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I Watched This Game: Boeser’s four goals lead Canucks to 8-1 win over Oilers

The Canucks outright dominated the Oilers, led by Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, and Quinn Hughes.
The Vancouver Canucks absolutely crushed the Edmonton Oilers in their season opener on Wednesday night.

After a full training camp with their new head coach from the previous season, the Vancouver Canucks faced the Edmonton Oilers in their home opener and quickly took a 2-0 lead in the first period. They then added to the lead early in the second period, going up 3-0 against what many picked to be the best team in the Pacific Division.

Then it all fell apart, as the Oilers came storming back, erasing the three-goal lead like it was nothing to hand the Canucks a devastating loss to kick off their season.

Wait, hang on, that’s what happened last year. This year, it started exactly the same way, with the Canucks taking a 3-0 lead early in the second period. Only, this time they got a lucky bounce to make it 4-0, so that when the Oilers finally responded and got on the board, it didn’t rattle the Canucks in the slightest.

The Canucks just kept scoring, piling up a whopping eight goals against the Oilers to crush the Stanley Cup favourites 8-1.

That’s the most goals the Canucks have ever scored in a season opener, tied with the 1978-79 Canucks and 1987-88 Canucks, who opened their seasons with 8-2 wins over the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Blues, respectively. That makes this the biggest-ever margin of victory for the Canucks in a season opener.

Just don’t look at the final regular season records for the 1978-79 and 1987-88 Canucks, it will only depress you.

The Canucks’ stars led the way, with multi-point efforts from J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson, and Quinn Hughes. Oh yeah, and Brock Boeser had four goals, as he reasserted himself as one of the Canucks’ stars.

It was an incredible start for Boeser after a couple of difficult seasons. He has yet to have a 30-goal season — scoring four in his first game is a pretty good jumpstart toward that milestone.

Let’s not forget one other star, Thatcher Demko, who made 21 saves on 22 shots before he was pulled in the third period in favour of Casey DeSmith. According to Rick Tocchet, Demko was playing through the flu and was dehydrated but still didn’t want to leave the game.

Then he threw up in his mask.

“He started to feel dehydrated,” said Tocchet. “He didn’t really want to come out, then when he puked in his mask, I said you’ve gotta come out.”

That’s gross, unsanitary, and unhealthy, as dehydration can increase the risk of injury. It does, however, give me the opportunity to say that, in more ways than one, Thatcher Demko was sick when I watched this game.

  • This was a complete team effort from the Canucks, who gave the Oilers very little time and space with the puck with a hard forecheck and good gap control in the defensive zone. Most importantly, they didn’t give the Oilers forwards many opportunities to attack in transition, taking away easy lanes through the neutral zone to build up speed, particularly to Connor McDavid, who was limited to just two shots on goal.

  • “We’re going to have to make sure that we give him the worst option,” said Rick Tocchet before the game about defending McDavid. “We can’t give him the grade-As. He’s going to get his looks, so we just have to temper those looks and make sure he goes into our coverage, not where we have one guy naked with him — that’s where he’ll kill you.”

  • You heard it from Tocchet: you can’t leave a naked guy with McDavid or McDavid will kill him.

  • It wasn’t a perfect game, by any means. Noah Juulsen, in particular, seemed to struggle with his footspeed, leading to his pairing with Akito Hirose getting crushed in puck possession. According to Natural Stat Trick, scoring chances were 8-to-0 for the Oilers when Juulsen was on the ice at 5-on-5. Like relying on a mentally unstable billionaire for vital services, that pairing might not be tenable long-term. 

  • After 17 seasons of the Sedin twins in Vancouver, it’s hard to get impressed by a pass sometimes, but Elias Pettersson blew me away with his incredible saucer pass to Conor Garland on the opening goal. He flipped the puck five feet in the air — nearly as high as Garland himself — and landed it perfectly flat in the open space Garland was skating into in front of the net. It’s one of the best passes I’ve ever seen.
  • The pass was incredible but full credit to Garland on the finish. Instead of just poking at the pass and hoping for a lucky deflection, Garland cut to his backhand with a cheeky little move. If he’s still looking to get traded, that goal was one heck of a resumé builder.

