The first half of the 2020-21 NHL season for the Vancouver Canucks didn’t quite live up to the expectations set from last year’s Stanley Cup Playoff run. However, despite playing the most games in the league, Vancouver has put together an impressive stretch of late. As a result, they are right back in the thick of things in the Scotia North Division.
Despite dropping their last three contests, the Canucks have an 8-4-1 record in their last 13 games and sit just two points back of the 4th and final playoff spot in the North Division, behind the Montreal Canadiens. A few improvements have propelled this resurgence, but one thing is certain: they are better at both ends of the ice.
Easily the biggest reason for the Canucks’ resurgence in the last 13 games has been the play of their goaltenders, specifically, Thatcher Demko. Since they made the decision to ride the hot hand, Demko has delivered. He has won 8 of his last 11 starts with a .937 save percentage (SV%) and one shutout. What’s even more impressive is the volume of shot’s he’s been dealing with on a nightly basis. During this stretch, he’s faced 30+ shots in 9 of 11 games and won 7 of them.
Vancouver knew they needed to make a decision to start one of Brayden Holtby or Demko and see who rose to the occasion. While Demko made that decision fairly easy for the Canucks, Travis Green and his coaching staff were smart to hand him the keys and put the team back in the hunt for a playoff position.
As much as goaltending has provided a boost, it helps that the defence has played better in front of them. From a broad perspective, that might not seem to be the case as Vancouver has given up a significant number of shots despite winning, but they have done their part to play better defensively.
During this stretch, the Canucks players have done everything they can to help their netminders, including sacrificing the body. The team has blocked 20 or more shots in seven of their last 13 games, and 10+ in 12 of them. While it might not be pretty or get the recognition it deserves, it’s getting the job done.
Offensive Star Power
With the absence of Elias Pettersson (and Bo Horvat for a bit) the Canucks have really stepped up to fill the void in their lineup, especially their star players. Brock Boeser leads the way and has had an amazing season so far, leading the team in goals (16) and points (32). J.T. Miller has also produced, chipping in 29 points, while Quinn Hughes has six points in his last eight games and 28 on the season. Even after missing 10 games, Pettersson remains in the top five in team scoring, with 21 points and 26 games.
While Horvat was back on the ice against the Winnipeg Jets, injuries have taken out some big-time producers for the Canucks this season. While the stars have led the way offensively, their secondary scoring will need to step up to carry some of the load. Brandon Sutter, Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette have to help balance out the scoring, along with newcomers Jimmy Vesey and Travis Boyd, if The Cancuks want to have any chance of getting to the postseason.
Can the Canucks Keep it Up?
There’s a reason they’re called streaks; because they usually don’t last. But stranger things have happened than a team getting hot heading into the final stretch. For the Canucks to continue to make up ground in the North Division, they’ll need contributions from both ends and in the crease.
While most recently, they’ve lost three straight games, a little luck and focus on their own games vs. everyone else’s, the Canucks could be sitting in a playoff position come early May.
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.