The blowout game against the Tampa Bay Lightning highlighted some big issues that have surrounded the Vancouver Canucks all season.
Winning solves everything and hides all the blemishes. But following a 9-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, problems for the Vancouver Canucks have been brought to the forefront– and it has forced the players to take a long look at themselves in the mirror.
The Canucks’ seven-game win streak boosted them up the standings, but it also covered up issues that exploded onto the scene against the Lightning. Here are the three problems that will have plagued Vancouver all year, that must be addressed.
1. Jacob Markstrom can’t do it all
Jacob Markstrom is having the best season of his career, and he’s slated to play in his first-ever NHL All-Star game. The 29-year-old is the biggest reason for the Canucks’ recent win streak to begin with. He was rock-solid, stopping almost everything thrown his way.
In theDec. 28 game against the Los Angeles Kings, Markstrom was bombarded with shots, but he turned aside 49 of 51 pucks thrown his way.
Markstrom has played 30 of the Canucks’ 43 games, and he’s already faced 970 shots, seventh-most in the NHL. Connor Hellebyuck of the Winnipeg Jets leads all goalies with 1,135 shots faced this season.
While Markstrom has been playing very well, it is completely unrealistic to expect him to keep up with this workload for an entire season. The Canucks need to bail their goaltender out by blocking shooting lanes and clearing the net from dangerous rebounds.
2. The team struggles to play for 60 minutes
The Canucks have been having a problem where they often play very well for 98 percent of the game, and implode majestically for the other 2 percent. They end up messing up so badly that they are unable to dig themselves out of their problem.
This was seen in the Lightning game where they played very strong in the first 35 minutes of regulation, before everything unraveled.
With five minutes to go in the second period, Vancouver checked out of the game and the score jumped from a 2-2 to a 6-2 deficit. This problem has been happening all season long, and it’s cost the Canucks some valuable points in the standings. One of their most spectacular collapses came when they blew a 5-1 lead to the Washington Capitals on Oct. 25, before losing 6-5 in a shootout. There was also a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Novv. 27, where they blew a three-goal lead in the third period and fell 8-6.
Head coach Travis Green stated back in December that the lack of discipline comes with a “maturity level”, which makes a lot of sense considering how young and inexperienced this team is.
"Other games, we weren’t unable to handle the pressure. That’s part of a maturity level. When teams are losing, you can bet they’re coming and going to raise the compete level. If you can’t match that, you’re going to be on your heels."
Mistakes are the best way to learn, and if the Canucks want to become contenders, they need to learn how to play a full 60-minute hockey game.
3. Canucks have problems playing team defence
This team is full of electric offensive players that constantly create highlight-reel goals. However, they also have big problems defending in their own zone.
This team has a very offensively-minded approach which leads to brutal turnovers and poor defensive coverage. They have problems stopping the cycle, which gives their opponents extended time in the offensive zone, which leads to penalties far too often.
The Canucks currently allow the 32.7 shots per game, which is tied for fifth most.
Vancouver struggles to get the puck out of their own zone, because once their defencemen get the puck, the forwards are often thinking of goals and are rushing up the ice. The result are long stretch passes that rarely work out, and it frequently leads to an odd-man rush the other way. The forwards need to consistently help out their defencemen in exciting the defensive zone.
These problems have been there since the start of the season, but there is still plenty of time to iron out the wrinkles.
Will the Canucks clean up their play as the season goes along, or are these problems that will only go away with more experience and maturity? Let us know down in the comments!