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5 Canucks Thoughts: Mount Highmore and Holtby’s New Groove

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The Canucks might be running out of steam, but Holtby is still grooving.

NHL: APR 22 Senators at Canucks
Vancouver Canucks center Matthew Highmore (15) looks up ice during their NHL game against the Ottawa Senators at Rogers Arena on April 22, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who doesn’t love a good old Sea of Granlunds?

Well, in typical Jim Benning fashion, the Sea of Granlund’s is alive and well in Vancouver once again. In fact, it’s arguably stronger than it’s ever been before.

Here are five thoughts on the Canucks after they’ve come out of their COVID-19 layoff with three wins in five games.

1. A sign of things to come

This was the shot attempts chart in last night’s game.

You could tell that from the Senators’ second goal onwards, the Canucks just didn't look like they had a lot of pushback.

Hell, after a decent first period, the Canucks were basically playing at half speed for the rest of the game.

This is something that we should probably get used to in the final weeks. With no Elias Pettersson and a condensed schedule, things don’t look too promising in the short-term.

2. Highmore stands tall among the Granlunds’

Canucks pro scouting must have been itching to see Matthew Highmore play, because he’s playing more than he’s ever played in his life.

Highmore has averaged 14:48 per game in four games since joining the Canucks. Prior to joining the Canucks, Highmore had never played more than 15 minutes in a game. Even during the bubble playoffs last year, Highmore’s ice time never surpassed 12:30.

The Canucks coaching staff has Highmore on the second penalty-killing unit, which is part of the reason for his surge in ice time.

3. When will one of the Granlunds’ be scratched for Lind?

Enough of the Granlunds...it’s time for Kole Lind.

Could Lind turn out to be another wave in the Sea of Granlunds? Perhaps. But, the Canucks won’t know until they actually get him in some NHL game action.

Not only does he have more potential than the other depth forwards on this team, but right now, he’s likely one of the seven forwards the Canucks would want to protect in the upcoming expansion draft.

The Canucks are likely to protect six forwards: Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller, Tyler Motte and Tanner Pearson

That leaves Kole Lind, Loui Eriksson, Micheal Ferland, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, Jake Virtanen, Zack MacEwen, Jonah Gadjovich and Matthew Highmore vying for a final protection spot.

Who would you protect from that group?

4. When will Hoglander see some power play time?

Low-key, one thing that’s been bothering me has been seeing Tanner Pearson on the top power-play unit instead of Nils Hoglander.

You can understand the logic on the surface. Pearson is the safer player, and the Canucks power play has performed at an admirable 25% since Pettersson exited the lineup in early March.

However, Pearson hasn’t been a major part of that. He has two power play points over that time span, whereas every other member of the first unit has at least four points with the man advantage since Pettersson’s exit.

Also, the power play has gone a little cold of late, with three goals in their last 21 attempts. Maybe it’s time for a shake-up?

Hoglander has seen limited second-unit power play minutes this season, despite being tied for second on this team in even-strength points. It about time the Canucks let him showcase his creativity on the first unit.

5. Holtby goes from overpaid backup to overachieving beauty

If the Canucks do somehow, miraculously make the playoffs, Braden Holtby will likely have something to do with it.

Holtby has been nothing short of terrific since the Canucks returned from their COVID-19 outbreak, posting a .933 save percentage in his last four games.

One stat I love is the “Quality Starts” stat, which gives you an idea of how many good starts a goalie is giving you. The league average is at 53%, but Holtby was near the bottom of the league at 25%, with just three quality starts in 12 appearances.

In his four games since returning, Holtby couldn’t be much better, with four quality starts in four games.

Sick of reading the word “quality?” Blame it on Holtby.