Road Woes Continue for Canucks

If the Vancouver Canucks were as good on the road as they were at home, they’d be one of the top teams in the NHL. While playing away from home is often the crux of many squads, there’s no excuse for the way the Canucks have played away from Rogers Arena. There are a few games that probably should have gone their way, but that’s sports you don’t win every game you should.

With 11 away matches left on the 2016-17 calendar, the Canucks still find themselves just six points shy of the last wild-card spot in the Western Conference. But they’ll need to find a way to win some games on the road if they plan to make up that ground.

The Numbers

Today, the Canucks are on their bye week; they don’t play again until Saturday against the San Jose Sharks. They’ve played 60 games thus far, and an equal 30 both at home and on the road. The contrast is astounding. At Rogers Arena, Vancouver has amassed a remarkable 18-9-3 record. They’ve played some impressive hockey at home.

Their away record is also remarkable, just on the other side of the spectrum. Through 30 games away from home, they’ve won just eight games. The only Western Conference team with fewer is Dallas with seven. Yes, even the Colorado Avalanche have won more road games than the Canucks. 8-19-3 leaves quite a bit to be desired.

Difficult Road Trips

Ryan Miller. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There’s no doubt that the Canucks travel more than almost any team in the NHL. And clearly, it has taken its toll on the team. Every road trip that has lasted more than four games has resulted in a losing record. It began with their first trip of the season in early November, which took them through Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, New York and Detroit. They played six games in just nine days, and lost five of them. To be considered, they had already lost five games in a row heading into the trip.

Their next road trip of substance was a month later. That moved from New Jersey to Carolina for five games in eight days; they lost four of those. The trend continued every time Vancouver played away from Rogers Arena. The only winning road trip was a three-game jaunt, and those wins came against Arizona and Colorado.

Recently, the team completed a six-game Eastern road trip. Many believed that the Canucks’ postseason hopes hung in the balance of those games. They lost four of them. Not being able to get past regulation has also been a huge issue, as those extra points are huge down the stretch. The Canucks lost two one-goal games on the road trip; they gave up a late goal in Boston, and probably should have tied the game late in St. Louis. These are games Vancouver needs to find a way to get past regulation.

What Needs to Change?

First of all, the amount of goals the Canucks are giving up on the road needs to change. Two great performances in Columbus and Buffalo led to just two goals against; Ryan Miller had a shutout against the Jackets. But in the other four games, they gave up 16 goals. This team struggles enough to score as it is, and they can’t be giving up upwards of four goals a game. One night during their December road trip, they lost 8-6 to the Carolina Hurricanes. It was one of the very few times the Canucks have managed to score goals in bunches, and they still couldn’t get the job done.

With Miller having an excellent season, a lot of this comes back to the defensive core. They simply give up too many chances and give the puck up way too much. Luca Sbisa is known for it, but even Alex Edler and Chris Tanev have been burned on too many occasions. The defence needs to tighten up. The sooner Erik Gudbranson is healthy, the better.

Bo Horvat
Bo Horvat. Photo: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

One thing that has been steady is the point production of the top players. In their last six road games, Bo Horvat has scored six points. Daniel Sedin has chipped in with four, while Henrik has had three. It’s not vintage 2011 Sedins, but it’s manageable. For the most part, Vancouver’s forwards have played well on the road.

The Canucks have 11 road games left in the season, including a brutal trip in late March that takes them through Edmonton, Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota and Winnipeg. That will almost certainty determine their playoff hopes. But before then, they need to keep getting the job done at home. The defense needs to be more responsible, the goaltending needs to remain steady, and the forwards need to score. That goes without saying. The road has not been a fun place for the Vancouver Canucks this season, and if they plan on making a playoff push, rather than getting a high draft pick, they need to start winning away from home. Now.