|Defense will tighten up: Mitchell
Jason Botchford talks about the Canuck defense focusing on what Willie Mitchell has to say about his performance thus far.
"When Kirk Maltby spun around Willie Mitchell in Detroit on Wednesday like he was, well, Alexander Ovechkin, it wasn't exactly a highlight in the Vancouver Canucks defenceman's season," said Botchford.
"In fact, there haven't been many highlights in Mitchell's year to date and he knows it."
"I have a lot more in the tank, I haven't played my best hockey," Mitchell said. "Especially in tight games and especially in the last couple of games. I'm going to be better."
Botchford notes that, "Mitchell was the last Canuck off the practice ice Thursday, as usual. He was working on his shot."
"My shot's not getting any better," he joked.
"Much like the way goalie Roberto Luongo feels, Mitchell said the defence knows the slightest mistake from a blueliner is magnified because of the team's struggles in the offensive zone," Botchford said.
"We're not scoring a lot of goals so if we make any mistakes defensively, we're losing games," Mitchell said. "It's one of those stretches for us where it's not working for us so we have to dig in and do the simple things. I know that sounds like a cliche, but it's what has to happen."
|You can't score if you don't shoot
Jason Botchford focuses on the Canuck's inability to shoot as it grows to be a large problem within the team.
"There's a different feeling from last year, when the Canucks similarly struggled offensively. Then, they were creating chances they couldn't finish," Botchford said. "But this year, the Canucks have outshot an opponent only twice and are last in the league in shots."
"In the past two games Naslund has one shot, Henrik Sedin has two and Brendan Morrison has three."
"I can't really remember a time when getting shots was this much of a struggle," Markus Naslund said. "Especially in the new era in which you would think it's easier to get shots."
"Even last year when our record wasn't that great we were still manufacturing chances and shots and that was encouraging," Morrison said. "Now, it's like we're not scoring many goals and we're not getting many chances."
Botchford said, "Everyone on the team has a theory: The defence has to improve its transition game; the skilled players need to get dirtier, grittier; the forwards have to start skating with speed through the neutral zone; the defence has to jump into the play and take more shots from the point."
|THE VANCOUVER SUN
|Itchy trigger fingers wanted
Brad Ziemer said that compared to last season?s weak start, this season the Canucks actually deserve these losses.
"There is losing and then there is losing ugly," said Ziemer. "The Vancouver Canucks had their share of struggles early last season, but were losing in a more positive way, if there can be such a thing."
"The Canucks were outshooting and outchancing their opponents on many nights, but just weren't finishing many of those scoring opportunities. They were, in fact, losing many games they deserved to win."
"Remember last November, when Canucks coach Alain Vigneault started giggling when discussing his team's inability cash in on its numerous scoring chances?"
"Well, he's not laughing now. No one in the organization is."
"For some reason, our overall game as far as execution and commitment to battling to get those loose pucks, we're struggling with that right now," Vigneault said.
"We need our best players to be our best and that's just not the case right now."
"I don't doubt their willingness, but their play right now, they are struggling, and they need to find their game and find their legs and they need to find their hands and they need to be the players that we know that they are. As soon as that happens, then we'll start winning on a regular basis," said Vigneault.
|THE VANCOUVER SUN
|Vigneault shuffles his deck
Brad Ziemer writes about the line changes Coach Alain Vigneault is making in order to spark a little more life into his top forwards.
"With a total of three goals and 35 shots in their last two games, it came as no surprise that coach Alain Vigneault plans to use four new line combinations for today's road-trip finale against the Washington Capitals," said Ziemer.
"Vigneault, who shuffles his lines like a deck of cards, was at it again Thursday. He's splitting up the one line that has been decent the past few games -- Ryan Kesler, Matt Cooke and Alex Burrows -- in the hope of sparking some of his struggling forwards."
Ziemer notes, "Kesler will skate today between Markus Naslund and Taylor Pyatt, who is being replaced on the Sedin line by rookie Mason Raymond"
"Brendan Morrison will play today with Cooke and Trevor Linden, who returns to the lineup after sitting out as a healthy scratch the last two games"
"Vigneault acknowledged he had some concerns about breaking up the Kesler-Burrows-Cooke combination, which has been effective," Ziemer said.
"It was [tough], but at the same time you have to look at the benefit of the team and right now obviously offensively, especially five-on-five, we are not generating enough, so we need to try and balance things out and see where that can lead to us," Vigneault said.