Canucks Happy to Put February Behind Them
The Canucks could not be happier about turning the calendars over to March as they finish the month of February with just two wins compared to eleven in the loss column. Vancouver started the week with two heartbreaking losses in two games where they held multiple leads. On Sunday, they blew a 2-0 lead before dropping a 4-3 decision to Winnipeg in overtime, while on Tuesday, the Canucks jumped out to a 3-0 lead before ultimately losing to Edmonton 4-3.
It has been the same story all season for the Canucks as defensive lapses have cost them, alongside goaltending that just has not been sharp since the departure of Jacob Markstrom. Vancouver finds itself in second to last place in the North division and with an 8-14-2 record they trail the division leading Maple Leafs by 16 points. Penalties have been an ongoing issue for the Canucks as they lead the NHL with an average of 11.2 penalty minutes per game, which could be signs of frustration and inexperience. Vancouver kicks off March by heading to Winnipeg for back to back games then return home to take on the Leafs for two games, so another difficult week lies ahead.
North Division Risers and Fallers
The Toronto Maple Leafs remain in firm control of the North division so far with 34 points in 22 games played and a 16-4-2 overall record, good enough for best in the NHL. Toronto has been without starting goaltender Frederik Andersen who has been sidelined with a lower body injury for the better part of the last two weeks. Backups Michael Hutchinson and Jack Campbell have done well in Andersen’s absence, going 2-1 with a shutout of the Oilers in the last game. Sniper and NHL goal leader Auston Matthews also missed the last game with a wrist injury, and is in danger of being sidelined for the next couple of games against Edmonton as well. At this point, Toronto would be wise to exercise caution with Matthews, especially with a deep playoff run on their radar.
Speaking of the Oilers, they have rocketed up to second place in the North division after going 9-3 in the month of February. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have regained their MVP forms as they sit first and second respectively in the NHL scoring race. Lost in the Oilers offensive successes has been the re-emergence of veteran goalie Mike Smith who is now 6-1 on the year with a stellar 2.04 GAA and .934 SV%, along with two shutouts.
Montreal is heading in the opposite direction of the Leafs and Oilers as the Habs struggled to a 4-8 record in February, which included a couple of tough losses against the last place Senators. The Canadiens find themselves in fourth place in the North division now and only one point up on fifth place Calgary. It seems as though the early season momentum has faded and while Carey Price continues to play well, the offense has somewhat dried up for them in the past couple of weeks. This seems to be a classic case of everything running perfectly at the start of the season, and then slowly, regression to the mean kicks in as the team falls back down to Earth.