Blues 3, Canucks 1: Boeser shines, but it’s a Blue Christmas for Canucks

 

 
 
 
 
Loui Eriksson of the Vancouver Canucks looks on dejected as Kyle Brodziak of the St. Louis Blues is congratulated by teammates after scoring during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on Saturday.
 
 

Loui Eriksson of the Vancouver Canucks looks on dejected as Kyle Brodziak of the St. Louis Blues is congratulated by teammates after scoring during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on Saturday.

Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, The Province

Now, this was a step in the right direction.

Jake Virtanen was really good. And so were many of his teammates.

In the end, the Canucks lost 3-1 to the St. Louis Blues. But they did play well.

Here is what we learned:

Forget holiday cheer, the city is wasted on Boeser Kool-Aid.

And it’s with good reason. Bo Horvat was lost to a broken foot, and Boeser, somehow, got better.

He’s now scored in seven of nine games without the man who was centring the Canucks top line.

Boeser has 20 goals and it’s not Christmas. That number led the Canucks last year for the entire season.

Since late October, Boeser leads the NHL in goals. That’s not rookies, that’s the entire league.

It has been that kind of run. For rookies, it’s one of the great stretches of goal scoring in Canucks history.

How good?

The question did the Canucks win? Has become: Did Boeser score?

Before the season, scoring 15 goals would have been considered a success. Now, you wonder. Can he it 40?

Dare we suggest it’s possible he gets to 50?

It’s not even a fair to ask. But the way Boeser has been going, you can’t make the bar high enough. At some point, he is going to fade and slump.

It didn’t happen Saturday. He got a chance with an open net and he wasn’t going to miss.

Jacob Markstrom made some nice saves.

None better than a second period stop on a breakaway where he stretched his body to cover the entire goal-line to thwart an attempt that looked like something Peter Forsberg would have tried in his hay day.

As great as the save was, the first two goals he let in were dispiriting.

The first was a knuckling backhand that didn’t appear to deflect off anything as it floated by him. The second was more troubling.

Kyle Brodziak was near the corner late in the second and essentially on the goal-line. The angle could not have been sharper. He flipped a puck toward the net and somehow Markstrom didn’t have the post secured.

Yet another puck floated into the net and it put the Canucks behind 2-1 to a St. Louis team that hadn’t lost all season when leading after two.

In December, the Canucks have had some of the ugliest goaltending in the NHL. Yes, defensive breakdowns have been a factor.

This was actually a good game for Markstrom. It’s just hard to forget the softies.

The more Virtanen plays, the better he looks.

Go figure.

He followed up his first multi-point game of the season Thursday with another strong effort against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

Virtanen had five shot attempts in the first two periods and would have had more if he didn’t lose the puck because of an uncalled slash late in the second.

Before the game, head coach Travis Green was asked if he thought Virtanen understood how to use his speed.

“He’s learning to. That is such a big advantage for him. He tracks people well. He tracks the puck. He’s exceptionally fast in this league, in the NHL, which is a fast league.”

Hey, the Canucks power play has been red hot. Among the best in the NHL since mid-November.

It’s still odd to see Edler pass on chances to get Boeser the puck. On the Canucks first power play, he chose to shoot instead of pass on three separate plays.

If you didn’t know any better you’d think Edler was the one with 20 goals, not one.

Luck hasn’t been kind to Hutton. Take the Blues first two goals. The play was started when a cross-ice pass from Troy Stecher was late. It deflected off of Nikolay Goldobin’s skate and back into the Canucks zone.

Not long after, a fluttering backhand was re-directed by Markstrom.

Did Hutton have a chance to clear during this sequence? There was a moment he had the puck behind the net, so maybe.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel like he has much margin for error these days.

We’ve been down this road. Sutter is again expected back within a week.

We heard the same in early December. Then, he was even skating.

But his groin injury didn’t heal. At least, not as quickly as the Canucks hoped. Green said he should be skating with the team “after the break.”

The Canucks next practice is Wednesday. If all goes well, and Sutter is back for that skate he could be playing by Jan 2.

If not, well groin injuries can tend to linger.

jbotchford@postmedia.com

twitter.com/botchford

Thursday

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Vancouver Canucks

7 p.m., Rogers Arena, SNP, SN650

 
 
 
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Loui Eriksson of the Vancouver Canucks looks on dejected as Kyle Brodziak of the St. Louis Blues is congratulated by teammates after scoring during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on Saturday.
 

Loui Eriksson of the Vancouver Canucks looks on dejected as Kyle Brodziak of the St. Louis Blues is congratulated by teammates after scoring during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on Saturday.

Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, The Province

 
Loui Eriksson of the Vancouver Canucks looks on dejected as Kyle Brodziak of the St. Louis Blues is congratulated by teammates after scoring during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on Saturday.
Jake Allen of the St. Louis Blues looks on as Brock Boeser #6 of the Vancouver Canucks scores his 20th goal during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on Saturday.
Vancouver Canucks' goalie Jacob Markstrom, of Sweden, covers up the puck after stopping St. Louis Blues' Paul Stastny during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver on Saturday.
Vancouver Canucks' Jake Virtanen, left, is checked by St. Louis Blues' Dmitrij Jaskin, of Russia, during the first period of an NHL hockey game on Saturday.
Vancouver Canucks' Alexander Edler, front right, of Sweden, and St. Louis Blues' Chris Thorburn battle for control of the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday November 18, 2017.
Vancouver Canucks blueliner Ben Hutton.
Vancouver Canucks centre Brandon Sutter.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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