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I Watched This Game: Canucks run-and-outgun the Jets

A two-goal game from Nils Höglander and some outstanding saves by Thatcher Demko carried the Canucks to the shootout.
The Vancouver Canucks' win over the Winnipeg Jets gave them their first three-game winning streak of the season.

The Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets played a wildly entertaining game on Friday night.

Let's get to that in a moment. First, let’s talk about Bruce Boudreau and Jim Rutherford.

Rutherford and Boudreau will work closely together in the coming weeks, months, maybe even years, as president of hockey operations and head coach. Fortunately, the two are already very familiar with each other. 

“I've known Jim for 45 years,” said Boudreau after Friday’s game day skate. “We were teammates in Toronto. I keep reminding him I scored my first goal against him and then he got traded a week later, so I got him booted to the Leafs.”

Boudreau’s memories might be playing tricks on him on that one. Memories can be tricksy little things because we don’t necessarily remember entire events but only key parts or moments. When we try to remember the entire event, our brain fills in the gaps as best it can, pulling from other memories, stories we’ve been told, or even other, unrelated things, like TV shows and movies.

Boudreau’s first NHL goal did, in fact, come against Jim Rutherford in a 6-0 win for the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Detroit Red Wings. But that was March 12, 1977 and Rutherford didn’t get traded to the Leafs for another three years — December 4, 1980.

It’s easy to see how this could get conflated into one event. Unlike scoring his first career goal, Rutherford getting traded to the Leafs wasn’t a key moment in Boudreau’s life, so his memory would be less clear on the timing. 

Perhaps the two of them ran into each other years later and Boudreau said, “Remember when I scored my first NHL goal on you,” and Rutherford replied, “Yeah, and then I got traded to the Leafs and we ended up as teammates.” Suddenly, those two events get associated with each other, so when the brain looks to fill in the gaps, it pulls from that memory.

In the one game Rutherford played against the Leafs in the 1980-81 season prior to getting traded to them, Boudreau did not score on Rutherford. He wasn’t even in the lineup — Boudreau was in the AHL at the time with the New Brunswick Hawks.

Boudreau was fantastic with the Hawks, putting up 58 points in 40 games, and he earned himself a callup midseason, playing his first game with the Leafs that season against the Canucks on December 10, 1980 — nearly a week after Rutherford was traded to the Leafs. So, Boudreau wasn’t even with the Leafs yet when Rutherford joined the team.

After the call-up, Boudreau was aces for the Leafs, scoring 10 goals and 24 points in 39 games. Rutherford was less good, with an .853 save percentage and 5.07 GAA with the Leafs and he was traded again to the Los Angeles Kings for a fifth round pick. 

To be clear, there is no intention of throwing shade towards Boudreau. I barely remember what happened last year, so it’s pretty easy to forgive some minor editing to memories from 40 years ago.

For me, I’m more interested in how memories get altered and reshaped over time. That’s fascinating to me.

I’m intrigued to discover how I remember that I watched this game.

