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Best of the Best: 2014-15 regular season

by Brady Trettenero / Vancouver Canucks
Thanks to stellar play from offseason acquisitions, clutch goaltending and vintage Sedinery, the Canucks broke the 100-point barrier in 2014-15 and are heading to the playoffs for the 27th time in franchise history. Here is the best of the best from the regular season.


BEST GOAL

Bonino Spins Off Flyers’ Defenseman to Score a Beauty (01/15/15)

With a January game in Philadelphia scoreless in the first period, Nick Bonino got the party started for the visitors. After taking a feed from Shawn Matthias, Bonino took the puck across the opposing blueline and went 1-on-1 with Flyers’ defenseman Michael Del Zotto. Bonino looked like he was going to cut inside on Del Zotto, but instead he spun off to the outside, getting the puck to his forehand and firing a shot past the glove of goaltender Ray Emery. The goal put the Canucks up 1-0, propelling them to a four-goal outburst against the Flyers. The early goal from Bonino was clutch, as the Canucks had lost three straight games and were just starting a five-game road swing. Ryan Miller would hold Philadelphia scoreless on the night, meaning Bonino’s first-period tally would hold up as the game-winner. Bonino, who had just two career game-winning goals in five seasons before being traded to Vancouver, finished his first campaign with the Canucks with a whopping six game-winning tallies. The Canucks had their way with the Flyers this season, winning both meetings and outscoring Philadelphia 8-1.

BEST ASSIST

Vrbata Sets Up H. Sedin with Nasty Pass vs. Jackets (11/28/14)

The Canucks kicked off their seven-game road trip at the end of November with a convincing win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Radim Vrbata, known for usually scoring the goals, was the one doing the playmaking on this play. With Vancouver leading Columbus 1-0 early in the third period, Vrbata took a drop pass from Daniel Sedin in the offensive zone and circled behind the Columbus net. Instead of coming around the other side, Vrbata turned around, finding an open Henrik Sedin at the other side of the goal cage. All the Canucks’ captain had to do was rifle the puck into an empty net, as goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky had just started to realize that Vrbata never came full circle. The goal put the Canucks up 2-0, as they would cruise to a 5-0 win over the Blue Jackets. Vrbata was spectacular in his first season with the Canucks, recording a team-high 31 goals and notching 63 points in 79 games. The 2014 offseason acquisition made an immediate first impressive with his new team, scoring at least four goals in each of his first four months with the Canucks. While he was known for finding twine this season, his 32 assists in 2014-15 were the most he’s ever recorded in his 15-season NHL career.

BEST FIGHT

Hamhuis Drops the Mitts with Oilers’ Nugent-Hopkins (10/11/14)

After Dan Hamhuis dished out a body check on 21-year-old Oilers’ forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the Canucks second game of the season, the Burnaby BC native took exception. The two started jostling near the glass, before Nugent-Hopkins dropped the mitts, with Hamhuis instantly following. Hamhuis, who hadn’t fought since 2010 when he was with the Nashville Predators, landed some great right-hand punches on Nugent-Hopkins, eventually wrestling him to the ground. The young Oilers’ forward, who was dropping the mitts for the first time in his career, landed a couple good hooks on Hamhuis before being brought to the ice by the veteran blueliner. The fight brought the Rogers Arena crowd to its feet, with many giving Hamhuis a standing ovation. The tussle appeared to energize the Canucks, who scored a power-play goal not even 50 seconds later. Vancouver would go on to win the game 5-4 in a shootout, as the Canucks started the season with a bang and won eight of their first 11 games. Hamhuis provided a spark to the Canucks on a few occasions this season, also dropping the gloves with Flyers’ leading scorer Jakub Voracek in Mach. The Canucks dominated the Oilers this season, winning all five meetings and outscoring them 20-15. While Hamhuis only scored once this year, he dished out a punishing 82 hits and fished the regular season hot, recording six points in his last nine games.

