After just ten games, the Vancouver Canucks have already seen their fair share of ups and downs. After a relatively successful six-game road trip that saw them finish with a 3-2-1 record, they returned to the friendly limits of Rogers Arena to lose their first three at home in regulation. On a long seven-game home stint that was supposed to be perfectly set up for wins, they started with a 0-3 record.
Related: The Canucks’ Good, Bad & Ugly October 2021
Fortunately, the Canucks had Thatcher Demko in the goal for the New York Rangers game on Tuesday because he was the only reason we’re not yet talking about a winless record at home right now. Overall, the 2021-22 season has been an interesting journey to say the least. So, without further ado, here are five takeaways from the top ten that put the Canucks in a game under 0.500 with a 4-5-1 record.
Demko continues his rise to the top of the NHL
It’s no secret that the Canucks struggled to regain their legs early in the season. The only guy who hasn’t is his starting goaltender Thatcher Demko. In every game, whether won or lost, he seemed calm and in control, from the minute the puck fell to the sound of the final bell. He even channeled his inside Dominik Hasek and made saves without his blocker and stick while swinging on the ice. The scorpion save he made on Artemi Panarin was just amazing as he made three saves that he didn’t have to make. Game save saves don’t even begin to describe this sequence of events.
Demko’s performance against Rangers just put an exclamation mark on the season he’s been enjoying so far. Although he didn’t register a win in every start, his numbers seemed very solid at first. In eight starts, he has a 2.48 goals against average and .923 save percentage (VS%) while facing the NHL’s most dangerous dangerous second shots. As of this writing, he has faced 61, which is just eight behind Vegas Golden Knights starter Robin Lehner, who has faced 69. What’s even more impressive is his .885 SV% in these situations.
Basically he’s been the Canucks’ best player night after night. Without him, they would probably be in the basement with the Arizona Coyotes. It’s no exaggeration, he’s been so good.
Garland, Poolman and Ekman-Larsson impress early
Speaking of the Coyotes, former desert hounds Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson have seemed to rock the orca very well so far in 2021-2022. Garland currently only trails JT Miller with three goals and ten points in ten games, Ekman-Larsson excelled in best duet with oft-criticized Tyler Myers, and Tucker Poolman has also fitted in well with dynamic Quinn Hughes.
Related: 5 Cool Things About Conor Garland
Garland, in particular, has become a devious striker who knows what it takes to get under his opponent’s skin. He not only generates offense with somewhat limited ice time, but he also frustrates the top players on the other team enormously. After just ten games, the words “angry little leprechaun” and “dwarf” respectively came out of the mouths of Travis Konecny ââand Filip Zadina. He just seems to have that knack for the hustle and bustle that Canucks fans haven’t seen since the days of Alex Burrows and Jarkko Ruutu. Because of this, he instantly became a fan favorite in Vancouver.
Poolman, whose contract drew the ire of Canucks fans because it was too expensive, more than lived up to the money he received this season. At what I consider a $ 2.5million deal, he admirably replaced Travis Hamonic and Chris Tanev as Hughes’ criminal partner and could in fact become as good as Tanev was for the Canucks. That’s a huge praise considering all he’s done for the team over the years.
Quinn Hughes has turned into a two-way force
After stepping back defensively last season, Quinn Hughes started the 2021-22 campaign as one of, if not the best defenseman for the Canucks today. Often deployed against the other team’s best offensive players like Connor McDavid and Artemi Panarin, Hughes excelled at seven points in nine games and, more importantly, a plus-5 in the over / under column. Given that his pair have experienced the most scoring chances against any other pair, this statistic is even more important to note.
When Hughes was not in the lineup against the Buffalo Sabers, the defensive core struggled to maintain any cohesion. It shows how important he is to the success of this team. Basically it’s the glue that holds it together. Without it, everything collapses. Look no further than the two games he missed in his career if you need recent examples. If he continues to improve throughout the season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the conversation for the Norris Trophy.
Special teams struggled
Too many times this season, the Canucks have lost games due to their special teams’ inability to score on the power play or prevent a shorthanded goal. As of this writing, they are 28th on the penalty kill with an abysmal 70% pass rate and 24th on the power play with an equally underwhelming 15.8% pass rate. If they’re hoping to be in the playoffs conversation in April, those two stats must start going in a positive direction very soon.
Related: Canucks Weekly: Home Woes, Violation Spray, Lack of Identity & More
The power play, which is led by Hughes, Pettersson, Miller, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser, shouldn’t have a problem scoring goals. Unfortunately for the Canucks, they have a hard time producing offense in all situations, and that includes the power play. After leaving assistant coach Newell Brown who led the power play during the successful years of the Sedin twins, new coach Jason King hasn’t been able to put everyone on the same page since. His arrival.
Over ten games, the Canucks lack not only puck movement and creativity, but also execution and the ability to just shoot the goalie. Without Demko’s heroism against the Rangers, the 0/6 power play would have been the main reason they ended up losing another game.
As for the penalty, it continues to bleed goals. In the last two games, the Canucks have allowed four power play goals and have killed just three of seven power play. Over the season, they’ve allowed nine goals that put them in the bottom half of the league. With Hamonic back and Tyler Motte not too far behind, it is hoped that their roster additions will help support a penalty that has been beyond mediocrity so far.
Slow starts and horrible first periods
Since the days of Willie Desjardins, the Canucks have had slow starts and scored the first goal. They have scored just 393 goals in the first period since 2014-15 and have only scored the first goal 222 times in 545 games. To put that in perspective, only the Vegas Golden Knights have scored the first goal fewer times and they’ve only been in the NHL for five seasons.
This problem has plagued the Canucks for a long time and it has not improved in 2021-22. To date, they have only scored the first goal twice and have allowed the icebreaker eight times. Running after play is never good, and they’ve done it way too often this season. In fact, the first period was not kind to them overall as they were outscored 10-4 and were led most of the time before the second period. To enter the realm of elite teams, they must find a way to get out of blocks faster and start controlling the games rather than having the other team dictate the pace.
Demko & Miller’s heroism could be a turning point
If the Canucks start playing better hockey from now on, Demko’s game against the Rangers and saving save as well as Miller’s overtime exploits will be heralded as the turning point of the season. Yes, it’s early days, but a burst of positivity and things finally roll out right after a few futility games might be the thing that puts them on an upward trajectory.
The regular season is all about its ups and downs and the Canucks needed something to get them back on track. Demko provided strong goalies all season, but this save was nothing short of magic. It gave me flashbacks to Kirk McLean and Roberto Luongo’s saves and even though Demko has only played ten games, it could end up being critical to their overall success this season. We’ll just have to see what happens as the fun continues on Friday against the Nashville Predators.
All stats were taken from Hockey Reference, Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com
Matthew Zator is a freelance writer, media editor and THW scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft and outlook in general. He loves to talk about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and his prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the end of articles like this one on Tyler Motte.