Canucks Post Game: Horvat’s alarm, Barzal’s bid, Nilsson’s miss, Tavares time

 

 
 
 
 
Scott Mayfield takes a first period penalty for elbowing Bo Horvat.
 
 

Scott Mayfield takes a first period penalty for elbowing Bo Horvat.

Photograph by: Bruce Bennett, The Province

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Points to ponder as the high-octane Islanders — the league’s third-highest scoring team — came as advertised in a 5-2 victory Tuesday. The Canucks played the tired card, Bo Horvat played the concern card and Coquitlam native Mathew Barzal got a leg up on Brock Boeser in the Calder Trophy chase:

BO KNOWS SOMETHING’S MISSING

Sometimes, you learn more about your club in a loss.

It’s easy to say it’s one of those nights on a long trip. Especially when you’re a step behind the play and chasing one of the league’s best offensive clubs. And if you’re looking for one of those snapshot moments, one of those something-to-build-upon efforts for Thursday, take a closer look at Bo Horvat.

The Canucks were out of it in the second period. They were down 4-1 and were back on the penalty kill after Brendan Gaunce took a bad offensive-zone tripping minor. Horvat was already a minus-2, but bolted past John Tavares in the neutral zone and went shelf on Jaroslav Halak to make it at least closer on the scoreboard than it actually was on the ice.

“Anytime you get a forward on defence, he’s not really familiar with that position and don’t skate backwards as much as defencemen,” said Horvat. “I just wanted to try to get around him and I did and thankfully it (shot) went in.”

Horvat was also stopped on a first-period shorthanded chance on a cross-ice feed from Loui Eriksson. And on a night when he was getting bettered in the circle, he found other ways to contribute.

“I’m not sure if it’s structure or that we’re not playing the way we were the first couple of months,” said Horvat. “We’ve got to get back to frustrating teams rather than turning it into a track meet where you’re trading chances. We need 20 guys.”We have to take a look in the mirror and get everyone going. We can’t have half the team going.”

Added Canucks coach Travis Green: We had some guys who looked a little tired tonight. We didn’t play quick enough and you don’t put yourself in position to take away time and space. We deserved to lose tonight.

“We needed to raise our game and push in the third, but you can’t have some guys play a 70-per-cent game. We need everyone to play sound and quick. If you’re not on your toes against a team like this, you don’t get to puck battles quick enough.”

BARZAL FAR FROM FAUX PAS

Mathew Barzal is first in rookie points (24), assists (18) and power-play points (eight). He extended his points streak to seven games (3-7-10) Tuesday and was better than Calder Trohy competitor Brock Boeser.

A year ago, this didn’t seem possible.

After all, the Coquitlam native had a hat-trick of the wrong kind in his regular-season debut last season. It was one of a somewhat humourous variety — three penalties against the Washington Capitals, including one while playing the puck while still in the penalty box — but even then he was confident that given the opportunity, he would learn from it.

The 16th pick in the 2015 NHL draft did just that.

The playmaking centre played just two games last season and his statistical line — no points, no shots and a minus-2 rating — meant a ticket back to the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League. Instead of sulking, he put up 79 points (10-69) in 41 games and another 25 points (7-18) in 32 playoff games to lead the T-Birds to the league title and a Memorial Cup berth.

“I’m a competitor and I want to win and I want to be known as a winner,” said Barzal.

That’s easier now because of opportunity and having the rejuvenated Jordan Eberle and Andrew Ladd as his linemates. He didn’t disappoint Tuesday.

He drew a first-period penalty in the cornerboards because his puck handling got the better of Michael Del Zotto. He set up Eberle’s goal. He danced around Troy Stecher for a backhanded chance. And it took a sprawling Chris Tanev to keep the centre from easily depositing a cross-ice feed off a 2-on-1 rush.

“He’s a very good player,” said Horvat. “He has very good skill, very good vision. And his speed is effective as well. For a young guy to come in and do what he’s doing at his age (20), it’s pretty impressive.

