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A shift-by-shift breakdown of Filip Hronek’s debut with the Vancouver Canucks

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Lachlan Irvine
11 months ago
Filip Hronek’s debut for the Vancouver Canucks wasn’t the flashiest in team history, but it was busy and effective.
The new defenceman’s outing in the Canucks’ 7-2 win over the Sharks ended without a single point or even a shot on goal. But for the first time in ages, Quinn Hughes didn’t finish a game with the most ice time on the team. That honour went to Hronek, who played 24 and a half minutes compared to Hughes’ 23:39.
Hronek’s arrival has been highly anticipated ever since the Canucks dealt the Islanders’ first-round pick they’d gotten in the Bo Horvat trade — and their own second-rounder — to the Red Wings to acquire the 25-year-old Czech at the trade deadline. An upper-body injury he sustained in Detroit had delayed his first game in green and blue, but Hronek seemed to make up for the lost time.
Today we’ll be highlighting a few of his best shifts from Thursday’s contest and break down the pros and cons of his first evening as a Canuck.
1st Period
Right out of the gate, Hronek began to show off the type of two-way play that the Canucks paid a premium to get.
Here Hronek and Bear link up to disrupt a Sharks breakout attempt, before working the puck back up the boards to launch an odd-man rush the other way.
Hronek’s ability to see the ice was on full display, with stretch passes through centre ice.
Here Hronek looks for Miller to send a pass, but notices the double coverage around him and elects to dump it in instead. While the Sharks win the board battle behind the net, Hronek pinches along the boards to try and keep the play alive.
A few minutes later, Hronek chases down a loose puck and knocks it off Andrew Agozzino’s stick. The Canucks keep possession in the zone this time, which leads to an eventual icing and a Sharks penalty after.
Hronek was immediately added to the team’s second power play unit and went to work. He wasn’t credited with his first Canucks shot on this play, but he did float the initial attempt at James Reimer.
2nd Period
In the middle frame Hronek continued to ply his quarterbacking ability in the offensive end, including this shot attempt that got blocked by a sea of humanity in front of the Sharks’ net.
But the play he’ll be remembered for most is his defence of Elias Pettersson.
During a scrum near the boards, Pettersson is unmarked and about to pull the puck out from between the Sharks player’s skates. Kevin Labanc trailing the play makes the boneheaded decision to crosscheck an unsuspecting Pettersson in the back two feet from the boards.
Labanc gets the easiest boarding call that referee Beau Halkidis has ever made, but not before Hronek grabbed Labanc by the scruff and began roughing him up.
For a team that’s been criticized in the past for a lack of response to dirty plays, Hronek’s immediate willingness to jump into the fray should assuage those concerns fast.
On the defensive side of the ice, Hronek doesn’t shy away from being aggressive on the puck carrier. Here he forces the Sharks shooter to the corner with good body positioning and then seals him off from any shot at the rebound by holding strong along the goal line.
On a late Sharks breakout attempt, Hronek was alert as the puck skipped off Tomas Hertl’s skate and out into the neutral zone. Hronek quickly surveyed the scene before slapping the puck back around the boards.
3rd Period
With the win practically guaranteed Rick Tocchet’s squad put it in park for most of the third period, giving us a chance to watch Hronek in a much more defensive role.
The immediate plus in Hronek’s favour is just how well he can read the play and his ability to block out net-front players. Just look at how he clears out room for Demko here under pressure, including a key shot block.
Hronek’s body strength was especially crucial against a younger, smaller Sharks team. Here Hronek ended a scoring chance for Logan Couture with a strong stick check before knocking Alex Barabanov into the boards as he was attempting to set up.
If there’s a place where Hronek might need some work, it’s in not getting too laser-focused on the puck. A few times Hronek followed the puck carrier a little far from his original position, leaving some open space down the middle that an opponent could take advantage of.
Here he got a little too carried away tracking the Sharks player leading the breakout, moving into space that Quinn Hughes is already covering. It ends up leaving a lane for a pass through the slot that Nico Sturm luckily can’t get a stick on.
But his efforts were never the issue. On his last big shift of the game, Hronek seals off the left post from a Sturm wraparound chance before putting every ounce of strength into trying to wrestle the puck away from him along the boards.
Overall, Hronek’s game provided an immediate lift to the Canucks’ undermanned blue line, which became all the more crucial when Christian Wolanin left with an injury midway through the game. Hronek’s ability to protect the net in his own end and set up plays at the other could finally provide the Canucks with a second bonafide two-way defender next to Hughes that will make them a more formidable 200-foot team.
Still, it should be noted that this was all against the Sharks, a team closing in on last place in the NHL with a 1-6-3 record across their last ten games. How Hronek will look up against playoff-bound teams like the Stars, Kings and Kraken will be a different matter. But as far as first impressions go, Hronek is already gaining fans fast.

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