Canucks Post Game: The Sedins saga, the Baertschi bag, the Guddy plan, the Gaunce question

 

 
 
 
 
Sven Baertschi celebrates his winning goal Tuesday with Chris Tanev.
 
 

Sven Baertschi celebrates his winning goal Tuesday with Chris Tanev.

Photograph by: JONATHAN HAYWARD, The Province

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Points to ponder as the Canucks blew a two-goal lead Tuesday, found a way to gut it out and draw even and then won 4-3 over the Avalanche in overtime at Rogers Arena:

SEDINS SHOW MORE MOJO

It’s the story that’s not going to go away.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin remain undecided about their playing futures — don’t expect the unrestricted free agents to give the Canucks an answer before the Feb. 26 trade deadline — and they showed again Tuesday that they still have game.

Their career decision is going to hinge on their physical and mental health at the end of a slow slog to another season without a playoff appearance. That’s going to weigh on them if inconsistent team play is going to become the norm and they have more nights where a 2-0 lead turns into a 3-2 deficit.

That bugs them more than you know.

The Sedins defer to their teammates after victories and allow them to bask in the glory. But on a night where Daniel scored on a power-play re-direct from Henrik, while falling to the ice to make it 3-3, and then put another feed from the Canucks captain off the post, it was a reminder that there’s something left in the competitive tank.

Daniel had two shots and five attempts, Henrik slid a power-play backhand chance just wide of the post and their ability to orchestrate the league’s sixth-ranked power play can’t be undersold.

“I thought they were awesome tonight,” said Bo Horvat, who opened scoring on a partial break. “They were making plays and doing what Hank and Danny do. They find each other out there and had a heck of a game.

“They still have lots to offer this team and they give our group confidence going into the next game.”

But are they giving their teammates a hint of their career plans?

“They don’t,” said Horvat. “I think it’s a secret.”

As for his goal, Horvat looked like he was going short side all the way on Jonathan Bernier.

“I kind of picked where I was going to put it and kind of made up my mind when I touched the puck,” said Horvat, who doesn’t get enough credit for his improved passing. “I’m just trying to make the people around me better.”

BAERTSCHI BAGS BIG ONE

Sven Baertschi is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

In order to have some contract clout in negotiations, the left winger needs to do what he did Tuesday. His overtime goal, a wrist shot that found the short side high, was his second goal in the last three games and upped his total to 11.

Consistency down the stretch will be imperative and being re-united with Horvat and Brock Boeser during line juggling in the third period should help.

“We didn’t spend much time in our end and that’s how you want to play as an offensive guy — get pucks in and grind it out and get the cycle game going and I thought we created a lot,” said Baertschi. “We knew they (Avalanche) have a fast and skilled team and those are usually the most fun games to play in.”

As for his goal, having plenty of space in the 3-on-3 alignment with Brandon Sutter and Chris Tanev allowed Baertschi to load up the wrister and then offer a salute when the effort beat Bernier.

“I was just trying to find open ice and was able to and there was quite a gap between me and the defender and I was able to take my time and find the right shot,” said Baertschi. “You just want to get it (shot) past the D and I didn’t think I would pick the corner. but I wanted to get it up high somewhere.

“It gives you confidence.”

If gave the Canucks a chance to exhale on a night where all three Avalanche goals were weird. One puck hit a sprawling Jacob Markstrom in the mask before JT Compher put in the rebound. And two goals by the hulking Gabriel Landeskog were the result of bouncing pucks off shots and deflections and rebounds that found the winger who established position at side of the net.

WHAT’S THE GUDBRANSON BUZZ?

What should we read into the Canucks willing to talk contract extension with pending unrestricted free agent Erik Gudbranson before the trade deadline?

It depends on what you believe.

Do the Canucks need his toughness or do they need to create a market in advance of the deadline?

Several clubs either need immediate help or depth for the playoffs — including the Winnipeg Jets who have lost Jacob Trouba for six to eight weeks with an ankle injury — so the timing of the publicized management move is interesting.

General manager Jim Benning said Tuesday that a combination of a need for toughness and improved play by Gudbranson before missing the last five games with back spasms is part of the rationale.

If the club can reach contract terms on Gudbranson, who’s on an expiring $3.5 million US deal and might earn more in free agency, then they will try to move him at the deadline.

