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

Four air ambulance flights out of Terrace delayed or cancelled

Pandemic precautions caused nighttime closure of service station providing weather data to pilots

Skeena Resources, Tahltan prez excited by purchase of Eskay Creek

Skeena gets full control of mine, Barrick gets 12 per cent of Skeena and a one per cent royalty

VIA Rail lays off 1,000 unionized workers across the country

Northern B.C. route Jasper to Prince George to Prince Rupert is not affected by VIA Rail layoffs

Overall house sales drop in the northwest

COVID-19 pandemic slowed market activity

B.C. orders Coastal GasLink to stop pipeline construction near protected wetlands

The 670-kilometre pipeline is planned to transport natural gas from northeast B.C. to Kitimat

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

BREAKING: Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

Northern B.C. First Nations call for reversal of grizzly bear hunting ban

Growing grizzly populations have led to fewer ungulates and increased fear of attacks says Chad Day

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

‘Made in the Cowichan Valley’ coming to a wine bottle near you

Cowichan Valley has the honour of being the first sub-GI outside of the Okanagan

Most Read