The Vancouver Canucks lost last night. Again. It was their six loss in six games, with two of those losses coming in overtime. The Canucks have blown many leads in this young season, giving up more goals (12) while leading than any team in the NHL. (Actually, after Saturday night, the Kings joined them in last place.)
The Canucks blew a 3-0 lead over Edmonton in the season opener. Then they blew a 2-0 lead to the Flyers. Then they blew a 4-2 lead to your Washington Capitals. Then they blew a 2-0 lead to the Blue Jackets. Then they blew a 2-1 lead to the Wild. Those were all consecutive games, and all of them came on the road. The Canucks returned home on Saturday night and they did not blow a lead – instead they got blown out by the Buffalo Sabres, a team bound for the draft lottery.
So, yes. The fans booed.
From the final buzzer:
Earlier in the game, a fan threw a jersey onto this ice, which is the hockey-fan equivalent of glove-slapping an aristocrat.
The loss had the team searching for answers.
“We didn’t have a very good camp, and it carried over into the season,” GM Jim Rutherford said on Sportsnet’s After Hours program, which feels like an oblique dig towards head coach Bruce Boudreau to me.
Rutherford did not initially hire Boudreau, but
he did oversee Boudreau’s extension this summer, signed after a period of uncertainty and negotiation.
CORRECTION: There has been a lot of confusion on this point, including from the GM himself. Boudreau is actually in the second year of his prior deal. Rutherford did not extend him.
Rutherford continued: “We have a lot of bad habits. The last two road games, we were starting to cut back on those and starting to trend in the right way, but when you’re losing you find ways to lose.”
The hosts of the After Hours program teed up Rutherford to presage any dramatic moves, explicitly about trading players, but Rutherford demurred. “You’re always looking to make your team better,” Rutherford said. “And if something comes our way that we feel is gonna make our team better, we’re gonna do it. We’re being cautious in how we go about that.”
That was Rutherford responding to a question specifically about trades, though he did generalize a bit in follow-up. “It’s getting frustrating,” he said. “It’s hard to watch. We’ll just have to be careful what our decisions are. I don’t think we can make panic decisions at this point in time.”
Rutherford had been reluctant to describe his approach as a rebuild when he joined the team last season, though it may be hard to deny reality at this point. “We may very well be in a rebuild in the direction we’re going.”
A rebuild would almost certainly spell the end of head coach Bruce Boudreau, who led the team to a 32-15-10 record last season. For his part, Boudreau didn’t hide his displeasure after the loss.
“It just looked like there was very little effort,” Boudreau said. “I’m seeing it, you’re seeing it. The whole thing that concerned me was the effort level, and that’s what I was talking about. I mean, it wasn’t good enough.”
I’m sure this would come as cold comfort, but the Canucks have not been vastly outplayed this season. They’re virtually even in controlling shot attempts during five-on-five play, and only slightly below even when factoring in quality (owning 47 percent of the expected goals). The only game in which they really lost the five-on-five matchup was the Columbus game. Finishing stats don’t give a tidy explanation either: they’re shooting a just-mediocre eight percent and saving a just-mediocre .901.
The culprit, as far as I can see, is special teams, where the team has scored three power-play goals – but have surrendered two short-handed goals as well. (Vancouver goalies are saving 70 percent during five-on-four play.) Worser still is the penalty kill, where the team has given up eight goals, offset by one shorthanded goal for the team. That’s a minus-six goal differential on special teams overall, enough to lose at least a couple games all by itself.
“It’s just totally embarrassing,” Coach Boudreau said of the jersey thrown on the ice. “It’s something you never want to see. I’ve seen it happen in other arenas and everything, but I never thought it would happen here or on a team that I’m coaching.”
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