Like Hansel, the Canucks are so hot right now. They defeated the Islanders 4-3 in overtime and extended their winning streak to five games. The Canucks are a pesky team to play against, finding different ways to win on a nightly basis. Their confidence and never-say-die play style have propelled them to the top spot in the Pacific Division and 9th overall in the NHL.
Jake Virtanen got his sixth consecutive start on the top line and he has earned it by notching one goal and three assists in that time. It only took 2:09 into the game for that line to make an impact for the Canucks when J.T. Miller scored on the team’s first shot of the game. Quinn Hughes and Chris Tanev did their best Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash impressions by walking the line and setting up Miller for his 20th goal. The Canucks pace slowed down after that, they were outshot 12 to 5 in the first period but tied at one goal.
The Canucks continued into the second period bringing the same momentum from the first. They had only two shots on net midway through the period. In an attempt to generate more offense, Travis Green shook up the lines and reunited the fan favourite lotto line. Quinn Hughes scored the Canucks go ahead goal from Tanev and Boeser.
Tim Schaller was back in the lineup with Tyler Motte out with a shoulder injury. He made his presence felt when he scored his 5th of the year from Sutter and Gaudette. The Islanders followed it up with a goal of their own making it 3-2 at the end of the second. The Canucks were able to generate more shots and chances after the Hughes goal and line shakeup injected life into the team.
Virtanen was back with Pettersson and Miller to start the third period, Boeser had a couple of regrettable giveaways at the end of the second period which didn’t help his case to return to the top line in a permanent role. The Islanders being down by a goal, pressured the Canucks all third period outshooting them 17 to 5. They pulled Greiss with under two minutes to play, tied the game and sent it to overtime.
Quinn Hughes was the best player on the ice tonight for the Canucks. He scored the game winning goal in overtime, showcasing his smooth skating and sharp shooting. Hughes finished the game with a 69.94 xGF% and 2 goals. His game winning goal, put him in the lead for rookie scoring, pulling ahead of Makar by a point. Hughes is putting the league on notice that he’s coming for that Calder Trophy.
Jacob Markstrom once again played a stellar game for the Canucks, in what’s become a regular occurrence this season. He remains calm, cool and collected at all times in the crease. This afternoon he stopped 34 out of 37 shots for a .919 SV%. He is consistently playing the best hockey of this career right now and has stolen games for the Canucks all season long, which is a big reason why the Canucks are first in the Pacific Division.
Despite leading the team 5-on-5 with 56.25 CF%, 69.23 SF% and 80.06 xGF%, Adam Gaudette played just 8:51 tonight, the least out of all Canucks players. The Canucks need him to play more minutes, especially with Brock Boeser on his right flank. (Boeser didn’t see much ice either, playing the third-least among Canucks players at 12:24.) Gaudette has improved steadily this season in all areas of his game including his weakest area, face-offs. From October to November, the Hockey Gaud was a measly 30.21% in the circle, but his hard work is clearly paying off, because he’s been 46.59% in the circle since December, bringing his season total up to a more respectable 40.81%. It definitely helps having face-off guru Manny Malhotra as an assistant coach. Green needs to find a way to allocate more ice-time for the third line, because Gaudette has earned it.
Micheal Ferland is headed to Utica for a conditioning stint which means he may be back in the lineup soon. He could be a candidate to replace Antoine Roussel on the third line. Roussel is a feisty fan favourite who has his teammates’ backs and provides energy, but his linemates play better away from him this season. When Ferland returns, the Canucks would probably be best off moving Roussel down to the fourth line. This move could allow the third line to have more ice-time.
The Canucks have called up Justin Bailey and Zack MacEwen, or as Cory Hergott has dubbed them, the gentleman and the big fella, respectively. Bailey has caught the attention of Canucks brass and fans alike with his size, speed and scoring capabilities, including three hat tricks in four games. Petey said it best in last years Audi commercial, “Speed. Agility. Power. I’m a big fan of these things.” Now that he’s here, it’s time to give him a chance to shine, which means playing him more than 8 minutes and not on the fourth line alongside Schaller and Beagle. He didn’t make his debut today but the Canucks could have used him, especially in what was a lethargic first period.