We know we don’t need to do anything to get you hyped up for game seven against the Vegas Golden Knights. But in case you’re looking for an extra reason or two to hope for the best, here’s seven reasons why the Canucks are definitely going to win tonight.
1) Back-to-back games favour the younger team
Though the Vegas Golden Knights are considered the veteran team in this series, their average age is only a half-year older than that of the Vancouver Canucks.
Here's the average age of the 24 NHL teams involved in the restart: pic.twitter.com/H2ywugfSxS
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 28, 2020
But there’s something to be said for roster composition. The Canucks’ top players, with the exception of JT Miller, are all under 25-years-old, including their current starting goaltender. Vancouver has the younger core by far, and conventional wisdom holds that it should benefit them in a back-to-back game. Legs with fewer miles on them recover quicker, and there’s no reason to believe that the Canucks have done anything to tarnish the legacy of physical fitness that the Sedins laid down.
A Game Seven that is also the fifth game in seven nights should be an advantage for the Canucks.
2) The Canucks’ stars are dominating the playoffs
Hopping onto the Stats page on NHL.com is a surreal experience right now. Here we are in the third of five playoff rounds — in September, no less — and there are three Vancouver Canucks in the NHL’s top-ten postseason scorers. Elias Pettersson, JT Miller, and Quinn Hughes are on fire, Brock Boeser is coming on strong, and Bo Horvat holds the league lead in goals.
The team’s MVP has been replaced by a goalie who, after two games, leads the league in goals-against-average and save percentage, and we’ll have more on him in a minute.
The point is, the Canucks’ best players are playing at their best, and that bodes well with the season on the line for the third straight game.
3) Vancouver’s best players are fresh
Speaking of all that production by the Canucks’ top players, it’s also important to note that they’re accomplishing it without being handed buckets of ice-time. Elias Pettersson played only 16:18, almost a full minute less than Tyler Motte. The highest minutes of any top-six forward belonged to Brock Boeser with a modest 19:13, three minutes of which came on the powerplay.
Quinn Hughes played 17:40 last night, barely more than the bottom pairing of Troy Stecher and Oscar Fantenberg. That’s about half a game for some other number one defencemen like Ryan Suter and Seth Jones.
Quinn Hughes laser stuns Robin Lehner pic.twitter.com/FnuHNgSQpo
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) September 4, 2020
Combine that with the last two entries, and you’ve got a fresh set of premier players skating into their fifth game in seven nights, and that sounds like a recipe for success.
4) Thatcher Demko is unflappable
On the eve of Tuesday’s Game Five, with the Canucks facing elimination, Thatcher Demko found out that Jacob Markstrom was injured and he’d need to suit up in his stead. Within hours, Demko was sleeping soundly, lights out sometime shortly after 10 PM.
What followed were a 42-save effort and an even more astonishing 48-save shutout, one of the greatest single-game goaltending performances in franchise history. Combined, those made him the first post-expansion era netminder to win two elimination games in his first two career playoff games.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) September 4, 2020
If these two games have proven anything, it’s how well Demko handles pressure. He already came into this series with a reputation as a big-game player at lower levels, and this proves it.
There’s no reason to worry about the pressure of game seven getting to him. Much the opposite. Back-to-backs favour the player who goes to bed early and eats the right way.
Demko heading straight to bed, eating a salad. Idk, whatever you are doing man, don't ever stop.
— Sean Warren (@SeanyeWest234) September 4, 2020
5) For once, the goaltending controversy is at the other end of the ice
With Markstrom in the press box and Demko looking impregnable, there’s no discussion to be had about who gets the start for Vancouver in game seven. The same cannot be said for the Golden Knights. They’ve got two options to choose from, and both of them have some serious drawbacks.
Robin Lehner is coming off two straight losses. He’s let in a total of 11 goals in his three losses to the Canucks this series. He also has an atrocious record in back-to-back games, to say nothing of five-games-in-seven-nights stretches.
Marc-Andre Fleury kind of fell apart in the playoffs last year, and had a poor enough season overall in 2019/20 that the Golden Knights felt the need to acquire Lehner. He’d be playing in just his fourth game since March, which typically isn’t as easy as Demko makes it look.
Whichever goaltender Pete DeBoer decides on, the storyline itself is a distraction, and there’s added pressure in the possibility of making the “wrong” choice in such a crucial game. As a franchise, the Canucks are quite familiar with the drawbacks of an active goalie controversy, so it’s refreshing to have one impact their opponents for once.
6) Elimination game momentum is on the Canucks’ side
Vancouver have been aces when it comes to elimination games this postseason. They eliminated both the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues in their first opportunity to do so. Now they’ve rattled off two consecutive wins with their backs against the wall. The cumulative score in those four elimination games? 17-7 in favour of the Canucks. These playoffs have revealed this team as one who comes through in the crunch.
The Vegas Golden Knights, on the other hand, have had a tougher time with elimination games of late. Last season, they blew three straight opportunities to put away the San Jose Sharks in the first round, with the Sharks ultimately coming back from a 3-1 series deficit. This year, it took them two chances to put away the Chicago Blackhawks, and now they’re 0/2 in attempts to eliminate the Canucks.
7) The Canucks have defied the odds all season
The Canucks weren’t supposed to make the playoffs this season, but they did. They certainly weren’t supposed to make it to the Western Conference Semis, especially not after having taken out the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Even if they made it that far, there was no way they were going to stave off elimination twice against the Vegas Golden Knights. not with their MVP goalie injured, and not while giving up more than 40 shots each game.
There’s probably not a single underlying stat that backs up the notion that the Canucks deserve to still be alive in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Even in a 4-0 game six victory, they were caved in by practically every measure. Nevertheless, they persist. This is a team that has beat the odds all season long. The odds are always against the team trying to come back from a 3-1 series deficit — but that’s actually good news, because beating the odds is quickly becoming a Canucks specialty.