On Thursday afternoon, the Vancouver Canucks beat the Minnesota Wild 3-0 to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five qualifying series. It was almost a game of last-man-standing, and the Canucks outlasted the Wild in a penalty-filled, mean-spirited matchup to move within a game of advancing to the team’s first playoff appearance since 2015.
In this game for the Canucks, the stars were the stars. Jacob Markstrom had his second strong game in a row, making 27 saves for his first postseason shutout. He was the team’s defense; but, as far as the offense was concerned, Brock Boeser and Elias Petterson each scored a power-play goal and an assist.
Antoine Roussel, who had taken a puck up under the visor and looked a bit worse for the wear, was ready to go for Game 3 and he, too, scored. The Canucks’ amazing rookie defenseman Quinn Hughes chipped in three assists.
In this edition of Canucks News & Rumors, I want to review the team’s play during the series as the team looks forward toward Game 4 later tonight.
Item One: The Chemistry Between Canucks Players Is Growing Each Game
One of the most interesting things emerging from the Canucks and Wild series is that the Canucks’ chemistry is growing. The team seems to be coming together and, as they do, they’re winning games – or, perhaps, it’s the other way around. Regardless, the team is on a roll. They’ve won two games in a row and can close out their series against the Wild tonight in their only back-to-back of the postseason.
Goalie Jacob Markstrom is one Canucks player who especially seems to be appreciating the growing chemistry. He commented on the team’s reaction after anyone blocked a shot – and the Canucks blocked 22 of them in total.
Although the arena was, obviously, empty, as Markstrom noted, “Every time there was a blocked shot, everybody’s banging their sticks and yelling, and that gives energy and adrenaline. It’s not only big hits and goals that guys are cheering for.”
Head coach Travis Green added after the game that ”Our players need to gain experience in these type of games, but we’re not just here to get experience. We want to win the games.” And that’s exactly what the team did.
Item Two: Elias Pettersson Scores His First NHL Playoff Goal
Pettersson scored his first NHL playoff goal and added an assist in the 3-0 win over the Wild in Game 3 on Thursday. Both his points came on the power play. Pettersson might still weigh in as a lightweight at 176 pounds, but has he ever stepped up physically during this qualifying series. He’s taken tons of heavy hitting from the Wild and not only has he jumped up again, but he’s produced in response.
I’ve always liked his play, but I believe he’s taken another step during this best-of-five series. I cannot but imagine he’s inspiring to his teammates and – because he’s proved he can handle himself – it allows them to play with more freedom in their own games. It might be my biased imagination, but I think he’s looking bigger and stronger every game.
Item Three: Quinn Hughes Scores 3 Assists in Game 3
It isn’t completely lost on me that Hughes is a rookie. However, like Pettersson, he also seems to have taken giant steps during this play-in series. Hughes assisted on all three Canucks goals last night, which gives him four points in his first three postseason games.
Sadly, although I don’t believe he will win the Calder Trophy this season, his 56 points in 73 regular season games certain makes him a worthy candidate.
Item Four: This Time Jacob Markstrom Kept the Puck Out of the Net
Markstrom’s 27-save shutout against the Wild in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers was the first postseason shutout for the Canucks since Roberto Luongo had one during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final against the Bruins in a series the Canucks eventually lost.
Markstrom had a strong Game 2, winning 4-3 on Tuesday, but couldn’t shut the door. That statistically made his game look much worse than his performance during the Canucks’ victory. But, he closed the door on Thursday’s 3-0 win and got his first postseason shutout.
As always, and you have to love this about the big Swede, he gave his teammates credit for his perfection: “This is a team shutout for sure. Together with pretty much all of my teammates, we did a great job today.”
Item Five: Brock Boeser Has Been Strong All Series
Wasn’t it just two weeks ago that rumors were running wild that Brock Boeser would likely be traded? Those rumors seem to be vanishing into the breeze blowing in from the Pacific Ocean. Late during the second period, he acrobat-ed a backhander into the net that had rebounded off a Pettersson shot.
As Boeser laughed, he said he was “Just picking up trash.”
Boeser, who’s a Minnesota native and grew up just 20 miles from the Wild’s arena, was passed over by the Wild during the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. In Vancouver, he’s become a huge part of a young core of talent the Canucks have built. He didn’t have the regular season he might have wished, but his game is evolving nicely. I can’t imagine general manager Jim Benning thinking of trading him.
In addition, he’s working his tail off each game.
What’s Next for the Canucks?
I, for one, am deeply sad Micheal Ferland was deemed “unfit to play,” has left the bubble, and will miss the remainder of the team’s qualifying round series against Minnesota. I’m waiting to see if his injury is a continuation of the concussion problems he’s had previously or something easier to heal from. I fear the former.
I believe he adds something to the Canucks’ lineup that they would benefit from. I wish him well.