After winning eight of nine games, the Canucks came into last week feeling confident about their game. Little did they know a 4-3 overtime loss in Buffalo would start a now four game losing streak which has seen the team play some of its worst hockey of the season to date.
Although the Canucks went into Buffalo riding two wins in a row, the signs of the current slump were visible. The team dug themselves early holes in both Ottawa and Toronto, giving early leads in both games before battling back to win. The same proved true in Buffalo, as the Canucks fell behind 2-0 and 3-1 before finally clawing back to tie the game. The Canucks bad habits finally caught up with them when Dan Hamhuis coughed up the puck in the slot and Tyler Myers won the game for the Sabres in overtime.
Two nights later in Pittsburgh, there would be no comeback. The Canucks got behind early yet again and looked listless in their attempts to get themselves back into the game. It was the final game of the Canucks five game road trip, and they would return home to Rogers Arena – where the team had played so well and not lost a game in regulation – to face the Chicago Blackhawks in what many anticipated would be a good, close game that turned out to be anything but.
After a scoreless first period, the Blackhawks started to go to work in the second. Jonathan Toews opened the scoring, along with the flood gates. Four second period goals saw the Canucks buried after 40 minutes. The third was much the same, as Chicago scored three more. Mikael Samuelsson scored the lone Canuck goal after the game was long decided and Chicago ended their road trip with a 7-1 victory. For the Canucks, it was easily their poorest effort on the season. There was no time to dwell, however, as they were right back at it Sunday, hosting the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Canucks were no better against the Coyotes, dropping the contest 3-2. Former Canuck Taylor Pyatt scored the game winner – one of two goals on the night for him – as Vancouver’s losing streak reached four games.
Boasting one of the league’s best power plays, the Canucks have been able to cover up a relatively poor showing five on five for most of the year by outscoring their problems on the power play. This changed, as aside from the Buffalo game the Canucks power play struggled last week. Phoenix did not take a single penalty on Sunday, which was a direct result of the Canucks not skating well enough to draw penalties. The team is also struggling to score with consistency. Mason Raymond, Mikael Samuelsson, and Alex Burrows are all well behind where they are expected to be. After so many career best seasons for the Canucks last year, the worry has to be that these players the Canucks rely so heavily upon might not be able to duplicate – or even come close to duplicating – those career bests.
With a light - but far from easy - schedule this week, the Canucks will look to get their game back on track. They will have two very tough challenges. They face now division leading Colorado at Rogers Arena on Wednesday. The Avalanche seized back the Northwest division lead while the Canucks have struggled. Divisional games are always so important, and the Canucks will need to bring a much better effort than they have recently to stand a chance. The week for the Canucks wraps up Friday with another tough test as the San Jose Sharks are in town. The Canucks then have four days off to end November, and must figure out their game if they don’t want to head into December on a six game losing streak.