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IWTG: Two goals from Roussel, Leivo lead to magnificent Miller OT winner as Canucks cap the Sabres

Canucks 6 - 5 Sabres
IWTG Banner - 2019-20

I may not be old enough to have watched the Canucks play in the Flying V jerseys, but I still have a nostalgic connection the most maligned sweater in franchise history, which is saying a lot when it comes to the Canucks.

The first Canucks jersey I ever owned was a black Flying V jersey, a hand-me-down from my older brother. I wore it to school proudly during the 1994 playoff run when I was nine years old and I was definitely the only kid at school wearing the V.

I have an unironic appreciation for the jersey. At the very least, it’s utterly unique, a jersey unlike any other. Everything, from the lack of logo on the front, the yellow base colour instead of the standard white, makes them stand apart from every other jersey in NHL history.

They were a creation of science or, perhaps, mad science. The justification for the change in colours from blue and green to black, red, and yellow is that blue and green are the colours of passivity, while black, red, and yellow are aggressive, passionate colours. Thus, they went from the “coolest” colours to the hottest, hoping that would also heat up the Canucks on the ice.

The result: one of the most polarizing jerseys in NHL history. Whatever else you might think, they at least provoke a reaction.

Seeing them return to the ice, if only just for warm-ups, was fantastic. Perhaps seeing those beautiful monstrosities game-after-game when they were the team’s main jerseys would have been hard to take, but as a one-time thing on a special occasion, it was wonderful. Now, if only they could have worn them in a game, because then I could have seen them in action when I watched this game.

