As much as those digits may look like a phone number Alain Vigneault might want to call looking for answers to the things that ail his hockey club through the first 10 games of the National Hockey League season, those numbers represent one of the main issues with the Vancouver Canucks right now.
In order, those numbers represent the number of shots on goal in each of the last eight periods the Canucks have played. Do the math. That’s a grand total of 41 shots over eight periods going back to the end of the first 20 minutes in Columbus last Sunday.
You take those 41 shots and divide them by the eight periods the team has played since then and you’re left with an average of 5.1 shots per period. It’s just not enough. It’s not enough from the forwards and it’s not enough from the defensemen who registered just two of the team 15 shots Wednesday night in Motown. The six Canuck defenders had two shots on goal while the Red Wings Niklas Lidstrom hit the net five times by himself. 2/16
It would be great if all that number meant was February 16th. The Canucks are home to the Oilers on that night. Games with the Oilers are usually good for the Canucks. And last year, the Canucks were 2-1 winners in a shootout in Chicago on February 16th.
Unfortunately, 2/16 represents the struggle of Canucks centremen in the defensive zone against the Wings on Wednesday. The Canucks won exactly two of the 16 face-offs they took in front of Roberto Luongo
. As Glenn Healy noted on the TSN broadcast: “You may as well just get the linemen to throw the puck to the Red Wing defensemen.”
Face-off prowess has obviously been a concern for the Canucks all season, but when you break it down to key areas of the ice it just reinforces the seriousness of the issue. Winning 12.5% of all draws in your own end is asking for trouble – and too often getting it.
To make matters worse, one of the two face-offs the Canucks did win in their own end was by Ryan Kesler
while killing a second period penalty. However, the team failed to clear the puck off the draw and, moments later, Tomas Holmstrom gave the Wings a 2-0 lead. 45 of 72
With four wins in their first 10 games, the Canucks haven’t exactly picked up where they left off down the stretch last season.
Now, there’s plenty of time left in the season to find their game.
But to show you how well the Canucks played after Christmas last year and to give you an idea of just how tough it is to maintain that pace, if the Canucks are going to match the franchise-record 49 wins they recorded last season, they now have to win 45 of their remaining 72 games. That means picking up the pace and playing .625 hockey the rest of the season. 7
It’s too early in the season to be worrying about things like the Northwest Division title – the Canucks have to take of the little things first and then tackle the bigger challenges.
But, as crazy as this sounds, the Canucks should thank the Calgary Flames today. The Flames comeback 5-3 win over Minnesota on Wednesday prevented the Wild from picking up a point which keeps Minnesota seven in front of Vancouver in the early-season standings.
The significance of that is that at no time last year did the Canucks ever trail the Wild by more than seven points. On November 17th last year, the Canucks were seven back of the Wild before they started to make up the ground they needed to win the division by a single point.
Making up deficits is not easy at any point of the season, so the Canucks have to be careful to keep a team like the Wild within striking distance and not lose sight of them even though it’s only three weeks into the new season.