Tonight is game #20 for the Canucks and they find themselves in familiar territory; first in the Northwest. However, it’s not like they’re running away with the division. The wild sit just 2 points back and the Oilers just 4 back. After winning 6 straight from January 30 to February 12 the Canucks are just 2-5 since.
So what has gone wrong in the last stretch? This is Vancouver, so naturally let’s take a look at the goalies first. During the 6 game win streak the Canucks were being spoiled with Vezina Award winning performances by the goalies. In the 6 game win streak the goalies gave up more than 1 goal in a game only once. In the 7 games since, the goalies have given up 3 or more goals in all but 1 game and that was against a horrid Nashville offensive attack.
So this looks pretty simple from the above evidence, it has to be the goalies…
However, I don’t think it is. I think the lights-out goaltending was carrying this team earlier and masking the team’s shortcomings. The Canucks are seen as one of the deepest line-ups in the league and I believe they still are. However, being deep and being loaded with talent are 2 very different things. The Canucks seem to be back to where they were in the days of Bertuzzi, Naslund, and Morrison where they would rely too much on the top line and pray to the ice gods that they would get some secondary scoring. The Canucks have a bunch of useful forwards that many teams would love to have, but they don’t have many forwards who can consistently put the puck in the net or at least create some chances.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the likes of guys such as Hansen, Higgins, and Kassian but do any of those players scream out offensive dynamo to you? Ryan Kesler poses some offensive threat, but even when he has been somewhat healthy he hasn’t looked close to the 40 goal scorer he was 2 years ago. With Kesler latest injury it looks like Mason Raymond slips into the 2nd line centre role…barf in my mouth. The Canucks have great speed and for the first time in ages have fairly good size and grit; however, they are sorely lacking playmakers, snipers and danglers (NHL video game styles). It’s all good to get the puck deep and get a hit in on a d-man, but once you get the puck below the goal line you need to be able to do something with it other than passing it to the point and pray for a seeing eye single through 6 bodies and into the top corner of the net.
With the lack of secondary scoring the Canucks rely on their back end to chip in with some offense, particularly Alex Edler and Jason Garrison. Edler has been steady with 12 points so far, good enough for 3rd in team scoring. However, Garrison has been downright dreadful. Garrison was paid big bucks for his booming shot and was expected to be a force from the point on the PP. Unfortunately he hasn’t been able to get on track with his slapper and has found himself off the PP on many nights. Garrison’s struggles may be a reason the perennial top tier PP in the league sits at 12th best so far.
There are other leaks that need to be plugged up such as a PK unit that sits at 21st in the league, a once top 5 faceoff team now sitting at 22nd in the league, 2 superstar goalies trying to be the man yet neither seem to want to be, a defenseman in Alex Edler that needs to start showing he can be a #1 d-man night in and night out…yikes this is getting depressing so I’ll stop.
With all the above evidence I paint a bleak picture for the Canucks, but all hope is not lost. When you have a stud goalie you always have a chance and the Canucks have 2. The Canucks still have the best offensive duo in the league (yeah yeah that’s slightly biased) and have a strong back end that should be able to shut down any team. However, they are going to need to find some form of secondary scoring because we all know come playoff time the Sedins will be on lock down against guys like Keith, Seabrook, Doughty.
Hmm, maybe a trade might help…