Three-quarters of the season have been completed and the Canucks are still in catchup mode, currently sitting 3 points out of the last Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
As evident in the last two games, in particular, figuring out this team’s exact potential and capability is nothing short of an enigma.
After firing on all cylinders offensively on Tuesday en route to a 6-3 win against the New Jersey Devils, the Canucks somehow got shutout in a 1-0 loss to a Detroit team that had given up an average of 5.8 goals over their previous 9 games.
Perhaps this inconsistent play is the exact reason why management is having a hard time gauging what they should do at the trade deadline on Monday. Although, given this team’s results over the past 9 years in general, this is a notion that really doesn’t make too much sense, especially for a team like the Canucks that is simply not good enough.
Keeping all the trade speculation and rumors on the side for now, let’s take a look at 1 pro and 1 con, as well as a concluding thought before the Canucks get set for a back-to-back this weekend, starting with a tilt with the division-leading Calgary Flames on Saturday night.
Pro: The captain’s leading the way
While the Canucks have been relatively successful as of late, one element regarding the team that was being heavily criticized was the recent play of Bo Horvat.
However, it is important to understand from the perspective of Horvat that there were numerous other dynamics involved in his whole situation.
First of all, the captain was in Covid protocol in late January so there is no denying the fact that this particular circumstance served as a catalyst for putting him behind the eight ball a little bit.
On top of that, Horvat is a hard-working player who always strives to get better, and has history shows us, when the captain is playing with confidence, he is a force to be reckoned with on the ice.
In my previous Pro-Con-Clusion article, I mentioned that Horvat’s empty-net goal against Montreal could serve as a beacon for allowing him to regain his confidence in regards to providing consistent offense for the team.
That is exactly what he did, as the 26-year-old has rippled the mesh 4 times in the 4 games since. This also includes a 2-goal performance from Horvat in the Canucks 6-3 win against the Devils on Tuesday.
While the captain, as well as the rest of the team, couldn’t light the lamp against the Red Wings on Thursday, he was one of the team’s best players and is certainly seeming to be more confident in the offensive zone as of late.
Con: The Powerplay is letting the team down
There is not much more that needs to be said regarding the Canucks man advantage rather than the stats themselves.
The Canucks only got 1 powerplay opportunity against the Devils which they ended up failing to score on. However, the real letdown was on Thursday against the Wings, as the Canucks had 3 powerplay opportunities to work with and were unable to capitalize on either of them.
Particularly, in the New Jersey game, the Canucks displayed a knack for navigating the perimeter and avoiding the desire to penetrate into the high-scoring areas. In addition to that, a clear tendency for hesitating to shoot the puck was also present, particularly on the part of Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson.
The Canucks are undoubtedly going to have to prioritize fixing these elements of their game and improving their man advantage as a whole, especially if they have any hope of making a run here in the last 20 games of the season and finally achieving a playoff berth.
Concluding thought: How will the Canucks rebound on Saturday night?
After a game against Detroit which obviously has Bruce Boudreau as well as every player on the Canucks roster disappointed with the overall lack of effort and lack of finish, it will be interesting to see how the team responds when the Flames are in town on Saturday night.
The good news from the Canucks perspective is that with the Flames playing the second half of a back-to-back on this night, it is unlikely that Jacob Markstrom will start for Calgary. Hence, with the Canucks having scored 4 goals on Dan Vladar in 22 minutes of ice-time over 3 weeks ago, there will be some sense of comfort in the players’ minds knowing that he’ll be between the pipes.
However, at this point the Canucks shouldn’t take any team or any individual lightly and a good response and performance is warranted especially after the team’s lackluster performance on Thursday.
On a side note, with the Canucks game against the Sabres on Sunday being just a mere 17 hours before the trade deadline, it will be interesting to see if any of the team’s players are held out of the lineup on this night due to potential trade negotiations. Hence, it is quite likely that the team’s game against the Flames on Saturday, could very well also be the last time a certain player or two step on the ice as members of the Vancouver Canucks