As Vancouver nears the halfway mark of the season, their top players cannot go on extended periods without scoring; unfortunately, Elias Pettersson continues to struggle.
Top players need to produce if Vancouver wants to qualify for the playoffs
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Watching the Vancouver Canucks play this season is like eating a plate of delicious nachos at The Keg. You know eating too much of it is not good for you. But you cannot help yourself and keep coming back for more.
And when fans were feeling pessimistic and disinterested, the Canucks and their resiliency have kept the fanbase “coming back for more.” Vancouver has shown a lot of heart and desire with a “never quit mentality.” And that characteristic is something that will always keep fans watching and engaged. Especially those who are invested in the team emotionally and financially. So, for the moment, do not count Vancouver out just yet (excluding the bandwagon fans who have already jumped). At the time of writing, the Canucks’ record is 18-18-3. Vancouver is back to a .500 record and is now sixth in the Pacific Division with 39 points—passing the Edmonton Oilers by one point.
The Vancouver Canucks’ recent five-game road trip did not start well, losing games to Florida, Tampa Bay and Carolina. Granted, the three losses were against the top teams in the Eastern Conference (including defending cup champions, Tampa Bay). But the Canucks redeemed themselves against Washington on January 16—winning by a score of four to two. Then Vancouver concluded the road trip on January 18 against the Nashville Predators—winning by a score of three to one.
But Vancouver is playing better after Boudreau took over coaching duties from Travis Green. The Canucks won eight of their first nine games with Boudreau behind the bench. But the newest and especially likeable coach has challenges he has to amend. One of those is an ineffective powerplay that had gone silent like Vancouver’s top players at the start of their road trip (Canucks went 0 for 5 on the powerplay against the Hurricanes).
After the game against Carolina, Boudreau discussed the Canucks’ powerplay struggles. “On this trip, I think it has let us down a little bit,” he said to the media as reported by Sportsnet. “Five-on-five, we’re holding our own. But one of the keys to today was your special teams had to be special. And all three of these games, they haven’t been special. They were really good before the pause (Jan. 2-10) and we’ve got to get back to that, and we’ve got to get back to that in [a] hurry. Those are the things [that] win you games. In a 3-2 league, if you can get two goals 5-on-5 per game, and you get that power-play goal, it’s the difference. And these three games we haven’t been able to get it.”
Before the game against Carolina, the Canucks were informed that starting goalie, Jaroslav Halak, went into COVID-19 protocol, forcing Thatcher Demko to start again in net. Although Demko did not play to his standards during the Canucks’ three-game losing streak, he has had a good season. In 32 starts, Demko has a record of 17 wins, 14 losses and 1 OTL, all this with a goals-against-average of 2.62 and .917 save percentage. His performance has been noticed by the NHL. The Province reported on January 13 that Demko was one of two goalies selected by the NHL to represent the Pacific Division at the NHL All-Star Weekend in February (being held in Las Vegas). The other goalie selected was John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks.
As Vancouver nears the halfway mark of the season, their top players cannot go on extended periods without scoring; unfortunately, Elias Pettersson continues to struggle. In the game against Carolina, he had no points with one shot on goal. In the second period with the Hurricanes leading 2-1, Pettersson hit the goal post after Conor Garland fed him a quick pass behind the net. Pettersson needs to start producing if Vancouver wants to qualify for that final Wild Card playoff spot.
However, Pettersson had a breakthrough game against Washington. He showed signs of the player that fans have been waiting for all season. He scored two goals, including one on the powerplay. It is a positive step for EP40, and hopefully, it is a sign of more production from the 23-year-old centreman who has 20 points in 39 games (9 goals and 11 assists).
Conor Garland did not play against the Capitals, as he was placed into COVID-19 protocol. As well, captain Bo Horvat was placed in the protocol on January 18—hours before the game against Nashville. Ben Kuzma of The Province reported, “Horvat must quarantine in Nashville for a minimum of five days. If he then tests negative, he will be allowed to vacate the hotel, but could run into issues at the border.” Kuzma also stated recent orders from Canadian border guards require Canucks players to isolate again for another extended period before they can return to the team.
And the list of Vancouver players being affected by COVID-19 continues. TSN reported on January 20 that JT Miller and Thatcher Demko had both tested positive for COVID-19 via rapid tests. Both players did not practice, as the Canucks wait for the results of further testing. Backup goalie, Jaroslav Halak is still in protocol. And if Demko is unable to play, expect goalies, Spencer Martin and Michael DiPietro, who are on Vancouver’s taxi squad—to see some game action.
Canucks’ schedule this week
Tuesday, January 25 vs. Edmonton Oilers (7 pm)
Thursday, January 27 @ Winnipeg Jets (5 pm)
Saturday, January 29 @ Calgary Flames (7 pm)
Monday, January 31 @ Chicago Blackhawks (430 pm)
Tuesday, February 1 @ Nashville Predators (5 pm)