Welcome to Canucks Weekly, where you can catch up on the past week of the Vancouver Canucks throughout the 2019-20 season. From trending topics to news and notes, this is your weekly update on all things Canucks.
The Canucks finished their homestand with another win, then ventured out on the road for three games finishing the week with a 5-3-0 record. Despite giving up the first goal 30 seconds into the game against the Detroit Red Wings, they weathered the storm and ended up prevailing 5-1. The power play got on track with two goals from J.T. Miller, adding to his team-leading total. With the win, they swept the homestand, going a perfect 3-0.
The Canucks used that positive momentum in the next game against the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win 4-3 in a shootout. The win put them on their first four game-winning streak since the 2017-18 season. However, that came to a crashing halt in the next game versus the New Jersey Devils, where Jack Hughes prevailed over his brother Quinn to score his first goal in the National Hockey League.
The goal became the winner and the only goal in the game as the Canucks could not solve Mackenzie Blackwood, who posted his second career shutout against them.
The Canucks bounced back in the next game, dominating the New York Rangers for two periods before holding off a barrage in the third to win 3-2. All in all, the team had a positive week, despite some continuing issues with the power play and playing a consistent 60-minute game. If they want to be in the fight for the playoffs at the end of the season, they cannot have many more third periods like the one in New York. If not for the play of Jacob Markstrom, it does not end in a victory.
With all that said, here are some notable stories and headlines that came out of the past week in Canucks Nation.
Demko Time with a Hint of Markstrom
One thing the Canucks have not had to worry about this season is goaltending. The tandem of Thatcher Demko and Markstrom has proven to be as solid as they come. Thrust into action after Markstrom was granted a leave of absence from the team, Demko rattled off two wins while posting a very solid 1.64 goals-against-average (GAA) along with an equally impressive .943 save percentage (SV%). He could have had a third win too if his teammates could have found a way to score on the power play against the Devils.
Demko’s performance this past week was stellar. He didn’t get rattled after allowing the first goal early in the game against the Red Wings and continued to be steady in the next game even when the Blues scored goals in quick succession to take a 3-1 lead. His mental game has been on point, showing everyone that he could be ready to take over the starting role as early as next season.
But Markstrom is not ready to give up the crease just yet. Despite being away from the team for a week dealing with a family situation, he continued his strong start to the season. Returning to the net against the Rangers, he held down the fort when his team stopped skating in the third period. Except for some adventures playing the puck, he was calm and cool throughout, matching Demko’s performance from the past week.
He ended the game with 38 saves, almost half of them coming in the third period. He walked away with his fourth win of the season and first star honors. He now has a very solid 2.19 GAA to go along with a .932 SV%. Both numbers are top five in the NHL amongst goaltenders who have at least five starts. Needless to say, the Canucks have no issues in goal at the moment.
Quinning Power Play
I have not been quiet about the need for Quinn Hughes on the first power-play unit. Before the game on Saturday against the Devils, he had not seen a second of power play time with the big boys. But after failing on three power plays against the Devils, head coach Travis Green finally put No. 43 where he belongs. The unit didn’t score, but you could see the potential of it. They had sustained pressure and more importantly got shots.
Hughes just fits with the players the Canucks have on the top unit. He’s a skilled puck mover with the smarts to go with it. His shot is also quite heavy and gets through to the goaltender. But the most important change he brings is movement. His elite skating ability and supreme edges create a lot more problems for penalty killers. There’s a reason the unit looks a lot more fluid with him on it instead of Alex Edler. He skates around the zone, which makes the other players move too. That’s something Edler rarely does.
The potential of the group led Green to start Hughes on the top unit for the next game against the Rangers. He did not disappoint, helping to set up Bo Horvat for his first power-play goal of the season. They ended the game one for three but were dangerous every time. That’s about all you can ask for from your number one unit. I hope this early success keeps him on it for the foreseeable future.
