On Wednesday, the Vancouver Canucks saw another critical point slip away in a shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche. The team’s inability to close out games and pile up the key points has been a recurring theme this season.
The Vancouver Canucks have taken a step forward in this long and painful rebuilding process, hanging around in the playoff race instead of being in prime draft lottery contention for the first time in four years.
No matter what happens the rest of the way in 2018-19, the Canucks have to be happy with how much further they’ve come along. That said, the playoffs are looking like a pipe dream at this point. And if they don’t end up making it, the Canucks can look back on all of these games that they failed to close out.
On Wednesday, the Canucks fell to the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in a shootout. Bo Horvat wasn’t able to win the game in the third round, and Jacob Markstrom couldn’t make that last big save to win it. When all was said and done, the Avalanche won in a six-round shootout. That extra point was right there for the taking, and the Canucks couldn’t do it.
So now, the Canucks are five points out of the final playoff spot in the West, and they still have to jump ahead of three non-playoff teams in the standings.
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Last Thursday, Vancouver led the Arizona Coyotes 1-0 after two periods. They allowed a pair of third period goals and fell 3-2 in overtime. Arizona sits two points ahead of the Canucks now. Boy, was that ever a tough loss to endure.
The game before that, the Canucks looked poised to get at least one point against the San Jose Sharks. Joe Pavelski scored the game winner with under seven minutes left. Once again, a key point got away.
According to Hockey Reference, the Canucks are 15-2-3 when leading after two periods. Those are seven critical points that have slipped away where the team just needed to protect its lead and hold on for the W.
Let’s not forget that Nov. 10 road contest against the Buffalo Sabres, either. The Canucks led 3-1 with two and a half minutes to go, but the Sabres scored two late goals and would win in a shootout. Again, another huge point got away from Vancouver.
The Canucks have lost five overtime games and four shootouts. When you keep adding up the losses, you see how many could-have points fell out of their hands. Instead of sitting comfortably in a playoff spot, Vancouver now faces an uphill climb to get in.
No NHL team comes without its flaws and bad habits. For the Canucks, their inability to put away teams in these close games is undoubtedly the main issue that must be addressed in the offseason.
General manager Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green will have to evaluate this roster for the remainder of the season, before they decide on how to fix this team’s problems in closing out games.