Horvat Hitting His Stride

Those 27 games without a goal might have felt like 27 years for Bo Horvat.

But that seems like an eternity ago after Horvat scored two goals against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, including the overtime winner.

With the team faltering, pressure mounting, all while the Canucks were decimated by injuries, Horvat has not had an easy sophomore campaign. The injury to Brandon Sutter left Horvat responsible for all the major defensive assignments and faceoffs. On top of that, he was criticized for not scoring and having one of the worst plus/minus ratios in the league.

He was eventually going to turn it around. It was never a matter of “if” but “when?” After going 11 games without a point he made a statement during a game against the Detroit Red Wings on December 18th. Horvat set Sven Baertschi up for a beautiful goal off the rush, while also registering four shots in 19:59 of ice time.

The next game against Florida he set up Baertschi on a very similar play, showing further signs of putting his game together offensively. Fast-forward to his last six games Horvat looks like a man on a mission.

He only had two goals in his first 39 games but now has six goals in his last six. Some might say Horvat is just on a hot streak, but he’s had chances all season long and now it looks like he is finally putting it together. He’s been due with all of his chances, but he’s also found chemistry alongside Baertschi.

No BS With Bo and Sven

Both players have been criticized for their lack of production at different points, but the two of them are breathing some much-needed life into the Canucks second line. For most of this season the Canucks have been a one-line team, but the emergence of Sven and Bo gives them a different dynamic.

Baertschi was heating up right before he was injured on December 22 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. If we discard those games where Baertschi was injured, then Horvat and Baertschi have points in six of their last nine games together. With Jannik Hansen injured and Radim Vrbata slumping (one goal in his last ten games), the Bae-Bo duo are close to becoming the highest scoring forwards on the Canucks, behind the Sedin twins of course.

They might just be getting started. Horvat had a decent start to his rookie campaign last year and followed it up with a stellar second half. The Canucks are hoping he can imitate a similar performance this time around. He won’t continue to score at a goal per game place, but he seems poised for another successful second half.

Defence First

Horvat’s offensive success has streamed from his solid defensive play. Forget his horrible plus/minus, because that’s not indicative of how valuable he has been to the Canucks. Imagine where this team would be without Horvat while Sutter’s on the shelf.

Horvat’s been the go-to guy for defensive matchups, and it shows in his zone deployment. Among Canuck regulars, Horvat has the lowest 5-5 zone start percentage at 42.5%. In short, he starts his shifts in the defensive zone more than any other Canuck player, including defencemen.

He’s also the only Canuck capable of winning a faceoff with any regularity, which further explains Desjardins’ insistence for starting him in the defensive zone. Horvat’s faceoff percentage is a respectable 50.2%, but his value taking draws for the Canucks balloons when you consider that the next best center on the Canucks is Henrik Sedin. His faceoff percentage is 46.3%, and that number is drastically dropping with his nagging injury.

Offence comes from good defence, and that’s the case for the streaking Horvat who now has nine points in his last six games.