Vancouver Canucks’ 3 stars of the week: Brock Boeser scores 4 goals in season opener
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
By Dave Hall1 month ago
As the saying goes, preseason performances should be taken with a grain of salt.
In the Vancouver Canucks case, that statement couldn’t be more true.
The Canucks’ preseason record of 2-3-1, during which they were outscored 20-11, had left fans with numerous questions as they headed into the 2023-24 regular season.
These questions included concerns about finding enough scoring, whether their star players could repeat previous career-best performances, and whether Brock Boeser or Conor Garland could step up to fill the 31-goal gap left by Bo Horvat.
Don’t even mention the ongoing chatter regarding Elias Pettersson’s contract extension and trade rumours involving Conor Garland.
Ah yes, in typical fashion, the Canucks found themselves embedded in drama, even though the organization aimed to maintain a ‘drama-free’ environment.
To make matters more complicated, their schedule opened with a back-to-back against one of the most potent offences and predicted Stanley Cup hopefuls, the Edmonton Oilers.
What could go wrong?
What happened next epitomized why the Canucks continue to captivate their fans and keep them coming back year after year, despite the mental rollercoaster that it induces on a day-to-day basis. Not only did they come out and beat the Oilers on opening night at home — the Canucks handed them their most lopsided loss since 2015-16 with an 8-1 barn burner.
They embarrassed the league’s two premier goalscorers.
So, one might expect the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to channel their inner Michael Jordan, take this loss personally, and wreak havoc on the ice on Saturday night to make an example of the Canucks. Right?
The Canucks backed things up with another 4-3 victory, on the heels of Casey DeSmith’s impressive 37-save performance.
Looking back at the top three performers, there are several names that come to mind. The club received goals from nine skaters and saw both goalies provide solid performances, despite a flu bug passing its way through the locker room. Heck, with just three goals out of 11 Edmonton powerplay attempts, there’s even an argument to give the Canucks penalty kill, as a collective, a star selection. Running a 72.7% on the year, so far? That’s progress from last season…
There are quite a few honourable mentions in this week’s installment but ultimately, here’s who rose to the top.
Third star: Quinn Hughes (4A)
By now, no one should be shocked to see Hughes fall into three-star conversations.
Despite debates about his status as a top-10 NHL defensive talent this summer, the newly appointed captain consistently maintains his steady and effective presence, serving as the backbone of the organization on a nightly basis.
Fresh off a preseason in which he recorded five points (3G, 2A) in three games, Hughes was up to his usual tricks right out of the gate. He contributed three assists on Wednesday – two of which came from the man advantage – and backed that up with another helper on Saturday.
Of course, his point totals aren’t always the be-all-end-all of why he is consistently embedded in “star of the week” talks, and this week was no exception.
He logs heavy minutes night in and night out and brings much more to the table than a plethora of assists. Of course, he does that too.
In addition to his four assists this week, Hughes led all Canuck defencemen in shots (4), was third in blocks (4), and finished second on the team with a plus-four rating, all while skating an average of 23:35 per game.
Did we mention that he was not on the ice for any of Edmonton’s goals throughout the week? We should really mention that!
All-in-all, it was another strong week for one of the league’s (top-10) defenders, and well worth the third star of the week selection.
Second star: Elias Pettersson (1G, 5A)
Elias Pettersson’s lack of contract negotiations over the summer left fans wondering how, or if, it would impact his on-ice performance, but if his start to the season is any indication, he’s going to be just fine.
The 24-year-old Swede kicked off the season’s opening week with an impressive six points, including one goal and three assists on Wednesday and another two helpers on Saturday night.
This included this saucy feed to Conor Garland to open the season’s scoring on Wednesday.
He even grabbed himself a powerplay goal, something that he failed to accomplish until November 26th last season, and only managed to provide seven times throughout the entire year.
It goes without saying that if he can find a way to pick things up in that column during 2023-24, there is no reason to believe that he cannot surpass his 102-point performance from last year.
Much like Hughes, Pettersson isn’t just contributing offensively; he’s also making his presence felt in other aspects of the game, including setting the tone early in game one.
He currently leads the Canucks forward group in plus/minus (+4) and currently shares the league lead in both points (6) and assists (5).
Additionally, he’s one of only two players on the Canucks with a positive Corsi percentage (CF%), and his 58.62% CF% ranks second on the team. Moreover, his expected Goals For percentage (xGF%) of 73.19% not only leads the team but shatters the rest of the field – the next closest being Conor Garland, with 58.44%.
That percentage (73.19%) is also good for 47th league-wide.
It’s an impressive start from the young star, who seems determined to prove that last year was no fluke and that the Canucks have one of the league’s premier two-way centers in their lineup.
If we are being honest, this strong performance could have, and probably should have, earned him the title of “Star of the Week”.
However, we just cannot shy away from a “feel good” story.
First star: Brock Boeser (4G, 1A)
Okay, let’s get one thing straight.
He could have been a minus-four and put two goals in his own goal on Saturday, and we would have still considered naming Brock Boeser this week’s number-one Star.
It’s no secret that it’s been a tough few years for Boeser.
From injuries and lack of point production to the passing of his father, Duke, nothing has come easy for the (now) 26-year-old.
However, it was clear from day one of camp that he had taken incredible strides in making sure that wasn’t the case this season.
With a new training regime, he appeared fit, eager, and had a bit more pep in his step on the ice. Basically, he looked ready to revert to his rookie season form, or at least somewhere in that vicinity.
And then it happened.
Not only did he score roughly 12 minutes into the season opener, but he contributed three more to cap off his first career four-goal performance.
He finished the game with four goals, including one on the powerplay, eight shots, and a plus-three rating – all in just 18:47 of ice time.
If you could believe it, he was named the game’s “First Star”.
Following the game, he received praise from Head Coach, Rick Tocchet, who said, “He did some different training this year and I think he’s had a good camp, and he knows that he’s got to keep going. He had four goals and a couple of screens. Yeah, he had a good game tonight”.
Tocchet, who placed Brock as a net-front presence on the club’s powerplay, alluded to his ability to provide screens. This played a big part in Pettersson’s powerplay tally and could be a huge benefit to that special team’s unit moving forward.
Perhaps he’s found his new home in front of the net?
It’s been quite some time since we have seen Brock smile like this, and that alone was enough to warrant him the player of the week.
He backed this performance up with an assist on Saturday night in Edmonton.
While four-goal matches are a lot to ask of a player on a nightly basis, we hope that this is just the beginning of a storied comeback story for Brock Boeser and the first of many appearances on this year’s “3 Stars of the Week” column.
It was a week to remember for the Vancouver Canucks, as they kick-start their season with a 2-0-0 record for the first time since the 2016-17 campaign.
After enjoying a quick taste of home ice in game one, they are set to continue their early season road trip as they find themselves on an East Coast tour for the next four matches.
Their next game is on Tuesday, October 17th, as they head into Philadelphia to take on the 1-1-0 Flyers. Note the strange start time of 3:00 pm PST — the kids will have to walk home from school!
Stay tuned for next week’s installment, as we cap off how that road trip goes.
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