ANAHEIM, Calif. – Ring! Ring! Hello, Vancouver Canucks. This is your wake-up call. The weather today is unsettled with a likelihood of heavy rain the way you are playing.
"At the end of the day, we deserved what came to us tonight," Canucks defenceman Erik Gudbranson said after Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. "We got absolutely worked for 60 minutes in all areas of the game. If that’s not a wake-up call, I don’t know what is."
When the Canucks bolted from the bottom of the National Hockey League standings at the end of last season to a 6-3-2 record at the end of the first month of this one, it seemed inevitable that a market correction was coming.
The Canucks have been outshot their last four games but won a couple of them because of goaltending. There was nothing, however, Jacob Markstrom could do against the Ducks given the lifeless, careless play in front of him by his team.
Missing impact centres Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf, the Ducks dominated the Canucks for 41 minutes and coasted to an easy win that moved Anaheim within a point of Vancouver in the Pacific Division.
Any illusions that the Canucks are still playing the way they did in October were shattered Thursday as the Ducks outshot Vancouver 35-20, generated three goals with their 30th-ranked power play, and deprived their own goalies a shutout only because Anaheim defenceman Kevin Bieksa set up Canuck Sven Baertschi in front of his own net.
The only bad news for the Ducks is that former Canucks goalie Ryan Miller left the game with an undisclosed injury late in the game. Anaheim starter John Gibson was unable to back up after getting beaned in the head by a shot on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings.
The Ducks, however, are accustomed to playing with key players injured.
The Canucks are becoming accustomed to being outplayed in November.
They beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 Saturday at home despite being outshot 39-21. Their only other win in five November games, 5-3 Tuesday in Calgary when the Canucks were outshot 32-21, also came because of superior goaltending.
"It’s turnovers, it’s lazy changes, it’s making mistakes," Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said of the November drop-off in performance. "It’s a lot of little things. This is a league where if you do the right things over and over again, you’re going to win a lot of games. But if you don’t do that, you’re going to be lucky to win a couple of games if the goalie stands on his head or you have a good power play or the PK plays well. Sooner or later, it’s going to catch up to you and that’s what we saw today.
"It’s been a game coming for us. I don’t think we’ve been playing well for three or four games at least. Marky’s been playing well for us, but it might have been good for us to see what happens when we keep playing like we have."
The Canucks practise in San Jose before playing the Sharks on Saturday. Their important Pacific Division road trip ends Tuesday against the first-place Los Angeles Kings.
The Canucks need to find some energy somewhere along the way because they looked like a tired, sloppy team against the Ducks. And the most alarming aspect of that is the heavy-lifting in their arduous November schedule — and thousands of miles of travel – are still ahead of them.
They are only two games into a 12-game stretch that sees the Canucks play 10 times on the road and 11 times after a flight.
"We’re not making the plays that are there right now," Baertschi said. "Not sharp. We’re missing opportunities to get out of our own zone. That takes every single guy out there. We’re just spending too much time in our own zone right now."
Are they already tired?
"I hope not," Baertschi said. "We’re 15, 16 games in. I don’t think we’re tired. But for us, I don’t think we were mentally sharp today. We weren’t competing as well. We’ve got some big tests coming up; we’re going to be spending a lot of time on the road. We don’t want to carry around that bad feeling of losing."
Fear of something probably isn’t a bad thing for a Canucks team that sailed through an October that was better than anyone expected.
But the NHL season is like a distance race where the pace and intensity increase by the lap. The Canucks have lost the element of surprise. Opponents are ready for them.
They wouldn’t have beaten anyone Thursday the way they defended. Ducks forward Jacob Silfverberg’s goals 35 seconds apart in the third period illustrated the Canucks’ futility in their own zone.
He made it 3-1 when penalty-killers Derek Dorsett and Gudbranson backed away from him in the low slot after Anaheim’s Rickard Rackell beat Brandon Sutter and Alex Edler off the side boards. The Ducks’ "power-play" goal essentially was scored two-against-four.
At 1:05, Silferberg stood untouched and unimpeded between Canucks defenemen Michael Del Zotto and Derrick Pouliot as he chipped in a rebound from the top of the crease.
The Canucks were an easy team to play against on Thursday. They’ve been getting easier to play against by the game.