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HSH’s Canucks Scouting Report (Pro-Con-Clusion #18): The 4th line continues its strong play

Harsunder breaks down the best and worst of the last 2 Canucks games as well as a concluding thought in his 18th feature of the Pro-Con-Clusion series.

Vancouver Canucks v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

With the 2 games in Florida against the Panthers and Lightning in the books, the Canucks find themselves back below the .500 threshold after suffering losses in both these contests.

On Tuesday, the league-leading Florida Panthers capitalized on a hot start and were able to defeat the Canucks 5-2. The loss also happened to be the team’s first regulation defeat with Bruce Boudreau behind the bench.

After losing to the Panthers, the Canucks hit the ice again on Thursday for a challenging tilt against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Despite the fact that the Canucks controlled the play for most of the game, they failed to capitalize on many of their opportunities and ended up losing the contest 4-2.

Keep in mind though that the Canucks did outwork their opponent in both these games and that is certainly not an easy task to do considering the teams they were up against.

On Tuesday, the Canucks put up the most shots that they had ever put on goal in any game so far this season, as they outshot the Panthers 44-26. This was followed up by a performance on Thursday night where the team outshot the Lightning 26-20.

However, what matters at the end of the day are the results, and the lack of offense as well as goaltending in the last 2 games have certainly not helped the Canucks playoffs chances.

With that, let’s take a look at 1 pro and 1 con, as well as a concluding thought before the Canucks play the 3rd game of this 5-game homestand when they take on the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.

Pro: The 4th line continues to impress

In my previous article, I analyzed the play of the Canucks 4th line as of late and how they’ve been so impressive ever since the return of Matthew Highmore. That strong play continued in this Florida trip, as the duo of Tyler Motte, Juho Lammiko, and Matthew Highmore was arguably the best line for the Canucks in these last 2 games.

All 3 players on this line have shown a knack for really being strong on the forecheck and they showed that on numerous occasions in these couple of games. Particularly, this line’s play along the boards has been something to really be proud about.

This duo was able to generate one of the 2 Canucks goals against Florida on Tuesday as former Panther, Juho Lammiko, was able to backhand the puck into an open net for his second goal of the season.

Following that up, the 4th line was the only source of production for the Canucks in their game against the defending Stanley Cup champions on Thursday.

After a strong shift in the offensive zone, Matthew Highmore was able to free up the puck in the slot and pick the top corner on Andrei Vasilevskey to tie the game at 1. The goal also happened to be Highmore’s 1st of the season in his 12th game on the campaign.

Late in the 3rd period, with the Canucks trailing 3-1, the 4th line was able to strike again and inject some life into the team.

After a strong battle along the boards by Lammiko and Highmore, Tyler Motte was able to free up the puck and score an absolutely jaw-dropping goal to put the Canucks within 1. After finding the puck beside the net, Motte quickly went between the legs and roofed the puck top shelf from behind the goal line.

The goal happened to be Motte’s 2nd goal in his last 3 games and his 4th tally of the season.

In total, the 4th line has come together for 4 goals in the last 3 games. However, it would be nice if the top offensive guys can start producing as well and help the team collect some points in their pursuit of getting back in a playoff spot.

Con: Power-play shakeup required?

After Bruce Boudreau took over from Travis Green in the first week of December, one area where the Canucks immediately started getting results was special teams.

Coming into these 2 games in Florida, the Canucks had scored 7 power-play goals in 9 games since the coaching change and their penalty killing was operating at above 80%.

In these last 2 games, however, the Canucks have not given up a power-play goal in each contest, but their own man-advantage has been absolutely awful.

On Tuesday against the Panthers, the Canucks went 0 for 3 on the man advantage and missed some crucial opportunities to get back into the game. However, the real turning point in regards to the power-play was the Canucks performance on the man advantage against the Lightning on Thursday.

Despite getting 4 opportunities on the man advantage, the Canucks were only able to generate 1 shot on goal and they were passing up many opportunities to get the puck into the dangerous area.

One of the things that we saw immediately after Boudreau’s arrival which in fact served as the prime catalyst for the success of the Canucks power-play was the even distribution of skill between the 2 units.

In the first few games under the veteran bench boss, we often saw Boeser and Miller patrolling one unit, while Horvat and Pettersson patrolled the other. Perhaps it’s time the Canucks resort back to this setup and see if they get similar results again.

Also, it may be time for the team to also try Oliver Ekman-Larsson on the top pairing for the next few games. If there is one thing that OEL has shown he can consistently do ever since he came over to the Canucks, it is the fact that he has a tendency of always getting the puck on the net.

With the number of shots that the Canucks have blocked with Quinn Hughes quarterbacking the power-play, perhaps it's time to give OEL the bulk of the minutes on the man advantage?

Concluding Thought: How does Demko respond after 2 subpar performances?

It is fair to argue that if there is one prime factor that has allowed the Canucks to get back into the playoff race this season, it has been the impressive and consistent play of Thatcher Demko. However, the last 2 games were definitely ones the 26-year-old goaltender would love to have back.

On Tuesday against the Panthers, Demko gave up 5 goals on 26 shots and he followed that up by giving up 3 goals on 20 shots against the Lightning on Thursday.

The Canucks play a back-to-back this weekend with Demko likely to get the start against the Hurricanes on Saturday. It will interesting to see if the San Diego native would be able to rebound against Carolina this weekend and give us one of those “Bubble Demko” performances that we’ve become so accustomed to seeing.

So what do you think Canucks fans? What changes would you like for the team to make on the Power-play? Do you think Demko would be able to find his groove again against the Hurricanes? Let me know in the comments down below!