“We play five times a year against Anaheim, Los Angeles, Calgary and Edmonton and they have all have big, strong and physical wingers,” said Benning. “I thought Erik was starting to play well as a physical force and he’s 26. That’s when defencemen start to be what they can be.

“We look at him as a physical stay-at-home defenceman for us and he can make it hard to get to the net. We’re going to talk to his agent and see where it’s at and if that doesn’t work out, we’ll go to the net step.”

Benning believes Gudbranson skates well enough in an up-tempo system where the Canucks active a blueliner to create odd-man rushes on the breakout. He also believes he’s a good penalty killer and strong in the corners. He doesn’t believe the notion that he’s just trying to create a buzz and a trade market for Gudbranson.

“I don’t have a comment on that because I’ve been honest in telling you (media) guys what our intentions are and what we’re trying to do,” stressed Benning. “If we can’t figure out a deal, we’ll look at our options after that.”

IS GAUNCE GOING TO GET IT?

Travis Green said there’s a lot to like about Brendan Gaunce — size, skating, smarts and potential.

It’s the last part of that assessment that’s confusing to the coach because we’re still talking about potential from a 2012 first-round draft pick trying to tailor his game to a bottom-six NHL role.

A centre by trade, Gaunce was purposely shifted to the left side long ago to up his compete level, work the walls and work his way to net.

He sat out the previous two games and three of the last seven because he wasn’t playing well. On Tuesday, he had an early scoring chance, killed penalties and got physically involved in a sideboards puck battle in 13:40 of ice time. But he didn’t register a hit. Is that enough?

You’d to think there’s more to the guy than being a fourth-liner who kills penalties because just two goals in 31 games this season — and just three in 108 — speak pigeon-holed.

“There are times when I feel like he’s on he cusp of breaking through — I don’t want to say offensively where he becomes a goal scorer — but in the role he’s playing you have to bring something to the table,” said Green. “We talked about being hard to play against.”

Gaunce has just 43 hits in his 31 games. That doesn’t scream intimidating or even effective.

“He has to be a heavy body who finishes checks and people know he’s on the ice,” added Green. “He shouldn’t go through a game where a team doesn’t know who you are. He’s going to figure it out and it’s up to us to get him to reach his potential — whatever that is — because we’re not sure yet.

“He’s one of those guys we’re talking about. There are lots of guys who play two three or four years, but are you a guy who plays 10 to 12? “I don’t look at Gaunce like a vicious, mean player — there’s not many in the league anymore.

“But if you have that element it’s not a bad one to have.”

IS BOESER’S BURST SUSTAINABLE?

Brock Boeser played his 47th game of the NHL season Tuesday. He never played more than 42 in the NCAA regular season.

Is that relevant? And how will the stretch drive with little to play for affect the winger, who’s accustomed to winning and won a national championship with North Dakota?

The Avalanche took away the power-play point feed to Boeser away by collapsing to the winger when the puck went to Alex Edler. He still had his chances and even went down low for a backdoor play that was open. He was still creative, had four shots and eight attempts and drew and assist.

Boeser was engaged in 19:54 of ice time after a whirlwind weekend at the All-Star Game. He was also re-united with Horvat and Baertschi to see if the trio that had so much mojo in November could re-ignite some magic. And they did.

Still, with the club all but mathematically eliminated from postseason play, will it take a toll on Boeser?

“I don’t think it changes anything,” he said. “We still have purpose to play for and we still have pride that we can play for. We all know we’re a better team that what we’ve been doing. We all have that mindset.”

And with the Avalanche rebounding from a franchise-low 48 points to be in playoff contention, there should be incentive beyond this season to build something here.

“It just shows how fast you can change things if you have that mindset throughout the whole year that you can be a playoff team,” said Boeser.

bkuzma@postmedia.com
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Sven Baertschi celebrates his winning goal Tuesday with Chris Tanev.
 

Sven Baertschi celebrates his winning goal Tuesday with Chris Tanev.

Photograph by: JONATHAN HAYWARD, The Province

 
Sven Baertschi celebrates his winning goal Tuesday with Chris Tanev.
Bo Horvat, who lauded the Sedins' pay Tuesday, does his goal dance at Rogers Arena.
The Canucks believe Eric Gudbranson's physical play is worth discussing contract extension.
Brendan Gaunce fights for control of the puck with Tyson Jost.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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