What We Saw From the Vancouver Canucks: Carolina’s defence serves as a model example

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      If the Vancouver Canucks score three goals and lose every game this season, it’s hard to imagine any Canucks fans would be surprised. Or disappointed, frankly. After all, this is the exact same defensive corps and goaltending tandem the team brought in to last season, so any expectations that those elements were going to fundamentally change were always misguided.

      But on the offensive side, the Canucks have looked straight up dynamic for parts of the first three games. And yes, those times have directly correlated with Elias Pettersson’s ice time. But if Brock Boeser can get his offensive talents flowing like his golden locks, the Canucks will be an extremely fun team to watch.

      It doesn’t seem like Pettersson is going to slow down anytime soon (coach Travis Green even put the rookie with Boeser in hopes of getting the sophomore’s game going), and if the Canucks can support two healthy lines, fans shouldn’t much care about a leaky back end.

      That’s because the defence was always going to be a tough watch, even with Michael Del Zotto scratched in favour of Ben Hutton. Indeed, it wasn’t hard to look across the ice at the Carolina Hurricanes and see the sort of defence teams are building these days.

      There are no Erik Gudbransons on Carolina. Or Michael Del Zottos. Heck, their Ben Huttons actually kept improving instead of tailing off after one good season. They have seven defenceman who have gotten ice time this season. All are 27 or younger. All are fast and can move the puck. It’s a stark contrast with the Canucks, who have maybe three rearguards who would be mainstays on the Hurricanes, and even that depends on how you feel about Troy Stecher.

      Here’s what caught our eye in the Canucks 5-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

      Three that impressed

      1. Sven Baertschi

      We’ll say this for Sven: He knows when to give his best. After being demoted off the top line to start the game, Baertschi responded with two goals and an assist. The first one, on a breakaway, was a thing of beauty.

      It wasn’t long before he was back with Horvat (albeit not Boeser).

      2. Jaccob Slavin

      Carolina’s steady-but-not-spectacular defender led the team in ice time and registered two assists. Though he doesn’t get an enormous amount of attention, Slavin has emerged as one of the best young blueliners in the league. The Canucks’ forwards had no answer for him as he continually escaped from their forechecking efforts.

      3. Elias Pettersson

      Until he has even just a mediocre game, we can’t not put him in the impressive category. Once again, he did his dekes. Pettersson was able to keep the points streak going and led Canucks forwards in ice time. He also posted some sparkling underlying numbers and hustled back constantly on defence.

      Three that didn’t

      1. Erik Gudbranson

      2. Derrick Pouliot

      These two are getting lumped together because they were victimized early and often. And by early, we literally mean 43 seconds into the game. That’s how long it took for Jordan Staal’s wrister to float through a screen and past Jacob Markstrom.

      Guddy and Pouliot were on for that and two other Canes’ tallies. We are inclined to put more of the blame on Gudbranson—he was constantly icing the puck and getting the Canucks into trouble—but neither inspire much confidence as a second pairing in the NHL. Again, one look across the ice was very telling.

      3. Jacob Markstrom

      One has to think the upcoming game against Tampa Bay sees Anders Nilsson in the cage. Staal and Brett Pesce both scored by throwing the puck on the net and those are goals the Canucks simply need Markstrom to stop. Though he was peppered 33 times, Marky once again let a few stoppable pucks by.


      - Will the Canucks forever be haunted by Micheal Ferland? The former Calgary Flames forward notoriously got under the skin of the entire Canucks roster and Kevin Bieksa in particular the last time Vancouver was in the playoffs (2015). He was brought over from Calgary in the offseason along with Dougie Hamilton and was his agitating self, lining up Alex Edler and Chris Tanev constantly and chipping in offensively. The Canucks didn’t seem to have much of an answer for the Manitoba native.

      - Maybe the first misplay of Pettersson’s young NHL career came when he allowed Carolina rookie Andrei Svechnikov to get position in front of him in order to bat home a rebound. The two may well end up in a battle for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie before the year is out.


      “This team is going to disrupt in the East.” – Former Canucks goaltender and now-analyst Kevin Weekes on the Hurricanes

      “That was a deke, geez, that’s a little rude.” – Sven Baertschi defending his breakaway move