If you’re the Flames and Oilers, that’s what you’d expect from your best players. The Canucks need more from their best after Vancouver was shut out 3-0 Saturday by the Flames to fall to 0-2 for the National Hockey League season.
In two games, Vancouver’s first line of Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Micheal Ferlund doesn’t have a goal. Through 40 minutes on Saturday, they’d combined for three shots. Bo Horvat’s second line generated one goal in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Oilers.
With several new players this season, most of them offensive-drivers to some degree, scoring was not expected to be the problem that it has been in recent years for the Canucks. But they’ve got two goals in two hours and the rebuilt, rebalanced power play is 0-for-10.
“We had way too many opportunities tonight not to capitalize,” Horvat said after the Canucks’ 18-shot third period that included a passive, failed 61-second five-on-three power play. “Their goaltender makes great saves, but us getting in his eyes a little bit more (would help), maybe moving the puck a little quicker to try to get around their players.
“You count on your top guys, you count on your goal-scorers, to produce for you. The last two games, their gunners have been. We’ve got to find ways to do that ourselves.”
Gaudreau scored an empty-netter for the Flames after setting up the first two goals at even-strength for linemates Elias Lindholm and Monahan.
By contrast, the Canucks managed only three shots on net during Pettersson’s 14:25 of five-on-five ice time.
“Obviously, we haven’t been good at all,” Ferland said of the struggling top line. “I don’t know, we need to be better. We haven’t been good the last two games. It’s frustrating. I need to be better myself. I need to be hard on the forecheck. I thought we had a good first period. I thought we were making plays. But… second period, we had a couple of penalties and momentum shifted a bit and it was tough after that.”
Pettersson, Boeser and Ferland — signed in July by the Canucks specifically to play alongside Vancouver’s two brightest young stars — are trying to catch up to everyone else after their disjointed pre-season.
Boeser missed training camp without a contract and was restricted by a concussion to just two pre-season games. Ferland also played just two warm-up games due to a viral infection. None of their games overlapped.
“Ferland got sick and Brock got a concussion,” Pettersson said Saturday. “But it’s hockey, and we’ve just got to deal with it. The first two games haven’t been good for us. We’ve got to be better. We can’t hide here — we’ve got to be better.”
“Obviously, (Ferland) is a new guy, (but) we know our systems,” Boeser said. “Pre-season, it’s nice if you get to play some games with your linemates and build that chemistry. We’ve only played six periods… so far. We’re still learning as a line.”
Fortunately, the Canucks have practice time in their favour. After two games in four nights in Alberta, they play just two home games in the next nine days.
“I liked (our power play) but I don’t like that we haven’t scored,” coach Travis Green said. “I thought we’ve had some good looks, but you’ve still got to get results.”
Asked about Pettersson’s line, Green said: “I think their shift length for starters is a little long. It causes them to play at the end of their shifts a little bit tired. When you’re tired, sometimes you’re not as good with the puck. They’re trying to find some chemistry — they haven’t played together a lot. I’m not too worried about it, though. They’re going to be fine.”
A day after Green explained to reporters that almost every scoring chance is due to someone’s mistake, Vancouver’s errors were not hard to trace as the Flames went up 2-0 in the first 21 minutes.
With the game scoreless and the Canucks mostly carrying play, defenceman Tyler Myers bobbled and hesitated with the puck long enough that time and space evaporated and his pass across the defensive zone was slowed by Gaudreau’s stick. Lindholm was first to the wounded puck and rattled it through Canuck goalie Jacob Markstrom to make it 1-0 at 13:50 of the first period.
Needing a good start to the second, the Canucks instead got penned in their own zone. Chris Tanev’s clearance went straight to Flames defenceman Mark Giordano. And when Tanev followed the puck to the point because no one else was closing down Giordano, the veteran defenceman was beaten back to the slot by Monahan, who converted Gaudreau’s centring pass at 1:10.
The Canucks, so quick and lively for most of the loss in Edmonton, then seemed to be skating in tile grout the rest of the middle period.
They struggled to generate shots, let alone scoring chances, and their power play failed on two chances to get Vancouver out of jail. A pair of obvious too-many-men penalties by the Canucks were indicative of their sloppiness.
The Canucks outshot the Flames 18-6 in the final period but couldn’t get a puck past Calgary goalie David Rittich. Markstrom was the second-best goalie again.