The Vancouver Canucks brought plenty of energy, enthusiasm and confidence to the game on Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers. But not having one’s NHL “game legs” has just as much to do with getting one’s instincts and mental elements used to conditions again as it does with getting the feet moving. The Canucks simply weren’t sharp in the 5-2 loss.
After practising and scrimmaging only against teammates off and on for a ten day stretch, the Canucks lost a bit of that game feeling you get when taking on a hostile opponent. Poor puck maintenance in the neutral zone or blowing an assignment in the D-zone could be two examples. Little things add up when you’re playing against elite clubs.
The Canucks team is fully aware of this transition back to reality. There’s no reason to believe one setback would impact the inherent confidence that had developed over the first nine games under head coach Bruce Boudreau.
“We’re being positive in the fact that we can’t accept losing,” said Canucks defenceman Brad Hunt after the morning skate. “We lost one and we don’t lose two in a row, that’s the mindset I think he (Boudreau) wanted us to come with. We can’t accept losing, we come into this game with everything we have and move forward and get back on the winning track again.”
Hunt expects playoff-level intensity from his team.
“We want to limit our turnovers and play in their end more,” he added. “Take care of the puck, get it behind their D and play in their end.”
Boudreau is coming back with the same line-up he used in Sunrise.
Vasily Podkolzin, JT Miller, Brock Boeser
Tanner Pearson, Elias Pettersson, Nils Höglander
Jason Dickinson, Bo Horvat, Conor Garland
Matthew Highmore, Juho Lammikko, Tyler Motte
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tyler Myers
Quinn Hughes, Luke Schenn
Brad Hunt, Tucker Poolman
As the Canucks head coach pointed out after practice on Wednesday, there’s a make-or-break element to this five game road trip and a seven game stretch against the NHL’s top teams. After tonight it continues against the Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators on the road and then at home against the Florida Panthers and the St. Louis Blues.
The BC Boys will hope to be back “up to speed” mentally and physically as they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The playoff standings watch begins in earnest this time of year. Thursday night will determine just how desperate the rest of this road trip becomes.