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.
Naming a captain seemed to ignite the Canucks this week as they were able to string together their first two wins of the season. It was also a week of firsts as many players got their first goals and points of the campaign.
First, in their home opener, they blew away the Los Angeles Kings 8-2 after a historic opening ceremony. They then followed that up with a nailbiting 3-2 shootout win over former head coach Alain Vigneault and the Philadelphia Flyers. It was definitely an exciting and unforgettable week for Canucks fans as they got to see past legends and a perfect hand-off of the captaincy to Bo Horvat. They also got to reminisce with Vigneault after the game on Saturday in After Hours on Hockey Night in Canada.
Here are some notable stories and headlines that came out of the past week in Canucks Nation.
Horvat Finally Named Captain
After a season of waiting, the Canucks finally have a new captain. It came as no surprise to anyone that it ended up being Horvat. In an unforgettable opening ceremony where past legends Dennis Kearns, Todd Bertuzzi, Stan Smyl, Kirk McLean and Daniel Sedin appeared in the player introductions, he was named the 14th captain in franchise history.
It was a perfect hand-off of the captaincy as first captain Orland Kurtenbach and the incumbent Henrik Sedin presented the captain’s jersey to Horvat. The moment he pulled it on, everyone knew it was the right choice. The reign had begun, and he has not lost a game since, although it’s only been two games.
The actual game had a lot to live up to, and it didn’t disappoint. The Canucks rode the momentum of the ceremonies and nostalgia to an 8-2 drubbing of the Kings. The hockey gods smiled down on the team that night as the goals flowed freely. Horvat didn’t score and only ended up with one point, but it was the perfect start to his reign as the de facto leader of the team.
After having a solid first two games with Horvat and Tanner Pearson, JT Miller was moved onto the top line with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser for the home opener against the Kings. To say it was a good move would be an understatement, as he ended the game with a career-high four points. The line looked dangerous all night, leading to Pettersson’s first goal of the season as well.
Miller now leads the Canucks in scoring with five points and is living up to the first-round pick given up in the trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the offseason. His skill, size, and speed seem to fit nicely with Pettersson and Boeser, making it a trio that could stay together for the foreseeable future.
The line stayed intact for the game against the Flyers, but Miller could not match the same dominance he showed versus the Kings. He ended the game with nothing on his stat line but three hits. Regardless, he shined in the home opener and gave the Canucks hope that he could be that missing piece on the top line.
Hughes at it Again
For the second straight week, Quinn Hughes is a story. You knew it was coming, and what better time than the historic home opener to do it. After a rush into the offensive zone setting up Adam Gaudette with a brilliant behind-the-back pass, he stayed with the play and blasted home his first goal in the National Hockey League.
The goal was vintage Hughes and put an exclamation mark on his first eight games in the league. He has looked as good as any NHL veteran defenceman and continues to grow with every game he plays. Even though he did not get on the board against the Flyers, he moved the puck well and looked dynamic in the first overtime period of the season.
Hughes continues to average twenty minutes a game on the blue line and has made his partner Chris Tanev more of a threat as well. If he continues this pace throughout the season, he has a legitimate chance at rookie of the year. Adding the two assists from last season, he now has six points in nine career NHL games. He also remains the leader in Corsi-for percentage (CF%) amongst Canucks defencemen with a 64.4 rating.
Related: Canucks: 5 Reasons to be Thankful
Offence from the Defence
For the first time since 2011, the Canucks defence core appears to be an offensive threat again. After toiling in the bottom half of the league for the past few seasons, they are finally producing. As of Oct. 13, the defence has accounted for just over 30 percent of the team’s total offence. The season is young, but it’s a good sign for a team that has struggled to provide points from the blue line. To put that in perspective, they only accounted for 23 percent of the offence in 2018-19.
Tanev, in particular, has looked more engaged in the offensive side of the game. Normally utilized in the past as a shutdown defenceman by head coach Travis Green, he is in a new role this season paired with Hughes. He has benefited by how quickly the rookie rearguard moves the puck up the ice. As a result, he hasn’t had to worry as much about defending, which has freed up his mind to participate in the offence.
I’ve always thought that he had more to give offensively, and he’s showing it right now. He even jumped up with Hughes to finish off a pretty passing play for his first goal of the season against the Kings. Then on Saturday, he eclipsed the 100-point plateau with two assists which included the setup of Pearson’s second goal of the campaign.
Overall, the Canucks’ reshaped defence core has looked faster and more dangerous than last season. If they can all stay healthy, which is a big if, they should be able to buck the trend of the anemic offence that has plagued them in the past few seasons.
Other News & Notes
A Tale of Two Special Teams
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That basically sums up the Canucks’ special teams so far this season. The penalty-killing has been almost flawless, while the power play has shot blanks most of the time.
Before Flyers’ forward Oskar Lindblom scored the tying goal on Saturday, the penalty killing was a perfect 12 for 12. The primary units of Brandon Sutter, Tim Schaller, Tanev and Edler along with Jay Beagle, Pearson, Jordie Benn, and Tyler Myers have been aggressive and quick to clear the zone. If not for the quick hands of Flyers’ defenceman Matt Niskanen, the Canucks would probably be still perfect on the PK.
The power play has been a different story, however, as the Canucks have struggled to gain any traction so far this season. After failing on their first 10 attempts, they finally scored their first goal on Wednesday. The supposed strength of Pettersson and Boeser’s one-timer from both faceoff circles has not yielded any fruit.
The top unit has been too stationary and the lanes have not been open for those lethal shots. In order for them to be a threat, they have to move the puck around quicker. Additionally, the forwards have to hit the net more and get shots through, which has not happened early on. If the team continues to struggle on the man advantage, it won’t be too long until we see Hughes moved onto the top unit.
Bieksa the Roving Reporter
Kevin Bieksa has turned in his hockey stick for a microphone, and it’s amazing. After the game on Saturday, he was doing interviews in the dressing room with Pettersson, Horvat, and Tanev. It was probably the best post-game interview package I’ve seen as a Canucks fan. It was relaxed and casual, just like an interview should be.
Bieksa has always been a great personality, making him the perfect person to take the job as the Canucks roving reporter.
The Week Ahead
After a light schedule to start the season, the Canucks finally get it going with four games this week.
Oct 15 – Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings come to town for the first of two meetings this season. They are currently riding the hot hand of Anthony Mantha who has six goals already. It also marks the return of former Canucks defenceman Alex Biega to Rogers Arena.
Oct 17 – @ St. Louis Blues
Starting a four-game road trip, the Canucks will be looking for their first road win of the season. They will have their work cut out for them against the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
Oct 19 – @ New Jersey Devils
The first episode of the Brothers Hughes will be an interesting one. Jack Hughes’ debut in the NHL has not been a smooth one. Currently mired in a five-game pointless streak, the 18-year-old has struggled so far. His brother Quinn, on the other hand, has excelled with three points on the season already.
As of Oct. 13, the New Jersey Devils are also winless on the season. That may change by Saturday, but they have struggled out of the gate. The Canucks would be wise to take advantage of that.
Oct 20 – @ New York Rangers
In their first back-to-back of the season, the Canucks travel to the Big Apple to take on the New York Rangers. Backup goaltender Thatcher Demko figures to get this game, making his first start of 2019-20. Jacob Markstrom has looked strong to start, but he has to get some rest sometime. This game also features 2019 second overall pick Kaapo Kakko and early surprise Mika Zibanejad, who already has eight points on the season.
**All stats are current as of Oct. 13
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.