After a big win against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, the Vancouver Canucks had a tough task this weekend: play two 10:00 p.m. PST on consecutive days.
In the end, the team lost Saturday’s affair in New Jersey (dubbed the Hughes-a-palooza for the presence of both Hughes family rookies), before beating the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
Here are some things we couldn’t help but notice about the squad.
The goaltending is in good hands
It’s only eight games in, but it seems like, for the first time since the Luongo-Schneider era, that the Canucks goaltending tandem is one of the better duos in the league.
Demko only allowed one goal—Jack Hughes first NHL tally—in the 1-0 loss to New Jersey and was generally great, stopping 23 shots.
It was the tender’s third game in a row, following wins against St. Louis and Detroit.
That was because Jacob Markstrom was granted leave from the team due to a family matter. But the Canucks’ starter was back in the pipes for the game against the Rangers and was phenomenal, holding off the Blueshirts’ third period rally and stopping 38 of 40 shots.
Of course, it can’t all be good times in Canuckland—there is the upcoming case of Markstrom’s expiring contract to figure out. That should be fun.
The Canucks’ powerplay may have better days ahead
The much-rumoured move of Quinn Hughes to the team’s top unit finally seemed to happen for good on the weekend. And while they had a few unsuccessful chances against New Jersey, the first unit was on point on Sunday, generating a bunch of good looks and getting a goal from Bo Horvat after some nice movement.
Jake Virtanen is showing signs of life
Canucks coach Travis Green was effusive in his praise of Markstrom after the win over the Rangers, but he also had nice things to say about Virtanen’s game.
“That was Jake’s best game,” said Green about a contest in which the winger drew two penalties (one of which came after he smacked Rangers defenceman Marc Stall) and was buzzing around the rink.
It was a statement game for Virtanen, who was paired with Horvat and Tanner Pearson on the second line.
Micheal Ferland isn’t
Of course, that meant another game spent mostly wallowing in the bottom six for offseason acquisition Micheal Ferland.
The winger registered the lowest ice time on the team (by far) with just over seven minutes. Not a great sign eight games into a four-year contract.
If Ferland isn’t playing in the top six, he doesn’t contribute much offensively—that was evidenced in his play for Calgary and Carolina. If he can’t crack Vancouver’s, he’s going to have a hard time earning his deal.
What’s next for Adam Gaudette?
It’s been four consecutive games in the press box for Gaudette, and many are beginning to wonder why someone with AHL eligibility is up with the big club if he isn’t going to play.
After all, he could be getting games in down in Utica and continuing to develop on a team that is rolling over its competition in upstate New York.
But who comes out? It seems Green is intent on keeping together the fourth line of Jay Beagle, Tim Schaller and Tyler Motte. And to be fair, they’ve had their moments.
And it’s hard to see him plucking Ferland or Josh Leivo out of the lineup. (We all know, despite a costly blunder on Sunday, that Brandon Sutter isn’t going anywhere either.)
But the Canucks need to get Gaudette some games, some way. Hopefully they figure something out soon.
Follow @ncaddell on Twitter