Thursday, October 27, 2011

No Excuses, but....

I don't like excuses for losing.  I don't accept the Stanley Cup hangover; having two months off shouldn't constitue exhaustion.  Roberto's slow starts are expected, and he's only played half the games, so it's not a great excuse either.  I would argue resting veterans wasn't the best idea but the core of the team outside of say Lou and Bieksalent have performed well.  The injury bug didn't effect the team as much as many thought it might, but I'm beginning to see that the early part of the 2011-12 schedule has not been favourable for the Nux.

Opening the season against a Sid-less Penguins team is still a tough task, and questionable shootout tactics didn't help.  The Canucks salvaged a point in the season opener at home then hit the road and squeaked out a W in Columbus before playing back-to-backers in Philly and Detroit, losing both.  In the first four games of the year the Canucks played three teams that have either won the cup or played for it (or both) in the past four seasons, including two of them back-to-back.  They concluded the four game road swing with a hard fought one goal win over the Oilers, came home for a rest and then peppered Henrik Lundqvist for 40 shots only to lose 4 - 0, their second shutout in three games.  They won at home against Nashville and Minny, then dropped their last two including a rematch with the youthful Oilers and had a snooze against the Blues for their third shut out of the year.

Last year the Canucks opened the scoring in 59 of 82 games...this year they've relinquished the lead to start the game more often than not, and one other noticable role reversal is in the goal scoring department where the Canucks have been blanked thrice this season already compared to five all of last year.

There are no nights off in the NHL anymore - NONE!  Not even Ottawa, Columbus or Long Island on home ice are pushovers.  The Canucks have played the second most games in the NHL and the nine teams ahead of them in the West have played one to three games fewer than them as the Canucks head in to a Saturday clash with the undefeated Caps.  It might be a blessing to start November on the road for six games, but the first two are divisional rivals and all but one in the month are against Western Conference teams.  If the Canucks don't get on the right track soon they could be facing a lengthy uphill battle.

At 4-5-1 the Nux are in tight in 10th with the disadvantage of every other team having games in hand.  They have the third worst goal differential in the West at -5.  This team is still very much the same as the one that won the President's trophy last year and came within one game of winning it all and if they had won against New York and Edmonton in lopsided shot totals they'd be 6-3-1 and on top of the North East and second in the West, so it's early but that doesn't mean there's no need to worry, if at any point in the season you have a worse goals per game average than Phoenix it's an issue.

I have to wonder why the schedule makers gave the Canucks such a disadvantage coming off a long season and dealing with such tough injury problems.  Is it possible the Canucks brass saw the beginning of the season as a lost cause and asked for the strongest competition up front anyway?

December's forecast is much better with Calgary at home the day before Christmas Eve and the Oilers at home just after Christmas day, two huge advantages against division rivals.  December 8th through 17th sees a relatively weak Eastern road swing with five games in ten days, only one against a current playoff team and no back-to-backers.  I'm wary now but if December isn't a cure then it might be time to push the panic button.

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