On Dec 5, 2021, things were looking grim for the Vancouver Canucks. With a record of 8-15-2 in 25 games, the Canucks sat second last in the Western Conference, a mere two points up on the Arizona Coyotes. That day, they fired GM Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green along with some other assistants, and since then have gone on a 22-9-5 run that now has them one point out of a playoff spot. Yes, the odds are still against them thanks to games in hand, and the strength of their remaining schedule. What cannot be denied, is that the one thing that we asked for all this time, hope for the future, is here.
The Canucks still need work. And yeah, Darryl Sutter was bang on with his comments about just getting into the playoffs. Do you have the stomach for watching these guys pull off one of the best comeback stories in ages only to get completely annihilated by the Colorado Avalanche? I’m not sure I do. So unless they can somehow avoid that dagger in the first round, it’s best we just sit back, enjoy the ride, and look forward to what is yet to come for this team.
The Vancouver Canucks had a problem with the New Jersey Devils. It had been 12 straight wins for the Devils, something they hadn’t been able to do even when they had Marty Frickin’ Brodeur in goal. It didn’t matter how bad the Devils were, the Canucks made them look like champs every time during this stretch. Much like the recent win streak of the New York Islanders that the Canucks ended, the Devils would no longer have a grip on the Canucks after last night.
With Elias Pettersson out of the lineup for a second straight game, and having lost two straight, the Canucks needed to make a statement last night, and they came out loud and clear, addressing one of the most troublesome traits this team has: slow starts to games.
Getting an early goal? Big. Getting an early goal like this from a guy like Brad Hunt? Massive, and something that you can build off for the rest of the night.
Big Brad Hunt smile incoming pic.twitter.com/e5LZVOhkOZ— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) March 16, 2022
Also, we need to talk about this:
Is the "Vancouver can only win if Demko gives them elite goaltending" narrative still a thing? Asking for a friend.#Canucks— Chris (@EastVan808) March 16, 2022
This right here is something that people are going to need to start acknowledging. Am I suggesting that Thatcher Demko isn’t the reason they’ve been able to claw back into this thing and have a shot at the playoffs? Well, sort of. I mean, there are a number of games he’s flat out stolen for them, that’s just fact. But that’s exactly what he’s supposed to do. You get a number one who is gonna give you a chance to win every night, whether it’s stopping enough pucks to win, or outright robbing your opponent on nights where the guys in front of him aren’t worthy of the two points.
What we’re starting to see is a Canucks team that is able to pick up points on nights where Demko doesn’t look superhuman. Last night was a perfect example of this. He wasn’t amazing, but he was able to keep New Jersey from getting back into it. The play of Bo Horvat and JT Miller was the reason they got that win, and we’re starting to see more and more examples of the Canucks getting timely goals from guys outside of the top six and from the back end. The kind of production you need to be a competitive team in the NHL in today’s game. Guys like Tanner Pearson, Juho Lammikko and Brad Hunt getting on the scoresheet are how the Canucks have been able to claw their way up the standings and knock on the door of a Vegas team that is absolutely reeling right now.
It was a busy night in the NHL, and one with a lot of impactful games as far as the Canucks playoff chances are concerned. Let’s start with the Anaheim Ducks, who were in New York to meet the Rangers. The Ducks went into the night one point behind the Canucks, and while they were able to get a point in a 4-3 OT loss, fell another point behind. They’ve won just two of their last ten, and the Canucks hold two games in hand.
Next up is the Dallas Stars. Dallas is in a bit of a bind with injuries to their goaltending, and heading into last night’s game in Toronto, sat two points up on the Canucks with three games in hand. The Leafs, who are having their own goaltending issues, got a shutout from Erik Kallgren in his first NHL game as they beat the Stars 4-0.
Next up was Nashville, and the Preds got a big 4-1 home ice win over the Pittsburgh Penguins last night that moved them into 3rd place in the Central, bumping Minnesota down to the first Wild Card slot.
The Vegas Golden Knights were in Winnipeg last night, and proceeded to stink up the joint, losing 7-3 to the Jets. The Jets only had 23 shots on goal in this one, as they handed Vegas its fifth straight loss. They are one point ahead of the Canucks, who have a game in hand (Dallas has a whopping four games in hand on them, though).
The Oilers were able to outscore their horrendous goaltending issues yet again, coming out on top with a 7-5 decision over Detroit. The Oilers are in third place in the Pacific Division, three points up on the Canucks with a game in hand. Detroit is in Vancouver Thursday night.
The Colorado Avalanche increased their Western Conference lead over the Calgary Flames to twelve points with a 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are second in the Pacific, seven points ahead of the Canucks, who hold one game in hand.
In other news last night, Alex Ovechkin had a goal to move past Jaromir Jagr into third place all time in NHL goal scoring. And in addition to the deal with Anaheim to bring them Josh Manson, the Avalanche sent Tyson Jost to Minnesota for Nico Sturm. The Avs are clearly making cap space for what should be a big day for them at the Trade Deadline on Monday Mar 21st.