Paterson’s Point: Tocchet’s tone changes in wake of consecutive letdown losses for Canucks

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
3 months ago
The Vancouver Canucks have now lost more than they’ve won since the National Hockey League’s All Star break. In their 19 games since the beginning of February, the team – bolstered by the addition of its biggest in-season addition via trade – has won nine games and lost 10. Sure, the Canucks have picked up a handful of single points in overtime losses during that stretch to leave them with a record of 9-7-3. But make no mistake. That is nine wins and 10 losses.
By points, the Canucks are 15th in the league over what amounts to nearly a quarter of their schedule. By points percentage, they fall to 18th. In goals scored, they drop to 22nd. And their power play is a ghastly 27th.
It’s all pretty pedestrian for a team that raced out the gates this season and rode high atop the NHL standings for months. And while it’s true, the Canucks still hold first place in the Pacific Division and Western Conference, it’s also clear that they way they’ve played over the past six weeks – and particularly their last two outings – isn’t a recipe for any kind of long term playoff success.
So you can understand why Rick Tocchet’s post-game media address in the wake of Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Washington had a markedly different tone. 
This was supposed to be a response game for the Canucks after they flushed that 3-0 lead to Colorado on Wednesday. But if that was the response, then the coach was well within his right to question where all of this is headed.
“If I have to manufacture (urgency) right now at this time, then we’re in trouble,” Tocchet said when asked why his team couldn’t muster the pushback necessary to stop the flow of momentum Colorado developed in the third period on Wednesday or the Capitals possessed in the second period last night.
The Canucks have been outscored 6-1 over the past four periods and two seconds. This is a rested team that has netted just three points from the first three games of a nine-game homestand. And in each of the past two games, at the first hint of adversity, the Canucks have wilted. 
Tocchet once again appealed for more from a number of players. By now, the entire market knows that Elias Pettersson is at the top of the coach’s list. There’s no point in beating around the bush, here. With seven points in his past 13 games, Pettersson has been indifferent on far too many nights of late. But he’s by no means alone. Elias Lindholm has no goals and two assists in his past 13 games. Pius Suter’s lone goal since the All Star break was the fifth goal in a 5-0 win against Winnipeg a week ago. Everyone knows about Ilya Mikheyev’s struggles since Christmas. And without Dakota Joshua, depth scoring has basically vanished.
“They have to understand it’s going to get harder and harder,” Tocchet said of what’s to come. “It’s that seal, right? They have to get past that seal. It’s my job to get them to break that seal. There’s more in the tank. There’s always more and we’ve got to breakthrough and find it.”
A week ago, it looked like the Canucks had figured things out and strung together several solid efforts. But even on their recent four game win streak, offence remained an issue. And that was the case again last night against a Washington team that didn’t give up much and the Canucks, quite frankly, didn’t do enough to force the issue.
Regardless where they sit in the standings and no matter where they finish, the Canucks aren’t going on any kind of deep playoff run as a one-line team with a pop-gun power play. And right now, that’s what they are. 
They have scored just eight power play goals on 53 attempts since All Star weekend – and one of those was a 4-on-3 game winner against Boston In their conventional 5-on-4 set, the Canucks are tough to watch these days. They had a power play at 3-3 in the third period against Colorado and failed to convert. They had a power play at 2-1 in the third against Washington and couldn’t cash in. These are the types of high leverage situations the team will find itself in a month from now when it needs to be able to manufacture offence. 
JT Miller and Elias Pettersson each have one power play goal since the All Star break. Miller has four power play points in that time while Pettersson has just three. 
Something has to give here. 
With 14 games remaining, there is still time to figure things out. But the past two games have seen the Canucks abandon the coach’s staples when the heat has been applied. 
Rick Tocchet suddenly sounds concerned about the state of his hockey club.
And, quite frankly, it’s hard to disagree.

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