Canucks' Bo Horvat used to fair-weather play

 

 
 
 
 
Bo Horvat loses his balance during Vancouver Canucks practice at  Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Arena at UBC on Tuesday, April 14, 2015.
 

Bo Horvat loses his balance during Vancouver Canucks practice at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Arena at UBC on Tuesday, April 14, 2015.

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG

More on This Story

 

VANCOUVER - Bo Horvat is no stranger to playing hockey in the spring.

In his last three seasons of junior, the Vancouver Canucks’ rookie went to two Ontario Hockey League championship series, winning both, and three Memorial Cups.

He has oodles of experience on big stages and in pressure situations. But those games were all against teenage competition, opponents who were maybe a year or two older, maybe a year or two younger. Bo will be a kid again in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He just turned 20 on April 5. Many of the Flames he will be facing Wednesday will be much older and with a lot of veteran savvy.

Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins doesn’t feel Horvat will have any problem adjusting to the rigours of NHL playoff hockey and rejects the notion he will be playing above his peer group.

“I think right now these are Bo’s peers,” said Desjardins. “The NHL is his peer group and this is his league now. He played 82 games (actually 68) to earn that right. Calgary has guys like Sean Monahan on the other side, so there is not a big difference. I have confidence in Bo. He’s a good player and he’s played against some of the top players before.”

So who is Bo to argue with the coach?

“I totally agree with Willie on that,” Horvat nodded. “I’ve played in this league all year now and I’ve had to play against the men, the big boys. He’s put me in key situations where I’ve had to go against top players. After having to do that all year, I don’t think it will be any different in the playoffs.”

But, but, these are the Stanley Cup playoffs …

“It’s definitely a bigger stage and there will be lots of pressure,” Horvat conceded. “But I’m definitely looking forward to it. I’m sure the nerves will be flying a little bit in the first game. You just have to get the first couple of shifts out of the way and go from there.

“I’m excited more than anything, honestly. Playing in the playoffs in junior, the world juniors and the three Memorial Cups, I kind of have that experience of playing on a big stage and playing in a seven-game series. So I am looking forward to it. It’s the best time of the year, the most fun and usually the best hockey. I can’t wait to start playing.”

Desjardins is a big believer in not changing much once the playoffs arrive. If it worked for six months, and resulted in 101 points, why tinker? So Horvat can expect to be deployed in much the same manner as he was from Nov. 4, when he made his Canucks debut, to April 11, when he assisted on Jannik Hansen’s goal against the Oilers.

“The players have been successful, so why walk away from something that has worked?” Desjardins explained. “No, I don’t anticipate Bo’s role will change much from the one he had in the regular season.”

That doesn’t mean Horvat hasn’t been thinking about it.

“It definitely goes through your mind what positions he might put you in and the key situations you might get thrown into,” he said. “But you can’t let that stuff bother you. You just have to let it go and play your game and do what you’ve been doing all year. I think, if I do that, I should be fine.”

THE STARTING 5: THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GAME 1

OFFENCE FROM THE DEFENCE

While much is made of the superior numbers put up by the Flame blueliners, the gap isn’t as wide once injured captain Mark Giordano is taken out of the equation. Minus “Gio”, Calgary’s expected starting top six of Dennis Wideman, Kris Russell, T.J. Brodie, Deryk Engelland, David Schlemko and Corey Potter will bring 33 goals and 146 points into the series. The Canucks’ top six accounted for 29 goals and 120 points.

FLAME FRESHMEN TOP CLASS

There is no disputing the Flames’ superiority in offence from their rookie class. Led by puck-handling wizard Johnny Gaudreau, the Flames received 46 goals and 101 points from their freshmen class, and that includes Sam Bennett’s one assist in his one game. The Canucks can counter with 17 goals and 37 points from Bo Horvat and Ronalds Kenins. Linden Vey (10-14-24) is expected to be a healthy scratch to start the series.

DRAW, PARDNER

The Canucks have been pretty lousy in the faceoff circle all season and, not surprisingly, finished second last in the league, tied with the New York Rangers at 46.7 per cent. Luckily for the Canucks, the Flames aren’t much better. Calgary’s centremen came in 26th at 47.4 per cent. So there isn’t much to choose between the teams. Faceoffs, you might say, look to be a sawoff.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Canucks have not opened the playoffs on the road since 2002 when they began in Detroit, won the first two games and then lost the next four. Since then, they have started the first round at home eight times, winning five series and losing three, the losses coming against Calgary in 2004, Los Angeles in 2012 and San Jose in 2013. The latter series was, of course, a sweep.

QUOTABLE

“I feel like I’m playing my best when I have a little nerves. It kind of gets me going a little bit. We’ve been playing with pressure for a while now and we want to keep that same mentality going.” – Canuck netminder Eddie Lack on whether he expects to be more nervous than usual when he makes his Stanley Cup playoff debut.

epap@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/elliottpap

 
 
 
Font:
 
 
 
 
Bo Horvat loses his balance during Vancouver Canucks practice at  Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Arena at UBC on Tuesday, April 14, 2015.
 

Bo Horvat loses his balance during Vancouver Canucks practice at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Arena at UBC on Tuesday, April 14, 2015.

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report spam or abuse. We are using Facebook commenting. Visit our FAQ page for more information.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Your voice