JPat: Pair of 2-1 wins to open road trip prove the Canucks are finding ways to do more with less

Photo credit:© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
1 month ago
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School is in session, and it seems the Vancouver Canucks are learning their lessons about how to win hockey games when both room to manoeuvre and goals are in short supply. For a second straight game in Southern California, the Canucks showed poise and patience and ultimately were able to grind out a 2-1 victory in a game that offered little in the way of entertainment, yet yielded two more valuable points in the National Hockey League standings. On Sunday in Anaheim, they were able to get the job done in 60 minutes of action. Tuesday across town in Los Angeles, the Canucks required 96 seconds of overtime to complete the task.
While the single point will help the Kings in their pursuit of a playoff spot, the Canucks’ difference-makers came through in crunch time to secure the valuable bonus point up for grabs.
And the two wins to start this three-game road trip have shown a continuation of the way the Canucks have won since the All-Star break.
Last night against the Kings was the third time this season the Canucks have managed to earn at least a point in the standings when scoring just one goal in regulation time. They lost 2-1 in a shootout in Minnesota on December 16th, beat Buffalo 1-0 on January 13th and then battled back to edge LA 2-1 in overtime last night. 
“I feel like we scored at a very high clip at the beginning of the year and now (goals) are a little harder to come by,” JT Miller said after scoring the winner to beat the Kings. “Teams are tightening up defensively. Goals are grittier and harder to get to. I think our group is doing a good job trying to navigate being patient. I thought we were spoiled at the beginning of the year, scoring four, five, six goals a game. It’s hard to score and we’ve got to do it the hard way. It’s a great learning experience for our group.”
On the season, the Canucks now have seven wins when held to two goals or fewer. Last season, the Canucks were 3-27 in games when they were unable to muster more than two goals. So that shows maturity and some growth in their team game. It also speaks to having the kind of goaltending this season that allows the Canucks to win tight-checking, low-scoring affairs. Last season, the Canuck couldn’t win unless they scored in bunches because they gave up far too many goals. 
Last night, in Los Angeles, Thatcher Demko allowed the first goal of the game, but closed the door after that including his best save of the season, absolutely robbing Alex Turcotte with a glove save off the rush with the game tied 1-1 early in the third period.
There is no question, the Canucks have struggled to score the way they did early in the season. In fact, as a team, they are down more than a full goal per game since the midway mark of the season. Through the first 41 games on the schedule, the Canucks averaged 3.90 goals per game and were the highest scoring team in the NHL. In 23 games since, the Canucks are tied with the Montreal Canadiens for 22nd in the league averaging 2.87 goals per game. Yet, in those 23 games, the team is 13-6-4 and fifth in the league over that span with 30 points. So, it’s clear, they are figuring out ways to do more with less even with their splashy addition of Elias Lindholm at the All Star break. A big reason for the drop in offence has been the power play and its struggles since the midway mark of the season – especially since the All Star break when the Canucks have scored just six times and operated at 13.6% – ahead of only Columbus and Philadelphia.
That, however, has forced the Canucks to find other ways to win hockey games. And they’ve been able to tread water through their toughest stretch of the schedule going 7-6-2 in 15 games since the break. In four of those seven wins, they have fallen behind and managed to battle back – a trait that should serve them well down the stretch and into the post-season.
A few more power play goals along the way would certainly relieve some of the burden of having to win games 2-1. But over the past few nights – and really over the past month – the Canucks have shown they don’t need to blow opponents out. They simply need to find a way to score one more goal than the other team. And they’ve been doing a solid job of that of late. It doesn’t always have to be pretty. It just has to be effective.
And the lessons learned along the way should serve the Canucks well come playoff time.

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