Welcome to Canucks Weekly, where you can catch up on the past week of the Vancouver Canucks throughout the 2021-22 season. From trending topics to news and notes, this is your weekly update on all things Canucks.
The Canucks began the season with a bit of everything as they already have a shootout win, shootout loss, and a regulation loss under their belt. They have yet to win a game in regulation or score first, and their special teams have left a lot to be desired, but that doesn’t mean the panic button should be pressed yet. All in all, they have started the new campaign with a lot of positives, especially when it comes to the newcomers of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tucker Poolman, and Conor Garland.
First, in their season opener against the Edmonton Oilers, they clawed back in the third period from a 2-0 deficit to gain a single point in the shootout. They then followed that up with a trip to the City of Brotherly Love to face the Philadelphia Flyers where they blew their own two-goal third-period lead to win in the shootout 5-4 on a silky-smooth J.T. Miller deke. Finally, on the second half of a back-to-back and their third game in four nights, they peppered Detroit Red Wings’ netminder Thomas Greiss to the tune of 41 shots only to lose 3-1.
The Canucks will continue their season-long six-game road trip on Tuesday when they meet the shockingly undefeated Buffalo Sabres.
The Week That Was
Canucks vs. Oilers (Oct. 13, 3-2 Shootout Loss)
The Canucks opened their 2021-22 season against the Oilers for what seemed like the millionth time in their history last week and avoided their first regulation loss with a third-period comeback led by goals from two dynamic defencemen in Ekman-Larsson and Quinn Hughes. They managed to shut down the dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but couldn’t stop the recently waived Kyle Turris from eventually winning it in the shootout. The game also featured a massive hit by Tyler Myers on long-time rival Duncan Keith which caught the eye and admiration of Canucks fans everywhere.
What Went Right: The Canucks had a lot of scoring chances in this game that were stymied by the ageless wonder Mike Smith, who at 39 years old just continues to prove that age is just a number in the NHL. He ended up stopping 36 of 38 shots for a save percentage (SV%) of .947 while only allowing two goals against. If he wasn’t standing on his head and cutting off dump-ins every chance he could get, they probably would have been leading going into the third. The new guys on the back end also made a good impression as Ekman-Larsson played 23:52 and scored a goal while Poolman played solid defence alongside Hughes finishing with two shots on goal and a plus-1 in 21:23 of ice time. Oh yes, and that hit by Myers was pretty good too.
What Went Wrong: The penalty kill, which was maligned throughout the preseason surrendered its first goal and didn’t look very good doing it. Yes, the Oilers’ power play is beyond lethal and Draisaitl is a great passer, but that pass shouldn’t have gone through two defencemen onto a stick of an uncovered Zach Hyman. The Canucks’ defensive coverage was also suspect on the Jesse Puljujarvi goal in the first period.
Canucks Top Performers: Nils Hoglander, who was buzzing all night long shuttling through a few different lines, finished the game with two assists and four shots on goal. Thatcher Demko also had a strong night in net stopping 34 shots.
Key Takeaways: Special teams need to be better, especially the penalty kill. If the Canucks hope to win games consistently this season, the power play and penalty kill have to be strengths. A better defensive structure means nothing if your special teams let you down each and every night.
Canucks vs. Flyers (Oct. 15, 5-4 Shootout Win)
The Canucks continued their road trip in Philadelphia with a physical affair against the Flyers highlighted by the brilliant goaltending of Demko and the excitement of Podkolzin’s first goal in the NHL. The big Russian played only 7:03 but made the most of it with a dash down the right-wing and a snipe over the shoulder of Carter Hart. It was eerily similar to the goal Elias Pettersson scored on his first shot way back in 2018 when he snapped it by then-Flames’ netminder Mike Smith.
After a first period dominated by the Flyers, the Canucks stormed out to a 4-2 lead after the second only to see it evaporate in the final two minutes of the third. Luckily Miller saved the day in the shootout to secure their first two points of the season.
What Went Right: Demko, period, full stop. The 25-year-old was the only reason the Canucks were in this game at all after the first period. If not for him, the score would have probably read 4-0 instead of 1-0 going into the second frame. His performance allowed them to find their legs and take advantage of some weak goaltending by Hart. Podkolzin scoring a goal-scorer’s goal was also a positive as he continues to find his legs in North America.
