There’s playing aggressive, and then there’s what the Vancouver Canucks have recently become during this four-game losing streak.
On Saturday, the New York Rangers took full advantage in a lopsided win in Vancouver. It was an onslaught on Ryan Miller, who faced plenty of two-on-ones, three-on-ones and even some four-on-ones in Vancouver’s fourth loss in this skid. Yeah, not good for the Canucks, who got off to a terrific start following a season of change in the front office and behind the bench.
But their last four games, not necessarily textbook performances on the defensive side of things, has prompted head coach Willie Desjardins to change things up. And it does hurt having Dan Hamhuis, one of Vancouver’s steadiest blue liners in its top four, out of the lineup with a lower-body injury, suspected to be an injured groin.
The coach isn’t changing the system. Just tweaking it, as his team figures out a fine line between good aggression, making good pinches to keep possession in the offensive end, instead of the kind that leads to the plethora of odd-man rushes like what occurred against the Rangers.
“That one time, you watch the clip, and it should’ve been a five-on-one but one of their guys went and changed so it was only a four-on-one,” defenseman Luca Sbisa said Tuesday.
“So that’s not good. You’re definitely playing too aggressive. But it’s not a lack of effort. It’s lack of smartness. We were eager to play back here … after being on the road for a long time and we didn’t use that energy in the right way.”
Shortly after Washington announced it wouldn’t be sending Andre Burkovsky to the World Junior championships, the Canucks did the same with their budding young talent.
Bo Horvat, the ninth overall pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, won’t be released to Team Canada for the Worlds, to be played in Toronto and Montreal from Dec. 26-Jan. 5.
“[Bo] is a solid two-way player,” Canucks GM Jim Benning explained, per The Province. “[He’s] strong in the faceoff circle and displays a maturity beyond his years.”
Horvat, 19, scored three points in seven games for Canada at last year’s tournament and was one of four NHLers pegged as potential selections for this year’s (along with Jonathan Drouin, Curtis Lazar and Anthony Duclair, the latter of whom is going.)
Horvat has acquitted himself nicely with the Canucks this season, though, and that’s why he’s staying put. The former OHL London standout has five points through 17 games and has been a lineup fixture ever since Zack Kassian was lost to a finger injury.
Colorado Avalanche prospect Chris Bigras was one of five players sent home from Team Canada’s World Junior selection camp Sunday.
Bigras was a member of the 2014 Canadian squad, which lost to Russia in the bronze medal game in January.
Defenseman Travis Sanheim, a Philadelphia Flyers’ prospect, was returned to the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League.
Forwards Remi Elie (Dallas Stars), Morgan Klimchuk (Calgary Flames) and Nick Baptiste (Buffalo Sabres) were also returned to their respective junior clubs.
Ottawa’s Curtis Lazar and Vancouver’s Bo Horvat are among those currently on NHL rosters who could possibly be added to the team, but a decision on their future must be made prior to the NHL’s roster freeze Dec. 19.
“It’s day-by-day. I haven’t heard anything, actually,” Horvat told ProHockeyTalk’s Cam Tucker. “Just trying to get better here and focus on trying to win here. If I keep doing that, eventually I’m sure they’re going to tell me what’s going on but for right now I’m just trying to focus on the Canucks.”
Team Canada’s roster currently consists of eight defencemen and 15 forwards and two goaltenders. The final roster, which needs to be finalized by Dec. 25, must be down to 22 players.
The New York Rangers beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 on Saturday thanks to their own strong play, but there’s no denying that their opponents laid an egg tonight.
Such a drubbing led to some serious soul-searching after the game.
“[At the start] we pushed a little too hard offensively and got caught,” head coach Willie Desjardins said. “If we’re getting scored on like that there needs to be adjustments system-wide. It’s on the coaches, not the players.”
Henrik Sedin backed up that sentiment, stating that the Canucks got burned because they were “gambling out there to create chances.”
Mats Zuccarello’s first of two goals is one of the better examples:
Henrik Sedin provided some telling and troubling quotes to PHT’s Cam Tucker, too.
The Canucks have now lost four in a row and five of seven games, so it’s time for Desjardins, Sedin and the rest of the team to find some answers.
All the latest from the blue paint…
Darling gets the nod for Chicago
Scott Darling gets his fourth consecutive start tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks visit the New York islanders. Since his latest recall Darling has won all three starts posting a 1.62 GAA and .945 save percentage. His solid play has some in Chicago asking about the future of Antti Raanta in Chicago.
Jaroslav Halak gets the start for the Islanders.
Ducks at Jets: Frederik Andersen vs. Michael Hutchinson
Penguins at Blue Jackets: Thomas Greiss vs. Sergei Bobrovsky
Lightning at Capitals: Ben Bishop vs. Braden Holtby
Red Wings at Leafs: Petr Mrazek vs. Jonathan Bernier
Panthers at Sabres: Al Montoya vs. Jhonas Enroth
Wild at Coyotes: Darcy Kuemper vs. Devan Dubnyk
Devils at Stars: Cory Schneider vs. Kari Lehtonen
Blues at Avalanche: Jake Allen vs. Calvin Pickard
Rangers at Canucks: Henrik Lundqvist vs. Ryan Miller
Predators at Sharks: Pekka Rinne vs. Antti Niemi