Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau heads back to his very first NHL stomping grounds on Sunday at 2 pm eastern as the Canucks take on the Washington Capitals. He does it with desperation; his team winless in the first three games of a very difficult five-game eastern road trip. Vancouver lost to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday 5-2, the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday 4-2, and the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 yesterday.
Boudreau won a Calder Cup as the head coach of the Hershey Bears in the AHL in 2005-’06. Two seasons later, 21 games into the schedule, he was promoted to the NHL affiliate Washington Capitals, taking over for fired head coach, former Canucks goalie, Glen Hanlon.
The team went 37-17-7 over 61 games and despite the abbreviated effort, “Gabby” earned the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year. It was Alexander Ovechkin’s third season in the league. They lost in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Now in his fourth NHL head coaching gig, after five and four season runs in Anaheim and Minnesota, Boudreau hasn’t changed in one regard: He’s still an open, honest, sometimes blunt communicator. He generally tries to put a positive light on most everything even when his team is struggling.
Yet even Boudreau has his limits. A loss Sunday would be somewhat devastating to the Vancouver Canucks’ playoffs hopes. The club would be putting itself in a position to have to go on another sterling winning streak like the 8-0-and-1 that started Boudreau’s tenure. The problem is, the schedule doesn’t get any easier when the team returns home.
“Out top-six has to be better,” Canucks captain Bo Horvat said after Saturday’s loss. “We have to find ways to score goals if we’re gonna win. At the end of the day we’ve gotta be our best players and come to compete every night and produce. We have to start doing that if we’re going to win hockey games.”
Horvat scored Saturday, his team leading 12th goal of the season and his first in four games.
Canucks leading point scorer JT Miller, second on the team with 11 goals, has seen the opponents’ best defensive efforts and has been shut down on the road trip thus far. He’s pointless in the three games and Saturday he was held without a shot.
Brock Boeser was red hot heading into his Covid break, he’s cooled off coming out of it although he’s still fully engaged.
Meanwhile, Elias Pettesson’s rut transcends the holiday and Covid postponements. His last goal came on December 14th, eight games ago. He has six on the season. He was taken off the first power play unit early in the game in Raleigh.
And therein lies the biggest issue with the team’s best scorers lately. The Vancouver Canucks power play is 0-for-12 over the three games.
“We’ll get back to the drawing board about that,” Boudreau said postgame. “Power plays go in fits-and-starts a little bit, you can go 0-for-15 and then 5-for-10 and then all of a sudden your numbers look about equal. I think it’s let us down a little bit and if we had a power play goal here or there in either of the three games, we probably would have had a better chance of winning.”
Still positive. The team’s only choice as it steps into game-four of the gauntlet.