5:08. That was it for Canucks captain Henrik Sedin’s ice-time in Philadelphia on Thursday. He appeared to be favouring his left leg late in the first period after taking a maintenance day in Minnesota on Wednesday morning while the rest of his teammates skated. Henrik Sedin doesn’t miss practices. And he almost never misses games. In fact, since the lost season of 2004-05, Henrik Sedin has suited up for 806 of the 818 regular season games the Vancouver Canucks have played in that span. I don’t know about your work attendance rate, but Henrik’s is at a startling 98.5% over the past decade missing only a dozen games after Christmas two years ago. And remember this is a guy who plays hard minutes against the best players on every team night in and night out. When he’s out of the line-up, you know it.
So add Henrik’s health to the rapidly growing list of issues facing the Vancouver Canucks. Obviously goal-scoring has reached crisis status. Thursday was the fourth time in nine games that the Canucks have failed to put a puck in the net. In their last 10 games, the Canucks have managed more than two goals just once — a 5-2 victory over Buffalo last week (remember when some wondered if that win indicated the Canucks had left their troubles behind?). In all, the Canucks have managed just 14 goals in those 10. Simple math tells you five came at the expense of the Sabres leaving nine goals in the other nine games.
The struggles got me thinking. When was the last time the Vancouver Canucks had the luxury of a 2-0 lead in a hockey game? Anybody? Anybody? It was 15 games ago in Montreal. The Canucks actually pushed the lead to 3-0 that night before before collapsing and losing 4-3 in overtime. But tracking back beyond that night in Montreal, the Canucks have led 2-0 in a hockey game just once in 22 outings since the start of November. They’ve managed a 1-0 lead just seven times over those 22 and in those seven in which they’ve opened the scoring, they have extended that lead only once.
You don’t score, you don’t win. It’s pretty a pretty simple concept. And one Jacob Markstrom grasps all too well. He can’t be held responsible for the goal-scoring and you have to feel for the guy who again held up his end of the bargain as he did in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago. The Canucks have scored just one goal for him in his last three starts and haven’t managed a goal the last two times Markstrom got the nod in goal (vs Boston and in Philadelphia).
Hands up all those who figured Markstrom and Richard Bachman would be tied for second in Canucks wins at Christmas? As it stands right now, they each have one. Now it’s possible Markstrom will get another start before the break and another chance to add to his victory total, although there are only three games remaining pre-Christmas and there is a day between each of them. Still it’s possible the Canucks go with Ryan Miller in Detroit on Friday and give Markstrom a shot against his former team on Sunday in south Florida and then come back with Miller against Tampa Bay.
I thought Bo Horvat had one of his more determined efforts in a while. Maybe even one of his best of the season on Thursday in Philly. Right from the opening few shifts when he had a terrific scoring chance off left wing and another when he crashed the crease and collided with Flyers netminder Steve Mason. There was more to Horvat’s game that we’ve seen in a while. And with the injury to Henrik, Horvat was forced to absorb some of the captain’s minutes. Horvat finished the night with career-high 20:42 of ice-time, two shots on goal and was proficient in the face-off circle going 15 & 9 (63%). In fact, Horvat on his own was responsible for more than half of the Canucks team total of 28 face-off wins. He was also a big part of a successful 5-on-3 penalty kill late in the first period when the Flyers had a chance to push their lead to 2-0. Horvat may not have anything to show for his effort on the stats sheet and it may not have helped his team out of the darkness of a three-game losing skid, but on another night when there wasn’t a lot to like from the Canucks, I thought Horvat brought his game up a notch or two. Now, he needs to find a way to keep it there.
I don’t know the story about the above photo, but there has to be one. It’s the picture from Ben Hutton’s page on the Canucks website.
It’s a photo from his days in Junior A with Kemptville. He hasn’t played there since 2011-12. He’s 22 now, so in the picture he’s no more than 18. But he spent parts of four seasons in Kemptville, so who knows how old he really is in this one. It’s funny because he’s the only Canucks player without a current professional headshot featured on his page. McCann’s got one. Virtanen has one. But for some reason, smiling Ben Hutton gets the baby Ben treatment. I don’t have a problem with it and something tells me neither would he. However, he’s got to be the only player in the NHL with a junior hockey headshot on his team page.
*he’ll likely have no choice on Friday in Detroit, but Willie Desjardins should have made a line-up move or two ahead of the Philadelphia game. I said as much moments after the dishearting 6-2 loss in Minnesota.
For me it’s not so much about what Ronalds Kenins or Andrey Pedan will do — although I wouldn’t mind seeing Pedan get a chance to play some meaningful minutes. I just think there is a message of acceptance being sent to so many of the players who are struggling these days. It almost seems as if the coach is telling them their performance is fine and that their spot in the line-up will be there for them night after night after night. Do Kenins and Pedan make the Canucks better? I don’t know. But when you have all sorts of guys bringing nothing to the mix right now, can it hurt to see what a few new faces might do? And in the process, perhaps a message is sent to the many candidates to come out of the line-up that the team has other options and isn’t afraid to use them. Remember this is the same coach who said it’s not the try league. It’s the get-it-done league. I’d like to see Willie D. coach by that motto, too.
*Thursday night was the seventh year anniversary of Canucks President of Hockey Operations Trevor Linden having his familiar number 16 raised to the rafters at Rogers Arena. The Canucks fared a little better that night beating Edmonton 4-2 on December 17, 2008
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