The Vancouver Canucks are eight games into the 2021-22 season, and the results haven’t been as good as the team had hoped. The club has a 3-4-1 record, ranking sixth in the Pacific division. After posting a 3-2-1 record during their season-opening six-game road trip, the team has lost two games at home. They lost their home opener 3-2 against the Minnesota Wild and then suffered a 2-1 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser have had a slow start to the season, which has hurt their team as well. The Canucks have lost two close games in a row and could have used their top two forwards to help produce.
Pettersson and Boeser’s Seasons So Far
Pettersson missed the majority of the team’s preseason due to contract negotiations. The forward signed a three-year, $22.050 million deal before joining the team and playing in the Canucks’ final two preseason games. Through eight games, the Swedish forward has posted one goal and four points.
Meanwhile, Boeser missed a majority of training camp due to an injury. He began the season on injured reserve (IR). He returned in the game against the Buffalo Sabres after missing the first three games of the season. Throughout five games, he has scored one goal and posted two points.
Pettersson’s Slow Start Isn’t New
Slow starts aren’t anything new for Pettersson. In the 2020-21 season, the forward posted one goal and two points through eight games. He posted nine goals and 19 points in his next 18 games before missing the remainder of the season due to a wrist injury. He finished the season with 10 goals and 21 points through 26 games.
Pettersson bounced back after his struggles through the first eight-game of last season. Therefore, he should start producing at the rate he normally produces at which should lead to the team’s record improving. The forward discussed how important it is for him to play for a winning team before the season, and the team needs him to step up his production.
“I want to stay [in Vancouver] now, but I also want to play for a team that’s winning and has the chance to go far into the playoffs every year,” Pettersson said in an interview before re-signing with team. “I feel like we’ve got a chance to do that next year. If we have that chance when my next deal expires … I don’t know. I just want to play where there’s a chance of winning.
Boeser’s Injury Slowing Him Down
Boeser missed every preseason game and started the season on IR, which could explain his slow start to the season. This isn’t the first time the forward has struggled to produce due to an injury. He entered the 2019-20 season with lingering issues due to previous injuries, which affected his production. He scored a career-low 16 goals and 45 points. Entering the 2020-21 season, the forward stated he felt the best he had since his rookie season (from ‘Canucks: Boeser could be winging it again after cautious injury rehab,’ The Province, October 18, 2021).
“I was pretty excited to come into a new year and now have a fresh start. Especially after my back injury… that gave me a lot of problems after. It was pretty bad injury,” said Boeser. “I’m feeling confident and I feel like my shot’s back where it was in my first year… when I shoot I think it fuels my game and it gives me confidence.”
He posted 23 goals and 49 points through 56 games, leading the team in both categories. Boeser stated he has learned from his previous injuries to be cautious, which is why he missed the start of the season.
“I’ve learned so much. Ever since my back injury, I have a set routine and certain things in warm-up to be ready for every practice and every game. And I even do it in the summer because it’s something I really have to stay on top of to feel good before every skate.”
Boeser could still be dealing with the injury, or he is just rusty. If it is an injury, the forward and the team are hoping he starts to feel better soon. If it’s rust, then it’s only a matter of time before Boeser starts to produce as he had last season.
Canucks Need Both at Even-Strength
The Canucks have struggled at 5-on-5 this season. The team has been outscored 22-20 at even strength so far this season. Pettersson and Boeser are a part of the problem for the Canucks at 5-on-5. Pettersson’s lone goal has come on the power play, while two of his three assists have been on the man advantage. Meanwhile, Boeser’s lone goal has also been on the power play.
Their struggle to produce isn’t due to a lack of trying. Pettersson has posted a Corsi for % (CF%) of 50.54, which isn’t bad but could be better. Boeser, on the other hand, has posted a CF% of 54.69, the second-best on the team. The two have had chances to score this season but might just need a lucky bounce to get going.
Season is Young
The Canucks are only eight games into the 2021-22 season. Once Pettersson and Boeser get going at even strength, the team will be able to string together wins. Meanwhile, the club has had a few players who have been off to a good start. Captain Bo Horvat has scored four goals, three of which have been on even strength. Conor Garland has had an impressive start as well with his new club, scoring three goals and posting eight points. Quinn Hughes has scored two goals and added four assists.
J.T. Miller is tied with Garland for the team’s lead in points at eight. The third Lotto Line member has produced, but once his two linemates get going, the Canucks will be better off.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.