San Jose Sharks (3-13-1) at Vancouver Canucks (12-5-1)
When/where: Monday, 7 p.m., Rogers Arena
TV: SN Pacific. Radio: Sportsnet 650
The buzz: The second two-game losing streak of the season is a bigger concern than the first. The Canucks lost 2-0 in Philadelphia on Oct. 17, and two nights later in Tampa Bay, there were improvements in a 4-3 setback. The current mini-regression concern — a listless 5-2 loss in Calgary on Thursday and error-filled 4-3 effort Saturday against Seattle — raises red flags.
The Canucks’ zone exits were slow and sloppy Saturday. They couldn’t penetrate the neutral zone. They lost battles. They didn’t draw an offensive-zone power play by getting to the net and causing havoc. They defended poorly and forced Thatcher Demko to have this head on a swivel for seam passes and backdoor plays.
And there was more. Unproductive and inattentive winger Andrei Kuzmenko was benched for a stretch in the second period to send a message. It wasn’t heard.
“Our (line) changes were awful and they lose you games and playoff series,” stressed Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet. “Long shifts. That’s .500 hockey. You can’t win that way. There are no excuses. They were hungrier on pucks and basically that was the game.”
The history: The toothless Sharks should be the perfect tonic to snap the Canucks to attention. They slaughtered the Sharks 10-1 on Nov. 2 in San Jose as Quinn Hughes collected a career-high five points (1-4) and the power plays struck for four goals. The Sharks put up little resistance and looked more like an AHL team.
The hope: The Canucks have been effective on the reset, whether getting off to a slow start or trailing after a period. It’s why they strung together a five-game win streak this month to establish themselves as a playoff contender as opposed to pretender. They need to revert to those “non-negotiable” Tocchet systems staples.
The fear: Looking past the Sharks in anticipation of a big litmus test Wednesday in Colorado. The Avalanche are injury riddled, but have won four straight and their 11-5-0 record speaks to being third in goals scored and fifth on the penalty kill. They can hurt you with speed, strength and execution.
The top guns: That terrific trio remained atop NHL scoring with 28 points apiece entering Sunday play. J.T. Miller (11-17), Elias Pettersson (8-20) and Quinn Hughes (7-21) have set a blistering pace. Hughes is one goal shy of his best goal output established in 2019-20 and matched in 2021-22.
The wounded: Canucks: Carson Soucy (foot, six to eight weeks), Pius Suter (undisclosed, day-to-day), Guillaume Brisebois (concussion, LTIR). Sharks: Logan Couture (lower body, IR), Nico Sturm (personal), Oskar Lindblom (lower body, IR), Jacob MacDonald (undisclosed, IR), Matt Benning (undisclosed) IR), Alexander Barabanov (finger fracture, IR), Mitchell Russel (undisclosed, IR).
The quote: “Our defence was getting tired and you need your wingers to snap into people. I felt we were a little slow. There were four or five guys who just weren’t ready to win a battle.” — Tocchet on 4-3 loss Saturday.
The prediction: If the Canucks can’t beat the banged-up Sharks, who are surrendering the most goals per outing and have the fourth-worst penalty kill, then this two-game losing streak takes on much bigger meaning. The Canucks do the collective reset and win 5-2.
(FAN FORUM: Do you have a specific question for a player? Pass it along to @provincesports and we’ll get it in a future edition.)
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