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The Globe and Mail

Canucks hoping a re-energized offence is in the Stars

The Vancouver Canucks and Henrik Sedin will be looking for goals when they face the Dallas Stars in Sunday NHL action at Rogers Arena. (file photo)


The captain encapsulated the team's problems in a single line, 10 words, spoken in frustration after the Vancouver Canucks blew a 1-0 lead with a minute to go and then lost in overtime.

"We've got to find a way to score more goals," said Henrik Sedin on Thursday night in Vancouver, after the Canucks lost 2-1 to Pacific Division rival San Jose Sharks.

It was the first of a six-game home stand, almost two full weeks at home, after the Canucks have opened the season playing the most games, and second most on the road. Coach John Tortorella has pushed his players hard, especially the stars, the Sedins, Ryan Kesler, and the team ranks fourth in blocked shots. This week, rest was granted, with days off on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday.

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The home stand continues Sunday afternoon, 5 p.m. PT, as the Canucks host the hot Dallas Stars.

The thing about scoring goals, Sedin was only half right. The team does know how to score goals – but actually scoring them distinctively ebbs and flows.

Consider this striking divide. The Canucks have scored two or more goals in 13 games this year – and their record in those is a near-perfect 11-0-2.

In the team's other eight games – nearly 40 per cent of the total – the Canucks have scored just a single goal, as they did against San Jose (for the third time this year). When the Canucks score one, they lose: 0-7-1.

The can-score/can't-score Canucks adds up to 11-7-3, which at this early quarter-pole mark of the long National Hockey League season would leave the team out of the playoffs in the hyper-competitive Western Conference.

There seems to be a combination of puck luck and, just as much, lack of finish/scoring punch.

It's not for lack of shots on goal. The Canucks, as of Friday, were third in the NHL in shots on goal, behind only San Jose and Anaheim, and led the league in shots taken at even-strength when games are close.

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The same problem on the power play. The team is second-best in shots taken, and fourth-last in generating goals.

Kesler is the only Canuck on pace to score at least 30 goals this year. No one is poised to eclipse 40. The likes of Alex Burrows, coming off injury, have not scored. Jannik Hansen and David Booth, who have both been injured, have three goals between them. And on a team designed to gestate the scoring push from the blue liners, Jason Garrison hasn't registered a point in the past 11 games. In the past 10, Alex Edler has one point, an assist.

Vancouver's second line, Burrows with Chris Higgins and Mike Santorelli, is the case in point for the team. The line drives play – but isn't connecting. In the past two games, the 2-1 loss to San Jose and 3-1 to the Anaheim Ducks last Sunday, the second line controlled about 60 per cent of the possession at even strength when the game was close – very strong. But no goals.

All in, the Canucks have a negative goal differential, -1, which ranks 16th in the league. Suffice it to say teams with a negative goal differential don't often make the playoffs (one in 2013, two in 2012, none in 2011).

The Canucks goals-for/goals-against differential is not all that far off where they were last year, +6, which put them at 14th in the NHL, and swept out of the playoffs in the first round.

The thing is, people here remember a much, much more potent team. In 2011-12, the second of two consecutive Presidents' trophies, the Canucks were +51, best in the west and third in the NHL. In 2010-11, the almost-Stanley Cup campaign, the Canucks were +77, the NHL's best.

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It began to drop off in the winter of 2012, with scoring slowing significantly as of late February, falling off that high plateau on which the Sedins, Kesler, and the rest of the Canucks nearly touched the Stanley Cup.

And so it all revolves around the one line, 10 words, stated by the captain (amended slightly).

"We've got to find a way to score more goals [on a regular basis]."

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