So I was standing in line at the airport at 4:30am this morning, half-asleep and in my own little world. Suddenly I was snapped to attention by a complete stranger who, very politely, invaded my personal space and inquired: ‘are you JPat’? Who knew the fame and attention that came along with hockey blogging!
Internally, I could only laugh at the ridiculousness of being recognized in the dead of the night and then addressed by the on-line character I have had foist upon me. We live in a remarkable age. My inquisitor and I had a brief chat about life, vacation plans and inevitably the conversation turned to the Canucks. I did my best to avoid the topic since there really wasn’t much to say in the wake of Sunday’s 3-2 loss to New Jersey.
That was a steaming pile of hot garbage hockey by the home team. Especially when judged against what the Canucks had served up just 24 hours earlier in their 6-3 win over Chicago.
It’s pretty clear someone other than Daniel and Henrik Sedin are going to have to score meaningful goals for the Canucks. Those two have combined to score 7 of the last 10 goals the team has registered. Take away Radim Vrbata’s last second goal that did nothing to impact the hockey game Sunday and Alex Burrows’ empty netter the night before and now you’re looking at a run of 7 of the last 8 goals against a goaltender scored by the Canucks coming off the sticks of either Daniel or Henrik.
The Canucks are a dangerous combination of unbalanced scoring, an underwhelming defence corps and a goal-against too many most nights. That is hardly the recipe for success at any level of hockey let alone the best league in the world.
Expectations of success using that blueprint are not realistic. It will be impossible for this team to win more than it loses unless Vrbata, Alex Burrows, Chris Higgins and Bo Horvat provide some sort of secondary scoring. And would it kill a defence man to chip in more than once a month?
Vrbata and Horvat’s struggles have been well-documented, so there’s not much to add there. Higgins is so frustrating because he scored in two of his first three games back and offered the hope of some secondary scoring. But that was 10 games ago and this spotty track record of goal-scoring has been the norm for Higgins for far too long now. He is what he is. And that’s not terribly reliable as anything more than an occasional offensive contributor. And with players like that getting regular ice time it’s going to be a struggle most nights for the Canucks to win games.
One thing I have been charting in recent weeks is the Canucks record in games 8 through 23. Last season, the Canucks went 12-3-1 in that stretch and collected 25 of their 101 points in that span. They gained a quarter of their season point total by being virtually unbeatable for about a four-week run.
They are 15 games into that same stretch this season and right now are sitting at 5-7-3 in those games. That’s 13 of 30 possible points or barely half of the points they amassed over the same period last season.
The notion of another 101-point season seemed far-fetched at the outset and seems even more remote now. But in order for this team to make any kind of push for the playoffs, the Canucks will need to have a stretch comparable to the one they had at this time last year. And so far this season the best they’ve done is put back to back wins together — and that doesn’t qualify as any kind of win streak.
***One week into this blogging gig and I’m already taking a break. Long before the events of the past week, we had a family vacation planned. I’m going to use the week to have some fun in the sun and will put my blogging career on hold temporarily. I will get back at it on December 1st. Thanks for your support.