Remember when overtime was an issue for the Vancouver Canucks? Then came Christmas and apparently the Canucks got a little overtime mojo in their stockings. First it was Jannik Hansen on Boxing Day, then Daniel Sedin getting it done earlier in the week and Friday night it was Bo Horvat’s turn to play O/T hero for the Canucks as they beat Carolina 3-2.
Horvat capped off another solid night with his seventh and eighth goals of the season. This after a two-goal effort against the same Canes 10 days ago at Rogers Arena giving him half of his goal-scoring on the season against the same opponent. Horvat has six goals since the start of the month and he’s now just five shy of the 13 he scored as a rookie. Talk about a turnaround. He played better than he produced in the first half of the season, but no one could have predicted a stretch as hot as this one (6+3=9 in his past six games) given the way Horvat fought the puck over the first 40 games. And just like that, Horvat is now fifth on the Canucks in scoring with 19 points and is only three points out of a tie for third.
Jacob Markstrom continues to look like the real deal. He made 38 saves to help the Canucks to victory. Much to the chagrin of those pulling for the Canucks to chase a higher draft pick, the big puckstopper is 3-0-1 in his last four starts and 6-2-1 in his past nine. Jim Benning has gone on record saying there is too much pride in the organization to consider tanking. The only conclusion one can draw from that is that the Canucks plan to chase a playoff spot. And if that’s their goal, does Jacob Markstrom represent the best chance to get there? It’d be pretty hard to answer no to that one.
With the win in Raleigh, the Canucks are 3-1 in their last four games settled in overtime although they still have to wear a 3-8 record O/T on the season.
Friday’s game marked a successful Canucks debut for defenseman Taylor Fedun. Far from flashy, but he had an assist, three hits and three blocked shots in 18:48 of ice. Coupled with the result, you’d think that performance would be enough to give Fedun another look on Sunday against the Islanders. But Luca Sbisa may be ready to return for that one, so we’ll see how that impacts the Canucks blueline.
As a scoring forward who was given a plum assignment on the top power play unit last season, Linden Vey started quickly and then fell off the map. Now as a depth guy, little is expected and little has been delivered. Yet, to my eyes Vey looks much more like a National Hockey Leaguer now than he did at this time last season. And on Friday, Vey became the 20th player to score a goal for the Canucks this season when he opened the scoring midway through the first period. Last year people were screaming for Linden Vey to be run out of town. You don’t hear those calls these days. He’s not a star, but he doesn’t look out of place lower in the line-up and on Friday seemed to have some decent chemistry with his old junior buddy Emerson Etem.
It’s only been three games, but I’ve noticed Etem in each of his outings as a Canuck. His speed has been evident and against Carolina he had a couple of shots and blocked three Hurricane attempts. It’s still early and he’s still without a goal this season, so it’s impossible to declare him any sort of steal for the Canucks. But considering Nick Jensen is already a distant memory, Etem’s arrival has certainly been a welcome addition to the Canucks. We’ll have to see if he can keep his play at the level he’s shown in his first week with the organization.
Adam Cracknell has given the Canucks more than I ever imagined he would to this point in the season. But with Brandon Sutter nearing a return and the Canucks committed to a youth movement, you have to wonder about Cracknell’s role with the club. With Henrik Sedin, Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter set to anchor the centre position, that’ll leave the 30-year-old journeyman to battle with Jared McCann and Linden Vey for the final spot in the middle. We all know McCann’s not going anywhere and as stated above Vey doesn’t look out of place. So there will be decisions to make here shortly. I’m not sure Cracknell helped his case with a 2:18 shift late in the second period when he, Henrik and Brandon Prust couldn’t get the puck off the sticks of the swirling Hurricanes. If Cracknell’s not going to bring offense and he hasn’t scored in 25 games, then he has to play defense — but he can’t play defense like he did on one of his toughest shifts of the season.
Finally, the Canucks will take the victory and the two points that go with it. But they can’t be giving up 40 shots on consecutive nights and thinking that’s any sort of recipe for success. You can understand the red-hot Capitals putting up 40, but Carolina? Like the Canucks, the Canes had played the night before so both teams had to battle weary legs. Given that, it should come as no surprise the game was hardly a classic. Maybe it’s a good thing only 11,657 (the ‘announced’ attendance) were there to see it.
I’ll have a new blog after Sunday’s game against the Islanders.
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