The Vancouver Canucks travelled down the coast to face off against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.
The vibe was high as the team flew into San Jose on a five-game win streak and were coming off a game that saw them storm back for a win from a three-goal deficit.
The Sharks were one spot up on the Canucks in the Pacific Division with a 15-13-1 record. Tomas Hertl is their leading goal-scorer with 14 goals in 29 games and Erik Karlsson looks to be back to his scoring ways with eight goals and 10 assists in 23 games.
The Canucks went with the same lineup as Alex Chiasson stayed on the right wing while Guillaume Brisebois drew into the lineup to replace Tucker Poolman. Noah Juulsen was tasked with playing alongside Oliver Ekman-Larsson and being in the Canucks’ top four.
The Canucks currently have Juho Lammikko, Luke Schenn, Brad Hunt and Tucker Poolman in NHL COVID protocol.
As for the goaltenders, the Canucks threw out the reigning player of the week in Thatcher Demko while the Sharks went with former Calgary Canuck Adin Hill between their pipes.
The Canucks’ defence is in ruins with injuries and COVID but here we are, at puck drop.
The Sharks were firing plenty of long-distance shots early on. The Canucks were struggling to get the puck out of their own zone as Kyle Burroughs and Juulsen had a couple of giveaways in their own zone in the first couple of minutes.
After dealing with some low-quality shots against, the Canucks were able to get a few scoring chances of their own in the opening five minutes. Quinn Hughes had a good chance where he came down the left side during an odd-man rush and fired a shot short side that was stopped by Hill.
The period was flying by as there was almost six minutes of continuous play. Both teams had a couple of scoring chances but nothing that resulted in breaking the scoreless tie. Demko saw a lot of shots in the opening 10 minutes but stopped them all as he looked to keep his game at the level its been at over the past couple of weeks.
Brock Boeser was firing shots from all angles through the first 10 minutes of the game and he was rewarded for his aggressiveness with 7:19 remaining.
Boeser received a pass from Tanner Pearson and he ripped the shot into the far corner past Hill to give the Canucks a first-period lead. 1-0 Canucks.
The first period goal was the fifth time in the past six where the Canucks had scored first. They weathered the storm of shots from the Sharks and found a way to get to Hill early in this game.
Jason Dickinson was tripped on a knee-on-knee with 4:59 remaining and that sent the Canucks to their first power play attempt of the game.
The first power play unit went to work and they made a ton of passes that would have had Rogers Arena in a screaming frenzy. The immense passing ultimately worked as J.T. Miller made a great cross-ice pass to Bo Horvat who fired a shot into the top corner. 2-0 Canucks.
Quinn Hughes drew the second assist on the goal and the tally was Horvat’s 10th of the season, making him the first Canuck to get to double digits.
The Sharks came back after the second goal and fired a shot on Demko, where the rebound came right onto Timo Meier’s stick and he made no mistake burying the puck past Demko to cut the Canucks’ lead to just one goal. 2-1 after the Sharks bit back.
Boeser and Pearson forced a turnover off of Brent Burns’ stick and Boeser made a beautiful pass from behind the net but Pearson wasn’t able to control the pass and the puck deflected off his stick and into Hill’s pad.
That was the final scoring chance of the period and the players skated off the ice after three goals in the period.
Thoughts from the first
The pairing of Brisebois and Burroughs looked a bit sketchy in the period. They very much struggled with getting the puck out of their own zone and made some really bad decisions deep in their own zone. On the other hand, Juulsen looks pretty good in the first period. He skated alongside OEL and had 6:28 of ice time in the period. He made a couple of good breakout passes and was fine defensively in the period.
The most impressive player in the period was Boeser. He had four shot attempts and ripped home his fourth goal in six games under Bruce Boudreau. On top of the shooting that Boeser was doing, he seemed to be engaged even more than usual on the forecheck and forced turnovers with his line throughout the first 20 minutes of play.
The second period was filled with quick action at both ends of the rink for the first seven minutes before the Sharks took another penalty and gave the Canucks their second power play attempt of the game and a chance to extend their one-goal lead.
They were unable to score on the power play and the bad news poured in as Brisebois went down the tunnel with an injury and Vasily Podkolzin took a puck to the face.
Don’t worry, the puck was fine.
