March 26, 2023

Despite scoring two in the third, the Vancouver Canucks couldn’t come back, dropping a 5-2 decision to the New Jersey Devils Tuesday night. The game also featured the debut of the Canucks’ new Reverse Retro jerseys which were a hit on social media and in the arena. Vancouver is now 2-6-2 to start the season and find themselves slowly slipping out of the playoff race.

Vancouver Canucks Takeaways

After an offseason of change and promise that the team would have a better start, the Canucks find themselves with three points less than they had last season at the 10-game mark. This game against the Devils was another indication that Vancouver’s problems run deep and that major changes may be needed to get the team back on track. With all this in mind, here are five takeaways from the game.

Horvat Steps Up

Once again, Bo Horvat was the Canucks’ best player. The captain dragged his team back into the game with two power play goals in the third and finished the night with a team-high five shots on goal. He also finished third on the team in Corsi% at even strength with a 55.56% and was the only Canuck to finish above 50% in the faceoff dot. He was by far Vancouver’s hardest-working player and was named the game’s second star after his strong performance.

Related: Canucks Bo Horvat Emerging as One of NHL’s Most Underrated Centers

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Horvat is now up to eight goals and 10 points in 10 games this season. While his goal total is impressive, it is his work ethic and on-ice leadership that have really stuck out so far this year. Regardless of the score, he is driving the net and doing everything he can to keep his team in games. With efforts like the one last night, he is showing the Canucks they made a mistake by not signing him to a contract extension before the season started.

The Demko Dilemma

One of the biggest talking points around Vancouver has been the play of Thatcher Demko so far this season. He has the 57th-ranked save percentage (SV%) in the league at .876 and has had a SV% below .900 in six of his eight starts which includes the game against the Devils. Something is not right, and while most are pointing the finger at him, his play is not the main reason for the Canucks’ struggles.

Thatcher Demko Vancouver Canucks
Thatcher Demko, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This game against the Devils was a perfect example of why Demko’s numbers look bad on paper. Of the four goals that he allowed, three were designated as high-danger scoring chances. The Canucks as a team are giving up too many two-on-ones or breakaways, with the difference between this season and the ones prior being that Demko hasn’t been able to stand on his head. Vancouver needs to find a way to lighten the load for their starting goaltender; otherwise, he could get injured as the season progresses.

Faceoff Issues

One major issue for the Canucks was faceoffs. As a team, they only won 42% of the total draws and were unable to eclipse 46% in any of the three zones. The only player who was better than 50% on the night was Horvat which isn’t surprising, as he is the only Canucks center who has won more than 45% of his draws on the season.

Related: 10 NHL Teams off to Unexpected Starts in October

Losing faceoffs had a direct correlation to the score versus New Jersey, as the Devils’ first goal was created off a lost faceoff on the penalty kill in the defensive zone. In short, the centers on this team, not named Horvat, need to learn how to win faceoffs. Having two of the four centers in the game finish below 35% is unacceptable. This is an area of concern for the Canucks and one they should focus on before their game against the Ducks on Thursday.

Ethan Bear Stands Out

In his Canucks debut, Ethan Bear was solid. He was credited with one shot on goal, two hits, one block, and one takeaway in 18:01 of ice time. Additionally, he was one of four Canucks who finished the night without being on the ice for a goal against.

For a player who was making his season debut, he did everything Vancouver needed from him. He was engaged in the play at both ends of the ice, didn’t turn the puck over, and wasn’t caught out of position. While his game wasn’t perfect, he was noticeable, especially when it came to breakout passes and his puck-moving ability. Based on his play, the Canucks should give him power play time next game especially considering the poor play of Oliver Ekman-Larsson in this game when Vancouver had the extra man.

Canucks Need to Hit the Net More

Arguably the most frustrating part of the game was watching the Canucks either miss the net completely or shoot the puck into the shin pads of a Devils player. As a team, they had 55 shot attempts yet only managed to get 23 on the net. The Canucks need to find a way to test the opposition goalie more, as this trend of not hitting the net is starting to become an issue.

Related: Canucks Need a Rebuild to Change Losing Culture

One other trend that has become apparent from watching games is that the Canucks overpass the puck. From a viewer’s perspective, it looks like the players are overthinking the play and making one too many passes instead of getting the puck on the net. This then leads to a turnover and, more often than not, a scoring chance against. The Canucks need to get back to playing simple hockey, as the game plan in the offensive zone is not working so far this season.

Up Next: The Ducks

The Canucks’ next game is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 3, as they take on the Anaheim Ducks for the first time this season. The game will be a special one as Kevin Bieksa will sign a one-day contract and retire as a member of the Canucks before the game. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 PM PST as they look to beat the Ducks at home for the first time since Jan. 16, 2020.

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