After a long offseason, the Vancouver Canucks are finally ready to hit the ice for what fans hope is an eventual return to the playoffs in April. With all the changes that have happened in the offseason, there is an ere of optimism and excitement around the team.
It goes without saying that the most passionate Canucks fans will try to catch all 82 games. However, there are a few matchups that even the most casual fan shouldn’t miss. Here are 10 Canucks games to circle on your calendar this season.
Note: This is not a top-10 list, I have listed the games in the order they appear on the schedule.
Beginning of Kraken & Canucks Rivalry
Oct. 23 – @Seattle Kraken
The Canucks haven’t faced the Seattle Kraken at full strength yet, so this first matchup should be an interesting one. It will also be the Kraken’s home opener and first-ever NHL game at Climate Pledge Arena, so you know the place will be rocking with Kraken and Canucks fans. If the rivalry wasn’t stoked in the preseason after two losses and nine goals against, then this game should serve as the official start of the fire.
Canucks Fans Return to Rogers Arena
Oct. 26 – Minnesota Wild
For the first time since Mar. 10, 2020, Rogers Arena will be hosting a regular-season game with fans in the stands. It will also mark the first time the Canucks will be facing the Minnesota Wild since Chris Tanev dispatched them on Aug 7, 2020, to send his team to the official first round of the playoffs. Again, that happened more than a year ago.
When the Canucks last met the Wild, 2021 Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov was lighting it up in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), Alex Stalock was their starting goaltender, and Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, and Eric Staal were all prominent fixtures on the team. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then. Suter is patrolling the blue line with the Dallas Stars, Mikko Koivu has since retired, Staal is an unrestricted free agent and Parise is living it up on the island with former boss Lou Lamoriello. Instead of a trio of veterans, they are now led by a 24-year-old Russian phenom and a 25-year-old Swiss forward by the name of Kevin Fiala.
The Canucks have never faced Kaprizov, but if his 2020-21 season is any indication of what type of damage he can do, they should be very scared. He scored 27 goals and 51 points in 55 games and was probably the most exciting rookie the Wild have had since the days of Marian Gaborik. If he’s the second coming of the speedy superstar, the Canucks know all too well what that could mean for the future. In 54 career games, he scored 24 goals and 42 points against them. They better hope Kaprizov doesn’t have that same magic touch.
Will Toffoli Torch His Old Team Again?
Nov. 29 – @Montreal Canadiens
Luckily for the Canucks, they will only face the likes of Canuck Killer Tyler Toffoli twice this season instead of eight. To say he torched them last season would be a massive understatement. In eight games, he had an eye-popping 8 goals and 13 points which helped him to a total of 28 goals and 44 points in 52 games. Heading into the 2021-22 season, he has 21 goals and 34 points in 36 career games against the Canucks, which is by far the most of any other team. The next closest victim is the Calgary Flames where he has 15 goals and 19 points in 38 games.
The Montreal Canadiens may not have Carey Price in the crease when this game comes up on the calendar. It was announced on Thursday that he will be out indefinitely after voluntarily joining the NHLPA player assistance program. As a result, they will be running with veteran netminder Jake Allen and rookie Sam Montembeault for the foreseeable future. The last time the Canucks faced Allen was back on Mar. 19, 2021, when they won 3-2 on an overtime goal by J.T. Miller. This will also mark the first time they will see Calder Trophy favourite Cole Caufield.
Crosby Stops By Vancouver for a Visit After a Long Hiatus
Dec. 4 – Pittsburgh Penguins
The last time Canucks’ fans saw Sidney Crosby at Rogers Arena was back in 2018 when he scored two goals in a 5-0 drubbing of the home team. He missed both games during the 2019-20 season and no one from south of the border saw anyone in Canada during the 2020-21 season. Hopefully, he’s recovered from his recent wrist surgery because if he’s not in the lineup on Dec. 4, fans won’t get to see him until next season at the earliest.
Alex Edler Returns to Rogers Arena
Dec. 6 – Los Angeles Kings
After 925 games and 408 points in a Canucks uniform, Alex Edler will be sporting new duds with the Los Angeles Kings this season. Now entering his 16th season in the NHL, he will be defending the zone against Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser instead of feeding the puck to them. He still leads all Canucks defencemen in goals, assists, points, and games played and with Quinn Hughes a full 311 points behind him, he will be holding that record for a long time.
This game will see Edler enter Rogers Arena as a visitor for the first time in his career. I’m sure we will see a very touching tribute video at the beginning of this one. In fact, I hope he scores his 100th goal in front of the fans that cheered him on for 15 memorable years. That would be a pretty fitting milestone to get in the arena that he called home for so many years.
