With a frustrating start out of the gate after opening the season with two straight losses, the Vancouver Canucks look ahead to Wednesday’s matchup against the Los Angeles Kings to steer the ship back in the right direction. Falling 3-2 to the Edmonton Oilers in the season opener, followed by a frustrating 3-0 shutout at the hands of the Calgary Flames, the Canucks have quite a few areas to improve when they hit home ice on Wednesday evening. Here is a checklist outlining the keys to success for the Canucks to follow in their home opener in order to come out on top and avoid a harrowing 0-3 start to the season.
Find Power Play Success
After going a concerning 0-10 on the power play in their first two games, it’s safe to say something needs to change on the man advantage. Especially against Calgary on Saturday in which the team was held scoreless, the power play is the key to jump-start a struggling offense when the team hits home ice.
However, based on what we’ve seen so far from the PP, the special unit will likely continue to struggle unless things are shaken up. The best way to do this is to put the rookie defender Quinn Hughes on the top power play.
Showing his unbelievable skills at controlling tempo, setting up plays, and displaying patience with the puck, Hughes is the obvious fit for a top unit filled with stars that know how to put the puck in the net. Setting up the likes of Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser on the first unit is the perfect spot for Hughes’ skillset, and should be the replacement for Alexander Edler who is currently struggling with the opportunity.
If the Canucks make this shift to Hughes on the first unit for their home opener on Wednesday, they’ll have a better chance of sparking a power play that is suffering and giving their offense a much-needed boost.
Feed off of the Occasion
With Wednesday being home-opening night, the crowd is going to be thrilled. Mix in the fact that the team is naming their brand new captain prior to puck drop, and the crowd will be absolutely electric. What better opportunity to seize the excitement and show fans that this team means business for the 79 games that follow?
With Bo Horvat almost certainly being the player to dawn the coveted ‘C,’ the second-line center will likely have an extra spark. This type of energy is undoubtedly contagious and something the rest of the team will feed off of when the puck hits the ice.
To find success against the Kings, the Canucks will need to harness the energy from a spirited atmosphere and come out of the gates flying. This makes the first goal of the game that much more important. It’s a way to keep the fans engaged after the captain ceremony and have the building as loud as possible for the duration of the night.
A Strong Showing from the Stars
While the stars of the Canucks haven’t been bad to start the season, they haven’t put on a game-changing performance in either contest that is sometimes needed to steal a game.
The team’s top line consisting of elite scorers Pettersson and Boeser has yet to find the back of the net. While the pair has still been getting chances on net, highlighted by Pettersson’s six shots on goal in Saturday’s scoreless game against the Flames, neither have hit the stride that fans know they are capable of.
While it’s still so early in the season and two scoreless games from the pair isn’t a slump to fret over, Pettersson and Boeser are often the key to winning contests. When these two are at the top of their game, there is almost no stopping the Canucks’ top line.
In order to get the two stars going, we could see J.T. Miller replacing first-line winger Micheal Ferland to compliment the top line. Whatever the trio looks like, Pettersson and Boeser can single-handedly be the difference makers needed to win games. A strong showing from the two is exactly what the Canucks need to be successful in their home opener.
New-Look Third Line Seizing the Opportunity
Last but not least, Vancouver’s third line saw a significant shift after the season-opening loss to the Oilers. Swedish winger Loui Eriksson drew out of the line up as a healthy scratch in favour of 23-year-old rookie Adam Gaudette.
The tenacious and hard-working youngster battled his way onto the roster with a strong preseason showing that ultimately sent Sven Baertschi to the minors. While he didn’t see any action in the first game from his seat in the press box, head coach Travis Green decided Gaudette needed to be in the second game and swapped him in for Eriksson.
Gaudette came out on Saturday night with the same urgency that earned him his roster spot, playing hard and registering 11:56 minutes of ice time. While the rookie played a good game centring the third line with wingers Josh Leivo and Jake Virtanen, he’ll need to keep up this play and hopefully chip in some offense to really solidify his spot.
As with any on-the-cusp rookie, it likely won’t take much for Gaudette to draw out of the line up, making his play in Wednesday’s home opener that much more important. With the help of his line mates and the stakes at hand for Gaudette, a strong showing is not only the key for him to stay in the line up, but also a big factor in helping the team achieve success when the Kings roll into town on Wednesday.
While an 0-2 start isn’t a reason to panic, the home-opener and third contest of the season is definitely a pivotal game for the Canucks. Falling 0-3 is a tough spot to be in and digs an early hole that the team would have to struggle their way out of. Finding success in their first game at home is the exact momentum shift that this team needs, and by following these four points on a checklist for success, is well within reach.
Ben covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers. After graduating from his Communications program at Centennial College, he went on to work for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL writing game summaries and feature articles for the team. Now taking his writing to THW, Ben looks forward to continuing his passion for sports and writing.