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Canucks failed to reach playoffs despite impressive rookie Pettersson

Injuries, poor power play among reasons Vancouver did not qualify for postseason

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

The Vancouver Canucks failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fourth straight season and fifth time in six seasons.

The Canucks (33-35-10) were eliminated from playoff contention Friday when the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 in a shootout.

Here is a look at what happened in the 2018-19 season for the Canucks and why things could be better next season:


The Skinny

Potential UFAs: Alexander Edler, D; Luke Schenn, D 

Potential RFAs: Brock Boeser, RW; Nikolay Goldobin, LW; Josh Leivo, LW; Markus Granlund, C; Tyler Motte, LW; Ben Hutton, D; Derrick Pouliot, D; Josh Teves, D; Thatcher Demko, G

Potential 2019 NHL Draft picks: 9


What went wrong

Offense dried up: The Canucks are tied for 24th in the NHL with an average of 2.68 goals per game and have been shut out a League-high 10 times, but even that is skewed by a strong first half in which they averaged three goals a game. In the second half, Vancouver has been shut out seven times in 37 games. The power play, which was supposed to benefit from talented rookie Elias Pettersson joining Brock Boeser, is ranked 26th in the League (16.3 percent). The Canucks were 4-for-53 (7.5 percent) during a 4-10-3 stretch from Feb. 4 to March 9 that dropped the Canucks out of playoff contention.

Video: Discussing Elias Pettersson's breakout rookie season

Underperforming additions: The Canucks signed forwards Jay Beagle and Tim Schaller on July 1, 2018, but neither has produced as expected this season. Beagle has 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 53 games and Schaller has eight points (two goals, six assists) in 43 games and has been a healthy scratch 35 times. Forward Loui Eriksson, who has three years left on the six-year, $36-million contract he signed on July 1, 2016, has 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists) in 77 games and was recently a healthy scratch for the first time in his career.

Injuries again: Vancouver was again among the most injured NHL teams with 275 man-games lost through Friday, but it's not surprising after four straight seasons in the top-five. Injuries to key defensemen Alexander Edler (26 games missed with two separate injuries) and Christopher Tanev (22 games missed with three injuries) makes it hard to count on them as a top pair, and shutdown center Brandon Sutter (60 games missed with two injuries) missed significant time for the third time in his four seasons with the Canucks.


Reasons for optimism

Pettersson leads young forwards: The 20-year-old center set a new Canucks' rookie record with 65 points (27 goals, 38 assists) in 67 games, surpassing the franchise mark of 60 points set by Pavel Bure and Ivan Hlinka. Pettersson, Bo Horvat (27 goals, 59 points), and Boeser (26 goals, 54 points) are the three leading scorers for the Canucks, and Jake Virtanen set a new NHL career high with 15 goals and 25 points playing most of his 68 games on the third line. None of those four forwards is older than 23.

Markstrom breakthrough: The Canucks would have been eliminated from playoff contention a lot sooner if not for Markstrom, who made significant strides with first-year goaltending coach Ian Clark. After taking a little time early to get comfortable with changes to his stance, crease movement and post play, Markstrom was 19-13-6 with a .920 save percentage after Dec. 6.

Hughes signs, debuts: Defenseman Quinn Hughes had an impressive assist in his NHL debut Thursday, banking the puck to himself off the back of the opposition net to lose his check, and promises to bring an offensive dynamic that has been missing from one of the League's lowest scoring group of defensemen. The No. 7 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, Hughes had 33 points (five goals, 28 assists) in 32 games at the University of Michigan before signing his entry-level contract March 10. 

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