The Canucks are finally playing “meaningful games in March” as management has been wanting . The Canucks haven’t made the playoffs since 2015, and have not really been close since then. The team and the fans have struggled with being one of the worst teams in the league in the years leading into this one. The upside to that was draft and prospect accumulation. Now the Canucks are starting to collect on that investment. So let’s take a peak at how it’s all going in this tight race. (Spoilers, its not pretty)
Where the Canucks are right now
The Canucks are currently sitting in the first wild card spot in a four-way tie in points at 74 with Arizona, Nashville and Winnipeg. But the Canucks have 2 games in hand against two teams and one against the other. They are three points out of third place in the Pacific with Calgary in that spot, again Vancouver has 2 games in hand. At this point, winning the Pacific is looking unlikely now that the sleeping giant that was Vegas is now an awoken giant.
The Coaching Situation
Just like the Canucks have had an up and down season, so has public opinion on Travis Green. Green was having his head called for earlier in the season when the team was not playing well. The Canucks would go on a hot streak and then everyone called for him to win the Jack Adams. Now is stock is at an all time low people wanting him fired, again. If ICBC hadn’t just changed their policies I could get quite the payout for whiplash. Jim Benning’s stock prices are at rock bottom, but people always want Benning fired so that’s not a surprise.
Much of this has come from Loui Eriksson remaining in the Canucks top 6. With Boeser out and Toffoli taking his spot on the top line, at least for now, it leaves Green with few options. Instead of the offensive black hole that is Little Things Loui on the 2nd line, fans have been calling for Virtanen to ride shotgun to Bo Horvat. And yes, pun intended.
In all fairness to Green, while Wednesday’s game against Arizona had Loui start off on Bo’s line, Virtanen ended up playing much of the game farther up the lineup. But as Thomas Drance reported, the reason Virtanen might not be trusted on Green’s beloved shutdown line is Virtanen’s lack of ability to dig out pucks and win board battles. Virtanen was talking about a clip of J.T. Miller giving him some advice after the Pearson goal Jake assisted on “After the goal, he actually told me to make sure I get pucks out on the walls and I get told that a decent amount.” Now that doesn’t explain why any number of other players aren’t put on that wing in Loui’s place, but at least we have some sort of explanation.
Hey Stecher, if you had to sum up how the fan base feels right now in 0 words, how would you do it?
Oof, that bad eh?
Canucks Twitter is a tire fire right now, stay away. The media, the fans, the Bitter and the Bros, everyone is screaming and panicking. Its gone past sharing the “everything is fine” gif a zillion times, and has gone beyond to simulating the draft with tears in your eyes. It seemed like just yesterday Canucks Twitter was laughing at Leafs Twitter about their melt down, oh how the tides have changed. Even your few beacons of endless positivity in the market seem down right now.
The Bad News
So do you want the good news or the bad news first? Lets do the bad news first, get it out of the way. The spiral reached its peak after Wednesday nights game against the Arizona Coyotes, a game everyone was calling “a must win” for both teams were the Canucks fell 4-2. This is a game the Canucks needed, as Arizona is now right on their heels for the wildcard position the Canucks hold. The Canucks are on a 4 game slide at a time where almost everyone else in the division is winning. That is far less than ideal for a team without its MVP goaltender.
Speaking of goaltenders, the 2nd string goaltender might be hurt after Taylor Hall fell into Thatcher Demko’s leg, skate blade first. Demko would take a few minutes, but ultimately stay in the net the remainder of the game. That was a relief to fans and surely the team as well. But something seems familiar about a goalie getting hurt, then finishing the game while Canucks fans sleep well thinking the danger has passed. It was reported Demko did have a limp after the game, but he says he feels fine. Fingers crossed.
Brock Boeser, Michael Ferland, Josh Leivo, Tyler Myers, Jay Beagle, are all hurt, am I missing anyone? Quinn Hughes is banged up and its rumored that a third defenceman is hurt, but we don’t know who that is. Hopefully Demko is truly okay, the team needs him.
In the end, the team gave up 40 shots to a team famous for poor offence that isn’t very promising. Are the Canucks’ true colours starting to show without a Vezna Calibre goalie covering their defensive failures? It looks that way.
The Good News
Rose coloured glasses baby, lets go. They lost 4-2? Okay well one was an empty net, so really the Coyotes, only scored 3 real goals. The first goal they scored was the flukiest, and most Canuck-luck goal I have ever seen. From behind the net it flipped up and over, hitting Demko in the head and going in. There is nothing you can do about that so really only 2 real goals
The second goal wasn’t much better, Stecher had a puck go off his skate and right to an uncovered player flying into the zone. Oh Poor Tony Stretcher.
Another goal on a silver platter, super lucky bounce. So the Yotes only really earned one goal and the Canucks got two. Remember, rose coloured glasses, let me have this.
Demko played really well with 40 shots on net and a .923 save percentage. Even Edler had a clutch save, he went into the full butterfly and everything. I hate to sound too much like Travis Green, but the Canucks played a good game. Really, they did! Just had bad bounces, but they need to find a way to win regardless of bad bounces.
The Take Away
At the end of the day, good teams have slumps too, but what sets them apart is their ability to create a cushion in the standings to afford a slump. The Canucks did that, they made a cushion so a 4 game slide this late into the season still has them sitting in the playoffs. The issue is that cushion is gone. This is where they need to snap out of it and start banking points again.
Despite the losing streak, despite big players being out of the line up, and Loui in the line up, they are in a playoff spot. Remember in September and all the Canucks were expected to do was compete in March and April? That is what is happening, this is what we all wanted. Canucks fan need to learn to enjoy the battle down the stretch and remember, you’re cheering for the Canucks. They will break your heart, and do everything the hard way, ask Troy. Maybe its my rose coloured glasses or my tragic optimism, but I am not ready to give up. Call me crazy.