Life is better when you’re with your friends.
You can bet Elias Pettersson would agree with that.
The Canucks franchise centre has been on a roll of late. He has 17 points in his last 15 games, and seven in his last three outings after registering two assists against the Seattle Kraken in a 5-2 Canucks win.
After the game, Pettersson talked about his chemistry with linemates Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Höglander.
“Yeah I feel like the more we play with each other, the better we get. They are two speedy forwards and they are creating a lot with their skills and with their speed.”
“It’s easy to play with them but we still have a lot better in us. We are losing too many puck battles, et cetera.”
The underlying metrics back up their success. They have only played 56 even-strength minutes together, but during that span, they’re rocking a 56% Corsi-for, along with an expected goals differential of 64.5%.
In terms of actual goals, the Canucks have outscored the opposition 5-1 with Pettersson, Höglander and Podkolzin on the ice.
Bruce Boudreau admitted pre-game on Monday that one of the reasons why he’s continued to go back to the trio is because of their closeness off the ice.
“Petey gets along with them off the ice. They’re the closest threesome we have off the ice in terms of togetherness,” says Bruce Boudreau of going back to the Podkolzin-Pettersson-Höglander line. #Canucks— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) February 21, 2022
When asked about this post-game, Pettersson singled out Höglander as the guy he spends the most time with.
“I spend the most time with Hogs on the team now.”
Without getting into TMZ territory, one of the reasons why this is interesting to note is because there was a portion of the fanbase who believed that trading Boeser might be a bad idea...because it might upset Pettersson.
What happened to Pettersson and Boeser? Hughes? https://t.co/Ns2brr9iOK— Douglas MacDonald (@dmac5dmark2) February 22, 2022
For all we know, that could be true. What’s more likely though is that these top players — all making millions of dollars — realize this is a business, and that many of them could be traded.
How long is the leash for “The Kid Line?”
The fact that Pettersson is producing like a first-line centre again is good news for this team.
Now, can some of that success actually rub off on Höglander and Podkolzin?
The Canucks’ youngest forward was a beneficiary of that good fortune last night, when he potted his first goal in 16 games.
After the game, Boudreau showered the youngster with praise.
“I was so happy for him,” the head coach said. “He tries so hard and he works so hard.”
Podkolzin hasn’t been rewarded offensively for his effort level of late. He has just a goal and three assists over the team’s last 16 games.
While that seems like an arbitrary number, it does coincide with the end of the team’s 8-0-1 run under Boudreau.
Although Podkolzin’s ice time has dropped, you can tell that he still has the defensive trust of his head coach.
The same can’t necessarily be said for Höglander.
In the young Swede’s case, he’s continued to create offensively. That’s evident by the fact that he’s 3rd on the team with a goals-for of 2.99/60 (eight goals-for) over the team’s last 16 games.
He only has three secondary assists on the eight goals he’s been on the ice for, which constitutes a bit of bad luck. Höglander is also still shooting at one of the highest rates on the team.
Those shots just haven’t converted into any goals.
So Höglander continues to help the Canucks produce offence, but there are defensive holes in his game. His goals-against over the same time span is 5th worst on the team at 2.62/60 (7 goals-against).
Compare that to Podkolzin, who has a goals-against per-60 of 1.17 (3 goals against) over the last 16 games.
While both players — particularly Höglander — have shown imperfections, there’s a reason why Boudreau has continued to roll with this line. They all work hard, and there’s breakthrough potential for both Podkoolzin and Höglander if some bounces start to go their way.
Pettersson comments on his wrist injury
It’s no secret that Pettersson’s slow start this season probably had something to do with his wrist injury.
After last night’s game, he commented on how the injury was affected him to start the year.
“Coming into the season, it was a little weird. I still had my wrist taped. I feel like that’s going to cause a lot of headlines but definitely, I mean, I played 26 games last year. I didn't play a game for eight months so it was definitely a slow start for me.”
Nothing earth-shattering there aside from the fact that the portion of the fanbase calling for him to be traded was out to lunch.