The Vancouver Canucks sit at 5-9-and-2 on the young season following three consecutive losses on the road where they were outscored by a composite 19-to-6. We often talk about special teams and goaltending being the keys to success in hockey, but in this case the poor special teams are now dragging down the goalkeepers.
Both Thatcher Demko and Jaroslav Halak have kept their team in games, but the pummelling on the road trip didn’t do them any favours. Their save percentages are hovering around a pedestrian 90-percent with Demko’s goals against average ballooning to 3.33 and Halak’s to 2.80. Over Halak’s four starts, his skaters have scored a grand total of five goals, leaving him with four losses, as he desperately seeks his first victory as a Vancouver Canuck and the 282nd of his career.
Clearly this team needs to right the ship quickly. The Canucks home record stands at 2-4-1 with three games coming up at Rogers Arena against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, the Winnipeg Jets on Friday and the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday. They’ll need to take them one period and one shift at a time while we can sit here and say it’s mandatory that they win at least two of those matches. And for the mental health of the local constituents, and their own for that matter, they should really work hard on winning that first one.
The return of Tyler Motte is very helpful to a Canucks penalty kill that sits last in the National Hockey League at 62.3%. A pathetic number and the team is well aware of it. He was on the ice for Trevor Zegras’s first power play goal at 12:35 of the 1st period in Anaheim Sunday evening but the goal came directly off a Ryan Getzlaf face-off win, with help from Jakob Silfverberg and a quick pass across for a wicked one-timer, and it came at the tail-end of a four-minute double-minor to Justin Bailey. Also, contrary to the NHL’s official “Game Summary”, although he’s listed, Motte was not on the ice for Zegras’s game-winning power play goal at 2:13 of the second period.
The Canucks will also see the return of right-shot defenceman Travis Hamonic to the line-up for the home games, although where he’s actually returning from is a mystery. He didn’t play in either Abbotsford Canucks home game over the weekend. Mystery remains the magic word on this one. Will he be able to travel on the Canucks upcoming five-game road trip that embarks on November 23rd or will Covid-shot-protocols prevent it? The Canucks need him. Madison Bowey looked, literally, out of place at times. Tucker Poolman will also be back after serving a two-game suspension which means Kyle Burroughs will be bounced out as well. Luke Schenn is on IR.
Suddenly the Canucks went from not having enough righties to not having enough lefties on the blueline. As Jack Rathbone continues to work on his learning curve, it’s up to Brad Hunt or an off-side rightie-platoon to cover for him on the third pair.
The Canucks power play is ranked 25th in the NHL, although the ranking means little when you’re only cranking at 15.3%. Elias Pettersson, “top-line” “centre”, has been out of sorts. Top-line is in quotes because he’s been playing lately on the “third line”, and “centre” is in quotes because “Petey” has been generally relegated to observer status as it relates to taking face-offs. He didn’t take one in the Dallas game a week ago. He took three Sunday night in Anaheim.
Despite that, Pettersson still has five power play points and a short-handed goal that came 5-on-5 with the Canucks’ net empty at home against Anaheim last Tuesday. He has the most shots on goal among the forward group with 44. Imagine if he finds his game.
For that matter, imagine if the team finds its game. Head Coach Travis Green expects they will.
“I feel confident the team will pull out of it,” he said postgame Sunday.