Games involving the Winnipeg Jets used to always be a whole lot of fun.
They were big, physical, and high-skilled. They were undisciplined, and loose defensively. Their goaltending was always terrible. Dustin Byfuglien usually did something stupid and amazing – often on the same play.
That’s a recipe for entertainment, right there.
Perhaps they’re maturing, because there wasn’t much of that on Sunday.
They were good, sure, beating the Canucks 1-0. But they only took two penalties, kept the Canucks under 30 shots on goal, and got good goaltending from All-Star Connor Hellebuyck – who picked up the 29-save shutout.
The win pushed them to third overall in the NHL standings, adding evidence to why we should start to talk about them as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender this season.
— The Mayor (@canucks_mayor) January 22, 2018
As for the Canucks? Not so much. They’ve now lost 15 of their last 19 games and are fourth-last in the league.
Not even the return of Bo Horvat could get them a goal on this night.
1. Horvat returns
Horvat made his long awaited return for the Canucks, playing his first game since December 5. Before he was injured, Vancouver was third in the Pacific Division. By the time he returned, fans and media were sizing up the pending fire sale at the trade deadline.
The Canucks won just four of 18 games without their No. 1 centre, so his return had a saviour-like feel to it.
Playing with Brock Boeser and Sven Baertschi, he had a relatively uneventful night though, which is to be expected, given he has only one full practice under his belt. He played 19:05 with one shot on goal and was on the ice for the only goal of the game, scored by Patrik Laine.
2. Time to worry about Boeser?
Boeser didn’t score again, which is significant because we got used to him scoring every night in December.
— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) January 22, 2018
Boeser is now without a goal in six straight, which matches his (young) career-high.
Time to panic? Of course not.
There’s nothing wrong with Boeser, other than a little bit of puck luck not going his way.
Sure, other teams are keying on him more on the power play, but let’s chalk the rest up to the ebbs and flows of an 82-game season.
He had four shots on goal against the Jets, and has continued to get quality chances to score. The pucks will go in, eventually.
3. Speaking of puck luck…
How did the Canucks not score on this?
That’s Markus Granlund racing for the puck, with Brandon Sutter hitting the post.
Hellebuyck more like Hellaluck. #Canucks
— ksquared (@Conjacerio) January 22, 2018
4. Trade bait getting banged up
Coming off the bye week, it looked like the Canucks were finally getting healthy.
Horvat was skating, nearing a return. Tanev’s mouth was a mess, but he could play with a cage. Sutter and Baertschi had already returned.
That lasted about five minutes.
Not sure if he got hurt in Mexico or something, but Erik Gudbranson is day-to-day. Then, early in the game agains the Jets, Vanek went down awkwardly.
— Wave the White Towel (@wavewhitetowel) January 22, 2018
He would return to the game, but not before scaring the bejesus out of Canucks nation…
If Assistant Coach Vanek went down before the trade deadline, honestly….
— Blake Price (@BlakePriceTSN) January 22, 2018
Guddy and Vanek injured now? Canucks luck is alive and well.
— Taj (@taj1944) January 22, 2018
If both Erik Gudbranson and Thomas Vanek are injured for the trade deadline, then just set everything within reach on fire.
— Daniel Wagner (@passittobulis) January 22, 2018
A Vanek injury is scary for #TeamTank, #TeamWin, and anyone who likes entertaining hockey. Thankfully it looks like he’s going to be ok.
5. Speaking of Canucks luck…
Any game against Winnipeg is a reminder that the Canucks chose to draft Jake Virtanen instead of Nikolaj Ehlers.
— Rob Williams (@RobTheHockeyGuy) January 22, 2018
Virtanen was a healthy scratch in this game, after a less than stellar game in Edmonton. Ehlers, in case you need reminding, is already one of Winnipeg’s top players.
If you eliminated Ehlers’ assists and divided his career goals (59) in half, he would still have more points than Virtanen (24) #Canucks
— Jas Kang (@jaskang21) January 22, 2018
Jim Benning has received a lot of praise for his drafting, and rightfully so, but the Virtanen selection in place of Ehlers is the biggest black mark on his record – especially after the analytics crowd warned everyone about the selection at the time.
Hey I know stats are for losers who don't watch/play the game, but just checking in to remind everyone that @CanucksArmy tried to tell us Ehlers was more likely to be a better pick than Virtanen #benningmasterscout #canucks https://t.co/kNvQDk3Ksd
— Tyler Shipley (@le_shipster) January 22, 2018
6. SixPack Superstar: Anders Nilsson
Goaltender Anders Nilsson is a well-deserving recipient of the coveted SixPack Superstar.
Nilsson stopped 35 of 36 shots in what was his first good outing in two months. He was forced to make a number of good saves, including this one near the end of the second period:
Did he get lucky? Sure. Laine had him at his mercy but missed on a deke. Byfuglien hit the post on a third period power play.
“I felt good. Step in the right direction for me, but it’s about the win and we didn’t get that tonight. Nilsson was phenomenal; it’s unfortunate we couldn’t help him with some goals.” – Horvat
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) January 22, 2018
But Sunday’s game was the first time Nilsson let in fewer than three goals since November 22. Standing tall against the Jets will help his confidence.