After a respectable start to the season, the Canucks look well on their way with an 18-9-2 record to make the playoffs this season. However, the real question is are they for real? Last year they were sitting around the same spot with a similar record of 22-11-6 heading into the Christmas break, and then the season went completely sideways and you all know how it ended. This year, I think the Canucks will not only be a playoff team but they too will go deep into the playoffs. Of course a lot of that is up to Ryan Miller playing a more consistent game instead of relying on a strong offense each night.
The defense this year has been less than stellar unlike last season where Tortorella input his shot-blocking defensive system, that worked quite well up until the team ran out of gas and completely lost control. This season Alex Edler and Chris Tanev have been the only excellent defenseman on the blueline. The rest of the defensive group have either been nonexistent or show up to games when they want too. The Canucks rank 17th in shots against per 60 minutes, which isn’t bad but could improve more if they had a better defensive system that would block shots more like they did last season. With Dan Hamhuis out long term, these problems at D could magnify intensely if they don’t get a short term solution. One thing is for sure and that’s if the Canucks look to play deep into May and June then they will need a better effort from the rest of the defensemen on the roster.
Secondary scoring has always been a rare occurrence for the Canucks, but that’s what secondary scoring is supposed to be I guess? Chip in when you can? Right? Jannik Hansen is on pace for 23 goals this season and has the only hat trick on the team while playing on the FOURTH LINE. Yes, you read that right; Hansen has played lights out with Horvat and Dorsett on the fourth line and has had no power play time this season. Brad Richardson is on pace for 20 goals while Shawn Matthias is on pace for 17 goals, but that could change while he is out with a concussion; missing the last two games. It’s not just the bottom six that has played great; the second line has played exceptionally well too. The production from the second line has dropped off especially with Bonino’s 15 game cold streak and the second line has produced 0 pts in the past 6 games altogether. I believe they’ll get the monkey off their back, but the question is when and how will they do it?
Now I think we all know what the big elephant is in the room right now or should I say in the city and it’s the goaltending. Let’s put this to rest before we go any further, there isn’t a goaltending controversy between who is the better goalie, clearly Miller is the starter and Lack is a great back up. That’s where it needs to stay, end of story. The real problem is the consistency of both goaltenders. Although Miller is 16-6 and can make a save when needed too, his record doesn’t represent his play on the ice. Miller’s 2.57 GAA and .905 SV% leaves a lot of fans twiddling their thumbs and wondering if he will get better in net. Yes, his record may be tremendous, but his 16 wins are also an accumulative stat from how well the team has played. Say what you want about Miller, but if he played better, the Canucks could be sitting prettier than they are right now in the standings. The Canucks rank 6th overall in Even Strength 5v5 GA per 60 minutes and Even Strength 5v5 GA overall. If they want to go deep into the playoffs, they will want to improve those numbers desperately. Miller or Lack can’t be giving up so many goals and expecting the offense to bail them out. Miller bailed the team out once against San Jose last month, but the Canucks will need more of those games if they expect to be a Stanley Cup contender.
The Canucks are a great team this year compared to last year, but don’t get me wrong; there’s still a lot of work to be done. If they expect to be in the playoffs still at the end of May, they will have to improve the defense and the consistency of the goaltending. If a surplus of offense starts to tumble before the defense and goaltending improves, the Canucks could be in a similar situation just like last year. But if the Canucks get all the engines running, they could be a deadly team at the end of the year going into the playoffs.