The Vancouver Canucks are four games through a difficult six-game road trip and so far things are looking about as good as could be expected. After a tough 6-1 loss against the Dallas Stars, they beat the Nashville Predators 6-3 on Thursday night and then beat the Washington Capitals 2-1 in a shootout.
Then, goalie Thatcher Demko played a good game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday but lost 2-1. The Canucks held a 1-0 lead midway through the first period but in the second period, the Flyers came on strong outshooting the Canucks 26-8 during the last two-thirds of the game. Although Demko made a number of big saves to hold the team in the game, it wasn’t meant to be.
Still, having a 2-2 record so far is better than most fans probably expected. The team has two more games on the road, then they return home for a Dec. 1 game against the Western Conference-leading Edmonton Oilers.
In this post, I hope to keep Canucks fans up-to-date with some of the current news and rumors emerging from the team.
Item One: Making a Trade Will Be Tough
In a rumor that really isn’t that new to Canucks fans, Elliotte Friedman reported on Sportsnet 650 this past week that the Canucks have been looking to make a move for months. However, Friedman believes such a move would be difficult because most teams – even if they wanted to make a move – don’t have space. As he noted on the radio podcast, “I think there are a bunch of teams out there that would like to make moves but there’s not a lot of flexibility.”
Friedman also noted that everyone knew that the Canucks have a problem and they’ve been trying to move “a body” [Loui Eriksson] for months. Do other teams care? According to Friedman, when you’re in that situation, other teams aren’t throwing you life preservers; they’re “throwing you anvils.”
Friedman concluded that, sooner or later, the Canucks will either have to send someone to Utica or move someone out to make something happen. But, because the team isn’t dealing from a position of strength, it won’t be easy.
Item Two: Travis Green Stuck with Markstrom
In the Canucks’ loss to the Stars last Tuesday, Jacob Markstrom was hammered. However, rather than playing Thatcher Demko two nights later against the Predators, head coach Travis Green rolled the dice and started Markstrom. The result was exceptional and the team came away with a win.
Then, Green hung in their once again with Markstrom, and he had another strong game by stopping 32 shots during regulation time and overtime and then stopping seven more during a long shootout. The Canucks beat the Capitals 2-1. I’m not sure anyone saw that coming. As I noted, the Canucks also hung in there against the Flyers but lost.
It isn’t that Thatcher Demko has played poorly, as his goaltending against the Flyers showed. He hasn’t. But, as Green noted after the Stars shelling, the coaching staff debated a little bit but finally said “I think we wanted to show him some confidence as well, get him back in the net right away. And he’s given us two big games after that.”
So, in Nashville, Green stayed with Markstrom and he made 45 saves in a 6-3 win. Then Markstrom followed up that win with another strong showing against the NHL-leading Capitals. Although Demko has also looked strong, Green’s actions in deploying his goalies suggest to me that he still thinks of Markstrom as his starter.
Item Three: Was Travis Green the Problem?
Speaking of Green, on Nov. 20, Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre joined the Sportsnet 650 panel to talk about the Green’s coaching culpability in the Canucks’ recent struggles. MacIntyre’s take is that the Canucks injuries have had a huge effect on the team. This puts the younger players into the difficult position of having to shoulder the team’s weight. That’s tougher than most people think.
Item Four: The Power-Play Goals Just Keep Coming
In the game against the Predators, the Canucks had one of those rare nights when the power play was really running on all cylinders. On the night when the Canucks beat Nashville to stop a three-game losing streak, the team went 5-for-6 on the man advantage. Against the Capitals, Elias Pettersson scored his 10th goal of the season, which was the team’s 12th power-play goal in their last seven games.
Related: Luongo Leaves Dual Canucks Legacy
Although J.T. Miller’s goal against the Flyers wasn’t scored on the man advantage, still the Canucks have had a strong power-play unit this season.
Item Five: J.T. Miller Has Proven His Worth this Season
During the Flyers game, J.T. Miller scored the only Canucks goal. Miller has played well this season for the Canucks and now has 24 points in 25 games. He’s been solid all season and seems to be a go-to guy, moving around to give different lines a spark as needed.
Item Six: Elias Pettersson: No Sophmore Slump Here
Although Pettersson didn’t hit the score sheet against the Flyers, he’s certainly not having a sophomore slump this season. Against the Predators last Thursday he scored a power-play goal and assisted on two others.
The 21-year-old Swede now has 29 points in 25 games and has scored more than half of those points (five goals, 15 points) on the power play. His goal against the Capitals on Saturday was also a power-play marker.
What’s Next for the Canucks?
The Canucks have two more road games before they land at home on Dec. 1 against the high-flying Edmonton Oilers. They play Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Saturday against the Oilers. If they can win either of these two games, they will have had a 3-3 road trip and that would be a strong showing for the team. Both games will be tough, but if they play like they’ve been playing, it’s quite possible to win both.