Saturday October 12 - Vancouver Canucks 3 - Philadelphia Flyers 2 (S/O)
It took more than 65 minutes, but the Vancouver Canucks maintained their perfect early-season home record when Tanner Pearson's shootout winner gave his team a 3-2 victory over the Philadephia Flyers on Saturday night at Rogers Arena.
Here are your highlights:
The good stuff:
• Another terrific performance from Jacob Markstrom, who made 30 saves during 65 minutes and stopped two of three during the shootout, including the two-pad stack on Kevin Hayes that ended the game. Markstrom was named the game's first star on Saturday night.
After Wednesday's home opener, Markstrom's stats for the year to date were a .922 save percentage and 2.38 goals-against average. This early in the year, one game can shift those numbers pretty significantly: he moved to .926 and 2.23 after Saturday night.
We haven't seen what Thatcher Demko is bringing to the table yet this season, so perhaps I'm being presumptive. But I think the Canucks will need Markstrom to be healthy enough to play his usual 50-60 games if they want to have a hope of sniffing around a playoff spot.
So—is this cause for concern?
In his third season as a starter — and three and a half months away from his 30th birthday — Markstrom probably now has a pretty good idea of the toll that his heavy workload takes on his body. Hopefully, he's getting ahead of that and this treatment is more about prevention and maintenance than about rehabilitation. With unrestricted free agency looming on July 1, he has every incentive to try to put together the best season of his career this year.
• The Chris Tanev/Quinn Hughes pairing is looking like a perfect match so far. Both strong skaters with good hockey sense, the duo are playing 20 minutes a night and doing good things on the defensive side of the puck, as well as picking up some points. After Tanev's two-assist performance on Saturday, both players are 1-2-3 through four games.
Considering Tanev has only hit the 20-point mark once in his career, this is incredible production for him. He was named third star on Saturday.
Lauded for his strong hockey sense, Hughes told Patrick Johnston of The Province
after the game that he and Tanev, "think the same way.”
“Just going out and we’re having fun out there,” said Tanev about the pairing. “It’s enjoyable playing with (Hughes). And I think we feed off each other and we have fun.”
Tanev, of course, is also in a contract year — and turns 30 in December, one month before Markstrom. Typically, Jim Benning has been inclined to hang onto the players he likes. But with so many young, cheap defensemen now percolating in Utica and looking close to taking the next step, I wonder if a strong season will finally turn Tanev into legitimate trade bait as the deadline approaches next February?
• One of the things I enjoyed so much about the 40th anniversary season was the Canucks' commitment to bringing back old faces to celebrate the franchise's history.
The team did a great job of that on opening night, incorporating players from the decades into the starting lineup and finding a powerful way to build on that "Colourful Past, Bright Future" slogan that raised some eyebrows when it was first unveiled in the arena.
On Saturday, Kevin Bieksa was back in the house — for the first time in a non-playing role. Even while he was with the Ducks, fans still treated Bieksa with fondness, so it's no wonder that his visit was very well received.
Nice to hear him get some frank comments from the boys in the room, too — although Elias Pettersson doesn't seem to know quite what to make of him.
Winning solves a lot, of course, but I'm a little concerned that the team's playing style didn't exactly ooze excitement on Saturday night. Rather than taking advantage of what should have been a tired Flyers team, the game was a tight-checking grind — and the Flyers came out on fire in the third period, when they should have been ready for a nap after all the travel they've logged over the past two weeks. The Canucks were outshot 14-6 in the final frame and the Flyers were able to tie the game by burning Vancouver's penalty kill for the first time this season with less than five minutes left to play in regulation.
Not every game is going to be an 8-2 thrill-ride — and yes, there's something to be said for getting the two points out of a contest that's short on style points. But I hope we'll see more fun hockey from the Canucks as this season rolls along.
With two days off before they wrap up this homestand with a visit from the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, the Canucks are taking Sunday off and should get back to practice on Monday.
Meanwhile, down on the farm, the Utica Comets are off to a 2-0-0 start after their 4-3 overtime road win over the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins on Saturday.
Reid Boucher scored twice — his four goals this season currently tie him with four other players for the AHL goal-scoring lead. Carter Bancks forced overtime when he scored his first of the year with 2:19 left to play in regulation, and Lukas Jasek scored the game-winner at 3-on-3 off a feed from Brogan Rafferty. Jasek was named the game's first star.
Sven Baertschi was a difference maker, assisting on the tying and winning goals.
The Comets went 1-for-5 on the power play, with Olli Juolevi and Nikolay Goldobin assisting on Boucher's second goal late in the first period.
Here's how the lines were deployed:
Zane McIntyre has started both games for Utica so far, and is now 2-0-0. Michael DiPietro has backed up in both games, while Richard Bachman remains on hand as a third option.
I imagine we'll see some crease rotation in Utica this week. The Comets kick off a four-game homestand with three games in four nights, hosting the Syracuse Crunch for their home opener on Wednesday before facing the AHL champion Charlotte Checkers on Friday and the Rochester Americans on Saturday.