In this edition of Vancouver Canucks News & Rumors, I’ll share some of the news from the team as it’s coming off a nice three-game sweep of the struggling Ottawa Senators. During that sweep, the Canucks only allowed one goal in each game – winning the first game by a 7-1 score, the second game by a 5-1 score, and the last game by a 4-1 score.
For the Canucks, both the play of the goalies and the scoring has started to come back. Prior to that successful series, the Canucks had lost five of their last six games. Now they face a tough test on the road when they first play the Winnipeg Jets who are always tough with Vezina-winning goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
They then head off to Montreal to play the Canadiens, who haven’t lost yet in regulation time and have posted a 5-0-2 record. Finally, the team travels to Toronto to play the Maple Leafs, who are leading the North Division with a 7-2-0 record.
Item One: Jake Virtanen Was a Healthy Scratch against the Senators
The Canucks didn’t dress Jake Virtanen for Thursday’s game against Ottawa. Virtanen surrendered his spot to Adam Gaudette. Virtanen simply hasn’t played up to his expectations. He’s a former first-round draft pick, but he’s pointless during his last five games and has scored only a single point in nine games this season.
By the way, Olli Juolevi and Loui Eriksson also watched the team win from the press box.
Item Two: Nils Hoglander Adds Another Assist
Perhaps the surprise of the Canucks’ season thus far has been the great play of youngster Nils Hoglander. He’s known for his lacrosse-style goals, but he also is persistent on the ice and a physically strong young player. He plays hard and seems unstoppable – relentless, actually.
Hoglander scored an assist in Thursday’s 4-1 win. Tanner Pearson scored the goal, but Hoglander did the work when he stole the puck along the boards and sent it to Pearson for the score.
The 20-year-old Hoglander now has scored five points in 10 games this season. The second-round Canucks’ draft choice from the 2019 NHL Entry Draft has proven he can assume a regular spot in the team’s top-six player. He reminds me of Tyler Motte, who seems to be everywhere on certain games. He seems to have that “spark” that will make him a solid player for the team.
Item Three: J.T. Miller Scores a Power-Play Assist
There’s no doubt that the Canucks missed the 27-year-old J.T. Miller when he had to sit out the start of the season under COVID-19 protocol. After he returned, he’s now scored nine points in the seven games he’s played. Miller added a power-play assist against the Senators when he set up Brock Boeser – who’s tied for the NHL’s goal-scoring lead – for the game’s first goal about five minutes into the game. Expect Miller to keep producing both with goals and assists and his physical play.
Item Four: Quinn Hughes Has a Multi-Point Game
Quinn Hughes leads the team in scoring when he added a pair of assists – including one (as usual) on the power play – in Thursday’s 4-1 win. Both Hughes hockey assists (secondary assists) came during the first period on goals by Boeser and Elias Pettersson. And, for the Canucks, that’s all she wrote.
If it’s possible, the 21-year-old Hughes is playing better than ever – especially on the offense with his scoring. He now has a goal and 10 assists in 10 games. However, given his minus-5 rating, he might yet have some learning to do to become one of the elite two-way defensemen in the NHL. If you’re a Canucks’ fan, I wouldn’t bet against him finding his way there.
Item Five: Tanner Pearson’s Goal Is Insurance
Give Tanner Pearson credit for putting the puck on the net. During the 4-1 win over the Senators, he had a team-high six shots. As noted earlier, he took advantage of Hoglander’s hard work along the boards when he stole the puck and then set Pearson’s goal for the Canucks’ fourth of the evening. Pearson is now up to five points during his 10 games this season.
What’s Next for the Canucks?
Today, the team starts a tough six-game road trip. When they return after this trip, fans will be able to get a read on how well the team might do this season. One positive note is that the team’s goalie play is improving by leaps and bounds over the start of the season.
If both Thatcher Demko and Braden Holtby can hold pucks out of the net, that gives the team a chance to be in the game every night.
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