Oh yeah, Tanner Pearson. With so much of our attention drawn elsewhere this pre and early season, we just kind of took the Vancouver Canucks winger for granted. A top six forward for the Canucks with a Stanley Cup (LA – 2014) championship on his resume, Pearson is patiently approaching the team’s successes and failures in the early going as the club adjusts to a new line-up.
“Our starts haven’t been the greatest, and playing catch-up in the league isn’t the easiest, so to get that first goal would be huge,” Pearson said. “But given what we’ve been through with trailing, I like our push-back.” The Canucks have fallen behind by one goal after one period in both Philadelphia and Detroit and by two goals after two periods in Edmonton.
“Battling back to get back in games has definitely been a good thing, especially on the road,” Pearson stated. “Down third period and battling back and getting wins is huge and down the stretch that can definitely help us out.” Cool that he’s already making references to the playoff stretch drive.
He and his centreman Bo Horvat, mostly with Conor Garland on the opposite wing, have also had a slow start in terms of the score sheet. Pearson’s lone assist came on Garland’s impossible-angle top shelf shot in Detroit as did Horvat’s lone point this season. Pearson isn’t concerned with his own game nor that of his captain.
“My first season here he (Bo) started a bit slow and finished the season with 25 goals, so no reason to panic,” Pearson said. Horvat had five shots-on-goal in the Red Wings match and seven on the season while Pearson has eleven.
Asked about another Canucks winger of similar stature to him, Vasily Podkolzin, Pearson related the 20-year-old Russian’s learning experience to his own, realizing it’s even tougher for Podkolzin because of the culture change on and off the ice.
“He’s learning, different ice surface is a big one. At home he skated on Olympic size, it’s totally different, you have so much more room,” Pearson said. “Here it’s so fast and everyone closes on you quick, I think he’s gonna be just fine once he gets the hang of it.” NHL rinks are 15-feet narrower than Olympic ice surfaces.
Podkolzin sat on the bench for the third period in Philadelphia as the Canucks tried to hold on to a lead. Pearson said there’s nothing unusual about that and it reminded him of his early NHL days with head coach Darryl Sutter in Los Angeles.
“As a young guy you had to earn it there, depending on your D-zone play you may be sitting on the bench the rest of the game,” Pearson recalled. “I think I look back at that first game I played in the playoffs, it was probably five minutes maybe (5:44 of ice time at San Jose), and then it was up and down the next season as I earned maybe more respect.
“My old junior coach Dale Hawerchuk said ‘watching games is a free education’,” Pearson pointed out. “There’s no better place than the middle of the bench to watch. The best, I had to look up to, probably ‘Brownie’ (Dustin Brown), (Justin) Williams, guys like that who … Justin was probably one of the best guys on the wall in the league. To watch him everyday and to see how he went about is business, there’s a reason why he was the player he was, and maybe just watching, watching your (video) clips and stuff.”
Pearson feels Podkolzin will bring much more than just depth.
“He’s dynamite, he’s a big, strong kid, just look at him as a unit,” Pearson stated. “I think for different parts of the game, once he understands it, he’s gonna be a heck of a player.”
In the tail end of the back-to-back games Saturday night in Detroit, Pearson saw just 15:21 in ice time with 1:33 on the second power play unit. He saw a similar amount of time on special teams against Philly after a whopping 3:25 on the PP in Edmonton. He’s been in the ice for one power play goal this season, the team’s first tally, from Oliver Ekman-Larsson against the Oilers.
“It’s a big threat if you’ve got two units that can get the job done,” Pearson said. “You need to have confidence to put the second unit out, everyone wants to score goals in this league. Hungry guys out there, having that second unit (clicking) is going to be big for us.”
His line’s next opportunity to click is Tuesday night in Buffalo against the undefeated Sabres.
— In Pearson’s first full season in Vancouver, 2019-’20, Horvat indeed went his first five games without a goal and finished with 22 in 69 games. Good memory.