EDMONTON — There are so many lessons for the Vancouver Canucks these days, and so many folks out there eager to point the Canucks players in the direction of their next tutorial.
Ryan Reaves. Zone exits. Quinn Hughes. Antoine Roussel.
You want advice? Hop on Twitter, or sports talk radio. We’ve got advice.
The lineup of those who seem to know where the Canucks should start their recovery from a 5-0 Game 1 obliteration by Vegas is a long one. The acceptance of this friendly advice by Canucks coach Travis Green and his players, however, is much shorter.
“Win a game and move on as fast as possible, lose a game and move on as fast as possible,” said Tanner Pearson, winner of the 2014 Stanley Cup as a Los Angeles King. “We’ve reiterated that after every game. Next game’s a new game, and the last one doesn’t really matter.”
That lesson is of particular value when you get thrashed as mightily as the Canucks did in Game 1. Truly, as Green said after the game, “This was probably our worst game (of the playoffs) tonight.”
So, where do they go, these Vancouver Canucks, against a supremely confident Vegas team that has lost but once in nine starts since arriving in the Edmonton bubble?
Well, it starts in their own end, where the Canucks’ brightest young stars — Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser — all spent far too much time on Sunday night. So much, in fact, that none of the trio even registered a shot on net in the game.
Hughes in particular was, and will be, a focus of the Golden Knights. A rookie in his first NHL post-season, it is fair to say that the 20-year-old has never met an opponent as big, fast and deep as Vegas.
“They try to pressure everyone, not just Quinn,” Green said Monday afternoon. “Obviously he’s a big part of our team and they are hoping to get the puck out of your best players’ hands. I did talk to Quinn briefly last night, I will again today. I think good players adapt … especially a young guy who hasn’t been in this situation before. The one thing about a good, young, great player, they adjust to different situations.”
There is absolute trust that Hughes, like the Canucks did in previous series against Minnesota and St. Louis, will bounce back against Vegas in Game 2.
“Quinn is probably the most skilled and confident player I’ve ever played with,” defence partner Chris Tanev said. “I have no doubt in my mind: next game he’ll be fine and he’ll be flying out there.”
There will be no special wisdom imparted, no Knute Rockne speeches. Just the usual talks that Tanev and the young prodigy have had since the season began nearly a year ago.
“We always talk. We hang out together quite a bit,” said Tanev, giving some examples. “What can we do? What can we do better? What do we like about our game? We’re always trying to make little things better, and last night we weren’t good enough.”
Green, meanwhile, shifted the focus off his young core and on to, as hockey people like to say these days, the group.
“Not just our younger players; it’s our team in general,” Green said. “I don’t think their team did a lot of things that surprised us. We just weren’t sharp. We weren’t on top of our game. We didn’t pass the puck as well as we can. We didn’t receive passes … And give their team credit. They’re a good team.”
Too good a team for Vancouver? That remains to be seen.
But the team that will skate out with a 1-0 series lead on Tuesday evening at Rogers Place in Edmonton is supremely confident, with absolutely no doubt about whether they will get past the Canucks and into Round 3.
“I don’t know where (Game 1) ranks,” Vegas head coach Peter DeBoer said. “Definitely it’s on that list of complete efforts from us. Especially considering the circumstances – there were a lot of distractions, a lot of stuff flying around. I loved how we blocked out the noise and just went to work.”
How about a team whose former No. 1 goalie, “face of the franchise” Marc-Andre Fleury, is on the bench, while controversy swirls over a tweet sent out by his agent? And while the hockey world whips the story into a frenzy — could you imagine the media storm if that were a Canucks goalie? — the other guy, Robin Lehner, calmly goes out and pitches a shutout.
“That’s just outside noise to us,” DeBoer said. “We’re inside the bubble, and in our own bubble inside the bubble, where we’re not going to let any of that outside noise get in the way of what we’re trying to do. That’s advancing all the way to the Stanley Cup.”
It is pretty clear that the Canucks are facing an opponent that is focused, experienced, and is laser-focused on getting further than last season’s disappointing Round 1 ouster to San Jose.
The Canucks, meanwhile, fell behind Minnesota 1-0, and lost Games 3 and 4 to St. Louis, to which the hockey world responded by counting Vancouver out.
Well, here they are: Game 2, Round 2.
What do these Canucks have?
It is time, once again, to find out.