The Maple Leafs saw their first loss in the Sheldon Keefe era last night, as a horrendous second period cost them the game. It wasn’t all on Hutchinson, but he also could’ve been better and helped them out, so maybe Freddie will provide that stability tonight.
Anyway, here’s five things to watch for…
1. How will Keefe react?
I made this point in my postgame last night, but one thing that will be interesting is how Keefe reacts to his first NHL loss, especially one that saw such a terrible second period play out. Will he stay the course (since it worked for three games beforehand) or will he change things up?
Personally, I think he shouldn’t do too much to change what’s been working, aside from…
2. How will Keefe adjust the rosters?
At the time of writing this, there are no official lineups for tonight, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens. Will he rotate out some of the fringe players to give them rest? Will he give older guys like Spezza a day off? Only time will tell.
Also, what will the ice time look like? Will he lean on his stars again, or will he even out the ice time a bit more to help with fatigue?
3. Will Freddie be the difference?
I alluded to this in the intro, but Hutch had another bad game, even though you can’t entirely pin it on him. With Freddie in tonight, maybe a bit more stability in the pipes will help the Leafs tonight against the same team as yesterday.
4. Matthews vs. Eichel 2: Electric Boogaloo
In last night’s matchup, Eichel helped the Sabres en route to a comeback 6-4 win, while Matthews was basically invisible on the ice until the final five minutes when the Leafs were trying for the tying goal. Hopefully it’s the other way around, and Matthews has a much more dominant performance.
5. Will playing the backup first bite the Leafs?
One debate when Babs was coach was how he would always start Freddy the first night of a back-to-back, regardless of the situation and the opponent, in hopes that starting your best goalie when the lineup was fresh would guarantee a win.
In his first back-to-back as coach, Keefe went the other way around, and started Hutch yesterday. So, let’s see if the Leafs can at least get two points tonight and even it out, otherwise the Babs defenders will be out with pitchforks.
For whatever reason, the Winnipeg Jets always seem to be involved in these Black Friday mid-afternoon contests which are fine for American hockey fans – most of whom don’t have to work today – but are very awkward for us Canadians who consider this just another Friday (despite retailers best efforts to co-opt the whole Black Friday thing here in Canuckistan as well).
So today’s road game for the Jets starts at 1 PM out on the west coast which is 3 PM local time and if we’re all being honest with each other, at 3 PM on a Friday you’ve probably mentally checked out for the weekend anyway and if anything you’ll get to listen to the game on the commute home from work, or better yet, use the game as an excuse to check out a bit early and head home. Either way is cool with us.
Nov 29, 2019 – Puck drop: 3:00 PM CST Honda Center – Anaheim, CA TV: TSN 3 – Radio: TSN 1290
@ SJS 5-1 W
@ ARI 4-3 SO L
4-1-0 (2 W)
Last 5 Games
1-2-2 (1 SO L)
Nikolaj Ehlers – 11
Getzlaf / Silfverberg – 9
Patrik Laine – 16
Ryan Getzlaf – 11
Scheifele / Laine – 23
Ryan Getzlaf – 20
The Power Play
The Penalty Kill
(12-7-1 / .930 SV%)
(8-10-2 / .911SV%)
W @ SJS (32-33 / .970 SV%)
Last Goalie Start
SOL @ ARI (25-28 / .893 SV%)
7-4-2 ON ROAD
Road v Home Record
8-5-0 AT HOME
Last Ducks Game
A bit of a back and forth affair in the desert as the Ducks and Coyotes traded goals and leads all game. Christian Dvorak scored two goals in regulation time and then netted the winner in the shootout to down the Ducks 4-3 with the extra skills competition.
Fun Ducks Facts…
Anaheim has hosted 19 games on the day after American Thanksgiving (all afternoon games at Honda Center), going 8-6-4 in the previous 18 contests. This is the second time the Jets have been part of such a contest, the last time the two teams met on “Black Friday” was Nov. 24, 2017 at Honda Center, a 4-1 Winnipeg victory.
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf has points in a season-high six straight games (2-6=8), along with 6-9=15 points in his last 15 games.
John Gibson owns the fifth-highest career SV% (.921) among all-time NHL goaltenders with at least 200 games played.
