There have been plenty of eye opening moments early on in Brock Boeser’s career.
But perhaps none have stood out quite like the one that happened Tuesday night in the Canucks savage beatdown of the LA Kings.
If you live in this city, you will most likely have either seen the play I’m about to tell you about, or had it described to you breathlessly. It’s the kind of play that if it happened in the 1920’s, the description of the goal would have been sent around the country via telegraph, carrier pigeons, or the fastest horse in town, Ol’ Goldfish (she’s faster than she sounds).
“Brock Boeser. Stop. Scored crazy revenge goal. Stop. Brock Boeser is our new hockey overlord. Stop. Don’t forget to milk the cows. Stop.”
The play I am talking about is of course this one:
With his team already on the power play, Boeser gets run into the boards from behind by Trevor Lewis.
Boeser falls to the ground, and the fear of a hurt Calder Trophy candidate ripples through the crowd. Vancouver is used to not being allowed to have good things, so a potential injury to their favourite adopted Minnesota son isn’t so much a shocking feeling but more of a “well we all knew it was gonna happen eventually” feeling. It’s the feeling you get when you crash your car the day after you finally finish paying it off; you laugh at the inevitability of it, but then have yourself a little cry to go with your shower beer.
As Brock struggles to get to his feet, the optics of not a single Canuck player going after Lewis to get in his face settles under the crowd like wet seats on the 99 B-Line. People are uncomfortable, they’re unhappy. Why is this happening? Why isn’t anyone protecting the franchise (rookie) player?
Vancouver has had a reputation of being a soft team over the years. Some of it deserved, some of it not. But the years of the Canucks being such a good offensive team that could simply make the opposition pay for their hockey sins on the scoreboard is long gone. It was a mantra hammered home by Alain Vigneault and it used to feel so good, right up until the 2011 Final, when the bad guys won in greasy fashion.
It no longer felt as satisfying to turn a stiff upper lip to the opposition clowning the Canucks. It felt downright awful to remember that clip of Marchand speedbagging Daniel Sedin with no response anytime another team took a cheap shot on the Canucks. As the 2011 core dwindled away, and the goals became harder and harder to come by, sometimes people just wanted to see a player lay someone out, if for no other reason to show that this team still had a pulse.
People will debate the effect and usefulness of toughness in hockey, but you have to admit, there is something cathartic about seeing your hockey team physically impose its will on another team. It’s why Raffi Torres was such a folk hero in his short time in Vancouver. Sure, he was a psycho, but he was our psycho.
Fast forward back to the game against the Kings, and yeah, if a guy is out there taking liberties on your best player, and not a single player on your team reacts, people are going to get frustrated. It felt like once again the Canucks were playing the role of a passive observer, just there for the ride.
How many games have teams run Jacob Markstrom to no response?
Now, to be fair to the Canucks, the dirty, greasy hockey style has declined over the years. But it still feels at time that the Canucks are one of the more passive teams in the league when it comes to standing up for its own players.
Which is when Brock Boeser stood up and gave….the look….something just felt kind of badass about it.
Like, there was no way he wasn't scoring on his next shot after he gave this look pic.twitter.com/E72TndRRyH
— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) January 24, 2018
That’s a look that says “I’m coming for you.”
That’s a look that says “I’m going to make you pay.”
That’s a look that says “Ok mother****er, let’s dance.”
Now, you might be asking yourself right now “Why bring up all that stuff about toughness and 2011? Why do we always have to talk about 2011??”
I bring it up because there is a certain mindset of Vancouver being pushed around, physically or otherwise, that’s always hanging around the back of Canucks fans minds. The idea that the Canucks have no pushback. That they simply can’t win.
So when Brock Boeser gets run down, and nobody does a thing about it, that mindset comes to the forefront.
Which is why when Boeser gets run down, gets up and dusts himself off, and then proceeds to blast a bullet of a goal on his very next shot, it feels like kind of a big deal.
And now a quick reminder of just how good Boeser’s shot is! Make that 2️⃣4️⃣goals! 🔥🙌 pic.twitter.com/C5irlIffXL
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) January 24, 2018
This isn’t the Canucks being run over and just accepting it. This is Gandalf screaming “You shall not pass!” at the Balrog, and flipping the script. Maybe these Canuck Hobbits have a chance after all, if Boeser the Grey is on their side. Boeser simply makes you believe good things can happen to this city.
It’s the kind of play from Boeser that makes him feel like a larger-than-life, bonafide NHL Superstar.
Pick your poison, but hoping for a player to come through for you, and then them actually coming through for you, is what makes true superstars. There is a reason Larry Bird was a legend in Boston, because he would constantly come through in big moments. Trevor Linden has a huge following in this province because he would constantly put up points in the playoffs, in the most important games.
Yzerman beating the Canucks on one knee is still probably told in Detroit. Going above and beyond expectations is what NHL superstars do.
So admit it, when the refs told Brock Boeser he couldn’t start the shift on the power play because they blew the play down due to his injury, you thought to yourself “How badass would it be if Brock just came back on the ice after the faceoff and scored a goal?” After all, Brock has already come through so many times this season, he’s becoming downright reliable.
Brock Boeser literally goes off the ice, waits for the change after the faceoff, then skates in and winds up with a revenge clapper the likes the world hasn’t seen since Cody Hodgson channeled all of Vancouver’s anger into the Game 8 bar down goal against Boston.
This is why he’s made such a connection with this fanbase so early in his career. He is having big moments and coming through for a team that so desperately needs a sign of hope. He’s making the kinds of plays that make you salivate to see what he can do in the playoffs, with even more on the line. You want to see him thrown into huge situations, not only to see how he does, but because you’re confident he is going to dominate in this situations.
Case in point, Boeser’s game against the Maple Leafs’ wonder kid Auston Matthews earlier in the season. It felt like a big deal because it was the Canucks stud vs the Leafs stud. And Boeser? He rose to the occasion. He didn’t shy away from the spotlight. He seemed to embrace it, and didn’t get nervous. If anything, he excelled under the pressure. You want a match up against the Stanley Cup Champs? No problem, how about five goals in two games against the Penguins. Rookie on the All-Star game roster? Brock’s on it.
Vancouver doesn’t have a deep history of superstars, so when a player this young looks this good, it’s hard not to get excited over it.
And confused and a bit frightened.
Good things like this just don’t happen here like this, yet here we are.
Now of course, let’s temper all of this by saying Brock Boeser is still just a rookie. Nobody knows how his career will end up. There have been plenty of promising young players that have gone on to have average or sub par careers.
But there is a reason Boeser’s season has felt so special. It’s because he continues to show up in big moments. He continues to shine in a dismal season. And Boeser continues to show that he won’t back down from much of anything.
To put it simply, Brock Boeser is an NHL superstar.