Canucks Takeaways: In a battle of backup goaltenders, Vancouver fails to come out on top 

Kyle Connor notched his fourth career hat trick, and Pierre Luc-Dubois collected four assists to help the Winnipeg Jets defeat the Vancouver Canucks 7-4.

One backup goalie was better than two.

The Vancouver Canucks have had so many issues this season that goaltending, even with starter Thatcher Demko injured since Dec. 1, has been far down the list of problems for the underachieving National Hockey League team.

But Sunday in Winnipeg, neither Spencer Martin nor Collin Delia was good enough as the goalie tandem was ventilated in a 7-4 loss to the Jets to open a daunting five-game road trip for the Canucks. Vancouver outshot Winnipeg 38-27 but Jets goalie David Rittich, who wobbled early on and benefitted from a coach’s challenge that overturned one terrible goal, steadied himself in the second half to win the battle of backups.

After earning a second straight start for the first time since being recalled from the American League five weeks ago, Delia allowed four goals on 13 shots and was replaced by coach Bruce Boudreau at 5:34 of the second period. Martin didn’t perform much better in relief, allowing three goals on 14 shots — the last two on Grade-A open looks.

It was the 17th time this season the Canucks have allowed at least five goals, which is a clear indictment of their poor defending. But the seven goals Delia and Martin allowed were a season-high, and Sunday was one of the few games since the Canucks’ opening month in which you could argue the goaltending cost them.

As usual, there were plenty of coverage mistakes in front of the veteran minor-leaguers. But the Canucks needed a few more saves in a game in which they were the better team over the final 52 minutes.


The Canucks rallied from an early 2-0 deficit, then again in the second period from a 4-2 disadvantage. J.T. Miller scored one goal from a terrific hustle play by Elias Pettersson and set up two others, and Bo Horvat sniped his 29th of the season for Vancouver.

But there was no response after Jets fourth-liner Axel Jonsson-Fjallby broke the 4-4 tie with a shot from the outside of the left-wing circle that ticked defenceman Luke Schenn and skipped in off Martin’s shoulder with 1:43 remaining in the second period.

And the goal that finished the Canucks was Dylan Demelo’s shorthanded marker at 5:29 of the third period. Demelo beat Martin cleanly stick side as the trailer in an outnumbered rush that began with Conor Garland charging deep into the Winnipeg zone as the puck went the other way.

Even with a top-10 power play, Canuck special teams continue to cost them. The power play was 1-for-3 and tied the game at 9:26 of the middle period when Sheldon Dries redirected Miller’s hard pass. But the second unit was on the ice for Demelo’s key goal, which was the NHL-worst ninth shorthanded marker surrendered by Vancouver this season. Twenty of 32 teams have allowed three or fewer.

The Canucks should have had a fourth power play when Pettersson was hooked, then held by Pierre-Luc Dubois ahead of the turnover that led to the Jets’ final goal by Kyle Connor at 13:42 of the third. But the power plays were already 3-0 Vancouver at that point. And with that, you should come out ahead on special teams.


Kyle Connor or Brock Boeser? Who’s better was once a debate.

The Americans were drafted six places apart in 2015’s first round. Both had excellent hands and were strong finishers off the wing. Boeser was the Calder Trophy runnerup in 2018 after scoring 29 goals and 55 points in 62 games, the same season Connor scored 31 goals and 57 points in 76 games as a rookie. The difference then was that Boeser was a little bigger and Connor a lot faster.

It remained a good argument through the pandemic season of 2021, but Connor has literally and figuratively pulled away the last couple of years.

The Jet’s hat trick on Sunday gave him 20 goals for the season — he scored 47 last year — and left him at 198 goals in his first 424 NHL games. Boeser, meanwhile, did not register a shot on net and has just seven goals this season, and agent Ben Hankinson has been working with Canucks management on finding a team willing to trade for the winger and his three-year, $20-million contract. Boeser has 128 goals in 355 NHL games.

At least there’s no what-ifs for the Canucks; Winnipeg took Connor 17th, before the Vancouver claimed Boeser 23rd.

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With Martin and Delia struggling on Sunday, it’s hard not to notice that Demko is on the trip with the Canucks, which resumes Tuesday in Pittsburgh. But don’t expect last season’s team MVP to play soon.

After their starting goalie and franchise cornerstone struggled badly last fall (3-10-2, .883 save rate) after undergoing off-season surgery, the Canucks want to make sure that the 27-year-old is not only fully recovered from the undisclosed injury he sustained in December, but gets time to work on mechanics and be closer technically to the goalie he was last season.

And, obviously, there is no urgency in the standings to get back Demko as soon as possible. He’ll practise and work with goalie coach Ian Clark on this trip.


After the loss, the 17-19-3 Canucks were eight points out of a playoff spot – and five points above the bottom five teams in the NHL.

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