Botchford: Boeser showing signs of blossoming brilliance for Canucks

 

 
 
 
 
Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates his goal against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday with teammate Sven Baertschi at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
 

Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates his goal against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday with teammate Sven Baertschi at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.

Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, The Province

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It has been two weeks since Canucks rookie Brock Boeser scored a hat trick and his Vancouver teammates are still talking about it.

“You see his celebration? I think I was more excited for him than he was,” Bo Horvat said.

“He put his arms out and that was it. If I got a hat trick against the Penguins and it was the 3-2 goal in the middle of the third, I would have been bouncing and jumping off the glass a couple of times.”

Well, have you ever seen Boeser excited?

“Honestly, I don’t think so,” Horvat said. “Even when he scored his first goal he just kind of shrugged his shoulder, like he was saying ‘whatever.'”

Do not, however, mistake Boeser’s composed, steady and chill disposition for lack of passion.

You don’t walk onto your first NHL team and lead it in points if there’s not a fire inside of you the size of the wooden effigy that gets torched at the end of every Burning Man.

Boeser cares, and cares deeply.

He sure did in the off-season when new head coach Travis Green had several difficult conversations with him. The message was both hard and simple. Essentially, Boeser was told he wasn’t yet good enough for the NHL.

It’s believed in the off-season the Canucks were planning for Boeser to spend months learning the finer parts of the game in Utica this season.

Boeser spent his summer changing that.

“I was brutally honest with him about his game,” Green said about their conversations that started happening after the Canucks’ July development camp. “I give him credit. He’s played well away from the puck. He’s competed away from the puck.

“That’s the sign of a smart player … He can’t just rely on his shot. He can’t just play inside the other team’s blue-line. I know he can score. I know he can create offence.

“But he’s been smart and detailed in other areas of the game I don’t think he was committed to in college. He probably took some shortcuts in college, which you can’t do in the NHL.”

JPat and Botch are back with the Pat-cast, powered by Eagle Ridge GM, to cover the Canucks’ no show vs. Vegas, to ponder why Virtanen isn’t playing, where the offence is supposed to come from, the goaltending situation and more …

Green has been cautioning the city about hyping up Boeser. But the more he plays, the more difficult it’s becoming.

He’s 25 games into his NHL career and he’s probably among the top three or four most important players on his team.

His 21 points in those first 25 games are more than Auston Matthews (20), Patrick Laine (19) or Johnny Gadreau (18) had.

Those numbers stopped us cold.

It’s not to say he’s better than any of them. That is to say, the Vancouver market may be underselling just how good Boeser’s start to his career has been here.

Despite missing three games, Boeser leads the Canucks in points (16), both on the power play (seven) and 5-on-5 (nine). He’s third in shots and first in shot attempts.

And, oh yeah, he’s just 20 years old.

“My first year, I definitely wasn’t leading the team in points,” Horvat said.

Horvat was younger, and his opportunity different. Any comparisons are totally unfair. But we’ll make them anyway.

Horvat had 25 points in his entire rookie season. Boeser has 16 in 16 games.

“Yes, he’s getting bigger minutes and power-play time, but still he’s getting that and he’s producing,” Horvat said. “That’s not easy for a young player.

“It seems like every night he’s sniffing for a goal or point. He just finds a way to get on the scoresheet. That’s really impressive.”

Part of this, obviously, is the shot. Boeser has shown a terrific ability in getting shots off and on net. But there is so much more going on.

“Obviously, he’s got that great shot but watch him find holes positionally,” Horvat said. “He’s able to find these spots where he can get space and get pucks on target.”

Thursday, Green pointed out Boeser is not Alex Ovechkin. Everyone in Vancouver likely understands this.

It doesn’t mean the city’s hockey fans can’t be more excited about Boeser than he seems to be when he records hat tricks.

“I just (want) to protect him from (the hype),” Green said. “I think there’s good reason to have hype.

“I like that he’s humble. He’s got two feet on the ground. That’s the part I’m talking about. Keep the pressure off him.

“I don’t think we’ve seen his best, even thought he’s played well. I still think he’s going to be a better player as we go on. That, for me, is exciting.”

For us, too.

jbotchford@postmedia.com

twitter.com/botchford

 

NEXT GAME

Saturday

St. Louis Blues vs. Vancouver Canucks

7 p.m., Rogers Arena, CBC, SNET 650 AM

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Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates his goal against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday with teammate Sven Baertschi at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
 

Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates his goal against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday with teammate Sven Baertschi at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.

Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, The Province

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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