If anything’s surprising about the Vancouver Canucks after one week, it was being shut out by the Calgary Flames in their second game. Not because Calgary’s particularly bad defensively, they’re not, but because Vancouver scored 31 times in eight pre-season games. Once the season started, though, they were reduced to just two goals against the Edmonton Oilers.
They are also 0-10 on the powerplay despite new acquisitions targeting exactly that. One goal was scored shortly after the extra-man advantage expired, but one-for-ten isn’t much better.
Vancouver’s superstar-to-be Elias Pettersson has been frustrated this year and looks it. He’s come back stronger and more determined to make last season’s modest second-half points total an aberration. But he hasn’t been able to produce out of the gate and is shouldering the weight of the team’s two losses. The young man shouldn’t, of course: this is just the next stage in his NHL education. He has to use the attention he’s getting now to open space for other players.
He also has to learn to relax on the ice. It’s difficult to think when you’re angry, and thinking the game is what he does best. He doesn’t need to lead the Canucks after one week, and opponents are determined to see he doesn’t. No doubt he’ll get through it, but fans hope it will be sooner rather than later.
The Canucks defensive play hasn’t been flawless. But it has worked well enough for a team that has changed half of their starters in one off-season. As mentioned in previews, Vancouver has had difficulty in getting scoring from their blue line for years. This season features two offensive pairs getting the bulk of ice time, with Jamie Benn and Troy Stecher being very limited. They are getting just half the ice time of the Alexander Edler – Tyler Myers and Quinn Hughes – Chris Tanev pairs.
That will change as the forwards get in sync and start producing more, but not until they start getting leads. When the team needs offence, Benn and Stecher won’t be the top choices.
Edler, Myers, and Hughes are getting the bulk of power-play time, with neither Tanev nor Benn seeing a second. Those three are getting their chances, totaling 18 shots so far. It was expected at the season opener, but if they continue to draw blanks one of the others will get their chance.
Steady As She Goals
It may be another ten days before we see Jacob Markstrom backing up Thatcher Demko. The Canucks’ schedule is very soft to start the year, with just one back-to-back in October. Markstrom is not a game thief, but is a decent starter and has been for a few years. That looks like it’s continuing, so until there’s a reason to replace him, he’ll continue getting the starts.
Unfamiliarity Breeds Incompetence
A big reason for the offensive misfires is that they line combinations haven’t had much time together. Brock Boeser held out at the beginning of the pre-season and Micheal Ferland was very sick at the end. Boeser also sustained a concussion in his lone preseason game against the Ottawa Senators.
Given the first line is Boeser – Pettersson – Ferland you can see how they would lack ice time together. Those three players have managed 14 total shots in their opening matches. Compare that to the line of Tanner Pearson – Bo Horvat – J.T. Miller with 19 shots in the same two games.
The real damning evidence is the three too many men penalties. Bench minors like that are generally the result of miscommunication in one way or another. That will tighten up as the month goes on, likely that same time goals start going in. The Canucks after one week are relatively fortunate, given how many other teams have had major injuries already.
The Canucks have their home opener on the 10th against one of the bottom teams in the league. There have been two misses against Pacific Division opponents already. If they don’t get two points against the Los Angeles Kings, changes could happen. Certainly more dramatic than Miller and Ferland switching lines, for instance.