The Vancouver Canucks look like a different hockey team their last two games. While the excellent goaltending has been consistent practically the entire season, the skaters are also starting to project a certain air of confident determination. The forecheck against the New York Rangers on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden was a good as it’s been all season, particularly in the second half of the 1st period and the entire 2nd. In fact, it was a forechecking clinic as the Vancouver Canucks created scoring opportunities and goals off turnovers.
Maybe the confidence simply stems from the surge in offence from throughout the line-up. Other than the snake-bit Swede Nils Höglander, goalless in twenty straight, the Canucks have been finding the net on a regular basis, leading the NHL in goals per game since the All-Star break at a rate of 4.63. Defenceman Tyler Myers had his first goal of the season in New York, while one of those grinding forecheckers, Juho Lammikko, had his 3rd goal and 5th point in the last six games.
The Vancouver Canucks are feeling the boosted confidence levels.
“It’s high,” Vancouver defenceman Quinn Hughes said Monday. “Talking to some of the guys today, I just think that we think we can win every game and we expect to, that’s the reality of the situation, we know we need points, and we’re just doing our best every game.”
“We’re playing with a lot of desperation, not that we weren’t in January, per se, but I think we’ve found a little something here,” Canucks forward Matthew Highmore said postgame. “Our group is growing in confidence and we have to continue to get this, or keep it going and get points, and you never know what’ll happen.”
That last reference was to chasing and obtaining a playoff spot in the NHL’s Western Conference. Where early in the season it was a completely foreign concept, the team has turned it around to the point of believing it’s truly possible. That said, while Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau acknowledges the confidence and mind-over-matter factors, he’s not overly convinced about momentum carrying over from one game to another.
“Every game is a different entity to me, I do feel we feel confident when we have a lead going into the third period as to our record, what it is going into the third period with a lead, but as a coach you’re always thinking ‘OK, we don’t want to give them any life’ whatsoever,” Boudreau said. “But we’ve got good players on the team that try to calm the bench down and that’s important. Especially today (vs Rangers) it was “calm down boys, we’re OK, we’re good.'”
From shift-to-shift to a macro-view, Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko senses an increased Canucks collective confidence.
“Yeah, I do,” he said postgame Sunday. “(We’ve won) five out of six, I think there were a couple of games sprinkled in there where we weren’t at our best and still found a way to win, and obviously in the Calgary game we played really well and tonight we played well too. I think a confident group can find a way to win when you don’t have your A-game, and I think as that continues to grow we’ll be able to find two points more frequently.”
Going back-to-back nights from Madison Square Garden to the Prudential Center in Newark can be a bit of an energetic letdown. That team confidence will have to be coupled with focus when the Canucks take on the struggling Devils in a building with a less dynamic vibe.
Notes: Jaroslav Halak starts in net for Vancouver and the game features Hughes vs. Hughes, Quinn vs. Jack (more later today) with Jack holding a 2-and-0 NHL record against his older brother.