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I Watched This Game: Canucks 5, Oilers 2

Canucks at Oilers, October 1, 2015
I Watched This Game
I Watched This Game

There’s been a lot of fuss and bother over a hotshot young prospect on the Edmonton Oilers -- David O’Connor or something like that. Who cares about that guy: this game was all about the Canucks’ kids.

Three in particular: Sven Baertschi, Bo Horvat, and Jake Virtanen, who skated on a line together and dominated. Baertschi looked like a grittier Thomas Gradin, Bo Horvat a more skilled Trevor Linden, and Jake Virtanen a hybrid of Todd Bertuzzi and Markus Naslund.

Over the top? Too much? If anything, it’s not enough praise for this trio of heroes, these future hall-of-famers, these legends of Valhalla. Songs will be sung of their deeds, epic ballads of might and majesty. Centuries from now, tales of the Bear, the Horse, and the Snake will be passed from parent to child under the 4 moons of Epsilon 35-C after a long day of working in the underground rice vaults.

And someday a little sooner than that you will tell your own children of the day it all began and how you were there to see it. The story will begin with the sacred words, “I watched this game.”

  • Can we hold off just a little bit from calling the line of Baertschi, Horvat, and Virtanen the West Coast Express 2.0? Please? As much as I’m all for line nicknames, it would be nice if it was a line that had played at least one regular season game together. It’s like naming your son before you know if he’ll be cool or not. Like, wait until he’s 5 or 6 and you can tell whether he’ll be good at sports.
  • That said, that line was extremely impressive. Horvat finished with 2 goals and an assist, Virtanen had a goal and 2 assists, and Baertschi ended up with a 4-point night, assisting on all but one of the Canucks’ 5 goals. You couldn’t have asked for more from them, except for them to somehow cause Skittles to pour out of your television. Bit of a letdown.
  • Early on, it looked like this would be another episode of the Connor McDavid show, as he kicked a pass from Leon Draisaitl up to his stick, cut through the slot, and fired a hard backhand on net. Jacob Markstrom kicked the shot aside, but Taylor Hall tucked in his rebound, because his ex gave him really weird ideas about what sleeping together means.
  • The Canucks replied just 23 seconds later, when Horvat was left alone by Anton Lander in front of the net after a dump-in by Yannick Weber. Virtanen was first to the puck and immediately threw it out front like the morning paper and Horvat brought it inside, read it with his morning coffee, then shot it into the net.

 

  • Ben Hutton was largely at fault for the Oilers’ first goal -- he gave the puck away to Draisaitl and failed to cover Hall in front of the net -- but he made up for it with a goal of his own, wristing in a point shot after neat little flip-pass from Baertschi. The deflection the puck took off Eric Gryba in front was distinctly pro-Hutton, much like the entire Canucks fanbase.
  • Jacob Markstrom was very good in this one, making several athletic saves on dangerous scoring chances, but Nail Yakupov’s goal to tie it up was, like a Meek Mill diss track, a little weak. He was charged up for the rest of the game, though, finishing with 21 saves on 23 shots.
  • The only reason that Baertschi didn’t get an assist on every Canucks goal is that Andrej Sekera didn’t give him a chance. Baertschi was on the ice and everything, just waiting to set Weber up, but Sekera selfishly passed it directly to Weber in front of the net for the easy finish.
  • We know Jake Virtanen has a great shot, but the hallmark of a goalscorer is the ability to put the puck in the net in multiple ways. He shouldn’t, however, use his face. That’s a bad idea. Don't do it. That’s how he scored his goal in this game, as Weber’s slap shot on the power play deflected off a defender and banked off Virtanen’s face and into the net. I’m shocked the play didn’t get reviewed, as the puck was clearly contacted with a high face.
  • Jared McCann had lesser linemates in this one, so was rendered a little more invisible, but he did have one great chance, ringing his shot off the top of the crossbar. On the replay, John Garrett confusingly said, “Wow, that was closer than I thought.” It hit the crossbar, John: just how far away did you think it was?
  • The Canucks saved the best for last. Baertschi hit Virtanen in full stride with a pretty cross-ice saucer pass and he cleverly hooked the puck around his defender to send Horvat in on a breakaway. Horvat made no mistake, because that’s kind of his whole thing. Not making mistakes.
  • Quick notes: Matt Bartkowski was rather good. Brandon Sutter was more noticeable than in previous pre-season games and had a game-high 4 shots on goal. Linden Vey might be in real trouble: he had Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen on his wings and accomplished nothing of note.