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HSH’s Canucks Scouting Report (Pro-Con-Clusion #19): Captain leading by example as PK woes re-emerge

Harsunder breaks down the best and worst of the last 2 Canucks games as well as a concluding thought in his 19th feature of the Pro-Con-Clusion series.

Vancouver Canucks v Carolina Hurricanes
Bo Horvat #53 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period of an NHL game on January 15, 2022 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

After getting the split in their last 2 games, the Canucks find themselves sitting a game below .500 and right around a Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.

On Saturday, the Canucks took to the ice in Raleigh to play the Carolina Hurricanes. The team’s effort against the Canes was rather lackluster, as the Canucks ended up being outworked and gave up plenty of high-octane scoring chances in a game they ended up dropping 4-1.

The loss extended the team’s losing streak to 3 games and put the Canucks at 0-3-0 for this challenging 5-game road trip.

Less than 24 hours after leaving the ice in Raleigh, the Canucks were in D.C to play the Washington Capitals for the first time since November 23, 2019. Jaroslav Halak likely would have gotten the start, but Thatcher Demko ended up playing in the second game of back-to-backs after the Slovak netminder was put in COVID protocol. Conor Garland was also unable to suit up on Sunday after entering protocol.

Thankfully, Demko held his ground on Sunday, turning aside 31 of the 33 shots. Demko’s performance was a big catalyst in helping Vancouver maintain control of the game, as the Canucks, led by 2 goals from Elias Pettersson, were able to secure a 4-2 win over the Caps and put an end to their 3-game losing skid.

With that, let’s take a look at 1 pro and 1 con, as well as a concluding thought before the Canucks take to the ice against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, as they look to end this road trip with consecutive victories.

Pro: Bo Captain my captain

In his post-game press conference after the win against the Capitals, Bruce Boudreau emphasized the fact that the Canucks don’t have many natural goal scorers in their lineup and they need their top offensive weapons to consistently step up to the plate.

That is exactly what Horvat did over the last 2 games.

On Saturday against the Hurricanes, Horvat had 5 shots on goal and finished the game at over 65% in the faceoff dot. The 26-year-old had the team’s only goal in the game and was arguably the Canucks best player at both ends of the ice.

After a strong performance against the Hurricanes, Horvat started right where he left off against the Capitals on Sunday, as he was able to strike on the power-play for his team-leading 13th goal of the season.

The goal happened to be Vancouver’s 2nd power-play marker of the game, and it stood as the game-winner as the Canucks held off the Capitals 4-2. In addition to that, Horvat also had an assist on Elias Pettersson’s first goal of the game and finished the contest with a +1 rating.

The production from Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson in their most recent game is a welcome sign for the Canucks, as they continue their pursuit of a playoff spot in the West with nearly half the season in the books.

Con: Déjà vu for the Penalty Kill

Ever since Bruce Boudreau took over as the Canucks bench boss, one aspect the Canucks really improved in was their shorthanded play.

In 9 games under Bruce Boudreau before Tuesday against the Panthers, the Canucks had a penalty-killing percentage of 89.5%, a significant improvement from the 64.6% rate they had under Travis Green.

However, ever since the start of this road trip, the Canucks have given up power-play goals in 4 straight games.

The Canucks went 0 for 2 on the penalty kill against the Caps on Sunday. During 10 penalty-killing situations, they’ve given up 5 power play goals in their last 4 games.

Perhaps one of the biggest issues regarding the Canucks recent shorthanded problems has been the inability of the penalty killers to cover the biggest threat on opposing powerplays.

For instance, on Thursday against the Lightning, the Canucks left Steven Stamkos isolated on the left flank with plenty of room to blast the puck past Thatcher Demko. Considering the fact that Stamkos is a natural goal-scorer and one of the best offensive players in the league, it is imperative that the penalty killers shouldn’t give him, or any other players of his caliber, any room to tee up a shot from the dangerous areas.

The Canucks repeated this same mistake during their last two games as well. On Saturday the penalty killers left Sebastian Aho open in the bumper position, which gave the Finnish product enough time to pick the corner on Thatcher Demko and give the Hurricanes the lead.

Furthermore, on Sunday against the Caps, the Canucks gave Alex Ovechkin the room he needed to let go of his renowned slapshot from just outside the faceoff dot. As we have seen on numerous occasions, “The Great 8” doesn’t miss many of his opportunities. He made the Canucks pay on this particular occasion, as he was able to blow the puck past Thatcher Demko for the 756th goal of his impressive career.

If the Canucks are to bump the slump as far as their penalty killing is concerned, it is extremely important that they identify the most dangerous shooter on opposing powerplays and make sure that they don’t give that player any room to get anything on net. Doing so would be extremely beneficial for the Canucks and would certainly help the team successfully kill off many more penalties compared to how many they’ve been killing in this road trip by far.

Concluding thought: Will Pettersson have another strong game on Tuesday?

With nearly half of the season completed, there is no denying the fact that the production or lack of production rather from Elias Pettersson has been quite disappointing. However, there are a couple of reasons to be optimistic about EP40 and how he might perform down the line.

First of all, Pettersson had his first multi-goal game in nearly a year on Sunday, as he was able to ripple the mesh on two occasions under 10 minutes apart against the Caps, picking up his 7th and 8th goals of the season. Furthermore, if there is one team that you know Pettersson loves playing, it is the Canucks’ next opponent, the Nashville Predators.

In 7 games against the Predators in his career, Pettersson has 10 points, which includes 4 goals, with one of them being a game-winner in 2019.

It will be interesting to see if Pettersson can build upon his play against the Caps and have yet another strong performance against the Predators on Tuesday evening.

So what do you think Canucks fans? Do you think the Canucks would be able to fix their penalty killing woes soon? Does EP40 have another strong outing against the Predators? Let me know in the comments down below!