Myers took a hit to the head penalty with 9:52 remaining in the period. This set up the Sharks’ first power play of the game.
Two minutes passed by and the Canucks held onto their lead through the penalty kill.
It felt as though the Canucks were a step behind in the period, as they were only able to get three shots on net in the first 16 minutes of the second.
The shot amount didn’t matter though, it was about where those shots were going. Pearson and Miller did an exceptional job working the forecheck and that resulted in them digging a puck out. Miller then threw the puck into the slot and Boeser ripped a wrist shot over Hill’s shoulder and into the top corner for his second goal of the game. 3-1 Canucks.
The late goal was all the Canucks needed in the period to skate off the ice with a two-goal lead after 40 minutes.
Thoughts from the second
It was great to see Boeser’s confidence continue to grow. As Pearson and Miller dug that puck out and sent it to Boeser’s stick, you could just feel that it was going into the back of the net. That’s not how it’s been all season long but right now, Boeser is hot. Boeser had another four shot attempts in the second period and that gave him eight on the night through 40 minutes.
The Canucks lost Guillaume Brisebois in the period and the Canucks’ Twitter account announced that he would not return in this game. This is injury-related and not COVID-related. The injury meant that the Canucks were forced to play with five defencemen once again. On a side note, the Abbotsford Canucks currently have injuries to Jett Woo and Jack Rathbone. The only other healthy defencemen that the (Vancouver) Canucks can call up are Madison Bowey or Devante Stephens.
An early power play was earned for the Canucks as they went back to the man-advantage with 16:41 remaining in the period.
Horvat ripped a wrist shot off the crossbar as he had a ton of room because of a great screen from Pearson. Aside from that, there weren’t a ton of chances and the Sharks killed off the penalty.
Out of nowhere, the puck took a Sharks’ bounce on an alley-oop pass to Andrew Cogliano. He dangled around Juulsen and slid a puck past Demko to bring the Sharks within one goal. 3-2 Canucks after the Cogliano goal.
Juulsen had another tough giveaway and the Sharks were gaining momentum with a comeback in their grasps. They had multiple scoring chances in the middle part of the period.
The Sharks kept the pressure coming as we went into the final five minutes of the third period. Demko stood tall as the Canucks’ defencemen not named Tyler or Quinn struggled in front of him.
Demko made a glorious sprawling save as he dove to the right to keep the game tied.
After the big Demko save, Miller walked in during a three-on-two and the defenceman split to cover both the pass options and Miller ripped home his 10th goal of the year with a top-corner snipe. 4-2 Canucks.
The Sharks pulled their goalie with 1:15 remaining in the period. Elias Pettersson found a wide-open Dickinson and he finally broke his scoring slump with a tap-in goal on the yawning cage. It was Dickinson’s first goal in 24 games. 5-2 Canucks.
Make it six in a row, the Canucks win 5-2.
Brock Boeser was excellent and his confidence continues to grow. He scored two goals, played 19:49, had 10 shot attempts and dominated possession with a team-high 66.67% Corsi. He and his whole line were creating turnovers and putting together good passes to generate scoring chances. Throughout the entire game, their line was excellent and you can see how confidence is key with this group.
Quitely, Thatcher Demko was excellent again. He stopped 34 of the 36 shots that he faced and made a massive save late in the game to keep the Canucks’ one-goal lead intact. The Sharks had 33 scoring chances in the game and Demko rarely looked out of position through the 60 minutes.
The turnaround with this hockey team is beginning to look like the beginning of a cinderella story. They are winning games in different ways, scoring more goals and getting big saves when the team needs it. The Canucks were outshot but not outplayed on Thursday night. They looked like the more dangerous team throughout the 60 minutes and were able to pull out a victory against a Pacific Division team that is above them in the standings.
“It’s a great feeling in our locker room right now,” said Boeser. “It was a huge win tonight. It’s been a blast, everyone is so excited to get to the rink. This feeling that we have, it’s been great. When we feel like we don’t play a [strong] period, I think we’ve done a good job of responding and sticking together and that’s helped our success.”
We don’t know how long this run is going to continue but it’s a hell of a lot of fun compared to what we saw in the first part of the season.
The Canucks are back in action on Saturday evening for a 4 PM game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That will be a big test and likely a very fun game. We will see you on Saturday.