When the Canucks named Bo Horvat their new captain, it was a relatively understated moment. It wasn’t a grand ceremony: the team just brought out their first and most recent captains, Orland Kurtenbach and Henrik Sedin. The jersey was delivered by Ron Schute, who has been a stick boy/locker room attendant with the team since the 1960-61 season when he was 13 years old and the Canucks were in the WHL. Then Al Murdoch announced Horvat’s name and the arena erupted.
Schute also delivered the jersey when Henrik was named captain, making this not just a nice moment, but a new tradition.
Before Horvat was named captain, however, there was plenty of pageantry, including new videos, on-ice graphics, music, lights, and a weird pause where the drummers kept a beat going waiting for the television broadcast to start. The weird pause probably wasn’t part of the show, but it was weirdly uncomfortable, so that was good. It’s nice to have some awkwardness before the game.
Then the Canucks introduced their roster, but they didn’t just introduce their current roster; the current players were interspersed by Canucks alumni representing each decade of Canucks hockey: Dennis Kearns, Stan Smyl, Kirk McLean, Todd Bertuzzi, and Daniel Sedin.
They were all wearing their era-appropriate jerseys and stood with the team and it was amazing to see. There was Kearns, with his wooden stick and helmetless flow; Smyl in the golden yellow flying-V; McLean in his classic ‘94 getup, mask and all; Bertuzzi in the original orca; Daniel with the “Vancouver” wordmark still emblazoned over the orca.
The crowd response was enormous, particularly for Bertuzzi, who got a bigger cheer even than Elias Pettersson. The Canucks have been understandably hesitant to include Bertuzzi in much of anything over the years, but the Vancouver fanbase still loves Big Bert and it was a surreal moment seeing him back on the ice.
According to Travis Green, all five players visited the Canucks locker room before the game, giving the team a chance to connect with the history of the franchise. It was truly special to see them out on the ice with the current team to kick off the 50th anniversary season on home ice.
Also, the Canucks played a hockey game, which was very unexpected. I thought I was just at Rogers Arena to watch a new captain get named, but after that, I watched this game.
- The Canucks scored eight goals in this game, so there’s no time to waste: let’s get to the goals.
- It seems extra special that the first goal at the home opener came off the stick of rookie Quinn Hughes. It felt like an echo of Elias Pettersson’s first NHL goal, which came on opening night in Rogers Arena against the Calgary Flames last season. Will this likewise kick off a Calder-winning season for Hughes? While it’s too early to say, the answer is definitely yes.
- It was a great goal that completely erased any lingering concerns anyone might have about Hughes’ shot. After Hughes gained the zone with some nifty skating, he hooked a backhand pass to Adam Gaudette, whose stick was lifted as he tried to shoot. Tanner Pearson picked up the puck and patiently fed Hughes, who hammered it home like he was worthy of Mjolnir.
- Underrated highlight of Hughes’ first NHL goal: Drew Doughty throwing a tantrum at the side of the goal because he has the emotional maturity of a toddler.
- Less than a minute later, the Canucks made it 2-0 when J.T. Miller created a turnover in the Kings’ zone, stealing the puck from Ilya Kovalchuk — not the first time he would embarrass the veteran sniper — and slipping the puck inside to Jake Virtanen like a wedding ring inside a champagne glass. Then Virtanen surprised everyone by making a similar pass to Brandon Sutter, who one-timed the puck top corner.
- It may seem odd to talk about goaltending in an 8-2 win, but when the game was still in doubt, Jacob Markstrom was magnificent. He robbed Michael Amadio with the left pad in the first period, but his best work came on the penalty kill, where he made 10 of his 37 saves. It must be nice for Markstrom to have his performance be overshadowed by the Canucks’ offence for once.
- Elias Pettersson got off his mini-schneid early in the second period thanks to Sutter’s playmaking and vision, which is a phrase you rarely hear. After a Pettersson backcheck freed up the puck, J.T. Miller fed it up to Sutter, who made a buttonhook when Ben Hutton cut him off and spotted Pettersson. Sutter’s backhand pass was tipped by Alex Iafallo, but it still landed perfectly on the stick of Pettersson, who quickly flicked it through Quick’s twigs.
- Pettersson’s exuberant fist-pump after the goal was a clear sign that the goal meant a lot after two games where he was held off the scoresheet, but he downplayed its importance after the game. “Of course it was nice to get the first one, to get that over,” he said, “but for me to play a good game, to spend a lot of time in the offensive zone, create a lot of chances, that was the first thing on my mind tonight.
