A Canucks conundrum

AP
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The Vancouver Canucks have been shut out in four of their last five games.

Crazy, right?

But here’s the really crazy part:

According to the Canucks, they only played poorly in one of those games.

That was the first of the four, last Tuesday at home to Ottawa, when they were a tired bunch, slogging through their seventh game in 11 nights. They lost, 3-0, and deserved their fate.

Three days later, after a chance to get some rest, it was a 2-0 loss to Connor McDavid and the Oilers. But this shutout loss was different, because the Canucks actually had good chances to score. They just couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, the NHL’s reigning first star of the week.

“If you keep playing the same way over and over you are going to bury those (chances) sooner or later,” said captain Henrik Sedin.

At least, that was the theory.

The third shutout came Wednesday in Montreal, where the Canucks outshot the Canadiens, 42-21, but couldn’t beat the world’s best goalie, Carey Price. Another 3-0 loss.

“The first half of the game we deserved a better fate,” said head coach Willie Desjardins. “Maybe the guys were shooting a little too fine, knowing who was in net. They thought they had to be perfect on their shots. He’s a good goalie, we knew that coming in. We had a good effort today creating shots. I believe if we play like that every night, we’ll win our share of games.”

Sounds familiar, right?

Last night in Ottawa, the Canucks again won the puck-possession battle, but one turnover by Erik Gudbranson cost them. After four straight wins to start the season, Vancouver had lost its seventh in a row, falling 1-0 to the Senators.

What did the captain have to say now?

“We played a really good game and created enough chances for a couple [goals], but that’s been the story so far this year,” Sedin said. “We realize it’s only Game 11 and we have to keep working and doing the same things and know it’s not a lack of chances.”

It’s a heck of a conundrum for Desjardins, who may be coaching for his job at this point. A team has to trust its system, but when the system repeatedly spits out disheartening results, eventually the trust gets broken.

The Canucks continue their six-game road trip Saturday in Toronto. That game will be on national TV in Canada, against a Maple Leafs side that chose to rebuild in the kind of tear-it-down fashion the Canucks have so far resisted.

The Leafs (4-4-3) are still trying to find their way, but they’re fun to watch and they have four players with four or more goals this season. That includes Auston Matthews, the kind of player you get after you tear it down, and William Nylander, a player the Canucks could’ve drafted in 2014.

Vancouver, on the other hand, has just one player (Bo Horvat) with four goals. Meanwhile, Jake Virtanen, the guy they drafted instead of Nylander, has no goals and may soon be AHL bound.

So, what if the Canucks get shut out again on Saturday? What if they get embarrassed on the national stage, by the Leafs of all teams?

The Canucks would rather not find out the answers to those questions.

If ever there was a time for the offense to break out, Saturday would sure be it.