I supposed all good things eventually had to come to an end. Before last night’s game, the Canucks had won 11 consecutive games against the Toronto Maple Leafs, dating back to November 2003.
So much for that.
But you know what’s still going? The Canucks’ losing streak.
This two-week Olympic break couldn’t come soon enough.
— Roxy (@RmystiQue78) February 8, 2014
Vancouver Canucks (27-23-9) at Toronto Maple Leafs (31-22-6)
First, the good. When the Vancouver Canucks face the Toronto Maple Leafs this afternoon, they’ll be going for their 12th straight victory against the team from the center of the universe; the Leafs haven’t beaten the Canucks since November 2003. In their last meeting earlier this season, the Canucks blanked Toronto 4-0 as Roberto Luongo stopped all 21 shots he faced. That night was also the night the Canucks retired Pavel Bure’s jersey and raised it up to the rafters.
However, now may be as good a time as any for the Leafs to break out of their misery against Vancouver. Quite simply, they’re on a roll right now. One of the hottest teams in the league, the Leafs are have won 10 of their last 13 games (10-2-1), and they’ve moved all the way up to 5th place in the Eastern Conference after sitting in 10th place before this streak began.
Decimated by injuries, the Canucks only wish right now to get back on the winning track, let alone start another lengthy win streak. After a 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night, the Canucks have lost 6 games in a row – their longest losing streak in 15 years. They’re struggling at both ends of the ice, averaging less than 2 goals a game over the last 23 games, but yet allowing more than 3 goals against per game in that same span. Even their penalty-kill, the best in the league for most of the season, has dipped, allowing at least a power play goal against in each of the last 3 games and in 9 of the last 12 games; including that 9-1 debacle in Anaheim, they’ve now allowed 15 power play goals against in the last 12 games.
This is the final game for both teams before the Olympic break. For the Canucks, it sure would be nice to at least head into it with a win. Especially against the Leafs.
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.
- Last night’s game was probably the most uneventful Canucks vs. Bruins game in a long time. But I suppose when one team is not only mired in a deep slump, but also missing a good chunk of their regular roster due to injury, and the ones who did dress seemed unwilling to engage, the temperature cooled down considerably.
- Henrik Sedin is hurt. That much is obvious. He can’t take face-offs and he can’t take a hit. And after every shift, when he skates back to the bench, he has that pained look on his face, kinda like those poor puppies in the SPCA commercials. I know Hank is tough – you can’t play 679 consecutive games in this league without being tough. I understand he’s the captain, and he wants to lead his team, which is severely undermanned right now. This is all admirable, but at this juncture of the season, why the hell are the Canucks risking a longer-term injury?
- The Canucks’ injury list includes Chris Higgins, Brad Richardson, Mike Santorelli, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev. If you include Hank, which, really, the Canucks should, that’s four top-9 forwards and three top-6 d-men (even arguably top-4 d-men) – or half of the top part of the lineup – out of the lineup. As good friend of the blog, Gina from Canucks Corner tweeted last night, injuries aren’t an excuse, but they are a factor. In this age of parity, there aren’t many teams in the league that can withstand that many injuries.
- Which leads me to today’s $64,000 question – what should be considered as realistic expectations for this Canucks team right now?
- When I worked the Vancouver Grizzlies games at then GM Place a while ago, I used to remark how Bryant “Big Country” Reeves almost always played better after he was hit early in the game. It was as if a Shaq or Greg Ostertag elbow to the face served as some sort of wake-up call for the big fella. Last night, I thought David Booth was one of the better Canucks. (Giveaway that led to the Daniel Paille breakaway goal aside.) After Johnny Boychuk nailed him with a nice hit along the boards, he was noticeably more physical and had a little something-something going with Boychuk the rest of the game. Maybe, like Big Country, Booth just needed a wake-up call.
- Raphael Diaz had a pretty solid Canucks debut. He led all Canucks skaters with 25:26 minutes of ice-time and he scored the team’s lone goal to boot. According to Extra Skater, he finished with a 65.0 CF%, which, in layman’s terms mean that, generally, good things happened for the Canucks when Diaz was on the ice.
- Considering their depleted lineup, the Canucks were okay for the most part last night. But after their loss in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, getting up for the normally heated and emotional games against the Bruins was never a problem for them. Their problem was getting up for the games that followed.
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