Well, of four points available to the Vancouver Canucks in their back-to-back debut at home, the league’s best regular season team the past two years managed a measly one. The team was blown out by the Anaheim Ducks and then blew a 2-0 lead against the formerly lowly Edmonton Oilers before losing in a shootout.
A slow start: Vancouver, fans and the team, knows the script. Amid the swirl of questions around the goaltending, the Canucks have once again stumbled at the start of the season. The month may be called January but for the Canucks it’s like any October in the recent past. But unlike seasons past there is a lot less time to snap out of it.
In 2008-09, when they won their first of four straight division titles, Vancouver was 6-5 in October, before going 8-3-2 in November. In 2009-10, it was even worse, 14-12 in October and November, their worst recent start. In their finest year, the near-Stanley Cup campaign of 2010-11, the slow start was fairly brief, a lacklustre 2-3-2 through late October and then the team peeled off six straight wins. Last season it took until mid-November to get going, starting 9-9-1 before a 9-1 run.
Goaltending is the talk of the town but it is hardly goaltending alone that sees the 2013 season begin with a 0-1-1 record -- which puts Vancouver at this very early moment in 10th place in the Western Conference. The problems against the Ducks were legion, in goal especially, but also on defence, and the offence wasn’t good either. Against Edmonton, the team looked better and could have nailed down victory in the third period but couldn’t convert on two power play opportunities – and were 0-for-5 on the evening.
Henrik Sedin called it “really disappointing” – “our power play has got to step up,” the captain said after the Sunday night loss.
The coach, Alain Vigneault, tried to put a good spin on the weekend on Sunday night, saying Saturday was done and in the past and Sunday was a step forward – which is true, given Saturday’s ugly performance. Vigneault noted his team was running out of gas midway through the third period against the Oilers and it was a challenge to take on a young team on the back side of consecutive games, with half the Oilers having played hockey through the lockout, “a team that was waiting for us.”
“I thought,” said Vigneault, “for the most part tonight, I liked what we did on the ice.”
There is less time to conjure momentum this year – but the Canucks of the past, even with their slow starts, hammer down the accelerator when they find their rhythm. Whether it happens again will be seen in the next month.