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 has gone by and the Canucks have added three more five-goal games to the ledger. Early on they have seven, count that, seven games where they have scored five goals or more. That’s the sort of offensive outburst Canucks Nation is not accustomed to. This team is not the same as previous teams. They feel different somehow, where you actually have the feeling that they can beat any team on any given night. That’s something we have not been able to say since the 2011-12 season.
The Canucks played four games this past week, dominating all of them. Even though they ended up losing to John Gibson and the Anaheim Ducks, they still controlled stretches of that game and deserved a better fate than a 2-1 overtime loss. In the other games, they beat up on the Florida Panthers 7-2, and swept through the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks 5-3 and 5-2 respectively.
The Canucks definitely do not have any issues scoring right now. Elias Pettersson and the Lotto Line are racking up the points and they are getting contributions from all over the lineup including goals from Brandon Sutter and Jake Virtanen.
The only negatives that came out of the week were the injuries to Calder Trophy contender Quinn Hughes and newcomer Micheal Ferland. We all held our breath when Hughes went to the dressing room after he fell to the ice. Our worst fears did not come to pass, as it was revealed that he only had a bruised knee. The hope is that he will play on this upcoming road trip or even against the St Louis Blues at Rogers Arena on Tuesday. As for Ferland, he is now in concussion protocol, so the waiting game is on for him.
With all that said, here are some of the top stories and headlines that came out of Canucks Nation this past week.
Pettersson and the Lotto Line Dominating
The National Hockey League better watch out, Pettersson is starting to score. Before last week, he only had three goals to his credit. Since then he has doubled those totals, scoring three goals in the past three games. His linemates JT Miller and Brock Boeser are producing at an insane rate as well. All in all, they now rank as the fourth-best offensive line in the NHL according to MoneyPuck.com. I don’t think the Canucks have had a line like this since the Sedins and Alex Burrows, and that’s a very exciting development for Canucks fans.
Pettersson, Miller, and Boeser are on pace for 117, 88, and 94 points respectively. Combined, that would shatter the totals that iconic top lines of the past accumulated. They are dangerous every shift and don’t look like they are slowing down anytime soon.
Sutter a Two Way Force
Before the season began, not many people thought that Sutter would be a key contributor to the offence. But here we are 14 games in and he has eight points. He is also a solid plus-5 and a key part of the penalty kill. He is doing his job at both ends of the ice, harkening back to his days with the Carolina Hurricanes where he was a key part of that team. If he continues the pace he is on right now, he will breakthrough with a career-high of 46 points. His highest total in the NHL was 40, posted in his sophomore season back in 2009-10.
Overall Sutter has been a pleasant surprise early this season. He is tied for fifth on the team with four goals and seventh in points with eight. For a player that was once described as a black hole offensively, he is proving that he can still be a two-way force in this league. All he has to do is stay healthy, and that could be a big ask for a player that has only played 87 games over the past two seasons. But if he does, the Canucks will be better off for it.
Shotgun Jake Is Back
It took some time, but Virtanen seems to have finally found his footing this season. After going the first eight games without a goal, he now has four goals in his past six games. His confidence is rising with every game, and he is getting rewarded with goals. Averaging under 15 minutes per game, head coach Travis Green is still keeping him on a short leash. He has seen time on every line except the top line, but in the past six games, his game has started to improve.
If Virtanen keeps improving, that adds another wrinkle to an already impressive Canucks attack. His speed is already an asset, but if he can add some consistent offence to it, Green will be forced to give him more ice time. The biggest issue that still exists is consistency in his game. He cannot be a streaky scorer, especially if he wants to be a top-nine forward on this team.
You have to give Virtanen some credit though, he is taking advantage of the limited ice time given to him. All he has to do is continue to put his head down and work hard. If he does, the goals will come, and #shotgunjake will live on.
The Dreaded Injury Bug
It happens every season to every team in the NHL. It just seems to happen more often to the Canucks. The dreaded injury bug reared its ugly head this past week. First, it was Ferland with a concussion, then Hughes with a knee bruise, and finally Ashton Sautner to an upper-body injury.
