Kuzma: Hotshots Boeser, Boucher give Canucks another dimension

 

 
 
 
 
Reid Boucher was called up when Brock Boeser went down with injury. Then Boeser and Boucher teamed up at the morning skate, and both might play Tuesday night.
 
 

Reid Boucher was called up when Brock Boeser went down with injury. Then Boeser and Boucher teamed up at the morning skate, and both might play Tuesday night.

Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, The Province

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The guy with the best shot was big on playing Tuesday.

The guy with the second-best shot was big on getting a chance to play.

In a span of 24 hours, the Vancouver Canucks’ pendulum swung from injury angst to outright anticipation. The bone-bruised Brock Boeser and the recalled Reid Boucher took the morning skate and were expected to face the Montreal Canadiens at Rogers Arena.

Even-strength scoring could get a needed injection from the club’s leading point producer and Calder Trophy contender in Boeser, and the Utica Comets’ top sniper in the recalled Boucher.

Imagine, Boeser’s heavy, quick and accurate wrister and Boucher’s much-ballyhooed release in the same game? It’s almost too good to be true for a 29th-rated offence that had but 51 goals at even strength to rank 28th.

Boeser’s emotional roller-coaster ride from a suspected broken left ankle Sunday after blocking a Mark Giordano shot — and crawling to the bench in agony — to a CT scan Monday that revealed a bone bruise had the hockey populace first enraged and then engaged about building on his breakout season.

Imagine how Boeser felt.

“It’s feeling better by the day and is obviously still sore, but we felt I could try skating and try the warm-ups and hopefully be able to play,” said the 20-year-old Boeser, who led all National Hockey League rookies with 30 points (17-13) in 31 games heading into play Tuesday. “Since we ruled out the fracture we wanted to test it and it’s tolerable.

“I was pretty concerned when I couldn’t put any pressure on it (foot) for a good time after the game. I didn’t want it to be broken and I was hoping for the best. In the 10th grade, I broke my right ankle and it kind of felt like that, but not as bad. And that’s when I was hoping for the best news, because it could have been a lot worse and I could have missed a lot of time.”

The optics of Boeser’s struggle to get to the bench made the highlight reels. The whistle never blew because there was some initial thought that maybe he just lost a skate edge. The look on his face said something else.

“I was hobbling and we were on the power play and I knew I had to get off the ice as fast as I could,” added Boeser. “It was hurting so bad, but I didn’t want to lay on the ice and have the whistle blow to stop the play. That was my main goal.

“You can look at it that we were on the power play and he (Giordano) was just shooting from the blue-line, but it’s part of being a team player and sticking to the little things in the game and try to make any difference you can.”

The goal for Boucher was to heed an exit-meeting message from the Canucks last spring.

Challenged to improve his fitness and overall game, the 24-year-old winger has responded with 25 (13-12) American Hockey League points, was playing the power play and penalty kill and took just three minor penalties.

“When I was sent down, I wanted to compete hard and it has paid off,” said Boucher, who was dispatched after two NHL pre-season games but has been buoyed by his improved fitness and playing at 190 pounds.

“It’s as lean as I’ve been and it has carried into a good start for me. The PK is all about hard work and you do that, you feel good about your play all over the ice and 5-on-5. And I’m more positionally sound.”

Boucher had five goals in 27 games with the Canucks last season and despite being on a one-year, one-way contract at $687,500, he’s enamoured by the organizational shift. Jake Virtanen, Nikolay Goldobin, Brendan Gaunce and Boeser have been allowed to grow their games at the NHL level.

And an uptempo system should play into Boucher’s improved quickness and finish.

“Love it,” he said. “Everything is kind of get on your horse and go. It opens up the game and gives you a little more time to make plays. I had a feeling this chance was coming because I’ve been playing well and with the injuries here.”

A lightning release has something to do with it. Where did it come from?

“I don’t know,” shrugged Boucher. “Just shooting a lot of pucks when I was a kid, I guess. It’s something that I’ve always had and something I try to build on every year.”

OVERTIME: Ben Hutton, who was minus-3 Sunday and has but four assists in 34 games, was a healthy scratch Tuesday and replaced by Erik Gudbranson, who returned from an upper-body injury. “I like the steps that he’s taken in his game, but I don’t think he (Hutton) has been great of late, but not terrible,” said Canucks coach Travis Green. “Part of it is right-left (pairings) and part of it is Bulldog (Alex Biega) has played pretty well the past two games (seven shots, 11 hits, two blocked shots) and deserves to stay in the lineup.”

bkuzma@postmedia.com

twitter.com/benkuzma

Tonight

Montreal Canadiens vs. Vancouver Canucks

7 p.m., Rogers Arena, SNP, TSN2, SNET650

 
 
 
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Reid Boucher was called up when Brock Boeser went down with injury. Then Boeser and Boucher teamed up at the morning skate, and both might play Tuesday night.
 

Reid Boucher was called up when Brock Boeser went down with injury. Then Boeser and Boucher teamed up at the morning skate, and both might play Tuesday night.

Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, The Province

 
Reid Boucher was called up when Brock Boeser went down with injury. Then Boeser and Boucher teamed up at the morning skate, and both might play Tuesday night.
Brock Boeser feared the worst and hoped for the best after blocking a shot Sunday.
Reid Boucher (right, getting a hug from Ben Hutton) has been on a scoring tear in the AHL.
Brock Boeser grimaces in pain Sunday before leaving  game after shot block.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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