Jason Brough

VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 15: Bo Horvat #53 of the Vancouver Canucks fights for the puck against Matt Stajan #18 of the Calgary Flames during the first period of their NHL game at Rogers Arena on October 15, 2016 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Ben Nelms/Getty Images)

The Canucks are happy to be undefeated, but ‘gotta stop’ falling behind early


It’s only been three games, and nobody’s sold on the Vancouver Canucks quite yet.

But after three come-from-behind victories — the latest coming last night over the previously undefeated St. Louis Blues — the Canucks see a definite difference between how they played last season and how they’re playing now.

“Structurally, we’re way better this year,” center Bo Horvat said after Tuesday’s 2-1 OT win. “It’s the one thing we talked about as a group, that we wanted to be better structurally. We wanted everyone to buy in to the system, and if someone’s not doing it, then you gotta let ’em know. Everybody has to buy in. Everybody’s bought in so far, and it’s been turning out great.”

In Vancouver’s first three games, they’ve surrendered an average of just 23.7 shots against. Last season, that number finished at 32.5.

“We’re not giving up near as many shots in the home plate area, which is just in front of the net,” said Horvat.

Again, nobody’s sold on the Canucks yet. Their first three games were all at home, and they all required overtime.

“Three games isn’t a big enough sample size,” said head coach Willie Desjardins. “Is it good? Yeah, it’s good. We’re happy with that. But we’ve got to keep improving every day. All the games (have been) close. They could’ve gone either way.”

In fact, last night, the Canucks became the first team in NHL history to win their first three games of the season without once holding a lead in regulation time, per Elias Sports Bureau. 

That’s not sustainable, to keep falling behind and fighting back for wins.

“We gotta stop doing that,” said Horvat. “It wears down on you. … We’ve gotta jump out with the lead every once in a while.”

The Canucks host the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday.

No obvious solution to Kings’ goaltending problem

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14:  Jeff Zatkoff #37 of the Los Angeles Kings looks on after allowing a goal during the second  period of a game against Philadelphia Flyers  at Staples Center on October 14, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Kings fell to 0-3-0 last night, losing 6-3 to the Minnesota Wild despite outshooting them 30-26.

It was not a good night for goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who allowed five goals on just 16 shots and saw his save percentage fall to a ghastly .839. The Kings could be without starter Jonathan Quick for months, so a shaky Zatkoff is the last thing they need. Their backup is Peter Budaj, who’s spent the last two seasons in the AHL. Zatkoff himself only has 31 career NHL stars.

“There’s nothing you can do about it,” head coach Darryl Sutter said of Quick’s injury, per LA Kings Insider. “There’s not one thing. I said it when Jonathan got hurt. There’s not one thing that I can do about it or anybody can do about it, right? You expect the guys that are in there to play as well as they can, and if they play as well as they can, that’s good. I mean, heck, that’s what you do, right?”

Many expect GM Dean Lombardi to add a goalie via trade. But that begs the obvious question: who’s he going to get? Ondrej Pavelec seems to be a popular answer, given he’s in the AHL after the Jets waived him. Here’s the thing about Pavelec, though — there was a reason the Jets waived him. His career NHL save percentage is .907. It was .904 last season. Perhaps he could turn it around with a new team, one that was better structurally than the Jets, but only perhaps.

At this point in the season, if a team has a good backup goalie, it’s not going to just give him away. Because backup goalies are important. They can be the difference between making and missing the playoffs. Would the Philadelphia Flyers have made them last year without Michal Neuvirth? Probably not. Neuvirth and Steve Mason are both pending unrestricted free agents, but if Flyers GM Ron Hextall is going to trade one of them, is he going to do it now? Not for nothing, that’s for sure.

The Kings’ next game is Thursday in Dallas against the high-scoring Stars. After that, they return home for three games against Vancouver, Columbus, and Nashville, then it’s off to St. Louis and Chicago to close out the month.

“Obviously it’s a tough situation,” said Budaj. “Jonathan is arguably the best goalie in the world. We miss him, but I think me and Zats are trying to do the best we can.”

Dec. 1 deadline no concern yet for Trouba camp

UNIONDALE, NY - OCTOBER 28: Jacob Trouba #8 of the Winnipeg Jets skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on October 28, 2014 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Jacob Trouba needs to sign an NHL contract by Dec. 1, otherwise he can’t play in the league this season.

But according to his agent, that deadline is not part of the equation quite yet.

“It’s only Oct. 17,” Kurt Overhardt told the Winnipeg Free Press last night. “There’s obviously a lot of time between now and then. … It’s not really an issue at this point.”

In the meantime, Overhardt says he’ll keep working to “facilitate a positive transaction,” i.e. facilitate a trade out of Winnipeg so that the young defenseman can play a bigger role elsewhere.

