The Canucks staved off their first three game losing streak of the season, bumping their mini two game slump in OT over the Caps on Sunday afternoon. Despite playing a bit tired after three games in about 74 hours, the Canucks collected two points and now have five of a possible eight so far on the road trip, with their final game of the swing coming Tuesday against the Blackhawks. Here are your highlights from the game:
Tired legs. A little adversity. All the teams gearing up for playoff runs. These are the types of games that are going to test the team’s mentality and their belief in the system. They came out on the positive side of the ledger, even if the game wasn’t too pretty.
“Well, it's just a mucky game,” Tocchet said. “You're going to have these games in an 82-game schedule. I thought some guys were tired, which means you have to play smart. We turned the puck over a few times halfway through the game; I thought we were a little bit better as the game went on. But some games you've got to play when you don't have your legs and you've got to play smart.”
Tocchet mused before the game about how the adversity is going to get ramped up, and how he’s interested in how the team is going to respond over the next stretch. The response seemed pretty good, even if everyone wasn’t at their peak on Sunday, but thankfully the Canucks had Hoglander, Garland, and Demko lead the way for them.
“I thought Hoggy was a dog on the bone,” Tocc told reporters after the game. “You know, these games when some guys are tired… guys like Hoggy shine because he's a motor. I thought Garland and him were our best players. Garland was excellent tonight, so give those two guys a lot of credit.”
That third line has been so consistent all season, and while they may not put up gaudy numbers, they control the play and are a pain to play against. It’s all effort there.
“It's not just results driven,” Garland explained. “It's effort and playing to our system and executing and just playing the way we can. We're a group that's really aware of when we play well and when we don't, and if we don't, we follow it up with a good effort. And we've haven't had many bad efforts back-to-back all year.”
Hoglander shined after being called out for a defensive error in Detroit, getting another twirl in the top six with Petey. Dude is all motor. He’s still young and needs to clean up parts of his game (like penalties and defensive acumen), but if he can continue to contribute in the top six for the rest of the season that will be a huge internal push for the team.
“I listen to the coach when he talks,” Hoglander said. “He came up to me before the game and was showing me the clips from the last game. I mean, we played pretty good in the offensive zone, but D-zone we can be a little bit better. It's every game I have to prove that I can be a guy he can trust.”
It clearly wasn’t all good on Sunday, with the Canucks surrendering another quick early goal. It was the sixth straight game they surrendered the first goal. Their power play was also blanked, now at 0 for 9 in their last three games. Ian Cole broke it down well after the game – his veteran presence and communication are a bit part of what he brings to the locker room – when asked if the team was fine during this last little stretch.
“I'm not going to say that we're fine,” he said. “Because... I think there are things you can take out of every game, positive or negative. And I think it's our job to take a step back, look at each game objectively and say, ‘How can we improve?’ That is our No. 1 goal as professional athletes. And to win hockey games. That's it.
“Do I think we can be better? Yes. Do I think that there's anything that can't be corrected, like we're not fast enough or can't make plays or we don't have enough skill? None of those things are issues. But is there stuff we can fix? Absolutely. There are certain things that we can do better, that we can improve on, but we know that. I think our ability to continue to strive to get better is what has made us good... over the course of this year. I don't think we change that mindset at all because of the last three games.”
Myers added to that sentiment, with a good snapshot of probably how most Canucks fans feel after a loss this season.
“Things have gone so well this year that, you know, when you lose one it feels like the end of the world,” he said.
“Overall, it wasn't our cleanest game as a group. I thought we started to get our legs (moving) better in the third. But you know what? We stuck with it in the sense... we were pretty good within our system, even though it wasn't our cleanest game. And Demmer was obviously very good for us tonight, and we were able to come out with two. And that's a big two points for us.”
Big two points indeed. Next up Chicago on Tuesday to close out the road trip.