Well, the Canucks are still undefeated. Vancouver took out the Sabres 2-1 on Thursday to make it four straight wins to start the season.
Just let that sink in for a minute.
Yes, most Canucks fans know the season is still young. Many things can go horribly wrong, everyone in this city is well versed in knowing that the Hockey Gods can push you down the stairs at a moments notice. “You enjoy having eight points? Nice. What’s that behind you? EAT STAIRS, HAPPY FAN.”
But after last season’s abysmal games fans had to endure, after listening to an entire off-season of panel experts predicting the Canucks would finish dead last and were probably the cause of Global Warming, why not take a moment and enjoy it for a day or two?
The Vancouver Canucks are 4-0. They are playing sound, not terribly exciting, smart hockey.
Sure, maybe we’ll re-visit this article when the Canucks finish ninth and just out of the playoffs and we can all throw metaphorical feces at this opening salvo, but if you don’t take a minute to enjoy sports in the moment once in a while, then what’s the point?
As Ferris Bueller once said, “hockey moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and take a look around once in a while, you might miss it.”
Pretty sure he said that. In fact, I am positive that’s the quote.
Don’t google it.
Don’t you do it.
Live in the moment, damn it!
1. Boring wins? Bring them on!
I know I just told you to enjoy the moment, and this is firmly filed under “champagne problems”, but the way the Canucks are winning is a big topic of discussion in some areas.
Yes, you’ll have your ardent supporters who will paint their faces and cheer no matter what, even if it’s to cheer on the fifth icing in a row (“Gotta support the team!”), but there are some fans who want an exciting product as well. And the Canucks, well, aside from the last minute nature of three of their wins, haven’t been that exciting to watch.
The Canucks are playing some dull hockey so far. pic.twitter.com/t6DGHUmtJB
— Sean Tierney (@SeanTierneyTss) October 20, 2016
The discussion around this usually revolves around the idea of “winning trumps all” and an extended playoff run does indeed show that even the most garbage tire fire of hockey can attract fans. Members of the jury, I give you the 2003 Minnesota Wild. A team used to induce people into medicinal comas had fans filling up the seats during their snoozefest run through the playoffs.
Of course, making the playoffs is a long way away, even if it happens, and the ticket sales won’t see a benefit of a strong start for a while, as seen tonight:
Scalpers bloodbath tonight in Vancouver pic.twitter.com/E6wQWqodk9
— Jason Brough (@JasonPHT) October 21, 2016
The team is only 4-0, and everyone is waiting for the floor to fall out, but should the Canucks have an extended winning run, more people should show up to the games. How many people is another question.
The best way for this Canucks team to succeed is to support good goaltending with better structure and that's exactly what they're doing
— Satiar Shah (@SatiarShah) October 21, 2016
Canucks have no choice but to play this style if they want to win games but no one in this market is going to go watch this style of hockey.
— Taj (@taj1944) October 21, 2016
@CrownRoyal22 naw, in this market you have to win by playing an entertaining style.
— Taj (@taj1944) October 21, 2016
And that’s what it boils down to. For the last three or four seasons the Canucks had awful puck support. Getting out of their own zone was a disaster. It looked like the Canucks defencemen were furiously whacking at live grenades, while the forwards ran for their lives, getting as far away from the defence as possible. This led to countless odd man rushes against the team, and it was really easy to yell at your TV and throw things at it. It got to the point where even ol’ reliable Dan Hamhuis looked like garbage in his own end.
This year? The forwards are back helping out the defence. Hell, Brandon Sutter is usually the first guy back on half his shifts. This has cut down those odd man rushes tremendously. It has made Luca Sbisa look serviceable. One time tonight Sbisa did his ol’ pizza delivery trick of giving up the puck right in the middle of his own zone, except this time instead of a breakaway against, Larsen was right there to bail him out.
If the Canucks want to win, this is the style they’ll have to play. Which is, despite being a bit tedious to watch, far more relaxing to watch if it comes with wins and less videos of Ryan Miller tearing his groin trying to make 18 saves on a 2-1.
2. Luca is all right
Admittedly, I have been hard on Sbisa since he came to Vancouver. It was a combination of his bloated salary coupled with management’s odd insistence that he was for sure, no really guys, we promise, a top-four defenceman. It got to the point where they would just say he was really good in scrums as a reason why he was on the team.
However, limited to a more manageable fifth/sixth d-man role this year, and with the team playing in a more structured environment, I find myself rooting for the guy. He put up with a lot of torment from the fans (some earned, some not) and just put his head down, turned over the puck, and ignored it.
This season, though, he has been great to watch so far. As we went over in the last SixPack, he is dishing out good hits, not making too many mistakes, and is overall playing just simple decent hockey.
Even his penalties are fine.
