The Vancouver Canucks set some dubious records on their season-opening road swing.
Not only did they become the first team in NHL history to lose their first four games of the season while blowing multi-goal leads, but after five straight losses (0-3-2), Vancouver is the only team in the league that has yet to record a win.
Despite the dismal record, the Canucks are still looking at the positives, said head coach Bruce Boudreau.
“It’s not like we’re going out and playing and losing 6-1 every night and getting outplayed,” he said. “We’re right there ‘til the end in every game we’ve played this year, and it just hasn’t bounced our way in the last seven minutes of the third period. We haven’t had that luck.”
Vancouver’s also given up a lead in every game it’s played, and its special teams have struggled, capitalizing on 10.5 per cent of its man advantages and killing off 58.8 per cent of its penalties.
The Canucks need to be better at taking care of the puck, said Luke Schenn.
“Defending wins championships,” said the defenceman who won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Tampa Bay Lightning. “And that starts with taking care of the puck when you have it at the lines and on the boards and that starts with taking care of it in the front of your net and winning battles in the corner. And that’s what wins at the end of the day. And that’s one thing that we need to get a lot better at.”
The Canucks will look to clean up their defence on Saturday when they host the Buffalo Sabres (3-1-0) in Vancouver for their first home game of the season.
It’s a matchup the group is looking forward to, said centre J.T. Miller.
“We have a ton of belief. It’s upbeat in (the locker room),” he said after an off-ice workout Friday. “We’re excited to play tomorrow. We’re excited to be home. It’s not down.
“There were moments of the road trip that were depressing, no question. But it’s going to make us stronger at the end of the day.”
Weathering a rough start to the season is nothing new for the Canucks.
Last season, the team went 8-15-2 to start the campaign, prompting the dismissal of then-head coach Travis Green, general manager Jim Benning and several coaching and front-office staff.
Vancouver went 32-15-10 under Boudreau to close out the year and finished five points out of a playoff spot.
The current stretch is challenging but could help the group going forward, Miller said.
“There’s going to be times where you want to quit, there’s gonna be times where you want to go to a different game plan and get on your own page, but at the same time, we’ve got a job to do,” he said. “And we have a plan and a process and we’ve got to stick to that because it’s an 82-game season.
“And as we showed last year, things can turn very quickly. So the more games, the more periods we play good hockey, things are gonna turn for us, for the team and individuals. So we’ve got to really be mentally tough in times like this.”
Staying positive right now is the only option, said Schenn.
“Obviously you want to correct a lot of things and there’s a lot of coulda, woulda, shoulda. But the more you focus on that, the more it’s counterproductive,” he said. “So positivity is a big thing. It’s early on in the year, there’s lots of time up and coming.”
The team spent part of Friday morning watching clips from its 4-3 overtime loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, and Boudreau said he saw a lot of positives.
“The playoffs aren’t won in October, unless you’re playing baseball,” the coach said. “I look at things in a positive light all the time, or I try to. We’ve gone through the parenting where you’re tough on them and then you build them back up and everything else. But what are we, four points out of a playoff spot, with 77 games to go?
“I like the way we’re trending and I think we’re going to trend in a positive manner.”
—Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press