Paterson’s Point: Canucks and Stars deliver long-overdue return of the big game feel
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
27 days ago
As there has been almost every night out this season for the high-flying Vancouver Canucks, there was so much to like in the team’s 2-0 victory over the Dallas Stars. But more than the result or the way it was achieved, maybe the best thing about the occasion was the big game feel that has been missing at Rogers Arena for the better part of a decade.
It was an early season prize fight on a Saturday night presented for the viewing pleasure of an announced sellout of 18,895 in attendance along with a national television audience.
This will be difficult for some to comprehend, but games like this used to be the rule rather than the exception for the Canucks. Certainly for a five year span from 2008 to 2013, this hockey club and its assortment of stars made for big nights of hockey. Obviously that hasn’t been the case for far too long now. But last Saturday against the Rangers had a sense of occasion. Both teams were 5-2 in the early going and entered the night on three game win streaks. But it was still October and it felt a tad premature to build up a game between teams that were barely out of the starting blocks.
A week later and you had the Canucks coming off their 10-1 romp in San Jose with seven wins and an overtime loss to show for their first 10 games going up against a Dallas team that was 7-1-1 to start the season. It was a game that featured two of the best goalies in the game, two of the best young defensemen in the league and two forwards that finished in the top 10 in league scoring last season – both surpassing the 100 point mark. Saturday night had just about everything a hockey fan could ask for.
And that first period lived up to the hype. While there were no goals scored, there was star power on display from the drop of the puck. Brock Boeser had a breakaway in the first minute of play while Thatcher Demko’s glove stop on Wyatt Johnston on a Dallas power play minutes later will stand the test of time as one of the saves of the year in this National Hockey League season.
Think about this: the biggest games that Boeser and Demko and Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes and JT Miller have played as members of the Vancouver Canucks all took place in an empty building in Edmonton during the summer months of 2020. Sad, but true.
The 13 games the Canucks had remaining when COVID hit would have had some heft because the wes no guarantee that team was going to make the playoffs that year had the pandemic not brought the world to a halt. Otherwise, this franchise has spun its wheels year after year and hasn’t been in position to play in anything that resembles a big game for a while. A strong argument can be made that Saturday against the Stars was the most significant home game the Canucks have played in years.
Sure, there have been some memorable nights through the darkness, memorable but not terribly weighty in terms of where the Canucks find themselves in the standings. And I don’t want to oversell Saturday night beyond it being 60 minutes of captivating hockey. But relative to what has gone on here for what feels like an eternity, it was refreshing to have something that nibbled at the fringes of being a big game again in Vancouver. More than that, it was so good to feel the presence of one.
It was only Game 11 of the season, so it’s still too early to make too much of one night of hockey. But it should at the very least give people reason to imagine what it will look and sound like when the Canucks eventually return to the playoffs.
It’s going to happen. Some day.
And after another win to push their early season record to 8-2-1, it was safe for a few hours at least on Saturday night to dare to dream about the kind of hockey that truly delivers that big game feel.
It’s the kind of hockey that hasn’t presented itself in Vancouver since the spring of 2015. But based on results like Saturday against a quality opponent like Dallas, the best kind of hockey may just be on its way back to Vancouver in 2024.
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