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Vancouver Canucks Step to Nashville with a Win and Optimism

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Vancouver Canucks, Bo Horvat
Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat fires home the game winning goal on Sunday against the Washington Capitals.

The Vancouver Canucks will enjoy a day off between games before taking on the Predators in Nashville on Tuesday night. With back-to-back matinee games over the weekend, it gives them a little extra recuperation time before the evening affair in Tennessee.

It’ll be about 51-hours between the conclusion of the victory over the Capitals on Sunday afternoon and puck drop against the Predators. It’s maybe a 90-minute flight from DC, so that part isn’t too taxing either.

Slicing hairs? Nope. Because it’s all about the details at this point for the Vancouver Canucks as they wrap up this roadie, one that most would have considered a success if they went 2-and-3. They still have a chance to do it. If that doesn’t sound very aspirational, consider the calibre of the opponents, the schedule, and the fact that the Canucks started the trip with no “game legs”. They were coming off a ten-day break against teams that weren’t.

One could argue they’ll have just the right combination of rest and confidence as they enter their next match, the finale of the five.

In their 4-2 win against the Capitals they earned some bonus points, literally and figuratively, in two areas. Scoring on special teams and scoring from Elias Pettersson.

Regardless of how many times Petey gets asked about his struggles this season — I think we’re up to maybe twenty-five, thirty times — the answer remains the same. What’s he supposed to say that’s different?  He’s attempting to improve his play. On a few occasions he’s broken out, only to have his game fall back by various degrees. Sunday he broke out again with two goals and consistently tenacious play.

The power play went two-for-four Sunday after struggling 0-for-12 over the first three games of the Southeastern US gauntlet. The frustration was exponential in the losses to Florida, Tampa, and Carolina; 0-for-3, 0-for-4, and then 0-for-5.

Another anomaly occurred when they scored their two power play goals in Washington. One came :33-seconds after the man-advantage carried over at the start of a period, the other one came :33-seconds after the penalty was called. With the coincidence came relief. We also saw some pretty dynamic puck movement.

Even with the brief drought on the power play it’s still 9-for-37 since head coach Bruce Boudreau arrived. That’s a very good 24.3%.

His penalty killing units aren’t clicking, at least not lately. Although better than before-Boudreau, this road trip has helped drive the since-Boudreau number down to 74.2%.

“I’m a big believer that if you can have your special teams in the top-ten in both categories you’re usually a playoff team and you’re usually a tough team to beat,” Boudreau said Sunday.

The units are obviously still a work in progress after just 13 games under the new regime which includes PK-responsible assistant coach Scott Walker.

A full sense of normalcy will be difficult to find in the coming days. Feisty forward Conor Garland and back-up goalie Jaroslav Halak both tested positive for Covid over the last two days. No one’s really sure what lies ahead in terms of protocols before and after they return to Canada.

“I’m not the border agent so I have no idea,” Boudreau said in a half-laugh. He’s not kidding.

The Vancouver Canucks are five points out of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference with a game in-hand on the team occupying the slot, but they still have four other teams to hop over, all of whom have games in-hand on them.

VHN Managing Editor Rob Simpson has been covering the NHL for three decades on live TV, radio, and as a journalist. He worked his first ever game getting postgame sound as a teenager; it was Vancouver vs. Detroit.

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