It’s finally, mercifully the end of 2020. That means it’s time for the annual recaps of the year in sports. While nothing will ever compare to the classic Yulin’ with the Page Christmas specials from Sports Page, but the Top 100 lists from TSN will have to do.
Sports are capable of producing jaw-dropping, one-of-a-kind spectacles — things that you would never see otherwise — and 2020, despite the global pandemic that put sports on hold for months, was no exception. Two of the greatest highlights in all of 2020 came courtesy of the Canucks, according to TSN’s Top 100 Plays of the Year.
If you want to catch the full top 100, you can basically watch TSN any time this week that they’re not showing the World Junior Championship (or visit an unscrupulous YouTube channel). If you just want the Canucks content, I’ve got you covered.
#99 - Tyler Motte undresses Alex Pietrangelo
Tyler Motte came in at number 99 with his incredible shorthanded goal in Game 5 of the Canucks’ series against the St. Louis Blues. Alex Pietrangelo broke his stick on a point shot and Motte took off. He took advantage of the stick-less Pietrangelo with a gorgeous one-handed drag move to step around him, then flicked the puck just inside the post past Jordan Binnington.
It was a great reminder that even a fourth-line grinder like Motte has a ton of skill and once scored 32 goals and 56 points in 38 games for the University of Michigan in the NCAA.
Motte wasn’t done in that game or that series. That shorthanded goal opened the scoring in Game 5, but Motte also closed the scoring, tallying the game-winning goal in the second period on another great individual effort.
Motte followed up his two-goal Game 5 with another two goals in Game 6, scoring the fifth and sixth goals in a 6-2 win that sent the Canucks to the second round. It was a clutch pair of games for Motte that likely didn’t hurt when he came to the negotiating table for a new contract this offseason. The Canucks re-signed him to a two-year deal worth $1.225 million per year.
#19 - Bo Horvat bullrushes the Blues
Bo Horvat did a little better than Motte, with his shorthanded goal against the Blues coming in at number 19 on the countdown.
The goal came off a gorgeous end-to-end rush by Horvat that made great use of his go-to toe-drag move first to make Brayden Schenn miss in the neutral zone, then to dangle right around Jaden Schwartz before finishing on Binnington with a quick move to the forehand.
“Bo Horvat did that!” shouted out Chris Cuthbert, because the goal was so superlative that even a seasoned pro like Cuthbert was lost for words.
That wasn’t even Horvat’s first spectacular goal of that series. He undressed Vince Dunn with another toe-drag in Game 1 before firing the puck past Binnington’s blocker.
By the time the Canucks were knocked out of the playoffs, Horvat had 10 goals in 17 games, leading the entire NHL. Despite not even playing in the final two rounds, Horvat still finished fourth in the NHL in playoff goals.
Unfortunately, those weren’t the only two plays involving the Canucks on TSN’s Top 100 list. At number 45 was Robin Lehner’s incredible glove save on Brock Boeser in Game 7 between the Canucks and Vegas Golden Knights.
That was a game and series-changing save by Lehner. Thatcher Demko had already shattered the confidence of the Golden Knights, making save after save in the Canucks net. At the time of Lehner’s save, Demko had stopped 109 of the 110 shots he faced from the Golden Knights in the series.
If Boeser had been able to open the scoring in the middle of the second period, the Golden Knights might have never recovered. They still only managed to score one goal on Demko in the game and not until late in the third period. The Canucks may have been able to take Game 7 and move on to the Western Conference Final against the Dallas Stars.
Alas, Lehner made the spectacular save on Boeser and held on for the shutout. At least Horvat beat Lehner on the top 100.
Should there have been another Canucks play in the top 100? Honestly, you could replace almost any of the other NHL highlights on the list with one of these plays from Elias Pettersson and it wouldn’t look out of place.
Perhaps Pettersson was just too good all season long that it just became old hat. A spectacular shorthanded goal from Motte or Horvat is a little more unexpected.
That’s it for Canucks-related plays in the top 100, though you owe it to yourself to watch the 20th-best play on the list: the greatest lawn bowling shot you will ever see. Honestly, it should have made the top 10.