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Canucks left searching for answers on special teams: ‘There’s no excuses’

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VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks are doing a lot of things well, but none of it is enough to offset the devastating effects of the special teams that cost them another game Friday night.

The Canucks outshot and outchanced the Nashville Predators at even strength, but got torched by the visitors’ power play while going 0-for-5 on their own advantages. The 3-2 loss dispersed all the positivity from Tuesday’s rare win and sunk Vancouver to 1-4 on its seven-game homestand.

The Canucks have been outscored 7-1 on special teams in the five games at Rogers Arena, with the lone goal by their power play coming amid 20 power-play chances. All four losses were by a single goal.

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“We know we have to be better on both sides: PK and PP,” veteran defenceman Tyler Myers told reporters after the Canucks slipped back to two games under .500 at 4-6-1. “You can tell guys are working; it’s not that. We’re just missing pucks by a couple of inches here and there and it’s not going our way right now. We have to keep talking about it and we have to try and find a way to get better.

“It decides a lot of hockey games throughout the year, and right now it’s not going our way. Whoever wins the special teams battle usually comes out on top, so we’ve got to try and swing the pendulum here.”

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Through 11 games, the Canucks special teams are minus-five in goal differential. That is not survivable. Even with their improved defensive play, the team is not nearly good enough at even-strength to start each game a half-goal behind on special teams.

Vancouver’s power play is ranked 25th in the National Hockey League at 14 per cent, its penalty killing even worse at 29th and just 66.7 per cent.

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With top penalty-killers Tyler Motte (neck surgery) and Brandon Sutter (long-haul COVID-19 symptoms) missing since the season began, the Canucks’ shorthanded play was always going to be a challenge.

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But the ineptitude of the power play is baffling considering the talent: Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller, Quinn Hughes, Conor Garland, Bo Horvat.

“It’s tough,” Boeser said. “Obviously, that’s the difference in the game. We say it a lot: it just comes down to effort, shooting the puck, putting in the effort to get the puck back, opening up another shot, shoot it again. Crash the net. We’ve just got to keep it simple. You can’t keep looking for the perfect play. We’ve just got to find a way. We’ve got to find a way. There’s no excuses.”

On Friday, head coach Travis Green and power-play coach Jason King significantly altered the top unit, removing Horvat from the bumper, Hughes from the point and Alex Chiasson from the net-front while promoting Garland, Boeser and defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson from the second unit.

Removing Hughes, whose 47 power-play points since the start of his rookie season in 2019 are second among all NHL defenceman, was especially bold and risky.

The results of the new power play were the same as the old.

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The problem isn’t the point play or zone entries, it’s the lack of crisp movement and lateral passes in the offensive zone. Miller and Pettersson, the two holdovers from PP1, have struggled as much as anyone to make plays.

The buzzsaw Garland, who never stands still with the puck, gave the power play a little more movement but the unit still looked static.

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In 10 minutes of power-play time, the Canucks generated just three shots on Predators goalie Juuse Soros. By contrast, in just 3:13 of advantage time, Nashville had five shots on net and two goals, including Philip Tomasino’s game-winner at 19:15 of the second period when Vancouver defenceman Tucker Poolman was too slow going to the ice to prevent Luke Kunin’s pass across Thatcher Demko’s goalmouth.

After surrendering the first goal for the ninth time in 11 games, the Canucks worked hard to build a 2-1 lead on beautiful, similar goals by Boeser and Nils Hoglander, who outwaited and out-manoeuvred Soros to steer pucks behind the goalie.

But after Hoglander’s first goal of the season put Vancouver ahead at 10:08 of the second period, Matt Duchene tied it 2-2 on a breakaway just 2:18 later when Boeser did a terrible job filling in for Hughes, who had gone deep into the Nashville zone with the puck before making a pass that Pettersson was unable to handle.

“I’ve got to stay with him,” Boeser said. “He came flying up the ice. I kind of got caught flat footed (but) I’ve got to stay above him, I’ve got to get front of him, I’ve got to do something. That second goal’s on me.”

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The other two were on the penalty killing.

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Friday, against a very average Nashville team playing its third road game in four nights, felt like a missed opportunity for the Canucks to build on the positivity and momentum from Tuesday’s third-period rally and 3-2 overtime win against the Rangers.

Instead, it’s dark again.

“It’s always tough to lose,” Myers said. “There’s a lot of positives to take, I think, with the way we’re defending. Some hiccups tonight. But overall. . . it’s going to turn for us in terms of scoring goals. We have guys in the room that know how to score. It’s going to flip. We have to make sure we keep pushing forward.”

