Elias Pettersson, left, with Christopher Tanev, continues to lead the Vancouver Canucks in scoring. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal)

Canucks Report: February stumbles make playoffs a longshot

Vancouver plays 14 games in 28-day span in March

Slip slidin’ away…

The Vancouver Canucks entered February with visions of the NHL playoffs still dancing in their heads. One month later, the post-season is becoming more like a pipe dream. A lacklustre 4-7-3 record in February leaves the Canucks at 27-29-9, five points out of the final Western Conference spot, and with a trio of teams to climb over to get there. Given the dire pre-season predictions for the club, to still be playing meaningful games in March should be considered progress – but you can’t blame Canucks fans if their thoughts soon turn full-time to June’s entry draft, which takes place in Vancouver.

By the numbers

27-29-9 (14-12-4 home, 13-17-5 road) 63 points (5th, Pacific Division, 25th overall); GF: 180 (24th overall); GA: 203 (19th overall); PP: 15.0% (27th overall); PK: 80.0% (18th overall)

On Feb. 1: 23-22-6 (12-10-3 home, 11-12-3 road) 52 points (4th, Pacific Division, 19th overall); GF: 147 (19th overall); GA: 161 (20th overall); PP: 16.8% (21st overall); PK: 79.2% (19th overall)

On Jan. 1: 19-19-4 (9-9-1 home, 10-10-3 away) 42 points (5th, Pacific Division, 18th overall); GF: 124 (14th overall); GA: 133 (26th overall); PP: 17.8% (20th overall); PK: 77.8% (21st overall)

On Dec. 1: 11-14-3 (5-5-1 home, 6-9-2 away) 25 points (6th, Pacific Division; 24th overall); GF: 81 (13th overall); GA: 100 (30th overall); PP: 18.9% (19th overall); PK: 76.2% (25th overall)

On Nov. 1: 8-6-0 (4-2-0 home, 4-4-0 away) 16 points (1st, Pacific Division; 7th overall); GF: 40 (9th overall); GA: 44 (27th overall); PP: 17.0% (20th overall); PK:83.3% (9th overall).

Leading scorers (through March 1)

Elias Pettersson (54 GP, 26-30-56), Bo Horvat (65 GP, 23-25-48), Brock Boeser (52 GP, 21-22-43), Antoine Roussel (60 GP, 9-20-29), Nikolay Goldobin (56 GP, 7-19-26). Goalies: Jacob Markstrom (49 GP, 23-18-8, 2.71 GAA, .913 save percentage), Thatcher Demko (2 GP, 1-1-0, 4.00 GAA, .873 save percentage)

On Feb. 1: Pettersson (40 GP, 23-22-45), Horvat (51 GP, 18-23-41), Boeser (38 GP, 16-18-34), Goldobin (44 GP, 5-18-23), Loui Eriksson (51 GP, 9-11-20). Goalies: Markstrom (37 GP, 19-13-5, 2.84 GAA, .908 save percentage), Demko (1 GP, 1-0-0, 3.00 GAA, .923 save percentage)

On Jan. 1: Pettersson (36 GP, 19-20-39), Horvat (42 GP, 17-18-35), Boeser (29 GP, 14-12-26), Goldobin (41 GP, 5-18-23), Jake Virtanen (42 GP, 11-7-18). Goalies: Markstrom (29 GP, 16-10-3, 2.80 GAA, .910 save percentage), Anders Nilsson (12 GP, 3-8-1, 3.09 GAA, .895 save percentage). NOTE: Nilsson was traded to Ottawa.

On Dec. 1: Horvat (28 GP, 11-13-24), Pettersson (22 GP, 13-9-22), Goldobin (28 GP, 4-12-16), Boeser (15 GP; 6-7-13), Virtanen (28 GP, 8-4-12). Goalies: Markstrom (20 GP, 8-9-3, 3.31 GAA, .897 save percentage), Nilsson (7 GP, 3-4-0, 2.86 GAA, .902 save percentage).

On Nov. 1: Pettersson (8 GP, 7-3-10), Horvat (14 GP, 7-3-10), Virtanen (14 GP, 5-2-7), Boeser (12 GP, 2-5-7). Goalies: Markstrom (8 GP, 5-3-0, 2.96 GAA, .911 save percentage), Nilsson (6 GP, 3-3-0, 2.67 GAA, .912 save percentage).

RELATED: Canucks ready for February grind

Fun number

(Four-time champ!) Forward Tim Schaller has now played 36 games and has yet to record his first goal as a Canuck. Bonus numbers: Pettersson and Troy Stecher are both plus-13 on the season, while Ben Hutton is minus-18.

Player of the month

Markstrom has become the single-biggest reason Canucks fans aren’t all focusing on presumptive No. 1 overall draft pick Jack Hughes. He has done yeoman’s work behind a suspect defence corps all season. Will his efforts merit a contract extension?

Best goal

Pettersson with the nifty individual effort to set up Boeser.

Biggest surprise

Stick tap to Roussel, the pesky shift disturber who is also his team’s fourth-leading scorer. But the emergence of the oft-maligned Markstrom as a solid No. 1 netminder has to be considered a most pleasant development.

Biggest disappointment

Plenty of candidates this time around. Schaller could win every month, but doesn’t play enough. Virtanen (one goal, four points in his last 16 games) fell off a cliff after a solid first half of the season. But the nod here goes (in absentia) to d-man Erik Gudbranson, a willing fighter who wasn’t a very good defenceman during his tenure with the Canucks. Gudbranson was traded at the deadline to the Pittsburgh Penguins for forward Tanner Pearson.

Best win

A resounding 5-1 thumping of the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 2 seems so long ago.

Worst loss

A few contenders here as well, but a 7-2 drubbing at the hands of the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 11 was particularly nasty.

Best fight

Newcomer Zac MacEwen makes his presence felt in his first NHL scrap, earning a decision over San Jose’s Barclay Goodrow.

Injury update

A handful of Canucks are currently on injured reserve. Sven Baertschi (undisclosed), Brandon Sutter (mid-body), Chris Tanev (ankle) and Virtanen (fractured rib) are on the shelf.

On the farm

Vancouver’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Utica Comets, slipped down a rung to fourth (30-21-7) in the league’s North Division. Veteran Reid Boucher (26-27-53) leads the squad in scoring, with Tanner Kero (21-27-48) not far behind.

Coming this month

The Canucks have a jam-packed March with 14 games in a 28-day span and will need to reel off a hefty winning streak if they have any shot at the playoffs. Eight of their final 10 March games are at home. Vancouver plays in Las Vegas March 3, with a rematch in Vancouver March 9. Other games: Toronto (March 6), at Edmonton (March 7), New York Rangers (March 13), New Jersey (March 15), at Dallas (March 17), at Chicago (March 18), Ottawa (March 20), Calgary (March 23), Columbus (March 26), L.A. (March 28) and Dallas (March 30)

Extended Canucks coverage here

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Vancouver Island Free Daily editor Philip Wolf can be reached via email at philip.wolf@blackpress.ca or on Twitter @philipwolf13

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