The Vancouver Canucks are currently in first place in the Pacific Division, but how long can they stay there? The team had come off a winning streak before it lost three games in a row. On Saturday night, the Canucks lost 6-2 to the Calgary Flames on home ice, which stopped their nine-game home winning streak. The team’s longest home winning streak had been 11 games in a row between Feb. 3 and March 19, 2009.
Canucks coach Travis Green analyzed the game by noting that he believed his team looked like a team still learning how to fight for a postseason playoff spot. There’s no doubt he’s correct. The Canucks have missed the playoffs for the last four NHL seasons.
Green specifically noted, ”I think tonight … (Calgary) looked like a team that had been in this situation before. We made some mistakes at costly times, a couple of little details that cost goals. When you are playing games like this, it is those little details that matter.”
In this post, as the Canucks move forward in a homestand that includes five more games, I want to help fans stay up-to-date on news and rumors emerging from the team.
Item One: Markstrom Has Lost Three Games in a Row
Jacob Markstrom’s teammate Tanner Pearson clearly blamed the team for letting Markstrom down. He admitted that he and his teammates had to do a better job clearing the net in front of their besieged goalie. Specifically, Pearson said Markstrom ”gave us a chance to win that hockey game. We have to help him when he’s doing that. That one is on us.”
However, Markstrom blamed himself, noting, ”It was a huge game. I have to come up with some stops and help our team. … It’s my job to see the puck.” Interestingly, between the second and the third period, the Hockey Night in Canada announcers showed exactly how often Markstrom’s own teammates blocked his vision of the puck. In retrospect, it simply seemed like one of those nights when, no matter what the team did, the Flames were destined to win.
In the end, Markstrom gave up five goals on 31 shots in the 6-2 loss. His play this season has been solid; however, he’s recently surrendered 13 goals in his last three games. It’s difficult to know whether he’ll start all of the next three games against the Nashville Predators, the Chicago Blackhawks, and the Anaheim Ducks. Although his backup Thatcher Demko should probably start one of those games, Markstrom’s made 38 starts this season compared to just 17 for Demko; and, with a playoff spot on the line, it’s hard to read what coach Green might be thinking.
Markstrom now has a 20-16-3 record, a goals-against average of 2.83 and a .914 save percentage this season.
Item Two: Boeser Will Miss At Least Two Games
The Canucks’ Brock Boeser left the game holding his hurt arm in the third period after a collision with the Flames’ Andrew Mangiapane. Boeser will be re-evaluated to see the extent of the injury. Boeser has 16 goals and 45 points in 56 games this season; however, recently he’s been on a bit of a slump with only two assists in his last 12 games.
Coach Green added, “He is going to be out. I don’t know how long. For a little bit. We will know more [Sunday].”
Item Three: Pettersson Returned Against the Flames
Elias Pettersson, who had missed the team’s game on Thursday with a lower-body injury, returned to play against the Flames on Saturday. Pettersson remains on a point-per-game pace, with 23 goals and 55 points in 54 games this season. However, to my eyes, he’s been roughed up consistently by other teams and that treatment has impacted his play.
Although he continues to play, he appears hurt to me. It’s hard to fault his results, but I believe the constant punishment’s been wearing him down.
Item Four: Are the Canucks Interested in Simmonds?
At last season’s trade deadline, Wayne Simmonds name was one that kept popping up. This season, however, hasn’t been the same. Although Simmonds is only 31 years old, a career of playing with a mean streak has taken a physical toll – his scoring has slowed over the past two seasons, and he no longer averages over 50 points per season; and, he’s signed to an expensive $5 million contract.
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However, given my note above about Pettersson’s treatment at the hands of opposing teams, Simmonds might be worth taking on as a rental this season – especially because I believe someone needs to ride shotgun for Pettersson.
That makes TSN’s Rick Dhaliwal’s note that the Canucks might be interested in Simmonds, who now plays with the New Jersey Devils, believable. Simmonds is a pending unrestricted free agent who’s scored five goals and 14 assists in 53 games this season.
This isn’t the first time the Canucks have been linked to Simmonds. In a Feb. 7 post in The Athletic, Pierre LeBrun mentioned that Vancouver has been interested in Simmonds before he signed with New Jersey in the offseason. (from LeBrun: Canucks interest in Simmonds, Kreider contract talks and Flames react to Giordano injury, Pierre LeBrun, The Athletic, 02/07/20)
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Simmonds plays big and exudes a mean streak useful for protecting young stars. This makes him exactly the kind of player Canucks’ general manager Jim Benning should want and probably thought the team had with Micheal Ferland. However, Ferland’s concussion might keep him from playing again this season. However, given that Ferland’s now skating, any Simmonds deal might depend on how Ferland’s playing when the Feb. 24 trade deadline arrives.
What’s Next with the Canucks?
Canucks fans must be feeling a fair amount of tension. The team seems to go on a winning streak, then it seems to lose a few games in a row. Still, the team’s young players are exciting to watch.
Specifically, rookie defenseman Hughes has nine points (four goals and five assists) in his past nine games. He seems to be growing in his ability to take over each game that he plays to a greater degree. Over the next few games, it will be fun to see how he progresses in his race toward Calder Trophy candidacy.