The Vancouver Canucks are one of the NHL's best teams this season, with a number of players competing for individual awards.
They won their first two games of the season, both against the star-studded Edmonton Oilers. Successive defeats in their next two games tempered any early expectations, or at least hinted that the road back to the playoffs was a long one.
But the Nucks recovered quickly and surged to 12-3-1. Rick Tocchet's men did hit a sticky patch towards the end of November, losing six of 10, but they have since hit the gas coming up to the Christmas break.
The Nucks' have won six games in an eight-game point streak, with their only two defeats coming against the Minnesota Wild in a shootout, and a 4-3 loss in overtime to the Dallas Stars.
Vancouver holds a record of 22-9-3 to top the Pacific Division with 47 points after 34 games and they are leading the NHL in terms of points alongside the Vegas Golden Knights (21-8-5) - although the likes of the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings have multiple games in hand.
Considering their position in the standings more than a third of the way through the season, it may be something of a surprise that there are still 12 teams shorter than the Canucks at +1500 in the betting to win the Stanley Cup. The question of whether they can sustain their form for the rest of the regular season is still to be answered.
|22-9-3 (47 points)
|.691 (tied-3rd in the NHL)
|1st in the Pacific Division, 1st in the Western Conference
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The Canucks did not have too many problems scoring last season and they are having even fewer this time around, leading the league in goals scored and goals per game. It was without the puck that they were something of a disaster, and that has improved dramatically.
Quinn Hughes is having a tremendous season, stepping up to another level now with the captaincy, both with and without the puck. The 24-year-old has already passed his goals tally from 2022/23 with nine to share the lead for all defensemen, while he tops the charts for both assists and points.
His form has not come at a defensive cost though, as he also leads the NHL in plus-minus with +25, with blue line partner Filip Hronek tied for next best at +21.
There is no surprise that he is being seriously talked about as the next James Norris Memorial Trophy winner, and he is the favourite at +130.
Thatcher Demko, seemingly free from his injury woes, is also having a fantastic season at the top of the stats for wins and shutouts, while he boasts a save percentage of .920 and is a +350 favourite to claim Vezina Trophy honors at the end of the season.
It is also worth mentioning back-up Casey DeSmith who holds a save percentage of .923 in his 11 games. If he maintains that form, it will lessen the burden on Demko, particularly for when it matters most - in the playoffs.
Elias Pettersson remains a key player for the Canucks and is operating at a similar level to his 102-point 2022/23 season, although JT Miller has seemingly found a higher plane this time around, averaging 1.35 points per game compared to 1.01 last season.
He currently leads the team's pointscoring but his play has also brought a new dimension out of Brock Boeser, who leads the team goal charts with 24, already six more than last season, and he is producing more consistently (1.12 points per game in 2023/24 compared to 0.74 last season).
There is also a good supporting cast with the likes of Nils Hoglander and Sam Lafferty providing useful depth, but special mention must go to coach Rick Tocchet, who is the +250 favorite to win the Jack Adams Award. He has seemingly got rid of the defensive frailties of last season, but not at the expense of offensive production and Canucks fans are dreaming of seeing the end of their postseason drought, with a deep run in the playoffs a not unrealistic dream.
|To reach the playoffs:
|To win the Pacific Division:
|To win the Western Conference:
|To win the Presidents' Trophy:
|To win the Stanley Cup:
The Canucks have missed the playoffs for three straight seasons, and have only reached the postseason once in the last eight but that seems ready to change.
Given their defensive issues of last season, there may be an expectation that their great form won't last in the long-term, while defeats to the likes of the Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Toronto Maple Leafs hint that a deep run in the playoffs may be beyond them.
However, Vancouver has beaten the admittedly slow-starting Edmonton three times out of three this season and yet the Oilers are shorter in the Stanley Cup betting, even though they are seven points out of a Wild Card place.
With recent wins over the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, Nucks' fans will believe they can beat anyone on their day and will continue to ride the wave while they can.