Eriksson, Roussel & Beagle Return to Vancouver
Dec. 19 – Arizona Coyotes
This return won’t be met with as much fanfare as Edler’s but this game does mark the return of another Swede in Loui Eriksson. Finally given the chance to move on with another team after five long seasons in Vancouver, he will be looking to prove to everyone that he can still make a difference in the NHL. If the preseason is any indication of future success, that endeavor is off to a great start, as he already has three goals in three games. He even unleashed a wrist shot that was never seen in Vancouver. Maybe a fresh start is what he needed all along.
Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel will also make their return to Rogers Arena and former Coyotes Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson will face their old team for the first time as well. Beagle had his moments in a Canucks uniform as he was one of their key penalty killers and faceoff men for three seasons. Roussel was effective as a third/fourth line forward during his time with the team bringing energy and physicality along with a great personality. With Brandon Sutter on the sidelines, they probably could use the penalty killing and faceoff prowess of at least Beagle right now, but that’s a discussion for another day.
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Canucks Face Stanley Cup Champion Lightning
Jan. 13 – @Tampa Bay Lightning
Another team that the Canucks haven’t met in a long time is the Tampa Bay Lightning. The last time they faced the men in blue and white was back on Jan. 7, 2020, when they were kicked to the curb in a 9-2 defeat. Since then, the Lightning have won two Stanley Cups and have established themselves as the first modern dynasty of the 2020s. It will be interesting to see how the Canucks match up against arguably one of the best teams in the NHL right now. Playing them should be a good measuring stick for how far they have come since that blowout at the beginning of 2020.
Ovechkin’s March to Gretzky Goal Record Runs Through Vancouver
Mar. 11 – Washington Capitals
Like Crosby, Canucks fans haven’t seen Washington Capitals’ superstar Alexander Ovechkin strut his stuff in Vancouver in a very long time. The last time was back on Nov. 23, 2019, when he was shut out in a 2-1 defeat. Pettersson scored on the power play to match a Jakub Vrana goal in the opening minutes of the first period and captain Bo Horvat eventually won it in a shootout to send the fans home happy. Ovechkin managed to fire seven shots on former starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom but didn’t end up scoring.
This season, Thatcher Demko or Jaroslav Halak will face the Great 8 when he comes to Rogers Arena. Now sitting on 730 career goals, he is only 165 goals away from passing Wayne Gretzky on the all-time goals list. By the time he meets the Canucks in March, that gap will be much tighter. Having signed a five-year contract with the Capitals in the offseason, he will need to score at least 33 goals in the next five seasons to break the record. With how lethal he is offensively and how competitive he is, I have no doubt that he will do everything in his power to make the once-impossible feat a reality.
Brothers Hughes Renew Aquaintances
Feb. 28 – @New Jersey Devils
Yet another Eastern Conference team the Canucks have not seen in over a year, the New Jersey Devils hope to be a much better team this season. Now entering his third season in the NHL, Jack Hughes will be looking to build on his sophomore campaign and fully establish himself as a number-one center in the NHL. His brother Quinn, who recently signed a massive six-year contract to stay in Vancouver, will be trying to do the same as a top-pairing defenceman.
The last time the brothers met in an NHL game was back on Nov. 10, 2019, in a 2-1 Devils’ win. After Jack scored his first NHL goal against the Canucks in a 1-0 victory on Oct. 19, Quinn returned the favour by adding an assist on Brock Boeser’s goal in the third period nearly a month later. The Canucks have not been on the winning side of this matchup since the 2014-15 season, so Quinn should be motivated to turn the script and break a losing streak that has now reached 11 games.
Ekman-Larsson & Garland Return to the Desert
Apr. 7 – @Arizona Coyotes
Ekman-Larsson will be wearing Edler’s old No. 23 this season when he suits up for the Canucks. Like his counterpart, he will be joining only the second NHL team of his career all while leaving a legacy in the city he started it with. He finished his career in the desert with 769 games played (4th), 128 goals (5th), and 388 points (2nd only to Shane Doan). He also ranks first in defence scoring and games played and was captain of the team for three seasons. I’m sure there will be fans that will enjoy seeing him return to his old stomping grounds.
Garland also spent his entire career with the Coyotes before joining the Canucks. Over the course of three seasons, he established himself as a goal-scoring winger with a strong work ethic and finished with 47 goals and 96 points in 164 games. Since joining the team in 2018-19, he has not scored less than 10 goals in a season. We will see what he can do to add to the 26 goals he already has at Gila River Arena. With any luck, the Canucks will be in a playoff spot when this game comes around, so the result could have implications on the standings as well.
Don’t look now Canucks fans, but we are only five days away from the drop of the puck on the Canucks 2021-22 regular season schedule. It promises to be another campaign full of ups and downs as the boys in blue and green battle for a playoff spot in the always tough Pacific Division. It all starts with a six-game road trip on Oct. 13 against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers before fans get to cheer at Rogers Arena again on Oct. 26. So, enough with the previews and speculation, let’s get this season going already!
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Matthew Zator is the assistant managing editor at THW and a writer 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.