The chase is on.
With 56 games completed in this season, the Canucks find themselves sitting 4 games above .500 and 5 points behind LA for 2nd place in the Pacific Division.
The Canucks have been one of the best teams in the NHL, rocking a .677 points percentage since Bruce Boudreau took over.
That’s good for 6th overall in the NHL during that span.
The last 2 games, however, were essentially glimpses of two different teams. The Canucks had their 3 game winning streak snapped with a 7-2 beatdown at the hands of the New Jersey Devils before following that up with a 4-3 win against the New York Islanders. The Canucks haven’t lost two straight games in regulation ever since they lost back-to-back games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes in mid-January, and they were able to continue that streak with the win on Thursday.
To further analyze what went right and what went wrong for the Canucks in these last two games, as always, let’s take a look at 1 pro and 1 con, as well as a concluding thought before the team takes to the ice in Toronto to play the Maple Leafs for the final time this season.
Pro: Podkolzin hits double-digits
For a team that was up against the cap and needed significant improvements to the roster after finishing dead last in the Canadian Division last year, a top prospect coming in on an ELC was a welcome addition.
However, the biggest question mark especially after an average performance in the preseason, was exactly how Podkolzin would adapt to the North American level and perform in the NHL.
Coming into the game against New Jersey on Monday, Podklolzin had 8 goals and 5 assists for 13 points in the 51 games he had suited up for. While those aren’t exactly any startling numbers by any means, the 20-year-old really upped the tempo in his last 2 games.
After scoring one of the two Canucks goals against the Devils, Podkolzin was able to ripple the mesh in back-to-back games by sniping a quick shot past countryman Semyon Varlamov on Thursday. The goal eventually ended up being the game-winner and was Podkolzin’s 10th tally of the season.
The Canucks would like more production from everyone, including their youngsters, as they look to get back in the playoff race down the line here, and it is safe to say, that at least as far as the last 2 games are concerned, Podkolzin has been providing some great offensive value.
Con: The recent struggles of the OEL-Myers pairing
Often in a match-up role, the Canucks find themselves relying on the veteran defense pair of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers to shut things down.
While the duo have been doing a decent job with this ever since Bruce Boudreau took over, they have simply not been good enough in the last 2 Canucks games.
On Monday against the Devils, OEL and Myers were the victims of numerous brutal turnovers and mistakes which led to a couple of Devils goals. They both finished the game each with a -2 rating and were unable to thwart any scoring chances all game long.
On Thursday against the Islanders, while the two did a somewhat better job keeping the puck out of their own net and finished with a combined total rating of +1, they were again the victims of numerous turnovers, with one of them leading to a Noah Dobson goal to open the scoring in the 2nd period.
With the Canucks set to face their toughest test of the road trip as they take on the Maple Leafs on Saturday, they will need OEL, Myers, as well as the rest of the team to be at its best as they attempt to extend their winning streak to 2 games and continue their push for the playoffs.
Concluding Thought: Will the “streak snappers” come through again?
If there is one interesting tidbit that has been a theme for the Canucks this season, it has been the fact that they have constantly come through to snap a plethora of streaks that were haunting the team for years.
For example, in December, the Canucks defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 for their first regulation win against the Habs since 2007.
Afterwards, the Canucks rallied back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets in Rogers Arena for the first time in regulation since 2013.
Following that up, the Canucks defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 a month ago to end Marc-Andre Fluery’s streak of 15 years with no regulation losses against the Canucks.
Right after the Canucks snapped the 10-game winning streak of the Calgary Flames last week, the team’s official Twitter account posted a tweet calling themselves the “streak snappers.”
While the Canucks couldn’t break the Devils’ streak of 11 straight wins against them, they were able to snap the Islanders’ streak of no regulation losses against the team for 7 straight years.
It will be interesting to see if the “streak snappers” can come through again on Saturday and get the win in Toronto, a place the Canucks haven’t won a game ever since their 5-3 victory against the Leafs in December of 2011.