As the first period wound down on Saturday night at Rogers Arena, you might have wondered if the Vancouver Canucks were going to find any space in which to create offence against the hard-checking Dallas Stars.
We found out, immediately.
Facing one of their toughest opponents of the season, the Canucks picked their game up all of half a step and the Stars, who were playing their third game in four nights, just couldn’t match.
Vancouver scored a pair of deserved goals in the second period.
Dallas managed just five shots in the middle frame.
The Canucks then guided the game nicely home in the third period for a 2-0 win, for their third win in a row.
A compelling week for Vancouver
Going back to last weekend, this has been a week of positive impressions for the Canucks.
They smacked the St. Louis Blues around a week ago, then were rather unfortunate losers against the New York Rangers, who really are one of the NHL’s top clubs.
Tuesday they found a way to win in what was a pretty sloppy performance.
Thursday they annihilated the woeful San Jose Sharks 10-1.
And Saturday, to cap it all off, they showed another Stanley Cup contender in Dallas that the way they’re playing hockey right now is no joke.
Sure, they’ve gotten a pile of bounces and they’re shooting the lights out and Thatcher Demko is stopping an amazing amount of shots, but the details they’re showing in most elements of their game are very much sustainable.
They’re not getting overwhelmed defending against the rush. They’ve eliminated cross-ice passes in their defensive end.
Their puck pursuit is relentless. They’re proving very adept at forcing the opposition to carry the puck to spots they don’t really want to go.
The bounces, the goals, the chances against, they are going to turn somewhat against them at some point — but not terribly so.
Rick Tocchet showed himself an adept NHL coach when he ran the bench in Arizona from 2017 to 2021. His teams competed hard. They were never totally outclassed.
They just were low on talent.
This Canucks squad has lot more at the top end than those Coyotes team did.
There’s reason to believe this good ride is going to keep it going. There are bumps to come, the question is how the Canucks manage their way through them.
Luke Schenn was beloved in Vancouver because he threw big hits.
Ian Cole has a chance to become similarly beloved.
He levelled Matt Duchene late in the second period. It was a massive, clean hit.
Duchene didn’t return for the third period.
Mason Marchment challenged Cole to a fight, then was assessed an unsportsmanlike minor on top of the major for fighting.
Really it should have been an instigator, but that comes with a misconduct.
So if the referees don’t want to use the instigator any more, why is it still on the books?
Brock Boeser didn’t score but he had one of his best off-puck games this season.
He was physical, he turned pucks over. He was unlucky not to score on a second-period power play, cutting to the slot but unable to beat Jake Oettinger.
He had a first-period breakaway, but the puck came to him as he was re-setting his feet so his first stride was unfortunately very ugly.
Thatcher Demko earned his shut out.
He wasn’t called upon often, but two big saves stood out.
First there was the glove stop in the first on Wyatt Johnston, who did the right thing, shooting to the opposite side. But Demko was rightly in position and got his hand across to the only spot he could reach.
And his foot save late in the second on Ty Dellandrea was probably better.
Demko has never lost to the Stars. Oettinger has never beaten the Canucks.
Elias Pettersson’s goal in the second period, off a brilliant no-look pass by Filip Hronek, was Pettersson’s 20th point of the season. He’s tied with Luke Hughes for the NHL scoring lead.
Hronek’s assist gave him points in six straight games by the way.
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