More than three months have gone by since the NHL was officially put on pause and who knows if we will even see hockey return again with training camps or if it gets fully put on hold before preparing for next season. Whether or not the season does actually resume and the Stanley Cup eventually awarded, I think it’s still important to take a look back at the season that was before the pause.
(Apologies in advance as this post is long overdue but thanks to the pandemic has been delayed until now.)
Shall we begin? Let’s go. Again, this is going to be long post but there were a lot of noteworthy moments this past season and a few memorable stats to look closer at. For starters, can we talk about how the team scored 5 OR more goals in a game, 21(yes, 21) times this season in 69-games? The previous 2 seasons, that feat was managed just 14 and 11 times in 82-game seasons.
This season was a season loaded with expectation from the start as the franchise itself was going to celebrate their 50th season in the NHL. A big move at the draft in June put a load of expectation on JT Miller before he ever stepped onto the ice this season from the media and the fans. A new captain was going to be named for the first time since the Sedins retired. Many milestones from the previous seasons were going to be celebrated including the dragon slayer Alex Burrows being put into the Ring of Honour and the Sedins’ numbers officially being retired. It was from the start going to be a season full of honouring the past and forging a new future.
OCTOBER: Starting 0-2 out the gate was not exactly an exciting start to watch but it wasn’t the end of the world either.
By the time the 3rd game came around, you could feel a shift with it being their home opener and the official naming of the 14th captain on the anniversary of their first game ever played and of the day Henrik Sedin had been named captain in 2010. There was a palpable buzz even though MOST people had already guessed the captain to be named was going to be Bo Horvat. It may have been the worst kept secret around but it was still a spectacular moment to witness when both Henrik Sedin and Orland Kurtenbach came to centre ice to present Bo with his new jersey with the captain’s “C”. Maybe it was the excitement of a captain being named, maybe it was bringing legends from every Canucks era into the starting lineup, maybe it was wanting to show people they are different team than they have been in previous seasons, maybe it was a combination. Whatever the motivation, an 8-goal explosion including Quinn Hughes first NHL goal had the fans on their feet and one Drew Doughty flabbergasted by such performance from a “Team Like That”.
Home ice this past season became a place where the Canucks have had a little swagger that has been missing in recent years.
Late October saw a road trip that saw some big games in St.Louis, New York, & Detroit including a few big comebacks and a massively impressive game from Markstrom in New York. In Detroit that had the team down 2-0 heading into the third period and the script seemed to have been written already if you were to look at the history from recent years when comebacks of any kind were few and far between. The Canucks came swinging in the 3rd period scoring 5-straight goals that concluded with Bo Horvat’s first career hat trick.
And yes, I’m well aware of the game that followed this one. The one against the Capitals in which the Canucks had built up a 5-1 lead but those pesky Capitals had their own special comeback to earn a shootout victory. (Those Capitals put on a clinic of what it means to play until the final minute of every game, a lot of teams this season were met with the persistence of a Capitals comeback).
And how can we not talk about the 2nd meeting with LA that closed out October and featured a Brock Boeser hat trick? Not bad, for a team like THAT.
NOVEMBER: While the month of November didn’t bring as many wins as most Canucks fans would have liked, it did feature some standout moments and perhaps most important of all, it brought back the SKATE jersey!
The much loved retro SKATE jersey made it’s comeback and let’s just say that those jerseys looked slick on the ice and I would not be against them returning more than just 4 times a season. Seriously…can we bring it back more often as in maybe make it the official third or bring it back full time?!
Markstrom’s play began evolving during the 2018-19 season, but this past season, his game hit another gear an example of which we saw in a game against Nashville when he made 45 saves and the team surged with 5 power-play goals.
One moment in particular that I keep replaying is the Canucks rematch with the Capitals which featured the ever classic Ovechkin one-timer that is all kinds of ridiculous and matched with a Pettersson one-timer to keep the game even at 1. One legend and a player still looking to leave his mark on the game exchanging two highlight reel goals. The game would once again ultimately be decided by a shootout, but this time it was the Canucks who would steal the second point after a 7-round shootout winner from Horvat.
DECEMBER: Aside from SEDIN week in February, December may have been one of my all-time favourite parts of the season.
The dragon slayer came home. It’s seems only fitting that in a season when the Sedins were going to be celebrated, that their best line-mate also be honoured. And how fitting that on the night Burrows joined the Ring of Honour is also the same night that the team earned their 14th victory of the season. It would be remiss of me to not mention this game also marked the debut of Antoine Roussel who opened the scoring with a great goal celebration that honoured #14.
Once again the SKATE returned. A Saturday matinee that featured some very interesting reffing all game long and a bottle bursting JT Miller overtime winner. Again, let’s talk about HOW awesome that skate jersey looks on the ice…because it’s real shame they aren’t worn more often.
Carolina came calling but Jacob Markstrom put on a goal-tending clinic that was clinched in victory when Elias Pettersson scored a dazzling overtime winner a mere 40 seconds into the extra frame…
2019 closed with a 5-game winning streak featuring wins against: Vegas, Pittsburgh, Edmonton, LA and Calgary. There was an energy in the rink in the back and forth game against Vegas when the team earned their first ever home ice victory against a tough Golden Knights team.
