The holiday season is drawing to a close and so is, mercifully, 2018. That means it’s time for hockey teams to look ahead while casting one last glance over the shoulder.
That brings us to the Vancouver Canucks.
The West Coasters have three games to go in 2018 and it has been a year of evolution. Many did not see the Canucks enjoying so much success after the exits of Daniel and Henrik Sedin, but a present in the form of Elias Pettersson has allowed some serious firepower and that’s put this team in a good position.
Granted, there are no guarantees. The Canucks are just 17-18-4, a point behind the Edmonton Oilers for the final wild card spot in the conference.
But say that again. It sounds so, so…provocative:
A point behind the Edmonton Oilers for the final wild card spot in the conference.
That means that anything can and probably will happen between now and the post-season, especially considering how far the Oilers have fallen. Edmonton is, while we’re on the subject, visiting the Canucks Thursday.
The Oilers are, after all, on the hunt for goals. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Alex Chiasson, and the Nuge are doing almost all of the scoring for Edmonton these days, which has made them a two-line team at best. The Oilers are also still searching for a little character behind Ken Hitchcock’s coaching style, which has turned them into winners of a sort but winners with a few problems.
But back to the Canucks, who are but should probably not be a point behind the Edmonton Oilers for the final wild card spot in the conference.
Vancouver is going into Thursday’s game with the 20th best power play in the NHL and the 18th best PK. The Oilers are in the area, splitting the league on the power play and ailing on the penalty kill.
The Canucks boast a lineup of scorers led by Pettersson, who will win the Calder Trophy barring a serious blunder, and Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser.
Pettersson is the real deal and some are already saying he’ll make history as one of the best Canucks ever. The 20-year-old from Sundsvall is at 36 points in 33 games, including 17 goals – five of which are on the power play and five of which are game-winners. He hasn’t scored in three games, though, so he’s due against the Oilers.
And indeed, Pettersson’s advent as THE player in Vancouver has been the biggest story for the franchise in 2018, even after the Sedin retirement drew the curtain on another era.
The reason this team isn’t flagging in the past right now is because of the new guys. It would’ve been easy to throw in the white towel rather than wave it. It would’ve been easy to look ahead to the draft, to this rebuild-on-the-fly or whatever it is.
But now, with 2019 pending and the Canucks just a point behind the Edmonton Oilers for the final wild card spot in the conference, there is potential. There is hope. And thanks to Elias Pettersson, there is fire.