BEST SAVE

Miller Flashes Leather on Flyers’ Schenn (01/15/15)

Miller was phenomenal in a January game against the Flyers, stopping all 30 shots of the faced to propel the Canucks to their first win in four games. His best stop came midway through the second period. With the Flyers pressing, agitator Zac Rinaldo took the puck down low, before firing a cross-crease pass to Sean Couturier, forcing Miller to push from one post to the other. Couturier, who had a direct lane to the net, opted not to shoot, instead spotting a wide-open Luke Schenn, who had made his way down from the point. Miller pushed hard off the post, but the momentum carried him too far, leaving Schenn with plenty of open net to shoot at. That didn’t stop Miller though, as he flashed the leather on Schenn while still sliding in his crease. The Flyers’ defenseman couldn’t believe it, looking upwards in disbelief afterwards, as his shot labeled for an open net had been snatched up by the glove of the Canucks’ netminder. After defeating the Flyers, Miller blanked the Hurricanes in his next outing, which was his fifth shutout of the season. The 34-year-old veteran was a winning machine this season, posting a 28-15-1 record before suffering a knee injury in a win over the Islanders on Feb. 22. While Eddie Lack did a terrific job in place of the injured veteran, Miller still finished the year with 29 wins – 16th most in the NHL. Miller also recorded six shutouts in his first season with Vancouver – fourth most in the league.

BEST CELEBRATION

Kassian Showcases His Excitement from Penalty Box (11/01/14)

Let’s just say Zack Kassian and the Edmonton Oilers have a history of not really getting along. With the Canucks’ first game of the November tied 2-2 heading in the third period, Kassian was called for a tripping penalty on Oilers’ forward Jordan Eberle. With Kassian in the box, Derek Dorsett was able to capitalize on a turnover from Ben Scrivens and put the Canucks up 3-2. Afterwards, the camera panned to the penalty box, where Kassian was seen in a glass case of emotion celebrating the shorthanded tally. After posting a 7-3-0 record in the month of October, the Canucks started November off on the right note with a 3-2 win over the Oilers. While he only played 42 games this season, Kassian was entertaining whenever he was on the ice, churning out great celebrations after every goal he scored. From his toothless yell to his loud screams, the 24-year-old won over the fans this season.

BEST FIRST CAREER GOAL

Horvat Gets Canucks On Board vs. Ducks (11/14/14)

Bo Horvat chose a perfect time to score his first goal in the NHL. With the Canucks trailing the Anaheim Ducks 2-0 early in the second period of a November game at Rogers Arena, the 19-year-old rookie got Vancouver on the board. Horvat started the play by making a pass to Zack Kassian in his own zone. The two forwards took off up ice, crisscrossing each other in the process. Kassian took the puck down low to the wall, while Horvat made his way to the front of the goal mouth. With the Ducks focusing on Kassian, the former Sabre was able to slip the puck to Derek Dorsett down low. Dorsett immediately dished the puck to a wide open Horvat in the slot, who buried it past Frederik Andersen for his first NHL goal. Only a few days later it was determined Horvat would be sticking with the Canucks this season. His second-period goal helped Vancouver claw back to earn a point in a 3-2 shootout loss. Horvat had an exceptional rookie season, potting 13 goals and 25 points in 68 games. He emerged as a solid contributing scorer and produced very well given the fact he was averaging just 12:15 of ice time per game. The youngster finished the regular season with points in back-to-games and will be playing in the playoffs for the first time in his NHL career.

BEST CLUTCH PERFORMANCE

Sbisa Joins Rush, Finishes Jets in Overtime (02/03/15)

After dropping a 4-2 decision to the Wild, the Canucks were still looking for their first win of the month when they took on the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Arena in early-February. After rallying from a 2-1 deficit and tying the game in the third period, the Canucks were able to force overtime. Just 36 seconds into the extra frame, the home team went to work. Lucas Sbisa started the play, breaking out of the Canucks’ zone with speed. Sbisa dished the puck to Radim Vrbata before jolting up the right side to try and make it a 2-on-1. Instead of staying in the corner along the boards, Sbisa used his great speed to bolt cross-ice and get on the left of Vrbata. Sbisa shook off the backcheking Mark Scheifele and became wide-open in the slot. Sbisa took a pass from Vrbata and wired a shot past the blocker of an outstretched Ondrej Pavelec, giving the Canucks a 3-2 win. Vancouver got some clutch performances from defenseman this season, with Sbisa, Chris Tanev and Alexander Edler all scoring overtime-winners. Sbisa’s game-winner gave the Canucks their first win of the season over Winnipeg, as they would go on to post a 2-1-0 record against the Jets in 2014-15.

