The two consecutive losses to the Edmonton Oilers are meaningless. I know that. Most Canucks fans know that. However, I am noticing a few disturbing trends in their three weeks of play. And it starts with the way the Canucks are starting games.
And I must admit, I’m a bit concerned.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that the Canucks are a formidable team right now, and have earned their current #1 power ranking on TSN, Sportsnet, The Hockey News and ESPN. But as someone who sees the potential in this team to ACTUALLY win a Stanley Cup for this city, I am desperate to ensure that the Vancouver Canucks are playing the best that they can as they head into the playoffs.
I also understand that sample size has to be taken with a grain of salt. I am not looking at the entire season. I am only looking at their past three weeks to highlight where my few concerns lie. But I am looking at current trends, and that’s what has me a bit concerned.
Let’s look at their last 9 games. First, I will preface this by saying that they are 6-3-0 in those games, and have beating playoff-bound teams Detroit, Los Angeles and Nashville in that time, along with Colorado, Atlanta and Columbus.
So why am I concerned? Well their starts to games in those 9 games have been off-track, to say the least. The Canucks boast the best first period goal differential in the league, currently at +26. However in their past 9 games, they’ve been outscored 5-1. In fact, they allowed a first period goal in three straight games. Furthermore, they have only scored a first period goal in one of those 9 games. Good starts are going to be a critical element to winning playoff games, and right now, the Canucks are trending in the opposite direction. The Canucks need to get their league leading first period domination back on track in their final two games.
What about their power play? Again, the Canucks continue to lead the league in PP% at 24.1%. However, in their last 9 games, they are a paltry 4-for-30 with the man advantage, for 13.3%. That rate would have them tied with the Florida Panthers for last in the league. They have also been held goalless on the power play in 6 of those 9 games. They have had a slight drop in the number of power play opportunities, as they season average is 3.625 PP opps per game, while in the last 9 games, they have had 3.333 PP opps per game. But that is certainly no excuse. Again, to go into the playoffs with a big sag in one of their most potent weapons has to be a bt concerning. If they expect to have success through the playoffs, they need to ensure that their power play is back playing at the league leading level where it has been for a good portion of the season.
Finally, the Canucks penalty kill has been positively awful in the past 9 games. The Canucks PK was leading the league, however because of the huge drop-off in penalty kills, they are now tied for second with Los Angeles, as they’ve been surpassed by Pittsburgh. First, I am not lamenting the fact that they are no longer leading the league in PK%. If they are first, second or somewhere in the top 5 is still damn impressive. Again, my bit of concern lies in the trend in the last 9 games. They are only 30-for-38 on their PK in the last three weeks, good for only 78.9%. That would put them in the bottom five in the league for PK%. More importantly, they have allowed a short-handed goal in five of those 9 games, and allowed 2 SHG in 3 of 9 games. That’s a VERY big number, especially for a team that was leading the league in PK%. The Canucks cannot afford to give their post-season opponents any free opportunities. Imagine if the Canucks face the lethal Anaheim Ducks power play in the first round, and their PK is operating at the same clip that it has been for the last 9 games. That is a guaranteed first round loss.
I know that I am nit-picking. But let’s face it. There is no argument that this year’s installment of the Canucks is the best that it has ever been in its 40-year history. They are leading the league in so many offensive and defensive categories and have already locked up the Presidents’ Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. So allow me to want the Canucks to have every screw tightened as they enter their most important post-season ever. Like most Canucks fans, I just want this team to play its absolute best. And in the past 9 games, despite winning, they aren’t playing their best. I know that they don’t have much left for which to play, but as a frustrated desperate Canucks, if I see any tiny little leak in the boat, I immediately believe that this Titanic is two hours from sinking.