Turns out Bo knows playoff hockey…and how to put the defending champs on the ropes

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The Canucks captain has been a one-man wrecking crew in their series against the St. Louis Blues, not only creating offense, but scoring style points as well. “If anyone is built for the playoffs, it’s Bo Horvat,” says Canucks coach Travis Green.

After Quinn Hughes made a remarkable pass to send Bo Horvat in on a breakaway in overtime, one of the television cameras continued to focus on Hughes and Tyler Bozak of the St. Louis Blues, who were both down on the ice watching in anticipation to see what would happen. After Horvat scored, Hughes said something to Bozak and smiled.

We don’t know exactly what Hughes said to Bozak – your trusty correspondent did not get a chance to ask on the Zoom news conference after the game and nobody who was chosen thought to ask – but it would not have been a complete surprise if Hughes said something like, “Dude, this guy is killing you.”

Indeed he is. Bo Horvat of the Vancouver Canucks is having himself some kind of playoff so far and is blossoming before our very eyes into an NHL star. He’s always been a conscientious player at both ends of the rink, but with six goals and eight points in the playoffs – four of those goals coming in Games 1 and 2 against the defending champs – Horvat is not only creating a ton of offense, but he’s scoring big points for artistry. His shorthanded goal to open the scoring in Game 2 was a 180-foot solo rush that was as pretty a goal as has been scored in these playoffs, that is unless you’re Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz of the Blues who were dummied on the play as though they were practice pylons.

“Obviously, I’m feeling pretty good about my game,” said Horvat, who then went into a bunch of hockey speak about how it’s a team effort and blah, blah, blah. He’s right, of course, but there is absolutely no doubt who is driving the Canucks at the moment. Horvat’s contribution has been especially key since the Blues and defending Selke Trophy winner Ryan O’Reilly have held the Canucks’ top line of Elias Pettersson with J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser without a shot at 5-on-5 through two games. It will likely be a different story when the Canucks get the last change in Games 3 and 4, but Horvat has used every strength of his game to make sure it was not a factor through the first two games.

“There’s that stereotype where you say guys were built for the playoffs and that’s bang-on with Bo,” said linemate Tanner Pearson. “Hard, heavy, good down low, does a lot of things right. He just needs to do what he’s doing. I’m not going to get in his way and I’ll just ride his coattails for sure.”

It should be noted that Pearson knows a player who was built for the playoffs when he sees one. In 2013-14, he played with a team full of them on the Stanley Cup-winning Los Angeles Kings. For a player who was built for the playoffs, Horvat certainly hasn’t played in them much. The Canucks made the post-season in his rookie year of 2014-15, then spent the next four springs on the sidelines. “It hasn’t been fun, that’s for sure,” Horvat said. “I’m the type of guy who watches the playoffs when we’re not in them. You want to see what it’s all about.”

Horvat is seeing first hand what it’s all about and he’s finding out that he’s pretty good at it. He’s leading all NHL players in post-season goals, while Hughes, who earned an assist on the overtime winner, is tied with Sebastien Aho of the Carolina Hurricanes atop the playoff assist list with seven. The Canucks haven’t necessarily been the better team for stretches of the first two games, but they’ve been incredibly opportunistic. You would have expected a young team such as the Canucks to wilt after blowing a 3-1 lead and giving up the final goal with six seconds left in regulation, but this is a young, energetic group that, led by Horvat, continues to push the pace.

“He’s playing phenomenally right now,” said Canucks coach Travis Green. “The last three games are as good as I’ve seen him maybe in my time here. The good thing about Bo is you can be honest with him and he can be honest about his game. He’s a big body who can skate and if anyone is made for playoff hockey, it’s Bo Horvat.”

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