Tuesday night’s game seemed like one of those where the Vancouver Canucks were simply destined to win, and they did – beating the Ottawa Senators by a 5-2 score. The Canucks scored four goals in the first period, then held off the Senators’ pressure. Ottawa actually outshot the Canucks by a 42-29 margin, but goalie Thatcher Demko held the fort throughout the entire game.
There are a number of takeaways from this game. Here are nine.
Takeaway 1: J.T. Miller Simply Doesn’t Quit
In the victory over the Senators, J.T. Miller extended his point streak to seven games by scoring a power-play assist. During the seven-game point streak, Miller has four goals and five assists. He’s continuing to contribute in a variety of ways, and he’s a point-a-game player over the season with 29 points (12 goals and 17 assists) in 29 games. He’s also contributed to the success of the Canucks’ power play by scoring 12 power-play points and he’s taken an amazing 72 shots on goal.
The Canucks’ top line, with Miller, Elias Pettersson, and Brock Boeser, has become one of the best lines in the entire NHL. They are consistent scorers and give the Canucks a sustainable offensive push every game.
Takeaway 2: Chris Tanev Can Sometimes Score
Chris Tanev, the Canucks steady defenseman, scored two assists (both in the first period) in the victory. Tanev is one of those players who shows up every night and if he can walk he can play.
That he’d have two assists in any game is odd, because his best scoring season was 20 exactly points (2014-15). Could he be on a bit of a roll? He’s had three assists in his last four games, which for him represents a scoring binge.
Takeaway 3: Gaudette Is Here to Stay
Rookie Adam Gaudette looks as if he’s on the big club to stay. He scored two assists and had a plus-two game in the 5-2 win. His first assist was a great one – in a number of ways. Coming down the left-wing, Gaudette found Antoine Roussel for the game’s opening goal less than two minutes into the first period.
First, it was Roussel’s first game of the season. Second, after the team’s opening tribute to Alex Burrows, as soon as he scored Roussel pointed to the box where Burrows was seated. Roussel has noted that Burrows was a mentor to him when he came to the team.
Gaudette’s second assist set up Oscar Fantenberg’s first goal of the season and the last goal of the game in the third period. This two-point game helped Gaudette set a career mark with 13 points in just 19 games this season. The 23-year-old prospect now has five points in his last four games and his role with the team is expanding.
Takeaway 4: Fantenberg Is Good Insurance
Keeping Oscar Fantenberg around was a good move by the Canucks. Now that Alexander Edler is injured, the 28-year-old Swede has proven to be a good insurance policy. In the Senators’ game, Fantenberg scored a goal and blocked three shots.
Like fellow defenseman Tanev, Fantenberg won’t light up the score sheet – his best season was in 2017-18 when he had nine points in 27 games with the Los Angeles Kings. That said, Fantenberg can add value to the team in terms of hits, blocked shots, and physical play. If he scores, that’s a bonus.
Takeaway 5: MacEwen Achieves Milestone
It was a good game for Zach MacEwen, who scored his first NHL goal. MacEwen’s goal was the fourth Canucks goal in the first period. MacEwen now has two points in seven games. The 23-year-old forward brings a needed physical edge to his fourth-line role, which is something the team needs.
Takeaway 6: The Tanner Pearson Project Is Working
Tanner Pearson is having a comeback season. His goal against the Senators gives him a mini point-a-game streak with four goals and three assists in the past seven games. His four-point night against the Edmonton Oilers on Hockey Night in Canada didn’t hurt. The 27-year-old winger who came to the Canucks last season as a bit of a project from the Los Angeles Kings now has 18 points in 29 games. That project is working out well.
Takeaway 7: Pettersson Plays in His 100th Career Game: Of Course, He Scores
The really-good-now but soon-to-be-great Elias Pettersson scored a power-play goal in the 5-2 win over the Senators. It was Pettersson’s 100th career game and his first-period goal was his 98th point in those games. It’s rare for a young player like Pettersson to have almost a point-a-game average during his first two seasons, but expect the unexpected with him.
The young Swedish wunderkind has been excellent in his second season, scoring 12 goals, 20 assists, and 32 points in 29 games. And, more than half those points (17 of 32) have come on the power play.
Takeaway 8: Roussel’s Wait Almost Worth It?
As noted, Roussel, who’s been out with a knee injury, scored a wonderful goal in his first game back. It had to be an encouraging night for Roussel, who’s surgically-repaired knee had kept him out the first two months of the season. His impact was instant, and if he continues to play with energy and physicality he’ll improve the roster.
Last season, Roussel scored 31 points in a career season. In truth, he’ll probably get only third-pairing ice time, but any scoring depth can help the Canucks further their playoff push.
Takeaway 9: Demko Can Hold the Fort
The 5-2 final score didn’t tell the story of the game. Certainly, the Canucks had a great start and then piled it on during the first period. But the Senators never folded, and Demko’s play kept the margin of victory at three goals. Demko was on his game, stopping all but two of the 42 shots he faced.
The Canucks’ four goals gave Demko a nice lead to work with, and he was up to the challenge. That he let in two goals was more about his opponents’ pressure than about any weaknesses. Demko’s record is now 6-4-1, with a 2.83 goals against average and a .912 save percentage.
What’s Next for the Canucks?
The Canucks now get some much-needed rest and time to practice. They don’t play again until Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres have one less point in the standings than the Canucks and should provide a challenge for the team.
So far, I haven’t heard whether Jacob Markstrom will be back from his father’s memorial service. Until he returns, Michael DiPietro has been recalled from the American Hockey League’s Utica Comets to serve as Demko’s back-up.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf