VANCOUVER – In the last seven days, the Vancouver Canucks have amassed 17 goals in three games and led the National Hockey League in scoring.
We know, this hardly makes up for the last 49 years. But the rebirth of the Canucks’ offence this season is significant.
The team was 26th in the NHL in scoring the last two years, 29th the season before that. They expected to be better this season, but no one thought the Canucks would be scoring like it was 2011 in Vancouver.
In Monday’s 7-2 fricasseeing of the Florida Panthers, the Canucks started their touchdown by generating four goals from four different lines in the first nine-and-a-half minutes. Then coach Travis Green ran out of lines, so one of the forward groups went back for seconds and another, Elias Pettersson’s top line, eventually had thirds.
The universality of Vancouver scoring was impressive enough, but that it came one game after the Canucks managed to lose after building a 5-1 lead against the Washington Capitals on Friday made Monday’s fireworks even louder and brighter.
"It’s fun obviously; it’s nice to score seven goals," veteran defenceman Alex Edler said after a three-assist, plus-four night. "But it’s really good to see how we get on the forecheck and stick to our game and try to wear teams down. I thought we did it pretty good tonight.
"I don’t think we played bad in the third period against Washington, but whenever you give up a 5-1 lead, obviously you’re not happy about it. It was important tonight once we got the lead to try to keep going."
Forward J.T. Miller said: "That’s a lot of goals. It’s not always like that. When you… create a lot of odd-man opportunities down low and on the power play, it means you’re doing a lot of good things. We’re just finding a way to take advantage of it and put the puck in the net. We’re going to learn to play with a lead because if we want to be the team we talk about being this season, it’s going to happen a lot."
Miller scored two of the Canucks goals, giving him six goals and 13 points in 11 games since general manager Jim Benning surrendered first- and third-round picks to acquire him in June from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Miller’s first goal of the night, a top-corner laser from the top of the faceoff circle that made it 4-1 at 9:35 of the opening period — just 86 seconds after Brian Boyle had scored for Florida — was the 26-year-old’s 100th in the NHL.
He said his Pittsburgh-area parents had been pestering him about getting his 100th.
"They’ve been pressuring me for about a week now, so I told them to stop texting me," Miller said. "It’s cool. I’m happy to do it and have a lot of help from some really good teams and teammates along the way."
Here was the difference in the Canucks Monday, when they pulled away from the Panthers, and Friday when they let the Capitals back into the game: In the final minute of the first period, with a chance to take a three-goal lead to the intermission, Canucks defencemen Edler and Tyler Myers each made bold, aggressive challenges in the offensive zone to blow up Florida breakouts and turn the puck back towards the Panthers’ net.
That shift ended with Canucks winger Micheal Ferland easily skating past leaden defenceman Aaron Ekblad to set up Josh Leivo cross-ice and make it 5-1.
When Mike Hoffman got one back for the Panthers on a power play late in the second period, Miller scored again for the Canucks, this time on a deflection. And the only goal of the third period came from the Canucks’ Brock Boeser, who was on the scoring end of one of Pettersson’s three assists.
Despite constant yammering in the market about Pettersson "struggling," last year’s Calder Trophy winner now has 14 points in 11 games.
"We have a wider group," Pettersson said of the talent depth. "A lot of guys can help this team win. I feel like everyone is buying in, everyone is working hard. Also, I’m very happy that all the lines contribute and score goals. It’s really fun right now. At the same time, you’ve got to be humble and keep putting in the work."
The Canucks are 7-3-1 through 11 games after starting 0-2, when they scored only twice. They have outshot their opponent nine times, including the last seven games. Every Canucks forward earned at least a point on Monday.
With starter Jacob Markstrom getting a needed reset with goalie coach Ian Clark, backup Thatcher Demko played Monday for the Canucks and stopped 29 of 31 shots, including all 15 the Panthers managed in the third period when the game was already decided. Demko’s save percentage of .941 is second in the NHL among goalies who have made at least three appearances.
Only the Boston Bruins’ Tuukka Rask (.952) has a greater portion of saves.
"Coming out and putting up five in the first, it sets the tone," Demko said. "Obviously, we learned a lot from last game. Our focus wasn’t letting that one slip; we wanted to keep our foot on the gas and finish strong.
"We want to be a playoff team, we want to go deep in the playoffs, (and games) are just going to get harder as the season goes along. We’re just building that momentum now and riding it through the season."