We asked smiling Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau after the team’s Friday practice, “This is why you got into coaching right, playoff game in the regular season on a Saturday night to get within a point, must feel pretty good?”
“Well yeah, that’s the goal,” ‘Gabby’ responded. “We’re nowhere near the top of the mountain at this point but at least we can see the cliffs up there, it’s just another step closer. Same token, they’re (Anaheim Ducks) saying the same thing. They’ve been up there all the time, they don’t want to lose their perch. So it should be a heck of a game.”
After a so-so October the Ducks went on a run between Halloween and December 15th that saw them boost their record from 2-4-and-3 to 17-9-and-5 as one of the hottest teams in the NHL. After spending moments atop the Pacific Division the club has slipped, going 6-10-and-4 since that pre-Christmas benchmark.
The Ducks now find themselves two points out of a playoff spot with 55 points in 51 games played. The Canucks own a game in-hand on Anaheim and stand three points behind them with 52.
“It’s a good test to see where we are as a group,” Canucks leading scorer JT Miller said Saturday morning. “We understand the importance of this game and every game coming up. Another easy game for us to get up for, should be fun.”
Vancouver’s special teams struggled in San Jose Thursday night against the Sharks in the Canucks 5-4 overtime win. Vancouver struggled simply gaining the zone on the power play, going 0-for-4 against the 7th best penalty kill in the NHL. Meanwhile, the Sharks power play went 2-for-3 in the game against the NHL’s worst statistical penalty kill (69.4%).
The Vancouver Canucks have played the Anaheim Ducks three times this season while compiling a record of 1-1-and-1. The Ducks power play is a cumulative 3-for-12 while the Canucks have gone 0-for-5 head-to-head. While looking at that lopsided number of opportunities it may be simple to suggest to just ‘stay out of the box’. Always a solid concept.
Back on November 9th at Rogers Arena the Vancouver Canucks lost 3-2 in OT with Jaroslav Halak in net when Troy Terry scored for Anaheim at 3:52 of the extra sesson. Five nights later, again with Halak the starter, Vancouver lost in Anaheim 5-1. It wrapped up a horrendous three-game road trip through Colorado, Vegas and SoCal that saw the Canucks out-scored 19-to-6. The ‘fire coach’ Travis Green murmurs began in earnest.
Under Boudreau the Canucks played the Ducks on December 29th and beat them in Anaheim in overtime 2-1 with Miller getting the game winner at the :26-second mark. He has three OT game winners this season including Thursday night in San Jose.
The Ducks are presently coming off 6-2 and 7-3 back-to-back losses this week to the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday and Thursday in Alberta. The momentum presently favours the Canucks. The desperation should be even.
It appears the Ducks will be without captain Ryan Getzlaf.
After the optional Saturday morning skate, Boudreau added to his previous Ducks match-up thoughts.
“This is a pretty important game for both teams, I would think. To me, it’s got playoff atmosphere written all over it.”