The Vancouver Canucks started the month of March by winning three of their first four games. They took on the Winnipeg Jets in back-to-back games before facing off the division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs. Elias Pettersson was out with an injury for both games against the Maple Leafs and is considered day-to-day. Also, Jim Benning held his first press conference in some time this week.
The first game of the week was a 4-0 win over the Jets. The Canucks scored three goals in the first period and got an empty-net goal from Petterson to ice the game. Thatcher Demko was impressive with his first regular-season shutout making 27 saves. The next night the results weren’t the same for the Canucks. They lost 5-2 as Braden Holtby started for his team and posted a .895 save percentage (SV%).
On Thursday night, the Canucks took on the Maple Leafs and pulled off a 3-1 win. Jake Virtanen played his best game of the season as he scored two goals, his second being the game-winner for the team. Bo Horvat had the insurance marker to secure the win.
The Canucks picked up a comeback win against Toronto, beating the team for the second time in a row. The Leafs took a 2-1 into the third period before Horvat tied the game and J.T. Miller scored the game-winner. Nils Hogalnder scored his fifth of the season to give the Canucks a two-goal lead. Miller and Brock Boeser both had a three-point night leading the team to a win over the division leaders.
Boeser’s Bounce Back Season
Boeser posted one goal and five assists through four games last week. With Pettersson out, Boeser stepped up for his team on Saturday night, registering a goal and two assists. He finished the game second on the team in Corsi For % (CF%) with 62.07.
His play throughout the week has been an example of just how good the forward has been for the Canucks this season. Through 28 games this season, he has 13 goals and 28 points. He is three goals away from surpassing his total from last season, which was 16 goals in 28 games. In a regular 82 game schedule, Boeser would be on pace to surpassing his career-high in all three categories.
It is great to see Boeser bounce back this season, especially after the season he had in 2019-20. Not only did he struggle to score goals, but he was involved in trade rumours for most of the season.
Will the Canucks Experiment With New Lines?
With Pettersson out against the Maple Leafs, head coach Travis Green used a few different line combinations. Miller centred Boeser and Hoglander, and the trio was impressive in both games. Although they did not register a point in Thursday’s game, they had a CF% of 66.67, and then on Saturday, they held a CF% of 57.69. On Saturday, they scored three of the team’s four goals and combined for seven points.
Meanwhile, Horvat centred Tanner Pearson and Virtanen. The trio wasn’t great on Saturday night but impressed on Thursday. Virtanen scored the first two goals, and Horvat scored the third, while the line registered a team-leading 66.67 CF%.
When Pettersson returns, Green has the option to create three offensive lines, keeping the two existing lines together. Pettersson could centre the likes of Adam Gaudette, an offensive-minded forward and either Jayce Hawryluk or Tyler Motte, who is set to return soon. Either Green adds a third line with the Swedish forward or changes them to how they were before he was out of the lineup.
Canucks Are Riding Demko
Demko’s shutout on Monday night is an example of how great the goalie has been for the Canucks the past few weeks. He has been impressive in his last eight games, but the team’s record has not.
Most of the losses with Demko in net are due to the lack of goal support he has received from his teammates. Last week his teammates stepped up, helping him win all three games he started.
Demko’s performance over the last few weeks helps with the loss of Jacob Markstrom in the offseason. Markstrom was the team’s MVP and played a big role in the team’s success, but the 25-year-old has done a good job of replacing him lately.
Benning’s Press Conference
Benning held his first press conference since the start of the regular season. Benning answered questions regarding the team’s future. He said the club is prioritizing re-signing Pearson, one of their most valuable trade assets, while waiting to extend Pettersson and Hughes until after the trade deadline.
The press conference didn’t help the organization with the situation they are in. Benning is taking things day-to-day and likely won’t attempt to make any moves until they are close to the trade deadline. The strategy is risky for Benning and the Canucks, as waiting till the trade deadline gives them less time to make deals. Also, holding on to Pearson means the team will be missing out on adding a prospect or a draft pick.
Benning discussed other topics, such as keeping Green on board for the rest of the season and the club being two years away from competing against the best teams in the league.
Canucks Look to Win Against Montreal
The Canucks play the Montreal Canadiens twice and finish the week off with a game against the Edmonton Oilers. The Canucks have only beaten Montreal once in five games this season. They picked up two wins over the Maple Leafs and will hope to continue the momentum into their matchup this week.
Brock Boeser – one goal, five assists
J.T. Miller – three goals, two assists
Thatcher Demko – three wins, .969 SV%, 1.00 GAA
- March 8th – vs. Montreal Canadiens
- March 10th – vs. Montreal Canadiens
- March 13th – vs. Edmonton Oilers
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.