Typically, when an NHL coach has a 19-year-old rookie in his lineup, that coach will do everything in his power to keep the kid away from the opposition’s top lines.
And that goes double when the opposition’s top forwards include Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
But that wasn’t the case Saturday in Vancouver, where Canucks coach Willie Desjardins, armed with the last change, had center Bo Horvat out there to take seven faceoffs against Crosby and five against Malkin.
There were even times when Desjardins pulled the Sedins off the ice so Horvat could battle Crosby in the circle.
Horvat, not surprisingly, was thrilled with the level of trust he received from his coach.
“Sid’s one of the best players in the world, if not the best,” he said after Vancouver’s 5-0 win, the second time the Canucks had shut out the Penguins this season.
“To go against him in some draws and play against him a lot of shifts, it was special. … Here I am, a 19-year-old kid playing against all these great players. I was surprised it went so well.”
Horvat, skating on a line with veteran wingers Jannik Hansen and Derek Dorsett, also victimized Malkin at the Pittsburgh blue line, leading to Horvat’s fifth goal of the season.
“I think that line’s been so big for us,” said Desjardins. “If we’re able to [put that line out against good competition], it just gives us good matches with the other lines.”
The Canucks, in case you’d forgotten, drafted Horvat with the ninth overall pick they received from New Jersey in the Cory Schneider trade.