Surprise surprise, those basement dwellers are creeping up the stairs.
Although the Canucks were a consensus pick to finish last overall in the NHL, they racked off two wins in their first two games. They are now 61 points away from reaching their infamous 65 point projection from USA Today Sports.
Sure, they started the season by beating a tired Calgary Flames team and a Carolina Hurricanes team that blew two straight three-goal leads, but their compete level in both third periods helped them come away victorious.
Last season, we rarely saw the Canucks come back from a goal down. On Sunday night against Carolina, they came back from a three-goal deficit. The Canucks hadn’t accomplished that since 2011. They also had only three third period comebacks all of last season and they have two straight comebacks to start this one.
Many Canucks put in a solid effort over the weekend, however, three players stood out. If these three can keep up their hot starts, it will help the Canucks crush those dreary early season predictions.
He was the surprise of training camp last season and finished with 25 points in 75 games. Despite Hutton’s creative talents on offence, he was only able to produce one goal.
On Sunday night, Hutton potted his first goal of the season. It took the 23-year-old 39 games to score his first goal last season.
Judging from the first two games, there is no sophomore slump in Hutton’s future. He’s now partnered with a legitimate shutdown blueliner on defence, compared to the fringe-NHL partners he had last season. Erik Gudbranson is a huge improvement over Yannick Weber and Matt Bartowski, and he should allow Hutton to get more involved in the offence. Hutton’s emergence as an offensive-minded player means Vancouver’s blueliners should score more than the paltry 17 goals they registered as a unit last season.
As a rookie, 25 points was impressive last year, but the sky is the limit for Hutton in his second season.
After scoring both the shootout winner against Calgary and the overtime winner against Carolina, fans can start calling Sutter “Mr. Clutch.”
With all the skepticism surrounding the acquisition of Sutter last season, he never got the chance to prove his worth to fans or management. He played decently in 20 games last season, but the Canucks sorely missed his presence.
Sutter isn’t going to net 82 game-winners for the Canucks. However, he has the potential to score 20 goals and 40 points while playing sound, defensive hockey. If he does that, he will prove to be the “foundational player,” that Jim Benning infamously described him as last summer. It was unusual praise for a guy who hadn’t worn a Canucks jersey at the time, but maybe this is the year where fans will finally see what Benning was preaching.
He’s off to a hot start this season and has found some early chemistry with linemates Jannik Hansen and Markus Granlund
Granlund was a forgotten man at the Canucks’ training camp until he came alive in the preseason.
After coming to Vancouver in a swap for Hunter Shinkaruk, Granlund was largely invisible in a fourth line role. As such, he came into training camp under the radar and going unnoticed early worked in his favour. His skill with the puck led head coach Willie Desjardins to say that Granlund belongs in the top nine. He even began the season opener centering the second line with Sven Baertschi and Jake Virtanen.
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He was put on the third line prior to Sunday’s game against Carolina, where he found instant chemistry with Sutter and Hansen. Granlund scored a third period goal to get the Canucks back into the game, before almost winning it in the final minute of the third period on a great feed from Hansen.
It would be a pleasant surprise to have Granlund supply some offence for the Canucks this season, considering that expectations were so low for him. He went from a fringe player on the roster to displacing players such as Emerson Etem.
If Granlund can continue his chemistry with Sutter and Hansen while producing offence, it will go a long way towards erasing the Canucks’ secondary scoring stresses.