn’t all fall on him. The Canucks struggled to contain the Jets attack, which is going to happen more than a couple of times this season
That said, for the third straight game Markstrom was beat for a goal that was optically ugly. This time it was a sharp-angled Tyler Myers shot that slipped by him. But Markstrom was dealing with a 2-on-1 and Myers’ shot was ridiculously good.
Boeser made a big difference and did so immediately
History will decide who was right. The fans who so desperately wanted Boeser to start the season on the ice or the coach who wanted to wait patiently for the right spot for the rookie.
On Thursday, both looked right. Boeser breathed life into the corpse that is the Canucks’ power play. Bad for years, it did not look improved under new head coach Travis Green.
In two games, it was 1-for-11. That period of time, of course, will now be referred to as “Before Boeser.”
Because it took all of one power play for him to change the dynamic. Taking a pass from Thomas Vanek, Boeser didn’t panic high in the slot. With time, he relaxed the puck and fired a terrific shot, creating a rebound for Daniel Sedin to bang into the net.
Yes, he had the type of time and space players rarely see in the NHL. But there was a lot of pressure on Boeser in this game. He’d been the story not only here, but nationally. He could have understandably been anxious and rushed his shot. He did not.
In a second period power play, Boeser got off another NHL-calibre shot.
For years, the Canucks have lacked someone on their power play who can shoot like that. It sure looks like they have that someone now.
It’s Pouliot time
The Canucks had been looking for a game to start the newly acquired, puck-moving defenceman. It doesn’t seem like they have to look anymore.
Attempting to rub out Mark Scheifele along the boards, Alex Edler twisted up his legs, left the game and never returned.
There had been discussion about who Derrick Pouliot would replace in the lineup. One of the candidates was Troy Stecher, who played just 3:45 in Thursday’s first period and 14:32 for the game.
But maybe that doesn’t mean Stecher can breathe easy. He has the skill set to thrive in the new system, but so far that hasn’t happened.
Boeser has the personality to handle Vancouver’s market
Crisis? What crisis?
The hyperbolic panic which appeared to engulf Vancouver like a provincewide fog when Boeser didn’t play the first two games just rolled off the 20-year-old.
This is a player whose dad has Parkinson’s disease, a player who lost a good friend in a fatal car accident.
Not playing a couple of games to start his rookie NHL season is least in comparison.
“I guarantee you he just used the whole situation as motivation. He’s a pretty mature kid, he’s been through a lot in his life,” said Troy Stecher, Boeser’s teammate now and when they were at the University of North Dakota.
“This is one of those times where I just told him to relate this to life. You’ve overcome so much if you don’t just look at the hockey part.
“It’s pretty remarkable how far he’s come.”
Winnipeg Jets forward Shawn Matthias fires a shot at Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom Thursday at Rogers Arena as the host Canucks lost 4-2 to Winnipeg in Brock Boeser’s season debut. The rookie Boeser assisted on Daniel Sedin’s game-opening goal.