Vancouver Canucks gameday: Brock Boeser up against Alex Ovechkin

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 30: John Carlson /

Two of the best shooters in the NHL will be on the ice when the Vancouver Canucks visit the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.

The Vancouver Canucks begin the day ranked 28th in the NHL, just one point ahead of the Ottawa Senators who have two games in hand. Vancouver has lost five road games in a row, the last away win coming against the Nashville Predators on November 30th, 2017. The Canucks’ goal differential for the season has now dropped to minus-30, ranking ahead of only the Buffalo Sabres and the Arizona Coyotes.

The Canucks have just one regulation win in their last 14 games, just one since December 7th. Just one in an entire month and counting.

In other words, it’s ugly. Is it too early to compare this to the ends of John Tortorella and Willie Desjardins’ Vancouver tenures?

But if the Canucks stay true to themselves and continue the trend they have set this season, a win tonight against the Washington Capitals is a real possibility. The Canucks have not lost more than four games in a row at any point this season and that means tonight is the night their current four-game losing skid ends. I think.

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However, even if the Canucks do end up getting schooled by the Capitals tonight and lose five straight and drop below the Senators, there is a way to make this game a positive for Vancouver. It would do the Canucks good to learn from the Capitals tonight, regardless of the result. After all, Washington does sit atop the Metropolitan Division and is currently the fourth-best team in the NHL.

If there is optimism that can be found heading into tonight’s match, it is that the Canucks beat the Capitals at home earlier this season scoring six goals, the most in a single game this season.

Let’s take a look at the keys to the match for the Canucks.

Lineup Notes: Nikolay Goldobin will play and Brendan Gaunce will sit. Chris Tanev and Derrick Pouliot will not play, Alex Biega draws in.

Washington Capitals (26-13-3, 1st in Metropolitan)
132 GF / 120 GA

3 Keys to the match

  1. Jacob Markstrom can steal a win tonight

Netminder Jacob Markstrom was pretty darn good against the Toronto Maple Leafs, letting in only two goals on 36 shots. He was lucky to be saved by the offside review once but he was also unlucky when the refs did not penalize the Leafs for clipping Alex Edler before their first goal.

Another reason for optimism is that January has been Markstrom’s best month in his career. Markstrom has a .923 save percentage and a 2.27 goals-against average in fourteen January games, a stunning record considering his career save percentage of .906 and a goals-against average of 2.87. In fact, Markstrom is sitting at .932 save percentage in January 2018.

2. A healthy Sven Baertschi needs to step up
Though the injuries have piled on, Sven Baertschi is back. He looked out of place in Montreal, unlike the player who had eight goals and 18 points in 31 games this season. Baertschi could have pushed for 50 points with that pace, playing alongside Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser.

With bodies missing up front, it is time for Baertschi to remind himself that he is in the final year of his contract and that this team of desperate for offense that does not rely on Boeser.

Related Story: The Vancouver Canucks should trade for Sam Bennett

3. Learn from Alex Ovechkin, learn from the Washington Capitals

Ovechkin leads the NHL goal-scoring race with 27 this season, which is five more than Boeser’s 22 having played three more games. Watching Ovechkin and the Capitals will be a good opportunity for the Canucks to learn how to utilize Boeser, especially on the power play. Make sure Edler learns when to pass to Boeser and when ‘not’ to.

It will also be a good chance for Boeser to learn from Ovechkin. To be fair, Boeser has been the more efficient scorer of the two. Boeser leads Ovechkin in both shooting percentage (19.6% over 14.8%) and goals-per-60 (2.01 over 1.97). Boeser does favor his wrist shot over his slap shot quite a bit, though, and tonight could be an opportunity for Boeser to learn from Ovechkin to improve his slap shot.

The Canucks should be getting most, if not all of their currently injured players back by the end of this month. Until then, they will have to find ways to utilize Boeser without having to rely too heavily on him and potentially hampering his development.


David Joun

104. Final. 2. 19. 3

The Canucks have done a good job this year of shutting down the elite scorers like Connor McDavid and Patrik Kane. Markstrom’s athleticism should help him keep the score close despite Ovechkin’s efforts. Canucks have had success against the Capitals already this season.

Alex Hoegler

2. 104. Final. 5. 19

The Canucks defence is just not good enough to slow down the high-flying attack. And oh, the Canucks have troubles scoring goals these days.

Andrew Nazareth

19. 3. 104. Final. 1

They have to beat a good team at some point right? Loui Eriksson scores, and Boeser adds to his point total. Look for Marky Mark to get the start for this funky bunch.

Scott Rosenhek

19. 2. 104. Final. 4

Next: Canucks mailbag: Benning extension, trades, more

Brock Boeser will be responsible for the Canucks offence again, either directly or indirectly. He will have to do this on his own as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov put Jacob Markstrom under siege.