Boeser’s win­ning strike not enough to earn him China ticket


Times Colonist - - Sports - JA­SON BOTCHFORD

LOS AN­GE­LES — The Brock Boeser hype train has left the build­ing and all it took was two words: “That re­lease.”

How good was it? If the Chi­nese saw it, their gov­ern­ment would be char­ter­ing a flight right now to get him there for this week’s 2017 NHL China Games, in which the Van­cou­ver Canucks and Los An­ge­les Kings clash in Shang­hai and Bei­jing.

Call it deadly, dan­ger­ous, or just flat out ridicu­lous, it was all NHL. Boeser won the Van­cou­ver Canucks pre­sea­son opener 4-3 in Los An­ge­les on Satur­day with a shot in over­time that fans will be ref­er­enc­ing for the next month as they ar­gue whether or not he should make the team.

From the sounds of it, you can put Jake Vir­ta­nen in the “damn straight” camp.

“You can’t get a shot bet­ter than that — holy,” Vir­ta­nen said. “That has to be one of the best shots I’ve ever seen live. Com­ing down the wing and he just goes shelf. And it was like he’s done it all the time — no cel­e­bra­tion.”

Even Boeser’s re­ac­tion was per­fect. He said he got lucky. He never meant to cut the puck through the de­fender’s legs. Sure.

But Canucks head coach Travis Green loved it.

“Hum­ble kid. Says he got lucky? That’s good,” Green said.

It wasn’t enough to get Boeser to China. The Canucks are tak­ing veter­ans to China.

Some of it is be­cause of head­of­fice pres­sure. The NHL is try­ing to “sell the game.”

Overtly or im­plied, the league made sure the Canucks were keenly aware “a strong vet­eran pres­ence” was re­quired.

But did the Canucks have to go all-in? Was there not room in this ex­pe­ri­ence for a few young play­ers? How about one?

Boeser is the pre­sumed guts of the fu­ture core of the Canucks. The ma­ture goalscor­ing winger with that crazy re­lease was among the Canucks’ most well­rounded play­ers in the fi­nal games of the last sea­son.

If you view the China ex­pe­ri­ence as a car­rot, he earned it. He also had lots to gain from a week spent hang­ing out with guys who could be his team­mates for years. And also the Sedins.

This could be the twins’ last lap, and the sun is set­ting on op­por­tu­ni­ties for them to lead the young play­ers. To some of us, the trip seemed like a big one.

The Canucks, how­ever, see it dif­fer­ently.

“He’s go­ing to be play­ing in games [back in Canada] and he’s go­ing to be a go-to guy,” Van­cou­ver gen­eral man­ager Jim Ben­ning said. “It’s a long flight over there. They don’t get a lot of prac­tice time. They play those two games. His best chance [is] this week and the rest of train­ing camp. He can play 15 to 17 min­utes a night in those games. Play in power-play sit­u­a­tions and show us again what he can do.

“This is go­ing to work out re­ally good. The kids are go­ing to get im­por­tant min­utes in im­por­tant sit­u­a­tions.”

Van­cou­ver’s Brock Boeser, left, and Los An­ge­les’ Adrian Kempe bat­tle for the puck.

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