Advertisement

A last-minute cheat sheet for the aspiring Canucks bandwagon fan

Click to play video: 'Vancouver Canucks fans celebrate as team eliminates Nashville Predators from playoffs'
Vancouver Canucks fans celebrate as team eliminates Nashville Predators from playoffs
RELATED VIDEO: Fans celebrated in the streets as the Vancouver Canucks advanced to the next round of the NHL playoffs following a Game 6 victory over the Nashville Predators Friday night. Troy Charles reports. – May 4, 2024

So you’ve decided to become a Vancouver Canucks fan. Good for you, and welcome! There’s plenty of room on the bandwagon.

With the team looking poised for its best playoff outing in more than a decade, excitement on the street is palpable. Jerseys and vehicle flags are everywhere, and social media is buzzing.

But if you’re a non-sports fan, a casual observer or one of the lapsed-Canucks faithful jumping in in the middle of a playoff run can be overwhelming.

We’ve put together a cheat sheet here to help you get up to speed and arm you with some talking points for your friends in those between-the-period breaks.

The players to watch

Vancouver Canucks’ Quinn Hughes smiles before a faceoff against the Seattle Kraken during the game in Vancouver on Sept. 29, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

#43 Quinn Hughes (D)

Widely seen as a generational talent and likely the Canucks’ best defenceman ever, team captain Quinn Hughes enters the playoffs on the heels of a career season. Known for his speed and ability to open up space in his opponents’ zone, Hughes often quarterbacks his teammates’ plays and is a finalist for the Norris Trophy recognizing the regular season’s best defender.

Story continues below advertisement

Hughes notched 17 goals and 75 assists for 92 regular season points. In the post-season, he put up five assists against Nashville.

Unsurprisingly he was also a target for the Predators, who marked him for a cascade of heavy hits, and he will be in the crosshairs as the playoffs progress. Watch for his ability to wander the offensive zone apparently at will and his playmaking wizardry, particularly on the Canucks’ powerplay.

Vancouver Canucks center J.T. Miller (9) celebrates after his winning goal during overtime of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals on Feb. 11, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

#9 JT Miller (C)

A Canucks’ fan favourite (listen as fans chime in to call his name during Rogers Arena goal announcements), power forward JT Miller has found his groove with the club since being traded from the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019. A highly competitive and at times emotional player who appears to thrive during the playoffs, Miller put up one goal and five assists against the Predators and was one of the team’s few forwards to shine during a goal-starved Round 1.

Story continues below advertisement

Miller is also coming off a career-best season that saw him pot 37 goals and 66 assists for 103 points, the first time in his career he’s topped 100. Watch him for his aggressive forecheck, his skill in the faceoff circle and his powerplay prowess.

Elias Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks looks on during training camp action in Victoria. Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press

#40 Elias Pettersson (C)

The elite Swedish centre has been one of the Canucks’ rising stars since Vancouver drafted him fifth overall in 2017. In his time with the Canucks, he’s become known as a master of puck possession with a killer shot and nose for the net.

During the regular season, he put up 34 goals and 55 assists for 89 points – short of the 102 he registered last season. Those skills saw him ink an eight-year contract worth $92.8 million in March. But the star forward has been experiencing a drought of late, leading some to speculate he’s either playing through an injury or has a case of the yips.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Elias Pettersson signs contract extension with Vancouver Canucks'
Elias Pettersson signs contract extension with Vancouver Canucks

Pettersson’s goal-scoring ability dried up in the final stretch of the season, and he failed to net a single goal in the series against Nashville, putting up just three assists.

As they move on to more skilled teams, the Canucks’ playoff fortunes may well hinge on whether he can find his game. Watch for either a Petey explosion or a power outage.

Vancouver Canucks’ Brock Boeser, back right, celebrates his second goal as Tampa Bay Lightning’s Mikhail Sergachev skates past during the game in Vancouver, on Dec. 12, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

#6 Brock Boeser (R)

The longest-serving member of this young Canucks team, Brock Boeser is best known for one thing: scoring goals. The 27-year-old right-winger put up a career-high 40 regular-season goals this year, and was a difference-maker in Round 1, scoring four and putting up two assists against the Predators.

Story continues below advertisement

Three of those goals came in the Canucks sanity-defying Game 4 comeback win, including two in the dying minutes with the Canucks’ goalie pulled.

Drafted 23rd overall by the Canucks in 2015, Boeser has fought through adversity including a string of injuries and the death of his father. The last two seasons have seen him returning to form, and you’ll want to keep your eyes on the screen any time he’s in front of the net, particularly on the power play.