  • The Canucks and Jets traded chances like they were Pokémon trainers with a link cable trying to catch ‘em all. The Jets had 37 shots on goal but the Canucks were right behind with 36. It was, as the kids say these days, a wild and woolly affair.
  • What’s that? The kids don’t say that? The kids have never, in any generation, said that? Consarn it.
  • Nils Höglander has struggled in recent games and came into Friday on an 11-game goalless streak. His opening goal didn’t just end his drought — it was a monsoon. Höglander took a feed from Bo Horvat, put the puck up through his own legs to beat his man, then went upstairs on the backhand. It was gorgeous.
  • Höglander always has a very straightforward way of answering questions: “I just tried to get through the guy there and just shoot a puck in. It just went in, so it's fun to see it go in.”
  • Have to give a nod to Quinn Hughes on the fantastic pass to Bo Horvat that started the sequence on Höglander’s goal. It was a perfectly-placed saucer pass, a 50-ft dart that hit the bullseye of Horvat’s stick over the waving stick of Blake Wheeler. 
  • If Hughes wants to play on the penalty kill as he says he does, however, he needs to learn how to take away a shooting lane. The Jets tied the game on the power play when Hughes failed to take away the far side of the net — that’s the defenceman’s responsibility, with the goaltender covering the near post. That allowed Wheeler to fire the puck past a Pierre-Luc Dubois screen for his first goal of the season.
  • Thatcher Demko was a beast in this game despite giving up three goals. He still made 34 saves, including some absolute scorchers. His best save of the night came against Wheeler, lunging across to snag his shot with his glove while in the splits. It was a perfect pass by Kyle Connor and Wheeler got all of the puck — Demko just said no.
  • Just before the end of the first period, the Canucks took the lead on a wild sequence. With a brutal pass at the Jets blueline, Tyler Myers gave the puck away to Wheeler for a breakaway. Demko robbed Wheeler again, slamming shut the five-hole, then made a sharp stop on Kyle Connor that sent Horvat away with the rebound. Horvat passed to Höglander and his wrist shot from distance handcuffed Eric Comrie and spilled over the goal line for Höglander’s second goal of the period.
  • Demko was initially credited with an assist on the goal but it was subsequently taken away. Apparently saves can’t be assists anymore. “Yeah, I think they changed that rule a few years back, so whatever,” said Demko. “Doesn't matter to me, it's not why I get paid.”
  • The Jets tied the game again six minutes into the second period. Alex Chiasson made a brutal drop pass inside of his own blue line, which is generally a horrible decision. To make matters worse, Chiasson didn’t pick up Connor going to the net until it was too late — Chiasson was chasin’. Unfortunately, he also stopped moving his feet and tried to lift Connor’s stick from behind but it didn’t work and Connor tapped in Wheeler’s pass at the backdoor.
  • A minute later Conor Garland gave the Canucks the lead again with a gorgeous breakaway goal. The Jets gave the puck away in the Canucks’ zone while trying to make a line change and Garland was all alone from the blue line in. Garland made a devastating deke to the backhand that left Comrie helpless as he pulled the puck back to his forehand to tuck it into the vacated net. That goal was nastier than this clarinet solo.
  • Garland’s bottom hand seemed incredibly low on his stick as he was making the move, giving him some extra control on his deke. Garland disagrees: “I don't think it was that low. I just think I'm probably low.” 
  • Seeming to realize that he had just inadvertently made a short joke about himself, Garland added, “I mean, I get pretty low there. My knee basically almost touches the ice. If you have to make that move, you have to be low.”
  • Connor was a beast in this game and set up another Jets’ tying goal. He made some slick dangles to shake free of Tyler Myers, then sent a cross-seam pass to Mark Scheifele, who Tucker Poolman had lost track of after the zone entry. The wide open Scheifele put the one-timer over Demko’s blocker.
  • It looked like the Jets had taken the lead late in the second period. Demko kicked out his pad to stop a pass to Dubois for a tap-in goal but sent the rebound right to Andrew Copp, who got just enough of the puck to send it slowly into the net. Boudreau quickly challenged for goaltender interference, as Dubois ran into Demko in the crease, and the goal was overturned.
  • Jets coach Paul Maurice seemed displeased with the decision, channelling Kevin Sorbo’s Disappointed Hercules.  
  • “I mean, I thought it was pretty obvious, to be honest,” said Demko. “I saw that their coach was pretty fired up about it.”
  • “If that's not goalie interference, I don't know what goalie interference is,” said Boudreau. “I don't know what anybody was getting upset about.”
  • This hit on Josh Morrissey is your regular reminder that Höglander is “a power forward, but a tiny one.”  
  • Overtime had plenty of chances and oh boy, did J.T. Miller ever look gassed on one breakaway for Nikolaj Ehlers that required yet another big stop by Demko, but it still solved nothing. So, for the second game in a row, it was shootout time.
  • Pettersson nailed a post with a big shot in the second period and did his dekes, but couldn’t get on the scoreboard during the game. In the shootout, however, Pettersson was flawless, pulling off a gorgeous Forsberg move, or as my cruel colleagues in the press box call it, the Corey Hirsch.
  • Demko was outstanding all game — he wasn’t going to be beat in the shootout. He stopped Connor, Scheifele, and Dubois and made it look easy. He says, however, that he doesn’t have a book on any of the shooters; in fact, he prefers not to.
  • “It's pretty instinctual,” said Demko. “At the end of the day, guys are trying different things and switching things up and you don't want to have something in your head and have it go a different way and you look silly. I find for me, the best chance is just to make a read and be competitive.”
  • The Canucks are 3-and-0 under Bruce Boudreau. Don’t look now, but the Canucks have stormed all the way up to, uh, 7th in the Pacific. Gotta string a few more of those wins together but it’s a good start.