This afternoon the New York Rangers take on the Vancouver Canucks at Madison Square Garden. Ahead of the contest Kent Basky from Nucks Misconduct reached out to ask Blueshirt Banter a few questions, and they returned the favor for us. With that said, here’s four quick questions with Nucks Misconduct.
1. The Rangers drafted J.T. Miller, and he ended up with the Vancouver Canucks this offseason. What were your thoughts on Vancouver acquiring him, and have they changed at all based on how he’s played this season?
Well, at first the general consensus was that it was a bit of a steep price to pay, especially given the Canucks current state of affairs. It wasn’t that Marek Mazanec was a prized prospect, or even the 3rd round pick in this summer’s draft. It was the conditional 1st round pick. If the Canucks squeak in under the way, get toasted in the first round and then watch as they either don’t pick in the first round of next summer’s draft, or end up making a move to fix that mistake, it’s likely not going to sit well with a fan base that’s been pretty patient as they try and rebuild, but the patience will wear thin soon if Miller’s a dud.
That being said, he’s been a pleasant surprise in that he found immediate chemistry with Bo Horvat, giving the 2nd line some real offensive punch. He’s looked good on the power play (well, as good as one can look on a PP as dismal as the Canucks has been). He’s definitely been one of the best Canucks players thus far, and definitely consistent in terms of showing up and bringing a solid effort each night. A consistent work ethic like that will make him a fan favorite in Vancouver for sure.
2. The Canucks have a lot of firepower offensively such as Brock Boeser or Elias Petterson, but who is someone else the Rangers should be concerned about?
The Canucks have been getting scoring from their defencemen in a way that we’re not really used to seeing, so Alexander Edler, Quinn Hughes and Christopher Tanev could impact the game. I think Tanner Pearson is someone who is a pretty underrated threat for the Canucks. He’s been fantastic since coming over to the Canucks from Pittsburgh before the trading deadline last season for the much maligned Erik Gudbranson. He’s been quiet for a couple games now, but he’s been producing fairly consistently since coming to the Canucks. And with Bo Horvat snapping his goalless streak to start the season, the guy I think is due for a breakout is Jake Virtanen. Canucks Nation needs a return of #ShotgunJake this year.
3. Goaltending has been something the Canucks have been looking to solidify in the post-Roberto Luongo / Cory Schneider era. The Rangers will soon be transitioning from Henrik Lundqvist, so who do you think the Canucks will and should turn the keys over to in the coming years?
The job is definitely going to be Thatcher Demko’s, at least for a while. Demko just finished a stretch of three in a row, picking up 2 wins and giving up just four goals over those 3 games. He finished the season strong, and seems to have picked up where he left off. The thought is that he will play somewhere around 25-35 games this year, with Jacob Markstrom playing the balance. The Canucks record certainly doesn’t reflect their goaltending so far, as both guys have been outstanding through the first seven games.
Once it’s time for Markstrom to move on, the understudy will be Michael DiPietro. He was a standout in the OHL for the past couple seasons, and put in a solid performance for Team Canada at last year’s World Junior Championships. He even served as the 3rd goalie for Team Canada at the Mens Worlds, something that was probably a real eye opener as he prepared to make his pro debut. And he’s won his first two starts for the Utica Comets, who are off to a torrid start this season in the AHL.
After Luongo’s departure, there was a lot of cloudiness in the goaltending picture here, but with Markstrom producing a solid season last year and Demko showing signs he’s going to be the goalie they thought he might be, this is a position the Canucks shouldn’t have to be worried about too much moving forward. That is if the defence, which while improved still needs to be better, doesn’t burn these guys out in the process.
4. The Rangers just played Jack Hughes and the Devils, What does Quinn Hughes bring to the table that could give the Rangers so headaches?
We’re still finding out just what he’s capable of, honestly. The thing that he’s made abundantly clear out of the gate, is that his skating ability is almost unbelievable. He is able to skate his way out of trouble a lot of times, which has come in handy as he learns some of the nuances of the defensive game at the NHL level. He sees the ice well, is extremely creative and aggressive both with the puck and when pursuing in the defensive zone.
He’s been given a green light to create offence, and being paired with Chris Tanev most of the year so far seems to have worked well. They have chemistry and the veteran Tanev is even benefiting offensively from being paired with Hughes. He’s finally been bumped up to the 1st power play as they try to get it going, and in overtimes coach Travis Green has been sending Hughes out with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, which has resulted in some pretty thrilling 3 on 3 action in the two games we’ve seen them get past regulation so far.
Overall, he’s a pretty complete player, and a blast to watch. The Canucks have never had a defender quite like him, so we’re in uncharted territory as he progresses from game to game.
Special thanks again to Kent for answering our questions, and stay tuned for our official game thread for Rangers vs. Canucks just before puck drop.