With no captain, the Canucks lost their first two games of the season. With Bo Horvat as captain, the Canucks have won two straight.
I believe the facts are clear: as long as Horvat is captain, the Canucks will be undefeated. He’s like Moses holding up his hands over Israel’s battle with the Amalekites: when Moses held his hands up, Israel prevailed in the battle, but whenever his arms faltered, the Amalekites started winning.
In that story, when Moses grew tired, two of his closest companions, Aaron and Hur, held his arms up for him, which apparently still counted. So, if Horvat gets injured, the Canucks just have to designate two linemates to literally carry him around on the ice, so that he’s still technically in the lineup. That way, the Canucks can stay undefeated and Weekend-at-Bernie’s their way to the Stanley Cup.
I see no flaws in this plan. I did, however, see the Canucks defeat the Philadelphia Flyers when I watched this game.
- Like a new knife, Jacob Markstrom was sharp early; like a good knife, he stayed sharp. The Flyers out-shot the Canucks 32-24, but Markstrom made 30 saves, then added two more stops in the shootout. He was bailing his buddies out like the only sober guy in a frat house.
- Here are a few of his best stops, one from each of the first, second, and third periods. His best save came in the first period on Jakob Voracek and it was so good that Voracek himself gave Markstrom a tap on the pads as he skated away. His glove stop on Ivan Provorov was also impressive, considering he had Jay Beagle screening the release point. Then, when Kevin Hayes got in all alone, Markstrom stuck with him and got his toe on the puck to send it just wide.
- J.T. Miller was bumped up to the top line last game and immediately clicked with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, combining a direct north-south game with east-west playmaking ability: he’s the full compass out there. That chemistry continued Saturday night even as Miller himself was held off the scoresheet.
- After the puck road the dasher like a Rodney Mullen darkslide, Miller beat Provorov to the loose puck and set up a point shot from Chris Tanev. Pettersson tipped the puck up off Carter Hart’s shoulder and Boeser contorted his body like Marina Mazepa to get his stick on the rebound and chip it over Hart.
- Miller also contributed in the faceoff circle, taking 10 faceoffs to Pettersson’s 8. Pettersson struggled a bit on faceoffs, going 3-for-8, while Miller was 7-for-10, and Travis Green seemed to trust Miller more in the defensive zone, giving him all of the defensive zone faceoffs on that line.
- Micheal Ferland started the season in the spot Miller now occupies, but his ice time and role has plummeted the last couple games. He played just 10:31 in this game, with only Adam Gaudette getting less ice time. In that time, shots on goal were 5-0 for the Flyers. It’s way too early to freak out about Ferland and his four-year contract, particularly since his slow start was preceded by a pretty vicious illness in the preseason, but it’s something to keep an eye on in the future.
- Jake Virtanen was involved physically early on in this game, drawing a penalty in the first period after lowering his shoulder into Scott Laughton after a whistle. That agitating element was nice to see, but my favourite moment from Virtanen was this cute little kick pass off the boards to Jay Beagle to enable a zone exit.
- Somehow the Canucks took yet another too many men on the ice penalty, their fourth of the season in only four games. That’s already more than they took all of last season. This time, the issue appeared to be Virtanen jumping into the play a moment too soon, before Josh Leivo could get to the bench. Like the Oilers in 2011 free agency, Virtanen was too eager and made a stick-check as soon as he hit the ice.
- After the Canucks killed off the penalty, Flyers rookie Carsen Twarynski evened the score. It was a bit of a sloppy change for the Canucks, perhaps because they were trying to avoid yet another too many men call, so Chris Tanev couldn’t get back on Twarynski in time.
- Unable to make the defensive play, Tanev responded with an offensive one. Horvat won a faceoff in the offensive zone and Leivo relayed the puck to Tanev, who sent a shot into a perfect spot for Tanner Pearson to tip it like Shaq: over-the-top.
- Pearson acknowledged the perfection of Tanev’s shot placement with a simple, “Wow,” as they celebrated. Tanev’s two assists gives him three points in his last two games, which means he’s officially an offensive defenceman now and is no longer allowed to play on the penalty kill. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.
- Quinn Hughes had another great game, leading the Canucks in corsi and expected goal percentage. While defending the lead in the third period, however, Green leaned a little more towards veterans in the defensive zone. Jordie Benn paired with Tanev for one defensive zone faceoff, for example, and it was a disaster, with the Canucks hemmed in the defensive zone for over a minute. As much as the Canucks might want to still shelter their 19-year-old defenceman, he’s also their best bet for getting the puck out of the defensive zone, making him potentially (and perhaps counterintuitively) their best defenceman for defending a lead.
- The Canucks’ penalty kill was perfect heading into this game, but it couldn’t last. Matt Niskanen danced around Brandon Sutter at the blue line, who was left completely out of the play as he dropped the puck for Travis Konecny. With acreage ahead of him, Konecny forced Markstrom to commit to stopping his shot, which is when he passed it off to Oskar Lindblom for the one-timer to make it 2-2.
- That sent the game to overtime, where the Canucks had the better of the chances, including a 4-on-3 power play in the final minute that just couldn’t find clear shooting lanes. The young Core Four were all on the ice — Hughes, Pettersson, Boeser, and Horvat — but the power play was a little too placid and just looked to create shots from distance instead of more dangerous down-low plays.
- The shootout was a treat, however. Elias Pettersson dazzled with some quick hands before putting the puck off the post and in, but Claude Giroux tied it up with a quick shot from the left side. Pearson slid his attempt five-hole, giving Markstrom the chance to win the game with a save, and Markstrom responded with an old-school two-pad stack that would make Kirk McLean proud.
- While it wasn’t ideal to see the Canucks lapse into a defensive shell in the third period, and they paid for it, that was still a solid game for the Canucks, particularly in the first period, where the top-two lines created some dangerous scoring chances. Leivo did some subtle work with Horvat and Pearson, winning a lot of puck battles along the boards, similar to how Miller helped Pettersson and Boeser. The Canucks might have something in those two line combinations.