Brothers Jordie and Jamie Benn will suit up Tuesday as the Vancouver Canucks take on the Dallas Stars for the second time this week. The Canucks will kick-off the first of their six-game road trip in Texas fine-tuning the mistakes that handed them the 4-2 loss at home last Thursday versus the Stars.
While the Canucks touted a 10-game win streak in their first 20 games of the 2019-20 NHL season, there is no denying the repetitive game of catch-up the club has played with opposing teams this season. Last Thursday’s game against the Stars was a prime example as the club surrendered the first goal for the 13th time this season. Despite their ability to rally offensively and tie games, five of the team’s last nine games prove that they cannot attain nor hold a lead, resulting in one win in their last seven games (1-4-2). Thursday night saw the Canucks never having gained the lead and this is something the club will have to find a way to do come Tuesday’s away game matchup against the Stars.
In order to win the rematch, the Canucks will also need to gain contribution from its top four players. Each of the team’s 10 wins so far this season included a goal from at least one of their leaders — Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, or J.T. Miller — and nine of which came when multiple goals were scored by members in this specific group. Instead, Thursday night saw input and goals from secondary scorers Jake Virtanen and Troy Stetcher. While this indicates a significant advancement of play performance from the Canucks’ dominant second line, there still exists a need for the club’s elite players to step up in order to score goals and win hockey games against powerful teams like the Stars.
The Canucks will have to make a larger splash come Tuesday’s game to keep up with the offensive skill and quick-release shots of dominant forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Paired on a modest first line with Justin Dowling, the duo managed to create dangerous scoring chances that the Canucks, in the end, weren’t able to stop. It’s important to note that the Stars are still mixing lines to find their sweet spot, so the Canucks will have to work a lot harder than they already are to compete with teams that are only getting better.
Despite allowing 4 goals on 33 shots on Thursday night, Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom has been strong this season, with a 2.59 goals-against average. However, putting the pressure on Canucks’ goaltending to secure this victory shouldn’t be an option. In order to compete in Tuesday’s matchup, Canucks’ forwards will need to take the spotlight out of Markstrom’s crease and place it onto the Stars’ crease.
This will be challenging considering the Stars have recently found their groove after a rough start to the season. Winning only one of their first nine games, they’re now on a win streak of 10-1-1 in their last 12 games. The Canucks will ultimately have to perform better offensively to counteract the opposing club’s newfound defensive strengths, and that can only come from rejigging the motors of Miller and Horvat.
Miller Needs to Register Shots on Goal
For only the third time this season, Miller did not manage to register a single shot on goal during Thursday’s game against the Stars despite posting his season-high in ice time this season. The Canucks will need to rely on the winger’s high-level of speed and offensive acumen to battle inside the blue line and to create primary scoring chances for his teammates on the first line. Starting nearly 65% of his play in the offensive zone, he will have to improve his scoresheet leading into this road trip and measure up to the momentum he established during the beginning of the regular season.
Horvat Has to Break His Nine-Game Score-less Slump
Arriving at the quarter mark of the regular season, Horvat’s performance will have to change to lead the team through difficult matchups this year. The captain has gone nine straight games without a goal and has just one empty-net goal in his last 12 games. Given Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle’s absences due to lower-body injuries, the team is leaning on Horvat to compensate and deliver in a more defensive role and participate in an increasing number of shorthanded situations. His 5-on-5 shooting percentage of 4.29% suggests that the goal production should return at some point, so now it’s just a matter of whether that will happen in time for the long road trip ahead.
The Canucks will have to be quick learners from their game on Thursday against the Stars to contend this Tuesday. As they open up their longest road trip of the season with a rematch against the Stars, the Canucks will have to ignite the flame of key players in the lineup to compete against large, physical teams like Dallas. The Canucks will have to set a precedent early on, similar to the fight Jordie Benn delivered five minutes into the first period during Thursday’s game, in order to measure up to the Stars’ defence. The sibling rivalry between Jordie and Jamie Benn will hopefully prompt a higher level of physicality between the two teams and set the tone for the remainder of the game. It’s important to note that the Canucks were not outplayed last game against the Stars, Dallas just proved to be more physical on the forecheck and their defensive presence in front of the net superseded the skillset of the Canucks’ offense.
Vancouver will have to step up to win more puck battles and reduce possession turnovers during the next game to beat this heavy team and break this losing streak. Depending on how long the Canucks’ top point producers stay quiet, it will be an ongoing struggle to confront teams in the league that play the type of hockey Dallas does. Over the course of the next few weeks, the Canucks will have a lot of work to do to reinstate their position as a leader in the Western Conference and a contender as a playoff team this season.