|Dan Hamhuis and the rest of the Canucks' defense is failing to help the offense move the puck. (Getty Images)|
It's a good thing the Canucks have built up a huge cushion in the Northwest Division standings, because as we head into the stretch run of the NHL's regular season they're right in the middle of what might be their longest slump of the season, losing six of their last nine games.
Fortunately, because of the rest of the division has struggled so much this season they still have a commanding 11-point lead over the second-place Colorado. And barring an epic collapse that would probably involve them losing eight or nine of its remaining games, Vancouver should be OK as far as winning the division and earning a top seed in the Western Conference playoffs is concerned.
But that doesn't mean they should be happy with the way they're playing right now, because it's not exactly great.
While it would be easy to look at the lack of offensive production from the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, as the Canucks’ biggest problems recently --the twins have combined for just 4 goals and 8 assists over their past 12 games -- the far bigger concern has been some lackluster play in the defensive zone.
And it's a team-wide problem.
Forward Chris Higgins told the Vancouver Sun on Sunday, "We just have to gain that trust back in each other, that we're making the right reads and backing each other up. We like our defensemen to be actively involved in the play but they can only do so when they're working with the forwards, and I think our timing is a little off right now. Giving up 24 goals in our last six games, that's way too high.”
In five of their past nine games the Canucks have allowed at least 32 shots on their net, scoring chances against them seem to be up, and they're allowing nearly three goals per game, a half-goal above their season average.
Are they wearing down after an extended postseason run last year and fighting through the dog days of the regular season? Or is it simply just a slump they were probably long overdue for?