/ Canucks freelance writer
From highway robbery to clutch performances in the shootout, the Canucks conclusion to 2016 was full of sensational plays. Here is the best of the best from the month of December.
Skille shows off skills to net first goal vs. Lightning (12/08/16)
After kicking off a five-game road trip with a loss to the Devils, the Canucks were looking to get back on track against the Lightning at Amalie Arena. Enter Jack Skille. The feisty forward propelled Vancouver to a 5-2 victory with a two-goal performance in under eight minutes of ice time. Skille opened the scoring early in the first period after skillfully receiving a pass from Erik Gudbranson. Skille worked his stick behind his back to transport the puck to his forehand, drove to the net and fought off Nikita Kucherov, before beating netminder Ben Bishop upstairs. Skille's opening goal was his first in a Vancouver uniform and set the tone for the night. The 29-year-old made the most out of the past month, striking four times and injecting energy with his physicality and determination.
Granlund dishes to Sutter from knees vs. Bolts (12/16/16)
After defeating the Lightning on the road earlier in the month, the Canucks were looking for more of the same when they returned home to face the Bolts at Rogers Arena. It wasn't an ideal start for the home team with Victor Hedman opening the scoring in the first period, but it was Markus Granlund who helped get the Canucks back on track in the second frame. Within the opening two minutes of the period, the former Flame went in hard on Slater Koekkoek on the forecheck, forcing a turnover. Granlund received the loose puck from Loui Eriksson before dishing a cross-ice feed to a wide open Brandon Sutter from his knees. Sutter wired the puck past a stunned Andrei Vasilevskiy to knot the game 1-1. Granlund's hustle on the forecheck, in addition to his creativity in finding Sutter, brought the crowd to its feet and got the Canucks into the game.
Miller robs Ducks' Perry with the glove (12/30/16)
Corey Perry thought it was in. We thought it was in. Everyone thought it was in. With the Ducks leading 2-1 in the second period at Rogers Arena and on a power play, Jakob Silfverberg tracked a point shot off the boards and jammed it towards the goal. While Ryan Miller was able to get over tight against the post and make the save, the rebound went to a wide-open Perry in the slot. The Anaheim forward fired a shot on his backhand towards the empty net, but Miller reached back and outstretched to rob him with the glove. The save was huge, as it kept it a one-goal game and allowed Vancouver to claw back and pick up an eventual 3-2 overtime victory. Miller ended 2016 with solid victories against Los Angeles and Anaheim, turning away 60 of 63 shots in the process.
Gudbranson squares off with Martin in anticipated rematch vs. Leafs (12/03/16)
There was plenty of hype surrounding Vancouver's December rematch with the Maple Leafs after a heated affair in November. While the Canucks ended up winning where it counts, that didn't stop blueliner Erik Gudbranson from engaging in a round of fisticuffs with Leafs forward Matt Martin. With the Canucks up 2-0 in the early goings of the middle frame, the two heavyweights settled their beef with a hard-fought tilt that saw both land several good punches. Gudbranson came on strong and landed several early blows, while Martin eventually landed a few before the refs broke it up in front of an energetic crowd. Once the fireworks were out of the way, the Canucks went back to playing hockey and emerged with the victory. With everything that was said during and after the November game, Gudbranson handled a difficult situation well and the bad blood was settled with a respectable scrap.
Best Shootout Goal
Horvat nets winner against Oilers (12/31/16)
With the Canucks and Oilers still tied at the end of overtime in their final NHL game of 2016, the skills competition came into play. After Markus Granlund was denied by Cam Talbot, Bo Horvat got a chance to get Vancouver on the board. Horvat came in slowly before stopping and firing a shot upstairs past Talbot. Horvat's wicked quick release was the lone goal of the shootout, as Jacob Markstrom shut the door the rest of the way, propelling Vancouver to their third straight victory. Horvat's shootout game-winner was very similar to his one against the Leafs earlier in the month, as the 21-year-old came in with speed before slamming on the breaks and going upstairs. The youngster once again delivered in the clutch in December, deciding two shootouts and racking up nine points, including a game-winning goal. Horvat's three-game point streak to close out 2016 is a great way to ring in the New Year.