Upstart Canucks feel positive hosting Red Wings
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Don't look now, but the Vancouver Canucks are starting to get some feel-good stories.
In the past two seasons, due largely to a dearth of young talent, inspirational yarns were few and far between as Vancouver missed the playoffs both seasons.
However, the Canucks (7-4-2) head into a Monday game against the visiting Detroit Red Wings (7-7-1) with some positive vibes from their rebuilding plan. The biggest feel-good story is winger Brock Boeser, 20, who continues to show signs of being a legitimate star -- now, rather than in the future.
Boeser is coming off a four-point night, including a hat trick, in a 4-2 victory Saturday over the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The Burnsville, Minn., native now leads the Canucks in points with five goals and eight assists. Not bad considering that he was scratched for the first two games and missed another one because of a foot injury.
"I feel like I've gotten chances in past games -- not just me, but our whole team -- and we weren't bearing down," Boeser told Sportsnet. "Nights when it goes in, it definitely feels better."
The only downside of Boeser's performance Saturday was his decision to pass up a chance at a fourth goal while facing an empty net with Pittsburgh icing an extra attacker. He sent the puck to defensive defenseman Chris Tanev, who missed the opportunity -- something he is known for.
"I'm not worried about personal stats," Boeser told Sportsnet. "I'm worried about how our team plays. We've got a really good group, and I think the way we play is really successful.
"We just have to keep it up."
While Boeser gets more discussion in the early Rookie of the Year debate, veteran winger Derek Dorsett is providing inspiration through his comeback from spinal-fusion surgery. Dorsett missed most of last season due to his neck injury, but he leads the Canucks this season with six goals.
Throughout his career, the undersized winger has been relied upon for his nastiness and willingness to take on much larger opponents while sticking up for teammates. Now, Dorsett is a possible Masterton Trophy candidate as he attempts to overcome adversity that could have spelled the end of his career.
"I let everyone believe I was fine," he told Sportsnet. "I think that's what we do as hockey players; we put the strong face on. But there were definitely doubts in the back of my mind: Am I going to be able to play the way I've always played?
"I've always believed in myself and never backed away from a challenge, and I think this was just another challenge I had to get through. But it was the hardest challenge of my life."
Meanwhile, the Red Wings are dealing with a few challenges of their own as they attempt to atone for missing the playoffs last season. Even so, they excelled in the face of a large challenge Sunday, blanking the Edmonton Oilers 4-0 in the Alberta capital.
"I think (it was) one of the better games since I've been here," said center Frans Nielsen, who is in his second season with the Red Wings. "It was 60 minutes. It was very few mistakes."
Nielsen, who scored a goal against the Oilers, described the victory against Connor McDavid and company as a "solid, simple road game."
"Hopefully, we learned something from it," said Nielsen, who played in his 700th NHL career game Sunday.
Actually, the Red Wings are showing signs of being good learners. They have won three of their past four games after going 0-5-1. And, they have at least one feel-good story in Anthony Mantha, who scored Sunday and now leads the club with seven goals.
Mantha, a 2013 first-round draft choice (20th overall) saw his career start slowly as he bounced between the minors and NHL. However, his increased dedication to defense has made him a better all-around player and resulted in more offensive production.
"(Better defensive play) has been the only focus for the last three years, four years now," Mantha told the Detroit Free Press. "Obviously, it's changing a lot. It's getting better and better. I just need to keep going that way and do the little details."
Martin Frk provided some inspiration Sunday as he finally netted his fourth goal of the season after producing three in his first four games.
"Marty's been playing much better over the last couple of games," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "We've been giving him a little more ice time. I think he's earned it and he's been playing better. He's a dangerous player, and at times, we haven't had enough dangerous players out there."
The Canucks returned forward Jayson Megna to Utica of the American Hockey League on Sunday.
Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist scored Sunday but left the game following a collision with Edmonton defenseman Eric Gryba. Blashill said Nyquist is listed as day-to-day.
Updated November 5, 2017