Midway through the second period of Tuesday’s game, with the Vancouver Canucks leading the San Jose Sharks by a comfortable three goals, there was a noticeable buzz inside Rogers Arena.
As “the wave” passed over the near-capacity crowd, it became clear that fans were once again excited to cheer on their local hockey team. The crowd brought the energy and even got a “Bruce, there it is” chant going as the Canucks held on to their lead.
For the most part, there hasn’t been much to cheer about in the Vancouver hockey market this season. With the fan atmosphere becoming hostile during many losing games, it was nice to see the Canucks flip the script.
In the Vancouver net, an unsung hero stole the show with two remarkable saves to keep the Canucks ahead.
After giving up five goals in three straight games, including one from the neutral zone Thursday against the Seattle Kraken, Spencer Martin put on his best Roberto Luongo impression and turned in one of the NHL’s saves of the year on Tomáš Hertl.
Martin described the victory as a “full team effort” to reporters following the game.
"“I didn’t skate for three to four days, so it’s just trying to battle and make saves, no matter if it’s diving or whatever.”"
Offensively, the Canucks played one of their most complete games of the season.
Bo Horvat once again led the way with two goals and two assists for the second straight contest, proving Adam Oates’ training is no fluke (paywalled). His new stick flex and curve are working out nicely for him this season.
Horvat was given the team’s championship belt for his role in leading the offence on Tuesday.
Defenceman Quinn Hughes, who entered the game with 28 assists, but zero goals on the season, finally ended his goal drought early in the second period.
Hughes moved swiftly around the San Jose end before firing a perfectly-placed wrist shot over Sharks goaltender James Reimer’s right shoulder.
In his post-game media availability, Hughes expressed his relief at finally scoring his first goal of the season.
“It was nice,” Hughes said. “[It was] something that was weighing on my mind the last couple of games. Obviously, I want to produce with scoring.”
It’s clear Hughes wants to score more goals, but doesn’t discount his play this season.
“Sometimes they just don’t go in,” Hughes added. “Even if I went another 10 games without scoring, if I kept playing the way I was, I was gonna be happy with it.”
Following the game, head coach Bruce Boudreau added that “you’d like to see it more complete,” but because his team had surrendered under three goals for the second game in a row, he wasn’t complaining.
The Canucks are far from perfect. They played better as a team on Tuesday, but there’s still lots of work for improvement. The Sharks were much better at passing the puck, a fundamental skill that the Canucks are still perfecting. At times, it doesn’t look like they know where each other is on the ice.
So, does a game like this have any impact on the rest of the Canucks’ season expectations?
If you ask this contributor, the answer is no.
A gutsy effort by the players won this game. But as we’ve seen time and time again, the Canucks have failed to string these strong performances together. Fans shouldn’t be convinced of anything just yet.
The win was nice, and it’s good to see the Canucks take advantage of teams like the Sharks who are statistically worse than them, but they still have a long hill to climb and many tough games to play.
Vancouver begins a two-game road trip in Winnipeg this Thursday to wrap up 2022.
What are your thoughts from Tuesday’s 6-2 win over San Jose? Let us know in the comments!