Welcome to Canucks Weekly! In this weekly column, I will take a look at the Vancouver Canucks’ upcoming games and highlight any potential storylines or matchups to watch, all while giving my predictions on how the Canucks will do in that span. As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section down below.
Well, that was fun. The Vancouver Canucks are finally done the franchise-record six-game road trip that took them through Edmonton, Philadelphia, Detroit, Buffalo, Chicago, and Seattle. In total, they had to endure six home openers and the inaugural home game for the Seattle Kraken. By the end of it all, they escaped with a winning record of 3-2-1 and seven of a possible 12 points. Considering the deck that was stacked against them with Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson struggling to find their offence along with limited practice time and sputtering special teams, they actually fared pretty well.
This past week saw the Canucks go 2-1-0 with two emotional wins against the Chicago Blackhawks and Seattle Kraken and a wake-up call in the form of a 5-2 setback to the Buffalo Sabres. Luckily for them, they were able to bounce back from that embarrassing loss with two straight wins to close out the week. Starting with the Blackhawks, they were able to break a 1-1 tie in the second period and score three straight goals to push the Blackhawks season-opening losing streak to five games. Then, in one of the most anticipated games of the season so far, they spoiled the party at Climate Pledge Arena to knock down the Kraken 4-2 after struggling to find their legs in the second period.
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All in all, it was a successful end to a long road trip that will now see the Canucks start a seven-game homestand at Rogers Arena. A homestand that will have a full complement of fans thanks to the province of British Columbia suspending the limited capacity rules starting Oct. 25, just in time to welcome the Minnesota Wild back for the first time since Feb. 19, 2020.
Finally, Some Home Cooking at Rogers Arena
Believe it or not, the Canucks have not had a home game with a full arena of fans for nearly 600 days. The last time fans were in the building was back on Mar. 10, 2020 when J.T. Miller had the deciding goal in a 5-4 shootout win over the New York Islanders. To put that length of time in perspective, of the four players that scored in that game, Bo Horvat is the only one still on the roster. Adam Gaudette, Zach MacEwen, and Tyler Toffoli have all since left the team. In fact, only eight players from that game will be in the lineup on Tuesday against the Wild.
The homestand continues against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, a team the Canucks are already familiar with after dispatching them in a shootout after blowing a two-goal lead in the third period. Finally, they finish off the week with another game on Hockey Night In Canada, this time against the Edmonton Oilers.
Conor Garland Will Continue His Point Streak Against the Wild
Conor Garland has been an absolute beast since joining the Canucks from the Arizona Coyotes. Not only does he lead the team in scoring with three goals and eight points, but he also has at least a point in every single game this season. He’s also gained significant chemistry with Horvat and Tanner Pearson and has gotten under the skin of several opponents including the Red Wings’ Filip Zadina and the Flyers’ Travis Konecny who called him a “midget” and an “angry little elf” respectively. Needless to say, he’s been one of the most impactful Canucks early on this season.
Garland continued his point streak on Saturday with his second-straight multi-point game of the season when he assisted on Horvat’s tying goal and scored the game-winner in the Canucks’ 4-2 win over the Kraken. Of the three goals he’s scored this season, this one was by far the nicest. After the puck got by Vince Dunn at the point, he used his speed to get a partial breakaway and ended up beating Philipp Grubauer with a soft wrister on the ice after he faked the shot to freeze him.
With how hot Garland is right now, I see him continuing his six-game point streak against the Wild on Tuesday. He only has two goals and three points in 10 games against them, but considering the hot stick he’s wielding right now, I wouldn’t bet against him getting at least a point.
Pettersson Will Get the Monkey Off His Back
Pettersson might want to ask Garland for one of his lucky sticks because his has gone uncharacteristically cold so far this season. Since returning to the Canucks lineup after a long and arduous contract negotiation, he has looked like a shadow of his former self. Fortunately, it’s way too early in the season to hit the panic button. Considering he missed the final 30 games of last season and the beginning of training camp, he should probably be given the benefit of the doubt.
If Pettersson is still struggling to generate offence and high-danger chances after the 20-game mark, then there’s probably cause for concern. He’s also playing three teams this week that historically have been very good to him when it comes to generating points.
I’m betting Pettersson will break out during one of these games. With a full building cheering him on for the first time in a long time, he should be pumped up to put on a show for them. My bold prediction this week is, Pettersson will score a hat trick against the Wild in the home opener on Tuesday.
Things to Work On This Week
So far this season, the Canucks’ special teams have left a lot to be desired. Currently ranked 16th on the power play and 25th on the penalty kill, they have struggled to maintain any sort of positive consistency between the two. The Canucks have missed Brandon Sutter, and Tyler Motte’s presence shorthanded this season. Juho Lammikko and Justin Dowling have done an admirable job at filling in for them, but in the end, they are just not as proficient.
Motte is arguably one of the best penalty killers in the NHL and Sutter is probably second only to Horvat in faceoff prowess. You just don’t easily replace those types of players. Unfortunately, until they return, the penalty kill will probably continue to struggle. Unless the penalty-killing guru, Brad Shaw can work some magic with more practice time at home this week.
As for their power play, on a team full of offensive threats, it really shouldn’t struggle to score and generate chances. Yet it has. Through six games and 23 power play opportunities, they have not been overly dangerous and at times have looked slow and easy to defend. As I said in a recent article, they have to move the puck a lot quicker and start using Boeser and Pettersson’s one-timers more often. Or, simply take a page out of the second unit’s book and just get shots to the net with traffic in front.
Player of the Week: Thatcher Demko
Joining Garland in the MVP circle so far this season is Thatcher Demko. If not for him, the Canucks would likely be carrying a losing record right now. Similar to his former mentor Jacob Markstrom, he gives his team a chance to win every single night. In fact, this past week he seemed to channel the goaltender everyone called “Bubble Demko” back in the 2020 Playoffs when he posted a ridiculous 0.64 goals-against average (GAA) and .985 save percentage (SV%). The three saves he made late in the game against the Kraken were things of beauty.
Currently riding a two-game winning streak and a 1.50 GAA and .950 SV% over his past two starts, Demko has been nothing short of amazing this season. If he continues this performance, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the conversation for Team USA at the Olympics in February and the Vezina Trophy at the end of the year.
This Week’s Schedule & Predictions
- Oct. 26 vs. Minnesota Wild (4-1-0) Prediction: 3-2 OTW
- Oct. 28 vs. Philadelphia Flyers (2-1-1) Prediction: 4-1 W
- Oct. 30 vs. Edmonton Oilers (5-0-0) Prediction: 4-3 OTL
With three strong opponents this week, the Canucks will have their work cut out for them as they attempt to start this long seven-game homestand on the right foot. Though, as you can see by my predictions above, I am optimistic that they will finish this week with two wins and five points, pushing their overall record to 5-2-2.
Agree or disagree with my weekly predictions? Leave your comments and own projections in the comments below!
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.