So far, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff hasn’t given in to Trouba’s demand. But the Jets (1-2-0) are not off to a great start, and if they continue to struggle, the pressure on Cheveldayoff to bring the situation to some sort of conclusion will only increase as Dec. 1 approaches.

Of course, at the same time, Trouba isn’t playing, so he isn’t getting paid either. And if he signs an offer sheet and the Jets match, he has to stay in Winnipeg.

It’s quite the game of chicken, and the Jets and Trouba aren’t the only ones playing it. The Anaheim Ducks still haven’t been able to sign their young defenseman, Hampus Lindholm. And like the Jets, the Ducks (0-2-1) are off to a tough start.

“The season is more than three games,” Lindholm’s agent, Claude Lemieux, told Postmedia. “Trying to get a long-term deal is more than just the performance of the team during a short period of time. There’s definitely motivation from both sides to try and get a deal done.”

It’s a different situation in Anaheim compared to Winnipeg, because Lindholm doesn’t want to be traded. But it’s complicated by the likelihood the Ducks will have to make a trade to keep him. The speculation has Cam Fowler on the move. Which probably wouldn’t surprise Fowler, who expected to be dealt over the summer.

But we’ll have to wait and find out for sure.

It’s only Oct. 18.

Babies get in free: NHL changes ticket policy after outcry in Winnipeg

WINNIPEG, CANADA - July 17: Some players warming up on the field prior to CFL Football at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Trevor Hagan/Getty Images)

After an outcry in Winnipeg, the NHL has changed its ticketing policy to allow children under two years of age to enter special events without a ticket.

The statement from the league:

Over the last number of years, the League’s procedure for its Special Event games (e.g., NHL All-Star, NHL Winter Classic, NHL Stadium Series and NHL Heritage Classic) has required that any fan, regardless of age, be required to have a ticket to gain entry. After reviewing this practice, the League has decided to adopt a standard that more closely mirrors that of similar entertainment events and that to which local NHL Clubs adhere. While the League will strive to adopt such policy for these Special Event games, in some instances, it may not be possible or practical in a particular venue.

This new procedure will be effective for the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic™ in Winnipeg on October 23, and, as such, children two years and older must have a ticket in order to gain entrance to Investors Group Field for the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic™. Children under two years of age may enter without a ticket but must sit on the lap of an accompanying adult.

This CBC.ca story from last month explains why the league made the change:

A Winnipeg couple say they will file a human rights complaint against the NHL for a policy requiring their breastfeeding baby to have a full-price ticket to the upcoming Heritage Classic, even after the league apologized and offered them free tickets.

Clifford Anderson and Shalyn Meady went public with their concerns earlier this week, after learning they would have to spend an extra $400 for their six-month-old son, William, to attend the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg next month.

The couple said they were told by the league that William, who is not old enough to sit upright without help, has to have his own seat for safety reasons.

The NHL said a refund can be obtained for any ticket that was bought for a child under two years of age to attend Sunday’s game.

The undefeated Canucks get their first real test tonight

VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 15: Brandon Sutter #20 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates his game winning goal against the Calgary Flames during a shootout of their NHL game at Rogers Arena on October 15, 2016 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Ben Nelms/Getty Images)

The Vancouver Canucks haven’t lost yet, but they haven’t held a lead either. After two come-from-behind victories over Calgary and Carolina — both of which required overtime — they’ll get their toughest test of the season tonight at home against the undefeated St. Louis Blues.

“They’re definitely one of the best teams in the league,” Canucks forward Brandon Sutter told TSN 1040 radio this morning. “At least the last five or six years, they’ve been a dominant team in the West. So we expect a hard game. They’re a big team, heavy team, and very good defensively. They’re well-coached, they’re a very good structural team, and those are always the hardest teams to play against.”

Injured for much of last season, Sutter has played the hero twice already. He notched the shootout winner Saturday against Calgary, then scored in overtime Sunday to complete the comeback over Carolina.

But despite the two victories, the Canucks still have much to prove to their many detractors. After all, the Flames and Hurricanes are not the Blues, who are 3-0-0 after beating the Blackhawks, Wild, and Rangers.

Expect winger Jack Skille to replace youngster Jake Virtanen in Vancouver’s lineup. Head coach Willie Desjardins didn’t love Virtanen’s game against the Hurricanes (neither did Joakim Nordstrom, presumably), so Skille will make his Canucks debut on a line with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi.

Also, goalie Jacob Markstrom will make his second straight start for Vancouver. That wasn’t the plan originally, but Ryan Miller showed up to the rink “a little tight,” per Desjardins, so Markstrom gets the nod.

Update: Miller won’t dress. Markstrom will reportedly be backed up by 23-year-old Matt Hewitt, the goalie for the University of British Columbia.

As for the Blues, it’s possible that winger Jaden Schwartz could return from his elbow injury tonight, but Thursday in Edmonton is more likely, according to NHL.com’s Lou Korac.

Related: Virtanen remains with Canucks, but AHL still an option down the road