SixPack: Vanek scores three and Boeser returns as Canucks lose to Habs

Dec 20 2017, 12:09 am

The Canucks lost 7-5 to the Canadiens and all I can think about is the players they’re missing.

They’re down Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter – their top two shut-down centres. They’re missing Chris Tanev – their best defensive defenceman.

But maybe more than anyone else, they’re missing a guy who chose to sign with another team this past summer.

Vancouver allowed the Habs to score seven, the Flames to score six, Nashville to score seven, and Winnipeg five. That’s four games they’ve allowed five or more goals in their last five games.

In their past seven, they’ve allowed an average of 5.14 goals against.

Come back Ryan Miller – with you, this team might be in the playoff hunt.

Without you, my biggest fear is Green might give up on winning with offence just like Willie did after year one, instead opting for a five-man D system for 60 minutes, like Willie did after year one.

Many forget that Willie activated his D a ton in his first year, with the “five up five back” mantra. It didn’t last once he realized it wasn’t working with the roster he had, though.

So you’ll have to forgive me for dreading Green having the revelation many NHL coaches have had – the one that tells him trapping it up is the only way to go.

Another fear I have: having to admit this guy was right all along.

You’ve got half a season to stop that from happening, Markstrom. Work with me here.

1. All about Boeser part 1

What a few days in Canuckland.

We went from watching Brock Boeser grimacing in pain as he crawled slowly to the bench and was later spotted on crutches on Sunday to Monday’s news – there was no fracture, just a bone bruise.

Then we heard Tuesday morning’s update.

Don’t think anyone in the universe saw that coming.

Boeser joining a gang and letting them make decisions on if he plays or not? Other Canucks over the years… maybe. I don’t want to name names, so… let’s go with numbers – 44, 55, 10, 22 (he has some fishy friends, don’t forget) – those are guys who may have fallen in with the wrong crowds sometimes… but Boeser? Prince Charming??

Anyway, let’s leave the gang stuff for later.

The Boeser coverage Tuesday was incredible.



Even the King of Sports Media in Vancouver was on it.

Coach Green was in such a good mood he even made a joke about it.

No need to tell you what happened. Just as everyone in this city starts freaking out the second a snowflake has fallen from the sky, Boeser doesn’t tie up his skates without Vancouver talking about it.

2. All about Boeser part 2

You know he scored, you know he got an assist, still, you want to see the plays over and over again, and that’s increasingly becoming the point of the SixPack these days.

Boeser let Price and all the Habs fans in the building know he was coming when he outwaited and beat the goalie in the second period, but rang the puck off the post.

And in the third, with Vancouver down 5-3 and the game slipping away, Boeser scored on the power play to bring the Canucks within one. This goal, though.

Boeser, the kid who’s taking the NHL by storm, the one Henrik says is the best shooter he’s ever played with, he looks Carey Price dead in the eyes and says, “You’re not saving this.”

I mean, we already know he has poise, we know pressure is a myth in his life, but this is the world’s best goalie he just rendered invisible.

3. Vanek’s hatty

With Boeser getting out of bed and doing stuff and the Canucks allowing seven, I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t even hear about the huge night Vanek had.

He scored his three doing what he does best – being in the right place and using his quick hands. His first came on the power play in the first period.

Next, on the doorstep from Biega.

What a pass from Biega, btw. We’ll come back to that.

And the credit for Vanek’s third goal goes to Boeser and a favourable bounce.

Now, you may think a hat trick in a loss is completely meaningless, but when you consider Vanek’s one of Vancouver’s best trade chips come February, the more goals he gets before then to pump up his value, the better.

4. Biega does it all

Here’s a gif I caught of Biega earlier Tuesday.

Biega had people raving during the game against Montreal. You saw the gif above – Vanek’s goal was mostly due to a beautiful pass from Biega. That’s not all. He was everywhere – he was hitting, he was passing, he was energizing his team.

Thing is, as funny as Biega = Two Face is, it’s not the case at all. There is a good reason he looks either really good or really bad.

See Biega plays one way, and that’s high event. He rarely has a shift where you don’t notice him, and that’s because he’s always trying to make something happen, whether it’s jumping up into the play, creating a shot or making a hit.

Against the Habs, Biega was on the ice for a Canucks-leading 23 shot attempts in the offensive end. He was also on the ice for a Canucks-leading 17 shot attempts in his defensive end. That’s a lot of shot attempts both ways that can go either way, and on this night, more noticeable ones went right than wrong.

On another night, if just a few of them went the other way, you can just imagine how ugly it could be. Fans would be all over him, calling for him to be scratched or sent back to Utica.

So when his team is missing key players and needs some sort of positivity, the injection of energy he provides can have its uses. But long term, you need a calming influence at the back end for the most part. And that’s why Biega, the high-risk, high-reward defenceman, is a number 7 guy.

5. Too much Sedins

For a lot of the season I’d argued that the Sedins needed to play more. Henrik playing less than Sutter and Horvat when both were in the lineup was a bit much, when you saw they were still putting up possession numbers and creating shots like they were at 32.

Problem is now, without Sutter and Horvat, they’re it. They’re the team’s scoring line and the team’s shut down line. They’re taking faceoffs at both ends and being used in all situations, and while they haven’t missed a step offensively, at the defensive end they just aren’t what they used to be.

Henrik was on the ice for three Habs goals and Daniel was on for two against. And just look at how Petry slices through both of them here.

Later, on Montreal’s fifth, check out Hank’s backcheck, or lack thereof.

Again, this is more about injuries than it is about blaming two 37 year olds who are just not able to get back as quickly as they used to.

Problem is you’re not playing Gaunce when you’re down late in a game… of course Willie probably would have, and this game would’ve been a 4-2 loss instead of 7-5.

6. Gudbranson’s quiet return

With all the Boeser stuff coming down, the biggest story on any other day in Vancouver was relegated to number six in this one.

Best decision for winning the game against Montreal? No.

Best decision for the long-term outlook of the Canucks? Yes.

Look, Vancouver needs to trade Gudbranson and they need to be selling him as a top-4, physical, right-handed defenceman. It will be hard to sell that if you’re scratching him to keep Biega or Hutton in the lineup. And if other GMs see he’s been a healthy scratch or there’s any question of him being a top-6 defenceman, his value will drop like a rock.

With that in mind, playing him with mobile, offensively minded Derrick Pouliot was a smart move. As a duo, they were plus-five in shot attempts. The breakdown – Pouliot was responsible for two shots, Gudbranson, zero.

Gotta get those Corsi numbers up. Just like Florida did before trading him to Vancouver.

BONUS: Boeser’s gangster lifestyle

It was a spelling mistake, but it made for some funny replies.

Never one to let the opportunity for a joke pass by, Wyatt was instantly on it.

Roberto found the most fitting gif.

But Walker won it. Yes that Walker. He’s funny, I guess.

Note: Thanks to Ryan Biech for helping with the gifs even though he’s a TV star now

See also

+ Offside
+ Hockey