Getting to know the Western Conference Playoff Teams: The Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Ryley Delaney
21 days ago
With a 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, the Vancouver Canucks locked up top spot in the Pacific Division.
Vancouver swept this year’s season series with Edmonton but three of the four games came in the first few weeks of the season before the Oilers made their coaching change. Let’s get to know the team who might stand between the Oilers and the Western Conference Final.

Superstars and depth scoring in their forward core

There are three forwards and a defenceman. J.T. Miller leads the way with 101 points along with 36 goals. He is their second line centre according to Daily Faceoff’s daily lineups. Miller is flanked by Brock Boeser, who has 40 goals and 73 points, as well as Pius Suter, who is a nice depth option for the team with 13 goals and 27 points.
Elias Pettersson is their first-line centre, and he has 34 goals and 88 points. He centers Ilya Mikaheyev and Nils Hoglander. The former has 11 goals and 30 points, while the latter has 23 goals and 35 points and has become an impact middle-six forward before Vancouver’s eyes.
Their third line is centred by Elias Lindholm, who was acquired on January 31 for a heavy package. In fact, the Canucks have all but lost this trade already, as the two-way forward has just five goals and nine points in 23 games. For context, the Canucks traded Andrei Kuzmenko who has 13 goals and 22 points in 26 games with the Flames, along with a first-rounder and an intriguing defence prospect.
Anyway, Lindholm plays alongside Dakota Joshua and Conor Garland. Joshua has 16 goals and 30 points, while Garland has 19 goals and 43 points. Vancouver’s fourth line consists of Teddy Blueger (six goals, 27 points) at centre, with Vasily Podkolzin (no goals, two assists) and Sam Lafferty (12 goals, 23 points) on his wing.
The team is strong up the middle with depth forwards that can score… along with Brock Boeser on the second line.

Norris-candidate Quinn Hughes leads the back-end

Evan Bouchard is having a terrific season and will surely get a handful of Norris votes, but ultimately, the award will likely go to Quinn Hughes. This season, he has 17 goals and 91 points and is a +40, the highest +/- on the Canucks. Not just that, but he’s playing on his off-hand and is good defensively.
Alongside Hughes is Filip Hronek, who has just five goals but 48 points in 79 games this season. He was acquired with the pick that the Canucks received by trading Bo Horvat last season, with that pick eventually becoming one of the Detroit Red Wings top prospects in Axel Sandin Pellikka. A good trade all around.
Afterwards, though, the defence core is quite light, with Carson Soucy and Tyler Myers making up the second pairing. Myers has four goals and 26 points this season, but recently turned 34 years old, while Soucy has played just 37 games this season.
Vancouver’s third pairing features Nikita Zadorov and Ian Cole, a good, mean third pairing that can kill penalties. Aside from Hughes and maybe Hronek, the Canucks’ defence isn’t flashy, but they evidently get it done.

Oct 13, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) the shootout at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

What about Thatcher Demko?

If you were to point to one reason why the Edmonton Oilers are back in the race for the Pacific Division crown, look no further than Thatcher Demko’s injury on March 9. Since he went down, the Canucks are 6-5-2, which isn’t bad by any means as all teams they lost to are in or around a playoff spot, but losing a Vezina-calibre goaltender hasn’t helped matters.
Casey DeSmith has played the majority of the games since the injury and has an .893 save percentage and a 2.92 goals-against average in 28 games played, along with an 11-9-6 record. Their current backup is Arturs Silovs, who has an .881 save percentage and a 2.47 goals-against average in four games this season.
Without Demko, who could be ready by the start of the playoffs, the Canucks may choke the Pacific Division lead. If he’s not ready for the playoffs, it’s entirely possible that the team could be upset in the first round to whomever they play.

Wrapping up

It’s also worth mentioning that the current Canucks roster just doesn’t have a lot of playoff experience. Late in March, I did the long and arduous task of counting every team’s roster in Western Conference playoffs, and by far, the Vancouver Canucks have the fewest game played in the playoffs. 
It’s not a perfect science by any means (players are called up and down all the time), but their core of Hughes, Pettersson, Boeser, and Demko have just one playoff run during the 2019-20 season, only getting in because of the pandemic. Of course, other players have experience as well, such as J.T. Miller, who has nine goals and 44 points in 78 games.
However, the experience may be the death of the Canucks, who may suffer a similar fate as the Calgary Flames did when they ran into the Edmonton Oilers during the 2022 playoffs.

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