After the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night, forward Justin Dowling summed it up rather nicely.
“Second period, we stopped moving our feet, stopped making plays, stopped executing,” he said. “Teams like that, they skate hard, they trap well. If we stop moving our feet they’re going to be on top of us.”
Wednesday morning the Canucks practiced in Chicago, the home of their opponent Thursday night.
“Quite frankly, I didn’t think we competed hard enough in certain parts of the rink,” said Head Coach Travis Green upon further reflection. “I think your compete level drives a lot of things in your game, like puck battles and getting to the net. It drives your speed, your skating, getting to hard places.”
The Sabres were tenacious on pucks through the neutral zone and seemed cleaner on break-outs.
Canucks top left defenceman Quinn Hughes, who missed the match against the Sabres and last played in Detroit Saturday night, missed practice again on Wednesday.
“No update,” said Green, “we’ll see tomorrow.”
The Canucks should face a highly motivated team in Chicago on Thursday, the Blackhawks have started the season 0-3-1 and were practically booed off the ice at the end of their 4-1 home loss to the New York Islanders Tuesday night. It’ll be a challenge for the Canucks. One cliche is absolutely true year to year; there are no easy nights in the NHL. Anyone who thought the Red Wings or Sabres were going to be a walk in the park for the Canucks were sadly mistaken. It’s like the stock market when it comes to NHL rosters, particularly in the first month of the season; ‘past performance does not guarantee future results’.
“I’m glad we get to play again tomorrow, and redeem ourselves a little bit here,” Canucks captain Bo Horvat said. “We had a good practice, we’re going to be playing a good Blackhawks team tomorrow night, it’s going to be a good test for us and we have to come ready to play.”
The flipside of the angst created by a 1-2-1 start after four games is the reality of the 82-game schedule. Annually, if the Toronto Maple Leafs get off to a good start, one hears the “plan the Cup parade for Yonge Street” comments. Similar sarcasm and analysis will arise in Vancouver if the road trip continues poorly. Veterans of the game know the peaks and valleys, the ebbs and flows, and try to never get too high or too low.
“We’ve played four games, we’ve got a lot more hockey to be played, and we’re just gonna keep getting better as a team,” Horvat added. “We’ve had one bad game in four, and stuff like that happens. It’s how you learn from it, it’s how you recover from it and get better, and we’ll do that tomorrow night.”
Down on the farm, forward Nic Petan, profiled here two weeks ago, cleared waivers and his assignment to Abbotsford began. The Canucks AHL team split a pair of games in California against the Los Angeles Kings affiliate the Ontario Reign, winning in a shoot-out on Sunday 3-2 and then dropping an overtime decision Tuesday 4-3.
The Abbotsford Canucks will hold their first ever home opener against another new AHL franchise, the Henderson Silver Knights, affiliate of the Golden Knights, on Friday night, and then the Abby boys are back at it at home for a Sunday matinee.