Canucks vs Flyers Game Day Report: The era of a new Big Country

Dec 19 2017, 6:17 pm

After defeating the Coyotes in Arizona on Friday night, the Vancouver Canucks open a quick two-game home stand tonight against the visiting Philadelphia Flyers on Grizzlies night.

Labelled as one of the five marquee games as part of the special Rogers Arena 20th anniversary celebrations, Canucks fans are encouraged to dress up in Grizzlies apparel in a nostalgic tribute to the team. As well, former Vancouver Grizzlies player Shareef Abdur-Rahim will be doing the ceremonial puck drop.

Game Time: 7:00 pm

TV: Sportsnet Pacific

The visiting Flyers are 4-4-2 and sit in sixth place in the competitive Metropolitan Division. They’ve lost three games in a row and will undoubtedly want to start off their swing through western Canada with a win.

But that’s enough talking about the Flyers. This a Canucks Game Day Report and it’s Vancouver Grizzlies night!

I was a very loyal and supportive Grizz fan during their six-year tenure here. I invested a lot of time and money into the team. I was at Rogers Arena for some memorable moments, including Michael Jordan going off in the fourth quarter (I will never forgive you Darrick Martin) and Steve Francis’ first appearance in Vancouver as a Houston Rocket.

Jas Kang wrote a great piece about the Grizzlies yesterday. In the meantime, I’m going to do my part and pay tribute to the Grizzlies throughout this Game Day Report.

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1. Big Country 2.0

The big news coming out of yesterday was that rookies Jake “Big Country” Virtanen and Jared McCann got the good news that they (and basically every single Canucks fan) were waiting for: they made the team and wouldn’t be sent down to their junior clubs.

Rob Williams did a nice job summarizing how they found out. I find it fascinating that the team went to such creative lengths to give the good news. What’s going to happen next year? Pretending to rip their contracts up right in front of them? Buying them one-way plane tickets? Getting Donald Trump to come in to tell them that they’re fired?

For Jared McCann, his hold on a permanent roster spot became stronger and stronger with every goal he scored. His only competition for the fourth-line centre spot was journeyman Adam Cracknell and the much-maligned Linden Vey.

As for Jake Virtanen, that one was a tad more iffy, especially with Chris Higgins getting set to return from injury. Obviously, the Canucks like Virtanen’s combination of size and speed and it will be interesting to see just how much he plays when Higgins returns. And don’t forget about Brandon Prust.

Ever want to know why Virtanen has been saddled with a nickname that conjures memories of the Grizzlies’ first-ever draft pick Bryant Reeves? Wyatt Arndt wrote about it here.


2. The importance of the 3-pointer

Byron Scott Image: Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Byron Scott Image: Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Among their many shortfalls was the Vancouver Grizzlies’ lack of a three-point threat. Sure they had players like Blue Edwards, Anthony Peeler, Pete Chilcutt, Brent Price, and Byron Scott at one time or another, but most of their shooters either under-performed here or were nearing the end of their careers. Thus, opposing teams could collapse down and make life hard for guys like Shareef, Big Country, and the immortal Othella Harrington.

The Vancouver Canucks have had trouble with the “three point” game as well. In the five games that have gone past regulation time, the Canucks have a record of one win and four losses. The team’s lone win in extra time was a shooutout victory over the Ducks. Meanwhile, the Canucks have lost playing three-on-three against the Flames, Oilers, Red Wings, and Stars.

The optimist would point out that the Canucks are still accumulating points. However, the pessimist would say that the four losses represent four points that the Canucks could have had. When you consider that in most of their overtime losses the Canucks were leading in the third period, it makes you feel even worse.

Going forward, the Canucks will need to do a better job of protecting third period leads AND producing in overtime.


3. Higgins returning

It will be interesting to see what happens when Chris Higgins makes his inevitable return in the next week or so. Higgins has been skating with the team for a few days now and was a favourite of Willie Desjardins last season.

So where does Higgins slot in? It’s likely bad news for one of the Canucks’ young players like Jake Virtanen or Sven Baertschi. One could see Higgins joining the second line, bumping Virtanen down the lineup, or perhaps joining Horvat and Hansen to reunite the Triple H line.



At practice yesterday, injured players Hamhuis and Higgins skated with the team. Sbisa was not at practice.

*Update: Luca Sbisa is injured, Hamhuis returns.

Ryan Miller will get the start in goal, while it appears Sven Baertschi will get back into the lineup.

D. Sedin H. Sedin Vrbata
Baertschi Sutter Virtanen
Burrows Horvat Hansen
Cracknell McCann Dorsett
Edler Tanev
Hamhuis Weber
Hutton Bartkowski



It’s going to be a good atmosphere in Rogers Arena tonight with the celebration of the Vancouver Grizzlies. I’m sure the Canucks fans will be in a good mood reminiscing about the basketball team (might only take five minutes to re-live them, there weren’t many good memories).

The Canucks won’t have to rely on a buzzer-beater (ala Chris King in the Grizzlies’ first home win ever) to take the win.

Instead, look for the Canucks to channel their inner-Shareef and pull out a smooth and efficient 4-1 victory.

I leave you with this picture of my brother Jason and me from 37 years ago. Please excuse our horrible haircuts. At least I have the proper sleeper on.

Rocking the bowl-cut 37 years ago.

Rocking the bowl-cut 37 years ago.

DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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