With their renewed confidence and their mostly winning ways, one will notice a certain bravado with the Vancouver Canucks as of late.
“The word ‘swagger’ kind of comes to mind,” Canucks forward Matthew Highmore said after practice on Saturday. “I think we’re playing with confidence knowing that this is our home, we want to make it as hard as possible for teams to come into. Certainly if someone is digging at our goalie we need to stand up to that and I think that’s all part of building as a team too, and we’re certainly doing that.”
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who’s more ornery on the ice than one might expect from the Swede in general, has been particularly physical around his goal crease during and after play. The overall physicality seems to have picked up as the team’s momentum of confidence has increased.
Travis Hamonic has been noticeably snarly lately. Never a bad thing.
The Vancouver Canucks are a team that rarely fights, which shouldn’t mean they necessarily lack the toughness and camaraderie to defend one another. Lately, one gets they impression they have both.
In their two most recent home games the Canucks officially outhit the Montreal Canadiens 22-18 in a 5-3 victory on Wednesday and outhit the Washington Capitals 26-23 in the 4-3 overtime loss on Friday.
Home vs. road isn’t necessarily the deciding factor, it’s more about bravado. While completely amped in a comeback win in Toronto a week ago Saturday, the Canucks outhit the Maple Leafs 27-19 during Vancouver’s 6-4 win. Maybe not a surprise given the Leafs’ ongoing concerns season-to-season about lack of overall toughness. It appears it still be a problem.
Luke Schenn leads the Canucks with 183 hits this season in just 43 games. Multiply that 4.25 hits per-game times the number of games played by the NHL leaders, and Schenn would be second in the league in hits only to Radko Gudas of the Florida Panthers.
Tyler Myers stands second among Vancouver D-men with 114 smacks while Kyle Burroughs, despite not having played since February 19th and appearing in only 36 games, came next with 97.
Second overall on the team in hits: JT Miller with 128. The next closest forward is Tyler Motte with 75. Inactive Jason Dickinson has 89.
Post-whistle physicality is the truest indication of attitude. Watch what happens when there’s traffic around the Vancouver net and their goalie Thatcher Demko and see how the team reacts. It’s often the simplest and clearest indication of where you’ll find a team’s collective head.