The Ducks played their 1,000th all-time regular season game in Anaheim Nov. 14 vs. San Jose at Honda Center. They have a 538-330-133 all-time record (excluding “home” neutral site games).
What They’re Saying…
If we carry the comparison from players to coach, then Eakins could be considered the “young” coach given a second chance with the Anaheim Ducks. Sprong scored some goals to get some of the fans on his side. Eakins is not Randy Carlyle, which has some of the fans on his side. Yet, after the Ducks hot start, much like Sprong scoring prolifically when he first came to the Ducks, the results have fallen away.
I don’t know about you, but it appears that Anaheim have improved this year, and I’m sure you’re all flipping out about my usage of advanced stats, but it’s also apparent out on the ice; the Ducks are playing high event and much more exciting hockey – that’s using the eye test. Just this past Monday, they blanked the New York Islanders who are one the of hottest teams in the league at home in Anaheim.
The Jets continued to be road warriors in San Jose as a couple of goals in the first and a couple more in the second period helped lift them into one of their easier wins of the season, a 5-1 victory over the Sharks.
Fun Jets Facts…
The Jets have 10 back-to-back sets this season, the fourth of which is this weekend. The Jets are 2-1-0 in the first and 2-1-0 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.
The Jets went a season-best 6-for-6 on the penalty kill on Wednesday in San Jose. The Jets were perfect when shorthanded six times or more in a game on three occasions last season.
Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck has faced 30 or more shots in 13 games this season, which is tied for the NHL lead. He has a .939 save percentage when facing at least 30 shots and has made 30 or more saves in 12 of the 13 starts.
The Jets have won four of their past five games against the Ducks and are 6-1-1 in their last eight contests against Anaheim. Winnipeg also has points in three of their past four trips to Anaheim (2-1-1).
What We’re Saying…
Winnipeg is 10-2-0 this season when they are out-shot by opposing teams which is the best in the league, but it’s not by much. Right behind them in terms of winning percentage while being out-shot are the Anaheim Ducks who are 11-3-1 this season when giving up more than they get themselves. Even more remarkable are the team records for both clubs when they are the ones with the shots advantage. The Jets 5-7-1 when they out-shoot their opponents while the Ducks have yet to even win a game this season when they’ve had such an advantage, going 0-8-4.
After an eventful road trip, the Calgary Flames (12-12-4, 28 points) are back home for a little bit. They kick off a stretch of seven of their next nine games at home when they host the Ottawa Senators (11-14-1, 23 points), who played (and lost) last night.
This one begins at 5 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West (and Sportsnet 360 and City TV) and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!
Giordano – Brodie
Hanifin – Andersson
Kylington – Stone
David Rittich starts for the Flames, backed up by Cam Talbot. The projected scratches are Alexander Yelesin and Zac Rinaldo. Travis Hamonic and Austin Czarnik skated with the full group on Friday, but won’t play tonight. The Flames don’t play again until Thursday, so using Rittich yet again might be connected to not wanting him to idle for the better part of a week.
It’s the first official game for Geoff Ward as Flames head coach, though he really should be credited with the win from Wednesday’s game in Buffalo considering he’s been running the team all week. Ward starts with a largely status quo group right now in terms of his pairs and lines, and it’ll be interesting to see if he begins to tweak things as the game goes along.
As for the gentlemen in their snazzy retro jerseys? They need to build on their last three games and keep things simple. They tend to get into trouble when they get too dang fancy with the puck.
Marcus Hogberg starts for Ottawa, backed up by Anders Nilsson. Friday’s scratches were Maxime Lajoie, Mikkel Boedker and J.C. Beaudin, and potentially a couple of them may rotate in given the back-to-back situation for the Senators.
The Senators lost 7-2 in Minnesota in Friday night. While they have been better lately, they’re still among the NHL’s struggling outfits. Their power play is among the worst in the NHL. They have some bright spots, but this is a winnable game for a Flames club trying to create some momentum.
Lost 7-2 in Minnesota on Friday night. PP is worst in NHL.
The Flames are without F Sam Bennett (upper body), D Juuso Valimaki (ACL surgery) and F Austin Czarnik (lower body). Czarnik is skating with the team and is nearing a return.
