Weekly Canucks Report: Week of March 6-12
Who Had a Good Week:
Sven Baertschi- Baertschi only had a single goal this week, but still managed to look impressive every time he hit the ice. Baertschi appears to be making up for the time he lost to injury, and is driving the play like never before. With both him and Horvat operating at full speed, their line becomes almost impossible to handle, no matter who their right winger is.
Troy Stecher- After a shaky last week, Stecher rebounded perfectly, putting up three points in three games and playing a much more tenacious style of defense. This is a player who isn’t going to accept losing just because the fanbase is fine with it, and his energy is infectious. Stecher went right back to jumping into the play this week, proving his confidence is as strong as ever.
Ryan Miller- Miller had two strong games this week and a less-than-stellar effort against the Islanders. Still, versus two contenders in the Canadiens and the Penguins, Miller put up 36 and 45 save efforts, keeping his team in two games that they really had no business being in.
Alex Biega- Biega made a surprisingly strong impact as an energy-line forward. His physical play was noticeable in each game he played, and he definitely got under the skin of some opponents. Biega really earned his “Bulldog” nickname this week.
Who Had a Rough Week:
Ben Hutton- Plus/minus is a horribly flawed stat, but there’s something to be said about going minus 2 in each of the three games this week. After a string of strong games, Hutton was asked to take on more ice time than usual this week, and looked a bit overwhelmed. His defensive shortcomings were definitely exposed by the high-powered offenses of the Eastern Conference.
Jayson Megna- With so many other intriguing talents entering the lineup, it is becoming harder and harder to ignore the utter uselessness of Jayson Megna. His recent penchant for major giveaways certainly isn’t helping matters.
Brandon Sutter- It wouldn’t be surprising at all if Sutter is one of the Canucks who is rumoured to be playing through a serious injury. He just doesn’t look as engaged in the play as he did earlier in the year. His ever rotating cast of questionable wingers isn’t doing him any favours, but it might be time to shut Sutter down for the season if he truly is injured.
The Canucks signed an overager from the Gatineau Olympiques, Zack MacEwen, to an entry-level deal. MacEwen, 20, has an impressive frame at 6’4” and 212 pounds. He racked up 68 points in 63 games in his second QMJHL season, and has shown an aptitude for physical play. His contract will slide for this year and he is likely AHL-bound next season.
The Canucks also signed Drew Shore for the remainder of the season. The former Calgary Flame and Florida Panther had been playing for Kloten in the Swiss-A League this season, and was among the league’s leading scorers. Shore has never put up much production at the NHL level, but was a reliable AHL scorer and is part of a large hockey family. Brother Nick is an LA King, while brother Quentin toils in the LA minor system.
Not satisfied with two signings in a week, the Canucks will apparently announce the signing of a mystery defenseman sometime tomorrow. This d-man will likely be an NCAA player whose season is now over, or another overager from the CHL. This will leave the Canucks with precious few contract slots with which to sign Brock Boeser and any other NCAA free agents they desire.
Canuck fans had to put up with a brand new round of Alex Burrows-related trash talk after the fan favourite was dealt to Ottawa. Now, the entire Eastern Conference is getting a taste of what Burrows can really do. He has six points in six games for the Senators, and his team is 6-0 since the trade. So much for riding on the Sedins’ coattails!
It seems that the LA Kings chose Ben Bishop over Ryan Miller, and the early returns are not fantastic. In two starts for the Kings, Bishop has two losses and a sub-.900 save percentage. Sure seems like Miller would have been the better choice.
This week featured another full weekend slate, with Utica playing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. To make matters worse, the Saturday game was on the road, while the other two were at home. Friday featured a visit from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, which resulted in a 2-1 victory for the Comets. Thatcher Demko was in net once again, making 23 saves. Curtis Valk and Michael Carcone scored the Utica goals, with Jake Virtanen, Cody Kunyk, Pascal Pelletier, and Ashton Sautner each nabbing an assist. Cole Cassels got himself into a scrap with Kyle Burroughs.
The Comets had to travel to Lehigh Valley the following day, but at least Demko received a rest as Michael Garteig got the start in net. It wouldn’t turn out to be a stellar night for him, though, as the Phantoms notched a 4-1 win. Kunyk had the only Utica goal, with Virtanen and Valk assisting. A small point streak for Virtanen at this point in the season is a definite positive.
Demko was back in net on Sunday for his second shutout of the year, blanking the Binghamton Senators 5-0. The Comets really spread out the scoring, with Darren Archibald, Borna Rendulic, Mike Zalewski, Evan McEneny, and Pelletier all getting one goal each. Archibald and Rendulic each added two assists, and Valk had two helpers of his own. Jordan Subban was held off the scoresheet, but did get tossed from the game towards the end for an altercation with the much larger Patrick Sieloff.
After slipping down the standings earlier in the season, the Comets’ recent winning ways, spurred by the near-perfect goaltending of Thatcher Demko, have put them back in the playoff hunt. With less than a quarter of the season remaining, the Comets are neck-and-neck with the Toronto Marlies and the St. John’s IceCaps for a spot.
Bits and Bobs:
-It’s believed that Brock Boeser wants to play in the NHL one his NCAA season is complete, and there’s no real reason for the Canucks to say no. If North Dakota is eliminated any time soon, look for Boeser to sign a contract and start suiting up for Vancouver immediately.
-Adam Gaudette, on the other hand, appears more likely to stay an additional season in college. The Canucks will still try to lure him with the promise of some NHL playing time this season and a potential Utica playoff run, but he’s probably not turning pro until 2018.
-Zachary Aston-Reese, Gaudette’s teammate at Northeastern, is the top NCAA free agent available. Having Gaudette in the fold may give the Canucks an advantage, but the two normally only played together on the powerplay. Aston-Reese scored a ridiculous 63 points in 38 games, and is said to be a major net-front presence. The Canucks could easily offer him NHL time right away.
-The mumps were ridiculous enough, but now there’s food poisoning, too? Not to mention whatever horribly infectious disease is causing Nikolay Goldobin to run around in a surgical mask. At this point, would hiring an exorcist as a precautionary measure be a bad idea?
-As the season winds down, Canuck fans can get excited for the World Hockey Championships. A number of Canucks are likely to get invites this year, especially with players like the Sedins, Edler, and Tanev all almost certain to sit out. One has to think Bo Horvat will be high on Team Canada’s list, and they may take a look at Troy Stecher, too. Markus Granlund for Finland, Nikita Tryamkin for Russia, and Sven Baertschi and Luca Sbisa for Switzerland are all good bets.
-With rumoured injuries plaguing even the Canucks that are currently playing, it will be interesting to see if and when certain players are shut down. Chris Tanev appears to be the most affected, along with Brandon Sutter.