Shift-by-shift: Bo Horvat’s NHL debut

Bo Horvat’s first career NHL game wasn’t one for the ages. It won’t make any top-10 lists for great debuts. All the same, it was a solid start for the 19-year-old and certainly something on which to build.

He had just under 9 minutes in ice time over 16 shifts and had a relatively empty stat line: plus-1, with one shot and one blocked shot. He did go 9-for-13 on faceoffs, but the boxscore even underplayed that, crediting his first career faceoff win to Henrik Sedin.

Delving into the advanced statistics for the game gives us a little bit more information: the Canucks out-shot the Avalanche 6-to-2 when he was on the ice at even-strength and were 8-5 in shot attempts. That’s good, but it’s worth noting that the entire team had great possession numbers because the Avalanche are not particularly good at puck possession.

It’s also worth noting that Horvat started a fair amount in the defensive zone: of his 13 faceoffs, 5 of them were in the defensive zone, 7 in the neutral zone, and just 1 in the offensive zone. Of those 5 defensive zone faceoffs, Horvat won 4 of them, only losing to Ryan O’Reilly.

He wasn’t exactly sheltered either. The three Avalanche forwards he faced the most were Jamie McGinn, Ryan O’Reilly, and Matt Duchene, all staples of Colorado’s top-six.

That’s about all we can decipher from the statistics we have available and it paints a pretty unspectacular but promising picture. But I wanted to know more. So, like I’ve done for the debuts of other Canucks rookies, I looked at Horvat’s game shift-by-shift.

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Shift-by-shift: Frank Corrado’s first NHL game

It’s not enough to say that Frank Corrado didn’t look out of place in his NHL debut: he looked perfectly in place, skating on Alex Edler’s right side like he’d been there all season. Most rookie defencemen will just try to play a simple game and hope to not get noticed for the wrong reason. Corrado, on the other hand, made his presence felt immediately, stapling Marcus Kruger to the boards with a solid check on just his second shift of the game.

Corrado was credited with 24 total shifts and 17:20 in ice time (though this number turned out to be slightly inaccurate upon closer inspection). Still, he was fourth among Canucks’ defencemen in ice time and matched up against Patrick Kane more than any other Blackhawks forward. In fact, Kane was fed a steady diet of the Edler and Corrado pairing for most of the game, demonstrating how quickly Corrado won Alain Vigneault’s trust.

I wanted to find out exactly how Corrado’s debut went, shift by shift, to see exactly how he earned his ice time, so I went back and watched his entire game. The verb that kept coming up in my notes was quick: quick skating, quick passes, and quick decisions.

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This is the near-miss that ended Manny Malhotra’s season [VIDEO]

Manny Malhotra caused quite the kerfuffle when he skated with the Canucks at Wednesday’s practice. With Ryan Kesler out with a broken foot and Aaron Volpatti on waivers, Malhotra skated on a regular line for drills, leading some to jump to the erroneous conclusion that he might be returning.

Let’s face it: as much as it would be nice to have Malhotra back in the Canucks’ lineup, it would be a clustercuss of unimaginable proportions. It already looked suspicious to have Mike Gillis announce that Malhotra was done for the season just as Kesler was cleared to play; to have Malhotra return as soon as Kesler is out of the lineup again would be a PR nightmare for Gillis and the team. It would put to lie everything that Gillis said about why he made the decision he did and turn it from concern for a player’s long-term health to a cold-hearted and calculated business decision.

According to Dan Murphy, the Canucks have shown Malhotra video of incidents where they felt he was at a higher risk of injury in an effort to convince him of the danger to his long-term health. Murphy specifically indicated one particular incident, where “if Dany Heatley was Cal Clutterbuck, Malhotra could have been in trouble.”

So, I decided to track down this near-miss to see it for myself. How bad was it, or rather, how bad could it have been?

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Shift-by-shift: Jordan Schroeder’s debut

Over four years after being drafted by the Canucks, Jordan Schroeder finally made his NHL debut. It was unspectacular: he didn’t score the gamewinning goal or make a game-saving defensive play. He didn’t even get a shot on net. But he must have done something right: in a tight game that went to the shootout, Schroeder had almost 15 minutes in ice time, including a shift in overtime.

Considering that Alain Vigneault is notoriously stingy with ice time when it comes to young players, getting 14:49 in ice time in a debut is quite impressive. Since I was watching the game as a whole, I didn’t necessarily see everything that Schroeder did during the game and he didn’t have much in the way of a stat line. He finished with 2 PIM, 1 shot attempt blocked, 1 hit, 1 takeaway, and was 1-for-4 in the faceoff circle.

So I decided to go back and watch every single shift from Jordan Schroeder and break them down. After I did so, it became very clear why Vigneault trusted him on the ice: his defensive responsibility.

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