The Senators are missing F Marian Gaborik (back), D Cody Goloubef (undisclosed), F Scott Sabourin (concussion), G Craig Anderson (lower body), F Jonathan Davidsson (lower body), D Christian Wolanin (shoulder), F Ryan Callahan (back), F Clarke McArthur (concussion) and F Bobby Ryan (personal).
When Last We Met
The Flames played Ottawa twice last season and beat them twice last season. Their last meeting was a 5-1 Flames win in Calgary back in March.
Know Thy Enemy
Here are some key Twitter peeps to follow for today’s game:
The 12-7-1-0 Utica Comets hit the road to Toronto to take on the Marlies, (Toronto Maple Leafs affiliate) for game number 21 of the season today at 1:30 pm Eastern/10:30 am Pacific. The Comets are coming off of their 4-1 win over the Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday, while the Marlies will be playing their second game in a three-in-three weekend for them that saw them need an extra frame to take a 3-2 win over Rochester yesterday.
The Marlies have scored 72 goals this year while allowing 50. The Comets, for their part, have outscored their competition by a count of 70-53.
The special teams battle should be interesting today as the Marlies have the better power play, going 14/64 to give themselves a success rate of 21.9% with the extra man, while the Comets have the better penalty kill, giving up 11 goals while down a man 86 times for a success rate of 87.2%.
Pontus Aberg is one to watch for the Marlies as he leads the club with 10 goals and 12 helpers to give himself 22 points in 19 games this year. Kenny Agostino sits second with 10 goals and nine assists, giving him 19 points in 17 games, while Pierre Engvall rounds out their top three with seven goals and nine assists to give himself 16 points in 15 games this season.
Jesper Lindgren leads the rookie crew in Toronto with four assists in 13 games, while Brogan Rafferty has been having a fine rookie campaign to lead the Comets first-year players with two goals and 10 assists, giving him 12 points in 20 games for Utica.
Reid Boucher is back atop the scoring heap in Utica with a ridiculous 14 goals and seven helpers to give himself 21 points in 15 games. Nikolay Goldobin is back up with the Canucks, but he sits second on the Comets with eight goals and 12 assists, giving him 20 points in 18 games this year, while Frankie Perron rounds out the Comets top three with four goals and 11 helpers, giving him 15 points in 18 games.
Kasimir Kaskisuo shows a record of 7-1-1-0 this year for the Marlies while posting a goals-against-average of 2.11 along with a save percentage of 0.930%. Joseph Woll has gone 4-1-2-0 while posting a GAA of 3.09 along with a 0.902% save percentage.
For Utica, Zane McIntyre has gone 6-4-0-0 this year while putting up a 2.99 GAA along with a 0.904% save percentage. Mikey DiPietro has been fantastic for the Comets in his rookie season, posting a record of 6-3-1-0 along with a GAA of 2.15 and a 0.926% save percentage.
Scratched Last Game For Utica
Olli Juolevi: LD – Lower-body ailment, no timeframe. NHL deal.
Wacey Hamilton: C/W – Upper-body injury, no timeframe. AHL deal.
Vincent Arseneau: LW/RW – Upper-body injury, no timeframe. AHL deal.
Lukas Jasek: W/C – Undisclosed injury, no timeframe. NHL deal.
Richard Bachman: G – Healthy scratch. NHL deal.
Josh Teves: LD – Healthy scratch. NHL deal.
Stefan LeBlanc: LD – Healthy scratch. AHL deal.
Justin Taylor: C – Healthy scratch. PTO.
The two clubs will get underway today in Toronto at 1:30 pm Eastern/10:30 am Pacific. As always, CanucksArmy will have your post-game report following today’s action.
The Red Wings were in Philadelphia for an afternoon contest with the Flyers. Historically, the Red Wings have struggled in Philly. In fact, the last time Detroit won a regulation game in Philadelphia was in the 1997 Stanley Cup Final. So its been quite some time.
Calvin Pickard was the starting netminder for todays game, after being called up on Thursday for the injured Jimmy Howard. Pickard played in 17 NHL games last season, and has spent all of this season with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Unfortunately, despite playing a full 60 minutes, Detroit still managed to lose 6-1. Now on an eight game losing streak, times seem tough. But that shouldn’t overshadow the way they played tonight. Compared to their embarrassing 6-0 loss to Toronto Wednesday, improvements were certainly made.
