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.
Good thing I am not a betting man because I would have lost a lot of money last week. My prediction of a 2-0-1 record and Elias Pettersson breaking out were swings and misses as I went zero for two on my predictions. The Vancouver Canucks as a team went 0-3 and now go into the first week of November on a three-game losing streak while remaining winless on home ice.
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On Tuesday was the Canucks’ home opener at Rogers Arena. The place was buzzing during the national anthem and chants of “Go, Canucks, Go” were heard throughout the arena as fans were able to see their beloved team for the first time in 597 days. Unfortunately for them, the Canucks could not harness the energy in the building and manufacture a win for the faithful. In fact, they did not look like the home team at times. They struggled to maintain any sort of momentum throughout the game and ended up dropping a 3-2 decision to Cam Talbot and the Minnesota Wild.
Welcoming back the Philadelphia Flyers in their second home game of the season on Thursday, the Canucks stumbled out the gate again by falling behind 1-0 only 22 seconds in. They managed to tie it on a Quinn Hughes tally later in the period only to see their penalty kill fail them again a few minutes later on a perfect setup to James van Riemsdyk for the eventual game winner. The next two periods did not see any more scoring as they fell to 0-2 on their homestand.
Finally, in their second game of the season against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, the Canucks could not shut down the vaunted Oilers’ power play as they allowed two goals to Warren Foegele and Leon Draisaitl en route to a 2-1 defeat. Brock Boeser did manage to score his 100th NHL goal in the loss, but that’s of little consolation as the Canucks are now almost halfway through their seven-game homestand without any points to show for it so far.
So, as Thatcher Demko and the Canucks head into the second half of the homestand filled with games against the New York Rangers (6-2-1), Nashville Predators (4-4-0), and Dallas Stars (3-4-1), let’s take a look at some storylines and predictions for the upcoming week.
Canucks Haven’t Won a Game at Rogers Arena in Over 600 Days
The last time Canucks fans walked away happy from Rogers Arena was back in March of 2020 when they beat the New York Islanders 5-4 in a shootout. That was over 600 days ago. After a 3-2-1 road trip, they have not won a game on their home turf and have not looked particularly good in any of the losses either. Their top guns remain holstered and they have not scored more than two goals as a team since a 4-2 victory over the Seattle Kraken on Oct. 23.
Fans have only been able to cheer four goals and none of them have been scored by the likes of Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, or Conor Garland. Hughes and Bo Horvat are the only stars with goals so far on the homestand. The Canucks have also never led in any of the games. Overall, they have only led for 10:31 and trailed for 32:45. Not exactly a recipe for success.
If the Canucks hope to salvage this homestand and finish with a winning record by their final game against the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 9, the Lotto Line of Miller, Pettersson, and Boeser have to start scoring, first periods have to become their best periods and their special teams need to become a positive difference-maker. If they can do even two of those things, they will win their first game of the season on home ice at some point this week. Looking at the schedule, I’m putting my bets on the game against the Predators on Friday.
The Canucks Need To Go Back to a Run-and-Gun Style To Score Goals
It’s no secret that the Canucks are struggling to find their offensive legs so far in 2021-22. The usual suspects of Pettersson, Boeser, and Miller have only four goals between them, Nils Hoglander hasn’t found the net yet and now even Garland has gone three games without a goal. Needless to say, the offence has been hard to come by.
The Canucks aren’t even generating a lot of chances in general right now. According to Natural Stat Trick, they are second to last in expected goals for and near the bottom in scoring chances with only 155 so far. Their defensive play has improved, but at this point, it looks like it’s at the expense of offence. Unfortunately, without goals, wins are usually very hard to come by. Yes, the Canucks have done it in the past with Alain Vigneault and Roberto Luongo, but that was with a future Hall-of-Fame goaltender that stood on his head most nights.
Vigneault also did not have the firepower of Pettersson, Boeser, Garland, Horvat, Hoglander, and Miller at his disposal. He also did not have the puck-moving abilities of Hughes and Oliver Ekman-Larsson either. The Canucks have the offensive weapons and two-way players to be a successful run-and-gun team. I say let them loose and see what happens.
