By: Brayden Fengler / December 18, 2021
It still feels good to write things that are positive about this Canucks team. It’s been nearly two weeks now since the well-received Canucks regime change took place, and it’s been hard to stop gushing about the positive effects that this switch-up has already had on the team.
As the games go by it only becomes more exciting, as the longer this increased performance is sustained, the more likely it is that what we’re seeing are the real Canucks. Nothing would be a better Christmas present to Vancouver fans than for Aquilini to not need to gift the city with a full-on rebuild.
Bruce Boudreau has been the Canucks coach for just six games, but in those six games, the Canucks have not lost one. Most wins have also all come in regulation except for the shootout win over the Boston Bruins on Dec 8th and the Winnipeg Jets on Dec 10th.
This record is notable, as in the six games before Boudreau took over, the Canucks had lost four of them. Yet what’s even more eyebrow-raising, is that two of those four losses that the Canucks faced under Travis Green, came from teams that they have played since under Boudreau, and have handily beaten. Those two teams being the Boston Bruins and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
As a whole, this club has seen fantastic improvement in their performance, but there are some key players that have stood a bit taller than others in terms of their improved play. Suggesting that perhaps Green had lost the room, or at least his methods had lost the ears of some of these players.
Vasily Podkolzin Continues to Trend Up
This young blood was playing well recently even before Bruce, but he has now shown an even bigger tick-up under the new coach. Vasily Podkolzin started the season slower than most fans would’ve hoped, but over the last month, he had been settling into a much more respectable stride than his early performances.
Under Travis Green, Podkolzin had an average time on ice of 11:47, quite a bit less than the 15:26 that he has averaged over the few games with Boudreau. In this increased time, he’s already proven that he’s not wasting any of it.
This is a player being played more because he’s consistently showing that he’s earning his spot and desperately wants to be here. Even during the recent losing skid, he’s looked more confident than one would expect, from a rookie player on an underperforming team.
Podkolzin’s on ice goals for percentage under Green, was at 57%, whereas with Boudreau, he’s been involved in significantly more goals for the Canucks, with that same percentage over the last 6 games sitting at 85.7%. The rookie has been on the ice for significantly more goals for his team recently and some of that is due to the team’s significantly better performance overall.
That said, he’s not being dragged along, he’s not just learning from the success of his team, he’s contributing to it.
Elias Pettersson Finally Taking Off
Elias Pettersson’s struggles to kick off this season have been well-documented to this point in the year, so I will save you from having to re-read the same deflating points that you’re likely well aware of.
In 25 games under Green, Pettersson had just four goals to his name, and suffice it to say, most of those goals weren’t the pretty, talent-filled goals that we’ve come to expect from Pettersson. The few goals he did score were largely lucky, and greasy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, a goal is a goal, but the quantity of them just wasn’t there either.
However, under Boudreau, Pettersson already has half as many goals as he did under Green with two goals on eight shots, making his shooting percentage an impressive 25% on the small sample size. However, small sample size or not, it’s encouraging to know that Pettersson is starting to find the net again more regularly.
With 61 shots this season under Green, EP40 only connected with the back of the net 6.6% percent of the time that he shot the puck.
Before BBQ Bruce, Pettersson was responsible for the second most giveaways on his team, with 13 total on the season. Currently, after half-a-dozen contests with Boudreau on the bench, Pettersson has been responsible for 1 giveaway, between all 6 games.
Giveaways are usually the result of desperation, being caught out of place and out of breath at the end of a shift, and for whatever reason with Bruce at the helm, he’s quickly been able to prevent Petey from being put in these situations as frequently.
Pettersson has also looked more stable and confident while handling the puck. The problem with Pettersson was clearly something in his own head that he just couldn’t workaround, he’s just simply a better player than what we were seeing in October, November.
If it took the firing of the coach to allow Pettersson to climb out of this slump, I think that’s a price that most Canucks fans are happy with paying.
Tyler Myers Is Better…
Tyler Myers is not what you would call a fan favourite in this market, at least not for the best reasons. With an AAV of $6M he’s often left a lot to be desired for that price tag. However, for what it’s worth, under Boudreau, Myers has begun to look more and more like a help to this team rather than a hindrance.
Like most Canucks with point production issues, Myers has seen an increase in production with three apples to his name after the last six games, half as many points as he had earned in 25 games to start the season.
Myers’ plus-minus has also shown a drastic turnaround. In the Green era of 2021-22 his +/- difference worked out to be -2, whereas with Bruce telling the big guy where to play, this same stat of his is +8 during the last 6 games.
During the times when the Canucks are leading the contests, Myers has had the highest CORSI percentage out of any Canuck that has played all 6 games under Bruce. Myers sits at 53.6% CORSI for, while his team is leading in games.
As a whole, this group has done a much better job maintaining leads under their new coaching regime, and Myers has been a large contributing factor to this uptick. The same stat before Bruce grabbed the wheel was only 42.1%, meaning that Myers was previously contributing to the problem of allowing the other team to get more chances and more shots, even after his club had gained a lead.
Now though, Myers is helping his team push forward and maintain more pressure than the other guys, while the Canucks are ahead.
Last but not Least
If you’ve been soaking up these past six (actually fun to watch) Canucks games, then you know who the most improved player under Boudreau has been. There is clearly no denying that Brock Boeser has taken these new directions by Bruce, all the way to the bank.
Like Pettersson, Boeser is now shooting at 25% in the last 6 games played, an increase from Boeser’s 7.1% that he was shooting before. The only difference is that Boeser’s increase comes with more than double the shots, with Brock earning 20 shots to Petey’s eight since Dec 6th.
Boeser has simply been flying out there, looking like the Brock of old. He’s gone from 10 points in 22 games played, to seven points in just six games played. Brock has the most obvious uptick in production when looking simply at points, but the intangibles around his game have never looked sharper as well.
Brock was a specific highlight in our piece earlier this week and after his two-goal performance in the last Canucks win against the San Jose Sharks, he’s still the most important player worth highlighting.
Bruce Where Does It Go
Realistically it seems silly, although wonderfully romantic to think that the Canucks will maintain this pace for the rest of the season. Surely team performance will dip at some point, even if it does stay more elevated than what we saw earlier this year. With any reduction in team performance though, there will come a reduction in player performance as well.
The question then remains, have these four highlighted players found a groove that will keep them at this pace, regardless of how the rest of the season goes for their team at large? Or is all this player improvement just a bubble that will eventually pop? I’d say the Canucks are done with bubbles. To some degree, this increase in production by key players is here to stay.