After an embarrassing 5-1 home defeat to the New York Rangers on Saturday night that stretched the club's losing streak to four, head coach Willie Desjardins said he's altering an aggressive style that has left Vancouver badly exposed at times on its current slide.
"We're just trying to make changes that allow us to utilize our talent and what we're good at," he said. "I think certain lines are good at certain things and others have other strengths. We want to try and maximize that with our systems."
Saturday's debacle was pretty much over before the seven-minute mark of the first period as the Rangers took advantage of a team that looked slow coming off a seven-game road trip.
It seemed as though New York was playing shinny at times, scoring three times in the first 6:46 on three odd-man rushes.
Desjardins preaches a system where his defenceman are encouraged to pinch at the offensive blue-line with the forwards backing up in support, but there was a clear breakdown against the well-rested Rangers.
"I think we went in with the mindset (that) we wanted to have a good game, we wanted to go after them," said Desjardins. "We were kind of a step behind, and being a step behind when you're being aggressive isn't a good combination."
The rookie head coach is facing his first bit of adversity with the Canucks — who remain precariously in a playoff spot at the moment — and indicated after Tuesday's practice and video session that he will tighten the reins in certain situations.
"I think I was trying to push us a way to play something that, when we're ready and fresh ... we can do a really good job," said Dejardins. "It's not like we can't play that way, but sometimes you've got to recognize that maybe the other team's fresher than you are. They're more ready, they have a little bit more jump — when that's the situation you have to have other things that you go to.
"We're just trying to make our game a little bit more well-rounded."
Canucks forward Alexandre Burrow said while a tweak to the system should help, it's down to the players on the ice executing better.
"We're giving up easy chances. I think early in the year we were pretty good at cutting down on scoring chances against and that's how we had some success," he said. "Last game we gave up five odd-man rushes, clear cut with no backcheck. Those are grade-A and you can't give that up in this league otherwise they'll make you pay, and we did pay for it.
"It's as a team making the proper read and read off each other the right way. For most part we've done that most of the year, but the last few games we broke down a few times."
Canucks defenceman Luca Sbisa — who was an ugly minus-4 against New York and is minus-8 over the losing streak — said altering a system isn't uncommon, especially when a team falls on hard times.
"Sometimes you've got to change a couple things throughout the year from game to game, from period to period," he said. "When things are going well you usually don't change much, but when you lose four in row ... if you don't change anything it's insanity."
The first test of whatever changes have been made Vancouver's approach comes Wednesday when the Canucks (18-10-2) host the Dallas Stars (11-13-6) at Rogers Arena.
Dallas beat Vancouver 6-3 on Oct. 21 thanks to five goals in the game's first 21:17 and boasts a potent offence led by NHL goal and points leader Tyler Seguin.
"We're just trying to win a game right now," said Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa, who was minus-3 against the Rangers. "I don't think you can make it bigger than it is. We're trying to win a hockey game. We've lost a few here — some games we've played well, some games we haven't.
"Overall the last couple games we're not happy with the way we've played, we don't feel that's the kind of team we are."
Canucks goalie Ryan Miller said keeping things simple could go a long way for a team trying to find its way.
"We definitely have to push through these hard times," he said. "Nobody's going to let you climb out of the hole. They're going to push you down. You have to work together to get out of it.
"We gambled on a few plays last game and there's been some times when we've gambled in other games. We've got to get some of that maverick out of the game."
Miller said everyone in the locker-room has to improve to get out of the current funk, including himself. While the 34-year-old free-agent signing owns 16 of Vancouver's 18 wins this season, he also has a very pedestrian .900 save percentage to go along with a 2.69 goals-against average.
"Certainly I can play better. I think a lot of guys would agree we can play better as a group, as well," said Miller. "I don't think we're that far off. I think it's a mental test more than anything. Every NHL team's going to go through it.
"This is our time to go through a tough stretch and you've got to find something to bring this group even closer. I think we're a good group and we compete hard, but we've got to get better."
Desjardins himself conceded he had to better as well after the loss to the Rangers, and stressed on Tuesday he was in no way overhauling the style that has been taught every day since the start of training camp.
He's just giving it a tuneup.
"We're going to do what we've always done 90 per cent of the time," said Desjardins. "When maybe we're not quite in position, then maybe we won't be quite as aggressive, that's all. It's going to be the same that we've seen. We'll just be smarter when we're not in the position we want to be."Suggest a correction