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HSH’s Canucks Scouting Report (Pro-Con-Clusion #10): Demko dialed in as offence sputters

Harsunder breaks down the best and worst of the last 2 Canucks games as well as a concluding thought in his 10th feature of the Pro-Con-Clusion series.

NHL: NOV 24 Canucks at Penguins
Thatcher Demko #35 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on in the third period during the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG PAINTS Arena on November 24, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Photo by Justin Berl/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There is not much that needs to be said to put the Canucks current state into perspective. With just 6 wins in the first 20 games, the Canucks find themselves with just 14 points, putting them at 27th in the league with a quarter of the season in the books.

This is just completely unacceptable especially when you consider the fact that management was intending to go all-in with this roster.

At this rate, the Canucks would have to get at least 39 wins in their remaining 62 games to hit 92 points and have any chance at all of making the playoffs. Regardless, the chances of that happening seem next to none.

The coach seems to have lost the room, the players don’t seem to be on the same page, and the team is just not clicking on any cylinders at all right now. However, there was one specific bright spot that stuck out on this Canucks team over the last couple of games.

Pro: Demko keeps giving the team a chance

Where would this team be right now without Thatcher Demko?

With one of the worst, if not the worst, defense cores in the whole league, the Canucks find themselves relying on Thatcher Demko way more often than they should. It is fair to assume that the Canucks wouldn’t have had half of their 6 wins had it not been for the stellar play of Demko stealing 3 of those games for the team.

Demko gave the Canucks a fighting chance in both of the last 2 games as well, however the struggling Canucks couldn’t get anything done to reward the San Diego native’s hard work.

In a close tilt against the Blackhawks on Sunday, Demko posted a .958 save percentage turning aside 23 of the 24 shots he faced. However, the Canucks couldn’t get anything past Marc-Andre Fleury at the other end and they ended up losing the game 1-0 as a result.

Last night on the other hand, while Demko did give up 3 goals, but he turned aside 33 shots which allowed the Canucks to at least have a chance until the Penguins sealed the deal with an empty netter.

While the 25-year-old has been doing his work between the pipes on a consistent basis, the team hasn’t been able to provide him with any scoring help. This is perhaps the main reason why this team finds itself where they currently are in the standings.

In fact, this also brings us to the main con for this team over the last 2 games, the lack of offense.

Vancouver Canucks v Pittsburgh Penguins
Tristan Jarry #35 of the Pittsburgh Penguins makes a save in front of J.T. Miller #9 and Tyler Myers #57 of the Vancouver Canucks at PPG PAINTS Arena on November 24, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Con: Where is the scoring?

Many people would argue that the weakest point on this Canucks team is the defense and that is not wrong by any means. However, the factor that has cost the Canucks the most as of late has been their lack of offense.

There is really no way you can win games in any league if you score just 1 goal in 2 games, let alone the National Hockey League. There is no doubt that the Canucks have been getting their chances, as the team has had a combined total of 77 shots over these last 2 games. So why exactly is this team not scoring?

Last night in particular, the Canucks were just throwing a bunch of floaters towards the net from non-threatening areas that either got turned aside with ease or swallowed up by the Penguins goaltender, Tristan Jarry. The Canucks have to get traffic to the front of the net and work the puck towards the dangerous areas to get high octane scoring opportunities and find ways to score more goals.

Most importantly, the biggest factor for the lack of offense from this team does indeed fall back to the quality of their defensive core. This D is not good in transition play, nor do they move the puck up ice quickly. This allows opposing teams to quickly clog up the neutral zone and close any threatening lanes, thus leading to a lack of offensive zone entries.

One can argue that this is an issue with the construction of the defense core itself and not something coaching can solve. That’s true but at this point, the team has to work with what they’ve got.

The Canucks did show an example of this in one instance during the 2nd period last night, as Quinn Hughes was quickly able to move the puck up to Brock Boeser who moved in for a good scoring chance on the right-wing.

The Canucks are clearly going to have to make plays like this more often if they want to get their offense going and have any hope at all of getting back in the hunt this season. As things stand right now, time is this team’s worst enemy.

Vancouver Canucks v Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins poke checks a puck against Vasily Podkolzin #92 of the Vancouver Canucks at PPG PAINTS Arena on November 24, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Concluding thought: The Podkolzin watch continues

As I mentioned in my previous article, it is important to keep an eye on Vasily Podkolzin and his play through these next few games.

There is no denying the fact that the 20-year-old has been getting better each day and he has certainly been gaining the trust of the coaching staff.

Podkolzin’s ice-time has increased, and the big bruising Russian winger has also been getting his opportunities as a result.

Podkolzin had 2 shots on goal against the Blackhawks on Sunday, not including an opportunity he had in the 2nd period where he was able to direct a shot towards the net which ended up hitting the post. In addition to that, Podkolzin had 3 shots on goal in last night’s tilt and he really stood out in a positive manner in almost all of his shifts.

It is seeming very likely at this rate that we can expect a big goal from Podkolzin here right around the corner.