I’m a hockey fan. I was a player and an on-ice official for most of my life, and now… well I’m old, and slow, and am content to just watch. I can watch any hockey game, be it NHL, NCAA, or Junior hockey of any sort. I love the game and its almost constant flow, finesse, and yes… its brutality. From having watched tens of thousands of games from on the ice, in the stands, and on TV, I can sense the game itself. I often know when a goal is going to be scored beforehand – mostly because I know how to spot the mistakes that lead to goals. I can honestly watch any game and get enjoyment from it, however about thirty years ago I picked a single NHL team to become a fan of… entirely due to proximity.
I was a grown up, and I could afford to pay for a ticket for a game or two, and there was a team within a two hour drive of my home. namely the Vancouver Canucks. I had watched their Stanley Cup run while in college in 1982 and having never been an Islanders fan, I really hoped these plucky regular season losers who were riding a hot streak would win the Cup. Sadly they were crushed in four straight games. A few years later I was out of school and living close enough to attend some games, so I started going, and loved it. They were never very good, but never really bad either. Vancouver is a lovely city and filled with knowledgable hockey fans. It is a great place to watch the game. The Canucks have made two more Cup runs since I became a fan, in 1994 (I even scored a ticket to Game 2 against Calgary, and witnessed one of Pavel Bure’s greatest goals), and again in 2011. Both were unsuccessful but provided a lifetime of memorable moments and plays. I now live way too far to regularly attend games, but I watch every one I can via NHL.tv on my Roku.
The Canucks are in a “rebuilding phase” after the twins Henrik & Daniel Sedin retired last year. Only two players remain from that 2011 season, and the roster is filled with kids. Young, raw talent. They haven’t coeleced into a great team yet, but boy are they fun to watch! Nobody expected much from them this season, but here we are after a month of play and they sit atop their division, and are second place in the Western Conference.
Last night’s game illustrates just how fun, and interesting this season’s Canucks are… They played the Colorado Avalanche, who had just lost the night before in an ugly fashion, giving up five goals in the third period to Calgary. Less than a minute after the face-off in Vancouver 19-year old Elias Pettersson (this year’s rookie phenom) made a breakout pass to 21-year old Brock Boeser (last year’s rookie phenom) who put on a Pavel Bure-like burst of speed to open the game with a goal. Always great to score first! (something the Canucks have regularly failed to do for many seasons) It was a beautiful goal on a beautiful breakaway. But Colorado scored next to tie the game. Then Pettersson made another brilliant play, essentially bouncing the puck off the end boards which rebounded back to Boeser who had sped past the Av’s defence, and one-timed the puck into the Colorado net. It was VERY reminiscent of a classic “Sedinery”, that is the type of plays the Sedin twins pulled in their heyday. What made this interesting from an “inside hockey” perspective is how close it was to being a minor infraction, namely “icing”. Peterson essentially iced the puck, having shot from well inside the center red line, which is why the Av’s defence were so lax. Boeser was already behind them, which nullifies the icing, and makes what was a delay of game into a brilliant play. But then Colorado scored to tie it up again.
What made the Canucks so fun to watch back in 2000-2012 era was the fact that any player and every player seemed to be a scoring threat. Even the defense. In the 2011 Cup run, every line was a scoring line. It seems like this year just about every Canuck has been putting up points. Every sports movie has that one veteran player who has a bad attitude. Seems to be playing for a paycheck rather than a win. That guy on the Canucks is played by Loui Eriksson. To me he is an overpaid schmuck. Likely one of the worst deals the Canucks have made. But even he scored a goal last night. I can’t remember the last time he scored a goal.
But then Colorado scored to tie it up again. In fact they scored two and took the lead for the first time of the game. But Pettersson scored again with a few minutes left in the second period to revive the stadium.
Colorado scored a minute and a half into the third, and the Canucks evened it halfway through the period on a great second effort by Markus Granlund. But then a late penalty lead to Colorado getting what looked like the game-winning goal with a mere one minute and thirty-eight seconds to go. Vancouver pulls their goaltender, and Boeser makes a great behind the net pass to Bo Horvat, who puts the puck right on Pettersson’s stick in the slot for an amazing one-timer into the net to tie the game.
I suspect that if something comes of this season, such as a playoff berth, or even a Cup run, people will look back at this game as the turning point of their season. This is where it came together and a team came from it. A team that is capable of winning consistently and producing results exceeding the output of individuals. Maybe even Eriksson will earn his paycheck. Who knows?
Overtime was amazing. Pettersson was pulled down from behind on a breakaway. It should have been a penalty shot, but did turn into a Canuck power play and Derrick Pouliot, a Defenceman, scored his first goal of the season with a freak shot that bounced off the crossbar and off of a Colorado player into his own net. The stadium went wild, and I likely yelled loud enough to scare coyotes off of the butte.