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Amidst Canucks' Hall of Fame inductions, rumours swirl, team keeps losing

November 15, 2022, 7:37 PM ET [604 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Sunday November 13 - Boston Bruins 5 - Vancouver Canucks 2

Tuesday November 15 - Vancouver Canucks at Buffalo Sabres - 4 p.m. PT - Sportsnet Pacific

One of the proudest moments in Vancouver Canucks history played out against a backdrop of present-day turmoil on Monday night.

On the same day that Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Roberto Luongo were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Elliotte Friedman was reporting on Monday's '32 Thoughts' podcast that it's only a matter of time until Bruce Boudreau's tenure with the team comes to an end — but that the move couldn't come right away because of Monday night's induction ceremony.

What a mess. I dislike the offhand use of the term 'lame duck' to describe a coach who's in the last year of his contract because it infers that his relationship with the team is on shaky ground, which certainly isn't always the case. I do, however, think that term fits when reports of an imminent firing are out in the public sphere. How is Boudreau supposed to effectively do his job, and how are players supposed to commit to their coach's messaging, when they all know that everything could be different tomorrow?

That's not fair to anybody. And I feel like this fence-sitting could be part of the reason why we're seeing not just the results but also the Canucks' aimless playing style over the last three games of this road trip.

Of course, Boston's also a very good team right now. That didn't help either, when it came to Sunday's weird, messy 5-2 loss at TD Garden. The Canucks came up empty at 5-on-5, with J.T. Miller and Sheldon Dries scoring on the power play, and Thatcher Demko got dinged for another four goals on 32 shots — which actually improved his GAA slightly, to 4.02. But cover your eyes before you notice that .874 save percentage for the year...

We also got Vasily Podkolzin's first NHL fighting major, and former Bruin Jack Studnicka sidelined with what Rick Dhaliwal is reporting is a lower-body injury.

In his seven games with the Canucks, Studnicka is averaging 10:30 per game of ice time. He has a goal and an assist, and is 9-for-20 for 45% in the faceoff circle.

Two days after he was sent back to Abbotsford, Dries was recalled after Tanner Pearson's injury last week. Studnicka's absence has now made room for Will Lockwood to receive his first call-up of the season — and it's deserved.

The 24-year-old is leading Abbotsford with five goals in 10 games, and also has a pair of assists. He has played 15 games at the NHL level over the last two seasons, but is still looking for his first point. And he was on the ice for Tuesday's morning skate in Buffalo, so we'll see if he draws into the lineup and is able to inject some energy into what has become a largely directionless group.

After playing just 9:27 in Toronto and going pointless in three games, Andrei Kuzmenko was healthy scratched for the first time in his NHL career against the Bruins on Sunday.

Oakville native Spencer Martin gave up three goals on 34 shots in front of family and friends in Toronto on Saturday night, and is expected to get the nod against Buffalo on Tuesday. Craig Anderson will draw back in for Buffalo, and while he has played sparingly with just five games on the docket this season, this will be a second consecutive start for him after he took the loss against the Bruins on Saturday.

As for the Sabres: despite their hot start and their dominance when they beat the Canucks 5-1 at Rogers Arena just over three weeks ago, they're now on a five-game losing streak that has dropped them below .500, to 7-8-0, and pushed them down to seventh place in the tight Atlantic Division.

The slide began during back-to-back 5-3 road losses against Carolina and Tampa Bay — understandable. Then they came home and lost 4-1 to Arizona, 7-4 to Vegas and 3-1 to Boston. Again, pretty tough competition. Even the Coyotes have proven to be unexpectedly plucky so far this season as they built a 6-6-1 record before losing their last two games.

This is how Buffalo's lines rolled at Tuesday's morning skate:

Offensively, Tage Thompson continues to be red hot — with four goals in his last three games and now up to 11 for the season. And before Buffalo's power play was shut out against Boston on Saturday, it had produced at least one goal in eight straight games, so that's something to watch out for.

The Canucks' penalty killing surrendered two more goals in Boston on Sunday so it's still at the bottom of the league — but has managed to climb past the 60% threshold, at least, to a 61.4% success rate.

As for the power play — yes, it's the one bright spot, still clicking along at 27.6% after two more goals in Boston on Sunday.

Bo Horvat was held off the scoresheet against the Bruins — just the fifth game this season where he failed to register a point. And heading into Tuesday's games, he remains second in the NHL with 13 goals, two back of leader Connor McDavid.

Over the weekend, Elliotte Friedman also reported that Jim Rutherford declined an opportunity to meet with Horvat's agent, Pat Morris, which suggests that the two sides remain far apart on the terms of a contract extension.

For my weekly Stat Pack over at The Hockey News, I dug into Horvat's current status on the Canucks' all-time record lists. In some categories, he's already in the top 10, and there are others where he's poised to pass quite a few legendary names in the not-too-distant future — if he sticks around, of course.

Will his work this season be a precursor to a long-term extension that will give him a chance to cement his legacy as one of the greatest Canucks of all time? Or are all these goals pricing him out of the market?
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