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HSH’s Canucks Scouting Report (Pro-Con-Clusion #4): Core players cold as ice

Harsunder breaks down the best and worst of the last 2 Canucks as well as a concluding thought in his 4th feature of the Pro-Con-Clusion series

Philadelphia Flyers v Vancouver Canucks
J.T. Miller #9 and Brock Boeser #6 of the Vancouver Canucks study a play on an iPad during their NHL game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Rogers Arena October 28, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Philadelphia won 2-1.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Picture this, you have a team with a young core in place and an offense that is destined for greatness. That is the case of the Canucks as they currently have 7 potential 20 goal scorers in their forward group as well as a couple of offensive dynamos on the backend in Quinn Hughes and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

However, imagine that the biggest issue hampering such a team’s success is scoring problems. That is also exactly what this Canucks roster is currently going through. With just 3 goals in the last 2 games, the Canucks just can’t seem to find a way to ripple the mesh, especially at even strength.

This team’s struggles defensively have been well documented ever since 2015 and there is no doubt that the current Canucks D-core is constructed similar to that of a team in the midst of a rebuild. However, the 2 factors that make the Canucks a logical bet to make the playoffs are the team’s elite play between the pipes, as well as the offensive talent in the top 9.

With 10% of the season in the books already, the Canucks have indeed been getting the goaltending that was expected from them, largely due to the stellar play of Thatcher Demko between the pipes. However, the offensive inconsistencies, as well as the recent lack of scoring, have really dragged this team down.

One could argue that this could be an issue of the team still trying to develop chemistry

Otherwise, the team could very well end up failing to make the post-season for the 6th time in 7 seasons. For a market and a city that has been starving for the Canucks to have any success for almost a decade, another subpar season would (theoretically) significantly decrease fan interest.

With that said, let’s take a look at 1 pro and 1 con from the last couple of Canucks games as well as a concluding thought before the Canucks aim to turn around their current homestand.

Philadelphia Flyers v Vancouver Canucks
Justin Bailey #95 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench before their NHL game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Rogers Arena October 28, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Pro: Justing Bailey is gunning for your job

If there was one positive from the last 2 games that was particularly noticeable, it was the determined and tenacious play of Justin Bailey.

Called up on Tuesday to replace the injured Jason Dickinson and Justin Dowling in the bottom-six, the 26-year-old Buffalo native came in after posting 6 points in just 5 games playing for Abbotsford. Bailey found himself sitting at 3rd in AHL scoring at the time of his call-up.

Without a doubt, Bailey has done absolutely everything the coaching staff wanted from him over these last couple of games. Playing an average of just under 11 minutes each night, Bailey has been used all over the ice in various different situations. Whether it be killing penalties in the defensive zone, or creating opportunities and wreaking havoc in the offensive zone, Bailey has been clicking on all cylinders.

He is also been a decent physical presence for the Canucks, pressuring defenders on the forecheck and finishing his checks. For a team that has really struggled in this department over the last few years, Bailey is a welcome addition to create an element of fear in the minds of opposing teams as well as serve as a security blanket for the younger players in the lineup.

NHL: OCT 28 Flyers at Canucks
Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Martin Jones (35) makes a save on Vancouver Canucks right wing Brock Boeser (6) during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on October 28, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Con: Too many cold streaks in the top 9

Eight games into this young season, there is no denying the fact that the biggest Achilles heel for the Canucks has been the mediocre play of their top offensive weapons and scorers.

With just 3 points up on the board this season and with only 1 assist coming at even-strength, Elias Pettersson is at the top of the chart as far as disappointing players go. Not only has Pettersson been unable to produce any type of offense at 5-on-5 this season, but he has also failed to create opportunities for himself as well as his linemates. He has been hesitating to shoot the puck and he has also mishandled or bobbled the puck a plethora of times which immediately neutralizes any type of offensive pressure or opportunity.

That said, Pettersson is an elite player who has ice in his veins and the IQ for controlling the game. Numerous players have gone through cold streaks early on in their careers, including current Canucks captain Bo Horvat, who once went almost 3 months without finding the back of the net during his sophomore season in 2015-16. However, players of Pettersson’s caliber undoubtedly have the determination as well as the willpower to snap out of these droughts, and once they do the sky is the only limit from there.

In addition to Pettersson, a big thorn at the Canucks’ side has been the lackluster play of the lotto line as a whole. Both JT Miller and Brock Boeser have each scored just 1 goal this season, with only Miller’s tally coming in at 5-on-5. This also happened to be the goal on which Pettersson had his only even-strength point this season. The lack of results from the Canucks top 9 can’t be blamed solely on 1 player, but rather it has been the sub-par play of numerous players who are expected to drive offense and control the play. This has also been significantly impacting the power-play, a department in which the Canucks went 0 for 5 in their last game against the Flyers.

Furthermore, Nils Hoglander has also been unable to ripple the mesh so far this season. There is no shortage of expectations from the Swedish sophomore, however, Hoglander’s lack of production is yet another factor that has been preventing the Canucks from finding the back of the net on a consistent basis.

Collectively, all of these players would need to get going in order to spark the team’s offense and help the Canucks get back to winning ways. If players like Pettersson, Boeser, Miller, and Hoglander can get back to form, nothing can stop the Canucks from scoring consistently and in large numbers, particularly with the quality of offensive weapons they have in the top 9 of their forward group.

Philadelphia Flyers v Vancouver Canucks
Quinn Hughes #43 of the Vancouver Canucks skates to the bench after scoring on the Philadelphia Flyers during their NHL game at Rogers Arena October 28, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Philadelphia won 2-1.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Concluding thought: Is there a perfect response in the making?

Having failed in basically every aspect over the last couple of games, you can bet the Canucks will be looking for the perfect counter-punch in their next game on Saturday night. The contest will certainly not be an easy one, as the division-leading Edmonton Oilers come into town for their second meeting with the Canucks this season.

It is important to recognize that the Canucks have had another set of 2 consecutive games where they had a poor showing this year. These were a couple of games in the midst of a 6 game road trip, in which the Canucks took on the Detroit Red Wings and the Buffalo Sabres. Despite being the better team on paper, the Canucks ended up dropping a close affair with the Red Wings while being pummeled by the Sabres in the next game.

Determined to get back on track, the Canucks had the perfect response in their next game, winning 4-1 against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Windy City. It is imperative that the Canucks have such a response against the Oilers on Saturday after 2 similar losses over their last couple of games. A win against the Oilers would significantly increase the confidence of the core players as well as boost the team’s overall morale as they continue with this 7 game homestand.

What do you think Canucks fans? Do you think the Canucks would have a fitting response to their previous 2 losses in their next game? Do you think the core players would snap out of their cold streaks in this Western Canadian showdown? Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below!