The Vancouver Canucks hosted the Dallas Stars on Thursday evening and lost. Now they await another good team in the Colorado Avalanche that arrives to play them on Saturday. But, facing the high-powered Avalanche is only the start of the fun for the Canucks. They will begin a tough six-game road trip, starting with a rematch against Dallas on Nov. 19.
Although the Canucks started well – at least after the first two games (losses) of the season on the road – the month of November has not been their friend. The problem has been that the Canucks just can’t seem to score. As far as the standings, the team isn’t desperately in trouble, and they’re still playing well. However, their schedule is going to be difficult over the next couple of weeks as they move into the second half of the month. They’ll have to play well to keep pace.
Even if the team did play what seems like a “soft” schedule, the Canucks haven’t done all that well against the so-called “weaker” teams. They lost to the Chicago Blackhawks, Winnipeg Jets, and New Jersey Devils in regulation in the three games before they played the Stars.
As the team awaits the arrival of the Avalanche, here’s some of the news that’s emerging from the team.
Item One: Canucks in the Power Rankings
A number of different hockey sites put out their power rankings this week, and it wasn’t a good week for the team in that category either. Nor should it have been. The team lost four of its five games since Nov. 7, and that record won’t move any team upwards.
Here’s where the Canucks ranked this week.
Sports Illustrated ranked the team 14th (moving down from eighth). NHL.com ranked the team 11th (moving down from eighth). theScore ranked the Canucks 14th (moving down from tenth). Puck Prose ranked the team the highest, which was in seventh (moving down from third). CBS Sports ranked the Canucks 12th (moving down from eighth). And, finally, Yahoo Sports ranked the Canucks 18th (down from 15th).
In truth, these rankings mean very little; however, it’s interesting to see where the team is ranked. Those hockey commentators who are supposed to be in the know rank the team just above the middle of the NHL pack. That probably makes sense.
Item Two: Markstrom Is Having a Tough Month
Jacob Markstrom began the season well, with a 5-2-1 record; however, his record since has been 0-3-2 in his last five starts. My call is that Markstrom’s declining record is largely not his fault. Although he allowed four goals against the Stars in Thursday’s 4-2 loss, those four goals were the most he’s allowed since giving up five in the 6-5 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals on Oct. 25. In fact, since that game, he hasn’t given up more than two goals.
What’s reflected as a cold streak for the goalie seems really more of a cold streak for the Canucks’ offense. His season’s record might be 5-5-3 record, but the 29-year-old Swede’s stats are good (a 2.59 GAA, with a .914 save percentage). When the team’s offense comes back to life, I’m certain Markstrom’s record will improve.
Item Three: Ferland Hasn’t Had the Season He Hoped For
When Micheal Ferland was signed, there was always the worry that he might be injury-prone because of his rough style of play. Indeed, that’s what happened and the newly-signed forward has missed several games.
That said, even prior to the injury Ferland hadn’t really found his game. He’s only had a single goal in 12 games and he hasn’t played well enough to earn top-six minutes. It will be interesting to see how he does when he comes back. I was excited when he signed and am hoping for a breakout when he returns.
Item Four: Pettersson Is Ranked High in Individual Statistics
Elias Pettersson had an assist in the loss to the Stars. He’s been scoring regularly since his poor start to the season and now ranks sixth in the NHL with 16 assists and ninth in the Art Ross Trophy race with 24 points.
However, for as good as he’s playing and as much as he’s scoring, it will take a lot to push him higher into the scoring race. The Edmonton Oilers dynamic duo of Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid are running away with all the scoring statistics. In fact, Draisaitl has more assists (26) than Pettersson has points and is leading the entire NHL with 41 points. McDavid had six points in a game on Friday night against the Avalanche and now has 37 points for the season.
Item Five: Virtanen Finally Gets a Goal
In the loss to the Stars, Jake Virtanen scored one of two Canucks goals. He had come into the game without a goal in his last three and only one goal in his last five games. That goal gave him six for the season. Should he continue this pace, he’s a good chance to hit the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career.
Item Six: Power Play Has Indeed Been Powerful
Prior to the Stars game, the Canucks had gone 4-for-6 on the power play in their previous two games, including scoring on all three power-play chances in a 5-3 win against the Nashville Predators earlier in the week. Already this season, the team has scored at least three power-play goals three times this season.
On the negative side, prior to the Stars game, the Canucks allowed at least one power-play goal in four straight games, going 8-for-13 on the penalty kill (61.5 percent).
I’m surprised Tyler Myers hasn’t scored yet. He seems to be playing well enough and is in the middle of the rush, sometimes even forechecking behind the opposition net. But, no goals and only four assists. I find that odd.
What’s Next with the Canucks?
The Avalanche come into Vancouver looking for a victory after having had their three-game winning streak snapped by the Oilers on Thursday night. The Oilers simply overwhelmed them 6-2, which is an unusual situation for the Avalanche. Recently, they’ve usually been doing the overwhelming.
In truth, the Canucks didn’t play a bad game against the Stars, but they didn’t play a good one either. They got ground down by a team that’s been successfully focusing on defensive hockey.
But, there’s a good chance the game on Saturday won’t be that defensive. In fact, there’s an even better chance it’ll be high-scoring. It might be a question of which goalie defends best against the high-powered offense of the other team. It should be a fun game for fans to watch.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf