Now that the Canucks have a day off from playing hockey, it’s time to get my thots in order.
From thots to anchors, here are right early-season observations after the Vancouver Canucks split their two-game series with the Edmonton Oilers.
Tater Thot Motte
Sippin’ on a 40 host Kyle Bhawan called it in the Nucks Misconduct group chat about 30 minutes into the season.
Sure enough, Motte found himself playing with Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson by the second period of last night’s game.
He seemingly found himself all over the line-up last night during stretches of play. That drive and tenacity that he showcased in the playoffs were evident again last night, and he was rewarded with a goal.
There were rumblings during the offseason about how Motte could sneak into the top-nine. Because of how hard he works, he might find himself earning temporary promotions throughout the season when someone higher up the depth chart isn’t skating hard enough.
Jake the Anchor
Speaking of guys who aren’t skating hard enough, Motte’s promotion came at the expense of Jake the Anchor.
In fairness, there’s a high-bar for Virtanen while playing on that top line. JT Miller was arguably the Canucks best skater last season, so the Abbotsford native is truly filling some big boy skates.
However, the trio of Virtanen, Boeser and Pettersson just hasn’t worked through the Canucks first two games. Pettersson’s line couldn’t escape their match-up against Connor McDavid, Zack Kassian and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and although the Canucks were the better five-on-five team through two games, they handily lost the possession battle with Pettersson, Boeser and Virtanen on the ice.
It looks like the Canucks might have to make do without Miller for another six games. I doubt that Jake keeps his spot on the top line for the entirety of that stretch.
The literal coach of the Vancouver #Canucks on why he took Virtanen off the top line: "The line just wasn't doing anything. Weren't playing well, couldn't get away from the matchup easy"— Cody Taxivertsquad (@CodySevertson) January 15, 2021
Virtruthers: "Ok but hear me out....maybe it's because _____."
Olli Juolevi is an NHL defenceman.
There have been a couple “welcome to the NHL” moments. Leon Draisaitl driving around Juolevi for a high-danger scoring chance during the first game of the season comes to mind.
That being said, he’s patient with the puck, and he makes smart reads on most of his plays. It’s early, but the fact that he has the intelligence and wherewithal to make the right play is a positive sign moving forward.
Quinn Hughes the Pugilist
Don’t F with Quinn Hughes.
With the Canucks and Oilers set to play eight (!!!!) more times this season, you better let the opposition know when they’ve crossed the line.
Edler needs Schmidt
As the longest-tenured Canuck, we all know the good and bad in Edler’s game.
At this stage of his career, he needs to play with someone who can skate. That’s why he’s looked good next to Nate Schmidt through the first two games.
However, Edler and Myers were paired up temporarily last night with the Canucks trailing, and the results weren’t great. The hulking pair weren’t on the ice for a shot attempt together, and they allowed eight shot attempts as a pair.
Simply put, despite Edler’s defensive proficiency, it’s hard to trust him at this point in his career with someone that can’t skate like the wind.
Thatch is just fine
You never want to see a goalie give up five goals, but McDavid is going to get the better of teams more than once this season — especially if your city is talking shit about him.
The Oilers had a lethal power play, and they got the better scoring chances on the night in transition. Demko faced some tough shots, and still managed to make 41 saves in the loss.
Demko was under siege vs Vegas last time he played in Edmonton, but not sure he faced as many Grade-As as what Canucks have given Oilers in 35 mins tonight.— Iain MacIntyre (@imacSportsnet) January 15, 2021
Gettin’ Hoggy with it
The biggest story through the Canucks first two games has been the Nils Hoglander development.
We’ve all heard about his rock solid training camp, but seeing the rookie in action has solidified all of those rumblings.
He’s looked like a seamless fit on the second line, and he hasn’t looked out of place on the first power play unit either. Hoglander’s creativity with the puck is evident, and he’s incredibly tough to knock off his skates.
I thought even in last night’s contest, although his turnover led to the Oilers fifth goal, that he was the most noticeable Canuck in the third period while the team was trailing.
In the (way, way, WAY too early) Calder Trophy Race, Hoglander is second only trailing Kiril Kaprizov of the Minnesota Wild.
Kirill Kaprizov with a steal and breakaway winner in OT for the Wild pic.twitter.com/sVphLymWMv— CJ Fogler 6'7" IQ 269 #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) January 15, 2021
Canucks are still better than Edmonton
After two games in a bizarre season where there were no preseason games, I can confidently say that the Canucks are better than the Edmonton Oilers.
Everything we know about the Oilers is still true. They are basically a two-player team with a dangerous power play and no defence. Mikko Koskinen is the true X-Factor for this Oilers team, especially with Mike Smith as the back-up.
This isn’t necessarily glowing praise for the Canucks. They still gave up way too many glorious scoring chances to the Oilers, especially in Thursday night’s game.
That being said, they were the stronger possession team on both nights, and it wasn't hard to get chances against Koskinen. If the Oilers keep playing as permissively as they did against the Canucks, they should be a longshot to make the playoffs, and I would feel good about picking Vancouver to finish ahead of them in the standings.