Weekly Canucks Report: Week of February 6-12
Who Had a Good Week:
Bo Horvat- The Bo Horvat Hype Train continues. Horvat hit a new career high for goals with his 17th, a perfect cap on a week that saw him deliver five points in four games. Horvat played fantastic despite going up against some of the biggest and strongest opposing centers around. On the defensive side, Horvat single-handedly shut down the Sabres in the dying seconds of Sunday’s game.
Alex Burrows- After a bit of a slump, some wondered if Burrows was reverting back to the norm, but he came roaring back this week. Burrows was a point per game over four games, but more importantly he reignited his chemistry with Horvat and stopped flubbing some of the great chances that Bo continually provides. The altercation with Robin Lehner was vintage Burrows, and helped spur the Canucks to victory against the Sabres.
Markus Granlund- Granlund was one of four Canucks to go a point per game this week, and he did so in an unfamiliar position, flanking the Sedins. Rather than holding the twins back, Granlund added a new sort of energy to a top line that was sorely in need of it. That Granlund meshes so well with the Sedins is further bad news for Loui Eriksson.
Alex Edler- Not only did Edler have a point in every game this week, but he did so while eating up the most ice time on the team yet again. Edler played about 23 minutes each night, and provided solid, relatively-mistake-free defense to go along with his rejuvenated offense. Edler is playing like a number one D right now.
Luca Sbisa and Chris Tanev- This defense pairing has become a steady, go-to, shutdown duo for the Canucks. Tanev is playing like he usually does, which is incredibly efficiently, but Sbisa is playing every bit as well, and arguably better. Both players seem to elevate the others’ game.
Who Had a Rough Week:
Loui Eriksson- Eriksson lost his spot on the top line to the returning Jannik Hansen, and then was kept out when Granlund was placed there next. Eriksson did score a rare goal this week, but he looks a bit lost out there right now. Confidence appears to be an issue, and that’s no surprise given his results this season.
Brandon Sutter- Sutter had a bad week, but that should be no surprise. Sutter lost his productive linemate, Granlund, and was placed on a line with Eriksson and Jayson Megna, neither of whom provided him much help. Sutter is not the sort of player who can do it on his own.
Jayson Megna- Canuck fans got a brief break from having Megna in the lineup, but he’s back, and remains relatively ineffective. Any line that Megna gets put on seems to be anchored down by his presence, and many are wondering why someone like Reid Boucher can’t be tried higher in the lineup.
There was further talk of Alex Burrows to Montreal, with reports that GM Marc Bergevin is specifically targeting him. Canucks fans know exactly what Burrows can bring to a roster, and he seems like a perfect addition for any playoff contender. Returning to his hometown and winning a Cup would be a storybook ending for Burrows, and most fans wouldn’t mind seeing him go if it meant he got another crack at Stanley. Nothing is stopping Burrows re-signing in the summer, either.
There is something to be said for Markus Granlund’s versatility. He is quickly becoming a fix-all solution for the Canucks’ lineup, in a role that Jannik Hansen used to fill. Granlund has developed chemistry with almost anyone he has played with, and can competently play all three forward positions. Further evidence that he should definitely be protected in the upcoming Expansion Draft.
The Canucks now have only six games between them and the Trade Deadline. In my opinion, selling at the Deadline remains the best possible course of action, and I wrote up a separate piece outlining exactly why I think that is. Check it out:
Getting the chance to shutout John Tortorella and the Blue Jackets was a nice interruption to the Canucks’ recent slide down the standings. Much has been made of Torts’ performance this season, but the shine is beginning to wear off him, and it was pleasant for the Canucks to play some role in that.
Speaking of coaches, Claude Julien was fired this week. Not only is it yet another coach fired before Willie Desjardins, who most predicted wouldn’t survive the season, but Julien was the mastermind behind the 2011 Bruins, so Vancouver fans can take some personal satisfaction in his firing.
Let’s start with a quick note on Brendan Gaunce. Gaunce was sent down to the Comets earlier in the week, and responded extraordinarily well. After an iffy first game, Gaunce quickly got up to speed, picking up three points in the next three games. This is exactly what fans were hoping to see from Jake Virtanen’s stint on the farm. For the record, Virtanen was again pointless this week.
The Comets began a four game week with a visit to Toronto, home of the Marlies. Utica dropped a 4-2 decision with Richard Bachman in net once again. The scorching Darren Archibald and Colby Robak scored the Comets’ only goals, and Evan McEneny notched two assists. Gaunce was -2 in his return.
Things got kicked up a notch in Game Two of the home-and-home series between the Marlies and Comets, which was also the first of a three-games-in-three-nights marathon. The teams scored ten goals between them, but unfortunately six of them went to Toronto, leaving a score of 6-4. Gaunce picked up a goal and an assist, as did veterans Wacey Hamilton and Chad Billins. Hamilton completed the Gordie Howe Hat Trick by fighting Kerby Rychel, a popular Nintendo protagonist. Captain Carter Bancks got the other goal, and Jordan Subban, Curtis Valk, Borna Rendulic, and Robak picked up single assists. Former Canuck Frankie Corrado picked up three assists against his old club. Thatcher Demko was in net for five goals against, with the last going into an empty net.
The Comets rebounded Saturday against the Springfield Thunderbirds, named for one of the more unheralded X-Men. Gaunce scored again just over a minute in, with Bancks and Hamilton getting the assists. Curtis Valk then scored the eventual game winner 18 seconds later, in what would end up being a 2-1 game that saw all three goals scored in the first period. Billins and the mystery man, Tom Nilsson, got the assists on Valk’s goal. Bachman picked up the win, racking up 31 saves.
Subban was surprisingly made a healthy scratch for the final game of the week, a 3-2 loss to the Syracuse, not Cinnamon Toast, Crunch. Demko was back in net to pick up the loss, making only 14 saves on 17 shots. Rendulic and Andrey Pedan scored for Utica, with Cody Kunyk, Archibald, and Alex Grenier, who had a quiet week, picking up assists.
Bits and Bobs:
-The Cody McLeod hit on Sven Baertschi had all the appearance of a targeted play, but was ambiguous enough to avoid a suspension. However, given McLeod’s history, most fans have no doubt as to his intentions. The Vancouver faithful weren’t exactly holding their breaths for a suspension, for good reason.
-The unfair suspension-related history of the Vancouver Canucks was illustrated brilliantly by /u/failureisimminent on Reddit. This user crunched the numbers and found that the Canucks have served nine suspensions over the past five seasons, while drawing only one suspension out of their opponents. This is the largest differential of any NHL team, and is especially surprising given the number of questionable hits handed out against Canucks in recent years. It is hard not to feel like a conspiracy theorist when one looks at raw evidence like this:
-Reid Boucher is hard to get a read on due to limited minutes, but the early returns are positive. Boucher appears to skate a little better than advertised, and he managed to get his famous shot off a few times. It would be nice to see what he can do higher in the lineup.
-Seeing Nikita Tryamkin hurl Boone Jenner to the ice was fantastic. Here’s hoping this spurs more aggressive play from the towering Russian, so that he can lose the BFG nickname.
-Although Burrows came close in his clash with Robin Lehner, it has now been two full months since any Canuck had a fight. It’s difficult to say there has been any effect, positive or negative, on team performance.
-After successful surgery, Anton Rodin is likely on the shelf for the remainder of the season. This is not how Rodin envisioned his return to North America going, but hopefully he is willing to give it another shot next year.