This pretty much sums up last night’s 6-1 ass-kicking to the Dallas Stars.
The NHL trade deadline has come and gone, but you can’t say Canucks fans are clearer about the direction this team is going. Sure trade clouds are no longer looming over the dressing room, and the team you see now is the team you’ll see for the remainder of the season, but can you really see any better what bodes ahead for this group?
Maybe the players can revert their attention back to playing hockey. Maybe they’ll actually string together a few wins and inch back up the standings. Maybe they can start scoring more than a goal a game. Or a goal a game. Or maybe they’ll just slowly fade into the sunset and wait until Canucks brass – whoever they are at that point – to make changes.
It’s Lack’s Team Now
It’s hard to believe that Roberto Luongo now dons the jersey of the Florida Panthers. Only 4 days ago, over 50,000 Canucks fans were chanting “We Want Lu”. But if you think about it, Lu’s last game as a Vancouver Canuck was almost a month ago before the Olympics when the Canucks faced the Leafs in Toronto.
Regardless, this is Eddie Lack’s team now, and Jacob Markstrom will serve as his backup. How long until the inevitable Lack/Markstrom goalie controversy starts?
Every Point Matters
Tonight’s opponents, the Dallas Stars, currently hold the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. But of course with 20 games left in the season, their hold on that spot is anything but final. The Canucks, the Winnipeg Jets and the Phoenix Coyotes are all within 2 points. It’s cliche to say, but every game, every point counts from here on out, especially if the Canucks have any ambition to make the postseason. It won’t help them though that they’ve gone 1-9-1 in the past 11 games. And neither will not having Daniel Sedin, who is out indefinitely with a leg injury, in the lineup and replacing him with Darren Archibald.
The always charming Tim Thomas was traded to the Dallas Stars yesterday, but the Canucks will likely face Kari Lehtonen, who’s started 50+ games so far this season.
The Canucks are welcoming some new faces of their own. Besides Markstrom, 6’4″ center Shawn Matthias will be playing his first game with the team, wearing Sergio Momesso’s old no. 27. If it makes anyone feel any better, Matthias bringing over a point-streak with 5 points in his last 2 games. For those wondering, the Canucks have 5 goals in their last 313 minutes of game time.
Besides Dank, Mike Santorelli, Andrew Alberts and Yannick Weber remain out of the lineup.
The Stars had been without Rich Peverley for the last 2 games because of an injury he sustained Monday night, but he may play tonight.
With Team Canada’s gold medal performance in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi still fresh in our minds, it’s time once again to try and focus on the battle for Lord Stanley’s Cup. The quick change-over from teammates to opponents to teammates again is all part of the Olympic experience. But now that their country’s flag on the front of their jersey has been replaced with the NHL logos, it’s time to reacquaint themselves for the stretch run. That means, no more giveaways, *ahem* Daniel Sedin, though Canada appreciated the assist on Sunday morning. In all, 10 St. Louis Blues players and 7 Vancouver Canucks players were on Olympic rosters, and all, save for a few exceptions, should be back on the ice tonight at Rogers Arena.
Tonight marks the start of a 3-game homestand for the Canucks. Believe it or not, despite their troubles this season, the Canucks have won every meeting against the Blues this season. Sure their last matchup, back on January 10th, was in the midst of better times for the Canucks, but what the hey, with how the last couple of months have turned out, it’s good to cling on to something good.
The Canucks have 22 games left this season, and as we speak, they’re outside the playoff picture. But if we were to look for reason for hope, they’re also still within striking distance of a wild card spot and the 3rd seed in the Pacific Division. In fact, a couple of points tonight could move them back into the playoff picture, although the teams around them all have games in hand.
With fresh legs, the well-rested Eddie Lack will be in goal tonight to give Roberto Luongo the night off.
Lack had a good two weeks. Well, mostly. He did get to watch The Bachelor, but he also had time to make – and lose – an ill-fated bet.
I wish I was kidding.
Henrik Sedin is expected to play tonight after missing 9 games with a rib injury. Of course, the injury kept him off Team Sweden for the Olympics, but I heard they did alright without him.