Of the three Hughes is the biggest loss to the team. Since the beginning of the season, he has been a revelation on the blueline. Now tied for third in rookie scoring with 10 points, he has changed the way the Canucks move on defence. When he got knocked out of the lineup against the Ducks on Friday, the defence was a mess. The power play was stagnant, zone exits and entries became a chore and overall they just looked incomplete. That’s how important he has become to this team.
Additionally, Ferland suffered the third concussion of his career after a fight with Kyle Clifford of the Kings. He didn’t get many direct hits to the head, but it was enough to cause another one. This is significant for a player who has battled this type of injury in the past and seemed shaken after his second concussion back in 2018.
A hundred percent, you have to be concerned…I’m very concerned.Micheal Ferland
For Ferland’s sake, I hope this latest concussion was not serious and he can continue playing hockey and living life symptom-free. Even if it was not serious, three is a huge number this early in his career. His playing style attracts this type of injury, so he will have to be more careful going forward. That could limit how he plays the game and how effective he is on the ice. Hopefully, premature retirement is not in his future, because that could be a significant blow to a player who has plenty of hockey still left in the tank.
Finally, Sautner suffered what looked to be a concussion when he hit his head on the ice after a late hit by Brenden Dillon of the Sharks. There was no penalty on the play, which was surprising. Regardless, he left the ice, and the Canucks were forced to play with five defenders for the second straight game. Despite this, they proceeded to dispatch the Sharks 5-2 for their first win at the SAP Center since March of 2016.
Other News & Notes
Sven Baertschi is back with the Canucks after dominating in the American Hockey League with the Utica Comets. Before his recall, he had ten points in seven games, helping the team to a perfect 8-0 record. Since he left, the Comets have not scored a goal, and have lost their first two games of the season. Coincidence? I think not.
Baertschi has yet to get into a game with the Canucks, but I’m sure it won’t be long until he does. I suspect him to get time with Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson on the second line, as he attempts to solidify a spot in the lineup. I commend him on not hanging his head after his demotion. He continued to work hard and show the team that he did not belong down in Utica. Now he’s back and ready to prove himself and I have no doubt that he will again.
The Brick Wall Twins: Markstrom and Demko
The tandem of Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko continue to provide lights out goaltending for the Canucks. Markstrom has not lost in regulation since the second game of the season and Demko has only one loss and that was the 1-0 shutout to Mackenzie Blackwood and the New Jersey Devils. Markstrom has a solid 2.51 goals against average (GAA) along with a .917 save percentage (SV%) while Demko has an eye-popping 1.78 GAA to go with an equally impressive .938 SV%.
This past week, the tandem allowed nine goals in four games for a combined GAA of 2.25. The only blemish was the overtime loss to the Ducks where Gibson stood on his head while Markstrom allowed two goals. I can probably find only one game where the goaltending can be blamed for the loss. Over 14 games, that’s not bad at all.
The Week Ahead
The Canucks play four games this coming week starting with another matchup with the defending Stanley Cup Champions, St. Louis Blues on Tuesday. They already have a win against them earlier in the season when they dispatched them 4-3 in a shootout.
After just one game at home, the Canucks start a brief two-game road trip with matchups against the Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets on Thursday and Friday respectively. Finally, they return home on Sunday to play the Devils for the second and final time this season.
This will be the second episode of the Brothers Hughes. Quinn will attempt to upstage his brother Jack this time, as his younger brother got the last laugh with his first NHL goal in the previous matchup. We will see if the Devils decide to start Blackwood who had the shutout last time or turn to former Canuck Cory Schneider. It should be another interesting matchup, hopefully with more goals this time.
We will see if the Canucks can continue their impressive start to this season as the games ramp up. Compared to October, they play three more games in November. All told, they will play 15 games this month with two back-to-backs compared to none in the previous month. There will be lots of hockey, with not many breaks in between, which is just the way we like it!
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.