With nineteen games remaining in the compressed NHL Regular Season, the Vancouver Canucks find themselves in unfamiliar territory heading to the homestretch. The NW Division Title, a foregone conclusion the last few seasons currently belongs to the red hot Minnesota Wild, and the Canucks currently find themselves battered, bruised and in a sixth seed position, only four points secured of a playoff spot.
As the Canucks head into a three games in four nights road trip to Phoenix, LA and Colorado, wins are critical to keep any hope of winning the NW Title once again and to do so, the Canucks will have to do so with a makeshift lineup, as forwards Ryan Kesler, David Booth, Chris Higgins, Steve Pinizzoto, Zack Kassian and possibly Tom Sestito will all miss the first game tonight against the Coyotes.
Feel sorry for the Canucks? One can, but ask any Ottawa Senators fan if it’s possible to watch key player after key player go down with injury, and still maintain a level of success. Easy? Not a chance, but the Senators are doing what many said was impossible, keeping their playoff spot and looking mighty impressive in the process, showing that great coaching, veteran leadership and spot on team system play can lead to overall team success.
The Canucks, in my opinion, have had it far too easy, for far too long, often coasting down the homestretch of the season, a playoff spot and home ice a foregone conclusion. The biggest key, many March and early April evenings was wondering if the Canucks could find a level of desperation required to match a much more desperate hockey club, needing wins and points to keep their own playoff hopes alive. It burned Vancouver last season, running into a desperate LA Kings club who had been forced into playoff mode 6-8 weeks before Vancouver. We all know how that story played out.
Like any Canuck fan, it’s great to see the team play President’s Trophy caliber hockey, winning game after game and planning playoff parties in March. This year will require more effort, determination and a commitment to playing a sound team game for this club to not only have playoff success, but to guarantee a playoff spot come late April. In my opinion, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world that could happen. I would much rather see this team have to fight and claw now, while wounded, knowing a healthy Kesler et al will be coming to help with the cause as the season winds down.
GM Mike Gillis has been reportedly working hard to acquire a player or two that can help this team down the homestretch, with the trade deadline less than two weeks away. If the Canucks can find a way to battle through this adversity set in front of them now, they may be in a better position for success when it matters most, six weeks from now, than they were coasting to a first round desperate opponent they faced one year ago.
Your thoughts? Thanks for reading.
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