SIX WEEKS WITHOUT BO
Horvat out with injury
Fog has fittingly flanked B.C.’s Lower Mainland.
The Vancouver Canucks, who have lost hard-working, point-producing matchup centre Bo Horvat for up to six weeks with a fractured foot, are trying to see their way through a sudden roster fog that is thick with uncertainty.
You simply don’t replace a 10goal, 20-point pivot whose work ethic, net-front presence, faceoff efficiency and special-teams reliability have contributed to keeping the NHL club in playoff contention.
“It’s a big challenge — a big hole,” said Canucks coach Travis Green.
With Brandon Sutter expected to be sidelined another week with a shoulder injury, the Canucks are minus their best shutdown centres and their best faceoff specialists — especially in the defensive zone.
The trickle-down effect Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers was Alexander Burmistrov getting out of press box purgatory to start between Nikolay Goldobin and Brock Boeser.
Here’s what we learned as the Canucks fell 4-1 at Rogers Arena to end their three-game win streak:
BOESER’S PRESENCE FELT
There was early hurry, then a big flurry and a 6-0 shot advantage.
The Flyers, playing their second game in as many nights, needed 7:16 to muster a shot on Jacob Markstrom. There were 15 first-period shots by the Canucks but there wasn’t the net presence or enough finish to beat a Flyers club that is starting to look as good on the ice as it looks on paper.
Without Horvat, the Canucks weren’t beating a path to goalie Brian Elliott. Jake Virtanen made power moves off the wing and got to the net. It was encouraging. He wasn’t stopping short. He even set up shop in front of Elliott and deflected a shot just over the net.
By the third period, he was playing with Burmistrov and Goldobin while Thomas Vanek aligned with Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Loui Eriksson wound up with Brendan Gaunce and Markus Granlund.
However, it was Boeser’s 14th goal of the season that was symbolic because it’s how the Canucks are going to have to play down low without the horse Horvat.
After a sustained flurry and Sven Baertschi trying to end a sevengame goal drought, it was Boeser who muscled his way to the top of the crease, kept his balance and shovelled a loose puck home on the backhand.
It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t highlight-reel worthy. But it was the type of effort that must become commonplace.
Boeser had his good looks in his sweet shooting spot and finished with seven shots. Some heavy. Some not. But his net presence got it done.
CAN POWER PLAY FIND WAY?
From woeful to hopeful.
The Canucks were operating at a pitiful 14.2 per cent efficiency when they faced the Kings in Los Angeles on Nov. 14.
They were 0-for-10 in their previous two outings and when they fell behind 2-0 at the Staples Centre in the first period.
Plodding units had the Sedins with right-shots Thomas Vanek, Sam Gagner and Michael Del Zotto, while Horvat, Baertschi, Boeser, Derrick Pouliot and Ben Hutton formed the second unit. They decided to put Horvat and Boeser with the Sedins and Alex Edler and have Eriksson work with Baertschi, Vanek, Gagner and Pouliot.
Horvat and Baertschi scored on the power play in what would be a 3-2 win.
Since that outing, the Canucks have gone 11-for-30 and were rated 12th overall entering play Thursday. Their 22 power-play goals are just 10 shy of what the club accomplished last season.
Granlund tried to replace Horvat on the first unit and had a chance during an early five-shot powerplay flurry.
But he’s not a net-front guy and that element is missing and difficult to replace.
WHAT’S BUGGING BURMISTROV?
Burmistrov has been called a “wild card” and “rover” by Green.
He was also called a healthy scratch in 10 of the previous 13 games and his get-out-of-jail card came with the injury to Horvat. It’s not how he wanted to re-enter the lineup — and that bugs him — but an uneven game and just one goal in his previous 17 outings wasn’t going to punch his ticket.
Not with symmetry down the middle. And when Sutter returns, Burmistrov has to make the most of this look. It’s up to him to do something with it because Sutter will return between Gaunce and Virtanen and Granlund could easily supplant Burmistrov.
Green gave Burmistrov some rope Thursday, but he didn’t have a shot. He did replace Horvat on the penalty kill and wasn’t on the ice for the two Flyers power-play goals. That’s something, but not enough.
Philadelphia Flyers right winger Wayne Simmonds is stopped by Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom on Thursday night at Rogers Arena. Markstrom stopped 22 of 25 shots he faced in the loss. The Canucks managed 37 shots on net.