Friday, November 11, 2005

Concerned but calm at GM place

A three game skid, normally in Vancouver that's cause to trade the team on the Vancouver talk shows. But strangely, so far anyways, there's no wild trade Naslund/Bertuzzi/Cloutier rumour making the rounds of the over excited radio listeners of British Columbia.

That doesn't mean that people haven't noticed that the last few games, have not been much in the way of gems. The Canucks have gone into a mini slump, lethargic on the ice and empty on the scoresheets. Costly mistakes, giveaways and untimely penalties have all contributed to the recent decline of the Canuck play. Things that coach Marc Crawford will be spending more than a little time with in practice trying to turn around.

The latest worrisome sign, was a total lack of focus in the first period of Thursday's game against the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs had a four goal lead before the game was fourteen minutes old. With the Canucks giving away so many points, so early on, the game was probably lost before the first intermission. The final score of 5-3 no way indicative of the control of play that Colorado exhibited in that first period of play. The last time the Avs and Canucks matched up, Todd Bertuzzi was under siege by journalists and gave a simple answer of "it is, what it is". Had he used that term for the first period on Thursday night, the it would have been translated as ugly.

The whole evening was not a lost cause, the Canucks did manage to battle their way back to at least keeping the game close, at some points giving the Avs the impression that a full takeover of the play was possible. But as the game wound down, costly mistakes would return the advantage to Colorado for good.

There isn't any panic yet in Vancouver, despite the losing skid, this is a rather talented squad that once it gets untracked will be back to filling the net regularly. Even with three games lost in a row, the Canucks still rule the northwest division, though that gap has narrowed to 2 points in the last three games. The power play needs to improve, its presently rated as 19th in the NHL and penalty killing also is a concern as the Canucks are currently ranked as the 18th most effective in the league. Championship teams don't generally live in the middle of the pack, so work needs to be done quickly on those two special team requirements. Add to that the mental errors they make and the penalty problems they find themselves in nightly, and Crawford has some work to do.

He'll try and get them back on track again on Saturday night, that's when the Detroit Red Wings come to town. They'll provide a pretty effective snap test for Crawford's students, one hopes they've been studying hard these last two days.

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