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Nikita Zadorov (91) warms up before the team’s NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators on Dec. 19, 2023, in Nashville. (AP Photo/George Walker IV). GW

#91 Nikita Zadorov (D)

A new addition to the Canucks, Vancouver acquired the six-foot-six, 250-pound Russian defender from the Calgary Flames in November. Zadorov brings playoff experience, including three post-season outings with the Colorado Avalanche and one with Calgary.

In the series against Nashville, Zadorov proved how much he loves playoff hockey, levelling a series of crushing hits against his opponents while managing to score two goals and post one assist. Watch for his attempts to rattle the opposition.

Story continues below advertisement
Vancouver Canucks Elias Lindholm, right, celebrates his second goal against the Carolina Hurricanes with Brock Boeser (6), during the game in Raleigh, N.C., on Feb. 6. AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker

#23 Elias Lindholm (C)

Another trade acquisition from the Calgary Flames meant to fortify the Canucks playoff run, Elias Lindholm has already made his mark in the series against the Predators.

The Canucks picked Lindholm up in February in an exchange that saw them give up fan-favourite Andrei Kuzmenko. He failed to generate much offence before the playoffs as he dealt with an injury, leading to plenty of debate about whether the Canucks had lost the trade.

Those concerns appear to have dried up in the post-season, where the 29-year-old Swede has potted two goals, including the team’s first goal against Nashville and its overtime winner to cap the Canucks’ improbable Game 4 comeback.

Vancouver Canucks’ Dakota Joshua (81) celebrates with teammates Pius Suter (24) and Filip Hronek after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during the game in Montreal on Nov. 12, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

#8 Connor Garland and #81 Dakota Joshua

They’re by no means the “stars” of the club, but keep your eye on this duo who round out the Canucks’ gritty third line.

Story continues below advertisement

The diminutive (five-foot-eight) Garland is a fireball in the offensive zone and can be spotted twisting and turning away from checks in the corners. He scored a career-high 20 goals this season and has won over the fans (watch him fight back tears as Rogers Arena celebrates his 400th game and 100th career goal).

Joshua has brought needed size and toughness to the line and has shown skill as a two-way forward, effective at either end of the ice. He was sorely missed late in the regular season as he sat out six weeks with a broken hand. He’s proven he can score, netting 18 goals and 14 assists in the regular season, and has put up four points in the playoffs including two goals leading a comeback Game 1 win against Nashville.

The goalie(s)

It would not be a playoff run for the Vancouver Canucks without a goalie controversy.

Story continues below advertisement

Thatcher Demko, the team’s All-Star netminder, has been nominated for the NHL’s Vezina Trophy for goaltending and was thought to be a contender to win before a knee injury sidelined him for a dozen games near the end of the season.

He was back for Game 1 of the first round against the Predators but is out again — reportedly for a different knee injury. Demko has been seen on the ice since then, but team management is being cagey about when he might return and continues to list him as “week-to-week.”

Click to play video: 'Canucks’ goalie Thatcher Demko out for Game 2  of playoffs with injury'
Canucks’ goalie Thatcher Demko out for Game 2 of playoffs with injury

Since then, the Canucks have been relying on their backups. The club’s primary backup goalie, Casey DeSmith, backstopped the team to a win and a loss in Round 1.

But the goaltending story of the series ended up being rookie netminder Artūrs Šilovs (pronounced She-Loves) who won two of three games against Nashville, including securing a shutout in Game 6 to eliminate the predators.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Who will be in goal for Vancouver Canucks playoff Game 5?'
Who will be in goal for Vancouver Canucks playoff Game 5?

The 23-year-old Latvian rookie has never played in the NHL playoffs before and has, in fact, only played a dozen NHL games in his career.

But he’s faced tournament pressure before. Šilovs backstopped the Latvian national team to a bronze medal, defeating the United States, in the 2023 IIHF World Championship. It was the country’s first-ever medal in the tournament, and Šilovs was named the tournament’s best goalie and MVP.

The coach

Vancouver Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet, top, talks to players during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago on Dec. 17, 2023. Rick Tocchet took over the Vancouver Canucks a year ago, with the team struggling to find consistency in how it played, combined with wins. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Nam Y. Huh

Canucks’ head coach Rick Tocchet is widely considered to be one key ingredient in the secret sauce that saw the team transform from playoff maybes to Pacific Division champions this year.

Story continues below advertisement

Tocchet took over as head coach in January 2023, replacing Bruce Boudreau. This is the first full season the team has played under his leadership, and the club appears to have fully bought-in to his style and system of play.

He’s a former NHL power forward who played more than 1,100 games and is best known for his time with the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

He won the Stanley Cup as a player with the 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins and as an assistant coach with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017.

