Good morning. Who wants coffee?
We’re going to serve up some special blends that are helping to fuel good developments in the Vancouver Canucks’ organization.
A hard-fought 3-2 road victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday extended the club’s undefeated streak to a dozen games (10-0-2) and included two deft power-play deflections by Elias Lindholm in his debut.
It spoke to the discipline and even-keeled approach that head coach Rick Tocchet has been preaching all season.
And there’s more.
On Monday in San Jose, it was Abbotsford Canucks winger Arshdeep Bains being named most valuable player of the AHL All-Star Challenge with two goals and three assists in the 3-on-3 tournament won by the Pacific Division.
So, here we go. Grab a cup or two or three and enjoy:
FIRST SERVING: On discipline: ‘We have to have a lot to be a special team.’
The Canucks can do the math. They know what awaits if they maintain a purpose that leads to production and the playoffs.
The hardest part could be keeping their feet on the ground and heads out of the clouds. There were plenty of plaudits for the league’s top team having six players and the coach as part of All-Star festivities last week in Toronto.
If that wasn’t enough, according to NHL projections by MoneyPuck.com, the Canucks are destined for greatness this season.
They’re projected for a league-leading 114.3 points with the Boston Bruins second (112.9) and Colorado Avalanche third (100). The Hurricanes have the best odds of advancing to the Stanley Cup final (21.1 per cent), followed by the Canucks and Bruins (18.9 per cent).
The Hurricanes have a 10.9 per cent chance of winning it all, followed by the Canucks (10.2 per cent) and the Bruins (9.9 per cent).
Fresh of a much-needed break, the Canucks can count on their ability to stay in the moment and be wary of their game and not the opposition. And that goes to maintaining a level of commitment and fitness — even during down time — which has to come from within. How curious was Tocchet about that?
“I try not to ask,” the Canucks bench boss said Tuesday. “Sometimes, you have to be a self-starter and be your own man. I don’t want to be that guy. ‘Who skated?’ They know the stakes are high for this team and discipline is hard to do and nobody likes it.
“We have to have a lot of discipline if we want to be a special team. There’s a long way to go. We’ll know in the next week (about fitness).”
SECOND SERVING: On Bains: ‘I don’t question pace. His brain is so elite.’
Stick-taps for Bains came long before Monday night in rain-soaked San Jose.
The Abbotsford winger’s dedication to improving all facets of his game, and leading the club in scoring with 40 points (9-31), was already a good story. Then came the AHL All-Star Challenge honour with the Pacific Division and a starring role in the 3-on-3 event.
Bains didn’t arrive in time for the AHL skills competition Sunday amid the constant atmospheric river deluge. However, he made up for it with two goals and three assists Monday in the tourney finale, a 3-2 win over the Atlantic Division, to be named most valuable player.
His second goal came in overtime and was worthy of a highlight reel. With less than 15 seconds remaining, Bains stole the puck from a defender and opted for a backhand deke move on a breakaway.
Bains, 23, has always had a knack for finding the net. He became the first South Asian to capture the WHL scoring title with 112 points (43-69) in the 2021-22 season with the Red Deer Rebels. Going undrafted by the NHL has only left him undaunted to grow as a pro for a shot at an NHL recall.
A solid 48-point (13-25) rookie AHL season proved that part of his game could transition, but what about everything else? Game management and foot speed are the challenges.
“He’s 1 1/2 years into the process and not doing it by cheating the game,” said Abbotsford general manager Ryan Johnson. “Becoming an NHL prospect there has to be a lot of belief. Last offseason was the first time he really had resources and desire to say I’m coming to Van and training my butt off.
“He did and it has helped. I don’t question the (skating) pace because his brain is so elite. Those type of players are able to navigate. The pace will improve and skating with NHL players improve by the company. I don’t worry about it.”
THIRD SERVING: On paying dues: ‘It’s tough to crack the lineup.’
Linus Karlsson has been recalled six times this NHL season from the AHL affiliate in Abbotsford. That’s right. Six.
The right winger managed to play his first regular-season game Nov. 16 at Calgary and has logged four games in 2023-24, ranging from nine to nearly 12 minutes per outing. Part of the recall rationale is that Karlsson is in such close proximity to the big club that having him in Vancouver to practise and learn — and then return to Abby — benefits everybody.
Karlsson learns the same systems here and puts them into action in the AHL. Win-win?
Karlsson is also 24 and moving away from the prospects tag. He had a good AHL rookie season with 49 points (24-25) in 72 games in 2022-23. His contract expires after this season and as a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, maybe he’s a fit when the club deals with salary cap challenges this summer.
“It’s tough to crack the lineup, but there is competition and he knows that,” Tocchet said of Karlsson, who’s with the Canucks on their current five-game road trip. “We do like forwards who can go to the net and tip pucks and forecheck.
“He’s got to work on some stuff and his pace. But the job is there. How hungry are you? Sometimes, when these guys come up, I want to them to set the pace in practice and not just feel their way out. That’s the next level for him.”