‘When we break pucks out clean through the neutral zone, get pucks behind their defence and get on the forecheck, that’s when we play our best.’ — Bo Horvat
The Vancouver Canucks sport a 3-3-1 record, and with the feisty Flyers coming to town Thursday, they’ll have to consistently dial up every aspect of their game, which they did Oct. 15 in a roller-coaster 5-4 shootout win at Philadelphia.
Here are three deployment points to ponder:
1. What is the identity? As captain, Bo Horvat often couches his words and accentuates the positive, but the centre cut to the chase after a sobering 3-2 loss to hard-working Minnesota on Tuesday. He did his part with a great late third-period effort to draw his club to within a goal. He collected five shots and six attempts, won 58 per cent of his draws and has three goals in his last two games.
“I’m just trying to help, no matter what,” he said. “Whether it’s scoring goals, playing a two-way game and shutting down top lines. For me, scoring is a bonus.”
His mantra should be posted on the locker-room whiteboard.
“What drives our offence is playing well defensively,” he added. “When we break pucks out clean through the neutral zone, get pucks behind their defence and get on the forecheck, that’s when we play our best.
“That’s when we get emotion and guys start making plays, and getting more bodies to the net is a staple of our game. We have to be smart and aggressive, and we have to get back to that.”
2. Pettersson’s goal pursuit: Coach Travis Green called the centre’s effort “average” Tuesday. It was a fair assessment.
Buoyed by early chants of “Petey, Petey, Petey,” there were still some struggles with strength on pucks and playing on instinct. Elias Pettersson did send Nils Höglander in for a good scoring chance and his three shots from the face-off dot on a PP1 chance that led to an Alex Chiasson goal were encouraging.
Despite missing camp and playing just two preseason games, one goal for the slick Swede in seven games will draw scrutiny. He saw some time Tuesday with the Lotto Line in the hopes of sparking chemistry.
3. Timing is everything: Tucker Poolman being lost to an upper-body injury Tuesday came hours after a vaccinated Travis Hamonic rejoined the organization. He skated on his own in Abbotsford on Wednesday. He needs conditioning and AHL games, and would be a natural fit to align with Quinn Hughes, especially if Poolman is out long-term.