The Vancouver Canucks match against the Seattle Kraken takes on significant importance on New Year’s Day. This rejuvenated Canucks team can’t afford to stumble against an expansion club that’s wallowing below them in the Pacific Division standings. It’s a non-starter, a no-no, a can’t-go-there under any circumstances.
Plus, who wants to lose a game of symbolical significance, simply in the fact that it represents a new dawn, a new beginning, a chance to start 2022 with wind in your sails. A holiday loss would more than dampen the mood.
Seattle meanwhile might have revenge on its mind. The Canucks ruined the Kraken’s coming out party back on October 23rd, a 4-2 come from behind victory for Vancouver that featured three unanswered third period goals. Kind of reminiscent of the Canucks modus operandi under head coach Bruce Boudreau lately. Flail early, try to win late. It fell short Thursday night in Los Angeles.
“Hopefully it was a cheap lesson that we learned tonight,” Boudreau said after the 2-1 shoot-out loss. “You can’t go out there just because you’ve gone well, think you can throw your sticks out there and people are going to bow down and say “ooo, here they come”. No. You have to bring your best every single night or you’re going to be left by the wayside. I just hope that was a great lesson that we learned tonight.”
No panic. A team that’s been confidently cruising along and was re-establishing its legs on back-to-back nights after a long pause is allowed a tough night. Coach “Gabby” hopes it’s a one and done. It’s when confidence turns to cockiness or complacency when the trouble begins. NHL teams cannot get in the habit of thinking they can win games in one period.
Meanwhile, the diversity of scoring has dried up, if it ever existed much at all.
“There’s certain guys we need more offence from, we can’t expect to win every night when it’s only Horvat and Miller and Pettersson and Garland basically doing the scoring,” Boudreau said. “We need all of our forwards to start contributing and I didn’t think a lot of them were contributing very much tonight.”
Bo Horvat has averaged a point-a-game over his last six. The last time JT Miller didn’t pick up a point was back on December 4th against Pittsburgh, head coach Travis Green’s final game. Since then he has 12 points over an eight-game scoring streak. Conor Garland has actually cooled off without a point in three straight games while only playing 13:53 Thursday night in LA. He had tallied a point in four of the previous five. Elias Pettersson has two goals and two assists over the last five games.
Those are players Boudreau cited.
It didn’t help when Brock Boeser went out due to Covid protocol before this three-game road trip. The right-handed sniper had found his game recently with five goals and eight points over his last seven matches.
Meanwhile, the bottom-six is non-existent. Alleged net-front-presence Jedi-master Alex Chiasson has lost “the force”, pointless in his last eight. He has six points in 27 games, with just one at even strength. Yeah, I know, “power play specialist.”
Jason Dickinson has 4 points in 31 games. His lack of finish is startling.
It’s tough to be overly critical of the young prospects with language barriers in the line-up, but eventually the international language of puck needs to take over.
Twenty-year-old Vasily Podkolzin has one assist over his last seven games, eight points on the season.
Hyperactive Swede Nils Höglander, who we wrote about glowingly this past week, needs to settle down and find his hands. He’s pointless in five straight and has 12 total on the season.
You hear a lot about the impact of confidence. That’s the key word for these two youngsters. They simply need a break-out moment. Mind over matter while working on their 200-foot games.
Ultimately the Vancouver Canucks need to remember the simple hockey message Boudreau brought with him almost four weeks ago: Skate, pressure, work hard, and never stop.
A winning formula.