Jason Kurylo, CanucksCorner.com
After the fourth game of the season, the Canucks have been the better team in 10 of 12 periods so far. They’ve held time-of-possession advantages in each game, out-chanced the other guys, and they’ve offered occasional flashes of the exciting, offensive hockey that won them the Northwest Division last season. They’ve shown, for the most part, defensive responsibility and solid, confident goaltending from Roberto Luongo.
Yet somehow, the Canucks have lost twice to the Kings – once in overtime – and been beaten in regulation by the lowly Ducks. Their only win of the young season came in unconvincing fashion against a team that will likely finish at the bottom of the hockeytrocity that is the Southeast Division.
So, as many a Canuck fan is posting on Twitter, “WTF?!?”
Canuck shooters have made Jonathan Quick look even better than he really is in consecutive losses. When they have put pucks past the young LA netminder, they’ve just plain missed the net. There have been posts, rolling pucks, bobbled chances, bad ice and good saves by opposition goalies. Mikael Samuelsson even managed to hit a crossbar against Floriday – while Tomas Vokoun was on the bench for the extra Panther attacker.
Coming the other way, the Canucks could easily have had shutouts in both home games so far this year. The Kings took advantage of a late power play to score their only goal on opening night in a game they would eventually win in a shootout. Those Panthers also scored just one goal against Luongo: a desperation shot that pinballed off of two different players on its way in. Similarly, the Kings’ second goal in game four went in off the skate of Kevin Bieksa, on what looked like a broken play.
But why stop there? Referees seemed to scheme against the Nucks in Anaheim, giving the Ducks a pair of two-man advantages on phantom calls. Throw in a missed too-many-men call that resulted directly in the winning goal against, and Vancouver hockey fans were left scratching their heads.
So what’s the good news?
This edition of the Vancouver Canucks, led by the new captain Henrik Sedin, is saying all the right things. “We should have put them away in the second period,” said Henrik of the Ducks, acknowledging the referee mistakes are no excuse for allowing a lesser team to stay in the game. And he’s right; if Vancouver had buried just one or two of their myriad chances in the first forty minutes, those sleepy Ducks and their ref-assisted goals would not have mattered.
Even Ryan Kesler, whose penchant for complaints on-ice and moody media scrums probably took him out of the running for the captaincy, shrugged off the poor early record. “The refs miss calls like we miss plays,” he said after Stephen Walkam’s officiating crew gifted the Ducks their sole win of the season. “We can’t blame them for our missed chances.”
Now, don’t get me wrong – the Canucks haven’t done themselves any favours, either. Perhaps as a result of all the pre-season hype, Vancouver skaters have elected to pass far more often than shoot. They haven’t driven the net like they should. Opposition goalies have seen far too much of the puck, and not nearly enough of Canuck screens on the edge of the crease. Kesler should be fighting for pucks within a three-foot radius of the net, not finessing wrist shots into the netminder’s breadbasket from the blue line. Unless your name is Sedin, you probably shouldn’t be trying to find a cross-ice seam when you’ve got a chance to go to the net. After that debacle of game management that was the 4-3 loss to the Ducks, these guys should have come out on fire in LA. They outshot the Kings, sure, but looked flat much of the night, and once again saw zero offense outside of a pretty rush by the Sedins.
It took these same boys a while to learn these lessons last year as well. Remember, the Canucks followed up an 0-3 start to the season by winning the division.
If Vancouver is still looking for better results after three or four weeks, panic buttons should be pressed. But chances are, once Manny Malhotra gets a gimme of a short-handed goal, or Kesler gets a lucky one to go in off his left butt cheek, or hell, when Luongo gets enough bounces to tally his first shutout of the year, this team will see some serious win streaks start to pile up.
This team has too much talent, and too few egos, not to.