There weren’t a lot of bright spots for the Canucks last season, but if I had to put my finger on one, it’d be Chris Higgins beard. And I mean literally put my finger on one. That beard seems downright tuggable, like Kris Kringle’s beard in Miracle on 34th Street. (Sidenote: Did you know Dylan McDermott was in that? As soon as I pulled up the trailer and saw him sharing the screen with Sarah Paulson lookalike Elizabeth Perkins, I thought I was watching an episode of American Horror Story: Asylum. And when Santa appeared, I was certain I was. But alas.)
Of course, Higgins was fun to watch last season for more reasons than simply having the team’s best beard. He also had a pretty good season, scoring 10 goals and being rewarded for his production — not to mention his strong forecheck and ability to play up and down the lineup — with a four-year contract extension. Here are 10 reasons that extension seems like a pretty good idea.
Higgins’ first goal of the season comes on a slick little deflection, as Max Lapierre has enough room to turn into the slot and fire a wrister. It’s going to the far post, so Niklas Backstrom stretches out to kick it to the corner, but Higgins redirects the puck to the suddenly open five-hole, and it trickles through.
Occasionally, you’ll hear talk of a team “surrendering” a goal, and this is one such occasion. The Flames have a chance to get this puck out, but they don’t, and instead it comes to Kevin Bieksa at the blueline. Then, a shooting lane opens up for him with one of his own teammates in the way, screening Leland Irving. He wisely throws it towards the lane, hoping for a deflection, but it goes even better for him. The puck bounces off of Lapierre, the screener, and right to Higgins in the slot. He buries it like a snitch.
Nice presence of mind from Higgins here, as he takes a pass from Dale Weise and decides to go for a quick skate around his man at the top of the zone before firing from the dot. Wondering why he has so much room to skate? Weise and Kesler come in with a lot of speed, backing everyone up before Weise finds Higgins, but more than that, Kesler came in strong, and when Jordie Benn tried to impede him a little, Kesler just spun him around like a turnstile. He’s fully flat-footed when Higgins takes the puck, so the Canuck winger skates right around him.
This one is all Higgins. The puck looks like it’s coming out, and Justin Abdelkader thinks he’s going to be leading a rush the other way. But after he takes about one half-stride, Higgins shows up on his doorstep and pokes the puck down to the end boards. In the time it takes Abdelkader to realize he probably should have just cleared the zone, Higgins retrieves the puck, comes out the other side, and beats Jimmy Howard cleanly.
Higgins ices one of the Canucks’ best games of the season — a 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings that gave a lot of Vancouver fans [false] hope that this team could turn it on in the playoffs — with an empty-netter.
I can’t get enough of Jannik Hansen’s pass here. Seeing Higgins jump up the ice through the neutral zone, Hansen races to the puck, beats the two Flames coming from either side of him, and then just punches it forward with the backside of his blade. It’s a perfect feed; Higgins takes it at the blueline and makes no mistake.
Reminder: Zack Kassian is pretty big and strong, and guys like that can occasionally create offence by way of havoc. That’s what happens here, as Kassian takes the puck to the net hard. He loses it, then gets cross-checked to the ice by Jared Spurgeon, taking out another Wild defender in the process. While those two are tied up with Kassian, Andrew Alberts finds Higgins at the side of the goal, and Higgins just decides to wire the puck back into the melee in front of the goal. It goes in.
Another empty-netter from Higgins, who embiggens the Canucks’ lead at the end of a win over the Avalanche by hitting the empty net from his own side of centre.
Sit down, guy in yellow Canucks jersey. Not only are the Canucks still trailing by two, but you’re wearing one of the ugliest jerseys in Vancouver history (although, amazingly, only the third-ugliest, in this guy’s estimation). Anyway, Higgins scores here on a nice pass from Jannik Hansen, who’s playmaking ability remains sorely underrated.
I love the defensive play from Bieksa that starts the rush. The Oilers, perhaps inspired by the Sedins’ ability to do this several times a game, attempt a saucer pass to Justin Schultz the front of the net. Bieksa bats that crap right away. But more than that, he bats it straight to Derek Roy, who starts a 3-on-1 the other way. After a nifty piece of stickwork from Roy, he shows the Oilers how to do saucer passes correctly, launching the puck over the lone Oiler’s stick to Higgins, who finishes the play off in style.Tags: Chris Higgins, Every Goal, Every Goal 2012-13