- What’s wild is how this game could have been even uglier for the visiting Kings. Virtanen nearly triggered the first shotgun of the season when Tim Schaller sent him in on the left wing with a neat tip pass off the boards. Virtanen’s shot hit the crossbar and then the post, but stayed out, much to the consternation of beer drinkers everywhere.
- The Canucks weren’t perfect: Tyler Toffoli responded with a goal in the second period when Micheal Ferland lost track of him in the neutral zone. Troy Stecher pinched up on his man in the neutral zone, Jordie Benn came across to cover his man, but Ferland didn’t drop back to cover Toffoli. Markstrom was likely singing, “Here Comes Your Man” to Ferland as Toffoli deked to the forehand on the breakaway to make it 3-1.
- This wasn’t going to be the Kings’ night, however. The bounces were on the Canucks’ side, as aptly demonstrated when Miller tried to centre the puck but instead put it off Kovalchuk’s skate and past Quick. It’s somehow appropriate that the pass-happy Miller scored his first goal as a Canuck without even shooting the puck.
- The Canucks’ penalty kill squashed a potential turning point late in the second period when a couple softish calls put the Kings on a 5-on-3 power play. The kill got some key clears and some clutch goaltending, along with some solid defence from Alex Edler and Chris Tanev. Technically, Edler’s shift lasted 4:18 while killing the penalty, though the Kings took a timeout in the middle of the shift, while Tanev’s shift was only 3:48. No endurance, that Tanev.
- With Edler exhausted after his four-minute penalty-killing shift and the Canucks on the power play immediately after, the Canucks ended the second period with what everyone was hoping for: Quinn Hughes on the first power play unit. It only lasted a minute, but, like Boards of Canada’s “Kaini Industries,” it was a tantalizing minute that left you wanting more.
- Travis Green joked about Hughes being a great fit on the second power play unit becuase he scored, intentionally needling at the unspoken question in the room of when Hughes will join the first unit. When asked if he liked the first unit with Hughes in their brief time together, he deadpanned, "No, it didn't score," then joined in the laughter in the room and added, "You guys are beauties."
- After the Kings made it 4-2 early in the third and briefly looked like they were going to make a game of it, Jonathan Quick turned into a pumpkin. It’s midnight somewhere, evidently. After 8 goals against in this game and 6 goals against in his first game against the Oilers, he’s allowed 14 goals in just two games, with a save percentage of .750. Last season, he finished with a save percentage of .888. Guys, someone’s got to tell the Kings that Quick isn’t an NHL goaltender before they sign him to a ludicrously long contract...oh no.
- Quinn Hughes made good on his word that he could draw more offence out of Chris Tanev. Both defencemen joined a 3-on-2 rush, with Tanev driving the middle lane. Brock Boeser moved the puck to Hughes and Tanev went to the net with his stick on the ice; Hughes banked the puck in off Tanev’s stick like he was playing pool.
- “From a coach's standpoint, I was shaking my head on the bench, yelling or starting to yell not to go,” said Green about his two defencemen joining the rush on the goal. With a rueful grin he added, “But hey, it was exciting hockey.”
- “That was just us having fun,” said Hughes about the goal and everything after exuded fun. Quick was a wreck and the Canucks looked loose and confident. It was inevitable that they’d run up the score.
- Miller completed his four-point night with a slick zone entry down the left wing, then dropped the puck to Edler, who stepped into it like a pair of pants. Should Quick be able to stop an unscreened slap shot from 46 feet? Yes. But he didn’t, and it was pretty fun.
- “That's my game when I'm playing well: I'm skating, I'm north-south, I'm direct,” said Miller. “That's a play that if I could describe myself, [that’s it]...if that doesn't go in, it doesn't matter, that's the play I like to make.”
- Horvat got in on the action on the night of his captain coronation. He shook off defenceman Matt Roy in the neutral zone, then fed Josh Leivo in front for the backhand chip over Quick. 7-2.
- The Canucks wrapped up the scoring with a goal that went over the line by the slimmest of margins. Sutter tried to centre for Ferland as he charged to the net, but the puck went off a King instead and barely squeaked over the line before Doughty could clear it away. Play continued until the horn sounded, signalling that the war room in Toronto wanted to review the play. Sure enough, the puck was a millimeter over the line to make it 8-2 and give Sutter two goals and an assist.
- This was a tremendous home opener, from the pre-game show to the 8-2 rout, but let’s keep in mind that it was against the Kings, who are bad. Hopefully this will be a confidence booster that gets them scoring against better teams in the games to come.