Canucks’ adversity growing and becoming menacing after winless road trip

Jared McCann had a big four-point night and Jordan Eberle scored twice as the Seattle Kraken handled the Vancouver Canucks 5-2.

SEATTLE – Running towards hot after his team lost its fourth straight game, Vancouver Canucks coach Rick Tocchet tried to restrain himself post-game and told reporters he wasn’t going to say a lot.

And then he said a lot – both with his words and body language with what was left unsaid.

Cruising along atop the National Hockey League for much of this charmed season, the Canucks completed an 0-3 road trip Thursday with a dispiriting 5-2 loss to the Seattle Kraken.

It was their 10th game in 17 days since the all-star break, and their ninth different arena across four time zones. The Canucks have won 37 games this season, but the way they played here – and with the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles waiting for them on a three-game homestand that starts Saturday – it’s hard to project when Vancouver will win again.

“You know me, sometimes I have a lot to say,” Tocchet said as he emerged from the visitors dressing room at Climate Pledge Arena. “I don’t have much to say. Not much compete from the guys. That’s on me; I’ve got to take the blame for that. I didn’t get the guys to compete hard enough, so I’ll take the heat on this one. There was a lot of no-shows tonight.

“I thought the first 10 (minutes), I thought we were fine. Then all of a sudden, it was a comedy or errors where guys were missing pucks and things like that. We don’t get the clear on the PK and then it just started to unravel. We had some guys trying but some guys just had a tough time tonight.”

Tocchet added later: “I mean, this is not even close to playoff hockey. (The Kraken) were desperate, but if these guys think playoff hockey is that, we’re in trouble. There’s been a couple of games here where we need some guys to get going. I don’t care what our record is; it’s been a little bit disturbing some of the efforts from some of the guys right now.”

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And then he emphasized “right now” because just over a week ago, despite some cracks in their veneer, the Canucks came off a five-game road trip at 3-1-1, then beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 at Rogers Arena.

Since then, they’ve lost to Winnipeg, Minnesota, Colorado and Seattle by a combined score of 22-12. In the first three of those games, the Canucks started the third period tied or leading. Even Thursday, they were tied 2-2 late in the second period before surrendering an unlucky goal to Justin Schultz and an atrocious one to Jordan Eberle, a lone Kraken freed among a sea of Canucks, who not only had an open shot from the low slot but collected his rebound to score as Vancouver players stood and watched.

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“We’ve had a really long stretch of things going very well for us this year,” veteran Canuck defenceman Tyler Myers said. “And when you’re going through that, it feels like nothing can go wrong. You have that feeling of being unstoppable. But when it flips, it’s that same feeling the other way.

“You have to remember that feeling you had when things were going well. You can’t dwell on things going bad. It seems like because we’ve had a tough few games here when something bad happens in the middle of the game, we’re worried it’s going to happen again. We’ve just got to keep pushing as a group, come together and get out of it. This is a stretch of adversity for us. I really do think it will help us in the long run, but we also need to come together as a group, figure it out and stop it as fast as we can.”

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It was supposed to stop in Seattle, but got worse. The “little adversity” is growing and becoming menacing.

Tocchet said after the morning skate that he can find out as much about his players from losing as when they win – which was until last Saturday.

“We’ve had some fortunate stuff this year, whether it’s good bounces or whatever,” Tocchet said as he walked to the bus after the morning skate. “Now, bounces aren’t going our way, we’ve got some calls going against us. That’s how I’m really testing this team — the resolve, and being able to make plays and stay in your structure under pressure. That’s really what it comes down to. Do you come into games excited to be in those situations or are you going to freeze? Are you just going to dump the puck in or don’t you want the puck? I think this is a big test for this club the next week or two.”

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By the time the Canucks finish their homestand next Thursday, they will have played 13 games in 24 days.

They are still tied with the Bruins, who visit Saturday, atop the NHL standings on points. But Vancouver has slipped to fourth on winning percentage. Their power-play is in a 1-for-28 hibernation and their penalty killing yielded two more goals Thursday, albeit one just after the Seattle power play ended.

They were outscored 5-1 on special teams on the road trip, which was packed into three-and-a-half days.

“We called this that it would be a tough stretch, but you can’t give into fatigue,” Tocchet said. “You can’t. You’ve got to play smarter. Just play smart and compete. It’s not Xs and Os. They came up with loose pucks and we didn’t. I mean, you guys saw it. There’s nothing for me to analyze. There’s nothing really to say.”

Too late.

“You can make the argument that Boston didn’t face any adversity last year in their historic season, and then they certainly faced it in the playoffs,” defenceman Ian Cole said before the game, referring to the Bruins’ 135-point season and first-round exit last spring. “Adversity is inevitable in the playoffs. And for us to be able to work through this… I think is going to be beneficial for us in the long run.

“So far, the season has been great. A little adversity is not a bad thing. When the playoffs come and… the sh– starts to hit the fan, hopefully we can feel, like ‘OK, we’ve been here and this is how we worked out way through it.’”


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