It’s only fitting that on the night the Canucks honoured the most famous Frenchman in franchise history that another Frenchman returned to the lineup. It was even more fitting that said Frenchman also opened the scoring.
The team’s most famous Frenchman, no offence to “King” Richard Brodeur and Andre Boudrias, is Alex Burrows, whose smiling visage, name, and number were added to the Canucks’ Ring of Honour on Tuesday night. It was a truly touching ceremony, as Burrows spoke extemporaneously at length, thanking all the people that contributed to his fantastic career.
It was a moving, inspirational speech that provoked cheers throughout, as he name-dropped everyone from Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa to Mason Raymond, who got a huge roar when the crowd realized he was actually in Rogers Arena. That’s a significantly better reaction than when Robin Scherbatsky name-dropped Mason Raymond.
Then came the reveal itself, with Burrows’ grinning mug forever emblazoned in the corner of Rogers Arena. The entire ceremony was handled with class and charm. Honestly, it couldn’t have been any better.
Meanwhile, Antoine Roussel made his return to the Canucks lineup after missing the end of last season and the first two months of this season with an ACL injury and surgery. What Roussel lacks in Burrows’ all-time great moments as a Canuck, he makes up for by being even more French than Burrows, as he’s actually from France.
Roussel and Burrows have a close relationship, which made the timing of Roussel’s return even more special.
“He’s just like the big brother that I never had,” said Roussel after the game.”He took care of me big time when I was younger. I was 22 and I was trying to push in the league. Even if I was on the other team, we trained together every summer for 10 years, and he teach me all the ropes.
“He’s a huge mentor and a huge friend.”
So, it couldn’t have been any more perfect when Roussel stepped on the ice for his first shift in the NHL since March and immediately scored the game’s opening goal.
Roussel pounded his chest and pointed at Burrows’ name and number in the corner, making it clear to everyone: that goal was for you, Alex.
This IWTG is also for you, Alex. I watched this game.
- The inspirational speech from Coach Burrows before the game clearly had the Canucks fired up early, as they were flying in the first period. Their passes were crisp and clean, and they were all over the Senators like an Ottawa lobbyist. By the time the Senators caught their breath, they were already down 4-0.
- Adam Gaudette made a great play on the Roussel goal. He picked the pocket of rookie defenceman Erik Brannstrom in the neutral zone, creating a 2-on-1. Then he evade the stick of Vladislav Namestnikov before zipping a backhand pass to Roussel, who went upstairs like Burrows’ face in the Ring of Honour.
- The Canucks quickly made it 2-0 when Chris Tanev took a giveaway in the Senators zone and made a superb diagonal pass to Tanner Pearson, who made like Burrows getting a pass from a Sedin and tapped it into the open net.
- Pearson then got tagged with the first penalty of the game after taking down Connor Brown on a scoring chance in front. It was a bit of a marginal call, but he did get the stick into Brown as he took his shot, so it was an understandable hooking call. That’s why Pearson was completely incredulous when he was called for interference instead, laughing out loud and shouting, “No way!” from the penalty box.
- This could have been a very different game if a quick whistle hadn’t saved the Canucks midway through the first period. During a scrum in front of the net, the puck stayed loose and Anthony Duclair fished it out and shoved it over the goal line. Fortunately for the Canucks, referee Ian Walsh lost sight of the puck and, because referees lack object permanence, he assumed the puck no longer existed and he blew the play dead.
- The Canucks’ power play struck for another goal thanks to some simple movement. J.T. Miller put the play in motion by rotating up to the right wing boards, with Pettersson shifting down low. That movement opened up the Senators’ penalty kill ever-so-slightly and Pettersson wasn’t spotted when he moved to the top of the crease to tip in a superb pass by Brock Boeser to make it 3-0.
- Zack MacEwen has struggled at times since getting called up from the Utica Comets, but he had a strong game on Tuesday with Tim Schaller at centre and Loui Eriksson on his opposite wing. He scored his first career goal to make it 4-0 after some good work by Eriksson to keep the play alive. The puck came around to Jordie Benn, who let fly from the point, and MacEwen dragged it back against the grain like a teenager shaving his face for the first time. It was a perfect tip, just inside the post.
- That was it for former Canucks backup Anders Nilsson, who was pulled prior to the second period. He was replaced by Marcus Hogberg, which is not, as I was led to believe, a rip-off of Duckburg inhabited by pig versions of famous Disney characters: Ronald Boar, Ebenezer McHog, and Launchpig McSwine.
- After the four-goal first period, the Canucks were flying high, but they came quickly crashing down. “Our second period was awful,” said Chris Tanev. “Demmer made some great saves — breakaway, a couple slot saves — but we're up four-nothing, we've got to be better than that.”
- Thatcher Demko was fantastic all game, but particularly during that second period lull. He robbed Brown with a great glove save on a breakaway, but some of his pad saves on shots from the slot after a pass from below the goal line were even more impressive. “The breakaway, you can see it coming, you have time to collect yourself,” said Demko. “It's a little bit tougher when there's a lot of motion and bodies in front of yourself.”
- Despite the 40-save performance, Demko wasn’t entirely satisfied with his game. “Thought I could have been a little better,” said Demko when I asked him about tracking the puck on those pad saves after a low-to-high pass. “I made a couple saves, but there are a couple things I would like to do differently, honestly...Obviously, I can't be too hard on myself. We played a really good game tonight.”
- Head coach Travis Green credited their second-period struggles to a lack of urgency. “When you have urgency in your game, you skate your hardest, you get to places, you go through bodies when you need to, you stop on pucks,” he said. “And when you slip a little bit, your urgency level isn't quite as high: you start poking, you start reaching, you don't skate quite as hard, you’re a half-second behind...We weren't terrible, but it's such a fine line between playing well and not playing well.”
- There were a couple oddball delay-of-game penalties in this game, with Chris Tanev getting one for staying crouched over a puck that ended up between his legs. Tanev admitted to not knowing all the rules for delay of game: “I just I didn't want to put my hand on it, I know that's a penalty. I didn't know what I could do with it, to be honest,” he said, with a rueful laugh.
- The Senators didn’t score on the Tanev penalty, but did so immediately after it expired, as Tanev was still skating back into the play. That made it 4-2, making the home crowd a little nervous: surely they couldn’t lose a three-goal lead in the third period on Burrows’ special night? They had to, as Burrows memorably said, “Win da turd.”
- Fortunately, up stepped Oscar Fantenberg. It was a night of firsts for the Canucks — Roussel’s first goal of the season and MacEwen’s first of his career — so it was only fitting that Fantenberg added another first, scoring his first goal as a Canuck. Adam Gaudette provided the impetus, racing to a dump-in and relaying the puck to Fantenberg via Jake Virtanen. Gaudette then darted to the front of the net to screen Hogberg, blocking his view of Fantenberg’s long shot that went precisely into the top corner.
- The Senators immediately responded on the next shift with a goal of their own, as Tyler Ennis made a brilliant pass to Namestnikov, whose stick wasn’t tied up by Fantenberg. It could have been a quick move from hero to goat for Fantenberg, but the Canucks challenged for offside and the goal was overturned upon review.
- Troy Stecher had his highest ice time of the season, playing 20:55 alongside Fantenberg, leading the Canucks in even-strength ice time. “I thought that pairing was pretty good,” said Green, which is some of the highest praise he tends to give. “I thought Fants was good, Stech was good. When it comes to minutes in-game, we kind of evaluate as the game goes on, but I do leave a lot of that to [Nolan Baumgartner], I thought he did a good job with that tonight.”