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Pettersson dazzles; Canucks get a point but can't climb out of playoff hole

February 22, 2021, 1:48 PM ET [737 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
It was deja vu all over again on Sunday at Rogers Arena.

Just like they did six days earlier against Calgary, the Vancouver Canucks built a 2-0 lead off an impressive first period, then gave up three straight goals to fall behind before rallying late to claim a point, but lose abruptly in overtime.

In the sporting world, history doesn't usually repeat itself in this much detail.

But there were a some notable differences between the two games.

For starters, justice was served in classic NHL fashion on Sunday when Zack MacEwen laid a tidy beatdown on Derek Forbort for disrespecting Nils Hoglander on Friday night.

The rookie's reaction to the fight is pretty priceless, but check out the other guys on the bench — Pearson, down low, and I believe that's Roussel on the left and Bo tap-tap-tapping his stick on the right.

Even Forbort had admitted on Saturday that he overreacted to Hoglander's initial hit.

So, Forbort took his medicine. And while it's tempting to think that he was off his game on Sunday, given his two minor penalties, he also managed to finish the night as a plus-two, with three hits and five blocked shots. I think Paul Maurice will be happy with that stat line.

Of course, the biggest difference-maker for Winnipeg on Sunday was Pierre-Luc Dubois, back in the lineup after missing four games with a muscle injury.

Not a bad gig, playing on the wing with Scheifele and Wheeler. He had two shots on goal for the night, and scored on both — opening the scoring for the Jets late in the second and potting the overtime winner, scooping the puck over Braden Holtby's shoulder and into the top corner.

Dubois took a lot of heat for the way things ended in Columbus. Based on what he showed last night, I don't think it'll take him long to make people forget that narrative.

Of course, one of the best parts of Sunday night was seeing Elias Pettersson back to full power. Sunday was his first multi-goal game of the year, and both tallies were completely GIF-worthy.

First, the between-the-legs backhand that put the Canucks up 2-0 late in the first.

Then, the power-play one-timer from 'the spot,' tying the game with 38 seconds left in regulation.

Pettersson snapped a five-game goal drought on Sunday. He's now up to seven on the year, and 16 points in 22 games. But take out those first six games of the year, when he had just one goal, and he's been producing at his usual pace over the last month — 15 points in 16 games.

Most importantly, he looked confident and creative on Sunday. If his mind is back where it needs to be, he may be soon dazzling fans once again on a nightly basis.

We heard several weeks ago that Pettersson was switching his representation to CAA before he comes out of his entry-level contract at the end of this season. That deal was finally officially announced last Thursday. It also has an additional component, with Pettersson also bringing along Swedish agent Johan Altberg.

I wonder how much this process has been weighing on his mind and taking up his time? His thrilling performance on Sunday made me think that his focus is now back 100 percent on just playing hockey.

Also — as much as there seemed to be a feeling of disappointment around Sunday's outcome, it's going to take more than one win in Winnpeg last month to erase my memory of the Canucks' years of futility against the Jets. Call me crazy, but to get three goals on Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck and to have a 1-1-1 record through three games with Winnipeg actually looks pretty decent to me.

The Canucks also now have points in four of five games since Francesco Aquilini's vote of confidence for the team and management a week ago — and the shutout loss on Friday was the only game in which they failed to score at least three goals.

Look at the pure standings, and they've moved a point ahead of Calgary into fifth place in the North Division — with the Flames and Habs now struggling. But Vancouver has still played five more games than Montreal, and four more than Calgary.

Both those clubs are going to need to keep losing if the Canucks are to make any kind of headway in the standings — but their upcoming schedules are anything but easy.

This week, the Flames have two games against Toronto and two against Ottawa, while Montreal plays Ottawa on Tuesday before seeing Winnipeg twice.

Meanwhile, the Canucks are off on Monday ahead of a relatively light week that will see them host Edmonton on Tuesday and Thursday, then off for a three-day weekend.

Even with these somewhat improved results, it's going to be very tough for the Canucks to gain enough ground to overcome their tough start and challenge for a playoff spot. Last year, they qualified with a points percentage of .565, which would be the equivalent of 63 points in a 56-game season.

I'm not convinced the math will work out the same this year, given the all-divisional schedule. But they're currently at .409 and 18 points. If they do need to get to 63, they'd need 45 points in their 34 remaining games, or a .661 points percentage the rest of the way.

To put that another way, that's roughly 13 points that would need to be banked for every 10 games played.

SportsClubStats has pretty much set its contenders and pretenders in the North, based on what's happened so far. They've got Toronto, Winnipeg, Montreal and Edmonton all with better than 90 percent chances of qualifying for the postseason. Calgary's at 20 percent, Ottawa's at 0.1 percent, and Vancouver's at 3.3 percent.

It's a big hill to climb. And it won't be long before trade deadline talk starts heating up in earnest if Vancouver fails to make meaningful headway — especially with useful players like Brandon Sutter, Tanner Pearson and Jordie Benn all on expiring contracts.

One market force that should benefit the Canucks: if they're selling out of Canada, their players shouldn't be subject to long quarantines if they join a new team. That should offer added value to potential buyers.
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