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Game #1 – Vancouver Canucks (1-0) @ Edmonton Oilers (0-1) – game recap

The 2020-21 NHL season kicked off for the Canucks with a tilt against the Edmonton Oilers. As usual, many pundits are predicting the Canucks will do poorly. Last season, the Canucks and Oilers split the 4-game season series with the Canucks 13-10. Tanner Pearson had 3 goals and an assist vs the Oilers last season. Bo Horvat had a goal and 4 assists in the season series last year. Quinn Hughes contributed a goal and several assists as well. The Canucks start off with a couple of players in quarantine (JT Miller and Jordie Benn) after Benn received a false positive result. They will not join the team on the road trip. In the absence of Miller, Jake Virtanen will be given a huge opportunity, starting on a line with Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson. Nils Hoglander begins his rookie campaign and will be looking to be the 4th straight Canuck to be nominated for the Calder trophy as best rookie. On defense, there will be three new players, most notably rookie Olli Joulevi, who makes his long anticipated regular season debut after having the past several seasons derailed by injuries. Nate Schmidt and Travis Hamonic bring veteran experience to the blueline. Brayden Holtby made his season debut tonight after the Canucks quickly pivoted to ink him to a contract after Jacob Markstrom opted to sign with Calgary. Could the Canucks get the season off to a good start? Here is the first game recap of the season.

Game Highlights:

  • The Canucks took the lead fifteen and a half  minutes into the game as Tanner Pearson drew three Oilers defenders to him and deftly centered it to Bo Horvat who snapped it past Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen
  • The Oilers tied things up five and a half minutes into the 2nd period as Kailer Yamamoto whipped a centering feed by Leon Draisaitl after he forced a turnover in the Canucks zone
  • Just under 12 minutes later, Nils Hoglander was rewarded for driving the net, stuffing a rebound past Koskinen
  • The Oilers tied the game ten seconds into the 3rd period as Darnell Nurse whipped a shot top shelf on Holtby
  • One hundred and three seconds later, Adam Gaudette cracked a one-timer past Koskinen for a sweet tic-tac-goal play
  • Just under two minutes after that, Quinn Hughes saved a puck from leaving the Oiler zone. Brock Boeser had enough time to leave the country and come back and complete the 14 day quarantine. He made no mistake, snapping it glove side on Koskinen
  • Four and a half minutes later, Adam Larsson unleashed a howitzer from the point to get the Oilers within a goal
  • Five and a half minutes after that, Boeser raced down the wing and snapped it by Koskinen
  • Brayden Holtby stopped 28/31 shots, including five when the Canucks were shorthanded and one when the Canucks were on the PP
  • final score: Canucks 5 Oilers 3

My Take:

  • Brayden Holtby was solid in his Canucks debut, stopping 28/31 shots. He was in position much of the night and did a decent job controlling rebounds. He may want one or two of the goals back, and in particular the potential back breaker at the beginning of the 3rd right off the faceoff. My first impression of Holtby is that he will be a solid backup or 1A/1B tandem with Thatcher Demko
  • Nils Hoglander had a solid NHL debut, scoring his first NHL goal, firing three shots, was +2 and he blocked a shot
  • Olli Joulevi also had a good night with a hit and a blocked shot in just over 10 minutes of ice time. No question the Canucks will try and give him easier matchups where possible
  • Brock Boeser looks healthy. He scored twice and threw a pair of hits.
  • The Canucks won 48% of the faceoffs, led by Boeser and Brandon Sutter, who both won every draw they took. Bo Horvat and Jay Beagle, who both won half the draws they took, also had good nights in the faceoff circle
  • Both teams failed to convert with the man advantage, although the Canucks 2nd PP came in the game’s final two minutes with the Canucks up by 2 goals, and they were largely content to run out the clock.
  • The Canucks banged out 19 hits, led by Zack MacEwen, who had 3 hits
  • The Canucks blocked 14 shots, led by Nate Schmidt, who blocked 4 shots. This is an area where the Canucks will miss having Chris Tanev. The ex-Canucks defenseman used to lead the team in blocked shots most nights. Blocked shots are a bit of an underrated stat. A blocked shot is one less save the goalie has to make.
  • Up next, the Canucks wrap up the first mini series of the season and will be looking to put the Oilers in an early 0-2 hole. Expect Thatcher Demko to get the start with the Canucks facing a tough 4 games in 6 night stretch of games to kick off the season.
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