Welcome to Canucks Weekly, where you can catch up on the past week of the Vancouver Canucks throughout the 2019-20 season. From trending topics to news and notes, this is your weekly update on all things Canucks.
The week did not start out well, as the Canucks dropped yet another game to the Dallas Stars. This time it was much worse than the previous week. Instead of falling 4-1, they fell further to the tune of a 6-1 drubbing. Fortunately, that game gave them a swift kick in the butt. The following two games were much better as they bested the Nashville Predators 6-3 and the Washington Capitals 2-1 in a shootout.
The one thing that was in common about the two wins was the dominance of the power play. In the two games, they scored a total of six goals with the man advantage. Dare we say that the power play is a huge strength of the Canucks again? If so, it could be the difference between the playoffs and another early date on the links.
The long arduous six-game road trip is now half over and the Canucks hold a record of 2-1. The team seems to be trending in the right direction again, as they played two solid games against two great teams after the debacle in Dallas. The most impressive was the game against the Capitals where they played a gritty game against the top team in the NHL. They were full value for the win and finally played a solid 60 minutes of hockey, despite once again giving up the first goal of the game.
With all that said, let’s take a look at the top stories that dominated Canucks Nation this past week.
Markstrom Returns to Form
November has not been a good month for Jacob Markstrom. Before the game against the Predators, his goals-against-average (GAA) and save percentage (SV%) in November read 3.16 and .893 respectively. But all that changed on Thursday when he made 45 saves in his first clutch performance of the month. He then followed that up with a 33 save effort in a victory against the top team in the NHL. He also did not allow a goal in the shootout either, which helped to secure the win.
Hopefully, these last two games are a sign of things to come for the Swedish netminder. Part of the reason the Canucks were so successful in October was because of the solid goaltending provided by Markstrom and Thatcher Demko. The past few weeks have not been kind to the duo, but if the past two games are any indication, the team is now playing better defensively, which increases their chances of success.
They kept the top offensive team in the NHL to one goal on Saturday morning and looked very good doing it. Markstrom was clutch not only during the game but in the shootout as well. Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes were difference-makers again, and JT Miller put together another solid performance. All that usually translates to wins. If the Canucks can continue it, the doldrums of November may finally be behind them.
Canucks’ Surging Power Play
After the power play struggled to provide any spark against the Stars on Tuesday, it came to life on Thursday against the Predators to the tune of five goals. The last time a Canucks team did that was the dominant 2011 squad. Instead of the Sedins and Salo, it was Pettersson and Hughes. Both had three points apiece and finally got some luck on the man advantage.
The dominance continued on Saturday on a five-on-three when Pettersson blasted home his tenth goal of the season off a setup from Miller. The same advantage that did not come through against the Stars came through in spades against the Capitals. That goal tied the game and set up Markstrom and Bo Horvat’s heroics in the shootout.
Overall the Canucks were 6 for 11 on the power play in the two games for a success rate of 54 percent. It also boosted them to fourth in the league. If it can continue to make a positive difference going forward, wins should come a little easier as they venture into the home heavy part of the schedule in December.
Hughes Continues to Dazzle
The more I see Quinn Hughes play, the more impressed I become. He only has played 28 games in the NHL, and he already has 21 points (18 so far this season). He continues to dazzle on a nightly basis with his innate breakout abilities and power play presence. His elite skating and hockey IQ have become a hallmark and the rest of the league is starting to take notice.
After Alex Edler went out with his annual injury early in the first period Saturday, Hughes got tasked with more ice time. By the end of the game, he had logged over 25 minutes. Apart from the first goal where he got outmuscled by Capitals’ forward Lars Eller, he looked poised and in control. He even helped Miller out on the backcheck with a little push to close the gap on TJ Oshie. Below is the definition of elite hockey IQ.
On the power play, he is a beast as well, trailing only Leon Draisaitl in assists on the man advantage. He has 12 compared to Draisaitl’s 14. That’s some elite company right there. Over the past two games, he has four points and continues his pursuit of Cale Makar, who leads all rookies right now with 25 points.
Despite all the accolades and success so far, Hughes is not satisfied with his play.
I’m feeling pretty confident, but at the same time, I’m not satisfied,Quinn Hughes
His teammates are definitely satisfied. Since he joined the power play, it’s looked crisper and has generated more points for the trio of Pettersson, Boeser, and Miller. Horvat has also seen more success since he started running the number one unit. I’m sure Hughes wants to start contributing more five-on-five since he only has six of his 18 points without the extra man. But, everyone has to be happy with how far he’s come in just 23 games this season.
He’s a really good player. He makes [plays], he moves the puck well and obviously, he can skate the puck up…He’s a difference-maker and it’s good to have him.Elias Pettersson
The Canucks are just a better team with Hughes. He’s a huge reason why the playoffs are not a pipe dream this season.
Edler Joins the Walking Wounded
The depth general manager Jim Benning acquired in the offseason will get the ultimate test with the recent injury to Alex Edler. The loss of the team’s leading minute man, penalty killer and matchup defenceman is a huge blow. Fortunately, the Canucks are used to it.
The Canucks defence has seen its share of injuries this season. Assistant coach Nolan Baumgartner has become an expert at juggling his defence core in-game when one of his top defenceman has exited with an injury. The additions of Jordie Benn and Tyler Myers definitely helps because they don’t look out of place with extra minutes. Troy Stecher is also no stranger to the top four, so more minutes for him doesn’t negatively affect the team either.
Hopefully, Edler’s injury is short-term and the Canucks can survive his absence. Luckily the depth is not Erik Gudbranson and Derrick Pouliot this season. Maybe the team can actually survive the annual injury to their top defenceman.
The Week Ahead
The Canucks continue their six-game road trip with a matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday. This will be the second meeting of the two teams. The Canucks came away with a 3-2 shootout victory on Oct 12 when Tanner Pearson scored the shootout winner. The Flyers are coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames on Saturday.
From there they will travel to Pittsburgh for a date with the Crosby-less Penguins. However, even without the future Hall of Famer, they are still a dangerous team with Evgeni Malkin leading the way. Maybe Boeser can continue his brilliance against Matt Murray. He already has five goals in his career on the Penguins netminder. If he indeed starts this game, we will see if Boeser is still in his head.
The week concludes with a home-at-home against the Edmonton Oilers, who boast the most lethal duo in the NHL. Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid are currently one-two in league scoring with 47 and 46 points respectively. To put that in perspective the Canucks’ leading point-getter is Pettersson with 29 points.
Both McDavid and Draisaitl are on pace for over 150 points, which rivals the hay day of the Oilers back in the 1980s. Needless to say, the Canucks will have their hands full with those two on Saturday and Sunday. Hopefully, they can contain them as they begin December and the home cooking at Rogers Arena. Enjoy the games, everyone!
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, editor, part-time journalist, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.