Make that three straight regulation losses. And counting.
The Vancouver Canucks ran into the buzz saw that is the Winnipeg Jets on Monday. Unfortunately, they did so while figuratively strapped to a piece of timber that was split into a lot of little pieces by National Hockey League’s highest-scoring home team.
The Jets won easily, 5-1, to extend their home streak to 10-0-1. They have buried opponents in goals – 56 of them in those 11 games – while scoring like the 1980s Edmonton Oilers. Pokey Reddick could still play goal for the Jets with that kind of run support.
The Canucks never had a chance. OK, the Canucks had one chance: super rookie Brock Boeser could have scored five times to get Vancouver to overtime and win a million bucks for a viewer on Sportsnet. Boeser, alas, could only produce one goal, which was one more than the rest of the roster contributed.
As we said after Saturday’s blown lead and 4-2 loss to the Calgary Flames, things are going to get worse for the Canucks. And that was before we learned before that first-line winger Sven Baertschi (broken jaw) had followed first-line centre Bo Horvat (broken foot) out of the lineup for up to the next six weeks.
The Canucks open a four-game homestand Wednesday against the powerful Nashville Predators, who will have been off since Friday. Hey, maybe they’ll be stale or hungover.
For the Canucks to beat anyone in the next couple of weeks, they’ll need two things: exceptional goaltending and near flawless execution. They had neither against the Jets.
Vancouver starter Jacob Markstrom surrendered a ghastly goal to Dmitry Kulikov just 88 seconds into the game and ended his night by passing into the slot from behind his net to set up a gimme that was credited to the Jets’ Mathieu Perreault.
Perreault scored the winning goal at 4:55 of the second period after Michael Chaput’s unforced turnover while shorthanded, which followed Sam Gagner’s offensive-zone holding penalty.
There is no margin for error these days for the Canucks, and they made a bunch of mistakes against the Jets to undermine the good things they did.
Here are some takeaways from the game.
BETTER, BOESER, BEST
The most satisfying moment (by far) for the Canucks was seeing Calder Trophy candidate and boy wonder Boeser skate out for the second period after getting drilled in the leg by Blake Wheeler’s shot late in the first. They may as well close Rogers Arena for the next while if Boeser suffers a serious injury.
At 6:53 of the first period, Boeser had used his goal-scorer’s instincts and world-class release to tie the game 1-1 with a wrist shot from the slot after excellent play by linemates Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
It was the rookie’s 16th goal in 28 games this season. Last year, Winnipeg rookie Patrik Laine was drawing comparisons to Mike Bossy by the time he scored his 16th goal in his 27th NHL game. Laine had 23 points at that stage and had already endured a four-game pointless streak twice.
Boeser has 28 points in his 28 games and, remarkably, hasn’t gone more than two without getting on the scoresheet.
We’re not saying Boeser is better than Laine, but considering the teams and the talent around each player, we’re saying Boeser’s rookie season has started even better than Laine’s.
We must admit we were wrong (so far) about those pre-season contract extensions for Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. Viewed from afar, the Jets underperformed the last two seasons and re-upping the GM and, especially, the coach with a dismal record of making the playoffs, was only going to entrench mediocrity.
But the Jets are now 18-8-5 with a goal differential of plus-20. They have a good defence behind all that firepower and goalie Connor Hellebuyck has been excellent.
The Jets look as good this year as the Edmonton Oilers did last year.
When the Canucks announced last week Horvat’s broken foot would keep him out of the lineup up to six weeks, there could have been three days of official mourning on the West Coast.
Word that Baertschi, his regular linemate, will now miss 4-6 weeks after suffering a broken jaw on Saturday was seen as just more bad news. It didn’t generate the same visceral dread for the Canucks’ short-term future as Horvat’s injury.
It may surprise some people that despite slumping into his injury, Baertschi’s 18 points are only two fewer than Horvat’s total.
We all understand how important Horvat is on the penalty kill and faceoffs and in head-to-head matchups against the opposition’s top lines and best centres, but from a purely offensive standpoint, losing Baertschi is nearly as damaging to the Canucks as losing Horvat.
WHERE ART THOU GOLDY?
Maybe Green was hoping for an inspired night from Burmistrov, who spent most of his NHL career with the Jets before getting waived last January. Maybe Green wanted another centre in the lineup so Gagner, badly beaten on the Flames’ winning goal in Calgary, could go back to the wing.
With Baertschi and Horvat missing from the attack, the only way to win in Winnipeg was for the Canucks to grind through a 2-1 game, and Green knows Goldobin, for all his scoring potential, is still learning to play on the defensive side of the puck.
Or maybe Green was just bored and figured he’d go trolling social media by scratching Goldobin, a move guaranteed to enrage the segment of the Canucks’ highly-excitable market who think anyone under 23 should be played ahead of everyone over 27.
But, really, nothing Green could say, except Goldobin awaiting an organ transplant, would satisfactorily explain why under desperate offensive circumstances he would choose a player who is on his third team in a year and clinging to NHL employment, over a promising prospect who has scored four times in 16 games of limited ice time for the Canucks.
It looks like Green just overthought things and played the wrong Russian. Because, really, we’re sure Goldobin would have scored a hat trick to make it close against the Jets.
By the way, Burmistrov led the Canucks with an even-strength Corsi of 73.7 per cent.