What Went Wrong: Even with a supposedly improved defensive structure, the Canucks still managed to blow a two-goal lead in less than two minutes. Granted, the Flyers had the benefit of a power play and an extra attacker with the goalie pulled, but that doesn’t negate the fact that they need to find a way to finish teams off. Too many times last season did they have leads only to have them wither away in the third period. The penalty kill also allowed their second goal in two games and despite scoring two goals, the power play couldn’t score to extend the lead when it needed to.
Canucks Top Performers: Garland continued to impress with his shiftiness on the boards and overall gritty game. He finished with an assist in 20:53 of ice time to extend his point streak to two games. It also should go without saying, but Demko was probably first and second star in this game. He was insane all night despite allowing four goals.
Key Takeaways: Demko will be a Vezina Trophy candidate this season if his first two starts are any indication. Podkolzin should also be getting more opportunities considering the impact he’s making in limited ice time and the offensive potential he has overall.
Canucks vs. Red Wings (Oct. 16, 3-1 Loss)
The Canucks rolled into Motor City on Saturday looking to start their first winning streak of the season. That didn’t happen as they hit yet another hot goaltender in Thomas Greiss. They probably deserved a better fate in this game, but just couldn’t find any luck in front of the net or from the referees. The goaltender interference call that negated what would have been Jack Rathbone’s second career goal and more importantly the game-tying goal, was suspect at best. In the end, they just have to take the positives from the game and move on to Buffalo.
What Went Right: The Canucks dominated on the shot clock and played a solid team game for most of the night. For the most part, they were the better team outshooting the Wings 41-21 including a third period where they fired 23 shots and 35 shot attempts Greiss’ way.
What Went Wrong: It feels like a broken record after three games, but special teams. The Canucks allowed a power play goal for the third-straight game and couldn’t score on three power plays of their own. The Wings scored the winner on the power play. Basically, poor special teams lost them this game.
Canucks Top Performers: Garland was noticeable in this game getting under the skin of the Red Wings including Filip Zadina who was on the wrong end of a reverse hit. He also recorded his first goal as a Canuck and now has three points in his first three games.
Key Takeaways: Podkolzin needs to be put on the power play in favour of Justin Dowling on the second unit. Heck, I would put him on the first unit in place of Alex Chiasson. It is well known in many circles that he is a beast in front of the net with his size and hand-eye coordination. The Canucks’ power play has to start becoming a difference-maker and he could be the one to ignite it. The Canucks also need to figure out how to score first. They now have allowed the first goal in three straight games.
Tuesday, Oct. 19 vs. Buffalo Sabres, 4 pm
The Canucks continue their road trip against the Sabres who are 2-0 in the early going. The team that was supposed to struggle to stay out of the basement is in the penthouse suite right now. Who saw that coming? I know I certainly didn’t. Leading the way so far is the goaltending tandem of Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski, who have combined for only two goals against and a .961 SV%.
Thursday, Oct 21 vs. Chicago Blackhawks, 5:30 pm
Going into the Windy City for the first time in a long time, the Canucks will battle with their former rival Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. With Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews as the only members left from the rivalry, the atmosphere won’t be as intense, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a good game. The Hawks could be still looking for their first win and the Canucks are well-versed with the goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury, so expect to see another great meeting between these two.
Saturday, Oct 23 vs. Seattle Kraken, 7 pm
You can’t tell me that the NHL’s schedule makers didn’t do this on purpose. The first game in the newly minted Climate Pledge Arena, home of the Seattle Kraken, will be against the Canucks.
The rivalry which started a bit in the preseason will continue in a building that promises to be rocking with Kraken and Canucks’ fans alike. Of all the games on this long and arduous road trip, this one should excite everyone the most.
We were joking around with him this morning, I told him I thought I had a feeling he was gonna get one tonight…It’s great to see, it’s such a special moment. It’s something that you never forget.Travis Green on Podkolzin scoring his first NHL goal
I don’t think it’s (drawing) penalties from being a pest or anything — it’s from having the puck on your stick and being hard to defend…When I’m playing well, I’m using my edges and speed. And when you beat somebody, they sometimes have to haul you down and it’s probably more from that, being competitive in dirty areas.Conor Garland on his playing style (from ‘Canucks notebook: Conor Garland using skill, will to drag club into the fight’, The Province, 10/17/21)
I was telling the guys after a couple training camp skates there, I felt like I was 18 again…I was running around and hitting people and just playing with that chip on my shoulder a little bit. It feels like a fresh start.Oliver Ekman-Larsson on his start with the Canucks
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Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout 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.