Thoughts and Highlights
A late announcement going into the game, Patrik Nemeth did not play tonight. A huge loss to an already hobbled defense.
The Red Wings had a near dominant first period. At one point they were out-shooting the Flyers 10-2. Detroit was able to generate several long stretches of cycling in the offensive zone, something we haven’t seen too much of this season.
One of the better chances Detroit created came from Brendan Perlini, who was able to corral a loose puck and use his speed to charge to the net. Goaltender Carter Hart made a huge toe save, and shortly after Philadelphia came down and scored on a breakaway. A perfect way to describe how the Red Wings season has gone.
Opening up the scoring for Detroit came courtesy of the second line. The trio of Valtteri Fillpula, Robby Fabbri, and Andreas Athanasiou worked together to exit the zone, springing Athanasiou for some open ice to enter the offensive zone. Despite a failed pass across to Filppula, Fabbri was there to blast the loose puck past Hart.
With that goal, Fabbri has now tied Jacob de la Rose in career goals (4) with the Red Wings. Fabbri does so in 65 less games.
Filip Zadina had a standout first period. The 2018 first rounder generated 4 shots on goal, and nearly scored his first of the season on the powerplay, had it not been for a big glove save by Hart.
Detroit had an overall solid effort and compete level, but you won’t be able to tell that from the scoreboard. When the Flyers scored two quick ones in the third period to make it 5-1, I thought Detroit responded well. They played fast and didn’t back down, which is what you want to see. Another blowout loss is hard to solid, but the process can’t be ignored. Thats just the way she goes sometimes, as they say.
Gif of the Game
Motor City MVP
This might have been Filppula’s best game of the season. Particular the second period, the veteran forward transitioned the puck well and building some nice chemistry with Athanasiou and Fabbri. His stat-line on the night included an assist and 18:55 TOI.
Welcome, citizens, to a brand new episode of Oilersnation Radio! This week, we had a lot to discuss as the Oilers find themselves in first place in the Pacific Division as we head into December, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ injury and what that means for the roster, and what the hell is going on with the NHL referees.
To start off episode 64 of the podcast, we kicked things off with a look back at the former first overall pick from 2012, Nail Yakupov, and what we remember about our former friend now that he’s been playing in Russia for the past couple of years. With the trip down memory lane out of the way, we turned back to the current Edmonton Oilers and what they’re going to do if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ hand injury is more severe than we initially anticipated. Would an extended stint on the shelf for RNH add more pressure on Ken Holland to find another centreman? In the meantime, is there someone from the Condors that should be called up and given a chance in his absence? From there we looked back at Wednesday’s game against Colorado and the ridiculous sequence that saw the Oilers losing both Alex Chiasson and Adam Larsson in a matter of seconds. We were all in agreement that the hit on Chiasson was a clean one, but the conversation got a lot more heated when discussing the strange decisions made by Steve Kozari and the officiating team. Lastly, we finished up this week’s show with a look at the Edmonton Oilers sitting atop of the Pacific Division as we head into December and whether or not that means this team is truly for real. As always, it was another jam-packed episode of ON Radio and a wonderful massage for your ear feelings as we head into a huge weekend for the boys.
It’s safe to say it’s already been a successful road trip. They stranded Mike Babcock at the side of the Grand Canyon, and the Leafs managed to double their road win total for the season. Now they are in Buffalo, which doesn’t sound like fun, but given that the Sabres are struggling it’s a chance for the good times to continue.
It’s hard to believe the Sabres started losing again with that lineup.
Anyways, here’s 5 things to watch for…
1. Michael Hutchinson returns
Hutch is back! And he’s playing in the first game of a back to back.
While I don’t think this is the glorious slap in the face of Mike Babcock that people were hoping for, but rather a few different things.
Letting Hutchinson play in a slightly different situation
Giving Andersen the home start on Saturday after a long trip and in what will be Keefe’s home debut
They play tomorrow night against Buffalo too. They’ll be just as tired and the odds of winning should be the same in both games.
Hopefully Hutchinson shows some promise tonight, and we can believe that the backup goaltending situation isn’t as dire as we thought it was before.
