The Vancouver Canucks flew into New York on Friday and held practice Saturday on the west side of Manhattan at the Chelsea Piers’ Sky Rink in preparation for Sunday evening’s game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
“Pretty good memories in the Garden and some pretty good spats with the Garden fans in the past,” Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said, “but let’s face it, it’s a great place to come back to, it’s the heart of the world when it comes to sporting events, so it’s always exciting. There’s been some good times and some bad times here so hopefully tomorrow’s a good time.”
Boudreau is referencing two playoff series from when he coached the Washington Capitals. In both 2009 and 2011, his Capitals prevailed in the opening round against the Broadway Blueshirts. In the earlier series Washington came back from down three-games-to-one to win Game-Seven 2-1 at home on a goal by Sergei Fedorov following a violent game-six at the Garden that resulted in a suspension for Capitals forward Donald Brashear. The fans would have definitely shared their displeasure with Boudreau on the bench.
In 2011 it took only five games to dispatch the Rangers, the key event being a double-overtime 4-3 victory for Washington at the Garden in Game-4 that gave them an insurmountable lead in the series.
Boudreau described the Garden on those occasions as exciting and boisterous.
The Capitals failed to get past the second round either of those playoff seasons, part of the reason for Boudreau’s demise 22-games into the 2011-’12 season. He got bounced in the first round his two other playoff years in Washington, once by the eighth seeded Montreal Canadiens and goalie Jaroslav Halak in 2010.
“I always love coming to this city, it’s one of my favourites,” Canucks captain Bo Horvat said. “Obviously playing at MSG is always special and can’t wait to play again tomorrow night.”
The anticipation also comes from seeing what type of performance the Canucks can register after their startling 7-1 home victory over the visiting Calgary Flames on Thursday night at Rogers Arena. The Flames came in with a franchise tying 10-game winning streak. it was a statement game for the Canucks, a team desperate to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“You need it all, it wasn’t a 7-1 game,” Boudreau said. “Our goaltending was outstanding in the first period, they had two breakaways and they could have jumped into the lead. I think the key for us is the first period, if we can keep teams close in the first period we usually have a lot of success.”
The Rangers own a record of 7-2-and-1 in their last ten games, and an overall mark of 33-13-and-5. (not including the 1-0 loss on Saturday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Penguins)
“They’re a great club,” Boudreau stated. “They’re a 70-point-plus club and there aren’t too many of those in the league. They have firepower a lot of teams can’t match, and on the back end and on the front end, so it’s gonna be a real challenge. We seemed to have had a lot of those challenges lately, so I hope our boys will be up for it and we’ll see how it works out.
Canucks forward Jason Dickinson did not make the trip after suffering a lower body injury in the Calgary game. Phil Di Giuseppe was called from the Abbotsford Canucks and skated with the big club as an extra forward in New York Saturday. Defencemen Tucker Poolman (long-term injured reserve) and Kyle Burroughs (IR) remain out of the line-up and aren’t on the trip.
Boudreau indicated he would move Vasily Podkolzin on to a line with Horvat and Brock Boeser. Alex Chiasson will apparently skate with Elias Pettersson and Nils Höglander.