It’s not time to panic yet, but desperation has to be setting in for the Vancouver Canucks.
After jumping out to an 8-3-1 record in the month of October, the Canucks were the toast of the town and one of the real surprise stories in the National Hockey League.
But November has not been kind to them.
Faced with a more difficult schedule, the team has now lost seven of its last eight games as they prepare for the Nashville Predators tonight (5 pm PT on Sportsnet) in the second of a six-game road trip.
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The team will do its best to avoid a collapse like last season, when the Canucks lost 12 times in 13 games from November 10 to December 4. Despite that “here we go again” feeling Canucks fans must be getting, there’s reason to believe this season is different.
Vancouver ranks fifth in even strength Corsi-for percentage (53%) and expected goals-for (53.1%) — both strong indicators of a team’s quality of play. It’s one of the reasons why head coach Travis Green has remained positive when speaking about his team’s play. They’re performing reasonably well despite the losses, though Tuesday’s game was certainly an exception.
While the advanced stats are in their favour, losing 6-1 in Dallas was a low point for the team, and Green isn’t taking it lightly.
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) November 21, 2019
Both Sven Baertschi and Loui Eriksson appear to be coming out of the lineup as healthy scratches for tonight’s game in Nashville. Utica Comets call ups Zack MacEwen and Tyler Graovac will draw in, as Green made a number of changes to his lines in practice, as shown here by The Athletic’s Thomas Drance:
#Canucks lines and pairs are in a blender at morning skate in Nashville.
Baertschi, Eriksson and Fantenberg appears to be extras. pic.twitter.com/ocx7BoYOkD
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) November 21, 2019
“I think we’ve gotten away from what gave us success at the beginning of the year,” Green told reporters at practice. The Canucks coach sounds like he wants more of a workmanlike attitude from his team, and he should at least get that from a pair of call ups hungry for an opportunity.
While Graovac will slide onto the fourth line, MacEwen appears to be getting an enormous opportunity with Bo Horvat and JT Miller. The 6-foot-4, 211-pound MacEwen has eight points (3-5-8) in 13 AHL games this season. This is the first NHL appearance of the season for the 23-year-old after drawing into four games last year.
The other major change is on the back end, where Troy Stecher looks like he’ll get an opportunity to play more minutes. The Richmond native doesn’t play on the power play or penalty kill regularly for Green, which is a reason why he’s averaged just 13:45 per game this season.
Stecher lines up with Alex Edler, a player who he has found success with in the past. The change gives the Canucks more balance in their defence pairings, which should mean more equal ice time. Edler is averaging 24:52 per night — the 11th-highest average ice time in the league — which is a lot to ask of the 33-year-old.
One place where the Canucks won’t make a change is in goal, where Jacob Markstrom gets an opportunity to bounce back after letting in six goals in Dallas.