Wednesday night marked a fascinating contest as one of the NHL’s poorest defensive teams matched up against one of the poorest offensive teams. The Anaheim Ducks took the edge over the Vancouver Canucks by a final score of 4-3 and the writing was splashed all across the wall of the Honda Center.
The essence was clear: the Canucks are losers of seven straight and all those fun, happy feelings about exceeding expectations are starting to disperse.
The team had a taste of winning early, riding the groundswell of Elias Pettersson’s dazzling play, Bo Horvat’s faceoff expertise and some other surprises.
With the loss to the Ducks, the Canucks were bopped from their playoff spot and were passed in the Pacific Division by their wonky opposition.
Vancouver held a post-season spot since early October, believe it or not, and their capacity to overcome has been one of the stories of the year. But all stories have endings.
The Canucks are, after all, in a 0-6-1 dive and have not produced a single, patchy point in six games.
What may be scariest about this is that the Canucks don’t theoretically look bad. The effort is there. Pettersson scores some sweet goals and Horvat is still winning draws like nobody’s business, but something is not happening in the final analysis and the team isn’t threatening anymore.
Granted, there are injuries. Brock Boeser is out. Sven Baertschi is out.
But what’s going on now is perhaps more essential, something that strikes to the heart of the team, something usually countered by “more effort” or “more hustle” or “more getting pucks in deep.”
Right now, that’s about all anyone can offer. The Canucks have to believe, like any hockey team does when things aren’t going right but should be.
“I don’t know what the number is right now, but it sucks,” said Derek Pouliot. “We are trying to come work every night. Something has got to give. Eventually, we are going to break through.”
Breaking through may be possible and, make no mistake, this isn’t some lost season. They can still make a run, they can still get things done, they can still make the post-season, etc.
But the haunting facts remain. They’re giving up too many shots in front of their goal, the numbers illustrate that, and there are too many pricey turnovers. The Canucks are scoring and doing business in the offensive zone, but the defensive effort is the pits. So is the penalty kill.
And all the while, the clock ticks. These Canucks know it and that’s why something, anything, has to give. Soon.
“I feel like we shouldn’t be this many games consecutive losses but we’re here. We’ve got to find a way,” said goalie Jacob Markstrom. “We’ve got to get together as a team and we need to get some points on this road trip. The train is leaving the station pretty soon here so we need to get going.”