Strong Penalty Killing
Another early strength of the Canucks this season has been their penalty killing. I mentioned it last week, but it bears repeating again. Now third in the league after allowing a power-play goal against the Devils, the PK unit has been almost impenetrable. We may want players like Tim Schaller, Tyler Motte, Jay Beagle and Brandon Sutter off the team, but they have contributed greatly to the strength of the penalty kill early on. If not for them, the Canucks do not have five wins on the season already.
Over the past week, the Canucks have killed off all but one penalty including two lengthy five on threes. Long two man advantages are usually very difficult to kill off, and the penalty killers did it with ease. Many factors have gone into it including goaltending, aggressive play, shot-blocking, and good sticks. It may not be as glamorous as a potent power play, but it’s important nonetheless.
The Lotto Line
If the top line of Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and J.T. Miller stays together all season and is effective, this past week will forever be known as the week the Lotto Line was created. Coined by Cory Kropielinski and Canuck Way contributor Jacob Calvert, it puts together the three jersey numbers from the line to create 6-40-9. If you say it out loud, you get the name of the popular lottery game 6/49. It may be too early to give the line a nickname, but you cannot deny how clever the name is.
As for the line’s performance, they have had some early success. Miller currently leads the team in points with eight, while Boeser and Pettersson are not far behind with six points each which ties them with Edler for second on the team. They have been dominant at times, playing both on the power play and five on five together. If all goes well, the Lotto Line will go down in history with the Mattress Line and West Coast Express as the most memorable names for lines. I can probably speak for everyone when I say, I wish I would have come up with it!
3 Moments of the Week
1. Brothers Hughes Episode One
The first episode of the Brothers Hughes was not as exciting as first advertised, but it still brought the drama. Jack Hughes bested his older brother Quinn on the score sheet potting his first NHL goal off a brilliant pass from Taylor Hall. His team also got the win after his goaltender shut the door the rest of the way. Despite losing, Quinn got the last laugh deking his younger brother out of his jock on one of his many brilliant breakouts.
That’s not the first time he has done that to an opponent, and it probably won’t be the last. Hughes has demonstrated an uncanny ability to move the puck quickly and decisively out of the defensive zone, by either making a hard tape-to-tape pass or using his elite skating and edges to skate it out. I will say it again, the Canucks have never had a defenceman like him. Jack found that out the hard way, even though he probably has seen that move before.
2. 3-on-3 Overtime Magic
Canucks fans got a glimpse of what Hughes could do in three on three overtime last season. It turns out that it was just a teaser trailer to the main event. When it got to overtime against the Blues on Thursday, we saw more of his brilliance. Words are not enough to describe it, let’s roll the clip.
His acceleration and change of pace are on full display here as he makes a quick fake to the middle before cutting to the net. If you didn’t know any better, you would think he was a forward, not a defenceman. He made several other plays during the overtime, but this was the most impressive. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by what he does anymore. He is a one man highlight reel.
3. Demko’s Shootout Mastery
Demko had a very strong week subbing in for Markstrom. The rookie goaltender got a taste of everything including the shootout where he went six-for-six against the Blues before Josh Leivo finally won it with a filthy deke in the seventh round. He looked calm, collected and in full control on his way to winning his second start in a row.
Markstrom has had recent success in the shootout as well. Could the Canucks finally have two goaltenders that are actually good in the shootout? With the six saves, Demko improved to 10 saves on 12 career shootout shots. That translates to a .833 SV% to go along with Markstrom’s .753 SV% which is pretty solid for a tandem. If the shooters can continue to have success, the shootout won’t be a problem this season.
The Week Ahead
The Canucks finish the road trip with another matchup against Alex Biega and the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. They will be looking for their second win in two weeks against them. From there, they return home for two games starting with Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Friday. They will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak that goes all the way back to the 2017-18 season.
Overall, they only play two games this coming week, which gives them time to practice the new power play with Hughes spearheading the number one unit. It sure feels great to say that. So until next week, enjoy the games!
My name is Matthew and I cover the Vancouver Canucks, and Vancouver Giants here at the Hockey Writers. I am also the head of the prospects and NHL Draft coverage. In addition to writing, I host the Canucks & Pucks podcast as well. I am passionate about the Canucks, prospects, and all things hockey.