Don’t panic Vancouver Canucks fans. It doesn’t do any good. In fact, if you’re on a sinking boat or trying to leave a burning building, panic only makes things more dangerous. It’s important to keep your wits, especially when we’re dealing with something as life altering as NHL hockey. OK, surely I jest, but panic is an overly popular pastime particular in early seasons.
It’s also true that panicking is dangerous. The Canucks players can’t afford to because it could potentially alter their mindset, a mindset that had them playing some of their best even strength defensive hockey of the season against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night, only to lose. Offensively, they’re lacking finish, or maybe they’re lacking Finnish … can we bring back Jussi Jokinen? (A joke reference, but the funny thing about Jokinen … he actually had ten points in 14 games for the Vancouver Canucks near the end of the 2017-’18 season after being acquired in February with Tyler Motte from Columbus for Thomas Vanek. He somehow finished a plus-7, but was 35-years-old when the season ended and returned to Europe soon after. He just wrapped up his playing career there as well, retiring this past May).
Yes the Canucks gave up chances, and goalie Thatcher Demko was once again the team’s first star. But that’s why the name of the game is ‘goalie’. It happened at the other end as well, particularly in the closing minutes, when Edmonton goalie Mikko Koskinen saved the Oilers’ bacon. He made two dramatic saves to preserve the regulation victory, playing with a glorious newfound confidence. With Mike Smith injured maybe he’s just making the most of an opportunity.
That would be a nifty concept for the high-end players up front for the Canucks. The offense has been dim. The most important thing to come out of the game against Edmonton was the re-emergence of the “Lotto Line” in terms of participating physically without trepidation (Elias Pettersson) and eventually lighting the lamp again (Brock Boeser). Along with JT Miller there are still some inconsistencies in their game, but the teeter-totter is starting to tilt their way. Pettersson had previously been downright discombobulated.
It makes Tuesday’s match-up against the New York Rangers pivotal. Do they stay the course or become undisciplined in order to force a solution to the offensive shortcomings? That will be the key question for the evening. Pending the result of their match in Seattle Sunday evening, the Rangers began their road trip with a record of 5-2-and-1, good for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
Conor Garland was back being his pesty self for the Canucks, reeling off six shots Saturday night. On the six-game road trip, when he was on, the Canucks were on. He, and they, can’t let down against the well-balanced Blueshirts or the doo-doo will edge closer to hitting the fan.
4-2-and-1 would have been an acceptable home stand record. That number is now unreachable. The Canucks can’t get it all back at once, so like when a team is down 3-games-to-1 in a playoff series, the comeback has to be one game, one period, one shift at a time.
That has to be the mindset of the Vancouver Canucks. No panic.