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HSH’s Canucks Scouting Report (Pro-Con-Clusion #5): Conor Garland is a difference-maker

Harsunder breaks down the best and worst of the last 2 Canucks games as well as a concluding thought in his 5th feature of the Pro-Con-Clusion series

Edmonton Oilers v Vancouver Canucks
Conor Garland currently leads all Canucks with 11 points in 10 games.
Getty Images

The last couple of Vancouver Canucks’ game have been uneventful. At least, that was the case until the 3rd period of Tuesday night’s game against the New York Rangers.

After having a disappointing result against the Oilers on Saturday, the Canucks came into the 4th game of this 7 game homestand just looking to give their fans something to cheer about.

However, with a team that has been totally snake bitten as of late when it comes down to creating opportunities and scoring goals, the Canucks found themselves down 2-0 after 40. To make matters worse, they were facing a strong and very steep uphill battle with one of the best goalies in the league between the pipes in Igor Shesterkin.

It was clear that if the Canucks hoped to salvage anything out of this game at all, someone obviously had to take charge to spark the offense. Fortunately, that charge was taken and it came from an offseason acquisition who has been one of the most pleasant surprises for the Canucks in this young NHL season.

With that said, let’s take a thorough look at 1 pro and 1 con from the last 2 games, as well as a concluding thought before the Canucks next tilt which is against the Predators on Friday night.

NHL: NOV 02 Rangers at Canucks
Vancouver Canucks right wing Conor Garland (8) looks up ice during their NHL game against the New York Rangers at Rogers Arena on November 2, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pro: Conor Garland leading by example

If there is one thing that the Massachusetts native has proven during 10 games with the Canucks, it’s that he knows how to lead by example.

Coming into the 3rd period of last night’s game down 2-0 and having scored just 4 goals in the previous 3 games, the Canucks needed a major spark if they wanted to get back into the winning column. Fortunately, as he has done on numerous occasions already this season, Conor Garland led the charge and finally brought life to a dead silent Rogers Arena.

After taking a pass from Elias Pettersson in the corner, Garland wasted no time setting up JT Miller for a goal right from the crease. The former Ranger’s tally was a big sigh of relief for everyone in Canucks Nation and it was the quick play of Conor Garland which got the comeback started early in the 3rd period.

A few shifts later, Garland was at it again, taking a feed from Tyler Myers behind the net and wasting no time putting the frozen biscuit on a streaking Podkolzin’s stick in the slot. From a very dangerous area on the ice just a few feet away from the net, the 20-year-old didn’t hesitate and fired a one-timer over the shoulder of fellow Russian Igor Shesterkin to bring the Canucks back to even terms.

In addition to the 2 assists which brought the Canucks back into a tie game, Garland had no problems creating opportunities of his own. While on the powerplay in the 1st period, Garland sniped a laser top corner which went hard off the crossbar and back out the other side. Garland was all over the ice throughout the duration of this game and caused a plethora of problems for the Rangers' defense on the forecheck as well as creating scoring chances in the offensive zone.

While the results didn’t come against the Oilers, Garland was heavily involved in that game as well. There is no doubt that the Canucks will continue to lean on him to lead the offense, especially with other star players on this team struggling.

Edmonton Oilers v Vancouver Canucks
Quinn Hughes #43 and Elias Pettersson #40 look on after Brock Boeser #6 of the Vancouver Canucks scored his 100th goal against the Edmonton Oilers during their NHL game at Rogers Arena October 30, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Edmonton won 2-1.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Con: No special in special teams

Good special teams are crucial to a team’s overall success.

Take the 2010-11 Vancouver Canucks as a primary example. A team that was at the top of the league in both the powerplay as well as the penalty kill, it is not hard to recognize why that particular team racked up so many wins. They took advantage of special teams in every single game throughout the season, which is what ultimately propelled them to 1st place in the standings and to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

As far as this season is concerned however, the Canucks have unfortunately been way on the other end of the spectrum in both these aspects of special teams. Struggling is just putting it mildly, but over the last 2 games, the Canucks have only killed off 3 of their 7 penalties while going 0 for 7 on the powerplay themselves.

At 15.8% on the man advantage this season, the Canucks find themselves sitting at 23rd in the league. Furthermore, with a mediocre penalty-killing rate of just 70%, the Canucks find themselves at 28th.

If the Canucks hope to build off their win last night and start climbing the standings, they would definitely have to work on correcting their powerplay as well as their penalty-kill. 10 games into the season, special teams appear to be the Achilles heel of the Canucks so far, which is just unacceptable for a team desperate to get back into the playoffs after just 1 post-season appearance in the last 6 years.

NHL: NOV 02 Rangers at Canucks
New York Rangers center Ryan Strome (16) defends against Vancouver Canucks left wing Nils Hoglander (21) during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on November 2, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Concluding thought: Is Nils Hoglander due to breakout?

With no goals in 10 games so far this season, it is safe to say that Nils Hoglander is going through, what many people would consider, a bit of a sophomore slump right now. However, it is imperative to recognize that the 20-year-old has been creating opportunities for himself over the last few games and has been getting very close to rippling the mesh.

Finally getting back in the win column would certainly create some positive vibes in the Canucks’ dressing room. Add to that the excitement of playing in front of his parents, it is fair to expect that Hoglander would put his first tally for this season on the scoreboard very soon.

What do you think Canucks fans? Do you think the Canucks would improve their play on special teams as they enter the second half of this 7 game homestand? Are you expecting a big game from Nils Hoglander just around the corner? Feel free to let me know in the comments down below!