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I Watched This Game: Canucks 3, Hurricanes 2

Vancouver vs Carolina, January 7th, 2016
I Watched This Game
I Watched This Game

Six years ago, Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom were teammates with Brynäs in the SHL. Lack was the backup; Markstrom was the starter and the best goaltender in the league, putting up a .927 save percentage, 10 points better than the next best goalie. Lack didn’t get many starts then.

One year ago, Lack and Markstrom were teammates with the Canucks in the NHL. Lack was the backup, but Markstrom was his backup. Lack was the best goaltender on the Canucks, putting up a .921 save percentage, 10 points better than Ryan Miller. Markstrom got lots of starts, but all but one of them was with the Utica Comets.

Now, Lack and Markstrom are no longer teammates. Lack is the backup to Cam Ward, while Markstrom is the backup to Ryan Miller, but you can imagine that a year or two from now, they’ll both be starters. And tonight, in this game, they both were starters. Because they started, see. I know because I watched this game.

  • We thought this game would be all about Eddie Lack, the affable, taco-loving former goaltender who seems to have rescued his game from his terrible start this season by flat-out ignoring his goaltending coach and going back to his Rollie Melanson-approved, deep-in-the-crease positional style. We thought that’s who this game would be about, but we were wrong. This game was all about Bo Horvat.
  • Horvat and his linemates, Sven Baertschi and Radim Vrbata, aka. the BaeBoBata Line, were, as the Hawaiians say, mo’ betta. Horvat was particularly outstanding, driving to the net with authority, specifically the authority vested in him by the Province of British Columbia. He was performing weddings all over the ice.
  • Horvat had 4 golden scoring chances in the first period alone, ripping through the Hurricanes’ defence like some sort of powerful weather system—a tornado, perhaps. It was part of a dominant period for the Canucks, out-shooting the ‘Canes 8-2, but Lack made like a designated driver and rejected every shot.
  • Horvat will get a lot of the credit, but Baertschi deserves kudos as well. Most of his scoring chances were created by Baertschi’s great passes. The two of them have all the chemistry of Breaking Bad, but without all the murders. Which is why they need Jake Virtanen on their line.
  • It was the Hurricanes, however, who opened the scoring when John-Michael Liles floated a shot past Jacob Markstrom shorthanded. By that I mean that the Hurricanes were on the penalty kill, not that Markstrom literally has short hands, though it certainly seemed like it with how he whiffed on that glove save.
  • Horvat finally made good on one of his drives to the net, scoring a fantastic goal to put the Canucks up 2-1. He picked up speed in the neutral zone, blew past Victor Rask, stuck out his arm to protect the puck, then cut across the crease, pulling the puck to his forehand and going right around Lack. Or rather, left around Lack. Unless you're looking at it from Lack's perspective, then it was on his right. But it's much better to look at it from Horvat's perspective, because then you get to be Horvat scoring an awesome goal.
  • Look, it’s a great goal, but, like a lot of highlight reel moments, it depends on some weak-ass defending. In this case, it’s Ron Hainsey, who has the opportunity to help Rask and absolutely level Horvat, but instead he lets Horvat cut right across the crease like an old man letting kids cut through his backyard to get home from school faster. Yeah, ultimate insult, Hainsey: you’re a kindly old man.
  • Bo wasn’t done: after the Hurricanes evened the score, the Canucks had a power play late in the third period. It was terrible, except for the last 10 seconds of it, which was beautiful. The second power play unit came on and put together a pretty passing play: Bae to Vey to Bae to Bo. Unlike Vancouver rock band Default, Horvat wasted no time, firing the puck past a helpless Lack for the gamewinner.
  • Sidenote: Bo knows how to celebrate a goal.
  • It was a good thing Horvat went off, because the Sedins were off. Their game, that is. They certainly had their moments and Daniel had 4 shots on goal, but they got out-shot 11-5 at even-strength and couldn’t get anything going on the power play, frequently failing to even gain the zone and get set up. Does the presence of other brothers on the ice somehow nullify their magical twin powers? Are the Staals anti-magic brothers?
  • One issue is that they lost their linemate, which may end up being the lasting story from this game. Jannik Hansen pulled up lame at one point and seemed to be indicating some pain in his back. He returned for a couple shifts in the third, but then his left leg seemed to buckle underneath him and he made his way straight down the tunnel. There was no update on his condition, which worries me. A lot.
  • Finally, In case you were wondering, Chris Tanev is still awesome. Here he breaks up a 2-on-1 by deftly knocking a saucer pass out of mid-air like Barack Obama casually smacking a fly. Sometimes he makes it look so dang easy that you wonder why lesser defencemen struggle so much.