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.
Another week in November has gone by and the struggles have continued for the Canucks. After a 5-3 victory over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, they fell back into the loss column dropping 4-2 and 5-4 decisions to the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche respectively. Despite fighting back to gain a point against the Avalanche, they ended up being at the mercy of superstar forward Nathan MacKinnon who had three points, including the winner in overtime.
The nightmare that is November is only going to get worse, as the Canucks embark on their longest road trip of the season which will take them through six cities in 12 days. The only saving grace is that there are no back to backs scheduled on this trip, except for the home-at-home against the Edmonton Oilers on Nov 30 and Dec 1. This journey could very well define the season for the team.
If the Canucks struggle, it will be an uphill battle the rest of the way. If they succeed and come out of it relatively unscathed, it could set up a great December where they are at home for 10 of the 13 games. Before that happens though, let’s take a look at the headlines and stories that dominated the screens of Canucks Nation this past week.
Pettersson the Birthday Boy
The week started out with a bang with Elias Pettersson’s birthday celebration. He is now 21 years old and has already accumulated 91 points in 92 games played in the NHL. He didn’t let his birthday go to waste either adding three points to his team-leading total, now up to 25.
Like with everything Pettersson does, you couldn’t script it. He scored two goals, both while utilizing his wicked wrist shot. He even showed off his spectacular puck control, knocking a puck down and shooting it all in one motion. Still on pace for 97 points, he looks poised to prove that the sophomore slump isn’t always inevitable.
His goal totals have taken a bit of a hit compared to last season, but with the addition of J.T. Miller and the continued improvement of Brock Boeser, his assist totals have kept him on track. At this point last season he had 18 points (11 goals, 7 assists). So despite the lower goal total, he still has the potential to blow past the 66 points he had last season.
Gaudette’s Time is Now
After Adam Gaudette made the team out of training camp, everyone thought that he had finally secured a permanent spot in the Canucks lineup. That was not the case, as Brandon Sutter came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, reinforcing his value to the team. That banished Gaudette to the press box and eventually to the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League.
But, the inevitable injuries occurred, forcing Gaudette back to the NHL, which I believe will be the case for the foreseeable future. Since his callup on Oct 27, he has seven points in eight games. Apart from his struggles in the face-off circle, he is ready to take on the challenge of being an everyday NHL centerman.
Gaudette is also starting to show his value on the power play. On Saturday against the Avalanche, he scored two goals including the one that tied it to force overtime. His unit even looked better than the top unit at times. When Sutter gets back, he should keep his spot there, or be swapped with Bo Horvat on the number one unit.
Hughes Versus Makar Part One
The first matchup of two of the most dynamic young defencemen in the NHL was a dandy. Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar have come as advertised in their rookie seasons so far. Coming up to the quarter pole, they both have showcased their skating, speed, and smarts offensively. Makar may have more points (22 points in 20 games), but he also has the benefit of having the triumvirate of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen at his disposal. Hughes is no slouch though with 14 points in 20 games.
I’m sure they both will continue to be in the Calder Trophy conversation all season. It has been a long time since two defencemen were battling it out for that award. In fact, a blueliner has not won it in almost ten years when current Canucks defenceman Tyler Myers took home the coveted trophy. He won it with 48 points in 82 games. Right now both Hughes and Makar are on pace to shatter that total.
It will be a treat to watch both these defencemen develop their games in the NHL over the next five years. They are the new age of defenceman: smart, fast and lethal in transition. We will see many more battles between these two as they lead their respective teams into the next decade.
Other News & Notes
Roussel Return Coming Soon
Antoine Roussel has not seen a second of ice time this season due to the offseason rehab of his knee. But it appears his return is on the horizon. The agitator was sighted at Canucks practice last Monday in a non-contact jersey and has continued to practice throughout the week. Head coach Travis Green also suggested that he could travel with the team on the upcoming road trip to continue that progression.
Rousell will be a welcome sight to a team that is lacking some physicality right now. Micheal Ferland continues to nurse a concussion while Jay Beagle and Tyler Motte are still out with injuries. He could also be the winger that Horvat has been looking for too. He played a lot with him last season and is an underrated option in the top six. If he can get him going again, that will go a long way in creating some stability on the second line.
Revival of the Flying Skate Jersey
After watching the game on Saturday, I want those flying skate jerseys as the third jerseys rather than the current ones. The jersey brought back fond memories of Pavel Bure, Trevor Linden, and Kirk McLean. The modern Canucks looked amazing in them as well. Thatcher Demko even looked like Captain Kirk when he made an unbelievable pad save on Joonas Donskoi, robbing him of a sure goal.
Too bad we will only see them two more times this season (Jan 4, Feb 10). I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that they should make it a permanent jersey for the Canucks again.
Canucks Penalty Killing Showing Cracks
The once strong penalty-killing unit has started to show some cracks since the departures of Sutter, Beagle, and Motte. Since the beginning of November, the Canucks have only a 79.3 percent success rate on the penalty kill. To put that in perspective, they had an 86.4 percent success rate in the month of October where they only lost three times in regulation. Comparatively, they have four regulation losses already in November and the dreaded six-game road trip is still on the horizon.
Clearly, the strong PK unit played an integral part in the Canucks’ success at the beginning of the season. But now without important face-off men in Sutter and Beagle, they have had to rely upon Horvat and Miller to pick up the slack. They have done an admirable job, but it takes them away from important offensive minutes that helped the team win games early on.
The more energy they use on the penalty kill, the less they have for the power play and five on five situations. The injuries have created a snowball effect that has messed up the synergy across the lineup. Beagle and Motte are probably the closest to returning, which would help a lot. For Horvat’s sake, it better be sooner rather than later.
The Week Ahead
The Canucks now embark on a six-game road trip starting in Dallas on Tuesday. They will be trying to turn the tables on the Stars who dispatched them on home ice 4-2 this past week. From there, they will meet another team they played last week in the Nashville Predators on Thursday.
Finally, the week concludes on Saturday with the second and final meeting with Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. The Canucks hope to avenge the loss they experienced in their last meeting when the Capitals came back from a 5-2 deficit in the third period to win in a shootout 6-5.
That game will only be the halfway point of the road trip. The Canucks still have to navigate through the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers before returning to the friendly confines of Rogers Arena on Dec 1. Hopefully, their record reads above .500 after all this. This will be a crucial stretch Canucks fans, let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best. Strap in and enjoy the games!
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.