The Canucks are on a roll.
Yes, the Vancouver Canucks.
After an impressive five-game road trip where they went 4-1, which included two shutout victories, the Canucks returned home and embarrassed the Washington Capitals 6-2 on home ice on Thursday.
They’ve won four in a row now, improving their record to 6-3-1 after 10 games.
It’s early, but they’re starting to make believers out of some people.
Is this a playoff team? I’m not willing to go there yet, but let’s enjoy the moment, shall we?
Here are 10 reasons why the team is kicking ass right now.
1. 4-line attack
The Canucks have a legitimate four-line attack for the first time since the last time they made the playoffs in 2014-15.
Against Buffalo it was Brandon Sutter’s line, with Markus Granlund and early-season MVP candidate Derek Dorsett, leading the way. Sven Baertschi potted two goals against Detroit. Jake “Big Tuna” Virtanen was the catalyst in Minnesota. And on Thursday the Killer B line – Bo, Baertschi, Boeser – stung the Capitals.
This isn’t a team that leans heavily on the Sedins anymore, in fact, they’re no longer the team’s top line.
2. Travis Green
New head coach Travis Green appears to be pushing the right buttons right now.
He’s not playing the Sedins like a top line. He’s juggled his lines. He put his faith in Derek Dorsett, who has rewarded him. He doesn’t go to the well with the same players every game. He appears to be playing players based on merit.
He line-matches and appears to have a game plan every night.
More than player deployment, the team is playing a more exciting style of hockey. They’re more aggressive and it appears to be working with this group of players.
3. Better players
We shouldn’t forget about the obvious reason the Canucks are better this year, and that’s that they’ve got better players.
The entire team doesn’t have the mumps.
Jayson Megna and Michael Chaput haven’t seen game action, never mind prime time minutes.
The veteran free agent signings have helped. Michael Del Zotto, in particular, has been a massive upgrade over Luca Sbisa on defence. Thomas Vanek has four goals. Alexander Burmistrov has five points.
4. Derek freaking Dorsett
Derek Dorsett has been like a new addition to the team this season.
The career-fourth liner played just 14 games last year before season-ending neck surgery. People wondered how that surgery would affect his play, and if he was still an NHL-caliber player at age 30.
To the surprise of everyone, he’s playing the best hockey of his career.
Credit to the coaching staff who put him in prominent role, because Dorsett has thrived. He leads the team in goals with six, and is second in points with eight.
He’s done it averaging over 15 minutes of ice time per game, and playing a hard-nosed game.
Will it last forever? Of course not. But what a start.
5. Surprising teams
Just as Dorsett has surprised us, the Canucks are surprising other teams.
They have to be.
Vancouver developed a reputation around the league, and they don’t get a lot of respect. After the way they played the last two years, it’s well earned.
Flying under the radar helps.
6. Young players leading the charge
Three of the team’s top-four scorers are 25 and under. They also represent the team’s best line of late – Baertschi, Bo Horvat, and Brock Boeser.
Boeser had three points against Washington and now leads the team in scoring.
7. Brock Boeser’s shot
Boeser has nine points, but it may surprise you that he has just two goals.
He’s earned some of his assists from rebounds that he creates with his powerful shot. Goaltenders are getting a pad on his shots, but they’re unable to control them.
That’s leading to opportunities for his linemates.
Green has been right with a lot of the moves he’s made, but he wasn’t right with sitting Boeser to start the season. Boeser isn’t just good enough to make the team, he’s one of their top players.
8. Dealing with injuries better
Most observers would have thought that in order for this group to start the season 6-3-1, they’d need to be getting incredibly lucky and they’d also need to be healthy.
Incredibly, health hasn’t cooperated with them, as Alex Edler, Troy Stecher, and Loui Eriksson are all currently out with long term injuries. Missing Edler, in particular, is a crushing blow.
At least it should be.
The Canucks are deeper than they used to be, and it’s showing. Newcomer Derrick Pouliot hasn’t looked out of place, either.
The loss of Eriksson has provided more opportunities for guys like Boeser and Virtanen.
With Ryan Miller gone to Anaheim, the Canucks are without a proven No. 1 goaltender for the first time in over 15 years.
Jacob Markstrom and Anders Nilsson have been up to the test. It hasn’t been smooth sailing the entire time, but they’re getting enough from the pair of Swedish giants to win games.
The Canucks would be smart to continue platooning the pair. They may not have a bonafide No. 1, but ample rest/preparation for each goalie could make them better.
10. Team defence
One of the more impressive stats concerning the Canucks in the early going is shots against. They’re third-best in the league at preventing shots on their goaltenders, trailing just the Philadelphia Flyers and Nashville Predators.
They’ve been doing it while not boring us to tears too.
Again, it’s a credit to their new head coach, because who saw this coming?