Below the circumstances, the Vancouver Canucks couldn’t have been a lot better.
They considerably outplayed the Toronto Maple Leafs for one interval on Saturday and outshot them via two. They weren’t outskated – by a lot – and battled arduous for pucks. After a day of relaxation, the Canucks have been all-in as soon as once more.
And nonetheless they misplaced 5-1 to the very best staff in Canada, finishing a four-game street journey that started with optimism and ended with 4 losses and a 17-6 disparity in scoring. They aren’t going to outrun both COVID-19 or their schedule.
Saturday was Vancouver’s third recreation in 4 nights, its fifth recreation in eight. And now the schedule will get even worse, even more durable, extra unwinnable. The Canucks journey dwelling throughout the nation to play Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and the Edmonton Oilers in back-to-back video games Monday and Tuesday, then depart for an additional six-game street journey to play three groups over two time zones.
Their schedule has turn into a funeral procession, and also you significantly marvel how the Canucks will make it via their ultimate 11 video games in 17 nights.
However if you assume issues can’t get any worse, you have been reminded Saturday that there’s at all times one other stage of darkness past rinks and taking part in fields after sexual assault allegations in opposition to Jake Virtanen noticed the Canucks place the winger on depart whereas the Nationwide Hockey League oversees an unbiased investigation into the alleged incident 4 years in the past.
Canucks coach Travis Inexperienced, who refused to remark earlier than the sport about Virtanen past the official assertion the membership issued earlier Saturday, admitted afterwards he was involved whether or not his staff would be capable of give attention to the sport.
By the third interval it was clear that the gamers’ our bodies have been the difficulty, not their heads.
They have been outshot by the Leafs 14-4, outscored 3-0 and appeared once more like a leaden staff hollowed by their COVID disaster firstly of April.
As drained as they’ve appeared bodily, all-time low should still be under them. What occurs in the event that they cease believing they will compete each night time?
“Yeah, you are proper, it’s disappointing,” Canucks captain Bo Horvat mentioned of the 0-4 journey that ended no matter slim likelihood the staff had of nonetheless making the Stanley Cup Playoffs. “On the identical time, we won’t dwell on it and simply say we will pack it in. We have nonetheless obtained to come back to the rink and be keen to play right here these final 11 video games, and play arduous. So long as we nonetheless have an opportunity, we have got to come back to the rink each single day and play arduous.”
Inexperienced mentioned he’s not fearful about his staff giving up.
“Our guys labored arduous tonight,” he mentioned. “These first two durations have been some fairly good hockey for our group. Could not pull the set off, could not get a puck within the internet in addition to the one. I assumed we had an opportunity to attain a couple of extra objectives. And so they make you pay. The third purpose for me was in all probability a tricky one for our group (as a result of) now we have got to begin to chase the sport a bit of bit. It is by no means factor once we begin forcing the sport and forcing performs.
However, “You’ll be able to inform by how arduous they’re taking part in that they need to win badly. It is two of our higher durations that we have in all probability performed popping out of the break, popping out of the COVID. And so they’ll be disenchanted that they misplaced, that is for positive. They need to be.”
The third purpose Inexperienced referenced was a high-slot deflection by Adam Brooks at 4:55 of the third interval, about 15 seconds after Vancouver winger Tanner Pearson was unable to manage the puck and exit the zone.
Auston Matthews had given the Leafs a 2-1 lead via two durations by taking pictures twice off Canuck defenders, the second breaking a 1-1 tie at 3:50 after Alex Edler’s turnover.
Quinn Hughes’ giveaway led to Alex Galchenyuk’s purpose that made it 4-1 at 11:39. Pearson’s post-and-in wrist shot via visitors gave Vancouver a first-period lead that the Canucks held for lower than two minutes.
Out of the 240 minutes of hockey in Toronto and Ottawa, the 1:56 the Canucks led 1-0 on Saturday was the one time they have been forward.
“I am not going to take a seat right here and say it has been a cakewalk and it has been straightforward because the COVID,” Horvat mentioned. “We’re not attempting to make excuses right here, however clearly it takes rather a lot out of you. You are popping out (east), time change and every little thing, and taking part in in opposition to hockey staff. Once more, we have got to seek out methods to attempt to win video games it doesn’t matter what.”
The Canucks want to seek out methods to attain. They’ve had one purpose or much less in 4 of their final six video games, 5 of which had been losses.
Of the three skilled forwards the Canucks added earlier than the April 12 commerce deadline to bolster the underside of their lineup, Jimmy Vesey, Travis Boyd and Matthew Highmore have zero objectives and 0 assists in 24 video games between them.
“If everybody had the reply to the way you rating objectives, there can be plenty of gamers making some huge cash within the NHL,” Inexperienced mentioned. “That is why the blokes that rating receives a commission essentially the most cash. It is arduous. It is arduous to attain, particularly in opposition to good groups at the moment of the yr. I do not assume we have had some puck luck, however I haven’t got the reply for you.”
Minor-league callup Kole Lind performed his second recreation for the Canucks on Saturday and missed the online with three pictures in 16:26 of ice time. Jonah Gadjovich, who has 15 objectives in 19 American Hockey League video games this season, would be the subsequent Utica Comet to get an opportunity within the NHL as soon as he completes a one-week journey quarantine.