Goaltending, structure under the microscope as Canucks continue to leak goals

Canucks have surrendered an NHL-high 36 goals while suffering regulation losses in 6 of last 7 games

Anders Nilsson says there isn’t a quick fix for the Vancouver Canucks and their leaky defence.

After an unexpectedly bright 14-10-4 start to the season, the Canucks have surrendered an NHL-high 36 goals while suffering regulation losses in six of their last seven games.

“Everyone, including me and the whole team, hasn’t played at their best level these last few weeks,” said Nilsson, who allowed six goals in Tuesday’s 7-5 home loss to the Montreal Canadiens. ”Everyone needs to step up. Me personally, I know I can play better. I know I need to play better.

“There’s no shortcuts.”

It’s been ugly at times, with defeats of 7-1, 6-1, 5-1 and that 7-5 setback — games where Vancouver’s goalies have often been scrambling in the crease or stretching in futile attempts to stop a wide-open opponent as the club’s defensive structure that’s been hampered by a number of key injuries collapses around them.

“We haven’t managed the puck as well … given up some odd-man rushes, some backdoor plays,” said Canucks first-year head coach Travis Green. ”It’s hard for goalies when you’re giving up east-west, grade ‘A’ chances. Those are tough saves to make.

“For the most part when our goalies have good sight lines and see the puck, they’ve done a good job saving it.”

The netminders are far from innocent victims, with both Nilsson and Jacob Markstrom guilty of soft goals at key times, but Green has been loath to point a finger in their direction.

“If you’re trying to get me to pin this on goaltending, I’m not going to do that,” Green said Wednesday. ”Our goalies are not going to sit there and say they’ve been standing on their head.

“They’re going to sit there and say, ‘We need to play a little better.’”

Heading into Wednesday’s action, Vancouver had surrendered at least eight more goals than any other team since Dec. 7, with the Canucks’ 5-on-5 save percentage sitting at a league-worst .876 over that span.

Since the Canucks beat the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 5, Nilsson’s 5-on-5 save percentage stands at .891 in his four appearances, including three starts, while Markstrom’s sits at .848 in his four starts.

Among goalies across the league with at least 13 appearances, Markstrom ranks 27th with an overall save percentage of .907, while Nilsson is 30th at .905.

Nilsson said it’s not a coincidence the Canucks, who visit the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, and their goalies both find themselves in a funk at the same time.

“Everything is connected,” said the Swede. ”At the beginning of the year we played really good as a team structurally, and both me an Marky were playing really good. The team has been struggling a little bit, and both me and Markstrom have been struggling a little bit, too.

“If the team plays good, usually the goalie plays good. If the goalie has a shutout, it’s not just because of the goalie — it’s because the whole team has been playing good in front of us.”

There’s no doubt injuries have played a factor in the deluge of goals the Canucks have surrendered.

No. 1 centre Bo Horvat’s broken foot has coincided with the slide, while checking centre Brandon Sutter (upper body) and top-pair defenceman Christopher Tanev (groin) are also on the sidelines.

Asked if there needs to be tweaks or changes to the Canucks’ structure with so many key pieces out — perhaps pulling back on Green’s aggressive system that encourages defenceman to jump up in the play — captain Henrik Sedin instead doubled down on what made the club successful early on this season.

“We’re not being as aggressive as we need to be,” he said. ”When we play at our best, we’re on our toes, our forecheck is really good. When we have that in our game it’s like everything falls into place. Right now we’re in between a lot of times, and we’re not skating hard enough to get in on the forecheck.

“It’s easy sometimes to look at what happens in our end, but it starts in their end with a good forecheck. That needs to be our focus.”

Notes: Vancouver re-assigned forward Michael Chaput to the AHL’s Utica Comets on Wednesday. … Green wouldn’t say whether or not defenceman Ben Hutton, who was a healthy scratch against Montreal, would draw back into the lineup in San Jose. Vancouver’s only victory in last seven games was Friday’s 4-3 overtime win against the Sharks.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Donated sculpture in Sidney’s Beacon Park a testament to perseverance

Victoria artist Armando Barbon picked up sculpting 22 years ago

Greater Victoria businesses come together to help Island kids

Langford Lowe’s raises funds for youth mental health all month

Sidney builds community resilience through neighbourhood gatherings

Meet Your Street needs residents to create gatherings, safe interactions

‘Each step is a prayer’: Ojibwe man will walk from Hope to Saanich for Indigenous healing, reconciliation

James Taylor departs Sept. 20, returns to Saanich in five days for sacred fire

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Comox Valley protesters send message over old-growth logging

Event in downtown Courtenay was part of wider event on Friday

Application deadline for fish harvester benefits program extended

Those financially impacted by the pandemic have until Oct. 5 to apply

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Most Read