Vancouver Canucks Lose Three Straight: Time to Hit the Panic Button?
Ok, the less said about the debacle against Chicago the better. The Hawks jumped out front with seven unanswered goals before Mikael Samuelsson tucked in a Ryan Kesler rebound to break the shutout. The Canucks didn't even goon it when the Hawks were up by a touchdown, not a single fighting major or roughing minor. And that lack of response, either on the scoreboard or in the alley, is just sad.
What makes it worse is that this debacle now puts the Canucks on a three game losing streak, squandering the momentum they had built up over the last few weeks.
The first loss was in Buffalo. The Canucks lost in OT to a Buffalo team that hasn't been too hot, but any team with Ryan Miller is going to be competitive. I just wish I could say the same about the other goalie from the 2010 Olympic Gold Medal game. An OT loss, on the road, against a Vezina-caliber goalie…that is acceptable.
The next loss was against the Penguins. Sidney Crosby picks up the first goal on a rookie mistake. I wish I could blame it on a single rookie, but it was the entire freaking team.
How do you NOT notice that the face of the NHL, the guy tied (at the time) for the scoring title, is about to step out of the box? Was no one paying attention to the clock from the bench? Did Luongo and the skaters all of sudden lose track of time? Did they forget who was in position to get the break away pass?
The Canucks ended up losing this game three to one, but they weren't really in it after Crosby scored, the momentum tilted in favour of the Penguins until they were up by three, then the Canucks fought back, but it was too little, too late, especially for game five of a road trip.
And then we come to the Hawks game on Saturday night. Usually the Canucks get pumped for Hockey Night in Canada games, or games against a rival, but they were misfiring tonight. The only good Canucks out there were Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler.
Burrows somehow managed to play 15 minutes and pick up four shots without being a minus player, which is no mean feat when your team gives up six even-strength goals. Kesler, likewise, wasn't a minus player, and created the only Canucks goal.
Looking back at this losing streak, the Canucks have been outscored fifteen to five in the last three games. And if you go back to the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs a week ago, the Canucks have given up the first two goals of the game in four straight games.
When the Canucks were on their winning streak, they were scoring early to set the tone. That clearly isn't the case here. Go down two goals, and you rarely come back, as evidenced by their 1-2-1 record in those four games.
So what can the Vancouver Canucks do to get out of this slump? I have a couple suggestions.
First, shake up the forwards.
Put Burrows back with the twins. He is the best fit there, and Samuelsson clearly isn't on a hot streak, despite his goal against Chicago. Burrows meshes well with the Sedins, and that was a productive line during the road trip, even though he is still getting back up to speed.
Demote Samuelsson to the third line. He isn't playing well enough to be on the second line, and playing on the top line with the twins isn't working either. Samuelsson also has the worst plus/minus of any of the top six forwards. And a Samuelsson, Torres, Malhotra third line sounds pretty good, right?
Bump Hansen down to the fourth line. I like Hansen, but he isn't scoring. Putting Hansen with Glass for the fourth line gives a pair of good grinding wingers, and maybe that will be the makings of a good fourth line. And with the PK time that Hansen gets, the change in his overall ice time shouldn't be too much.
These changes have left a hole on the second line alongside Mason Raymond and Ryan Kesler. Both of those guys are scorers and good, fast two way players. But they aren't playmakers. I say the Canucks should bring up one of the young guys from the Manitoba Moose who are currently on a hot streak.
GM Mike Gillis said as recently as few days ago on Team 1040 radio that he wanted to bring up the young guys for short stints to give them a taste of the NHL, in order to both prepare them for the future as well as to reward hot players. But Gillis said it had been hard to do that with the Canucks on a hot streak.
How long will the losing streak last?
Well, that screwing up the hot streak isn't a problem anymore.
Bring up Cody Hodgson (eight goals, five assists) or Sergei Shirokov (five goals, eight assists), give them top six minutes alongside Kesler and Raymond, and see what they can do.
Alternatively, bring back Jeff Tambellini, who has been a point a game guy (5 goals, 2 assists) in the seven games since being assigned to the Moose. Play him with the twins, where he had chemistry, and reunite Burrows and Kesler.
But they have to do something to shake up the forwards.
On defence, there isn't much they can do to change it up, aside from playing better. Once Ballard is over his flu, they will have a healthy top seven defencemen, and hopefully can have some regular pairings going forward, which should help with those defensive miscues.
In goal, I'm going to go against the current of public opinion here in Vancouver and say keep on playing Luongo. Yes, he had a rough week, and he needs to be better.
But it was only a week. Last Saturday, he was standing on his head in the Air Canada Center stopping everything the Leafs threw at him when the game was on the line. And while he hardly covered himself in glory against the Hawks, when your team goes down by seven goals without any push back by the skaters, I find it hard to make the goalie the scapegoat.
The Canucks have three home games to close out November, against the Phoenix Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks. All of those teams were playoff teams last year, and the Avs are gunning for the Northwest Division title, so these games should be a good litmus test for the Canucks.
Will they change things up?
Will they just simply play better?
Or will we be talking about a six game losing streak in another week?
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