2. The Rielly/Ceci pairing
It’s still a thing, and it’s still upsetting. Luckily the Leafs have three very balanced pairings at the moment, and it should no longer be about giving Rielly and Ceci the tough assignments, and they can just roll on through.
3. Same lineup as against Detroit
It’s interesting to see that Nick Shore is remaining the odd man out and that Nic Petan is still rolling with the third line. I don’t know how interesting any of this is, but I’m still hoping that Nic Petan breaks out.
4. I’d like to see more of that Johnsson
Andreas Johnsson had a great game Wednesday against Detroit, and wouldn’t it be nice to see him continuing to keep up with Matthews and Nylander.
Johnsson is now back on track to match his totals from last season.
Feast on turkey on Thursday, dine on duck the next day.
The Winnipeg Jets win their third in a row and again do so by being out-shot, but making the most of the scoring chances they do earn with goals early in the second and third periods while Connor Hellebuyck stopped all 24 shots he faced for his second shutout of the season as the Jets got a little bit of revenge for that loss in Anaheim a month earlier by beating the Ducks today, 3-0.
A rather quiet opening 20 minutes outside of the chippy and physical play that the Ducks always seem to bring to their game that the Jets were more than happy to dish back out to them.
The shots in the first period ended up 5-4 for the Ducks, mostly due to decent defensive play on both ends, but also some passed up chances such as the one Patrik Laine gave up near the end of the period.
Make no mistake though, the period is carried mostly by the Ducks who again have the majority of shots in the period and also have an 8-3 advantage in second period high danger scoring chances. The heat map after two looks especially ugly if you’re a Jets fan who hates seeing a lot of traffic in front of Hellebuyck.
But Hellebuyck does stand tall making a handful of tough looking saves and is just as much the reason the Jets are up 2-0 after 40 than the actual goals scored.
The Ducks do themselves in really by taking multiple penalties – three of them to be exact – in the final frame which kills any chance they might have had to get back into the game. The Jets didn’t do a whole lot with the man advantages, one of them actually saw zero shots from Winnipeg for the entire two minutes, but it hardly matters as the Jets are content to keep things simple and not take any crazy chances in pushing for a fourth goal.
But the six minutes of power play time does help give the Jets a 9-7 edge in shots and a 4-1 lead in even strength high danger scoring chances.
Winnipeg for a second game in a row close out a win rather comfortably… I think this is something we can all get used to going forward. Hellebuyck earns his 16th career shutout, the second of his career against the Ducks.
The second period saw the Ducks play pretty well and it’s where Hellebuyck earned his keep on the day with 13 saves made in the middle period. As always, it seems like Jets fans could name him the player of the game for every game and they wouldn’t be wrong.
Neal Pionk had a super active game as well though. He’s been shooting the puck a little harder the last couple of games (a man takes part in one hardest shot contest and suddenly he starts unleashing bombs during the games) and in his own end he continues to be a very pleasant surprise in contrast to what a lot of us expected to see when the Jets got him back in the Jacob Trouba deal.
The beauty part of having two teams in the Los Angeles area is very little travel as the Jets will get to hang around the city for a little while longer and take on the Kings on Saturday night. Puck drop is 8 PM CST and the game will be on Sportsnet and TSN 1290.
The announcement comes after former player Akim Aliu alleged on Twitter Monday that Peters used racial slurs towards him during stints with the AHL Rockford Ice Hogs between 2008-2010.
On Tuesday, Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Michel Jordan alleged that Peters kicked him and punched another player in the head. Current Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour, who served as an assistant under Peters, said the incident “it for sure happened, the two issues that are in question.”
With Peters away from the team this week, Geoff Ward took over the head coaching duties as Assistant GM Craig Conroy joined the team on the bench.
As the month November mercifully nears its end, the Vancouver Canucks are almost certainly glad to see it go. Just two months into the NHL season, fans of the club have already experienced the highs and lows of expectations brought on by small sample sizes – in October they looked like “the best team in Canada,” but in November they started to look like the Canucks of years past.
It’s still too early to call December a “make or break” month, but it will be an important one for defining the identity of this current roster. How the team reacts – either by rebounding or by continuing to sink down the standings – will go a long way toward determining whether or not they truly have what it takes to make the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
And whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic about them reaching that goal, we’ve got some talking points to support your position.
