Can we at least beat the Leafs on Saturday night?
— Ashley Pothiboon (@ashleyspinellii) February 6, 2014
Vancouver Canucks (27-22-9) at Montreal Canadiens (30-21-6)
To say that the Vancouver Canucks are struggling is an understatement. For starters, they’ve lost 5 games in a row, and are 4-11-3 in their past 18 games. They can’t score – averaging just 1.88 goals per game over their last 18 games – and they can’t keep the puck out of their net – allowing an average of 3.16 goals against per game over that same span. They’re battered physically – the injury list includes regulars Henrik Sedin, Chris Higgins, Mike Santorelli, Brad Richardson, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev – and I’m sure mentally as well.
Tonight’s opponents, the Montreal Canadiens, are faring a bit better. At least they are now. After losing 5 of 6 games a couple of weeks ago, the Habs have bounced back nicely and are 3-1-1 in their last 5 games. Goaltender Carey Price has had a lot to do with that turnaround, stopping 130 of 134 shots (0.970 save %) and posting 2 shutouts in that span.
This is the second and final meeting between the Canucks and Habs this regular season. The Habs won the first meeting back on October 12th, and of course, Price paid a huge part in that victory, stopping 40 of 41 Canucks shots that night.
Tonight’s game is being billed as the battle for the starting goaltender spot for Team Canada in Sochi in just a week from now. (Poor Mike Smith.) Winner gets first crack at the starter’s spot? Or maybe first pick of beds in the Athletes Village? I’m sure Luongo – and the Canucks – will settle for getting the two points tonight.
2014 has been anything but kind to the Vancouver Canucks with a plethora of losses peppering their game calendar. Questions are virtually everywhere with every fan and their dog voicing their idea for a quick fix or easy solution. The defence has looked slow and the forwards are virtually non-existent when it comes to providing offence. Coaching has been an issue and player morale hasn’t been this low in over five years. The team is in turmoil.
But one area which, for the past two years, has been the focal point of gossip has remained static and solid. The goaltending debacle of the past two years has come to an end with a true starting and backup goalie program finally intact. The symbiosis between Roberto Luongo and Eddie Lack has been a bright spot in an otherwise, underwhelming 2013-2014 season. Lack, in particular, has been a pleasant surprise taking the reins when needed and providing highlight reel saves night in and night out. Here’s hoping Eddie can somehow provide a spark for a team desperately searching for life.
So here’s a little chicken soup for the weary Canuck fan’s soul – the top 5 Eddie Lack saves:
5) Eddie Lack vs. Cam Atkinson - Lack shows his flexibility and long leg reach making a horizontal stop against a streaking Cam Atkinson.
4) Eddie Lack vs. Trevor Lewis – Another low pad save where Eddie Lack showcases his patience and reach.
3) Eddie Lack vs. Ben Smith – This dude belongs on the runway with legs this long. The young Swede pushes across and outwaits Ben Smith for another remarkable pad stuff.
2) Eddie Lack vs. Bryan Little – Who needs a glove and blocker? Lack denies Bryan Little with terrific anticipation through traffic.
1) Eddie Lack vs. Brad Richards – Finally a save that doesn’t involve a pad. Lack casually bats this puck out of the yawning cage with his paddle in a game against the rangers. Talk about hand-eye.
Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com
Another game, another loss, and a lot more questions left unanswered.
The Canucks lost again. And they couldn’t score on the power play again. And they lost again.
But at least the new guy scored – Raphael Diaz’s first goal of the season – and played a relatively uneventful and team-high 25:26 minutes.
We just won the trade #tgatt
— Jenna Fabulous (@jennafabulous) February 4, 2014
Vancouver Canucks (27-21-9) at Boston Bruins (35-16-3)
Remember when the Canucks met the Boston Bruins last time in December? Remember how good they looked in beating them 6-2 at Rogers Arena?
Neither do I.
As good as the Canucks were that night, they’ve been far from outstanding since then. Since scoring 6 goals that night, they’ve scored just 42 goals in 22 games – for those counting at home, that’s a 1.91 goals per game average over an entire quarter of a season. They were shut out by the Detroit Red Wings last night – the third time they’ve been shut out in the last 11 games – and they’ve now lost 4 games in a row. Or more importantly, they’ve only won 4 games since the calendar turned to 2014.
On the other hand, the Bruins seem to be doing okay. They’ve won 3 of their last 4 games, and don’t seem to have a problem finding the back of the net; their 3 wins were by scores of 6-3, 6-2 and 4-0.
If there are any silver linings in the Canucks’ recent play, it’s that Eddie Lack and Roberto Luongo have consistently shown up and given their team at least a chance to stay in games.
Eddie Lack has been great. Last night against the Red Wings, he made 28 saves on 29 shots, many of them of the sensational variety. In his last 6 starts, he’s allowed just 1 goal in 4 of them; but in perhaps what typifies the Canucks’ offensive woes right now, they somehow managed to win just 1 of those 4 games.
After Lack started the last two games, Roberto Luongo will be back in net tonight. His save percentage (0.920) and GAA (2.30) this season are still among the top of the league. He stopped 41 of 43 shots against the Bruins in December; however, he hasn’t played in Boston since the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. For those of you who have repressed those memories already, Lu gave up 15 goals on 66 shots and was pulled twice in 3 starts.
Dun dun dun.
The objects in your rear view mirror are closer than they appear.
As the Canucks continue to struggle, their grasp on the final wild card playoff spot in the Western Conference is also weakening. After last night’s game, they’re a single point ahead of the 9th place Phoenix Coyotes, who, by the way, hold two games in hand over the Canucks. They’re also only 4 points up on the Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets, who are all tied with 59 points and currently hold 10th, 11th and 12th place, respectively, in the Western Conference.
Just when you didn’t think the Canucks could play any worse, they put together a listless effort like last night’s against the Detroit Red Wings.
After some woeful losses over the last month, they should’ve been buoyed by coach John Tortorella’s return from his 15-day suspension or by captain Hank Sedin’s return from injury. Instead, they put up little fight, getting shut out 2-0 by the Wings, the third time they’ve been shut out in their last 11 games.
— Justin Abraham (@justinabraham) February 3, 2014
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.
Some highlights – sure, let’s call them that – about the Canucks’ 4-3 lost to the Winnipeg Jets last night.
After losing 4-3 to the Winnipeg Jets last night, allowing Devin Setoguchi to score the game-winning goal with 3 minutes left in the third period, that’s the Canucks’ record in January.
4 wins. 11 losses.
And like cherry on top of the whipped cream on top of the fudge on this January crap cake, they also lost Henrik Sedin, Mike Santorelli, Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev to long-term injuries.
— Derek Bolen (@hurrrdurrr) January 31, 2014