Let’s get some key things out of the way. This series is far from over. 2-2 against the St. Louis Blues is exceeding expectations. And the Canucks could very well come roaring back in game five. Having said all this, there are some notable concerns, and many of them stem from the right wing slots on all four lines. To varying degrees, the club’s four right wingers have caused issues or have not been playing up to par. Different roles, certainly, but if the team is to complete the upset, the right flank on lines one through four needs some major improvements.
In some ways, it may be unfair to Boeser to be overly critical of his play in the series thus far. He ranks second among forwards in individual scoring chances and has demonstrated a high level of hockey sense playing on the Lotto Line with Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller. He hasn’t demonstrated the dynamism or shooting prowess that some expect and he has proven he’s capable of, but his play has not been a major problem either.
Having said that, there needs to be more from Boeser. He has four points on the series, but none in his two most recent contests and no goals to-date. In a series that has come down to top-of-the-lineup talent — Pettersson, Miller, and Bo Horvat for the Canucks, and the likes of Brayden Schenn and Ryan O’Reilly for the Blues — that level of scoring is simply not enough for a top line winger. If the Canucks are to truly reestablish themselves in the series, Boeser will need to a more regular contributor.
Simplicity is key to Loui Eriksson’s game, so the lack of production is to be somewhat expected. To some extent, it’s totally fine that Eriksson does so little offensively, given how much he stabilized that second line. But with zero points in the series to-date, it starts to get concerning. To his credit, he does rank fifth among forwards in CorsiFor% and third in ExpectedGoals, so it is not as if his contributions are nill. But on a second line that does need to be contributing offence, Eriksson needs to find a way to translate these attempts into production. For now, Loui is not the problem, but the lack of bottom line does raise some questions about his viability as the second line winger.
For years and years, many have claimed that all Jake Virtanen needed to break out was a playoff run. It was there that his value would be seen, where he would become the league’s next great power forward and prove himself to be an unstoppable force.
That has not been the case.
Virtanen has not necessarily been an active problem, but has also contributed nothing of great value. Most concerningly, he has no points in the series, He also leads just Jay Beagle in individual Expected Goals and ranks ahead of only Beagle and Brandon Sutter in total shot attempts. He has also contributed next to nothing on a physical level, something fans have been waiting for for years now. Again, Jake Virtanen, in and of himself is not the problem, but his performance has simply not been up to par and it may be fair to sit him in favor of someone like Adam Gaudette in game five.
MacEwen’s play this round has been something of a mixed bag. At times, ‘The Big Fella’ has been an effective forechecker, using his size to win puck battles and wreak havoc in the offensize zone. At others, he’s an adventure on the ice, finding himself out of position and making defensive miscues. The stats are actually paint a fairly respectable picture for MacEwen, with 11 shots and 20 shot attempts in the series’ four games. The question comes down to whether or not the Canucks are comfortable with risk-reward calculation, and if the answer is ‘no’, that is entirely reasonable. This is not an indictment of MacEwen as a player or his very impressive journey to the NHL, but there are times he looks in over his head, and on a fourth line that may need stabilization, he simply does not present as a totally safe option.