Canucks aim to move up in Pacific, end road trip with tough test vs. Jets
Tuesday January 14 - Vancouver Canucks at Winnipeg Jets - 5 p.m. - Sportsnet Pacific, TSN3 (Winnipeg Region), Sportsnet 650
Vancouver Canucks: 46 GP, 25-17-4, 54 pts, third in Pacific Division
Winnipeg Jets: 46 GP, 24-18-4, 52 pts, fourth in Central Division
The Vancouver Canucks will need to reverse recent history — and get some help — if they hope to move into first place in the Pacific Division by closing out their road trip with a win over the Winnipeg Jets.
Vancouver goes into action on Tuesday sitting one point behind Arizona and Calgary in the Pacific. The Coyotes host the Sharks, starting one hour after the Canucks, and the Flames don't play again until Thursday in Toronto.
Gotta keep an eye on the rear-view mirror, too. Thanks to a three-game losing streak, Vegas is now tied with Vancouver but sits lower in the standings due to two extra games played. They're in Buffalo on Tuesday at 4 p.m. PT. And Edmonton's one point back in fifth, hosting Nashville at 6 p.m. PT.
Pretty sure that all means that by the time the Canucks land back in Vancouver late Tuesday night, they could be anywhere between first and fifth in the division. #parity
With so much on the line, the good news for Vancouver is that the Jets are slumping. But the bad news, as always, is that Bell MTS Place has not been kind to the Canucks, and Connor Hellebuyck has their number.
I went back six seasons, through the entire Benning era, and didn't find one road win...
Last November, the Canucks suffered their first slump of the season when they lost on back-to-back nights on the road in Chicago and Winnipeg, dropping a 4-1 decision against the Jets.
In 2018-19, they went 0-3-0 against Winnipeg and lost their lone road game by the same score, 4-1.
In Travis Green's first season in 2017-18? Also 0-3-0. Two games were played in Winnipeg, with scores of 5-1 and 1-0.
The Canucks' last win of any type against the Jets came on December 20, 2016 at Rogers Arena, by a score of 4-1. They lost the other two games that year, too, and went down 2-1 in their one visit to the 'Peg.
This is getting grim...
In 2015-16, the results were 0-3-0 again. Road losses were 4-1 and 2-0.
The 2014-15 season was pretty good! They went 2-1-0, winning both games at home, and scored four goals on Ondrej Pavelec in their 5-4 road loss. That, of course, is before Connor Hellebuyck came along.
So — they haven't beaten Winnipeg on the road since well before the Hellebuyck era began, and haven't scored more than one goal against him — ever — in Winnipeg.
Hellebuyck's all-time record against Vancouver (home and away) is 6-1-0 with a 1.58 goals-against and .944 save percentage. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who's starting tonight.
After the Jets' blue line was decimated during the offseason, Hellebuyck has been the No. 1 reason why the team is even in playoff contention at this point in the season. He has appeared in 38 of Winnipeg's 46 games this season — tied with Carey Price of Montreal for the most games played so far this year. And while Price has played over 100 more minutes, Hellebuyck has faced the most shots (1,167 vs. 1,145) and made the most saves (1,074 vs. 1,038).
With 14 fewer goals allowed on 22 more shots faced, Hellebuyck owns a .920 save percentage this season, just a hair below the .924 that earned him second place in the Vezina Trophy voting in 2017-18. His Quality Start Percentage this season is actually even a bit higher than that year, currently sitting at .611 compared to .609.
That quality start percentage is based on the number of games where a goaltender finishes with a save percentage better than the league average, which is currently .909.
Jacob Markstrom's ratio has taken a bit of a hit recently, with that .714 night in Tampa, his .848 performance in that wild win over Chicago and an .893 total in that low-shot matinee in Buffalo. Even with those dips, he's currently boasting a .915 save percentage that's his best since he became a starter, and his .594 Quality Start Percentage is just a shade below the .600 'good' threshold and by far the highest of his career to date. His previous best was .567, last season.
Is the stage is set for a different outcome on Tuesday? The Jets are just 3-5-2 in their last 10 games and seven of the eight points they have picked up during that stretch have come on the road. A team that's notoriously tough to beat on home ice, Winnipeg is currently 0-5-1 in its last six home games, which has pulled them down to 10-10-3 for the season at home.
A couple of notes from the Canucks' infirmary...
First, congratulations to Micheal Ferland and his wife!
Second — welcome back, Brandon Sutter!
Sutter skated as an extra during Tuesday morning's line rushes in Winnipeg. Everything else remains status quo.
As for the Jets — they're currently on a two-game losing streak, and kicked off a three-game homestand on Sunday with a 1-0 loss to Nashville. Winnipeg lost defenseman Tucker Poolman to a lower-body injury in that game — he won't play against Vancouver.
Forward Bryan Little, who has been out since early November, skated at practice on Monday but isn't ready to get back into the lineup yet. The team's other absences are also long term: defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, out a month with a lower-body injury and, of course, Dustin Byfuglien's future still uncertain as he recovers from ankle surgery.
Here's how Winnipeg's lines rolled at practice on Monday:
Paul Maurice did confirm to the media after the Jets' optional morning skate on Tuesday that rookie Jansen Harkins will draw back into the lineup in place of Gabriel Bourque after two healthy scratches. Harkins grew up in North Van, the son of former NHLer Todd Harkins, and made his NHL debut last month. So far, the 22-year-old has two assists in eight games.
One other quick subplot before I sign off for today. After the spotlight shone brightly on Brock Boeser during his return to Minnesota over the weekend, let's take a quick look at how he's doing in comparison to Winnipeg's two young forwards who also got new contracts this season:
Brock Boeser: 3 years, $5.875 million AAV
46 GP, 17-27-43, av. ice time 19:08, plus-5, 14 power-play points
Patrik Laine: 2 years, $6.75 million AAV
44 GP, 15-26-41, av. ice time 19:47, plus-8, 9 power-play points
Kyle Connor: 7 years, $7.142 million AAV
46 GP, 22-22-44, av. ice time 20:32, minus-2, 10 power-play points
All three are having good seasons. Boeser and Connor are both on track for career years, and a more well-rounded game from Laine could see him hit a career high in points even as he records his first season with less than 30 goals.
Also interesting to see Laine with the best plus-minus of the three after finishing tied for 10th-worst in the NHL last season at minus-24 — and seeing his ice time increase by two and a half minutes a game. Seems like he's proving that as his game matures, he's much more than a one-trick pony.
Still, it looks like the Canucks are getting the most bang for their buck on their deal with Boeser.
If you had a chance to make a one-for-one deal, would you swap Brock for either Connor or Laine? Something to watch as a bit of a game-within-a-game tonight.