Hank hasn’t scored a goal in 19 games; Daniel hasn’t scored one in 17 games. Their usual linemate, Alex Burrows hasn’t scored, well, since last season. It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why the Canucks are 24th in the league in scoring.
Ryan Kesler won’t play tonight and is day-to-day with a hand injury. Chris Tanev, Mike Santorelli and Andrew Alberts are no-gos as well.
For the Blues, Jordan Leopold and Vladimir Sobotka will not be in the lineup tonight.
After serving his 15-day suspension for going off the rails, er, “off the country” against the Calgary Flames, Canucks head coach John Tortorella is back behind the bench tonight as they face the Detroit Red Wings for the second and final time this season.
It probably couldn’t have come at a better time either, with the team struggling and losing playoff ground. Not too long ago, the Canucks seemed firmly in a wild card playoff spot, even threatening to overtake the Los Angeles Kings for 3rd place in the Pacific Division, but thanks to their 4-9-2 record in January are now just 2 points ahead of the 9th place Phoenix Coyotes and only 4 points ahead of the 13th place Winnipeg Jets.
With defensemen Kevin Bieksa, Chris Tanev, Yannick Weber and Andrew Alberts all still in the infirmary, the Canucks yesterday called up Yann Sauve from the Utica Comets, and this morning acquired Raphael Diaz from the Montreal Canadiens, giving up the Dutch Gretzky, Dale Weise. The defensive help will be welcomed, but they’re still woefully short up front with Henrik Sedin and Mike Santorelli still out as well.
Likewise, the Detroit Red Wings have injury concerns of their own. Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Stephen Weiss are all nursing injuries.
If there’s a silver lining in all of this, it’s that Ryan Kesler seems to be awakening from a month-long slumber. Without Hank in the lineup, Kes has taken on top-line center duties and has 4 points (1 goal and 3 assists) in his past 2 games.
For the Red Wings, Gustav Nyquist, Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader has picked up the scoring slack, accounting for 5 of Detroit’s 8 goals this weekend. Nyquist, in particular, has been hot, recording a hat trick yesterday, and he now has 8 goals and 11 points in his past 7 games.
The Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks usually bring the best out of each other. That’s hopefully the case tonight.
The fact is, neither team is playing their best hockey right now. The Canucks’ woes are well-documented, having lost 10 of their last 14 games, including a disheartening 4-2 loss to the last place Edmonton Oilers. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks, after dropping a 5-4 decision in OT to the Calgary Flames last night, have now lost 4 games in a row. They’ve also lost 6 of their last 7 road games (1-1-5), though despite that, the Blackhawks are still a top-3 team in the league and still lead the league in scoring (3.44 goals per game).
If the Canucks want to exploit anything, it’s that the Blackhawks are playing their 3rd game in 4 nights, and their 5th game in 8 nights. I guess that’s something.
With Henrik Sedin still out, and Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler snake-bitten, the Canucks have had to rely on everyone else to provide their offence. After returning from a lengthy stay on IR, Jordan Schroeder returned on Monday against the Oilers and scored both Canucks goals that night. Kevin Bieksa has also stepped up with 3 points in his past 2 games, including 2 goals – and the game-winning OT goal – against the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday. Ditto Chris Higgins, who also had 3 points against the Coyotes.
For the Blackhawks, Marian Hossa scored twice last night against the Flames and has 4 goals in his past 5 games. Patrick Kane, who also scored last night, has 4 points in 3 games, and he currently sits 4th in the NHL in scoring (60 points).
The Blackhawks have a healthy roster except for their backup goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who is out with a shoulder injury that required surgery.
For the Canucks, Hank is still out as are Mike Santorelli and Andrew Alberts. Tonight will be game 5 of John Tortorella’s suspension – he’ll miss 6 games while serving his 15-game suspension – and hopefully he’s relaxing in Hawaii or something.
For the second time in just 10 days, the Canucks take on the Phoenix Coyotes. You may or may not remember their most recent meeting on January 16th. On the one hand hand, it was memorable for the sole reason that Martin Hanzal was a one-man wrecking crew for the Coyotes in the third period, taking out with Henrik Sedin, Mike Santorelli and David Booth with crosschecks. But then again, the game was boring as heck so we’ll forgive you if you stopped watching before Hanzal went all Donatello on the Canucks.
