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Breakdowning Brock Boeser’s four-goal game in the Canucks’ season opener

Breaking down all four goals scored by Brock Boeser in the Vancouver Canucks' opener against the Edmonton Oilers.
Breakdowning: Breaking down Canucks plays with pictures.

Brock Boeser flung the monkey off his back so hard that it went into orbit.

It was an incredible first game of the season for Boeser, who had the first four-goal game of his career. While he got a little lucky along the way, he deserved the bounces, as he had a game-high eight shots on goal.

Arguably more important than the four goals was how Boeser and his linemates, J.T. Miller and Phil Di Giuseppe, matched up against the Connor McDavid line. The Canucks actually out-shot and out-chanced the Oilers when Boeser, Miller, and Di Giuseppe were on the ice against McDavid at 5-on-5 and out-scored the Oilers 3-0, with all three goals coming off the stick of Boeser.

If that line can continue to play in a match-up role and hold their own against the best forward lines in the NHL while also popping in some goals, the Canucks could be a difficult team to play against. That frees up Elias Pettersson’s line to focus more on offence and provides easier match-ups for the Canucks’ bottom-six.

But let’s put the spotlight back on Boeser’s four-goal night and break down all four of his goals in a PITB feature we like to call Breakdowning.

Goal 1: Hughes’ mistake and Di Giuseppe’s forecheck

The Vancouver Canucks’ top line opened the scoring with a lovely goal by Conor Garland from a brilliant pass by Elias Pettersson. That’s when the second line made it 2-0 with the Platonic Ideal of the type of goal they should be scoring.

Let’s take a look at the goal and then break it down.

Lovely stuff. 

For the breakdown, let’s start by identifying the players.


It all starts with a neutral zone faceoff win by J.T. Miller against Connor McDavid, winning the puck back to Quinn Hughes. Phil Di Giuseppe is on the boards at the blue line to provide a potential outlet, while Brock Boeser heads to the far boards to provide an option if Hughes goes D-to-D to Filip Hronek.

Both of McDavid’s wingers, Evander Kane and Connor Brown, jump up to pressure the defence, while McDavid sticks with Miller. Meanwhile, defence partners Darnell Nurse and Evan Bouchard wait to see how the Canucks breakout unfolds.

An extremely important note, as I’ve circled up top: the play is onside. That’s a vital detail that only an expert like myself would notice. 

I’m just kidding, it doesn’t matter at all, let’s move on.


Clearly, the play was to go D-to-D but something very unusual happens: Hughes messes up. And, honestly, this goal doesn’t happen without him messing up. Or, at least, it would have happened slightly differently.

The Canucks’ captain whiffs on the pass to Hronek. What was likely a set play where Hronek would make a long pass to Boeser on the right boards for a zone entry is foiled, forcing Hughes to improvise.

Fortunately, Hughes is very good at that.


Hughes quickly recovers, pulls the puck away from the oncoming Brown and moves it up to Di Giuseppe, who chips it along the boards to Miller, who again chips it up to Boeser, who finally dumps it in. It’s a full effort by the entire line to transition the puck through the neutral zone.

So let’s take stock again: Bouchard jumped up on Di Giuseppe when the puck came to him, McDavid is on Miller, and Nurse followed Boeser across and landed a glancing blow. Kane is in good position on Hronek, while Brown is on the near boards and will be keeping an eye on Hughes. 

So far, so good for the Oilers defensively, except that both defencemen have now been pulled completely to the right side because of Boeser cutting across to support the play.

Because Bouchard jumped up so high on Di Giuseppe, it’s now a race for the dumped-in puck. Bouchard has the clear lead, even if he seems momentarily distracted by thoughts of tennis stars. Di Giuseppe is on his horse — presumably an Italian stallion — and is churning up the ice to get in on the forecheck.

Also, in case you were worried, this play is also onside, which is a huge relief.


Let’s flip the angle to point out that this is where things start to go wrong for the Oilers.

Miller keeps skating after Boeser’s dump-in but Nurse and McDavid get their wires crossed. Nurse’s priority is getting back to the front of the net to get into a good defensive posture, but McDavid seems to think that Nurse has Miller, so McDavid does the one thing you simply can’t do: he stops skating.

The end result: Miller is left completely open as he heads in to join Di Giuseppe on the forecheck.

Speaking of Di Giuseppe, he’s zooming. He reads the dump-in perfectly and makes a beeline for where the puck will end up. In doing so, he’s able to cut off Bouchard’s easiest play: a pass behind the net to Kane, who smartly hustled back to provide that passing option.

This is superb forechecking on the part of Di Giuseppe, as he does everything right. His great read on the puck puts him in the perfect position, then he leads with his stick, to force Bouchard to pull the puck in to protect it. Di Giuseppe quickly spins to get his stick on the puck and frees it up for Miller.

