The Vancouver Canucks will try to bring the final period of a six-game road trip home with them – and leave the period that preceded it in the rear-view mirror for good – when they play host to the struggling New York Islanders on Sunday night.
Vancouver showed how dominant it could still be while outshooting Anaheim 22-2 and scoring three times in the third period to make things interesting Friday. But it wasn’t enough to overcome the defensive collapse that spotted the Ducks a four-goal lead, resulting in a 4-3 loss to finish the recent trip with a 3-3-0 record.
In a lot of ways, those final two periods have been a microcosm of a Canucks’ season that is stuck at .500 and yet to meet the expectations set a year ago. There have been stretches where they look like the team that won the President’s Trophy and came within a game of adding the Stanley Cup. But too often they have been undone by a lack of either of execution or intensity as several key players try to rediscover their form.
"When we've been at our best, we've shown we're a better team,” captain Henrik Sedin said after a morning skate Sunday. “You've got to show up for 60 minutes each game and we haven't done that. There have been games where we've been good for 50 minutes, but those 10 minutes where we haven't played our best have hurt us.”
Coach Alain Vigneault said the inconsistency comes down to half a dozen shifts, and is, "all abot being a professional."
"You look at the at road trip and in my mind we should have won five out of six games," Vigneault said. "But there is five or six percent of those games where for whatever reason we are not making the right plays and when we don't make the right plays the puck ends up in the back of our net. We’re not that far off, but we’re five or six per cent off and that's six, seven shifts in a game that are hurting us right now."
Given how things finished in Anaheim, it should be no surprise that the Canucks are expected to start with a similar lineup against the Islanders, even if some might be surprised to see Jannik Hansen alongside Daniel and Henrik Sedin in place of Alex Burrows.
Hansen scored twice in the final frame, and three of his four goals this season have come on the right side of the Sedins, including one in Chicago three games ago.
“There’s a good chance that’s what we’re going to do,” coach Alain Vigneault said of leaving Friday’s third-period lines intact. “We came on real strong there.”
Here are the rest of those lines from the end of the Anaheim game, though it’s still possible David Booth could move back onto the second line with Ryan Kesler, with Chris Higgins dropping back and moving across to the right side of the third:
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen
Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - Alex Burrows
Manny Malhotra - Cody Hodgson - David Booth
Aaron Volpatti - Maxim Lapierre - Dale Weise
Vancouver’s defensive pairings will again include Aaron Rome, who was not suspended after receiving a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for elbowing after Friday’s high hit on Anaheim forward Devante Smith-Pelley. Rome got a call from NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan, and said the conversation will help in the future.
"Those calls are good to let you know where you stand and what you can and can't do so there's not a grey area. It was good in that sense,” said Rome, who was suspended for the final four games of the Stanley Cup Finals for a late hit on Boston’s Nathan Horton. “We had a good conversation. He let me know what I can and can't do. He let me know the decision process and where the league is coming from and wants the players to have a sense of what's legal and what's not. … It was close.”
Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alex Edler - Sami Salo
Keith Ballard - Aaron Rome
Roberto Luongo will be back in goal for the Canucks Sunday after getting pulled after four goals on 10 shots in the second period in Anaheim.