At the NHL trade deadline just 11 days ago, the Vancouver Canucks were coming off an outstanding and almost unfathomable 9-3 win against the Boston Bruins and looked like they could take a run at the Pacific Division title.
But after beating Montreal 4-3 in overtime in their first post-deadline game, the Canucks are losers of four in a row — all in regulation. Today they occupy the second wild card spot, with the same number of points as the two teams behind them in Nashville and Winnipeg (Vancouver has a game in hand).
The Canucks’ starting goalie is injured. So is Brock Boeser. And their schedule over the next week should be a challenge, with games against Colorado, Columbus, the New York Islanders, Arizona and Colorado again. It would be easy to panic, but for Canucks head coach Travis Green, this is the kind of situation he likes his team to be in…for the most part.
“I love it where we’re at right now,” he told reporters on Friday. “I don’t love that we haven’t got points in our last four games, but we’re going through some adversity and that’s OK. We’re going through some pressure and that’s alright as well. And I know when we get there we’re going to be so much better off for it.”
Vancouver hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015, nor have they won a round since reaching the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. It’s been a slow build back up to the promise this roster now exudes, but they’re still, overall, a young team.
Elias Pettersson, 20, and Quinn Hughes, 19, are two of the team’s most important players and neither has experienced the kind of pressure-packed games the team is facing in the coming weeks. Thatcher Demko, 24, has been thrown into the deep end.
But general manager Jim Benning has also brought in players who have experienced these things. Tyler Myers and J.T. Miller have both played in the conference finals in the past two seasons and Tyler Toffoli has a couple Stanley Cup rings. Alexander Edler is the last remaining member of the 2011 team who played a significant role.
This pressure is a learning experience and a test rolled together for the whole team — and the coach believes it will make them stronger.
“When you’re going through this adversity, you’re going through this pressure, you’ve gotta have honesty with your group,” he said. “Your players have to be honest with themselves, they gotta believe in themselves as well. And we have belief in our team.
“You gotta love it. You gotta love the pressure. We want guys that love playing in these type of games when the heat is on. You’re going to need that when you’re playing Game 6 on the road. And this is all good learning measurements for our group.”
So while some Canucks supporters are, understandably, worried about a pending collapse — the type they’ve seen before — Green is challenging his players to embrace what’s coming at them now.
“I’m confident in this group,” he said. “They’re going to play their [butts] off for the rest of the year, and I’m confident they’re going to put themselves in the playoffs.”