Some people say that Christmas is magical, and if you’re a Vancouver Canucks fan, that seems like it’s the case.
With only two games to play before the National Hockey League’s holiday break, and coming off two straight 5-1 losses at home, the last thing anyone might’ve expected was an outburst of goals and two wins.
The “Grinch,” personified as a group of visiting Seattle Kraken fans at Rogers Arena, couldn’t steal Vancouver’s Christmas. Even though the Canucks played another poor defensive game on Thursday, they found a way to keep up with the Kraken, mounting a third period comeback and winning in a shootout.
And on Friday, down 2-0 to the Edmonton Oilers on the road, the Canucks wouldn’t go quietly into the break and rattled off five unanswered goals to stun the Oilers.
So, what can we take away from all this? Here are three key takeaways.
Elias Pettersson’s “beast mode” performance
Yeah, this one was obvious.
Five points, and the shootout winner against Seattle. Could you ask for a better return to the lineup for the Canucks’ superstar in the making?
When the Canucks came out flat against Seattle, it was Elias Pettersson who dragged his team into the fight. His line, including Andrei Kuzmenko and Lane Pederson, was in on Vancouver’s first three goals of the evening.
A year ago, Pettersson looked lost.
He wasn’t confident, and clearly wasn’t producing at his potential. Now, it’s safe to say he’s well on his way to blossoming into the franchise player he was drafted to be, and a performance like his on Thursday cemented his role as the Canucks’ deadly offensive weapon.
Pettersson followed up with a two-assist outing on Friday against the Oilers.
Flipping the script
Remember the first game of the season in October, when the Canucks jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in Edmonton before blowing it and setting a precedent for the month to come?
The Canucks didn’t want to, either.
Vancouver was met with two-goal deficits in each of these last two games, but in a strange turn of events, they weren’t the ones blowing leads. In fact, the Canucks didn’t surrender a lead during either of these games, and at times flashed the offensive fight we saw in the second half of last season.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re still not playing a well-rounded game, but this team does have a flare for the dramatic.
Old habits die hard
Despite the two wins, the Canucks have a lot of fundamental issues that need to be addressed before they can be taken seriously.
As I’ve written time and time again, they simply don’t look like they have a plan. Breakouts, passing, you name it.
They frequently – and unnecessarily – iced the puck on Thursday in situations where a simple breakout pass would’ve been all that was needed. They’ve now iced the puck 152 times this season, eighth-most in the NHL.
Their defensive tactics clearly aren’t effective either.
Yeah, this team has been fun to watch at times this week. But they aren’t going anywhere unless they get their basics sorted out.
Pettersson single-handedly carrying the team isn’t a viable long-term strategy, and it isn’t clear what’s going on in their own end.
What is, is that they have work to do on and off the ice.
What did you think of how the Canucks played this week? Drop a comment below!