BEST SHOOTOUT GOAL

Bonino Puts on the Moves to Bury His Former Team (11/09/14)

After suffering a 5-1 loss to Los Angeles the previous night, the Canucks were looking for a strong outing in Anaheim to end their California road trip on a high note. Who better to turn to than Nick Bonino, who spent the first five seasons of his NHL career with the Ducks, before being traded to Vancouver during the 2014 offseason. After already assisting on the game-tying goal from Alex Burrows in the second period, Bonino was the first Canucks’ player called upon when game got to the shootout. With boo’s reigning down on Bonino at the Honda Center, the 26-year-old moved in on Ducks’ netminder Frederik Andersen. Bonino faked the shot, before going backhand to forehand and sliding the puck under the pad of the Ducks’ goaltender. After no other player was able to find twine in the skills competition, goaltender Eddie Lack denied former Canuck Ryan Kesler in the third round to seal the 2-1 victory for Vancouver. Bonino was credited with the shootout winner, as the Canucks picked up their third win in four games and finished the California road trip with a 2-1-0 record. Vancouver went to the shootout eight times this season, with the Canucks winning in six of those games. Bonino delivered in the clutch by scoring two shootout winners and burying the puck when it mattered the most.

BEST EMPTY NET GOAL

Henrik Sedin Fights Off Flames to Score a Beauty (10/08/14)

With the Canucks leading the Calgary Flames 3-2 late in the third period of the season opener, captain Henrik Sedin put forth a magnificent effort to secure Vancouver’s first victory of the season. Already with an assist on the night, Hank wasn’t done just yet. With the Flames pressing and trailing by a goal, Henrik collected the puck at Vancouver’s blueline and dashed up-ice, his sights set on an empty Flames’ goal cage. The 33-year-old centre fought off Flames’ defenseman Mark Giordano, but was then knocked down by his partner Kris Russell. That didn’t stop Henrik, as he managed to guide the puck into the goal with one hand while sliding on the ice. What terrific strength from Sedin, whose empty-netter helped the Canucks defeat the Flames 4-2 for their first win of the season. While Henrik finished the season with a whopping 73 points, he also netted 18 goals – his highest goal total since the 2010-11 campaign. After scoring just two empty-net goals all of last season, the Canucks managed to score over 20 empty-net tallies this season. Talk about sealing the deal.

BEST TELEPATHY

Henrik Finds Brother Daniel for Clutch Goal vs. Kings (04/06/15)

It was the third last game of the regular season and possible the biggest game of the year for the two opponents. The Canucks were facing Pacific Division rivals the Los Angeles at Rogers Arena with two crucial points on the line. After trailing 1-0 for the majority of the game, the Canucks finally got on the board in the third period courtesy of one of the prettiest plays you’ll see all season. After a Vancouver power play had just expired, the Sedin twins moved in on the Kings. Daniel sauced a pass to Henrik, who came down the left side and made his way in on Kings’ goaltender Jonathan Quick. After defenseman Jake Muzzin went down to prevent Henrik from cutting in, the captain decided to take it around the net. At least that’s what Quick thought. Instead, as Henrik was halfway towards the other side of the goal, he spun around, using some sort of telepathy to find his brother with a wicked backhand pass. Daniel took the pass at the faceoff dot of the left circle and wired a shot past Quick, tying the game at one. The goal was huge, as Vancouver was finally able to solve Quick and would later go on to win in a shootout. Henrik’s 700th career NHL assist helped the Canucks deal a massive blow to the Kings’ playoff hopes, while advancing their own playoff chances in the process. The Kings would go on to miss the postseason, while Vancouver clinched a berth in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs a few days later. The Sedin twins both had terrific bounce-back campaigns, with Daniel finishing ninth in the NHL scoring race with 76 points and Henrik finishing 13th with 73 points.

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