Traded in July from the top-tier Vegas Golden Knights to the bottom-tier Chicago Blackhawks, Fleury consistently played as a Vezina Trophy winner on Sunday with a 40-save shutout to the Canucks, who lost 1-0 in a game that ‘they should have won by a few goals.
The words “should have” have become like an extension of the Vancouver franchise name. Like, the Canucks should have done this, or the Canucks should have done that. But what they did on Sunday was lose for the 10th time in 13 games.
They lost by playing badly, and they lost several times by playing well. Their solid play in a three-game home game that resulted in just one win may have saved the jobs of general manager Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green so far, but it didn’t do much to save the Canucks’ season in the National Hockey League.
The team don’t even pass the quarter-pole before Wednesday’s game in Pittsburgh, the start of another five-game trip, but the Canucks are already 6-11-2 within five points of a playoff berth. in the Western Conference and that deficit almost always proved insurmountable for NHL teams at US Thanksgiving.
“I’m tired, tired of making excuses,” said Canucks captain Bo Horvat. “Again, we have to find a way to score. In the end, we didn’t get the job done. There is some good that can be learned … but it was not good enough.
Winger Conor Garland said: “Obviously it stinks. Would have been nice to win this one and hit the road with some confidence. There’s a lot of hockey left, so we have to keep going. We still played well; it sucks to say that when your record is not beautiful. We just have to find a way to win a few games.
It is in the plural. The Canucks are struggling to win in the singular. They found a new way to lose Sunday, which was shutout for the first time this season.
Of course, that would be by Fleury, the 36-year-old future Hall of Fame member who is now 13-0-2 in his last 15 games against Vancouver.
Horrible at the start of the season, with the Blackhawks, Fleury has won his last four starts, allowing just five goals on 140 shots.
A hot goalie is what a loss looks like when you’re the Canucks.
But here’s what another loss looks like: four goalposts, struck Sunday by Canucks Tanner Pearson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser; a power play that generated 13 shots out of four advantages but still hasn’t found a way to score; Blackhawk’s winning goal Brandon Hagel on a deviation at 4:12 of the third period – just after the winger probably should have been penalized for taking down Canuck JT Miller at the other end of the ice.
This is how you lose when you beat a tired team 30-13 in two periods.
“A tough game to lose,” said Canucks coach Travis Green. “You lose 1-0, especially the way we played, it’s a tough game to lose. “It’s frustrating that we lost tonight (but) I’m not disappointed with the way we played. We would probably take this game every night, probably win it eight or nine times out of 10. I’m just being honest with the way we played.
Yeah, well, that’s probably not what people want to hear or even many will believe. People choose their facts now.
Struggling Boeser only managed one shot on goal (plus his post in the second period) for the Canucks, but his equally inactive teammate Pettersson had five shots and nine attempts, which was encouraging. The US $ 13 million duo have combined for an assist in the last six games.
Vancouver forwards who scored Miller and Garland combined for 10 shots. But only one of them is happy with their game lately.
“I don’t think I’m playing very well right now to be honest with you,” Miller, who leads the Canucks with 19 points, 47 hits and 21:39 average ice time among forwards, told reporters. “I think I find ways to contribute at other ends of the ice, but offensively I mean I feel like I have a whole other set of equipment to use and I think I could help a lot more this team.
“I don’t think I’m creating that many five against five. It’s frustrating for me. I know I have more. I feel like a leader in this team and I need to be better, and I think a lot of the responsibility falls on me in that regard.
If you listed the Canucks most to blame for the false start, Miller would be in the bottom five.
“I’m pretty frustrated right now,” he said. “But, you know, we’ve got to be mentally tough right now and keep bringing our game in like we’ve been talking about lately. It will come, I think.