Want to tackle a guy and earn that full two minutes? Go for it my friend.
— CoppeR (@copperleaf22) October 21, 2016
See? Looking pretty good! Chest hair and all!
3. Erik Badbranson
All that goodwill I gave to Luca? Let’s take it all away from Gudbranson.
I kid, but it is worth noting that Gudbranson, who plays a very gritty game (people tell me he’s great in scrums, the best, nobody better, he’s making the Canucks defence great again #TrumpScoutingReport), has had a very up-and-down start to the season.
He’s been caught out of position at times, and has struggled with Hutton in several of the games. Tonight, they were the worst pair when it came to Corsi, both of them rocking a 14.29% at even strength. Corsi Twins!
Hutton is still young, Gudbranson is also young and new to the team, but it will be interesting to watch if Gudbranson gets any of that “Luca Sbisa top-four d-man heat” if his play continues to be so erratic. Especially once the undefeated streak ends.
Not that it will ever end.
4. Whatcha gonna do when Sutter-Mania runs wild over YOU!
Brandon Sutter aka Advanced Stats He Hate Me, has been one of the best Canucks this season. Again, chalk it up to big talk from management (foundational player), a large salary, and a horrifying team last year, but he was the victim of much criticism last year (which again I partook in a bit).
This season, so far, he’s proving management’s faith in him was correct.
Again, everything I write during this first part of the season is with that caveat. But let’s Ferris Bueller this one up and enjoy his work tonight. Sutter, along with Jannik Hansen and Markus Granlund, was the best line on the ice tonight.
Yes, Markus “You traded Shinkaruk for me, I will MURDER YOU IN YOUR SLEEP” Granlund is actually playing like a solid player, showing again that management might be on to something.
There’s Hansen getting the puck, having a panic attack at an open net, and missing. Still, Hansen getting to loose pucks with speed was a common theme tonight.
There’s Brandon Sutter getting a turnover, almost scoring, then Granlund trying a little wraparound action, and almost scoring. It was like a high school dance out there.
There’s Hansen causing a turnover, and Bo Horvat driving like he’s on number 3 road right into oncoming traffic, drawing a penalty.
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) October 21, 2016
The hard work of course ended up in the first goal of the game, which you can relive right here, right now.
Go on, I’ll wait.
The point is, that line of Granlund-Sutter-Hansen has been great so far, and this was without the Rodin plan being used yet. That is what has to happen if the Canucks want a good season, players stepping up like this.
5. Jacob Monstrom
Nobody has anything against Ryan Miller, but you can’t help but fantasize about dealing away an expiring contract, in a position that looks solid, for a good return.
So the better Markstrom plays, the more Canucks fans will dream of shipping Miller to LA for any sort of return.
And again, that is absolutely nothing against Miller, it’s just the armchair quarterbacking thing to do. It’s like trading away half your farm players for Wayne Gretzky in NHL 95.
And tonight, Markstrom played great. He dressed up like a brick wall for Halloween.
You want a goal? Get outta here.
What about you? Watch your head Tanev. No goal for you either buddy.
It got to the point where Buffalo had to try and run Markstrom to get him off his game. He was uninjured on the play, thankfully.
Of course, as good as Markstrom is, nobody can stop an Edler on a mission. Alex Edler is one of the most accomplished own goal scorers in Canucks history, as Jacob found out tonight. Not only did Edler tap the puck to his skate, but he curled it in with a glorious free kick that Pirlo would have been proud of.
Amusingly enough the call on the ice was no goal, followed up buy a goal call once it was ruled the Sabres didn’t punch it in, then the Canucks challenged for goalie interference (which a strong case can be made) but since Vancouver isn’t allowed to win challenges, it stayed a goal.
6. Shout out to Dorsett
Dorsett is another guy who is overpaid, and fights soulless fights, which made it kind of hard to embrace him. This year, though, he has simplified his game, and we haven’t seen much of the staged fights, and instead we’ve seen speed and hustle.
Tonight he drew a penalty by using his speed and a nifty move, and overall played a good game. Is it sad to watch Burrows struggle to keep up with Derek, as age slowly drains the life from his legs, and we see Dorsett do what Alex once did? Of course it is, but that is the cycle of sports life.
Winnik takes one off the head. Got off on his own power, which is encouraging. pic.twitter.com/W3Yrf2wzAG
— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) October 21, 2016
Barry Trotz said Daniel Winnik lost a little piece of his ear when the puck hit him in the head. Seriously.
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) October 21, 2016
Gross. Soon to be turned into a “This NBA player left with cramps. Winnik LOST HIS GOD DAMN EAR AND CAME BACK.” meme near you.
— Quinn Mell-Cobb (@QuinnMellCobb) October 21, 2016
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) October 21, 2016