I swear I’ve seen that game before. A few times, in fact. The Canucks hang tough for a period. Then fall behind. Then dig themselves a deeper hole. And ultimately go quietly into the night. There really isn’t a whole lot to say in the wake of Thursday’s 4-1 loss in Washington. The Capitals are one of the best teams in the National Hockey League and the Canucks are not. That was evident through all three periods at the Verizon Center.
The Canucks showed up to a gun fight without much in the way of a weapon. The Caps had the best goal-scorer in the game in Alex Ovechkin along with six others who’ve reached double digits in goals this season. Without Jannik Hansen, the Canucks had just two 10+ goal-scorers in their line-up.
I thought the Canucks looked game early and competed throughout the first period even though most of the play was in the Vancouver end. I’m sure the Canucks were fine getting out of the opening 20 minutes scoreless on the road against a tough opponent. But you had the sense early on they were merely treading water against a Caps team that just doesn’t lose on home ice. And that proved to be the case. This was a mismatch and it played out as such.
For the eighth straight outing since Christmas, the Canucks surrendered the game’s first goal. It’s just too tough a league to fall behind on a nightly basis especially for a team that struggles to score. Thursday night was the sixth time this season the Canucks have been held to just one goal in a game. Combine that with the five shutout losses they’ve suffered and that’s 11 times in their first 44 games this season, the Canucks have been held to one goal or none.
Amazingly, the Canucks have four wins in their eight games since the holiday break. I say amazingly because in more than 490 minutes of hockey, the Canucks have played with the lead for a grand total of 5:51 (in two short bursts both against the Carolina Hurricanes last week).
I suppose it’s good to see Radim Vrbata score even if it turned out to be a mean-nothing goal. The Canucks need this guy to heat up again to help the team and probably more importantly at this juncture to help his potential trade value. His goal against the Caps was his first goal in 10 games and just his second in the past 15. It was also first power play goal since November 25th in Minnesota.
Quietly Henrik Sedin has gone ice cold in the goal-scoring department. The captain has gone 13 without scoring and has just a power play goal against the Buffalo Sabres to show for his last 18 outings. Some will say big deal, Henrik’s a play maker. And that’s true. But on a team with so few legitimate scoring options, a guy that plays as much as he does in all situations has to be a threat to put the occasional puck in the net. He had 8 in his first 24 games this season, so it can be done. I don’t expect him to score at Daniel’s pace, but I think more can and should be expected of Henrik who stills falls into his old habits of sticking to the perimeter too often particularly on the power play.
Derek Dorsett is not a viable option as a top line winger. I don’t care where he played his junior hockey.
What has become of Brandon Prust? He’s gone 14 games without a point and has 1+1=2 in 23 games since returning from an ankle injury — both points coming in the same game against Buffalo on December 7th. On Thursday, in 14:32 of ice time, Prust failed to register a shot on goal and had one hit. I don’t expect a huge offensive outburst, but I do expect to notice a guy in his role. Way too often there’s just nothing there.
Ryan Miller was solid in his return to the line-up. He made some big saves early. I didn’t like the 2-0 goal although it may have deflected off Radim Vrbata on its way to the net. Miller was fired up after that one presumably because of the non-call on Matt Niskanen who basically threw Sven Baertschi to the ice away from the puck. The Canucks had every reason to feel a call was warranted, but Miller can’t get wrapped up in those things. His job is to stop the puck and bail out his teammates. The Canucks needed a save there and didn’t get one. Miller will watch from the bench on Friday as Jacob Markstrom gets the nod in Raleigh. Both the Canucks and Hurricanes will be playing back to back after being on the road Thursday. Carolina posted a 4-1 win in St. Louis.
Despite Thursday’s loss, the Canucks remain in the playoff picture in the sad sack Pacific Division but it’s important to recognize the struggle they face. They are two points back of third place San Jose. But the Sharks not only have two games in hand, but they also hold a ridiculously large lead in the first tie breaker with six more regulation or overtime victories than the Canucks. Always keep that in mind when you look at the standings.
The Canucks, by the way, have 14 wins in their past 40 games. They opened the season 3-0-1, but since then are 14-17-9.
Oh, one final thing: is this what Alex Edler sees when he looks at the net?
Thanks for stopping by. Another blog after Friday’s game against the Canes.