Before stepping into the bench boss job with the Canucks, Tocchet served as head coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning and Arizona Coyotes.

Story continues below advertisement

Tocchet has been named as a finalist for the NHL’s Jack Adams Award for coaching for the 2023-2024 season.

The history

The Vancouver Canucks have never won the Stanley Cup, but they’ve come tantalizingly close a few times.

In their 54 years in the NHL, the Canucks have made it to the Stanley Cup final three times.

The 1982 cup run

The first was a Cinderella run in 1982. Following a mixed season, club legend Stan Smyl led the team through the Calgary Flames, L.A. Kings and Chicago Blackhawks to a final versus the New York Islanders. Unfortunately for fans, the Islanders went on to sweep Vancouver in four straight games.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver Canucks towel power anniversary'
Vancouver Canucks towel power anniversary

The 1982 run is also famous as the origin of the “towel power” tradition, in which fans wave white towels in the stands. During Game 2 of the Conference Finals against Chicago, coach Roger Neilson became frustrated with what he thought was unfair officiating and stuck a white towel on the end of a hockey stick, waving it like a mock white flag of surrender. Fans picked up the gesture which has since spread league-wide. A huge bronze statue of Neilson waving the towel now stands outside Rogers Arena.

Story continues below advertisement

The 1994 cup run

The Canucks next shot at Stanley Cup glory came in 1994. The cup run saw the Vancouver field a roster of players still regarded as local legends, including Trevor Linden, Pavel Bure, Cliff Ronning and goalie Kirk McLean.

The opening round saw the Canucks overcome a 3-1 series deficit to eliminate the Calgary Flames, and a Game 7 with two of the club’s most famous plays — a marquee save by McLean and the winning breakaway goal by Bure.

The Canucks went on to best the Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs in five games each to face the New York Rangers in the final. Vancouver won the first game, lost the next three, then won two more to force a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.

Story continues below advertisement

The Canucks lost that game 3-2, precipitating the city’s first Stanley Cup riot. An estimated 200 people were hurt in the chaos, including a man who suffered permanent brain damage from a plastic bullet, and the downtown core suffered an estimated $1.1 million in damage.

Click to play video: 'Archive: Jubilation in streets after Canucks defeat Leafs in 1994'
Archive: Jubilation in streets after Canucks defeat Leafs in 1994

The 2011 cup run

The Canucks saw history repeat itself in 2011 with their next and last Stanley Cup run. A stacked team featuring Hall of Fame twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Roberto Luongo, Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows entered the postseason having won back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies for finishing the season first in the league.

The team faced the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, who had eliminated them in the previous two playoff outings. Burrows famously “slayed the dragon” in Game 7. Vancouver went on to eliminate the Nashville Predators in six games in the second round, largely on the back of Kesler who earned the nickname “beast mode” for his efforts, and dispatched the San Jose Sharks in five games in the Western Conference Final.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'From the archive: 2011 rap for Vancouver Canucks playoff run'
From the archive: 2011 rap for Vancouver Canucks playoff run

If you’ve lived in Vancouver for any period of time you probably know what happened next. The Canucks faced the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final, taking an early 2-0 lead in the series. Boston won the next two games before each team traded wins leading to a Game 7 in Vancouver.

In front of a home-ice crowd, Boston shut Vancouver out 4-0 precipitating the city’s second Stanley Cup riot. Nearly 150 people were hurt in the chaos, which caused an estimated $4 million in damage. Rioters were filmed looting retailers and setting police cars on fire. A task force in the aftermath sifted through thousands of photos and videos, ultimately resulting in 887 criminal charges against 301 people.

Click to play video: 'Squire Barnes: The 2011 Stanley Cup riot, ten years later'
Squire Barnes: The 2011 Stanley Cup riot, ten years later

Post-2011

The Canucks have qualified for the playoffs four times since 2011.

Story continues below advertisement

Three of those attempts, 2012, 2013 and 2015, saw the club make a first-round exit.

The team did find success in the altered 2020 playoffs held in the Edmonton “Bubble” due to COVID-19. The team won a special qualifying round against the Minnesota Wild, then went on to beat the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues 4-2 in the first round.

The Canucks managed to battle the Las Vegas Golden Knights to Game 7 in the second round before being eliminated. But the series revealed glimpses of the team contending in 2024.

Now-star goalie Thatcher Demko made his first-ever playoff start in Game 5, in relief of an injured Jacob Markstrom and went on to backstop the team to a 2-1 win by stopping 42 shots before earning a 48-save shutout in Game 6.

Over the 17 games other players that now make up the team’s core also shone. Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller each collected 18 points, while Quinn Hughes marked 16 and Brock Boeser amassed 11.

Sponsored content

AdChoices