Canucks Takeaways: First taste of adversity will be test for Vancouver

Ryan Johansen found the back of the net twice and Alex Georgiev stopped 24 shots as the Colorado Avalanche handed the Vancouver Canucks their third straight loss with a 3-1 victory.

The Vancouver Canucks got a response, but not a win. And now, with their first three-game losing streak of the National Hockey League season, they have something else: a little adversity.

Unlike their collapse the previous day in Minnesota, there was no shame in the Canucks’ road loss Tuesday to the Colorado Avalanche, who got two favourable bounces and an empty-net goal in their 3-1 win.

Playing the second game of their back-to-back in Denver’s mile-high altitude, against a formidable Stanley Cup contender that had won 12 of its previous 13 home games, the Canucks played the Avalanche even.

They took only three minor penalties — and the last of these was another head-shaker as Ian Cole’s “trip” with 3:33 remaining was an obvious dive by Ross Colton — led 1-0 on J.T. Miller’s first-period goal and generated some outstanding chances to tie the game in the third period.

But it’s professional sports; sometimes you play well and lose, something that hasn’t often happened to the Canucks this season. Most of their losses, like Monday’s 10-7 fiasco against the Wild, have been more about the Canucks than their opponents.

A good game against Colorado wasn’t quite good enough to win, and so Vancouver is on its first three-game slide this season. That, in itself, is a reflection of what a charmed year it has been for the Canucks, who were expected to be in the wild-card mosh pit but with 24 games remaining still lead the NHL.

There is, however, a strong possibility that losing streak will grow, as the Canucks’ three-and-a-half-day, three-game road trip ends Thursday against the speedy Seattle Kraken, whose recent road trip ended with wins in Boston and Long Island and who will have played one game in a week by the time the Canucks visit.

After that, the Canucks return home to play the Bruins, then get the Pittsburgh Penguins and resurgent Los Angeles Kings before embarking on another tough, three-game tour.

Really, this is the first adversity they’ve faced. And even then, we’re calling it adversity only because their season hasn’t presented them anything worse. They’re missing depth defenceman Carson Soucy and third-line power forward Dakota Joshua, but have had no injuries to their top players. Their five-on-five shooting percentage of 12 per cent is unprecedented since the NHL began tracking the statistic in 2009, and their PDO (shooting percentage and save percentage) of 104.5 will also be a new record if maintained.

There have been a series of bewildering calls against the Canucks the last four games, and it feels like all the bounces that were going for them for most of the season are now going the other way. On Tuesday, for instance, Ryan Johansen scored the first Avalanche goal when Jack Johnson’s errant point shot bounced to him off the end boards AND the back corner of the Canuck net. On Johansen’s second goal, which broke a 1-1 tie at 1:35 of the third period, Cole tried to block with his arm the Avalanche centre’s floater from the blue line but instead nicked it past Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko.

This week is an honest-to-goodness stress test for the Canucks, an examination of how they play under pressure and difficult circumstances. If this is not adversity, at least it will do until real adversity gets here.

“You can ask Colorado; if you want to go far (in the playoffs), you’re going to face it,” Canucks coach Rick Tocchet said before Tuesday’s game. “You don’t pick and choose adversity. Adversity can hit you at any time, and it can hit you 10 times worse at any time. It’s always good. I mean, who wants to play hockey games for nothing? We tasted that last year. We’re playing for something. So that should get you going and that should help you have scar tissue for that adversity that hits you.”

Tocchet promised, “The heat’s going to get hotter.”


Undrafted in both junior and professional hockey, Canuck prospect Arshdeep Bains had a commendable NHL debut in Denver where Tocchet, interestingly, deployed the winger from Surrey, B.C., on the third line alongside Teddy Blueger and Conor Garland.

The 23-year-old, signed as a free agent by the Canucks two years ago during Bains’ 112-point overage season in the Western Hockey League, set up a couple of excellent scoring chances for Blueger, led the Canucks with three hits and finished with two shots on goal during 13:21 of ice time. He also took a tripping penalty and was on the ice for Johansen’s goals.

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After being named the American Hockey League All-Star MVP, Bains was recalled last week while leading the Abbotsford Canucks with 39 points in 42 games.

“I think throughout my whole life, I kind of just try to put my foot in the door every level I get to,” Bains told Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy before the game. “It’s no different here. It’s been a heck of a journey so far, and I’m pretty excited to see where it goes.

“I think it’s every kid’s dream to play for their hometown team.”


Vancouver’s best opportunities to tie the game came in the first half of the third period. Colorado goalie Alexandar Georgiev stopped Blueger from the low slot about 4 ½ minutes in, then later somehow saved Nils Hoglander’s point-blank followup shot while facing the wrong way (channelling Dominik Hasek) after Avalanche defenceman Samuel Girard saved an initial goal by getting his stick on the puck behind Georgiev before Elias Lindholm could sweep it into the open net.

A minute after that, a wild scramble in front of Georgiev continued without a whistle until the puck broke for the Canucks and an open look for defenceman Filip Hronek, who had a lot of net to shoot at but chose to wind up for a slapper and had it blocked by Artturi Lehkonen.

Vancouver also went on the power play with 6:39 remaining. Despite constant zone time, the Canucks managed only a single shot on goal by Elias Pettersson as the power play operated from the perimeter instead of attacking the Avalanche net.


Coming up on three weeks since his trade from the Calgary Flames, centre Elias Lindholm is still a player in transition for the Canucks. He has won 57.8 per cent of his faceoffs in nine games since joining the Canucks, and Lindholm has helped the penalty kill. But he’s still struggling to find his A-game at five-on-five, where high-danger scoring chances are 28-16 against the Canucks with the former Selke Trophy finalist on the ice.

In Denver, Lindholm was one of only two Vancouver forwards who failed to register a shot, and his expected goals-for was 34 per cent.


Rick Tocchet: “I thought we played a good game. We had a bunch of chances; we just didn’t put them in. It was a well-played game. It’s one of those things where we just couldn’t score to get the equalizer. I thought we deserved better, but they made the plays at the end.”

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