Powered by the excellent play of Brock Boeser, the Vancouver Canucks pulled off a season series sweep of the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Here’s what we learned in the statement victory.
The Vancouver Canucks entered this month with four consecutive losses against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sidney Crosby and co. had taken eight of the previous 10 meetings, but 2017-18 was Vancouver’s turn.
Rookie Brock Boeser — who burned the Penguins with a hat trick in a 4-2 victory on Nov. 4 — also scored twice on Wednesday night as the Canucks escaped the Steel City with a 5-2 victory. Despite being without Chris Tanev, Troy Stecher and Erik Gudbranson (for the third period), Vancouver shut down Pittsburgh’s top weapons throughout. Great team effort all around.
With the win, the Canucks moved to 11-8-2 on the season. Thanks to losses from the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver holds the top wild card spot and sits two points out of first in the Pacific Division.
The Canucks will now prepare to visit the New Jersey Devils on Friday. While we await that, here are three things we learned from their victory and sweep of the Penguins.
Matt Murray thinks Boeser is “lucky”
After surrendering three goals to Boeser in the first meeting between these two teams, Penguins goalie Matt Murray refused to give credit to the rookie. He had excuses for all three goals surrendered to Boeser, breaking down how each of them included lucky bounces.
Well, Boeser scored twice on Murray in this contest to pace the Canucks to victory. Once again, Murray brought out excuses:
Murray is entitled to his opinion and frustration. But the two goals I saw Boeser score were 1. A snipe and 2. A rocket from the circle — very Alexander Ovechkin-like. Call it luck all you want, but Boeser is putting the league on notice as a pure goal-scorer.
Unless these two teams meet in the Stanley Cup Final (extremely unlikely), then Murray won’t have to worry about Boeser until next year.
More slump busters
While fans were busy praising Boeser throughout the night, let us not forget that a number of Canucks also continued to break out of slumps. Good time to do it against the Stanley Cup champions, why not?
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Loui Eriksson continued his recent tear by scoring his second goal in as many games — a fairly lucky bounce that came from Phil Kessel losing the puck via a broken stick. That’s now seven points in 10 games for Eriksson.
Brandon Sutter — who hadn’t scored since the Oct. 7 season opener against the Edmonton Oilers — also broke his slump by adding an empty netter with 1:40 to go. And who got his first point of the season on Sutter’s goal? Brendan Gaunce.
Also, Derrick Pouliot picked a great time to score his first goal as a Canuck. It turned out to be the game-winner, and it happened against is former team. You can’t make this stuff up.
With a number of slumps finally getting busted, let’s see if the likes of Sutter and Eriksson can contribute more to the score sheet.
Time to take this team seriously
Many are still waiting for the Canucks to unravel and miss the playoffs altogether. Well, there’s bad news for team tank: The Canucks are probably going to actually be a quite competitive team all season. Get used to it.
It’s not just that the Canucks are 11-8-2. It’s not just that the ‘Killer B’s’ form a legitimate top line, or that Jacob Markstrom and Anders Nilsson have been sharp. It’s the fact the Canucks are a much better hockey team in every aspect.
The Canucks have shown their ability to go toe-to-toe with the top teams. They just swept the defending champions. They erased a 2-0 deficit to steal a road win away from the Kings. The Canucks took the Western Conference-leading St. Louis Blues to overtime on Saturday.
This team is clicking under new head coach Travis Green. Despite all the injuries to the blue line, the Canucks are starting to play better team defence. If they’re not, Markstrom and Nilsson are there to save the day.
Vancouver is rolling out four effective lines and finding different ways to win. With a budding star in Boeser and more skill, depth and speed in the lineup, the Canucks are really forming into a legitimate playoff team. This easy win in Pittsburgh shows it.