“Duke will see Brock play again.”
That was Laurie Boeser during the summer to The Athletic, proclaiming her belief that Duke Boeser would see his son, Brock, play hockey again this season. On Sunday afternoon in Saint Paul, Minnesota, just a short drive up I-35E from Burnsville where Brock grew up, Duke got to see Brock play again.
It was far from certain that would be the case during the summer, when Duke wound up in critical care after a massive heart attack at the end of July. He was in the ICU for four weeks. When Boeser finally joined the Canucks in mid-September, Duke had just started eating again on his own the previous week.
For Brock, his father and mother are his inspiration. He describes his father as a warrior, battling with a series of ailments: Parkinson’s Disease, lung cancer, a traumatic brain injury caused by a car accident, then the recurrence of his cancer, which led to the heart attack. That’s not to mention all the complications that have come up along the way: pneumonia, infections, and other illnesses.
Duke must be a warrior to face all of that and still make it out to see his son play against the Wild on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Laurie is incredible. Brock has said he wouldn’t be able to handle any of this without her and everything she’s done for the family. She worked multiple jobs while Brock was growing up and still works full-time while taking care of Duke. She holds everything together through all of the trials and tribulations, encouraging her son to focus on the positive and all the good things in the world. And she was the one performing CPR after Duke’s heart attack before paramedics arrived.
In a way, the result of this game didn’t matter in the slightest. Just the fact that Duke could be there to watch Brock was enough. On the other hand, the result couldn’t have mattered more: surely Brock wanted to win one for his dad.
Some father/son time for Duke & Brock post-game. pic.twitter.com/VbqBMVXuIj— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) January 13, 2020
Like Duke, the Canucks pulled through.
On its own, hockey is meaningless. All sports are. There’s no inherent meaning to them; the only meaning that sports have is the meaning you bring to them. On Sunday in St. Paul, Minnesota, the game between the Canucks and Wild meant everything. And I watched this game.
- The Canucks have had some issues defensively of late. The technical term for the way they’ve been playing is “loosey-goosey,” but I don’t want to bog you down with a detailed systems breakdown. Against the Minnesota Wild, however, the Canucks clamped down hard for most of the game, allowing just three shots on goal in the first period and just 24 total. They got shelled late in the third period as the Wild pushed for the comeback, but overall they were much improved.
- The two teams couldn’t stay out of the penalty box in this game, kicked off by Antoine Roussel crashing into Devan Dubnyk for a goaltender interference penalty. Seven seconds later, Mikko Koivu tripped Chris Tanev, taking the Wild off the power play, then Jordan Greenway elbowed Alex Edler just over a minute later to give the Canucks a power play. Just as the Wild killed off that penalty, Jonas Brodin launched the puck over the glass to put them shorthanded again. And that was just the first period.
- All told, the Wild took eight minor penalties and the Canucks took five, but the power plays barely affected the result of the game. The Wild went 0-for-5 on the power play, partly because they kept taking penalties to end their power plays. The Canucks wasted a long 5-on-3 and were themselves 0-for-5 before finally getting a goal on their sixth power play. They went 1-for-8 in total.
- That goal came seconds after a 4-on-4. Tim Schaller came out of the penalty box to put the Canucks on the power play and booked it to the bench to bring on Antoine Roussel. Chris Tanev tried to get the bench too to bring on someone for the power play, but couldn’t even make it in time. Tanev was still on the ice when Quinn Hughes’s point shot was tipped in by Elias Pettersson in front.
- Pettersson doesn’t play net front much on the power play for obvious reasons, but his nifty tip-in suggests maybe that’s not the worst idea. He was only there because of the awkwardness of the line change from 4-on-4 to the power play, but looked at home like he was Tomas Holmstrom.
- That goal sparked four minutes of unbridled offence: the Wild responded with a goal of their own when Jacob Markstrom gave up an uncharacteristically big rebound off his chest and Marcus Foligno was first to the puck to bang it in. You could tell it was uncharacteristic because pretty much every Canucks skater just stopped playing after the initial shot, assuming Markstrom would swallow it up.
- 13 seconds later, the Canucks retook the lead. Tanner Pearson threw a puck towards the net from the boards and it went off Matt Dumba’s stick and snuck into the crease behind Dubnyk. Bo Horvat popped up from behind the net like the Duck Hunt Dog and poked the puck over the goal line.
- One minute after that, Troy Stecher made it 3-1. Boeser and Pettersson freed up the puck on the forecheck and then J.T. Miller went to work along the boards, shaking free from Ryan Suter with a quick cutback, then sending a fantastic pass diagonally back to Stecher, who had so much room for activities, such as stepping up to the top of the faceoff circle to beat Dubnyk inside the near post.
- There was a scary moment early in the third period. On a delayed Canucks penalty (seriously, so many penalties), Quinn Hughes moved to check Joel Eriksson Ek as he cut behind the net, but he tripped on Markstrom’s goalie stick and went crashing head first into Eriksson Ek and then the boards. Fortunately, he popped right up and appeared to be okay.
- Markstrom was magnificent to finish off the game. He didn’t have to make many saves throughout the rest of the game, but then the Wild piled on seven shots in the final five minutes, seemingly all of them great scoring chances. Markstrom was kicking out his feet like a Ukrainian Hopak dancer, turning aside chance after chance to maintain the two-goal lead.
- It was a full game’s worth of highlights in the span of just a few minutes, capped off by a big glove save on Mats Zuccarello to really hammer it home: the Wild weren’t going to score again.
- Horvat added some punctuation to the game at the very end. It wasn’t an exclamation point, as that’s a little too exciting for a long-distance empty netter. Maybe it was a simple period or a relaxed set of ellipses. Horvat lofted the puck out on the backhand and Carson Soucy, likely hoping he could milk it for an icing, skated casually back, only to see the puck curve on its side and go into the empty net. With that curve, maybe it was a comma.
- With the win, the Canucks have successfully rescued the road trip. Even if they lose on Tuesday in Winnipeg, it’s hard to be too upset with a 2-3-0 road trip after a 7-game winning streak. It’s a lot easier to forget two ugly losses in Florida when you can say that you’ve won 9 of your last 11 games.
Another neat trick: the win leapfrogged the Canucks over the Edmonton Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights into third in the Pacific Division, which could be a complete gong show right up until the playoffs. Who’s going to make the playoffs out of the Pacific? Who knows? I sure don’t. Like Zoidberg, why not the Canucks?