By: Brayden Fengler / November 17, 2023
It’s hard to believe where this Canucks team has found themselves so far this season, even despite their weaker performance against Calgary on Thursday night.
However, after the team’s overtime win against their former captain on Wednesday night, the Canucks, who were already near the top of the league in a number of categories, reached even further heights.
The Canucks Near the Top the League
Currently, the Vancouver Canucks sit second in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference just behind the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Vegas Gold Knights lost 3-0 to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, which finally opened up an avenue for the Canucks to close the gap against their division and conference rivals on Wednesday night. With Vancouver’s win over the New York Islanders, this gap was closed.
Unfortunately, for the Canucks however this closer was short-lived as VGK’s win on Thursday night over Montreal, combined with the Canucks lose to Calgary bumped the Canucks back down where they started before Vegas opened the door with their last loss.
The Canucks currently have a 12-4-1 record, notching them a total of 25 points on the season which in addition to being right up there with Vegas, puts them only points behind the league-leading Boston Bruins as well.
We are now just under a week away from American Thanksgiving which is usually a time feared by optimistic Canucks Fans.
That date is largely considered to be the first real benchmark of the season, where enough games have been played across the league, that more knowledgeable projections and expectations can start to be placed on any given team.
In recent years, this has been the time of the season when Canucks fans have collectively realized that again, the club has not magically fixed their problems over the off-season. However, this year, there is a lot of magic to be found.
Dom Luszczyszyn’s latest tweet related to his playoff predictions has the Canucks sitting at a comfy 95% chance of making it. Additionally, Moneypuck.com has the Canucks at a respectable 91% as well.
Of course, the team is not doing well off of good vibes alone, it’s the team’s players, and most importantly their star players that have found recipes for success night in and night out. They are making this team look unsustainably sustainable in their dominant play.
Although on a team level, the Canucks have some close competition on the early season podium, on a player level, the Canucks are looking at a clean sweep atop the NHL leaderboards.
After Wednesday night’s game, the NHL leaderboard for overall points looked like:
J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are still dominating the entire league with their current level of production. Those rankings stayed the same through Thursday night as well, with all three players getting a point in the Canucks loss to Calgary.
As shown in the above tweet, Boston’s David Pastrnak is right behind them, which should be no surprise given Boston’s status in the standings.
But what is interesting is that the next Boston player on the overall points list ranks in at 39th, Brad Marchand with 16 points on the year. As for rankings of Vegas players, the highest Golden Knight to rank on the total points list is William Karlsson, at 23rd with just 18 points.
This becomes less surprising when you look at Vancouver’s overall goals for the season, they are leading the league by a wide margin at 72 goals. The second-place team, the Vegas Golden Knights only just cracked the 60 mark last night, and now sit with 61 goals on the year. Before Thursday, it was actually the L.A. Kings at 58 goals on the year, that sat behind the Canucks in this category.
This shows just how good Vancouver’s good players are right now. It’s not just that their stars are the only thing keeping the team afloat concerning goals and overall means of production.
It’s the fact that their stars are playing to a level above and beyond what is being produced by other stars in the league right now, even stars on the teams that they are close to in the standings. This further points to sustainably high production from Vancouver as the team and their stars can comfortably produce less during most outings, and still compete at the top of the league.
Blueline and Defence
Of course, the first positive point to mention when discussing the Canucks blueline is Quinn Hughes and his production numbers. However, beyond what Hughes is doing individually, his line, and the Canucks defensive core on the whole have been providing largely impressive support to back up the offensive powerhouse that is their team.
During the last three Canucks outings since Carson Soucy’s injury, Quinn Hughes has been paired up with Noah Juulsen. However, the linemate that Quinn played with the most so far this season has been Filip Hronek. This paring, despite not skating for the last 180 minutes of Canucks game action is #15 in the league with regards to deployment, seeing a total of 207:59 minutes of play together so far this season.
They are near the league’s most deployed line for a reason, because their shutdown game along with Quinn’s production has made this line #2 in the league out of that top 15 with regards to their Corsi for percentage, which sits at 56.41%. Only the Hurricanes Brent Burns and Jaccob Slavin have been deployed more while maintaining a higher CF%.
With regards to the Canucks’ main netminder, I recently wrote a piece highlighting his phenomenal play so far this season. Demko’s start has been lost a little bit in the shuffle of how much attention is rightfully being placed on the rest of this Canucks team.
But make no mistake, Demko is a big part of this team, perhaps bigger than ever. Of NHL goalies with 11 or more games played as Demko has, he ranks among the best out of that group of 10 netminders with an SV% of .932.
The Road Ahead
From now through the end of 2023, the Canucks will play 11 more games and, 8 more on the road. They will face Vegas before the year is through, but they will also have three more outings against the Sharks in that period as well.
The odds are not stacked against this team right now, and with the wind at their backs, they should be able to continue their impressive results through the rest of the year and beyond.