  • The best part of seeing the Flying V’s back in action was to see alumni from the 1982 Canucks — Darcy Rota, Thomas Gradin, Stan Smyl, Harold Snepsts, and “King” Richard Brodeur — put white towels on their sticks and salute the crowd. What a moment.
  • Thank the lord the Canucks added this game as a Flying Skate jersey night, because it meant the Canucks were wearing the appropriate black pants and black, red, and yellow socks, rather than the clashing blue and green with the yellow jerseys, which would have been truly horrifying. The goaltenders in their vintage setups looked especially sharp.
  • It was a dominant opening period for the Canucks, as they out-worked the Sabres in every facet of the game, out-shooting them 9-3 and out-attempting them 21-12 at all strengths. Aggressive pinches kept the play alive in the offensive zone and they created some great chances on Carter Hutton from prime scoring areas.
  • With that much pressure, it seemed inevitable the Sabres would make a mistake, and Marco Scandella delivered. Scandella came out aggressively in the neutral zone, hoping to knock down a Jordie Benn pass. Instead, the bouncing puck went right over his stick and Josh Leivo was in alone with it on the right wing: Leivo snapped into the puck like a Slim Jim, beating Hutton past the blocker to open the scoring.
  • Early in the second period, the Canucks made a crucial mistake, taking a two-goal lead, the worst lead in hockey. They should have skipped straight to a three-goal lead, but apparently that has been banned by the NHL.
  • Antoine Roussel did some nice work down low, then Jake Virtanen picked up the puck and fed Tyler Myers at the blue line. Roussel cut to the net at just the right time, tipping Myers’ point shot to create a rebound. Roussel made like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and cleaned up real nice, tapping the rebound into the open net.
  • The Sabres quickly erased that two-goal lead off a couple defensive breakdowns, scoring two goals in just over a minute. That never would have happened if the Canucks had stuck with the one-goal lead.
  • Josh Leivo had a great game with Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson, tasked with shutting down Jack Eichel at 5-on-5. Not only did they shut Eichel down at 5-on-5, Leivo scored two goals while out against Eichel. His second came right after a penalty kill: Brock Boeser stole the puck in the neutral zone and fed Leivo, who worked a give-and-go with Elias Pettersson to get a clear shot: he beat Hutton short side while Eichel stood in front of the net and watched.
  • Just ignore that Eichel still had a three-point night. Those three points didn’t come at 5-on-5 and they didn’t come against Leivo, Horvat, and Pearson. Their record is clean!
  • As a great example of Leivo’s work rate in this game, check out this backcheck on Asplund, as Leivo covered for Quinn Hughes, who had jumped up in the rush. He neatly knocked the puck off Asplund’s stick, got body position and moved it up to Pettersson, who sent a pass back between his legs to Boeser for the breakout.
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  • Hughes was flying tonight, skating miles and creating great chances. Shots on goal were 20-to-4 for the Canucks when he was on the ice at 5-on-5, which is insane. Against the Philadelphia Flyers on November 25th, the Canucks didn’t even get 20 shots all game, and they got that many just in the 18:46 that Hughes played at 5-on-5 in this game.
  • Just look at this work from Hughes to so casually shake free from his check, Rasmus Asplund, to create a great chance for himself at the side of the net. His edge work was phenomenal; he was edgier than a teen on 4chan.
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  • Was that the best game this season for Hughes? “He's played a lot of good ones,” laughed Myers, his defence partner. “The way Huggy skates, the way he handles the puck and spins off guys creates a lot of space for other guys on the team.”
  • Myers did some nice skating himself, jumping up on a shorthanded rush with J.T. Miller. Myers got up to top speed and sped past Henri Jokiharju, and Millers found him with a neat pass behind Brandon Montour. Myers went upstairs faster than Darren Wilson.
  • It was a cathartic goal, as it came on the fourth of four-straight penalties for the Canucks, and the Sabres had tied the game 3-3 on one of those calls. The Rogers Arena crowd felt the reffing was slightly one-sided at the time and weren’t shy to voice their displeasure, so the roar when he scored seemed even louder than normal.
  • You can tell Roussel isn’t quite up to game speed after coming back from injury because he made another crucial mistake: he gave the team another two-goal lead. Twice in one game! I don’t know what he was thinking.
  • Roussel made a great play to get his third goal in two games, winning a battle in the neutral zone for the puck, then busting a move to the net like Young MC to finish off a rebound from Virtanen, who picked up his second assist of the night.
  • It was a well-placed shot for a rebound from Virtanen, though Jacob Markstrom disputed whether it was intentional or not in the locker room, ribbing Virtanen. “Marky always tells me that I fan on it,” Virtanen said with a laugh before insisting it was an intentional shot for a rebound. “We practice that a lot on Marky, it always goes in,” he added with a grin.
  • Did Roussel think he’d have three goals in his first two games back? “No, not a single chance, but I’ll take it,” Roussel said, laughing. “Today was way better than the other day. The other day, I felt like I couldn't skate after the goal, I couldn't. I was hoping the game was stopping soon. So today I felt better, and I think it's going to go that way: a couple more games, feel better and better.”
  • Unfortunately, that two-goal lead evaporated again. The Sabres got a lucky one on a shot that ramped up Hughes’ stick into the top corner to make 5-4, then tied the game in the final minute with Hutton pulled for the extra attacker.
  • The game-changing moment came when Bo Horvat was hit in the head by Brandon Montour. Horvat didn’t have possession of the puck and Montour wasn’t trying to play the puck, but there was no penalty. Shortly after, Horvat got pulled off the ice (rightly) by the concussion spotter, so he wasn’t available to defend the lead in the final minutes, leaving that job to Adam Gaudette’s line.
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  • “He said he didn't hit me,” said Horvat after the game about words he exchanged with Montour on the ice. “So I don't know if he didn’t mean to do it or if he was just lost out there.”
  • Horvat insisted he was fine and knew right away that he was fine, but concussions can be sneaky, with symptoms not showing up immediately. In any case, that meant Horvat was neither available to defend the lead, nor to play in overtime. Fortunately, the remaining Canucks were able to get the job done in the extra frame.
  • Green not only trusted Virtanen to play in the final minutes to defend a one-goal lead, but sent him out in overtime too. Good thing, because he drew a crucial penalty. It might have been a bit soft — Jokiharju accidentally got his stick in Virtanen’s skates — but Virtanen falling to the ice left a big hole in the Canucks defensive coverage, and Eichel stepped into the gap and scored, so you knew the refs were going to call a penalty.
  • On the power play, Miller shifted into Pettersson’s usual spot at the right faceoff circle and blasted a one-timer on a perfectly-placed pass by Hughes. It was a gorgeous shot that blew the cap right off Hutton’s water bottle, sending it soaring like a Jose Bautista bat flip. It was a truly glorious sight, providing an appropriate cap to a madcap afternoon.
  • That’s not exactly the way Green would want to win a hockey game, giving up two two-goal leads, though you couldn’t tell by the cheerful sarcasm he deployed in his post-game presser: “It was exactly the performance I wanted as a coach, are you kidding me? 6-to-5 win in our building, Saturday afternoon? Love it.”