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3 Silver Linings for the Lowly Canucks

Let’s start the week off right.

Anaheim Ducks v Vancouver Canucks
Andrei Kuzmenko #96 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates after scoring a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the third period of their NHL game at Rogers Arena on November 3, 2022 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 8-5.
Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images

Can we start the week off with some good vibes?

Because almost everything about the way the Vancouver Canucks have started the season has been — to put it eloquently — barf-worthy.

On Saturday night against the Nashville Predators, the Canucks teased us through 20 minutes with an absolutely dominant period as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead. They outshot Nashville 13-3 and out-chanced them 10-2 at even strength.

It made you wonder for a minute, is this what the team could look like if they are clicking on all cylinders?

Of course, it all came unraveled once again. It’s not like the Canucks played so poorly that they deserved to lose, but they lacked a killer instinct to close out the win.

But hey, it’s a new week. Let’s put those traumatic fan memories in the past and look at some of the good things surrounding this hockey team.

Lord knows, I’d be here for 4 hours this morning if I was writing a column about everything wrong with this team.

1. The Canucks haven’t forgotten how to score

If you’re going to give up more than four goals per game, you at least better put on a show while going down in flames.

For the most part, the Canucks have managed to do that.

After 12 games, we can start to draw a few conclusions on offence.

Elias Pettersson continues to look like he’s bound for a special season. It’s been this way since day one of training camp, and he’s backed that up with 15 points through 12 games.

His chemistry with Andrei Kuzmenko has also stood out, and the 26-year-old rookie has seven goals and 11 points in 12 games for the Canucks.

Ilya Mikheyev, while not as offensively proficient as his linemates, has looked good after a couple of slow games following his return from a knee injury.

JT Miller has seven goals and 12 points in 12 games. I’d talk more about Miller’s game, but since this is a good vibes column...I won’t.

Finally, captain Bo Horvat is basically the second coming of Auston Matthews (for you butthurt Leafs fans who like to email me, that’s a joke). He’s got 10 goals in 12 games and is basically scoring at a 50-goal pace since Bruce Boudreau took over the Canucks.

Negative Nancy Caveat: The Canucks have scored the 11th most goals in hockey, which is good. Unfortunately, they’ve allowed the fourth-most goals in the NHL, including a league-worst 22 third-period goals against.

2. The power play is absolutely buzzing

We’ve come to expect this from the first unit, and they’ve delivered.

Horvat is tied for second in the NHL with five power play goals. Kuzmenko has four PP goals, most of which are tap-ins.

The Canucks power play is now up to third in the NHL, clicking at 30.8%. That trails only the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers. That’s without Pettersson registering a PP goal yet this season.

Even the second unit for the Canucks this season has looked dangerous. They’ve technically only scored two power play goals, although a third from Tanner Pearson came right after a penalty expired during their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Mikheyev has looked surprisingly good as a half-wall guy and Conor Garland’s creativity has shone through. He has danced through the offensive zone on PP2.

Even Sheldon Dries, who entered the lineup ahead of Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Hoglander at different points last week, had multiple chances to bury goals against the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.

Negative Nancy Caveat: The amount of chances the Canucks are allowing while on the power play is still mind-boggling. They lead the league with three shorthanded goals against off of scoring chances.

3. The Western Conference is mediocre

Zooming out to the bigger picture, you can see that the Canucks aren’t the only team spinning their tires.

Woof.
NHL.com

In the Eastern Conference, only five teams have negative goal differentials. In the Western Conference though, nine of 16 teams are in the red right now.

Right now, I’d argue that there are only two truly good teams in the West. That would be Colorado and Vegas.

Other teams who are holding down a top-three spot in their division are heavily flawed. Dallas is tied for the best goal differential in the West, but they’re rocking an even-strength PDO of 105 right now. Their goaltending with Jake Oettinger might hold, but they won’t continue to be that efficient offensively.

The Kraken are intriguing, but it’s hard to buy them as a legit playoff team yet. Winnipeg has beat up on some bad opponents, but they still mostly look like a bubble team. LA is fun, but they’ve allowed even more goals against than the Canucks.

Even the Pacific Division favourites, Edmonton and Calgary, have struggled.

This Canucks team does have the talent to be in a Wild Card spot, and the turtle race in the West is helping their cause.

Negative Nancy Caveat: I mean, the Canucks are a huge part of the mediocre West, as they’re closer to the bottom of the Conference than they are a Wild Card spot.