Vancouver Canucks right wing Brock Boeser (6), centre Elias Pettersson (40) and centre Bo Horvat (53) take part in a team training camp in Vancouver, Tuesday, January 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

‘We’ve got to back that up’: Playoff run raises the bar for Vancouver Canucks

‘We’ve got to back that up’: Playoff run raises the bar for Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat knows his team has a lot to prove this season.

After finishing third in the Pacific Division with a 36-27-6 record last year, few onlookers believed the squad would make a deep post-season run.

Yet the Canucks beat the Minnesota Wild in the qualifying round and dispatched the then-defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues before being eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights in a seven-game Western Conference semifinal.

“We took a huge step in the bubble but now we’ve got to back that up,” Horvat said. “We’ve got to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and we want to get better and better every game this year.”

Improving could be a challenge after the Canucks lost several key pieces in free agency, including all-star goalie Jacob Markstrom and veteran defenceman Chris Tanev, who both signed with the Calgary Flames.

Much of Vancouver’s skilled young core remains, however, including centre Elias Pettersson, who tallied 66 regular-season points (27 goals, 39 assists) in his second season, and defenceman Quinn Hughes, runner-up for the league’s rookie of the year last season.

Coming to the end of a truncated training camp, Canucks coach Travis Green likes what he sees from his group.

“The tempo of our practices has been sharp, the execution has steadily been getting better. I thought the competitiveness of our last game was high,” he said. “I like the way our team looks right now and we’re ready to get going.”

After finishing last year’s unusual season on a high, the Canucks are a tight-knit group full of players constantly pushing one another to improve, Horvat said.

“We all want the same goal at the end of the day and that’s to win,” he said. “And I think that’s the biggest thing you can ask from our teammates is for the guy beside you to go to war with you. And I think we have that in our room.”

CROWDED CREASE

With Markstrom gone, Vancouver inked former Washington Capitals netminder Braden Holtby to a two-year, US$8.6-million deal. The former Vézina Trophy winner will share the net with Thatcher Demko, who posted a 13-10-2 record in regular-season play last year. When an injury sidelined Markstrom in the playoffs, Demko stole the show with highlight-reel stops and a .985 save percentage across his three starts.

SOPHOMORE SIZZLE

Hughes put up 53 points (eight goals, 45 assists) in his first full season, leading all rookies in scoring. The 21-year-old defenceman spent the off-season training with his brother, Jack — the No. 1 overall pick at the 2019 NHL draft — and said he’s feeling more mature and stronger heading into his sophomore campaign.

COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

J.T. Miller has set his sights on helping Vancouver’s power play become one of the best in the league. Last year, the veteran winger registered 25 of his 72 regular-season points with the man advantage and the Canucks had the fourth-best power play in the league (24.2 per cent).

NEW LOOK

Forward Josh Leivo also decamped to Calgary with Markstrom and Tanev in free agency, while sniper Tyler Toffoli signed with Montreal and homegrown defenceman Troy Stecher moved on to the Detroit Red Wings. To help fill some holes, the Canucks signed Holtby in free agency and acquired defenceman Nate Schmidt from the Golden Knights. Vancouver also brought in blue-liner Travis Hamonic on a professional tryout contract and is expected to make the agreement more permanent this week.

SCHEDULE WATCH

The Canucks will have a tough stretch to start, playing back-to-back games three times in January. The early crunch should pay off at the end of March when the team is scheduled to get six days off in a row.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 12, 2021.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

NHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media in Edmonton on measures taken to help with COVID-19 on Friday, March 20, 2020. Political analysts say Kenney must rethink his traditional “fight back” approach and start building bridges to reconcile environmental concerns with oil and gas development. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Political scientists say Kenney must rethink pugilistic approach on oil, environment

Keystone XL pipeline expansion would have taken more oil from Alberta through the United States to refineries and ports

An incomplete secondary wall stands alongside the previous version near where the border separating Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego meets the Pacific Ocean Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Tijuana, Mexico. In the days before Joe Biden became president, construction crews worked quickly to finish Donald Trump’s wall at an iconic cross-border park overlooking the Pacific Ocean that then-first lady Pat Nixon inaugurated in 1971 as symbol of international friendship. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Biden halts border wall building after Trump’s final surge

Pause order leaves billions of dollars of work unfinished but still under contract

Crimson Villas, a new lodge and apartment complex expected to be complete this spring, is named after Red Deer’s official flower. (Contributed photo)
New lodge, apartment complex named after Red Deer’s official flower

A new lodge and apartment building in Red Deer will be named… Continue reading

Former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is on the path to grant degrees. Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says university status is not a necessary condition for offering degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

Jacqueline Donahue of Hazleton, right, buys la Mega Millions lottery ticket at the Anthracite Newsstand on Public Square, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (Mark Moran/The Citizens’ Voice via AP)
Nearly $1B Mega Millions prize due to long odds, slow sales

Only the third time a lottery jackpot has grown so large

David Shoemaker, chief executive officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee, speaks during the Olympic Partnership kick off event at the Sobey’s office in Mississauga, Ont. on Monday, October 7, 2019. Shoemaker says the IOC remains committed to staging the Summer Games in Tokyo this summer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
Canadian Olympic boss says IOC plans to go ahead with Tokyo Games this summer

IOC calls cancellation decision “categorically untrue”

FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2011 file photo, Dustin Diamond attends the SYFY premiere of “Mega Python vs. Gatoroid” at The Ziegfeld Theater in New York. Diamond is undergoing chemotherapy treatments after being diagnosed with cancer, according to his representative. Diamond, best known for playing Screech on the hit ’90s sitcom, was hospitalized earlier this month in Florida. Last week, his team disclosed he did have cancer. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer, File)
Dustin Diamond undergoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer

Diamond hospitalized earlier this month in Florida

Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele, left, and Kyle Connor, right, congratulate Blake Wheeler on his goal during second period NHL action against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, January 21, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Four different Jets score as Winnipeg beats the Ottawa Senators 4-1

Four different Jets score as Winnipeg beats the Ottawa Senators 4-1

Canes’ season paused, while Caps play on without 4 regulars

Canes’ season paused, while Caps play on without 4 regulars

Most Read