Of course, it helps that McDavid stopped skating and wasn’t available as an outlet for Bouchard. You can see Bouchard’s momentary hesitation as he realizes he has no passing option. That’s what gives Di Giuseppe enough time to disrupt the play.


I love this moment. Miller swoops in to take the puck and is clearly anticipating some contact on the boards. Then he shoulder checks and suddenly realizes there’s absolutely no one on him.

Let’s take a look at how many strides McDavid takes to close the gap once he realizes that Nurse isn’t covering Miller.

The answer is none. Maybe half a stride if you’re feeling generous about that small push he makes at the edge of the faceoff circle.

I’ve heard a lot about how McDavid has improved his defensive game but this is rough. Let’s keep in mind, this is right at the start of a shift coming out of a commercial break. It’s not like he’s been on the ice for a long shift and is exhausted. He has no excuse for just slowly coasting towards Miller.


Boeser, meanwhile, has found a nice little soft spot on the ice. Okay, not little — huge. An absolutely enormous soft spot on the ice. Look at all that space.

Nurse is preoccupied with protecting the front of the net, which is all well and good, except there are no Canucks at the front of the net, just a wide-open Boeser and one of the best passers on the Canucks has the puck.

Even with that kind of space, Boeser doesn’t have a ton of time to get the shot off, as Nurse charges out to him when he finally realizes the danger. But Boeser does well to get the shot off quickly, with one touch to settle the pass, then down to one knee to get the snap shot away.

Boeser’s shot seems to take a slight deflection off Nurse’s leg to beat Jack Campbell, as the puck seems to flutter a bit after getting by Nurse. That helps change the angle a little bit for Campbell compared to how he might have read the puck coming off the stick.

However it went in, it’s a goal off a great forecheck by the Canucks and some lousy defence by the Oilers.

Goal 2: Miller’s break-up, Hronek’s busted-up breakout

Let’s jump to the second period, where Boeser made it 3-0 four minutes in.

We’ll start by watching the goal.

Now, let’s jump way back to the neutral zone faceoff 40 seconds before the goal to take roll call.


Once again, it’s the Miller line versus the McDavid line, though this time McDavid wins the faceoff. The only difference personnel-wise is that the Oilers have a different defence pairing on the ice in Brett Kulak and Cody Ceci.

Also, there’s poor Noah Juulsen getting unnecessarily roasted by the Sportsnet broadcast. This came right after showing a highlight of Juulsen throwing a hit — could they not have pointed out that he had a whopping 43 hits in his 12 games last season? Did they really have to highlight his zero points?

Anyway, let’s jump ahead to just before the goal.

Here’s a key moment that was left off the highlight reel: J.T. Miller denying a zone entry for the Oilers.

Brown tries to skate the puck in before dropping it to McDavid at the blue line, but Miller, who was back covering for Hronek, gives Brown no space to maneuver and disrupts the drop pass with a good stick. 

His attempted pass doesn’t connect with Di Giuseppe, but Boeser wins the race to the loose puck to pass it back to Hughes to reset things for the Canucks.


Here’s where things go wrong for the Oilers because they almost went right.

Hughes moved the puck D-to-D to Hronek, who tried to spring Boeser and Di Giuseppe on a 2-on-1, as Miller drew Kulak up to centre ice. Unfortunately for Hronek, Kane reads the pass and picks it off, but loses the puck in his skates.

The trouble for the Oilers is that Kane’s interception starts to turn them up ice, as they start thinking offence instead of defence. That’s particularly an issue for McDavid, who was skating back to check Di Giuseppe, then turned, smelling a scoring opportunity.

An alert Miller, however, finds the puck in Kane’s skates and gets it through to Boeser.


It doesn’t quite become the 2-on-1 the Canucks were hoping for, but the Oilers are still scrambling back and vulnerable, even though this is basically a 3-on-3 situation.

Miller smartly follows the puck, going wide left behind Boeser, which forces Kulak into an awkward position. Kulak can’t chase Miller — that would take him completely out of position — so he instead shadows Miller while getting to the middle of the ice in a defensive posture.

This means, though, that Kulak isn’t really checking anyone.

McDavid recovers to get inside position on Di Giuseppe, preventing the odd-man rush. Brown chases after Miller, understandably concerned that one of the Canucks’ most dangerous players is wide open.

Hey, where’s Kane? And what about that big empty space at the right point that no Oiler seems to be paying attention to? Is that going to matter at all?

Sidenote: it really weirds me out that everything has motion blur except for the stupid digital board ads. It messes with my eyes and I hate it. Definitely won’t be buying Michelob Ultra anytime soon, I’ll tell you that for free.


Oh hey! There’s a Canuck in that empty space! It’s Filip Hronek! 

