Now that’s how it was supposed to go. The Canucks have not had the best season so far in 2020-21; however, you wouldn’t know that after they beat the high-flying Toronto Maple Leafs two games in a row on Thursday and Saturday evenings. The Maple Leafs had come to town having won three straight games in Edmonton in a decisive manner.
In the end, the victories were both literal and moral for the Canucks. The team has to feel much better about itself after these two victories. In this edition of Canucks News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at the game and make some commentary on the good news of the victory. I’ll also look at what this might mean for the Canucks moving forward.
Item One: Brock Boeser Keeps Getting Better and Better
During Saturday night’s game, Brock Boeser scored a goal and two assists in the 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs. His first goal was a power play less than five minutes into the first period. He also had the primary assist on teammate Bo Horvat’s power-play goal halfway through the third period and the primary assist on J.T. Miller’s goal less than a minute later.
Boeser has now scored one goal and five assists (for six points) during the four games he’s played in March. If I remember correctly, during the offseason there were some rumors that the organization wasn’t happy with Boeser and there was some talk about the possibility of trading him. I’m thinking, if that were ever true, it’s now a thing of the past.
Boeser seems to have elevated his game this season and is playing with more confidence and even more speed. Although it hasn’t been the best season for the Canucks, that certainly hasn’t been on Boeser. He’s now tied for seventh place in the NHL scoring race and he’s also tied for fifth in goals with 13 (he also has 15 assists).
Related: Today in Hockey History: March 7
He’s a-point-a-game player, who’s now scored 28 points in 28 games. It’s hard to do better than that. Elias Pettersson aside, there’s little doubt that Boeser’s been the Canucks’ MVP so far this season.
Item Two: J.T. Miller also Has a Three-Point Game
J.T. Miller added three points (a goal with two assists) during the 4-2 victory over the Maple Leafs. He also played a team high 22:42 minutes and 27 shifts. He was a demon in the face-off circle, where he won seven of nine draws (for 77.8 percent).
Miller did not have the best start during the 2020-21 season. He only scored two goals in January and two goals in February; however, he’s already scored three goals during the four games he’s played in the month of March.
Miller’s goal was the eventual game-winner. Of his three goals and five points during his past four games, he’s had three power-play points. Even with his slow start to the season, Miller’s still playing at nearly a point-per-game pace with 24 points in 25 games. Since he’s come to the Canucks, he’s been one of their highest scorers and a team leader. In retrospect, Jim Benning did well to bring him to the team.
Miller’s also become a bit of a spokesperson for the team. For example, after the game, he noted: ”It (the two victories) means a lot to us. We take a lot of pride in beating a team like that at home twice when we really need wins.”
Miller added, ”We’ve talked a lot over the last three weeks or so that we’re playing well but not getting the results, and I think this is a perfect way, a couple bounces here and there, the power play was good, the penalty kill was good and you win the game against a good team.”
Item Three: Thatcher Demko’s Simply on Fire
There’s no doubt that the Thatcher Demko Canucks’ fans had been waiting to emerge after last year’s postseason run has finally entered the building. Demko made 37 saves in a 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs Saturday, only letting in two goals on 39 shots.
Similar to Miller, Demko did not have the best start to the season. During January, he only had three victories in six starts. During February, he only had one win in eight starts. Fortunately for the Canucks, the month of March has been considerably better. During this month, Demko’s been a perfect three wins in three games.
Most interestingly, he’s done it against strong teams. In fact, Demko’s thrived in his two straight wins over the Maple Leafs. In his last three games, he’s only let in three goals. With his shutout against the Jets, he’s now improved his 2020-21 record to 7-9-1. Next, after these three strong victories against two of the the best teams in the North Division, he’s up next against another strong team when the Montreal Canadiens come to town on Monday.
He’s looking to fare better against the Canadians. His record this season against that team is only 0-2-0, and he has a horrible goals-against average of 5.65 and lackluster save percentage of .851 in the two starts he’s made against the Habs this season.
What’s Next for the Canucks?
As the Canucks get ready for the Canadians on Monday, it will be interesting to see whether Bo Horvat can continue his high shooting percentage. In my mind, he’s certainly one of the most underrated centers and team leaders in the NHL. His play this season continues to lead the Canucks.
Related: Top 3 All-Time Canucks Goalies
Horvat also scored a goal and an assist in Saturday’s win over the Maple Leafs. He’s now up to 11 goals and eight assists in the 28 game he’s played. What’s most interesting is that he’s at an all-time career high of 16.7 percent. Can he sustain that high percentage?
At the team level, the big question is whether the two-game victory against the Maple Leafs is a one-off or whether it’s the beginning of a good trend. Can the Canucks continue the winning streak they’ve started? Perhaps the answer to that question will be answered best by Demko’s play in the crease.
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