Vancouver Canucks: 5 Thoughts After OT Loss vs. Islanders

Mar 9, 2017; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Luca Sbisa (5) checks New York Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck (15) during the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 9, 2017; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Luca Sbisa (5) checks New York Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck (15) during the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports /

The Vancouver Canucks suffered another tough loss in overtime, this time against the New York Islanders — the 2016-17 season in a nutshell.

This game was a birds-eye view of the 2016-17 Vancouver Canucks season in a nutshell. Why? Because it showed what the Canucks are capable of when they work to their potential.

Trouble is, they’re still missing a few important elements in terms of depth. Perhaps Brock Boeser, Ollie Juolevi and a healthy Erik Gudbransen will alleviate that stinging issue next season.

Here are five thoughts about the game.

1. Tavares has an impact — albeit less than 2010

In 2010, then-rookie John Tavares first rolled into Vancouver and proceeded to score five points in an Islanders win (Tavares was in on all five Islander goals), breaking the Canucks’ then-seven-game home unbeaten streak. Last night, John was not quite as dominant, but let’s not get too picky.

Vancouver came out strong, leading in shots 10-2; then Tavares proceeded to score the opening goal into a yawning cage, as Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller was tricked on a patented cross-ice pass to the Islanders’ talented, hard-working captain.

Reid Boucher tied the game after Tavares coughed up the puck and two minutes later, the Islander’s captain was robbed going in alone on the left side. All in all, it wasn’t his best game in Vancouver, but it was enough. He finished with two points, enough to propel the team one point up on the Leafs for the final wild-card playoff berth in the east.

2. Reid Boucher Needs to stay in the Top Six

Reid Boucher had his best game as a Canuck — by a country mile. The former Sarnia Sting forward is best suited playing with better players like Bo Horvat — and last night he proved it in spades.

Boucher gets the puck on net with a heavy, quick release on his wrist shot. Moreover, with that gap-toothed smile, he looks like a player. After last evening’s performance (five shots on goal) — fans can see that, very clearly indeed.

The 23-year-old Boucher isn’t the kind of explosive player that can create opportunities single-handedly, but the husky winger can and will deliver — when put alongside players than aren’t stuck on the fourth line. Expect coach Willie Desjardins to be cognisant of this fact, and continue the experiment going forward.

3. Alex Biega may stay in Vancouver after all

Hah! You thought Alex Biega was gone by default – right? Canuck zealots may cringe at this supposition, but beware of assuming he’s gone to Las Vegas.

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All Biega did last night was hit everything in sight — hard. This is two games in a row like this. Last game he outworked hard-working Brendan Gallagher along the boards on more than one occasion. All in all, Alex looks pretty darned good on the wing.

This is excellent news — as the Canucks need low-paid, semi-impactful players to counter the huge contacts soon going to players like future captain Bo Horvat, and former Calgary Flame Sven Baertschi.

It’s nice to see Calgary’s Brian Burke proven wrong on Sven, illustrating once more that the bombastic one isn’t infallible, much to his chagrin. But on the left coast, we’ve known that for eons, right?

4. Coach Willie’s long apprenticeship is “Done like dinner!”

“Done like dinner” must be in quotations for safety reasons — in case Tiger Williams takes offense. It’s his term, after all.

But to the point, Willie’s apprenticeship is over. He’s grown into the job slowly, ever so slowly. Give the coach some credit — he’s learned to shorten the bench in third periods — or any time for that matter. This speaks volumes, in terms of relinquishing his initial inherent stubbornness and reluctance to adapt.

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Canucks president Trevor Linden can talk all he wants about not being sure about Willie, but if the coach continues to evolve, Utica Comets head coach Travis Green may just have to hold on in the AHL for a few more years — or bolt like Randy Carlyle did.

Don’t worry about Willie’s age either — he’s a young 60 and the players love him. Moreover, he’s not the reason the Canucks will miss the playoffs — perhaps by only a point or two.

5. This Game Encompassed the Entire Season

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This game encompassed the entire season on so many fronts. The effort was apparent, the depth not so much. The Canucks are pretty much playing up to their potential, given the line-up. But it’s trending in the right direction and fans have a lot to be optimistic about for 2017-18. Just you wait and see.