For some reason, Kane isn’t anywhere to be seen. It’s almost as if he gave up on the play after he intercepted Hronek’s pass and it didn’t immediately turn into an offensive opportunity. 

Boeser makes a lovely backhand pass into that open space and Hronek has all sorts of time and space to shoot the puck. Meanwhile, every Oiler on the ice suddenly locks eyes with the puck and stops paying attention to their checks.


Look, I found Kane.

There he is.


Campbell comes out to the top of the crease to make the save on Hronek, but he’s unable to punch the puck into the corner and instead gives up a big rebound. 

Meanwhile, neither of the Oilers’ defencemen are paying attention to Boeser and Miller: they’re still puck-watching from Boeser’s earlier pass. 

Boeser and Miller are practically joined at the hip, but fortunately, they didn’t listen to Phil Collins’ advice to “never let go” and separated a moment later.

As for McDavid and Brown, they both tried to disrupt Hronek’s shot, which effectively takes both of them out of the play. Down low, it’s essentially a 3-on-2, with Di Giuseppe, Boeser, and Miller against Ceci and Kulak.


Miller’s rebound shot gets stopped by Campbell but Boeser is able to bat the puck in out of mid-air, as opposed to low-air or high-air.

Meanwhile, Ceci does exactly nothing to prevent the goal. While Kulak at least boxes out Di Giuseppe and takes his stick, Ceci vaguely swiped at the puck on Miller’s shot attempt and just watched as Boeser batted it in. That’s when a defenceman really needs to take a body and Ceci simply didn’t.

Finally, let’s enjoy Di Giuseppe’s celebration of Boeser’s goal.

Next goal.

Goal 3 - Pettersson totally meant to do that

The Canucks got the power play working with some crisp puck movement and an incredible, obviously intentional bank-shot/pass by Elias Pettersson off Boeser’s skate.

Okay, yes, that was a fluke. There’s not much to break down here, even though we can certainly enjoy Boeser’s flabbergasted goal celebration.

But we should rewind the video to a moment earlier for the zone entry.

The Oilers nearly broke up this entry, as Miller’s pass to Pettersson was knocked down by Derek Ryan, but Pettersson alertly gets his stick in to lift Ryan’s and win the puck back, carrying the puck down the right wing.

A few passes later and Pettersson’s cross-ice feed to Miller took a fortunate deflection for the hat trick. That goal doesn’t happen without Pettersson quickly breaking up what could have been a shorthanded counter-attack for the Oilers.

Goal 4: Boeser’s magnet stick

At this point, everything was coming up Milhouse for Boeser. The puck was just finding its way to his stick, quite literally in the case of his fourth goal.

Let’s watch.

Hockey is such an easy sport, am I right? You just go to the net with your stick on the ice and score goals. Easy.

This goal is all about simple hockey: winning a faceoff, getting bodies to the net, then getting the puck to the net.


Roll call!

It’s the usual suspects on the ice for the Canucks: Boeser, Miller, Di Giuseppe, Hronek, and Hughes.

For the Oilers, McDavid and Kane have Zach Hyman instead of Brown, as they, like the Canucks, had only 11 forwards and needed to rotate the lines throughout the game. On defence, it’s Bouchard again, this time with Philip Broberg.

Miller wins the offensive zone faceoff against McDavid, then rotates around the right side, looping behind Bouchard to get to the front of the net.

Di Giuseppe drifts up high, casually interfering with Kane’s path to Hronek at the point to give his defenceman a little bit more time with the puck. 

Boeser cuts through the middle of the faceoff dot to get to the slot.

It’s a simple rotation, but it accomplishes a lot. Hronek is able to move the puck to Hughes at the left point with room to step up the boards, while Miller is able to get in front of Stuart Skinner to provide a screen.

It also seems to thoroughly confuse Broberg.


This is a great shot, because it establishes that Broberg really seems to think that he knows exactly what’s going on.

Broberg spots that Di Giuseppe has some space to work with and is jumping towards the back door, so he tries to get McDavid’s attention to keep an eye on him. It’s a good read, honestly, which makes it all the more hilarious how badly he misses that Boeser is his man.

Let’s see if we can spot the exact moment that Broberg messes up.

It’s hilarious in slow motion. Broberg confidently points out the open man, then, just as confidently, steps away from his own man to leave him even more open.

It goes doubly wrong for Broberg, as not only does he leave Boeser all alone at the top of the crease — aka. the most dangerous area on the ice — but also the puck goes off his skate right to Boeser’s stick.

It’s a smart shot by Hughes, sending the puck directly into traffic for some chaos, but the credit — or debit — for the goal really belongs to Broberg. Also, Hughes completely misses the goal, as he turns to go back to the point after taking the shot. 


Easiest goal Boeser has ever scored. Yes, even easier than the one that went in off his skate.