It’s not their fault. Miles from it. Yet, as always, they stand before the microphones, lights and cameras and own it.
The four shutouts in five games, the seven-game losing skid, the league-worst offence, the pucks that bounce along the opposing goal-lines but refuse to trickle Vancouver’s way — they carry it all. They spin it positive, they dig for a bright side, and they play through the pain.
“It’s heavily on our minds. It’s been that way throughout our careers. We think about it before every game: We know we’re going to have to score goals,” says Henrik. “It’s something you think about all day, every day.
“When you’re away from the rink you try to think of other things, but… we take a lot pride in scoring. If we’re not scoring, we don’t want to put pressure on anyone else to score.”
The Canucks captain and 2010 Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner leads the club in points (five), and brother Daniel is one behind. But when ownership is dreaming playoffs and you’re the franchise players with the offensive-zone starts and cushy power-play time, the pressure hits you hardest.
“Our line needs to step up. Me and Hank. That’s what we’re here to do. That’s on us,” says Daniel. “Look nowhere else. It’s up to us to get things going.”
It’s admirable, the Sedins’ proprietorship of Vancouver’s ineptitude, especially when they say all of this sincerely without a trace of woe-is-me.
Certainly it’s not the twins’ fault that their employer failed to fill out the rest of the top six with finishers, that marquee free-agent signing Loui Eriksson is goal-free in 11 games, or that ownership is reluctant to embrace the type of rebuild that has fans buzzing about the future of Canada’s other sub-par rosters, the ones in Winnipeg, Calgary and Toronto.
“That’s a fun team to follow,” Daniel says of the Maple Leafs, whose kids get the Canucks at the visitors’ low point on Hockey Night in Canada Saturday.
How anti-fun is Vancouver’s offence right now? There is a bigger discrepancy between the Canucks’ 1.45 goals per game and the second-worst NHL offence (Los Angeles) than between any other two adjacent teams on the list.
Vancouver ranks 29th in shots on net with 26.7 per game, is converting an NHL-worst 5.4 per cent of those shots, and its version of a power play converts just 8.6 per cent of the time (only Boston, the team Eriksson left, is as ineffective).
Here’s the silver lining, of which the Sedins are well aware. Vancouver sits middle of the pack in save percentage (.910) and its team defence (2.45 goals per game, eighth best) has improved dramatically from last season (2.91, 23rd best).
“Honestly, I’d rather be in these tight, low-scoring games than us losing 5-2 or just going out there looking for offence,” Daniel explains. “Usually when you go through these [losing] stretches, you’re not playing well. But I think we are playing well and creating enough to score some goals.
“That’s the frustrating part. We could’ve easily won a few of these games.”
Henrik would hate to see the bottom six try to open up offensively in order to bust the slump. “If we’re to lose,” he says, “this is the way to lose.”
Statistically, the Canucks have the second-worst luck in the league. Their .965 PDO mark, which combines shooting percentage with save percentage, places them better than only the bad-break Kings.
Coach Willie Desjardins — unfairly the subject of early hot-seat chatter — says he counted 35 quality scoring chances in the last two blank sheets in Montreal and Ottawa. Typically, one of out every five chances finds its way in. Now Vancouver is dealing with injuries to two of its best defencemen: Alex Edler (day to day) and Chris Tanev (longer than that).
“It’s never just bad luck,” Desjardins says. “You’ve got to take ownership of the game. We talk about making it happen; don’t hope it happens. We’re not scoring, so we’ve got to make that happen.”
Eriksson, hired for six years and $36 million, needs to make it happen — but he’s traditionally a slow starter in a new setting. First year in Dallas: six goals. Third year in Dallas: 36 goals. First year in Boston: 10 goals. Third year in Boston: 30 goals.
Busy at home, Eriksson tells me his four children (all under eight years old) are navigating a new school and trying to make new friends. He admits there’s been a tough adjustment coming to Vancouver. Is the hefty contract weighing on him?
“There’s always pressure. It doesn’t matter what you do,” Eriksson says. “I need to step it up here. Be more hungry in front of the net and score goals.
“I just need more patience and try to hit the net better. I know it’s going to come. I’ve scored goals before.”
Yep. Thirty just last year. Still, the Sedins have the back of their teammate and countryman because of course they do.
“You can’t tell [he’s frustrated],” Henrik says. “I’m sure he is deep inside, but he comes in positive. He’s a quiet guy, but he’s positive around the room. There’s no pouting.”
Even as the numbers dip, the big-money signing struggles, the losses mount, and attendance in Vancouver has dropped since a disappointing 2015-16 season (by roughly 200 fans a night), the Sedins advertise optimism.
“We’re putting more and more pressure on ourselves, and that’s probably not doing us any favours. This is a league where you’ve got to perform,” says Jannik Hansen, who has replaced Eriksson on the Sedins’ top line.
“We need something to shake the ketchup bottle. Hopefully it’ll come.”