As 2021 comes to a close, there is a lot to look back on for the Vancouver Canucks. From a wild offseason to an overhaul behind the bench and in the front office, and going from no hope to begin the year, to a sudden spur of optimism and belief. With the team riding a seven-game winning streak with Bruce Boudreau and Jim Rutherford at the helm, the Canucks are trending in the right direction heading into 2022.
Everything lately for Vancouver is firing on all cylinders. They’re starting to dictate the flow of play and are playing up to the potential many fans had hoped and envisioned entering the 2021-22 season. Their seventh-straight victory, an overtime win against the Anaheim Ducks, saw a game that had Vancouver outshoot the Ducks 37-23, a team who is currently in second place in the Pacific Division. There is definitely a buzz around the team and their current streak, and with the right coach in place, the confidence throughout the lineup, and the belief not only in the players but with the fans as well, there’s plenty of upside right now.
Boudreau a Perfect Fit for the Players
Change can be a scary thing. It can be a new job, new home, or even a change in schedule, it can be a daunting thing that doesn’t always work out. That has not been the case since Bruce Boudreau took over as the head coach for the Canucks. Whether it’s the likeable personality, the happy-go-lucky attitude, or the fact that he listens to what his players have to say, Boudreau is proving to be the perfect fit for the players in Vancouver.
Captain Bo Horvat said it best spoke when Boudreau first came in and talked about how the coaching staff and management group listen to what the players have to say. “They listen to what we have to say and are willing to change things or do things to help us not only off the ice but on the ice as well, I think that’s a good thing to have, communication between everybody and not have any disconnect,” he said per Sportsnet.
Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes also reached out to Boudreau, asking to play on the Canucks penalty kill (PK). “They both asked me about penalty killing and I said, ‘Yeah, we’re gonna try you.’ We’re gonna try (Brock Boeser) at one point too. Let’s face it. It wasn’t working before, so I mean trying new guys is not going to hurt you,” Boudreau said per the Daily Hive after his first game behind the bench, when they defeated the Los Angles Kings 4-0 to earn their first shutout win of the season.
Whatever Boudreau’s been trying, it’s clearly working for the team.
Confidence Stemming All Throughout the Lineup
Confidence is a funny thing. It’s defined as, “the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.” Over the last three weeks, there is an enormous amount of trust around the Canucks organization, and the confidence is stemming all throughout the lineup, and it’s showing up in the stats.
Starting in the crease, Thatcher Demko has been sensational since the coaching changes. He’s 6-0-0 with a sensational save percentage (SV%) of .958, and an incredible goals-against average (GAA) of 1.33 and has been one of the best goaltenders in the league over the last there weeks.
Defensively, there has been a noticeable difference on the backend, specifically the play of Tyler Myers. Even though it’s a stat that has lost some of its merit, his plus/minus rating has seen a significant improvement. To go along with three points, Myers has been a +9 since the takeover, versus being -3 over the previous 25 games. Not to mention, his time on ice (TOI) has gone up as well, averaging over 25 minutes per night under Boudreau, whereas he had only surpassed that number just four times under previous head coach Travis Green. However the plus/minus rating is viewed, it’s a significant upgrade for the 31-year old.
Upfront, J.T. Miller continues to lead the way points-wise, with 11 points over the last seven games and has registered at least a point in all seven games under Boudreau. Brock Boeser had only four goals through the first 22 games of the season. Over the last six games, he has five and is now tied with Conor Garland for third on the team with nine tallies. Even depth guys have been producing well during the coaching change, the biggest contributor being Tanner Pearson, who has five points over his last seven contests.
As Boudreau gets even more integrated within the team, more and more players will gain the same level of confidence, and with guys like Pettersson who hasn’t lived up to his expected playing level, the ceiling is even higher for this Canucks group.
The Belief With the Fanbase is Back
It’s funny what winning can do for a city and a fanbase. A couple of weeks ago, the Canucks were sitting with a record of 8-15-2. There was no optimism or hope with what Vancouver was putting on the ice game in and game out. Fast forward three weeks later, and just four points out of a playoff position, and third in the Pacific, the belief with the fanbase is back.
In an interview from 32 Thoughts The Podcast, with Jeff Marek and Elliott Friedman, they spoke with Satiar Shah, the afternoon drive show host & Canucks game host Sportsnet 650, on what the state of the Canucks was three weeks ago versus today, and he told them it was night and day. “I cannot believe how different the conversation around this team is now compared to three weeks ago, and just the euphoria around the team. I’ve never seen a Jekyll and Hyde situation as much as this Canucks team this season.”
Not only has that been the case for the team, but clearly, the fanbase too.
Is it sustainable to remain perfect under Boudreau for the remainder of the season? Probably not. But a coach that listens and plays into his player’s strengths gives the entire team a sense of confidence and belief. That is a scary combination to have for any other team watching heading into the new year, and right now, for the time being, the Canucks are that team.
I’m a London, Ontario based broadcaster and sports writer for the Vancouver Canucks. I’ve done work in the past reporting on the NHL, NBA and MLB. I’ve also covered the OHL including the Owen Sound Attack and am currently involved with the London Knights.