The Vancouver Canucks have made a drastic turnaround since relieving Travis Green from the head coaching position and hiring Bruce Boudreau in the process. They are 8-0-1 since the coaching change and have climbed to within four points of a playoff position. With all of that going for them, the Canucks can’t get complacent with their current hot streak.
There’s a famous saying, “When it rains, it pours,” and that’s certainly been the case over the last calendar month. Coming off of their eighth win in their last nine games (5-2 victory over the Seattle Kraken), the Canucks are within striking distance of a wild card spot. But they need to continue to push if they plan on claiming that spot come April. For them to have this happen, they need their core players to continue to lead, recognize other teams’ slumps and be able to win games when they matter more in order for them to have success over the second half of the regular season.
Canucks’ Core Players Need to Continue to Lead
The best teams around the league are usually led by their star players. Depth is obviously important, and role players play crucial roles down the stretch, but for the most part, if the core players are going, the team is going. The Canucks need their core players to continue to lead as the season progresses.
A few players have been fantastic all season long, especially in the early going. J.T. Miller has led the Canucks in scoring from Day 1, putting up 36 points through his first 34 games, including 13 points during their current nine-game point streak. What’s also amazing is Miller has gotten a point in all nine games since Boudreau took over as the head coach. Quinn Hughes has also continued his dominance on the back end, with 28 points through 33 games and continues to seemingly go under the radar in terms of young defenders.
Then there are the players who struggled early on but have been better since the coaching change. Captain Bo Horvat is one of them, as he has seven points over his last nine games after only having 13 through the first 26. Brock Boeser had just four goals through the first 22 games but has since put up five goals and seven points over his last six games.
In goal, of course, Thatcher Demko has been sensational since Boudreau arrived. He has won all seven games he’s started, posting a save percentage (SV%) of .957 and a goals-against average (GAA) of 1.43. The 26-year-old California native now has a .920 SV% and a 2.55 GAA on the season, and if this play continues over the second half of the season, don’t be surprised to hear the term “Vezina Candidate” being thrown around.
If these guys continue to lead this team on and off the ice, don’t expect this run to stop anytime soon.
Other Teams Slumping Ahead of Canucks
Great teams know when there’s blood in the water. When certain teams start to sputter and slip up, it allows for teams behind them to gain ground and even pass them in the standings. The Canucks need to recognize which teams are currently slumping ahead of them and take advantage of those opportunities.
With the Canucks sitting four points out of a wild card spot, there are teams within striking distance of overtaking. The Edmonton Oilers have been in some rut lately and are just 2-8-2 over their last 12 games, having fallen to sixth in the division. The Calgary Flames have also stalled out a bit, going just 3-6-1 over their last 10, losing three straight contests as well. The Anaheim Ducks are just 4-4-2 in their last 10 contests, and the San Jose Sharks haven’t fared much better, going 5-5 over their last 10.
It’s not often there are this many teams in one division who open leave the door for teams trailing them to gain some ground back, but in this instance, it’s happening for the Canucks.
Playing Well Under Pressure
It’s easy to perform well when there isn’t any pressure. At one point, the Canucks had a record of 8-15-2 and were in the basement of the Pacific Division. While they’re currently still seventh, they’re just five points out of third and four points out of a playoff spot. As it gets later into the season, the games will start to matter more, so it’ll be instrumental for the Canucks to continue playing well under pressure.
Most of this squad has been in those situations before. Dating back to the bubble in the 2019-20 season, nine players from that team went to the second round against the Vegas Golden Knights. However, for many of them, that run was the first taste of playoff hockey — 10 players played their very first playoff game, including Elias Pettersson, Hughes and Boeser. If that run was any indication as to how this team will be come pressure situations, it’s a good sign for the Canucks.
At one point in the season, the Canucks had roughly four to five more games played than some of the teams ahead of them in the standings. But with the postponement of games in Canada, teams have caught up but not distanced themselves points-wise. They need to keep their foot on the gas pedal and continue their strong play if they want to see themselves in a playoff spot instead of looking up at one.
Latest News & Highlights
I’m a London, Ontario based broadcaster and sports writer for the Vancouver Canucks. I’ve done work in the past reporting on the NHL, NBA and MLB. I’ve also covered the OHL including the Owen Sound Attack and am currently involved with the London Knights.