Added Green: “He has nice game. He’s quick and is going to be a good player in this league and he already is.”

NILSSON LOSES SERVE TO MARKSTROM

Nilsson was said to be ill Sunday in New York — he had a slight cold — and the thought was he could have been the difference in a 4-3 shootout loss because the Canucks held the Rangers to just 20 shots. There was obvious anticipation when Nilsson, a third-round Islanders draft pick in 2009, got the start because he has better numbers than Markstrom.

It didn’t last long. The drama ended in a New York minute.

A Calvin de Haan point shot deflected off the stick of Boeser and went under the short-side pad of Nilsson. Sixty seconds later, Jordan Eberle took notice and went short side with a wrister from the hash marks.

It was not the Shooter Tutor version of Nilsson. There was flopping. There was indecision. There was mishandling a Nick Leddy point shot that went off his glove and landed on top of the net.

“I think we can play a lot better than this —myself included,” said Nilsson, who finished with 31 saves. “Last year in Buffalo, I didn’t play consistently and it (lack of playing time) isn’t an excuse. Your job is to stop the puck, whether you’re playing five games in a row or you haven’t played in five games.

“It’s my work in games and my practice habits (that have to improve).”

GREEN NEEDED GREEN ROOM

Travis Green has had celebrity status leading up to Tuesday’s game. He should have had his own room,

The former Islanders centre was constantly asked to re-visit his time and tough love from legendary coach Al Arbour in six seasons on Long Island. He said there was more to the bark and bite of the bench boss because he knew where he could go with his players.

“It depended on the age of the player and the psyche of the player,” recalled Green. “He had a great understanding of every person on the team. He knew how to treat them. And that’s a really important part of coaching — making sure you can get the best out of your players. He was a great at it.”

GAGNER SAW TAVARES POTENTIAL

Sam Gagner’s dad, Dave, a former Canucks centre, built an outdoor rink outside his Oakville, home.

Among the 10-year-olds that frequently flocked to the frozen slab was John Tavares. His friendship with the younger Gagner dates back to minor hockey and the bond is so strong that dinner on Monday night in New York was a must.

And if anybody knows why Tavares had 28 points (16-12) in his fist 24 games this season, it’s Gagner. He saw the skill and commitment as a kid and can only imagine what the 27-year-old Islanders captain is going to command on the open market next summer, if not extended. His cap hit is $5.5 million US.

“We played minor pee-wee and he always played a year up on me,” recalled Gagner. “And to do that in the GTHL (Greater Toronto Hockey League), which is one of better leagues in Canada, and be as dominant and productive as he was, you can kind sense there was something there.

“A lot of kids are good at that age group and don’t pan out, but you got a sense with his work ethic and determination to get better. You just felt he was going to keep doing it at every level. In tier 2, he was 14 and playing against 20-year-olds.

In 2003-04, Tavares and Gagner were bantam-level teammates on the Toronto Marlboros, who rolled to a provincial Triple-A title. Tavares scored 95 goals and 92 assists in 90 games.

“Every level he would raise his game,” added Gagner. “He has been doing it all his life. He’ll do big things for any organization and I know he’s a pretty loyal guy in his time here. There’s going to be a lot of speculation, but as his friend, you just let his go about this business.

“He’s right up there with elite players because he can do it at both ends of the rink. With how hard he plays and how good he plays, it kind of goes through the whole team. A pretty special player and person.”

bkuzma@postmedia.com
twitter.com/benkuzma

 

 
 
 
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Scott Mayfield takes a first period penalty for elbowing Bo Horvat.
 

Scott Mayfield takes a first period penalty for elbowing Bo Horvat.

Photograph by: Bruce Bennett, The Province

 
Scott Mayfield takes a first period penalty for elbowing Bo Horvat.
Bo Horvat blew by John Tavares to score a shorthanded goal Tuesday.
Mathew Barzal goes for the puck during the second period with Brock Boeser closing in.
New York Islanders' Andrew Ladd scores as the puck gets past Vancouver Canucks' goalie Andres Nilsson during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, in New York.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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