Nothing is going right for the Canucks at the moment

Vancouver Canucks fans had at least some reason to be optimistic about this season.

They were coming off a 2019-20 campaign that saw them win a playoff round for the first time in a decade, and then come within a Game 7 of the Western Conference Final. On top of that the roster has three blossoming stars in Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and Quinn Hughes who should be their foundation for years.

There were obvious flaws (scoring depth) and the offseason was far from perfect with the losses of Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev, Troy Stecher and Tyler Toffoli. But they also added Nate Schmidt for almost nothing, and managed to get Braden Holtby on a cheap deal to pair with Thatcher Demko.

It was a team with concerns, but one that should have also created some excitement.

But so far nothing is going right.

The Canucks enter Monday’s game against Ottawa with the league’s worst points percentage (.288), worst goal differential (minus-13), and worst goals against number (4.71 goals against per game).

When you add that to the returning issue of no secondary scoring, as well as the fact that Pettersson has opened the season mired in a slump offensively, and you’ve got frustration wrapped in disappointment.

Some of this should have been expected and is the result of the Canucks’ own managerial missteps. The number one issue with this roster was always going to be depth beyond the top-five or six players. They overspent in recent years on the bottom of the lineup and have not received much of a return on those investments. It is those small overpays here and there that ate up enough salary cap space to prevent them from keeping players like Toffoli or Markstrom. Or simply adding better depth.

It had to be extra frustrating then to have Markstrom shut them down in back-to-back games (only two goals against him in a pair of defeats) and watch Toffoli fill the back of the net.

[MORE: NHL Power Rankings: Surprises, disappointments, mystery teams]

But while the scoring depth is a major concern, the biggest issue so far this season has been the abysmal performance of the team defensively. And abysmal might be giving it credit.

There is not one area defensively where the Canucks have been anything other than awful.

Goals against? Last.

Shots on goal against? Last.

Total shot attempts against during 5-on-5 play? Last.

Scoring chances and expected goals against (via Natural Stat Trick)? Last and last.

Save percentage? Next to last (ahead of only Pittsburgh).

Penalty kill? This is the high water mark on their rankings defensively … 23rd.

Even with Hughes, Schmidt, and Alex Edler this is not a particularly deep or impressive group on paper. It has been even worse on the ice so far.

The problem in Vancouver has always seemed to be (to these two eyes anyway) a front office that has thought the team is better than it actually is. Instead of focussing on building toward something long-term, even if that meant taking a short-term step back, throwing money at veterans in a desperate attempt to squeeze out a trip to the playoffs just to say you made it.

There is an argument to be made that is what happened during the 2019-20 season.

Yes, they have a great core. And when the goaltending is good, the team can be good. But there is only so much a handful of stars and great goaltending can do for a team. When the stars are firing on all cylinders and the goaltending is strong you can put together a great stretch and win a lot of games and make some real noise. That was exactly the case in the bubble this past season. But asking them to do that over a full season, and then again in the playoffs, is asking a lot.

When the goaltending is not there, or when even one of the star players hits a funk (like Pettersson has so far this season) it can be enough to mess up the whole thing because there is not enough support around them to make up for it. We are seeing that right now, especially as the team self destructs defensively.

Nobody should throw in the towel on this team this season because the goaltending should get better. Pettersson will start creating offense again. They have enough potential impact players that can be difference makers while they play in a division where enough teams around them are also flawed. They are not out of it. Yet.

These next three games against Ottawa might tell us a lot about this team and where it is going.

This is a chance for them to shake off their slow start and collect some points against a team that, quite frankly, still is not very good. These are points the Canucks have to bank. If they can get four or five points over the next three games it could help air out the stink from the first week. But if they somehow manage only two points, or even a split over these next three games? That might be a real cause for concern.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Scroll Down For:

    Hughes has first NHL hat trick, Devils beat Capitals 5-1

    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    NEWARK, N.J. – Jack Hughes had his first career NHL hat trick, Vitek Vanecek made 38 saves against his former team and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Saturday for coach Lindy Ruff’s 800th victory.

    “It’s exciting,” Hughes said. “Couple of two-goal games in my career, so nice to cap it off with the third one tonight.”

    Ruff became the fifth NHL coach to reach the 800-victory mark. The former Buffalo player won 571 games with the Sabres from 1997-2011. He had 165 wins in five seasons with Dallas and has 64 in two-plus seasons with New Jersey.

    “It means I’ve been around a long time,” Ruff cracked. “Great to win the game. Again, you got to do a lot of right things, have good teams, and the way our team is playing I have to give them a lot of credit for getting me there.”

    The Atlantic Division-leading Devils have won two in a row after seeing their franchise-record 13-game winning streak snapped by Toronto.

    Devils captain Nico Hischier and Fabian Zetterlund also scored.

    John Carlson scored for Washington and Charlie Lindgren made 24 saves.

    “Not scoring goals, not capitalizing on our chances,” Carlson said. “We’ve had our chances, especially today, but we only walked away with one goal. We could have had five or six. It’s just not going in right now.”

    Vanecek, meanwhile, was hoping for the shutout against a familiar foe.

    “That would have been nice, but that’s hockey,” Vanecek said, “For sure you’re trying, but not every time; the win is more important.”

    Hischier opened up the scoring with his 10th goal of the season midway through the first period on a power play after Alexander Ovechkin was called for slashing.

    Hughes wrapped the puck around goalie Lindgren’s right leg and the goal post to put the Devils up 2-0 5:59 into the second period. Hughes appeared to have lost his angle on the goal when he ripped a shot off Lindgren’s face mask and into the net midway through the period for his 10th goal of the season to give New Jersey a 3-0 lead.

    The 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick added his third midway through the third period as hats rained down on the ice with New Jersey up 4-0.

    “You want to continue to play the right way, but if an opportunity comes you want to definitely put it in the back of the net with authority,” Hughes said. “So tonight, I was able to cap it off and it was nice.”

    Fabian Zetterlund capped the scoring for New Jersey late in the third period.

    NOTES: The Devils improved to 16-0-0 this season when Hischier has a point. New Jersey’s Nathan Bastain (upper body) did not return after the first period. . Ovechkin is still nine goals away from 800 and 11 from passing Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL goals list.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: At Vancouver on Tuesday night.

    Devils: At the New York Rangers on Monday night.

    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
    2 Comments

    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.