So let’s see if I have this straight: the Canucks went into the All-Star break with a 2-1 loss on home ice and came out of the break with a 2-1 loss at home. Call me crazy, but that doesn’t exactly sound like a road map to the post-season. The loss to Nashville before the break was bad, but a loss to 30th place Columbus with a third-stringer between the pipes borders on inexcusable for a team needing to make something happen.
Hey, give Joonas Korpisalo (I’m pretty sure I spelled that correctly) all the credit in the world. Behind a patchwork defense, the guy gave up a first period power play goal and that was it including staring down all three Canucks shooters he faced in his first NHL shootout. But enough about the Blue Jackets.
This is a Canucks blog and the Canucks have to own the fact that they have lost three straight and four of their last five. They are completely healthy up front and have two goals in their last two games. No one is talking about this — so I will –this year’s version of the Canucks is now on pace for the lowest single-season goal total in franchise history (non-lockout seasons). These Canucks have 119 goals through 51 games which puts the team on pace for 191 goals. The John Tortorella-led Canucks of 2013-14 couldn’t find the net to save their lives and still scored 196 goals while the 1998-99 team which saw the end of the Mike Keenan era and the introduction mid-season of Marc Crawford as head coach produced 192 goals. Again, this team is on pace for 191. Just let that sink in for a moment. The Canucks are 26th in the NHL right now, but give it a week and there’s a pretty good chance they’ll drop to 29th in overall offense with New Jersey and Philadelphia just two back and Toronto only three behind.
So the playoff talk seems a bit much especially on a night when the Canucks get a single-point but both Anaheim and San Jose pick up a pair. The Canucks talk about getting players back and about taking advantage of a lighter schedule with more home games and little in the way of onerous travel and they’re offered up a gift in the form of the Blue Jackets to start the stretch run and can’t do anything with it. That’s a problem.
I thought this might be the night the Canucks finally beat the same opponent in regulation for the first time all season. Silly me. They had chances. Oh, they had lots of chances. But you don’t hear winning teams talk about their chances. Finish a few of those opportunities, put the Jackets away and feel free to talk about building on one victory and trying to back it up with another on Saturday against Calgary. Instead, the Canucks are just spinning their wheels while teams roar past them in the passing lane to the post-season.
Speaking of being in the passing lane, on the night of December 18th the Canucks left Detroit with a 4-3 shootout win over the Red Wings. Radim Vrbata had a goal and an assist that night boosting his point total to 10+7=17 on the season. Meanwhile, Bo Horvat was mired in his pre-Christmas slump and was sitting with just 2+7=9. Here we are six weeks later and with an assist on Linden Vey’s goal on Thursday night, Horvat moved past Vrbata into fourth in team scoring. Since that night at the Joe, Horvat has 7+7=14 in 17 games while Vrbata has struggled with just 1+4=5.
I’ve been charting who has scored the Canucks power play goals of late. Since the start of 2016, the Canucks have six goals with the man-advantage. Horvat has a pair while Baertschi and Vey have also scored as have Daniel Sedin and Radim Vrbata. So four of the six PP goals have been produced by Canucks youth. That’s a promising sign for now and for the future. And maybe it should give the coaching staff something to think about rather than running the Sedins, Vrbata, Sutter and Edler out there to start every single power play.
Sven Baertschi picked up another point and nearly netted the winner when he rang a shot off the cross bar in the third period. For all the angst over Baertschi at the outset of the season, the guy now has 20 points in 46 games as a Canuck. Those numbers won’t blow anyone away, but they’re not terrible either considering his lack of playing time in the first couple of months of the season.
On the topic of point production, guess who leads all Canucks defensemen in scoring over the past 20 games? Did anybody say Chris Tanev? Okay, the photo kind of gave it away. Yep, actually Tanev, not known for his work in the offensive end of the ice, is the runaway leader in that race with 1+7=8 followed by Ben Hutton 1+3 along with Matt Bartkowski and Alex Biega each with 0+4. Alex Edler is stuck in an offensive rut with just 0+3 in his past 21 outings. As a group, the Canucks blueline has 12 goals all season. There are five defensemen in the league with more than 12 on their own this season and one other sitting with a dozen goals. I get that it’s not all about offense from the back end, but some offense would be a good place to start. Man, does Jim Benning have his hands full trying to revamp that defense corps over the next few seasons.
And with Dan Hamhuis set to return on Saturday, the Canucks have now placed Yannick Weber on waivers. This is a guy who scored 11 goals last season, but has fallen completely off the depth chart on a team with a power play that has been running at 12% over teh past two months. With Weber’s time here seemingly through, someone currently in the line-up will have to sit to make way for Hamhuis and you’d have to figure that someone will be Matt Bartkowski.
Thanks for checking in with the blog. If you haven’t been here since the last Canucks game, please check out the two non game-related posts I wrote over the All-Star break on Chris Tanev’s season and Ryan Miller’s pursuit of a spot in the NHL’s all-time top 20 wins list.