Following a hard-fought 3-1 road win over the San Jose Sharks, the Canucks were badly outplayed in a 3-2 loss to Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, blowing a 2-0 lead in the second period while getting outshot 40-16 on home ice.
Add a 2-1 overtime defeat to the Anaheim Ducks prior to the San Jose outing where Vancouver salvaged a point despite being outshot 31-14 and the Canucks know they need to string together some better efforts.
"It's just consistency. It's not the way we play, it's a mental thing," Canucks defenceman Luca Sbisa said after Friday's practice at Rogers Arena. "Especially after big wins, I'm not saying we were too loose (last) night, but sometimes those wins drain you physically and mentally.
"You've got to get that consistency down because otherwise in the playoffs you're not going to do too much damage if you're good one night, bad the other night."
The Canucks seem to have plugged a leak in their defensive scheme that allowed the New York Rangers to run wild on odd-man rushes in an embarrassing 5-1 loss on Dec. 13, but they know playing on the front foot will also be important in the second half of the season.
"I think we fall into our system a little bit too much maybe instead of being aggressive and getting on our forecheck. I think that's something that happened against Anaheim as well," said Canucks captain Henrik Sedin. "It doesn't matter who you play against. It's all in our heads. We showed against San Jose we can play that way. We just need to be consistent."
Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins was forced to pull on the reins after the debacle against the Rangers and said that has cost his team chances at the other end of the ice.
"If you look at our last games, it's not just about scoring, it's what you're giving up. We have sacrificed maybe a little bit of what we're getting for what we're giving up," said the coach. "The last few games we haven't given up as many really great chances.
"You can't go out at all costs and see what you can get. We tried that against the Rangers and that didn't work great. You have to try and get a balance in between."
The Canucks (21-12-3) sit third in the Pacific Division heading into the weekend and know they will need to be better than they were against Los Angeles when they welcome the Detroit Red Wings (20-9-9) at home on Saturday night.
"We played well in San Jose against one of the best teams and (Desjardins) told us: 'If you can do it once there's no reason you can't do it every time,'" said Sbisa. "We've got to try and be a little more consistent. I think we're a little too passive once we take a lead.
"That's not how you win games. That's not a winning mentality."
While the Canucks went with the same lineup against Los Angeles as the one that downed San Jose, Vancouver could have forward Zack Kassian back in the fold versus Detroit.
The bruising winger has been out with a broken finger since late November, but was a healthy scratch against the Kings — something that didn't sit well with the player.
"The team was playing well. The team played good in San Jose. Fair enough," said the mercurial Kassian, who has two goals on the season and gave a number of short answers to questions on Friday. "Now it's my job to go in there an play well."
Canucks general manager Jim Benning gave an impromptu scrum with the media inside the locker-room following practice — just a few feet from Kassian's stall after most of the players had left — and said despite the struggles he still believes the 23-year-old has what it takes to be successful.
But like the current roster as a whole, consistency is key.
"Zack has got the physical skillset to be a physical player for us," said Benning. "He's got good hands for a big man, but he needs to get to that point where on a night to night basis he's going to be consistently physical and use his frame to take pucks to the net, stand in front of the net, to get rebounds, to get tip ins.
"That's the power forward style game. That's the type of game he needs to play for us to stay in the lineup and for us to be successful."
Kassian had 14 goals and 15 assists in 73 games last season, but a lot of those points came at the end of the lost campaign, something that Benning didn't put much stock into on Friday.
"Sometimes when a team's not playing well and you get those goals or points at the end of the year when the games are meaningless, it doesn't really mean much I don't think," he said. "He's got the physicality and the size to be a power forward for us and he's going to have to embrace that style of game and that's how he's going to help us win."
Added Desjardins: "I think the jury's out (on Kassian). The jury's out when you have a little bit of inconsistent play. There's been times when he's been good. I think that's something that occurs over time. It's the same with the team. Where's the jury on the team? Well it occurs over time doing the right thing all the time."
Note: The Canucks placed forward Tom Sestito on waivers Friday in hopes of sending him to the American Hockey League's Utica Comets. The Vancouver tough guy had one assist and seven penalty minutes in three games this season while mostly watching from the press box as a scratch.
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