The vancouver Canucks started the season with some low expectations. Making the playoffs seemed like a far-fetched dream for those that seemed to be in the know. The postseason might still prove out of reach for Vancouver over the long term, however, through eight games, Vancouver hasn't looked that bad. They managed nine points in those eight games and finished Sunday third in the Pacific Division.

In the team's most recent news, they competed in Detroit and defeated the Red Wings 4-1. The victory saw an explosive second period that basically won the game, a frame of play where Vancouver posted three goals to Detroit's none.

The game could be noted for Jacob Markstrom's effort in net. He posted a .952 save percentage in what one of his stronger outings so far this season.

In the early picture getting nine points in eight games isn't bad at all for Vancouver. The season is still young, but if short-term trends are extended over the whole season getting nine points in eight games works out to 92 points. That's a total that should be competitive for a playoff spot. As such the Canucks' start and their 4-3-1 record has to be considered acceptable so far given that nothing is expected of them. When it comes to the smaller picture, there are both hits and misses.

Looking at the key players

The Canucks have yet to find significant success in penalty or power-play situations.

When it comes to penalty killing the Canucks are at 80.6 percent (25 of 31 penalties killed) and when it comes to their own power plays, Vancouver converts just 10.8 percent (4 of 37) of the time. The former is average while the latter is very close to the worst in the league.

However, the special-teams situations aren't actually killing Vancouver as they are just -two when it comes to giving up power-play goals and scoring them.

What's keeping the situation manageable thus far is that the Canucks aren't actually yielding a terrible amount of penalties. They have given up 31 power-play opportunities to their opponents, a number that makes them about a middle team from that point of view.

As for individual players, Brock Boeser has been a surprise so far.

He has appeared in six games and he has averaged a point per game in those six games. According to Spotrac, Boeser is only a $925K cap hit this season and that makes his contributions a welcome bonus. The 20-year-old is the only player on the Canucks that is averaging a point per game through the early stretch.

Derek Dorsett is the team's leading goal scorer thus far as he has five goals in his eight appearances. His contributions are coming out of left field as he had five goals in all of 71 games two seasons ago. With Dorsett the teams' leading goal scorer, it's hard to know whether to be happy about it or worried. But if he can keep up his surprise production then Vancouver could flourish if the Sedins, Bo Horvat, Thomas Vanek, and/or Sam Gagner step up their scoring.

Goaltending situation critical

When it comes to Vancouver's goaltending, there could be a friendly battle emerging between Jacob Markstrom and Anders Nilsson. The latter shut out the Ottawa Senators last week only to follow it up with a four-goal period that chased him from the net in the next game. However, three of the four goals that he gave up were power-play markers. Nilsson, despite blowing a chance to make an impression as a more reliable starter, does have a better save percentage than Markstrom at this point. Markstrom himself is 17th in the NHL for goalies that have appeared in at least five games. Goaltending is a bit of a question mark with Vancouver, but if Nilsson and Markstrom can platoon then it's a situation that might work.

Short-term trends always have to be taken with a grain of salt. If you assume that Boeser and Dorsett will regress then it's up to the leaders of the team to step up. Furthermore, Nilsson and Markstrom will need to combine for a save percentage of about .920 to keep the Canucks competitive in most games. However, it could be that the Canucks aren't as bad as many thought that they would be this season. For the balance of the month, they face the Minnesota Wild (Oct. 24th), the Washington Capitals (October 26), and the Dallas Stars (October 30).