  • Beyond just his four points, Pettersson announced his presence in this game with an enormous hit of questionable legality on Cody Ceci. Yes, Pettersson left his feet making it pretty much textbook charging, but it looked rad and he hit Ceci in the chest, so we'll allow it.
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  • The second line fulfilled their designated roles on the 2-0 goal, with Phil Di Giuseppe winning a battle on the forecheck, J.T. Miller using his vision to make a play, and Brock Boeser sniping the top corner with a wicked snap shot. Like Stacy Lattisaw and Johnny Gill, it was a perfect combination.

  • “It’s a very simple recipe: we’re a lot to handle when we’re moving out feet,” said Miller on the chemistry with his linemates. “We’re all on the same page and we all understand that.”

  • Boeser made it 3-0 early in the second period. He spotted Filip Hronek with a backhand pass and the defenceman forced the juiciest rebound since Selena Gomez and The Weeknd. Miller chipped the rebound on net but Jack Campbell got enough of the puck to force it wide. Fortunately, Boeser batted it in for his second goal of the night.

  • Boeser made it a natural hat trick with a little luck. On the power play, Pettersson tried to thread a pass cross-ice to Miller but it instead hit Boeser’s skate and skidded through Campbell’s legs. Boeser could only double over in laughter at the absurdity.
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  • Or maybe it was entirely on purpose — a brilliant bank shot by Pettersson to gift his buddy a hat trick. After his ludicrous pass to Garland, I wouldn’t put it past him.

  • After Draisaitl got the Oilers on the board with a power play goal, Pettersson responded with a power play goal of his own. It was a new wrinkle on the power play, as Hughes rotated down to the right side boards, while Pettersson played the point, giving him plenty of space to fling a wristshot past a jitterbugging Boeser screen to make it 5-1.

  • Boeser scored his fourth to make it 6-1 in the third period. He parked himself at the top of the crease and a deflection from a Quinn Hughes shot landed right on his stick to shovel into the open net. He can give a stick-tap to Philip Broberg as well for leaving him so alone.  

  • After a needless crosscheck by Leon Draisaitl on Pettersson, the Canucks sent out their first power play unit and J.T. Miller picked up his first goal and fourth point of the night. The Oilers' penalty kill gave him too much of the middle of the ice and he took advantage, skating downhill and firing a wristshot past a Boeser screen.

  • In case you’re counting, that’s six goals Boeser was involved in: he scored four and provided the screen on two more. What a game for the Brockstar. 

  • “They made a few decisions in the third period that I thought were interesting,” said McDavid. “Throwing the backup goalie in with ten minutes left — I have not seen that. It’s not like DeSmith is an EBUG or anything like that. I thought that was interesting. And yeah, they roll out the first power play unit, not ideal. Not a situation we want to be in and, obviously, we don’t like that.”

  • In an odd turn of events, Garland also went down the tunnel at one point and came back later. Despite scoring the opening goal and playing a seemingly strong game on the top line, Garland had the lowest ice time on the team, playing just 9:52 in total with just three shifts in the third period. That’s a little strange in a game where the Canucks were already playing with only 11 forwards.

  • The bottom-six got in on the scoring at the end of the game. Nils Höglander banked the puck off the boards to spring Sam Lafferty and Dakota Joshua in transition. Lafferty fought off Ryan McLeod and set up Joshua in front, who was stronger on his stick than Evan Bouchard to fire the puck home.

  • “He can skate and he’s got some girth to him too,” said Tocchet of Lafferty before the game and he certainly showed his girth on that goal. That means it’s time to call him Sam Lafgirthy.  

  • Quinn Hughes officially got his captain’s “C” in a pregame ceremony featuring a quartet of former captains: Henrik Sedin, Trevor Linden, Stan Smyl, and Orland Kurtenbach. Then he quietly controlled the game from the backend and had a three-assist night. A solid start to his captaincy.

  • The quintet of Di Giuseppe, Miller, Boeser, Hronek, and Hughes deserve a special mention for directly matching up against McDavid all night and coming out on top. That group collectively out-chanced, out-shot, and out-scored McDavid at 5-on-5, with the score 3-0 for the Canucks when they were facing McDavid. 

  • Well, that was refreshing. More of that this season, please.