None of the three injured Canucks finished the game, and in fact, Hank and Santorelli remain out of the lineup, which has Dale Weise speculating some sort of response to Hanzal.
“I think we’re trying to build a team identity here that we don’t get pushed around,” Weise continued. “I think we stood up for ourselves good against Calgary. Dustin Brown kind of had to answer the bell there — and he did. I don’t think Dustin Brown had to drop the gloves but he was forced into it. Eventually if you get enough guys challenging you, I think the peer pressure kind of wears on you and you have to answer the bell.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen tomorrow (with Hanzal). We have a lot of guys who might have a few choice words for him and then we’ll see what happens.”
Like against their games against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks the other week, the Canucks can’t let their emotions get the better of them. The Coyotes are hot on the Canucks’ tail in the Western Conference for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference; the Canucks have a slim 4-point lead on the Desert Dogs, who also has a game-in-hand on Vancouver.
If there’s any positives for the Canucks, it’s been their goaltending. They’re not scoring, but they’re staying in games thanks in large part to Roberto Luongo and Eddie Lack, both of whom are in the top 10 in the NHL in GAA and save percentage. The Canucks have the 7th best goals against per game in the league (2.38), and Luongo, specifically, is looking better than ever and has a 0.949 save percentage in his last 4 starts.
Up front, tough guy Dale Weise has 2 assists in his past 2 games, and for the Coyotes, Mike Ribeiro, who leads the Coyotes in scoring, has 4 points (2 goals and 2 assists) in a 3-game point streak.
Henrik Sedin remains day-to-day with a rib injury and is expected to miss tonight’s game. Mike Santorelli remains out with a shoulder injury and Andrew Alberts remains out with a concussion. Jordan Schroeder, who has missed most of the season with an ankle injury, will not play tonight, but did start his conditioning assignment and played for the Utica Comets on Friday and Saturday against the Abbotsford Heat.
Some of you thought the game was entertaining. Some of you thought the sideshows that happened were classless and disrespectful. Whatever it was, the Canucks beat the Calgary Flames, and snapped a 3-game losing streak.
— Derek Bolen (@hurrrdurrr) January 18, 2014
We’ll take it.
After a rough, tough road trip that left them beaten physically, and perhaps, mentally and emotionally, the Vancouver Canucks are left nursing their wounds and Canucks fans wondering what it would it take to right the ship. The Canucks lost all 3 games on their just-concluded road trip, including one of their worst losses in memory, a 9-1 ass-kicking at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks. They scored a grand total of 1 goal in those 3 games, and to make matters worse, may have lost Henrik Sedin, their leading scorer, and Mike Santorelli, their fourth-leading goal scorer, to injuries. Oh, and David Booth too.
Perhaps the day off will help. And with 5 of their next 6 games at home, so may perhaps their return to the friendlier of Rogers Arena. It doesn’t hurt either that tonight’s opponents, the Calgary Flames are one of only two teams with a worst record than the Canucks have over the last 10 games.
Truth be told, no one from either team. With both the Canucks and Flames struggling to put the puck in the back of the net, they’re relying on their respective goaltenders right now.
The game against the Ducks aside, Eddie Lack has actually held up the fort well in Roberto Luongo’s absence. He’s allowed just a single goal against in 3 of his last 4 starts. Luongo, however, may be returning tonight.
For the Flames, Karri Ramo will likely get the start after Reto Berra let in 5 goals on 23 shots in Calgary’s last game on Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets. Ramo started back-to-back games earlier this week against the Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes; against the Canes, he recorded his first NHL shutout.
Aside from Luongo, Alex Burrows is also back in the lineup for the first time since suffering a jaw injury in December.
Mike Santorelli left Phoenix with his right arm in a sling and isn’t expected to play. After suffering a rib injury (also against the Coyotes), Henrik Sedin is a game-time decision, which puts his 679-game, NHL ironman streak in jeopardy. Jordan Schroeder, Andrew Alberts, and Ryan Stanton are still out; however, Schroeder and Stanton skated today.
For the Flames, Michael Cammalleri and Curtis Glencross remain sidelined.
