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THE MOJ: Canucks save worst for last on disappointing road trip

Loss in Seattle was team’s 4th in a row as coach demands more effort
Vancouver Canucks defenseman Filip Hronek reaches for a blocked shot by goaltender Thatcher Demko with Seattle Kraken center Yanni Gourde skating behind during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

Apparently the Vancouver Canucks didn’t get the memo that you’re supposed to save the best for last.

The Canucks concluded their four-game road trip with a listless 5-2 loss against the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena on Tuesday night with it easily being the most unpalatable defeat of the four straight setbacks the team has endured.

The loss clearly left a sour taste in the mouth of Vancouver head coach Rick Tocchet, who was extremely candid in his assessment of the Canucks performance.

“Not much compete from the guys. That’s on me. I’ll take the blame for that. There were a lot of no-shows tonight,” Tocchet said after the game.

The Canucks were finishing a grueling portion of their schedule with 10 games in nine cities over a span of 17 days but Tocchet wasn’t going to use that crutch.

“We knew this was going to be a tough stretch but you can’t give into fatigue. You got to play smarter. You guys saw it. There’s nothing to analyze about it. There’s nothing really so say,” said Tocchet.

The Canucks opened the scoring with a goal from J.T. Miller in the first period but Vince Dunn replied for the Kraken to the game at 1-1 after the first period.

The teams exchanged goals early in the second period with Jared McCann scoring for Seattle and Sam Lafferty answering for Vancouver but Justin Schultz’s goal at 13:29 of the middle frame gave the Kraken a 3-2 lead. Just over a minute later, Jordan Eberle scored to make it 4-2 for Seattle after two periods. Eberle would add an empty-netter at 17:51 of the final period to seal the victory.

The concerning thing about this loss was just how ineffective the Canucks looked five-on-five with the Kraken holding an 8-5 advantage in high danger chances according to Natural Stat Trick. In fact, the 12 scoring chances by the Canucks were a season-low for a team that is averaging 21 per game over the course of the year according to the website.

“This isn’t even close to playoff hockey. They were desperate, but if these guys think this is playoff hockey, we’re in trouble. There’s been a couple of games here where we need some guys to get going. I don’t care what our record is. It’s been disturbing – some of the efforts from some of the guys right now,” Tocchet said.

Tocchet refused to call out any individuals but it doesn’t take a forensic audit to determine who he might have been referring to.

Elias Lindholm’s play was disappointing on the trip as he registered a -5 with only one assist. Elias Pettersson also struggled in the last four games, picking up just one goal to go with his -5.

Tocchet tried juggling the lines to spark things against the Kraken but even that didn’t have an effect. He even tried shortening the bench with forward Ilya Mekheyev paying the price with a season-low 7:07 of ice time but the tactic did nothing to energize the team.

When asked what is needed to turn it around in time for Saturday’s game against the Boston Bruins at Rogers Arena, Tocchet doubled down on effort being an issue.

“It’s not just leadership. You’re looking for everybody. I don’t care who you are. Just worry about your game. Everyone is capable of doing things but are we willing to do it? We have four or five guys that have been no-shows for four or five games. They got to pick it up. They got to do something. They have to,” he stated.


* With the win, the Kraken won the season series (2-1-0) against the Canucks, marking the first time that had occurred in the three-year history of the franchise.

* Miller’s goal was his fifth in the last three games. According to Sportsnet Stats, Miller’s 1.29 points-per-game is on pace for the sixth highest in Canucks history.

* With two goals and an assist in the Kraken’s win, Eberle continues to torment the Canucks. In 52 career games against Vancouver, Eberle has 26 goals – the most he has scored against any opponent.

* With the four-game skid, some of Canucks Nation is losing hope that the team is capable of doing anything special come playoff time. A little digging by this agent may provide those pessimists with some hope. Looking at some recent Stanley Cup champions, all of them had some difficult stretches that were longer than the four-game funk the Canucks are in. Last January, the Vegas Golden Knights went into a tailspin in which they lost seven of eight games. In their Cup-winning year, the Colorado Avalanche were leaking oil heading into the playoffs having lost six of their last seven regular season games. Even the Tampa Bay Lightning in their back-to-back championship seasons experienced some turbulence having had stretches of losing five in seven and five in six.

* The game against the Bruins on Saturday will have a 4 pm start time.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.

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