JANUARY: A team like that came into the new year with a 5-game winning streak looking to build on it with their first game of the year against the Chicago Blackhawks. Let me tell you, THAT game was WILD. It had a little bit of everything. The Canucks had a 2-1 lead, within minutes the Blackhawks had suddenly taken a 4-2 lead and the building was deathly quiet. Cue a Travis Green timeout followed by two spectacular rookie goals to the tie the game back up that brought the arena back to their feet. Bo & Kane exchanged goals in the 3rd period before Gaudette scored the game winner, it was a roller coaster from start to finish but an incredibly fun game to witness live.
How did they follow up their first game of the new year? By bringing back the SKATE jersey again, this time to celebrate the 90s Canucks era. It was as if Jacob Markstrom was in retro form with Captain Kirk in the house, he made an awesome throwback two-pad stack save. It was everything and perfect. PLEASE, Canucks bring back the SKATE at least as the official thirds? (pretty please!).
And then came that game against Tampa Bay that we’d all like to forget…seriously that second period was like watching a never ending nightmare. Definitely not the way they envisioned their winning streak coming to an end, but it gave them a reminder that they still had some work to do to be on Tampa Bay’s competitive level.
For the first time in many years, the Canucks had not 1 but 3 players taking part in ALL-STAR weekend with ; well technically 4, including Canadian ALL-STAR, Meghan Agosta. From a rink side bet between Markstrom and Bieksa to a shoutout for Hughes from the greatest of all-time to a take everyone by surprise speedy sniper shot from Petey to a stellar 3-on-3 tournament between the Canada/USA women’s teams, it was a pretty special all-star break for the Vancouver contingent.
FEBRUARY: SEDIN WEEK. Some people outside of British Columbia made it known that they thought a week an absurd amount of time to celebrate the careers of two players who never won the cup. To them I say, a week was not too much to celebrate the careers of two players that defined the franchise for 20 years and redefined what it meant to truly have the heart of a Canuck. Yes, they didn’t win the cup and that’s a shame but the mark they’ve left on the franchise is indelible. As Canucks fans, we were truly lucky to have witnessed the entirety of Henrik and Daniel’s careers; how they portrayed themselves both on and off of the ice was truly special. I’ll never forget the atmosphere from both their final game played in Rogers Arena and the one in which their jerseys were raised to the rafters.
The second night of SEDIN WEEK, was full of pomp and circumstance and absolute perfection in the speech given by Kevin Bieksa(is there anything this guy can’t do?). The building was entranced from the moment the ceremony began and then came the game which everyone hoped would be a victory but the 49-save performance from Jacob Markstrom was stupendous. Who doesn’t love a good shutout to follow an epic jersey retirement ceremony? It was beyond perfection from a purely fan standpoint. Were there elements of the game itself that could’ve been improved upon? Sure, but at the end of the day the team led by a monstrous effort from Markstrom earned a victory on a momentous evening for the franchise.
It’s no secret that games against Boston have taken on a bigger significance since 2011 and that the team wanted to avenge their loss to the Bruins from earlier in the season. Did we expect a better team effort in their second match up this season? 100%. Did we expect 9 GOALS? No, but we will 100% watch ALL the replays of that game.
It’s also no secret that the Canucks have had a difficult time finding wins against Montreal in recent years and falling behind 2-0 early in this game certainly was not the most optimistic start. Give the team some credit, they found a way to be resilient and tying the game up twice to force overtime. Tyler Toffoli came up clutch with the overtime winner giving the Canucks their first victory against Montreal in nearly 5 years! The rest of that road trip was not as kind as the Canucks adjusted to a new normal without Markstrom who had been injured against Boston.
MARCH: That first game against Columbus….ugh was great until the last 10 minutes when the game slipped away due to a myriad of errors…I can’t even look back at the one.
Enduring one of their toughest stretches in the season as Markstrom’s absence became louder with game that passed, then came the ever talented Colorado Avalanche. Maybe it was the inspiration of a tough opponent of the throwback to the West Coast Express era, but the team came out with a 6-goal performance and HUGE win in the standings.
Another match up against Columbus that once again did not result in a win but it did result in yet another ridiculous goal from Elias Pettersson, who straight from the penalty box made no mistake putting the puck in the net.
In their final game before all things sports were put on pause, the Canucks met the Islanders for a back and forth affair that required both overtime and a shootout. Thatcher Demko was a monster making 45 saves through overtime and stopped all three shooters in the shootout. JT Miller with a nifty move earned the Canucks their final regular season victory in the 2019-2020 season before the NHL officially put the season on pause.
Feels like a lifetime ago now doesn’t it? Maybe the season resumes, or maybe it doesn’t resume at all. And it wasn’t a perfect season, but it was definitely a season that felt like a breath of fresh air compared to recent years.
My one request, IF I haven’t said it enough, should the season resume, can we PLEASE bring back the skate jersey for playoffs or in the very least as our official thirds next season? Pretty please?
As always, until next time, nuck said.