The Sunday Crease

The Sunday Crease: Gagner’s revival, Roussel’s got bite and A WIN, finally

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Exhale British Columbia, they’ve done it. After nearly two and a half weeks, they’ve finally done it.

On the strength of Elias Pettersson’s two point night, Adam Gaudette’s first NHL goal and Sam Gagner’s first tally since returning to the big leagues, the Canucks pulled off their first win in nine tries on Saturday, a 4-2 victory over the spiraling Los Angeles Kings.

This win may just be another two points from a game in the middle of November, but it means so much more than that to the Canucks. Just over 24 hours before, Vancouver had been shutout 4-0 by the San Jose Sharks in a game where they couldn’t seem to muster any major scoring chances and bad luck followed them at every turn.

I was at the SAP Center on Friday night, and let me say, it was tough to watch. Imagine being a skater or returning goalie Anders Nilsson in that scenario. It’s hard not to second guess yourself.

But they didn’t let it get to them. Not even the fact that former head coach Willie Desjardins was behind the Kings bench, or that they were playing one of the few teams having a worse run than they were, was going to stop them from winning. They took a game against a weaker opponent, which are somehow the hardest wins to get on a losing skid like Vancouver’s.

One win was enough to change the Canucks’ outlook. Alex Edler and Anders Nilsson both returned to the lineup over the US Thanksgiving weekend, and it’s likely that Jay Beagle and Brandon Sutter will be fit to play again sooner rather than later. The timeline is a lot less clear for Brock Boeser and Sven Baertschi’s injuries, but baby steps are key for this team right now.

With Vancouver returning home for a five-game set at Rogers Arena, including another game against the Kings on Tuesday, there’s a chance for the Canucks to regain some lost ground. The grind of the season is well underway, and the next month and a half will show us if that eight-game slump was a sign of things to come, or if this year’s Canucks will leave the 2018 calendar year stronger than ever.

Gags’ Return

You have to imagine there was some sheepishness on the Canucks’ part when they called up Sam Gagner earlier in the week. But with the injuries piled to the brim and Gagner torching the AHL with 15 points in 15 games it was a no-brainer to bring him back to Vancouver.

The NHL rust was obvious early in his first game against the Jets, but overall he’s looked pretty good since. He even made the most of his time on the power play unit last night in Los Angeles.

It took the Canucks long enough to figure out how well he works as the slot man on power plays, so maybe he has a future in Vancouver after all.

More Than He Could Chew

Antoine Roussel was all over the place on Friday night, but his night ended in a less than ideal fashion.

Up to that point, I’d really liked Roussel’s effort at both ends of the ice on Friday. But as entertaining as he is on a nightly basis, this was going a little too far. Aside from the obvious “you shouldn’t do that” lecture, this team has really bad memories associated with biting that I really don’t wanna see being shown side-by-side with Roussel’s incident for the rest of the season.

Game Notes

Watching the Canucks in person on Friday against the Sharks not only gave me my first live look at the Swedish wunderkind himself, but also the chance to see where things are at throughout the rest of the lineup. Here are some of my game notes from the week that was:

Whenever Tyler Motte is brought up by management or online, “hard worker” seems to be the first phrase that pops up. From what I saw live that description seems accurate, but sometimes he’s a little too aggressive on the puck carrier and takes himself out of the play to finish a check. Taking the man is important, but not as much as taking away time and space from the oncoming forecheck. Easing back a little on the hits could make Motte a much tougher player overall.

One of the guys I noticed a lot on Friday was Brendan Leipsic, who finally seems to be carving out a role for himself as a speedy grinder. He threw the Sharks rhythm off in the neutral zone and defensive end on multiple occasions, and even had a breakaway chance on Aaron Dell in the second period. If he keeps up the tenacity, the points should follow.

– Nikolay Goldobin is Actually Good™. That’s all I want to say, honestly.

Anders Nilsson’s first game back from injured reserve wasn’t spectacular, but that’s not surprising. What made Anders’ return so important was the fact that Jacob Markstrom can finally get some much needed rest, along with some time to work on the details of his game with Canucks goalie coach Ian Clark. Having both goalies available should not only help the two of them improve in the long run, but even help turn the Canucks’ fortunes around. If Jacob’s solid night against the Kings was any indicator, there’s hope for the team yet.

This column wouldn’t be complete without giving props to Adam Gaudette for scoring his first NHL goal last night on a nifty feed from Jake Virtanen.

Hopefully this was the first of many for the Hockey Gaud, along with hoping that Jakey V learns how to properly fish pucks out of the opponents’ net. Congrats, Adam.

It’s Back

Whether you like it or not, it’s back.

I honestly don’t mind it, but if you get squeamish looking at a mask with ears, you might need some more scares in your life.

Thanks for reading! Which player stood out for you most in the Canucks’ 4-2 win over the Kings? Leave a comment below!

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