The Vancouver Canucks followed up a bad first week in the 2020-21 season with an even rougher one. After starting the season 1-2-0 in the first week of the season, the Canucks lost three of their four games the following week. They managed to pick up one win against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canucks started the week with a 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames. Monday’s loss was the second to the Flames and former Canucks Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev, and Josh Leivo. The club had a great start in the first period, as they led on the scoreboard 1-0 thanks to Jake Virtanen’s first goal of the season.
The Canucks also led in shots on goal, as they outshot the Flames 16-4 in the first frame. The remainder of the game was not the same as the Flames outshot the Canucks 28-11 and scored five goals in the final two periods.
On Wednesday, the Canucks beat the Canadiens 6-5 in a shootout in the first meeting between the two organizations. The two teams went back and forth, scoring goals all night long. Captain Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser scored two goals. J.T. Miller had three assists in his second game back, while Braden Holtby picked up his second win of the season with his new team.
The two teams faced off again on Thursday night, on the backend of a back-to-back. After ending the first period tied at 2-2, the Canucks once again lost a game in the second period. The Canadiens scored four goals in the second period, while they outshot the Canucks 18-3. The Canadiens won 7-3, evening up the series before Saturday night’s matchup.
With the season series tied at one win apiece, the two teams battled to pick up an important two points on Saturday night. In what was the Canucks’ best game this season, they still managed to lose 5-2. They entered the third period down 2-0 but showed heart and tied the game up midway through the final period. Elias Pettersson scored his first of the season, and Nils Hoglander scored the second goal of his career. The Habs scored three goals straight to hand the Canucks their fifth loss of the season. They now have a record of 2-5-0 to start the season.
The Canucks were careless with the puck in every game this week, which led to multiple back-breaking turnovers. Their poor turnovers led to odd-man rushes and breakaways especially, in the final two games against Montreal.
In Thursday night’s matchup, with the game tied a two, Pettersson turned the puck over to Joel Armia, who sent Tyler Toffoli on a shorthanded breakaway to take the lead. Similarly, on Saturday night, after the Canucks tied the game at two in the third period, Quinn Hughes turned the puck over in the defensive zone, which led to Brendan Gallagher’s game-winner. With the game still close, Miller also turned the puck over in the offensive zone minutes later, which led to a Jonathan Drouin breakaway goal.
After Thursday night’s loss, head coach Travis Green stated the Canucks have been a little immature to start the season. Their careless play has hurt them, and the club will need to get back to grinding out wins as the coach suggested.
Pettersson’s Point Drought Ends
Pettersson experienced the longest pointless streak of his career in his third NHL season. After assisting on one of Boeser’s goals in the opening game against the Edmonton Oilers, Pettersson struggled to register a point. His goal on Saturday night broke the five-game pointless drought he was facing.
Pettersson noticeably had lost some of his confidence due to the pointless drought and seemed frustrated at times. His performance had been shocking as it is unusual seeing the young Swede struggle to produce. Pettersson’s goal will likely be the turning point to his season and potentially the Canucks’ season as well.
After missing the first three games of the season, Miller returned against the Flames on Monday. It didn’t take long for the Canucks’ 2019-20 points leader to make an impact as he registered an assist on Virtanen’s goal on Monday. He has five assists in four games this season.
Miller has also been a big help on the power play since his return, as he assisted on three of the Canucks’ four goals on the man advantage. The power play was a glaring issue in the first three games, and although it hasn’t improved much, the American forward has helped them score.
Miller hasn’t been perfect as he has made a few poor plays since returning to the lineup. His line has struggled at 5-on-5 at times, especially on Saturday night.
Horvat Scores Four
Horvat has been the only bright spot on the Canucks’ season so far. Following up his 10 goals from the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, the captain leads the team with five goals so far.
Alongside his linemate, Tanner Pearson, Horvat is one of the two top-six forwards with a Corsi For percentage (CF%) above 50. The captain, Pearson, and rookie Hoglander were impressive in Saturday’s game, as they finished with a team-leading 78.57 CF% through 4:16 minutes. With Hoglander joining the line this season, they could potentially be a great option behind the Lotto Line.
Similar to Markstrom, Toffoli got his revenge on the Canucks last week. This past offseason, the Canucks had limited cap space, but Toffoli stated after the 2020 playoffs staying with the club was his number one priority, but if things progressed in the wrong direction, he would move on, which he did. The forward signed a four-year, $17 million contract with the Canadiens.
In his first two games against the Canucks, Toffoli made them pay for not re-signing him. He scored a hattrick in the first matchup on Wednesday night and followed up with a two-goal performance on Thursday. Not only is Toffoli making the Canucks pay, but the club also traded top prospect Tyler Madden for him. On Sunday, Madden posted three points with the Ontario Reign, the LA Kings’ AHL affiliate, in a pre-season game.
General manager Jim Benning’s inability to re-sign Toffoli will haunt the Canucks moving forward, especially if the winger and Madden continue to impress.
Canucks Hope to Bounce Back
The upcoming week is an important one for the Canucks as the organization is on the verge of a disappointing season. Although a 2-5-0 record is not the end of the world, the way the Canucks have been playing to start the season is alarming.
After their impressive playoff run last season, expectations are a lot higher for the club. If they continue to skid, we may see changes to the front office soon. Although they lost, the Canucks did play their best hockey of the season on Saturday, and the team may be at a turning point.
- Bo Horvat– 4 goals, 2 assists
- J.T Miller – 5 assists
- Brock Boeser 2 goals, 2 assists
- January 25th – vs Ottawa Senators
- January 27th – vs Ottawa Senators
- January 28th – vs Ottawa Senators
- January 30th – @ Winnipeg Jets
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.