The 2023-24 Vancouver Canucks have provided a ton of fun storylines. For example, Quinn Hughes looks like a Norris Trophy frontrunner and is set to break more franchise records. Meanwhile, Brock Boeser is chasing the Rocket Richard Trophy. If you told someone back in September that on December 18, they would be second in the entire NHL, they would have told you were crazy or delusional. The Canucks holding onto leads is a big reason why they are as high as they are in the standings
The Canucks blew many leads last season
Last season was a disaster for many reasons by the Canucks. They started slow and could not recover despite a midseason coaching change from Bruce Boudreau to Rick Tocchet. The defence looked terrible, Boeser was not scoring, JT Miller was displaying bad turnovers and backchecks, you name it.
The Canucks had trouble with leads last season. They would blow a lot of them and they ended up being big ones. It started on opening night when the Canucks were up 3-0 on opening night against the Edmonton Oilers. But they ended up losing 5-3. Vancouver blew leads four games in a row to start 2022-23.
After just 40 games, the Canucks blew a multi-goal lead eight times which is an NHL record in that time span. That’s a record no one wants.
Once they got the lead, Canucks fans knew they were going to let it slip away. It was inevitable. Blown leads didn’t come as a surprise to Canucks fans, they were all dreading it.
After scoring first, the Canucks lost 13 times. Only the San Jose Sharks (19) and Anaheim Ducks (14) lost more games after scoring the first goal. When leading after two periods, the Canucks won just 21 times which was 26th in the NHL.
This season, the Canucks are holding onto leads much better
This season, the Canucks have not collapsed in games the same way as last season. They’ve only lost two games when they were trailing after one period.
But what is even more impressive is their play after two periods when they have a lead. The Canucks are 18-0-0 when leading after two periods this season. Their 18 wins when leading after two is the most in the NHL.
In the third periods, the Canucks are often adding to their lead, like in the games against the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning. There were also games where the Canucks were bending but not breaking. Examples of those are the games against the Florida Panthers or the Calgary Flames.
There are many factors as to why the Canucks are better at holding leads. For starters, Ian Cole, Nikita Zadorov, Filip Hronek and Carson Soucy (still out with a leg injury) have provided more structure on the back end. That of course, is something Tocchet loves to have in his team. With the arrival of Zadorov, it feels like there is less pressure on Hughes and Hronek. For instance, Hughes is playing around the 22 or 23 minute mark in recent games instead of at least 28 minutes.
Thatcher Demko has found his form has looked like a Vezina candidate and has been named the NHL’s second star of the past week. It is also worth mentioning that Casey DeSmith has proven to be a capable backup with a .963 save percentage.
The Canucks for the most part, have looked composed when leading. They haven’t been as many defensive breakdowns as last season. There has been structure, they are winning board battles and the best part is they have looked to add to their lead instead of sitting back.
It has been very refreshing to see and the Canucks ability to play well with the lead is key to making playoff hockey.
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