The Canucks’ major lack of team speed was once again exposed last night
Photo credit:© Jessica Alcheh-USA TODAY Sports
7 months ago
The Canucks have a lot of roster problems to solve, and with the playoffs far out of reach, there’s little incentive to try and solve any of them right now.
But if there’s one aspect of the team that might require immediate attention, it’s in the speed department.
Simply put, the Vancouver Canucks are a very slow hockey team, and it was on full display last night in their 5-3 loss to the New York Rangers.
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The Rangers took advantage of the Canucks’ lack of speed in the back end over and over again. The opening goal was largely thanks to Vincent Trocheck and Chris Kreider having enough momentum to slip past Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Luke Schenn for an easy odd-man rush.
Noticing how little speed was needed to get behind the defence, the Rangers adjusted tactics in the middle frame. The Blueshirts began to leave one of their wingers a little higher up in the offensive zone, allowing the Canucks a little extra room offensively in favour of a head start from an intercepted puck turned into a stretch pass.
The Rangers were able to use the quick takeaway and breakout multiple times over, including three times within a two-minute span in the second period. None of those chances translated into goals on the scoresheet, but it brutally exposed the Canucks’ Achilles heel and forced their defenders to start blowing the offensive zone at even the slightest hint of trouble.
Quick-ups became the focal point of New York’s attack, starting all the way from their own net. Igor Shesterkin’s powerful puck handling might’ve required Jaroslav Halak to save his Ranger teammates from certain doom in the third period, but it was also responsible for catching the Canucks flatfooted or during a slow line change on multiple occasions.
When push came to shove, the Canucks simply couldn’t afford to take any bold risks with their defenders to try and find a tying goal, and another close game slipped away from them. Losing might not be a particularly bad outcome for a team that belongs in the tank race, but you can’t help but wonder where the Canucks would be if they simply had the legs to keep up with the rest of the league.
The roster’s lack of speed isn’t a new issue. It’s a hole that’s been waiting to get patched up since the high-flying Vegas Golden Knights, led largely by Alex Tuch and Shea Theodore, eliminated the Canucks from the 2020 playoff bubble. By the seventh and deciding game of that series the Canucks’ skaters looked completely gassed, while the Knights looked like a team that had barely broken a sweat as they victimized Vancouver in transition with ease.
Since then, the Canucks have only gotten slower as the league around them got faster. The Oliver Ekman-Larsson trade anchored the Canucks to a defensive group led by he and Tyler Myers that simply can’t keep up with today’s young guns. But perhaps the most glaring evidence is how winger Ilya Mikheyev looked lightyears faster than the rest of his teammates, despite playing his entire season on a torn ACL before being shut down prior to the All-Star break.
Hopefully, results like Wednesday’s loss in Manhattan coupled with Mikheyev’s absence will open some eyes in the Canucks’ front office to just how badly adding faster players needs to be prioritized in the coming months. The Canucks are already playing in a Pacific Division chalked full of younger teams that can control a game with their footspeed across 60 minutes, and they won’t be able to make strides past the Oilers, Knights and Kraken if they can’t match their pace.
Without a lineup that can play a fast brand of hockey, outings like yesterday’s will continue to go the other way. But if the Canucks emphasize acquiring speedier talent, you’d be surprised at just how quickly the rest of their game could fall into place.
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