Be Optimistic Because:
The Canucks Had An Unsustainably Bad Shooting Percentage For Much Of November
Vancouver has finally started to get on a bit of an offensive roll as the month has neared its conclusion, and there’s at least some statistical evidence that their resurgence is sustainable – or at least that their November woes are unsustainable.
As of this writing, the Canucks sit with the fifth-worst 5-on-5 shooting percentage in the NHL – down in the basement of that particular stat column with some of the least potent clubs around.
Unlike most of those teams, however, the Canucks have a bevy of typically high-percentage shooters – snipers that should naturally boost that 5-on-5 percentage over a longer sample size, and that suggest the Canucks are victims of bad luck more than inability to convert.
Scoring six goals on 22 shots against the Penguins on Wednesday obviously helped them out in this regard – but that only serves to highlight how low their conversion rate was during the darker days of the season’s second month.
Depending on how Saturday’s game against Edmonton goes, the Canucks should finish the month in the top-five for shots taken – but they definitely won’t finish in the top-five for goals scored.
If they can keep that first stat steady while improving the latter, they’ll be in fine shape moving forward.
Be Pessimistic Because:
They’ve Have Had The Second-Easiest Schedule In The Western Conference Thus Far
Advanced analytics giveth, and they taketh away.
While the Canucks have had bad puck luck throughout November, they’ve also been the beneficiaries of good fortune when it comes to opponents. Sure, Vancouver’s second month of the season featured a tougher schedule than the first – in more ways than one, as we’ll touch on later – but they still had one of the lowest “Strength of Schedule” score in the Western Conference, according to Hockey-Reference.com.
The stat is a limited one, and focuses mainly on the goal-scoring rates of a team’s opponents against the league average – but it does give a clear indication that the Canucks will soon be facing higher-quality opponents with increasing frequency.
Given how poorly they responded to the small increase in difficulty from October to November, that may not bode well.
Be Optimistic Because:
The December Travel Schedule Isn’t As Bad
You don’t have to be a Laval Rocket scientist to figure out this one. The Canucks had five games at home and ten on the road in November. That included a brutal and notorious stretch of two back-to-back road games followed by a matinee game at home. The Canucks lost all three of those games in regulation.
December’s schedule is another story. The Canucks will spend the holidays at home, with a whopping ten games at Rogers Arena and only three on the road – all of which are against Pacific Division opponents.
In terms of travel, December will be the lightest month of the 2019/20 season – if anything, the Canucks are going to run the risk of becoming too comfortable.
Be Pessimistic Because:
There Are Still An Inordinate Number Of Back-To-Backs
Only the Vancouver Canucks could have a month that features 75% home games and still have reason to worry about the schedule.
Much of November’s shiftlessness was blamed on the frequency of back-to-back games – and that’s still going to be a factor in December. The Canucks start the month with the back-half of a back-to-back against Edmonton on December 1. They will also have a back-to-back on the road, necessitating a late-night flight – though, mercifully, both opponents reside in the Pacific Time Zone.
The month will also conclude with yet another back-to-back and a redeye flight to Calgary. A quarter of the team’s games in December will be the back-half of a back-to-back – typical for the Canucks, but gruelling for most other NHL franchises.
Be Optimistic Because:
Bo Horvat Is Due For A Bounceback
Bo Horvat had a tough November in terms of offense – especially when compared to the boiling hot run he went on after being named captain in early October. But his struggles go much deeper than his basic statline.
Horvat has yet to score a goal at home. He’s also struggled on the defensive side of the puck – which isn’t what one expects from a player frequently touted as one of the best two-way centers in the game.
he can't carry Pearson. team clearly thinks they are a thing based on sky high percentages to finish last year, but they're not. he's actually been ok offensively, but the defense has suffered tremendously. pic.twitter.com/XE0fhyaYO5
Many of Bo’s woes can be explained by a couple of well-trod subjects on #Canucks twitter – his excessive ice-time in the absence of Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle, and his lack of consistent linemates. But Horvat is owed more of the blame than fans are often willing to assign him – after all, chemistry with linemates is a two-way street.
