Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Vancouver Canucks 3 stars of the week: Sam Lafferty continues to exceed expectations
By Dave Hall2 months ago
The Vancouver Canucks were tasked with yet another gruelling week, facing four games in six nights and a back-to-back, to boot.
Luckily, they were scheduled to face the bottom-dwelling San Jose Sharks twice and a mediocre Seattle Kraken team.
Well, as we know, this isn’t a men’s league, and no game is an easy win in the NHL.
They would finish the week with an even 2-2-0 record, dropping matches to the Sharks and Colorado Avalanche.
Standings wise, the Canucks continue to hold a strong position among the Pacific Division. With a 14-7-1 record, they share a spot in second place with the Los Angeles Kings, trailing the Vegas Golden Knights by just one point.
Additionally, they have created a comfortable gap, sitting eight points up from the fourth-placed Seattle Kraken.
While the expected regression bug has begun to hit the team, their electric start has provided a strong foundation to stay afloat and now sit in a good spot following that pivotal American Thanksgiving due date.
The week did feature an unexpected twist, with the Canucks hosting special Royal guests.
That’s right, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, in town to promote the upcoming Invictus Games, made an impromptu appearance and participated in the ceremonial puck drop.
Whether the Canucks were nervous from the pressure of entertaining or not, the game wasn’t as lopsided as fans had hoped, but Vancouver still managed to squeeze together a 3-1 victory.
The special guests seemed to enjoy themselves, anyway.
Okay, let’s take a look at player performances.
There has been some strong showing as of late. Primarily, as a whole, the bottom half of the lineup has been a bright spot for the club in recent memory. They are setting the tone, creating energy and most importantly, contributing on the scoresheet.
Heck, we even saw names such as Conor Garland and Anthony Beauvillier break out of their shells and string together consecutive strong performances.
Meanwhile, J.T. Miller and Quinn Hughes continue to lead the way with another five points, respectively.
Now, if the team could only find a way to have the entire lineup clicking simultaneously, they would be an unstoppable force…
Third star: Filip Hronek
Fans were split 50/50 when the club traded away the freshly acquired first-round pick to bring in Filip Hronek last year. Understandably so. The prospect of having multiple first-round picks in a single draft was a scenario that Canucks fans had only dared to imagine in their dreams.
Well, as he’s firing at a point-per-game clip, and supporting one of, if not, the premier defensive pairings in the league, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any with doubts now.
This week, that chemistry was brought to the man-advantage.
With Andrei Kuzmenko finding himself in the press box for consecutive games, Hronek stepped into his new role on the club’s top power play and flourished.
Establishing his position on the left-side half-wall, his potent one-timer has become a lethal and welcomed weapon. The additional threat forces opposing teams to respect his power, and whether the shot finds the back of the net or not, it’s a new avenue that has garnered some strong traction.
At this point, even upon Kuzmenko’s return, it might be optimal to stick with their traditional two-defender setup, while the iron is hot.
He finished the week with a goal and four points and was second on the team with an impressive 60% (CF%) in all strengths.
Second star: Nils Höglander
Nils Höglander continued to shine this week, earning a star selection in consecutive installments. Despite not receiving any promotions in the lineup, at least on a consistent basis, he remained one of the team’s standout players.
Building on his strong performance from the previous week, he scored goals in four of five games and enjoyed a five-game point streak.
In fact, for a short period, he found himself in the company of some pretty illustrious names:
He finished the week with two goals and three points and despite averaging just 10:35 of ice time, was one of the club’s most consistent performers.
No one in this lineup has had to battle for relevance quite like Nils, so witnessing him thrive and show the potential to return to his “Canadian Division” form, where he posted 27 points over 56 games, is truly a treat.
First Star: Sam Lafferty
Sometimes, contributions go beyond the accumulated statistics. Fortunately for Lafferty, he also made an impact on the scoresheet this week.
Lafferty’s style of play resonates with fans – he skates with the wind, grinds hard for every puck, and has shown that he can finish when given the opportunity.
His first point, a shorthanded buzzer-beater, was a direct result of some excellent work in the corner. Right on brand, you can see him battling – and beating – two San Jose Sharks defenders to get the puck loose, eventually cleaning things up for the fourth of the year.
The goal would stand as the game-winner.
His efforts were profitable, earning him a spot on the top line alongside Elias Pettersson and Ilya Mikheyev.
He made an immediate impact, adding another goal over the week and complementing the line well, and finished with three points.
He nearly made it three in San Jose!
Unfortunately, it was called off due to slight contact with Mackenzie Blackwood’s skate in the process.
Nevertheless, he has injected a healthy dose of energy into this team and has quickly become a fan favourite in Vancouver.
For years, the Canucks have lacked a willingness to provide truculence and never seemed to answer the bell when their stars have been bullied. Well, Lafferty is showing the league that he means business and isn’t going to back down if you mess with his teammates.
The speed he has brought to this line, coupled with the grit he adds, is undoubtedly making him well worth that fifth-round pick.
After a demanding schedule, they will return home to close out the month of November. They are set to face a string of divisional rivals next week, and we will be back to bring you the three stars, as usual.
See you next week!
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