Now guaranteed a losing homestand, the Canucks play the Dallas Stars on Sunday.



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Seattle Seahawks vs. New York Giants: Prediction, odds, picks

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Here’s everything you need for the Seahawks-Giants game, from the point spread, moneyline, total Over/Under and prop betting analysis.



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USC beats Colorado: Caleb Williams throws 6 TDs, Shedeur Sanders leads late rally | Undisputed

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Skip Bayless, Keyshawn Johnson and Michael Irvin react to USC’s win vs. Colorado. The cast break down Shedeur Sanders and Caleb Williams performance, talk Deion Sanders and decide if the Colorado Buffaloes will crack the college football AP Top 25.



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Conor Timmins’ injury, Martin Jones’ play stirs cap intrigue for Maple Leafs

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TORONTO — Conor Timmins‘ disappointment might just be Brandon Pridham’s relief.

The Toronto Maple Leafs‘ right-shot depth defenceman had been excelling in training camp, building a serious case for a spot on the opening roster by piling six points in his first two preseason games.

But Timmins absorbed a hit late in his third outing, Friday in Montreal, that has ended his training camp prematurely.

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The 25-year-old suffered a “significant” lower-body injury as a result and has now been labelled week to week, coach Sheldon Keefe announced Monday.

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If Timmins is expected to miss the first 10 games and 24 days of the regular season, the Maple Leafs could slide him onto long-term injured reserve alongside Jake Muzzin and Matt Murray. His $1.1 salary would not count against the club’s salary cap while injured.

This is key to note because Timmins is not exempt from waivers and the Leafs are so tight to the cap’s ceiling, they are at risk of losing a depth piece to the wire before getting cap-compliant ahead of next week’s opening night.

Giving general manager Brad Treliving and his financial wiz, Pridham, pause for thought ahead of their roster cuts has been the steady play of third-string goaltender Martin Jones and the fact that a division rival will consider stealing a goalie off an increasingly busy waiver wire.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have lost stud Andrei Vasilevskiy to back surgery for two months, and GM Julien BriseBois will have options as opponents trim their rosters.

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None of Toronto’s three goalies — Ilya Samsonov, Joseph Woll and Jones — are exempt from waivers.

Will the Leafs brass consider hanging on to all three and enter the season with a three-headed crease?

“Everything is up in the air,” said Keefe, deferring to Treliving and Pridham on cap matters.

“Obviously that’s going to be a big factor in decisions that are made.”

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Toronto is far from the only club concerned about losing a depth goalie.

Vancouver already lost Spencer Martin on waivers to Columbus. Pittsburgh is in danger of losing third-stringer Magnus Hellberg. And the Detroit Red Wings are watching veteran James Reimer and late-bloomer Alex Lyon battle to be Ville Husso’s backup.

Lyon, 30, wowed last season in the Florida Panthers’ successful playoff push and only counts $900,000 against the cap on a two-year deal.

Lyon would be a fine fit in Tampa, but Detroit — unlike Toronto — has enough cap room to carry three goaltenders more comfortably.

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The 33-year-old Jones lingered on the open market for over a month before signing a one-year, $875,000 contract with Toronto on Aug. 9.

Aware that he is priced nicely for a contender, Jones isn’t interested in discussing what might happen between now and opening night.

“I’m just trying to play well. Right now, I’m a Toronto Maple Leaf. I’m just trying to play as well as I can here,” Jones told reporters, following Saturday’s preseason win in Montreal.

Keefe credits Jones’s positive attitude amidst the uncertainty.

“He’s a professional,” Keefe said. “He recognizes the situation he’s in. He’s just going to control what he can. He’s done a good job of that.”

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Interesting times, as the game before the games will unfold over the next week.

One-Timers: New power-play quarterback John Klingberg suffered an upper-body ailment Wednesday in preseason action and has now been off the ice for five days and counting. “He’s not going to skate for a bit, but we think he’ll turn the corner here pretty quickly,” Keefe said…. Forward Calle Järnkrok has been working his way back into action from an undisclosed camp injury. He practised Monday with Toronto’s non-game group and is expected to suit up for one of the Maple Leafs’ final exhibition games later this week against Detroit… Roster hopeful Simon Benoit is still playing catchup in camp, but injuries to Timmins and Klingberg give more hope to both he and Mikko Kokkonen. Keefe crowned Kokkonen “the surprise of camp” and is placing him in an NHL lineup for Monday’s game against Montreal… Joseph Woll (illness) missed a scheduled exhibition start but may get one back against Detroit.

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