The Canucks went into the Christmas break looking like a team headed towards a top five position in the draft. Following a 4-1 loss to Calgary on December 23, the Canucks sat seven points back of a Wild Card spot and looked nothing like a team ready to talk about the playoffs.
What a difference a week of good hockey can make. The Canucks have rattled off four straight wins against Western Conference opponents, including three divisional rivals. They will end this week with another three divisional games, starting tonight in a matchup against the Arizona Coyotes.
The Coyotes are mired in another brutal stretch of games in what’s truly another write-off year for the franchise. They have lost seven games in a row, all in regulation. In those contests, they have given up an average of four goals per game. That’s probably because the Coyotes give up an average of 27.1 shots per game at even-strength, which is worst in the NHL.
With both teams heading in different directions, this sets up as a trap game for the Canucks. They weren’t brilliant against an inferior Colorado team, but still showed resiliency and found a way to win. Calgary and Los Angeles both won their last games, meaning the Canucks are three points out of a Wild Card spot. They will look to improbably stay in the playoff hunt with another victory tonight.
Arizona Coyotes at Vancouver Canucks
Rogers Arena, 7:00 p.m. PST on January 4
Broadcast Channels: SNP, FS-A
2016-17 Season Series: Nov. 17 – Vancouver Canucks 3 – Arizona Coyotes 2 (OT), Nov. 23 – Arizona Coyotes 1 – Vancouver Canucks 4
Arizona Coyotes: 11-21-5 – 27 Points
Road Record: 5-11-3
Hot Players: Radim Vrbata (4 PTS in last 5 GP), Martin Hanzal (3 game point streak)
Key Injuries: Max Domi, Ryan White, Alex Burmistrov, Brad Richardson
Tobias Rieder – Martin Hanzal – Radim Vrbata
Jamie McGinn – Christian Dvorak – Anthony Duclair
Brendan Perlini – Peter Holland – Shane Doan
Lawson Crouse – Josh Jooris – Jordan Martinook
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Luke Schenn
Alex Goligoski – Michael Stone
Jakob Chychrun – Connor Murphy
Vancouver Canucks: 18-18-3 – 39 Points
Home Record: 13-6-2
Hot Players: Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi (Combined 21 PTS in last 10 GP)
Key Injuries: Jannik Hansen, Erik Gudbranson, Derek Dorsett
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Jayson Megna
Markus Granlund – Brandon Sutter – Loui Eriksson
Sven Baertschi – Bo Horvat – Alex Burrows
Brendan Gaunce – Michael Chaput – Jack Skille
Alex Edler – Troy Stecher
Luca Sbisa – Chris Tanev
Nikita Tryamkin – Ben Hutton
1) Despite their recent win streak, there is lots to question regarding the Canucks roster decisions. Despite picking up his first career point against the Avalanche, 25-year-old rookie Anton Rodin seems to be the odd man out against the Avalanche tonight. At some point, Willie Desjardins needs to give Rodin a shot to see what he can do. Although he’s not suited for a fourth-line role, he’s an improvement over Brendan Gaunce, Michael Chaput, Jack Skille and Jayson Megna.
2) To complicate the roster decisions even further, it was reported that the Canucks have claimed Reid Boucher off of waivers this morning. It’s been a busy week for the young man, who was claimed by the team who drafted him on Monday, just to be put back on waivers a day later. Boucher has one goal and three points in 12 games this season, giving him more goals that Gaunce and Chaput combined. There were some vouching for the Canucks to pick up Ty Rattie, who was also put on waivers by the Blues. The Carolina Hurricanes snatched up Rattie, meaning the Canucks passed on Rattie in favour of Boucher.
Reid Boucher’s month pic.twitter.com/7hx8pCcESE
— Sean Leahy (@Sean_Leahy) January 4, 2017
3) The Canucks haven’t fared well against many Pacific Division opponents in recent years, but they have had the Coyotes number. They are 8-1-1 in their last ten games versus the Coyotes, and have outscored the Desert Dogs by almost two goals per game in those matchups. One interesting tidbit over that time span? Neither team have been able to kill penalties against each other recently. The Coyotes’ power play is clicking at 21.9% in their last ten games against Vancouver, while the Canucks power play is going 29.4% over those same ten games.
4) The Coyotes have mainly been a disaster this season, but one player who has had a decent season is goaltender Mike Smith. Despite the Coyotes woes, he still has a .920 save percentage on the season. That’s pretty impressive considering he plays behind such a young defence, and one that gives up a ton of shots. However, he was pulled in his last start against the Canucks after allowing four goals on 17 shots.
5) One Coyote who has been extremely disappointing this season has been Anthony Duclair. I wrote a piece last month highlighting one underachieving player from each Pacific Division team, and Duclair was my player of choice from the Coyotes. After putting up 20 goals and 44 points last season, he has only three goals and seven points in 2016-17. However, he does have two goals in his last three games, in an attempt to turn around his season.
6) Ryan Miller looks to get the start in goal tonight against Arizona, after posting his 350th career win against Colorado on Monday. Ed Willies of The Province wrote a piece about how Miller has been underappreciated in Vancouver despite his accolades. It’s not that Miller has been bad for the Canucks, but Vancouver needs to be looking towards the future. That means that they have to start giving Jacob Markstrom more starts. Both goalies have picked up their game lately, but the Canucks need to know if Markstrom can handle being the number one goalie heading into next season.