Pettersson rediscovering his game for Canucks with Garland, Podkolzin

Dec 18 2021, 1:27 am

Elias Pettersson centring dominant lines is something the Vancouver Canucks missed.

Back in 2019-20, Pettersson, JT Miller, and Brock Boeser formed one of the most dangerous lines in hockey.

You usually have to be pretty good to get your line named, and that trio certainly deserved to be called “The Lotto Line.”

Based on how Pettersson’s performing with his new linemates, a new catchy name may be in order.

Towards the end of Travis Green’s tenure, Pettersson was demoted to the third line with Vasily Podkolzin and a rotating winger. Conor Garland appeared there for a game and a half, beginning against the Chicago Blackhawks.

During that game, the trio put together this impressive sequence.

Do you think Bruce Boudreau was watching?

The line started together during the Canucks’ next game on the road against the Pittsburgh Penguins before Green swapped Garland for Justin Dowling, who saw a run on Pettersson’s wing for the next five games.

Since taking over the Canucks, Boudreau has inserted Garland back onto a line with Pettersson and Podkolzin.

So far, the results have been solid.

PPG line scoring in crucial moments

The Canucks newly minted trio is making the most of their ice time.

Under Boudreau, the PPG line has combined to score four even strength goals in six games.

They’ve given the team a boost in some big moments as well.

In the team’s first game under Boudreau, Garland gave the Canucks an insurance marker against the Los Angeles Kings, with both of his linemates contributing to the goal.

Then, Pettersson would score his first even-strength goal of the season against the Carolina Hurricanes, in what ended up being the game-winner.

Their most impactful night as a line was during the team’s next match-up against the Columbus Blue Jackets. With the team down 3-1 in the third period, Pettersson’s line scored two goals in succession to tie the game at 3-3.

As a line, they’re currently rocking an 80% goal differential under Boudreau (4 GF, 1GA). The stats suggest they’ve been a bit lucky, but their expected goals-for percentage as a line still sits as an impressive 56.7%.

Thursday night’s game against the San Jose Sharks was the first weak game for the line. They were on the ice for a goal against and got crushed in terms of possession (33.3% Corsi-for).

Despite that, there was still a positive takeaway for Pettersson.

The faceoff dot is one area where Pettersson has struggled mightily throughout his young NHL career. Green usually insulated the 23-year-old by putting a centre on his line (like Miller or Dowling), but since Boudreau took over, Pettersson has had no such cushion.

Pettersson’s faceoff win percentage is now up to 49.3% in six games under Boudreau. He won only 38.6% of his faceoffs this season with Green behind the bench.

What Boudreau has to say about them

Although Pettersson, Garland, and Podkolzin have found success as a trio, Boudreau was pretty blunt in his thoughts about putting the line together.

“I’m trying put the lines together where there’s some chemistry but sometimes, the depth of all of it isn’t there yet,” Boudreau said last Friday when he joined Michael Russo on The Athletic’s “Straight from the Source” podcast.

“Podkolzin, and Conor Garland. And I mean, maybe they are not the best fits for him, but they’re the fits that he has right now that we’ve been successful with. So, we’re going to stay that way until it’s deemed that we have to change.”

Boudreau mentioned on the podcast that Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini called him and offered him the job on Sunday, December 5th around noon.

Less than 24 hours later after flying across the country, he was hosting the Canucks morning skate.

So, it’s fair to say that Boudreau didn’t have much time to think about line combinations.

It also sounds like pairing Pettersson and Podkolzin wasn’t his first choice. Perhaps that line came to formation after Boudreau assembled some of the other forward units.

The other thing he mentioned about Pettersson (and Boeser) was that he needs to shoot the puck more.

“I told him and Brock both, I said, ‘you guys gotta shoot, man, just shoot the puck, shoot the puck and I mean, you shoot the puck 10 times at the net, you’re gonna score at least one goal.'”

“Both of them are still trying to be too pretty with everything, but I think once they get down and just realize what they are and who they are, I think they’ll get out of their droughts.”

Boeser’s done just that with five goals and 20 shots in six games so far. Pettersson, although he has two goals, has registered just eight shots in six games.

Trevor BeggsTrevor Beggs

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