March was the best month for the Vancouver Canucks so far. The team posted an impressive 8-2-1 record before dropping their final two games of the month to the Winnipeg Jets, bringing their season record to 16-18-3.
Multiple players stepped up last month to improve the team’s record. From goaltending to the forward group, the Canucks had a lot of help. It was especially impressive to see the forwards who stepped up without star forward Elias Pettersson, who was out of the lineup for 11 games due to an upper-body injury.
Third Star: J.T. Miller
J.T. Miller stepped up in March in multiple ways. Without Pettersson, he moved from playing on the left wing to centring the first line. He proved to handle the pressures of being a first-line centre well, scoring five goals and posting 10 points through 13 games. Three of his five goals were game-winning goals, two of which came in overtime. His first O.T. winner came against the Ottawa Senators, then he scored a highlight-reel goal against the Montreal Canadiens.
Miller scored a total of four goals throughout January and February. He surpassed the total goals he had in the first two months of the season in March when the Canucks needed to start winning games in order to keep playoff hopes alive. He now has nine goals and 29 points in 34 games this season.
Second Star: Bo Horvat
Bo Horvat led the Canucks in points through March with five goals and 11 points. The captain played his best hockey since the first 11 games of the season, when he also posted five goals and 11 points. He struggled to consistently produce in February, as he scored four goals but only posted five points in 13 games. The team played poorly in February, so it was important for the captain to step up and help lead the club in March.
Horvat has 14 goals and 27 points through 37 games this season. In an 82 game regular season, he would be on pace to scoring a career-high 31 goals and posting 60 points, which would be the second-highest total of his career.
First Star: Thatcher Demko
In February’s edition of the Three Stars of the Month, I predicted Thatcher Demko would have an impressive month of March, and he did exactly that. In the last three games of February, he posted a .924 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.40 goals-against average (GAA) but lost all three games due to a lack of goal support.
In March, he posted a .937 SV% and had a 2.15 GAA, while posting an impressive 8-3-0 record. He started March off hot, winning three games, posting a 1.00 GAA, a .969 SV%, and a shutout, which led to him being named the second star of the week.
Demko is on pace to start the most games in his career this season. Last season was his first as a backup, and he started in 25 games, posting a .905 SV% and a 3.06 GAA. This season, he has already started in 25 games and has posted a .917 SV% and a 2.77 GAA. Demko showed signs of playing at an elite level in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs through three games against the Vegas Golden Knights when he allowed two goals on 125 shots.
To cap off the incredible month of March, Demko signed a five-year, $25 million extension.
April Starting Off Poorly
The Canucks played well in March, but near the end of the month, the team started to cool down. They were dominated in the final two games against the Jets. April is another important month for the Canucks to keep their playoff hopes alive. So far, they’ve had a tough start.
Their final game of March against the Calgary Flames was postponed, as well as their first three games of April due to COVID-19. There has been a reported eight players and one staff member who have tested positive. Adam Gaudette and Travis Hamonic were listed on the NHL’s Covid protocols list.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.