In an action-packed season opener, the Vancouver Canucks narrowly escaped with a 3-2 victory over Connor McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers. We look at three key takeaways from the win.
The Vancouver Canucks knew they had their hands full on Saturday night, when reigning scoring Connor McDavid and the star-studded Edmonton Oilers came to town.
But even without Brock Boeser — a questionable healthy scratch hours before the game — the Canucks played an excellent team game and escaped with a 3-2 victory. The team looked much faster and more structured, and guys like Jake Virtanen and even Troy Stecher used their physicality to throw out some big hits.
Vancouver won its season opener for the fourth consecutive year, and they’re on pace to finish 82-0-0. Indeed, a beautiful way to make the Thanksgiving weekend even better.
With that all said, let’s take a look at three things we learned from the Canucks victory.
Horvat was given a six-year extension worth $33 million last month. The contract could end up being a huge bargain, if last night was an indicator of what’s in store for him this season. No. 53 was all over the ice, scoring the game-tying goal in the first and the eventual winner early in the second.
Horvat won a whopping 15 faceoffs yesterday and played 19 minutes, completely dominating the Oilers stout defence. We haven’t even see him and Boeser play together yet, so don’t think he’s going to stop here.
The Canucks top player did everything against arguably the top team in the Western Conference. Perhaps Travis Green will give him that top line role soon.
Jacob Markstrom gave up a soft goal early in the game, which was an immediate worry that the game would soon be a piece of cake for Edmonton. But Markstrom settled down and made some terrific stops to preserve the win.
He was peppered with 35 shots, but turned 33 of them aside. One of those saves was on a tricky deflection in the final minute. Markstrom was completely calm, poised and obviously benefited from the strong play from his defence in front of him.
The Canucks will need more performances like this from Markstrom. Elite goalies like Carey Price, Matt Murray and Braden Holtby steal games for their teams on a regular basis. Markstrom doesn’t have to be elite, but efforts like this one will go a long way.
Right away, we know that Anders Nilsson is going to have competition for the starting job.
Excellent team game
This win was so inspiring in many different ways. The Canucks didn’t have to win a 6-5 game and rely solely on offence. They didn’t have to claw out a victory by playing only defence and relying too much on their goalie.
The Canucks looked much faster, moved the puck well and the defence didn’t give up many prime scoring chances. McDavid was blanketed throughout the game, and the Oilers struggled to set up in Vancouver’s zone.
Vancouver had plenty of chances on offence, including two breakaways that didn’t result in goals. With Markstrom playing with full confidence, this was a game the Canucks were never going to lose.
It’s obviously one game, and we can’t jump the gun after a single victory. But the Canucks looked so much better and more structured than what we saw at any point last season. We’ll see if they can build off of that when they host the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.