What needs to change on this Canucks road trip?

TAMPA, FLORIDA - JANUARY 13: Matthew Highmore #15 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates a goal during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on January 13, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - JANUARY 13: Matthew Highmore #15 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates a goal during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on January 13, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /
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After returning home just under .500 from an indicative Eastern road swing against Stanley Cup contenders, the Vancouver Canucks faithful, rightfully so, felt optimistic about a three-game homestand.

But right from the jump, the Canucks suffered setbacks after starting goaltender Thatcher Demko and leading goal scorer J.T. Miller were placed into COVID-19 protocol.

Backstopped by neither Demko or Jaroslav Halak, the Canucks called up 26-year-old Spencer Martin, who was acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning last summer, and 22-year-old, third-round pick, Michael DiPietro from the AHL.

The Canucks lost all three games on their recent homestand and need to improve a bunch of things if they want to have a successful road trip and get back into the playoffs. Before we go over these issues, let’s quickly recap how the Canucks lost their last three games.

Canucks vs Panthers

In a less than ideal situation, Martin who sported a 2.24 GAA with a 0.921 SV% in seven appearances with Abbotsford was put into his fourth NHL game against a high-scoring Florida Panthers team led by Spencer Knight in net.

The Canucks were able to hold their own, even notching the first goal of the game on the powerplay from Alex Chiasson.

With either team unwilling to give an inch in even strength, Sam Reinhart finally got one past Martin on the Panthers power play to start the third.

In a game where the Canucks got the rare first goal, a shootout would be necessary to solve the tie.

After Brock Boeser potted the first Canuck goal in the shootout, the team was unable to convert another goal marker past Knight. Allowing Barkov to grab the all-illusive extra point from the home team, but not stealing an inspirational, and nearly perfect, outing for first-star Martin.

Canucks vs Blues

If two goalies in COVID protocol didn’t create enough of a fiasco for the Canucks, three was sure to do it.

Coming off of a brilliant showing against the Panthers, it was announced that Martin had been placed in protocol. Leaving the net to DiPietro and EBUG Rylan Toth. (From the UBC Thunderbirds)

Despite a dominant effort against the Blues, in which the Canucks scored the first goal in a second consecutive game, they were ultimately unable to solve goaltender Ville Husso who turned aside each breakaway and odd-man rush the Canucks turned his way.

Most disappointing was the Canucks inability to direct shots on a 5 on 3 full-length powerplay —  handed to them after Blues player Torey Krug lost his control and got more than a few extra hits in on Matthew Highmore. These are chances the Canucks simply can’t afford to miss this late in the season.

Not much could have been done by Dipietro who, despite a soft wrister from the top of the blue line that snuck past him, was faced with redirected shots he faced no chance on.

Canucks vs Oilers

Things finally looked up for the Canucks with the return of Miller, the Lotto Line, and Martin in time for the Oilers. Defenseman Brad Hunt also slotted in the lineup for an injured Kyle Burroughs.

After a scoreless first, where Martin turned aside a last-minute brigade of shots by the Oilers, Elias Pettersson picked up his fourth goal in five games, riffling it past the glove of goaltender Mikko Koskinen.

Miller made his presence known in the game, saving a goal on one side of the ice from Connor McDavid, before sending Tyler Motte on a shorthanded breakaway that he scored on five-hole.

After two strong periods, specifically by Martin who continued to impress, the game fell by the wayside. Oiler Ryan McLeod made something out of nothing, throwing a sharp-angled shot at the side of the net, which managed to find a way through the body of Martin.

Officiating also didn’t help the home team who were sent to the box on more than one questionable call. That aside, Leon Draisaitl’s tying goal came after the penalty expired, catching tired Canucks on the ice who failed to get possession and freeze the puck.

From there, it was anything but the Canucks game. The Oilers had all the chances, minus a Brock Boeser shot that came near the latter half of the frame.

To put in perspective how disastrous these five minutes were,defenseman Tyler Myers dumped the puck in Edmonton’s zone in a game solely based on possession.

Martin was the best player for the Canucks and nearly held off the Oilers for the entirety of the period — making save after save on scoring chances from Draisaitl and McDavid.

Ultimately, the Oilers scored the third answered goal, and winner of the game, by none other than McDavid on a beautiful cross-ice feed from defenseman Darnell Nurse — leaving Martin to try to make the difficult lateral save.