On a night when youth was served by the Vancouver Canucks, it was the veteran, the leader and now the franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer Daniel Sedin coming through in crunch time. Daniel scored the winner and added an empty netter to push his goal total to 21 on the season and 348 for his career. His first goal 7:03 into the third period was the record setter and snapped a 2-2 tie propelling the Canucks to a 4-2 win in Boston. A hearty congratulations from this corner to Daniel Sedin on a job well done. Next stop: 400.
Lost in the hoopla of the record is the fact that in Game 48, Daniel surpassed his goal total of all of last season. And it should be pointed out, too, that this is the tenth 20-goal season of his 15-year NHL career. That’s pretty impressive stuff when it comes to consistency.
But this night was about much more than Daniel Sedin. It was about competing and actually pushing the pace in the third period for a change with the Canucks outshooting the Bruins 11-8 in the final frame. It was about giving Jacob Markstrom some offensive support. And perhaps most-importantly, it was about providing a view to the future with seven of the 12 forwards the Canucks iced under the age of 25.
Linden Vey was part of that group and likely had his best night in a Canuck uniform. Beyond the 17:37 he played or the two assists he recorded, the most-telling statistic for me was the fact Vey was out for a 1:18 shift in the final two minutes of the third with the Canucks clinging to a 3-2 lead. The ‘veteran’ Vey replaced rookie Jared McCann at centre and was tasked with preserving the Canuck cushion. The shift started with the first of a series of defensive zone face-offs and ended with Daniel Sedin sealing the deal into an empty net. Vey won 13 of his 20 draws on the night and continues to look like a National Hockey League regular. I can’t say I saw that coming when he was recalled just before Christmas.
I thought Jake Virtanen had a solid night. I’d like to see him initiate a little more on the physical side, although he did register three hits including a solid knock on Kevan Miller late in the first period. I liked his strength along the boards and he showed an ability to win a number of puck battles on the night. And then in the third period he flashed his speed breaking in alone on Tuukaa Rask only to be denied by the crossbar. Sure, the points have not flowed for Virtanen in his first NHL season. But the Canucks had to be pleased with the effort they got from their prized-prospect as he returned to the line-up after being a healthy scratch in both games in New York. I know the team has a plan for Virtanen. My plan would be to play him — almost every night the rest of the way.
Mike Zalewski showed well in his return to the NHL. I have to admit I figured he was an afterthought in the organization. He was a Mike Gillis signing and I just didn’t know if he was on Jim Benning’s radar. But I like stories like Zalewski’s. Without an NHL contract this season in Utica, he just competed hard every night and forced the Canucks to take notice. And they did. So good for Zalewski and, who knows, it may turn out to be good for the Canucks as well if they have another guy on the farm who can play at the next level.
With the Canucks thin up the middle, Zalewski took a regular shift and played 13:19. I’m glad the Canucks gave him a chance to play and play regularly. I just wish the same had held true for Hunter Shinkaruk (9:35) in his one game earlier this season or Alex Grenier (8:52) in his NHL debut. Again, some of Zalewski’s ice time was due to his position and some was due to the bizarre fact a Canucks-Bruins game was penalty free and without any special teams action.
It’s hard to say the game was penalty free when Chris Tanev got drilled head-first the end boards on the play leading to Boston’s first goal in the final minute of the second period. The league talks at length about wanting to get dirty and dangerous plays like that out of the game and then the on-ice officials all turn a blind eye. Those hits and the blind eye routine happen far too regularly. The game is fast and full of contact, I get it, and bodies are flying all over the place. And that’s what we all love about hockey. But the guys in stripes have to do a better job of making those types of calls. Chris Tanev is about as honest a player as there is in the league. He’s not looking to sell any kind of call in that instance. He’s playing the puck when he gets pushed from behind and goes head first into the end boards. I’ve watched the video (above) enough times now. If the league is serious about eradicating that type of hit from the game then why aren’t the on-ice officials giving the hittee and not the hitter the benefit of the doubt in those cases? Make enough calls and put enough guys in the box and hopefully over time there are fewer of those calls to make because the message may one day get through that you just can’t drill guys in those dangerous situations. It was good to see Tanev return to the game and pick up an assist on Daniel Sedin’s record-breaker and game winner. That seemed like justice.
The 4-2 win was the Canucks first victory by more than a goal in six weeks since a 5-2 romp over Buffalo on December 7th. Prior to that, you have to go back exactly two months to November 21st when the Canucks beat the Blackhawks 6-3. Multi-goal margins of victory just don’t happen often for this group. Enjoy this one.
There was lots to like from the Canucks in Boston on Thursday. They’re now 3-1-1 through the first five games of the road trip and 9-3-3 in their past 15 games overall. Not only are the Canucks very much in the playoff mix in the Pacific Division, but very quietly the race for the two wild card spots in the Western Conference has ground to a halt and the Canucks are now part of that picture, too. So…Canucks vs Hawks in the opening round, anyone?!
Finally, as the Canucks bask in the glow of their win in Boston, this little bit of bad news must be noted. The schedule-maker has done the Vancouver Canucks no favours this week. They’re on the other side of the continent while the Medicine Hat Tigers visit the Vancouver Giants on Friday night at the Coliseum. You know full well attendance would have been boosted a bunch had the Canucks been around town. Oh well, you can’t have everything!
I’ll have a new blog after Saturday’s game in Pittsburgh. Thanks for checking this site out. Please share with others and help me spread the word.