What Is the Canucks’ Identity?
So far this season, the Canucks have lacked a clear identity. Horvat has given the usual cliche of being “hard to play against”, but what does that mean? In nine games this season, they have rarely looked dangerous as a team and I can count on my one hand the players that have made the team “hard to play against”. You can probably guess who I’m talking about. Two guys by the names of Garland and Hoglander. Other than them, I can’t really pinpoint anyone else that has played that type of game consistently.
If the Canucks just base their identity around the play of Garland, who is consistently hard-working, tenacious, and dynamic, they would be fine. In the past, experts have pointed to Travis Green-coached teams as hard-working squads that never give up. If anything, they need to get back to at least that, and soon.
Things to Work on This Week
Last week I pointed to the Canucks’ special teams as an area to improve going into the homestand. So far, they have not heeded my advice. Over the past three games, they went 1/9 on the power play and allowed three power-play goals on nine chances. They now sit 20th in the league on the power play and 28th on the penalty kill. Again, not good enough if they hope to win enough games to make the playoffs in April.
As I mentioned earlier, the Canucks have not spent a lot of time leading games this season. With only 10:31 with the lead and almost 50 minutes tied or trailing, chasing has become commonplace for the boys in blue and green. They have allowed the ice breaker in eight of their first nine games and have only led twice going into the third period. This week, they need to prioritize quick starts and begin a run where teams are afraid to step foot into Rogers Arena.
Player of the Week: Thatcher Demko
For the second week in a row, goaltender Demko is the MVP of the week. Even though he didn’t come away with anything to show for it, he was the Canucks’ best player. He only allowed five goals in two games for a 2.50 goals-against average (GAA) and stopped 59 of 64 shots for a .922 save percentage (SV%). His record dropped to 3-3-1, but his other stats remain sublime. After seven starts, he has a 2.55 GAA and .924 SV%. I would say that’s pretty good for a team that is two games below .500 right now.
Demko is definitely not the reason for the Canucks’ slow start this season. He’s been brilliant in almost every one of his starts and just continues to prove that he deserves a jacket in the elite goaltenders club. The pride of San Diego has now usurped Garland as the Canucks MVP with two straight player of the week nods.
This Week’s Schedule & Predictions
- Nov. 2 vs. New York Rangers (6-1-0) Prediction: 2-1 L
- Nov. 5 vs. Nashville Predators (4-4-0) Prediction: 4-2 W
- Nov. 7 vs. Dallas Stars (3-4-1) Prediction: 3-2 W
With only one opponent playing above .500 hockey, the Canucks have a good chance of breaking out of their doldrums and winning their first game on home ice this week. The Rangers will probably give them headaches as they are one of the best teams in the NHL. Unless their stars come out to play, they will be shooting blanks again considering how hot Igor Shesterkin (1.70 GAA, .947 SV% and one shutout) is right now.
The Predators will likely give them their best chance, as they are struggling to find their game as well. It will be a tight one, but I see the Canucks coming out on top. The Lotto Line will finally break out and score a few goals and show fans why they are still a formidable top line in the NHL.
Finally, the Stars, one of the Canucks many nemeses over the years. Led by Canuck Killers Jamie Benn (14 goals, 29 points in 32 games) and Tyler Seguin (9 goals, 26 points in 22 games), they usually give them fits. The last they won a game against the Stars was back in March of 2019 when Tim Schaller and Sven Baertschi scored in regulation and Markus Granlund scored the shootout winner in an eventual 3-2 victory.
Braden Holtby will likely be in the crease after being bought out by the Canucks in the offseason. Even though the above could be a recipe for defeat, I see Demko outperforming his former mentor and leading them to a 3-2 win.
Agree or disagree with my weekly predictions? Leave your comments and own projections in the comments below!
Matthew Zator is the assistant managing editor at THW and a writer 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.