What a difference a month makes.
Heading into November, the Vancouver Canucks found themselves atop the NHL’s Pacific Division – the first time since 2006 they held the division leads after the first month of the season. Despite a rash of injuries, they still sat seventh overall and thoughts of the playoffs danced through the heads of fans around the province.
One dismal 3-8-3 November later (shoutout to the NHL schedule makers, who don’t seem to like the Canucks too much), Vancouver sits sixth in the Pacific, 24th overall and thoughts may soon turn to the 2019 NHL draft, which just happens to be in Vancouver.
By the numbers
Team record: 11-14-3 (5-5-1 home, 6-9-2 away) 25 points (6th, Pacific Division; 24th overall); GF: 81 (13th overall); GA: 100 (30th overall); PP: 18.9% (19th overall); PK: 76.2% (25th overall)
On Nov. 1: 8-6-0 (4-2-0 home, 4-4-0 away) 16 points (1st, Pacific Division; 7th overall); GF: 40 (9th overall); GA: 44 (27th overall); PP: 17.0% (20th overall); PK:83.3% (9th overall).
Leading scorers: Bo Horvat (28 GP, 11-13-24), Elias Pettersson (22 GP, 13-9-22), Nikolay Goldobin (28 GP, 4-12-16), Brock Boeser (15 GP; 6-7-13), Jake Virtanen (28 GP, 8-4-12). Goalies: Jacob Markstrom (20 GP, 8-9-3, 3.31 GAA, .897 save percentage), Anders Nilsson (7 GP, 3-4-0, 2.86 GAA, .902 save percentage).
On Nov. 1: Pettersson (8 GP, 7-3-10), Horvat (14 GP, 7-3-10), Virtanen (14 GP, 5-2-7), Boeser (12 GP, 2-5-7). Goalies: Markstrom (8 GP, 5-3-0, 2.96 GAA, .911 save percentage), Nilsson (6 GP, 3-3-0, 2.67 GAA, .912 save percentage).
Forward Tim Schaller has played 24 games and has yet to record his first goal as a Canuck.
Player of the month
Horvat. He-who-should-be-captain put up 14 points in 14 games despite random linemates. In the absence of the injured Brandon Sutter, Horvat draws the toughest defensive assignments and was even for the month in the plus/minus category. He leads the league in faceoffs taken with 708, a whopping 158 more than runner-up Mark Scheifele of Winnipeg. Horvat has won 386 of those draws (54.5 per cent), 73 more than Jonathan Toews of Chicago.The flashy rookie Pettersson (12 points in 14 November games) should be the team’s leading scorer for many years, but Horvat will be the club’s heartbeat.
Pettersson channels his inner Sedin with a creative bank pass to set up Boeser in a win over Colorado.
Last month, it was Virtanen, who is approaching his single-season career high (10) in goals just two months into the season. But ‘Shotgun Jake’ fans are feeling a little dry as he ended the month on an eight-game goalless drought. November’s quiet surprise has been Goldobin, who has 16 points in 28 games and is second on the team in assists.
Last month’s ‘winner’ Loui Eriksson managed four goals in November after a scoreless first month, so he happily hands the crown to Schaller. While no one was expected huge offensive numbers from the free agent pickup, the club surely hoped for more than a big donut in the goals column.
Derrick Pouliot netted the OT winner in a 7-6 thriller over the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 2.
On Nov. 18, Patrick Laine had a hat trick as the visiting Winnipeg Jets doubled the Canucks 6-3.
Canuck players have only been involved in five bouts all year. In November, Darren Archibald’s dismantling of the smaller Torey Krug was the best of the lot.
The Canucks continue to be beset by injuries. Veteran centre Jay Beagle (fractured forearm), centre Brandon Sutter (upper-body injury) and winger Sven Baertschi (upper-body injury) have been on injured reserve for lengthy stays. Defenceman Erik Gudbranson (neck) and winger Antoine Roussel (upper body) are listed as day-to-day. Defenceman Alex Edler was hit from behind by Ryan Reaves late in Thursday’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights and did not return.
On the farm
Vancouver’s AHL club, the Utica Comets, headed into Friday night’s game with the Belleville Senators with a 9-11-1-1 record, good for sixth in the league’s North Division. Reid Boucher (12 GP, 10-6-16) leads the Comets in scoring and had a brief callup to the Canucks. Top defence prospect Olli Juolevi (18 GP, 1-12-13) is playing well offensively, but is a minus-12. Heralded goaltending prospect Thatcher Demko returned after a long absence due to concussion issues, and won two of his three starts.
Coming this month
The Canucks play 14 times in December, with eight of the first 11 at home. A rare 1 p.m. Saturday start on Dec. 1 against Dallas is followed by home games against Minnesota on Dec. 4 and Nashville on Dec. 6. A three-game road swing versus St. Louis (Dec. 9), Columbus (Dec. 11) and Nashville (Dec. 13) is followed by five more at home against Philadelphia (Dec. 15), Edmonton (Dec. 16), Tampa Bay (Dec. 18), St. Louis (Dec. 20) and Winnipeg (Dec. 22). After Christmas, the Canucks finish the year on the road in Edmonton (Dec. 27), Calgary (Dec. 29) and (woo!) New Jersey on Dec. 31.
RELATED: Canucks October report
Extended Canucks coverage here
Vancouver Island Free Daily editor Philip Wolf can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @philipwolf13