It’s easy when a team is in the midst of a slump to find the moral victories within, but for the Vancouver Canucks, that’s just not cutting it anymore. The Canucks are nearing the halfway point of the NHL season, having played 24 games, and as of this moment, they sit in sixth place in the Scotia North Division.
There are a few things Vancouver can do to turn things around and start accumulating victories, but with a record of 2-7-2 over their last 11 games, sometimes all you can do is look for the moral victories. Whether it’s the overtime losses to the Calgary Flames or the Winnipeg Jets, or the “should have” wins against the Toronto Maple Leafs or Edmonton Oilers, it’s time for the Canucks to start picking up victories.
Getting Two Of Two Points
It’s been mentioned all year long, but in a season where you play only your division, getting both points every night is a priority, especially early on. Vancouver’s loss to the Jets is just another example of how the Canucks “picking up a point” isn’t going to put Vancouver in a playoff position, especially when these losses are coming against teams that are ahead of them in the standings in playoff positions.
Then you look at the latest loss to the Oilers. Up 3-0 in the first period, Vancouver surrendered four consecutive goals, including two in the third period, and failed to come out with a vital two points, while allowing Edmonton to separate themselves even further in the standings. “Very disappointing, very upsetting. We didn’t play good enough to win, flat out. Quite frankly, we had some individuals that didn’t play good enough tonight,” Canucks coach Travis Green said after the loss.
This was a chance to build on a series vs the Flames in which Vancouver went 2-1-1, picking up five of a possible eight points. Moral victories can be had, but the Canucks aren’t in a position right now to just be settling for them.
Running Out of Time
As mentioned earlier, Vancouver recently played their 24th game of the season. This is when we start to see teams figuring out their identities and begin to turn it up as the playoff push becomes real over the next couple of months.
The Leafs have shown who they are very early on, and barring injury will look to stay on that path, leading the way in the division. The Oilers are beginning to hit their stride and are starting to get a little goaltending and defense. The Montreal Canadiens seems to be going the other way, with back-to-back losses to the Ottawa Senators and the firing of Claude Julien, while the Flames have been trying to find themselves so far as well. It’s time for the Canucks to find their identity, and there are already a few things they can lean on.
Despite the recent lack of success so far this year, there are some positive things to look at for Vancouver as an example and use as a motivational tool to get back into the playoff hunt. For starters, they’ve already beaten some of the top teams in the division, with wins against the Oilers, Flames, Jets and Canadiens so far, which means they can do it again. It’s a matter of finding that swagger, that confidence, and getting on a roll at the right time.
Brock Boeser has brought his scoring touch early and often this year, placing near the top of the league with 12 goals on the campaign. Quinn Hughes, despite taking on more defensive responsibilities, is near the top of the NHL in terms of points and Bo Horvat has taken the captaincy and thrived with it.
The one thing to remember is that the majority of the roster this season was a part of the Stanley Cup playoff run less than a year ago. They know the keys to success. They’ve lived through them. They understand what it takes. Now, as the second half of the seasons starts up, it will be determined whether the Canucks continue to settle for moral victories, or start earning real ones.
I’m a London, Ontario based broadcaster and sports writer for the Vancouver Canucks. I’ve done work in the past reporting on the NHL, NBA and MLB. I’ve also covered the OHL including the Owen Sound Attack and am currently involved with the London Knights.