Vancouver Canucks: 3 ways they can exceed expectations

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The Vancouver Canucks have their eyes set on the playoffs entering the 2019-20 NHL season. Here are three ways for them to get in.

The 2019-20 NHL season has begun, and the Vancouver Canucks have had a decent start so far. After four games, they have two wins and two losses, including an 8-2 drubbing of the Los Angeles Kings in their home opener.

The prediction game has been on for months now as to whether the Canucks will be able to make the playoffs for the first time in five years. Despite some exceptions, a consensus seems to have been reached that the team will be competitive all season but will narrowly miss the playoffs.

However, it is very possible for the Canucks to exceed those expectations, as long as they adjust their play in these three ways. If so, the playoffs and maybe even a little more are in reach.

1. Controlling play

The most obvious way for the Canucks to beat the odds and surpass the hockey world’s expectations would be to score more goals. For the past few years, the team’s forward group has faced constant criticism for being unable to score, criticism that, for the most part, has been warranted.

After all, it is goals that win games. While the offensive situation has improved over the past couple years with the emergence of Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, it was this offseason that the forward core finally got a shot in the arm in the form of J.T. Miller, Tanner Pearson, and Micheal Ferland.

Last month, I published a piece in which I predicted that five Canucks would score 20 goals in 2019-20. While it is still very early, that hurdle may be close to being cleared, at least if their win over the Kings means anything.

However, calling a team offensively sound does not refer exclusively to scoring. This Canucks team must control play in every single game if it wants to make a real play. Too often, fans have been forced to watch their team chase the play for entire games.

Opposing teams just have to pass the puck around as quickly as they can and keep from falling apart to have the Canucks’ number. One can sense when they will be shutout, even as early as the first period, as was the case in their second game of the season against the Calgary Flames.

There can be none of that this year. Rather than chasing the play, the Canucks must be the ones being chased. Forechecking is key. There can be as few turnovers as possible, and all players must be using the body to break up passes, block shots and prevent opponents from building momentum or getting repeated opportunities to score.

Everyone must show up to play and score each and every game. They cannot settle to be difficult to play against; they must be impossible.

That said, they must still be disciplined in their physicality. While the Canucks do generally have a good penalty kill, they cannot win games on PK alone, so staying out of the penalty box is imperative. They must also be safe when throwing hits or blocking shots, as injuries will only cost them, as evidenced by the past few seasons.

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