The season’s prognosis on the Vancouver Canucks was that the team would be improved. Still, no one really thought they would get out of the gate so quickly and play so well. After losing their first two games on the road, it seemed as if it would be another one of those down seasons Canucks fans are used to. But wait, things turned around – and quickly.
Except for a 1-0 shutout at the hands of the New Jersey Devils, the Canucks’ have scored at least one point in all 12 of their games after the two-game, beginning-of-the-season losing streak. The team is playing with confidence, is being led by its big guns, and is getting secondary scoring.
Quinn Hughes has looked exceptional. Elias Pettersson has picked up where he left off after last season’s Calder Trophy. Brock Boeser is confidently flying around the ice and is scoring. And, J.T. Miller has been value-added to the team. Even Adam Gaudette returned to the team for the last two games of the California road trip (of which the Canucks took five of six possible points) and scored in each game.
As the team gets ready to play the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues for the second time this season on Tuesday evening, here’s some of the news emerging from the team.
Item One: Ashton Sautner Was Injured in Sharks Game
Defenseman Ashton Sautner, who was inserted into the lineup after rookie defenseman Quinn Hughes suffered a knee injury, also was hurt during the first period of the San Jose Sharks’ game and didn’t return to the ice. It was reported to be an upper-body injury.
The 25-year-old depth defenseman has played in 23 games during his past three seasons with the Canucks. He has yet to score a goal, but has three assists.
Item Two: Demko Is on a Hot Streak
Thatcher Demko, who was in goal for the Sharks’ game on Saturday evening, stopped 24 of 26 shots during the team’s 5-2 win. It was great to see him play well in his home state (he’s a native of San Diego). The 23-year-old back-up goalie now has a 4-1-0 record with a 1.78 goals against average and .938 save percentage. He seems amazingly calm in goal.
That said, Jacob Markstrom’s great play in goal this season keeps Demko in the background. Still, Demko has also played well. He’s allowed two goals or less in four of his five starts. So far, goaltending has not been an issue with the team. It’s a nice tandem who roots for each other – that’s apparent on the ice at the end of games.
Item Three: Pettersson Is Quickly Becoming a Superstar
It’s not often these days that an opponent can keep Pettersson off the score sheet, but that’s what the Anaheim Ducks did on Friday evening. However, it didn’t take long for the second-year center to get back into the scoring column. He had two goals in the convincing 5-2 win in the back-to-back game against the Sharks on Saturday.
Again it was Pettersson and Boeser’s chemistry that showed. Pettersson gave his team a 2-0 lead on a Boeser assist. He then pushed in a power play goal at close range to give the Canucks a commanding 5-1 lead during the third period.
This young player is becoming a true NHL star in his second season. So far, even after a slow start, he’s scored six goals and 14 assists (20 points in 14 games). Can he hit the 100-point mark if he stays healthy? He had an impressive 66 points last season as a rookie, but he’s fast on his way to a career season. The 20-year-old is the kind of a superstar the Canucks will build around well into the future. He makes everyone around him better.
Item Four: Hughes Might Play on Tuesday Against the Blues
When star rookie defenseman Quinn Hughes went down in Friday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, his leg injury looked bad. Perhaps it’s the resiliency of youth, but according to Brendan Batchelor, the play-by-play voice of the Canucks on Sportsnet 650 radio, the Canucks are optimistic Hughes will be able to play Tuesday night against the Blues. Hughes has been amazing this season and has scored a goal and nine assists (10 points) in 13 games.
Item Five: Is Adam Gaudette Here to Stay?
Adam Gaudette scored his first goal of the season in Friday’s 2-1 overtime loss against the Ducks. He scored his second the next evening against the Sharks. The ice time was Gaudette’s first since Oct. 12, and his play has let the team know he wants to stay. Personally, the 23-year-old has become one of my favorites and I hope he’s up for good. I love how he flies around the ice.
Item Six: Fantenberg Back with the Canucks Again
After joining the AHL Utica Comets for conditioning, depth defenseman Oscar Fantenberg was called up by the Canucks. Undoubtedly, his call up is in response to both Sautner and Hughes’ injuries. He hasn’t seen ice time for the Canucks yet this season. But, I’m anxious to see what he can do.
What’s Next for the Canucks?
The Canucks have a bit of a break and don’t play until Tuesday when they face the Blues on home ice. Then they’re off on a mid-west road trip, playing a back-to-back against the Chicago Blackhawks and the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday and Friday.
When the team left on their California road trip, I hoped they would come home with at least one win. The team surprised me by taking five of six points. Can they surprise fans again this week? One can hope.