A front office and coaching shake-up might be at least partially responsible for the Vancouver Canucks’ strong play this week, which they hope continues to halt the Winnipeg Jets’ own recent run of success.
The Canucks can remain undefeated under new coach Bruce Boudreau with a season-high third consecutive victory Friday night against the visiting Jets.
On Sunday, a Canucks franchise toiling near the bottom of the Western Conference announced wholesale changes. Boudreau, who has coached Washington, Anaheim and Minnesota, was put behind the bench, and Vancouver responded with a 4-0 win over Los Angeles on Monday and a 2-1 shootout victory against Boston on Wednesday.
It’s just the third time this season that the Canucks have earned back-to-back victories. They have won four of the last five following a 1-8-1 rut.
“Everyone feels confident we can go into the next one and get another one,” star Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes told NHL.com. “For the first two games (under Boudreau), we’re doing really good, and the amazing thing is I think we can play better.”
On Thursday, Vancouver announced the hiring of Jim Rutherford as president of hockey operations and interim GM.
Back on the ice, the Canucks have gotten the job done while clamping down defensively, allowing just eight goals over the last five games. Thatcher Demko has a 1.59 goals-against average while starting every game over that stretch. He has stopped 66 of 67 shots over the last two contests.
Demko made 37 saves as Vancouver snapped an eight-game home losing streak to Winnipeg with its 3-2 victory on Nov. 19.
Vancouver recorded just 11 power-play goals on 71 chances over its first 21 games but is 7-for-23 in the last six games. Brock Boeser has tallied a power-play goal in each of the last two games. He has 13 points (six goals, seven assists) on the season.
Vancouver’s recent special-teams success might not bode well for the Jets, who failed to stymie that power-play unit last month and rank near the bottom of the NHL in penalty-kill percentage (68.4). Only the Canucks at 65.9 percent are worse.
Winnipeg opponents went 5 of 10 with the man-advantage through the team’s first three December games, but the Jets killed all five Seattle power-play chances Thursday in a 3-0 road victory.
“I think when we’re doing well (on the penalty kill), all four guys are sync on the ice,” veteran Paul Stastny told the Jets’ official website. “All of us have to be on the same page.”
Kyle Connor scored twice and Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves for his first shutout of the season Thursday, as the Jets won for the third time in four games. Winnipeg allowed 11 goals in the three games prior to Thursday’s strong defensive performance.
Connor, meanwhile, has posted five of his team-leading 17 goals — plus two assists — over his last six games. He has seven goals with 12 assists in 17 career games vs. Vancouver.
Even after Hellebuyck’s strong effort Thursday, it’s possible Jets backup Eric Comrie (2.49 goals-against average) will make his sixth start. It would be his first since he stopped 26 shots at Vancouver last month.
–Field Level Media