The Vancouver Canucks may have kissed their playoff chances goodbye over the past month but they are still in line for some meaningful games in March. There will be time to see Quinn Hughes, Thatcher Demko, Zack MacEwen and hopefully more Brock Boeser.
Sunday afternoon the Vancouver Canucks were shutout for the ninth time this season, this time at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights. The Knights looked quick, accurate and really didn’t have to worry about their opposition as the Knights out-shot the Canucks 48-19. There were little to no scoring chances for the Vancouver Canucks in this game, coach Travis Green marched out a very different lineup, with the new additions getting different roles with this team after back to back losses against the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes.
The Brock Boeser Situation
Lines for the #Canucks in Sin City:
— Brendan Batchelor (@BatchHockey) March 3, 2019
The most noticeable change up to the lineup was seeing Brock Boeser apart from Elias Pettersson, the dynamic young duo has been separated at times during the season but for the most part have been paired up since early on in the season.
The reason they have been paired up together for so long is because both of their production is better when they are on the same line at five on five. Not only are their shots on net in the positive but their goals for compared to goals against when playing at even strength is significantly higher as well.
That pairing of Pettersson and Boeser have a Goals For percentage of 65.1%, that ranks higher than the average of the top 10 scoring lines in the NHL, which though has scored an average of 33.9 goals at five on five, has also put up a GF% of only 58.9%.
Boeser and Pettersson both saw their ice time drop drastically Sunday afternoon as it seemed Travis Green was trying to snag some of that 2017-18 Stanley Cup Final magic out of Jay Beagle, who played 17:18 of ice time, which was good enough for second amongst forwards (only trailing Bo Horvat’s 18:25).
The ice time for Boeser has dropped off over the past four games, which you might say is odd timing considering just two weeks ago Canucks fans were talking about how games against Arizona and Colorado would qualify as “big games”. Boeser was getting a lot of ice time in January, a month that saw him average 19:55 a game. Boeser had been slumping in that month as he only had two goals and six assists in the month of January that consisted of nine games.
February came around and Boeser was right back in the action, the first 10 games of February saw Brock average 21:14 of ice time per game. In those first 10 games he scored five goals and added two assists, so what has happened over the past five games?
The past five games has seen Boeser’s ice time drop quite drastically (17:43), and in those five games he has only contributed to the score sheet with two assists. So it asks the question, do you give a goal scoring winger ice time to contribute or does he contribute to earn ice time?
The question is tough to answer, it seems there has been a bit of magic wear off as we find ourselves in the dog days of the season. Personally I thought that having Pettersson and Boeser on opposite sides of the power play would have been deadly, it has shown flashed of brilliance but scoring on only 15% of their power plays has the Canucks currently sitting 28th in the NHL when it comes to power play conversion rate.
The answer could be the defenceman that stands in between them, and I’ll talk about Quinn Hughes later on in this article, but for now the Canucks are struggling to get the puck in dangerous areas and teams are keying on Pettersson and his electric shot. With all the attention moving towards EP40, they should have been able to find more opportunities for Boeser to release his elite shot but Boeser has struggled this season on the power play.
Out of the 31 power play goals scored by the Canucks this season Brock Boeser has only been on the ice for 19 of them. Boeser has seen his individual power play goals drop as well, as last season he was scoring a power play goal on average every 6.2 games, this season that has fallen to Boeser only scoring every 17.3 games. That’s a significant drop.
With the extra attention being paid to Pettersson you would think that would open plenty more open shots for Boeser. So when Quinn Hughes arrives I wonder if he is thrown right into the PP1 with EP40 and BB6 on either side of him. Based on Travis Green’s history with young players, however, I tend to think he’ll have to work himself into that role.
I say throw him right into that role as PP1 quarterback, not all players are created equal and Quinn Hughes is far from most players.
The Goals Situation
The Canucks were shutout for the ninth time this season.
That leads the NHL.
The Canucks have been blanked even more than Anaheim (8), Dallas (6), Arizona (6), Minnesota (6) and Los Angeles (2).
So how does a team that ices Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Nikolay Goldobin struggle to get on the scoreboard so often?
The Canucks have averaged 26 shots a game in those nine shutouts, and those nine games have been as clear an example of why they are second worst in the NHL in scoring chances per 60 minutes as one could ask for.
The Canucks are aware that they need to make changes to their roster.
You could see with the lines that coach Travis Green was icing that he was trying to spread out some scoring, having a team where Horvat, Pettersson and Boeser are each the driving force of their line. The problem with that is even though these three have been able to shine during hot streaks this season, they still aren’t those NHL superstars that can carry middle-six linemates and help them score a boat load of goals, or sometimes even one.
Pettersson has been able to carry a line at times this season, Horvat has been amazing considering the cards that he has been dealt on a nightly basis. Two weeks ago this team was confident that they were in a playoff run but as is often the case with long distance runs, sometimes you just cramp up and cannot finish the race.
The playoffs have been slipping out of the Canucks’ grasp over the past 14 games, where they have put up a 3-8-3 record. According to SCS, this team would only have a 42.5% chance of making the playoffs if they were to finish the season with a 12-2-2 record and spoiler alert, that’s not going to happen.
Things have never looked worse for the Canucks when it comes to playoff chances, and many fans are starting to get more invested in the projected top 10 prospects in the 2019 NHL Draft. There has been a constant pull between #TeamTank and #TeamPlayoffs all season (on Twitter at least, I can’t speak to the Canucks Army comments section, as I am new here).
The new movement aside from playoffs and tanking has been #TeamWhateverHappensHappens or #TWHH for short, it’s full of Canuck fans that are tired of having their hearts broken during draft lottery parties at your local Fatburger and have also given up on the playoff hype that comes and goes simultaneously with the two weeks of snowfall we get in the lower mainland.
This isn’t a playoff team, and I know most of you are all smart enough not to need me to list the reasons why. At the same time it isn’t the historically awful squad some prognosticators had pegged it as at the start of the season. The team appears at least to be trending upward. Fans wanted meaningful games in March and they’ll get them. The Canucks may not be contending for a playoff spot anymore but they are definitely going to play in some important games soon as we could see Quinn Hughes make his debut as soon as March 13th against the New York Rangers.
#NTDP Alumni Update. Check out Michigan's Quinn Hughes on this play in OT from last night in Wisconsin.
— Stars n’ Stripes Hockey (@StarsStripesHKY) March 2, 2019
Though things may seem grim right now for the market we are about to get a shot of energy with the addition of Quinn Hughes to this lineup. Hughes will be electric though likely to face some struggles different to what we have seen with college players like Brock Boeser and Adam Gaudette. Those two were vaulted into positions of success and the problem with Hughes is that he is a defenceman and the Canucks don’t really have a strong right hand shot defenceman to pair up with Hughes.
The option of starting on the right side with Alex Edler was tossed around on this week’s podcast and I was surprised about how Irfaan Gaffar and Patrick Johnston felt about Hughes starting on his off-side.
We still have a lot to look forward to this season, and for all the draft junkies like myself I am already excited to see where the Canucks will land in the lottery. I’m not committing to #TeamTank, these young guns make the Canucks too exciting to cheer against when they are hot.
My allegiance lies with #TeamWhateverHappensHappens, a spot where I can’t be let down. So play on playas, let the chips fall where they may and let’s just keep watching Elias Pettersson do EP40 things, watch Bo evolve into a second line centre stud and hope that Brock Boeser can get back to his elite scoring way.
Let’s just not talk about the defence until Quinn Hughes arrives, okay?