OK, so Brock Boeser isn’t going to win the Calder Trophy. Maybe he should be considered for the Hart.
In four games since Boeser’s season ended with a fracture in his lower back last week against the New York Islanders, the Vancouver Canucks are 0-4 and have been outscored 11-3. Half of those losses are against the Arizona Coyotes.
The Canucks actually played about as well as they could Monday against the Los Angeles Kings, but Vancouver couldn’t get any of its 35 shots past goalie Jonathan Quick and the Canucks’ goalless streak stretched to 152 minutes and nine seconds.
Without Boeser, the attack just isn’t dangerous. And now, as is often the case in these situations, the problem is becoming as much about confidence as ability.
Daniel Sedin hit the post in the second period with Quick badly beaten and a lot of net showing, and Sam Gagner missed an open net – albeit from a slightly sharp angle, but with the puck on his forehand – when set up by Brandon Sutter.
The Canucks’ annual death trudge isn’t likely to get any cheerier when the team ends its three-games-in-four-days road trip Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks. And Boeser will still be missing.
Yes, it’s an oversimplification – we in the media are fond of those – but when six-foot-six Canucks goalie Anders Nilsson plays to his size, he is difficult to beat. When he shrinks, pucks pour past him. It’s a matter of physics (we think).
After starter Jacob Markstrom was beaten 1-0 Sunday in Arizona, Nilsson got the chance to play in L.A. He made some excellent saves and was not the reason the Canucks’ lost.
But when Tyler Toffoli made it 1-0 on a second-period breakaway with Ben Hutton caught, Nilsson was as low to the ground as a catcher fielding a pitch in the dirt. When Tanner Pearson made it 3-0 in the third – Hutton turnover, Pearson free behind him – Nilsson lunged forward and down as the King patiently cut across the top of the crease and waited for the goalie to disappear.
Nilsson has lost 13 of 14 starts since November and, yes, you read that correctly. His save percentage for the season is .901. It’s clear to everyone that the Canucks can’t come back next season with the same two goalies. Markstrom still has to prove he can start in the NHL, and Nilsson has to prove again he can play in it.
THE WAIT IN GOLDIE
Well, that’s another game Nikolay Goldobin will never get back. Of all the Canucks floundering down the stretch, no forward looks as lost as Goldobin, who is just about out of time to prove he belongs in the NHL. At least with Vancouver.
It’s not only that a bunch of prospects have either passed him or look likely to do so, it’s that Goldobin has failed utterly to demonstrate at this level what are supposed to be his strengths: puck skills, creativity, finish.
A healthy scratch last Friday against Minnesota, Goldobin on Monday logged his 49th NHL game – his 38th in just over a year since the Canucks acquired him from the San Jose Sharks for Jannik Hansen. He has eight goals and four assists in these 49 games. And just 55 shots on goal. To be fair, his three shots against the Kings matched his season-high – and tripled his output from the previous two games.
It’s not Goldobin’s deficiencies away from the puck that are going to sink him but his failed offensive game. Since his last recall from minor-league Utica a month ago, Goldobin has had chances to show what he can do playing mostly with Henrik Sedin or Bo Horvat. He has two goals and one assist in his 12 games, and been held shotless three times.
He’s not a threat to score. Nor stick with the Canucks after this season.
SEDINS FADING AWAY
None of the last three months has gone the way the Canucks planned. Injuries in December crushed their season, but even when they were healthy again (briefly) it was obvious the mojo and sharpness from their 14-10-4 start were gone. Then more injuries, much more losing, and another garbage-time March when the only ramifications of Vancouver’s team performance are its lottery odds.
This is a desolate landscape Daniel and Henrik Sedin never thought they’d see again. Many things about twins are underrated, and their raw competitiveness is among them. Losing eats away at them like acid, and the last five weeks seem to have hollowed them considerably even though they had been scoring.
It is naïve to think something as basic as winning and losing won’t be a factor when they decide whether to retire after this season.
But not all developments lately are bad for the Canucks.
Five weeks ago, Darren Archibald was just a mid-career guy on a minor-league contract. And three weeks ago, Brendan Leipsic was a name far down the Vegas Golden Knights’ depth chart. Both these players have excelled for the Canucks and must, at this point, be projected into their lineup next fall.
That’s good news. But it, like the losing, could also dissuade the Sedins from returning. The twins have always been keenly aware that at some point they could represent a road block to younger players. They don’t want to be in the way. Their stock answer has always been that they’d have no trouble stepping aside as long the players’ replacing them “earn it.”
The Sedins’ retirement looks a lot more likely now than even a month ago, when they told general manager Jim Benning they’d let him know after the season if they wanted to keep playing.