Canucks Post Game: Boeser adds Calder clout; Gagner, Vanek get grind; Markstrom delivers


Brock Boeser goes roof on Anton Forsberg for his team-leading 21st goal Thursday.

Brock Boeser goes roof on Anton Forsberg for his team-leading 21st goal Thursday.

Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, The Province

Points to ponder as the Thomas Vanek-Sam Gagner-Brock Boeser line exploded for 12 points and a plus-14 rating as the Canucks ended a four-game losing streak with a convincing 5-2 victory over the Blackhawks on Thursday at Rogers Arena:


Brock Boeser had one shot attempt through two periods and finished with just three — and one actual shot — but that’s not what you’ll remember.

The red-hot rookie winger wants to grow the playmaking element of his dynamic game and he didn’t disappoint with three assists to go with his team-leading 21st goal and a plus-4 performance.

And if you’re handicapping the Calder Trophy race as 2018 approaches — Boeser (21-17-38) is now back in front of Coquitlam native Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders (13-23-36) — there’s also Clayton Keller of the Arizona Coyotes to consider (13-18-31) and Boston Bruins defenceman Charlie McAvoy (5-14-19) who’s averaging a whopping 23:06 of average ice time as a rookie.

The Professional Hockey Writers Association votes on the Calder and most of them are based in the east. Maybe they should hear what Vanek has to say about Boeser. They skate together in the summer in Minnesota and adding a passing element will make the rookie winger even harder to defend.

“One hundred per cent,” said Vanek. “He’s one of the best shooters I’ve every played with, but if he adds that element of turning and hitting late guys (with passes), they just can’t pinch him off and take his lane away. Tonight was a great step for him and you can tell he’s got a great mind.”

Boeser drove hard down the right wall early in the first period, stopped quickly, spun and fed a sweet back pass to Ben Hutton in the high slot.

The defenceman then spotted an open Vanek and it took an acrobatic Anton Forsberg paddle save to stop the sequence. Boeser then showed his positional smarts by getting to the far post in the second period and put a Sam Gagner feed off the iron.

And Boeser was almost too pass-happy before starting the sequence on the club’s second goal. He also started the scoring play on the third goal, threading a back pass from behind the net right on Vanek’s take before closing scoring.

“Last game, I said I wanted to make more plays and I focussed on that — and I think there was some luck there — but it was a good building block for our team,” said Boeser. “You see guys who are good scorers are also good playmakers and it gives you a little more time and space.

“If guys think I’m going to shoot, they’re going to get in my lane more and if I can draw them, I can pass and create more opportunities. And even in the summer, Vanek was giving me little tips and on the bench he’s helping me and he’s a real good person to look up to.”


Maybe it’s because it’s almost 2018 or the fact Gagner and Vanek are aligned with an incredible young talent in Boeser.

The Canucks could have easily got down Thursday when the Blackhawks erased an early 1-0 deficit and then had a chance to build on it with three-straight, second-period power plays. But outstanding goaltending by Jacob Markstrom and some resiliency during that stretch was a good underlying story.

It also said a lot about guys like Gagner and Vanek who get it.

Gagner played wing and played in the bottom six before injuries provided an opportunity to move back in the middle. He pushed his points streak to four games Thursday (2-4) and a lot of if has to do with playing with Vanek and Boeser the last three. But so does determination.

“It gives you a lot of confidence, obviously,” Gagner said of his two goals and three-point night. “Even when they scored (first), we settled in and started making plays and that got us going.

“I’ve played with Vanek a lot but when you add Boeser, he finds so much open ice and creates space with how he hounds pucks and shoots the puck and gets it through.”

Then there’s Vanek.

He went nine games without a goal earlier this season, but the club was always willing to live with his defensive shortcomings because of how quickly he could strike offensively. Tips. That half-slapper. Getting to the far post. You name it, and Vanek has a way of doing it.

But two goals and three assists against the Blackhawks and a plus-5 rating? Seven shot attempts have a lot to do with it, but so did getting open, being robbed by the paddle of Forsberg and another give-and-go from Derrick Pouliot being stopped.

“The last three games, I thought we played well and tonight was just one of those games where all three of us clicked,” said Vanek, who’s second in club goals with 11. “We stuck with it, kept talking on the bench and kept creating and found a way to score. We deserved the win.”

And what will this all mean at the trade deadline?

The Canucks are committed to a youth movement and a guy who turns 34 next month probably isn’t in their plans. But as a pending unrestricted free agent, he’s going to command interest and the Canucks should get a second-round pick.


Jacob Markstrom knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

Say what you want of the Hawks’ confusing 29th-ranked power play with all that firepower — and those quick cross-ice feeds — but despite sloppiness and giveaways, they did connect. A quick Patrick Kane dish and Nick Schmaltz found the short side on Markstrom from the hash marks.

That was it until a late goal Markstrom would like to have back in his 30-save outing.

And that said something because Markstrom’s head had to be on a swivel because the Hawks are still adept at those blind, quick passes from anywhere that find scorers in prime areas.

To his credit, Markstrom didn’t get rattled. His calmer and more poised play — and being more on top of his crease — has eliminated shots that beat him between the arm and body. Simply put, he tracked pucks better and stayed stoic.

“We know they have skilled guys and on those (second period) power plays, we got some big blocks and I thought we did a great job,” said Markstrom. “We knew what kind of game it was going to be in our defensive zone and you want to take away the seam passes and keep them to one side.”

Markstrom made a number of tough saves off sharp-angle shots, including one of Jonathan Toews, and a key power-play save off Schmaltz in the slot.

Whether by design to unnerve Markstrom, the Hawks crashed the net and Ryan Hartman ran into the stopper when he was checked. Markstrom reacted by foiling him with a poke-check when the winger drove in with a one-handed, power-play effort.

“I feel like I’m getting better every day,” said Markstrom. “You want to the guy — and we’re going to need both goalies — but you want to be the guy the coaching staff leans on when it heats up or you play big games.”

Brock Boeser goes roof on Anton Forsberg for his team-leading 21st goal Thursday.

Brock Boeser goes roof on Anton Forsberg for his team-leading 21st goal Thursday.

Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, The Province

Brock Boeser goes roof on Anton Forsberg for his team-leading 21st goal Thursday.
Brock Boeser has added a playmaking element to his game to boost his Calder Trophy resume.
Ryan Hartman is checked into Jacob Markstrom by Erik Gudbranson on Thursday.
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