The Vancouver Canucks will finish their seven-game homestand with a record of 2-4-1. The homestand was highly disappointing for the club and has put them behind the eight ball early. Here are the seven takeaways from the Canucks seven-game homestand.
The Canucks Penalty Kill is a Problem
The first takeaway is a pretty obvious one: the Canucks penalty kill is a problem. The team finished with a 58.3% efficiency allowing ten goals on 24 attempts. The only game they had a perfect kill was versus the Minnesota Wild in the home opener. Vancouver needs to figure this part of their game out and quickly as it proved highly costly throughout the homestand.
In four of the five losses, the penalty kill was the difference. The Canucks lost by one goal to Anaheim, Philadelphia, Edmonton, and Nashville. In each of those games, the opposition was able to score at least one power-play goal. Lastly, in the last five games of the homestand, the opposition opened the scoring with a power-play goal. The penalty kill cost them at least three extra points this homestand which could be the difference between making the playoffs and missing them.
Goaltending Saves the Canucks
Without the play of their goaltenders, the Canucks may not have won a game this homestand. Despite going 0-2, Jaroslav Halák kept the Canucks in games, especially at five on five. He allowed three goals on 69 shots and finished with a .957% save percentage (SV%). He was also a perfect ten for ten when it came to high danger chances stopped. His save percentage does dip to .914 SV% in all situations, but he was not the reason the Canucks lost games. After all, it is hard to win games when the team in front only produces three goals over two games.
While Halák was good, Thatcher Demko was out of this world. In five games, he had a .955 SV% and 1.28 goals-against average (GAA) at five on five. He finished only allowing five goals on 112 shots and stopped 28 of 31 high danger chances. As for his overall performance, he finished with a .910 SV% and a 2.65 GAA in all situations. If he can continue this form on the road, and Vancouver can find a way to generate more offense, he should be in the conversation when it comes to the Vezina by the end of the season.
Pettersson is Starting to Heat Up
The big concern at the beginning of the homestand was the play of Elias Pettersson. Through the first five games, he had two total points and only generated 13 shots on goal. It was apparent he was frustrated, but all of a sudden, versus Dallas, something clicked.
In the last two games of the homestand, Pettersson had four points, including two goals. More importantly, he was shooting the puck as he finished those games with a total of ten shots on goal. Despite being given less ice-time overall, he was making the most of his chances which included scoring the tying goal shorthanded versus the Ducks in the final minute to send the game to overtime. The hope is this is just the start for the former Calder winner as he starts to find his legs after missing most of the preseason.
Power Play Needs to Cash in
The Canucks finished the homestand with a 14.3% power play. From a pure numbers perspective, that isn’t bad, but when considering they scored three of the four totals goals scored in one game, it paints a skewed picture of how bad the power play really is. From not being able to create high danger scoring chances to questionable player personnel on the ice, this homestand showed the exact opposite of running a successful power play.
From Alex Chaisson on the first unit over Brock Boeser to Pettersson and Miller not shooting the puck, there was one problem after another on the power play. On top of their own inability to get pucks on the net, the Canucks also gave up ten shorthanded shots over the seven games. They had success against Dallas with three goals on six attempts, but when that game is taken out, the Canucks go from a 14.3% efficiency rate to a 4.5% efficiency rate. Like the penalty kill, the power play held them back and played a big part in why the Canucks lost five games by one goal.
Connor Garland and Vasily Podkolzin Finding Some Chemistry
Playing on the third line centered by Jason Dickinson, it has become clear that Connor Garland and Vasily Podkolzin have some chemistry playing together. The duo had a 62.5 Corsi for percentage (CF%) while on the ice together and connected on a beautiful one-timer versus Dallas that turned out to be the game-winner. The duo’s best performance came against the Ducks, where they had an 80 CF% and outshot the opposition eight to four in 12:24 of ice time.
Regardless of if it is Dickinson or Horvat down the middle, these two need to stay together. They are over 60% in every analytical category and have yet to be on the ice for a goal against this season. With this line going, the Canucks finally have the top-nine depth they anticipated during the offseason. Coach Travis Green has been looking for someone to kick start Podkolzin’s game, and it seems Garland is the exact player for the job.
Start Out Slow, Finish Strong
It was apparent that the Canucks started games off slow and needed to fight back in the third to try and capture a victory through the seven games. During the first period, Vancouver was outscored seven to two and did not score first in any of the seven games. The Canucks need to find a way to get on the board first and let the opposition chase the game rather than vice versa.
The silver lining is that the Canucks do not give up and seem to find their scoring touch once the third period starts. They finished the homestand by outscoring opponents eight to three and forced overtime twice with late goals. Is this sustainable? Probably not, but at least the fans got some entertainment late in games, even if the goals didn’t lead to victories.
Jim Benning, Travis Green Now on the Hot Seat
The Canucks are now 5-6-2 through their first 13 games and are ranked seventh in the Pacific division. This is not good if you are Coach Green or general manager Jim Benning. Both needed the team to have a solid start to the season and now find themselves on the hot seat with fans calling into the postgame radio shows, asking why both still have a job.
It is a turbulent time in Vancouver and fans are not happy after this homestand. The fans are angry, especially after missing the playoffs last season. Unless this team can rack up some wins in the near future, significant changes could be coming to the organization.
Overall, this was the worst-case scenario for the Canucks. Fans are mad, and the team is dropping in the standing day by day. Something needs to change soon, or else Vancouver could be looking at missing the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven seasons.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at https://www.area51sportsnetwork.com/ where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.