In any case, if there’s one thing that Vancouver supporters should know by now, it’s this – Bo Horvat will overcome. He’s made a habit of it throughout the entirety of his hockey career, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t bounce back from his current struggles at some point in the 2019/20 season – after which point the Canucks will become even more dangerous.
Be Pessimistic Because:
The Team Still Can’t Find A Consistent Set Of Second-Line Wingers
No team’s lineup stays consistent throughout a season – but still, some level of consistency is expected from a contending club, especially in the top-six. The Canucks have a fantastic first unit in the Lotto Line and one of the best second line centers in the league with Bo Horvat – but that’s where the roster stops being written in ink.
this is #Canucks 19th game of the season. It's also the ninth different set of starting linemates for Bo Horvat: 70-53-9 70-53-17 70-53-79 70-53-18 79-53-18 70-53-88 47-53-18 47-53-17 9-53-47
Coach Travis Green has yet to find a consistent set of wingers for Horvat – and not for lack of trying. Every winger – with the possible exception of Tyler Motte – has received at least one opportunity on the captain’s flank, and unfortunately the two best fits are currently employed on the aforementioned Lotto Line.
Tanner Pearson, Jake Virtanen, Sven Baertschi, and Nikolay Goldobin have all had success with Horvat in limited stints – but none have been able to sustain it.
Unless this issue is resolved, the Canucks will continue to get less out of their captain than they could be getting – and that’s undoubtedly going to continue to hurt the team’s performance.
Be Optimistic Because:
Elias Pettersson Is Disappointed With Himself
As of this writing, Elias Pettersson sits tied for eighth in NHL scoring with 31 points in 26 games. Rather than experiencing a sophomore slump, Pettersson is taking an enormous leap forward as a 21-year-old – and he’s still disappointed in himself.
Intermission reading ICYMI yesterday. Elias Pettersson saying he needs to be better, work harder. “I’m being honest.”
In several recent interviews, Pettersson has expressed a belief that he has yet to be at his best in 2019/20, and that he needs to work harder.
And if this is what Pettersson looks like when he’s slacking – then the prospect of him performing at his peak is downright thrilling.
Be Pessimistic Because:
Injuries Have Yet To Really Hit – But They Will
The Vancouver Canucks are still the Vancouver Canucks, and as such they have already suffered numerous injuries in the young 2019/20 season – but the worst is almost certainly to come.
The list of players that are currently on or have recently come off the IR include Brandon Sutter, Jay Beagle, and Tyler Motte – important role players, sure, but all replaceable in the lineup.
Antoine Roussel has yet to dress for a game, but that’s the result of an incident from last season. By far the most troubling is Micheal Ferland’s concussion – but the Canucks have still had it pretty easy in terms of man-games lost when compared to their typical trend.
The Canucks’ blueline is traditionally the trouble-spot in terms of injuries, but so far in 2019/20 only one single defenseman – Quinn Hughes – has missed one single game. That’s simply not going to be the case much longer.
None of the Canucks’ core players – or even any of their top ten players – have suffered a significant malady as of yet. In other words, Vancouver’s roster depth has yet to be truly tested – but it will be, and probably as soon as December.
Be Optimistic Because:
The Canucks Will Have The Chance To Feast On Road-Weary Eastern Teams All Month
In a stunning role reversal, the Canucks will play host to a series of road-weary Eastern Conference teams throughout December. Six of Vancouver’s 13 games in the month will be against interconference rivals, all of whom will be playing away from their usual time zone – an experience the Canucks are more than familiar with.
In theory, this should allow the Canucks to feast on some tired opponents and make up some of the points they lost in November – though that’s far from a foregone conclusion.
Be Pessimistic Because:
The Rest Of The Western Conference Is Waking Up
A quick eye-test of the Western Conference reveals at least five teams that are greatly underperforming expectations – including the three clubs directly trailing the Canucks in the Pacific Division.
All of Vegas, Calgary, and San Jose are due for a standings-based comeback at some point this season – and that has to be frightening for a team like the Canucks who are already performing beyond most prognosticators’ predictions in 2019/20.
Like the previous entry, the resurgence of those franchises isn’t something that is guaranteed to happen – but it’s the sort of statistical likelihood that has to be cause of at least a little concern.
So, is the glass of eggnog half-empty or half-full? That, my dear reader, is entirely up to you.