Vancouver Canucks’ 3 stars of the week: For Quinn Hughes, “C” stands for confidence
2 months ago
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It might have taken four games, but the Vancouver Canucks have their first preseason win against the Edmonton Oilers, who they’ll be seeing in 10 days to open the regular season at home.
Yesterday was the Canucks’ first preseason game at home, marking the beginning of a three-game homestand against Seattle and Calgary, who they have yet to play. The Canucks exercised their first chance to even the preseason series against Edmonton, winning 5-2 after losing 2-1 to the Oilers in OT.
The Canucks’ offence was firing on all cylinders on Saturday night, largely due to a handful of players who round out this week’s edition of “3 Stars of the Week.” After a deadlocked first, the Canucks notched five unanswered goals, scoring in various instances: an odd man rush, a walk-in backhand, two wristers from the slot on the powerplay, and a tip in front.
Since Saturday night’s game was the first time the Canucks scored more than one goal, this week’s stars are no surprise. If you watched Saturday night’s broadcast and saw the home debut of Canucks colour analyst Dave Tomlinson, you would have been privy to our list one day in advance.
Now, to the stars: Canopus (the third brightest), Sirius (the second brightest), and the sun (the brightest of them all).
Third star: Phil Canopus Di Giuseppe
Even when Di Giuseppe doesn’t pick up a point, he’s noticed on the ice for what he’s doing. All these positives translated into a goal and two assists in Saturday night’s effort. Di Giuseppe has been a regular in the Canucks lineup since the arrival of head coach Rick Tocchet. Di Giuseppe reminds me of Tyler Motte in many respects to how he plays the game. First and foremost, their game centers on puck protection and retrieval, placing themselves right in the thick of scrums and battles against the boards. Di Giuseppe usually ends up with the puck on his stick due to sheer will, and when he doesn’t have the puck, he’s hounding it down. From there, he looks for his teammates. But he also isn’t hesitant to take a shot on net to generate a rebound or score. Its intuitive hockey, and it serves him well. Saturday night was a nice little explosion of points that put him on this week’s three stars list. However, in the future, it may be rare that Di Giuseppe combines for multiple multi-point games; one-point games are likely more in his cards. But on play alone, he puts in a star performance for the bottom six in almost every single outing.
Stuart Skinner knows it too.
Second star: Brock Boeser
You could feel the resurgence in Brock Boeser’s game on Saturday. He was sensational and made the most out of less than 16 minutes of ice time, having a hand in all but the game’s third goal. The more impressive stat of the night for me is the plus-five he was able to maintain, staying on the ice for all five Canucks goals and remaining off for both Oilers goals. That, to me, is more telling of the calibre of game Boeser had. Although Boeser hasn’t been scoring or producing points like we saw in his rookie season, we know he’s capable of it. It’s always been more of a question of when and not if for Boeser’s scoring. Defensively, it’s been a steeper climb for the forward. Boeser finished last season with a -20 and was sometimes the maker of his bad fortune. Saturday was a different story.
First star: Quinn Hughes
Here’s my best impression of pilot Quinn Hughes explaining his surge in scoring to his cabin full of Canucks fans:
This is your captain here, letting you know that we’re experiencing a sharp increase in elevation. That’s it.
Quinn Hughes has been the Canucks’ best player this preseason, and the magic inspiring his play looks to be the “C” stitched to his chest. He’s taking full advantage of the captaincy bump, scoring three goals and picking up two points in two preseason appearances. We’ve yet to see a scoreless performance from Hughes (knock on wood).
His offensive game has been redefined. Last season, Hughes averaged less than two shots a game. In both of his preseason games this season, he’s reached that milestone. But the real outlier was his eight-shot performance Saturday night. We know Hughes is capable of creating and setting up plays. Now, we’re seeing the scoring touch.
Unlike Hughes’ goal from the point in the Canucks’ losing effort in Edmonton, both of Hughes’ goals yesterday were right in the blue paint. He began the night on the receiving end of a 2 on 1 pass from third star Di Giuseppe, knocking down the puck with a nifty mid-air bat. Yes, indeed, the preseason is a magical place.
The real difference maker is Hughes’ confidence to call his own number and put shots on net. Even his second goal, I guarantee last season Hughes would have continued to circle the net and look for a teammate instead of shooting the puck.
And while it’s still exhibition, it’s a positive sign that Hughes is taking these chances and finding success. The captain himself even said that he’s looking to do more than shoot from the point.
At this rate, 20 goals in 82 games no longer sounds like such a hot take. I’ll take my win now, Cody.
So far this preseason, tonight was the first solid showing for the Canucks. Demko closed the door in the first when it looked like the Oilers could have blown the game right open; Hughes continued to assert his offensive prowess, and Kuzmenko and Pettersson’s shots blew right past the goaltender on the powerplay. Tonight’s game had a little bit of everything and felt like a later-stage preseason game than the first of the season.
Next week, we’ll see which three players shine the brightest in the final preseason games, and then, it’ll be showtime, for real.
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