It’s another Pacific Division battle tonight as the Vancouver Canucks and the Anaheim Ducks meet again at the Honda Center for the third time this season. The Canucks lost the first two meetings, including one on January 5th in which they a gave up the game-tying goal with 87 seconds left in the third period and the game-winning goal with 1.3 seconds left in overtime.
The Ducks are hot, hot, hot. They’ve won 7 straight games and have vaulted to the top of the league, past the Chicago Blackhawks. They’ve been unstoppable at home. After their 1-0 shutout of the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, their home ice record now stands at an impressive 19-0-2; the league record for points-streak on home ice to start the season is 26 games.
The Canucks lost a well-fought game against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night, but were pleased with how their physicality. The Canucks are going to need more that tonight, especially as big Ryan Getzlaf, who sits 4th overall in the NHL in scoring (23 goals, 30 assists, 53 points in 44 games played) will return from injury tonight.
On Monday night against the Kings, the Canucks had 69 minutes of penalties and gave LA almost 15 minutes of power play time. The Canucks managed to kill them all, and their league-best penalty kill continues to stand strong with a PK rate of 89.7%.
Despite the Canucks’ skid, Eddie Lack has certainly done his part, allowing just one goal against in each of his past two games. With Roberto Luongo still on the mend (according to Torts, he remains day-to-day), Lack has remained strong in net, and his 2.12 goals against average and .924 save percentage are among the league’s leaders (8th and 11th, respectively).
On the other end of the rink, Ducks’ goaltender Jonas Hiller hasn’t lost a game since December 3rd – a 14-game win streak – and has a sparkling 1.97 goals against average during this time. His is so far the second longest-winning streak in NHL history for a goaltender, 3 wins back of the NHL record.
Roberto Luongo remains day-to-day, while Ryan Stanton, Jordan Schroeder, Andrew Alberts are all on injured reserve. Alex Burrows will not play tonight against the Ducks, but should return by Saturday against the Calgary Flames.
Luca Sbisa, Bryan Allen, Sheldon Souray, and Viktor Fasth all remain on injured reserve for Anaheim.
It goes without saying that the Canucks are having a lacklustre start to 2014. They’ve lost 5 games in a row, blowing leads in all of them, and prompting coach John Tortorella to question his team’s mental toughness. They’ll need to get tough real fast as they take on the streaking St.Louis Blues at home at Rogers Arena before heading on the road for another 3-game jaunt through the Pacific Division. The Blues are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games, a span in which they’ve outscored their opponents 41-17.
Tonight will be the second meeting between the two teams. Their last meeting was back on October 25th in St. Louis, where, thanks to some stellar goaltending by Eddie Lack and an overtime goal from Ryan Kesler, the Canucks came away with the 2 points. Since that meeting, however, the Blues have gone 26-6-3 and have surpassed the Chicago Blackhawks for top spot in the Central Division and have come within 4 points of the Anaheim Ducks, with 3 games in hand, for top spot in the Western Conference.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Canucks come out tonight after a roller coaster of a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. They gave up the first 2 goals of the game to the high-powered Pens, but then struck for 4 unanswered goals, including 3 in the third period, before surrendering 2 goals in 16 seconds with 71 seconds remaining on the clock, en route to a 5-4 shootout loss. They’ve had a couple of days to stew over the loss so we’ll see how they respond.
With Henrik Sedin obviously nursing an injury, Chris Higgins and Zack Kassian have stepped up to the plate, contributing a couple of points each in their last game. Kassian was particularly impressive, his goal and his assist on Higgins’ goal showcasing the mix of speed, size and hands that the Canucks coveted when they acquired him for Cody Hodgson.
Brian Elliot is expected to start since Jaroslav Halak played last night in the Blues’ win against the Calgary Flames. Elliot has won 7 consecutive starts with .926% SV and a 1.86 GAA. Team Canada defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo, has 7 points in 4 games.
The Canucks are still without Roberto Luongo, Alex Burrows, Alex Edler, Jordan Schroeder, Ryan Stanton and Andrew Alberts. Burrows and Edler skated with the team yesterday, but neither is expected back tonight. Luongo should be back next week.
The Blues are missing leading scorer, Alex Steen, due to a concussion. Defenseman Roman Polak is also out with an ankle injury.