Canucks gauging progress towards league titans throughout ‘big journey’

Thursday is the one-month anniversary of Jim Rutherford’s first day on the job, on the bottom, because the Vancouver Canucks’ new president of hockey operations.

Virtually misplaced amid the big-picture concepts he laid out for reporters on Dec. 13 was his assertion concerning taking the measure of the struggling staff he was inheriting.

“Watch it, actually, by means of the month of January and … I will have a greater concept the place we’re at,” Rutherford stated. “We’ll have an actual robust highway journey in January … going by means of the gauntlet there of Florida and Carolina and Washington. However we’ll get a greater learn on this staff at the moment.”

And right here we’re, the Canucks dealing with the Stanley Cup-champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday after getting smacked 5-2 Tuesday by the Florida Panthers, the primary of 5 Murderers’ Row opponents Vancouver faces over a span of eight days.

All 5 groups are among the many high seven within the Nationwide Hockey League and 4 of them, together with the Lightning, have been on forceful runs the final month.

As measuring sticks go, this one would have been dauntingly tall and sharp, even underneath preferrred circumstances for the Canucks. However as bolstered by Tuesday’s loss – remarkably, the primary in regulation since coach Bruce Boudreau beat Rutherford to Vancouver by every week – the final two weeks had been removed from preferrred.

A nine-day layoff between video games, created when the Canucks selected final week to postpone extremely winnable residence matches final week towards Ottawa and the New York Islanders, robbed the staff of any momentum lingering from its 8-0-1 begin underneath Boudreau. And COVID-19 protocols robbed key forwards Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson of the prospect to practise and at the least keep in recreation form.

So what precisely are we measuring now? Sturdiness, resolve, perception?

“Honest or not truthful, it is actuality,” Boudreau instructed reporters Wednesday when requested concerning the circumstances surrounding a torture take a look at that, actually, might end with zero wins. “We’ll positively know the place we’re on the finish of this seven-game stint.”

Boudreau was together with on this examination of the Canucks the primary two residence video games again in Vancouver – as but unpostponed – towards the Panthers and St. Louis Blues.

“These seven video games,” he continued, “are going to say whether or not we have an opportunity to do one thing critical right here or whether or not we will should struggle and claw and put one other eight- or 10-game win streak collectively simply to make the playoffs.”

The Lightning usually are not attempting to make the playoffs; they’re attempting to construct a dynasty, validate themselves as the best NHL energy because the Edmonton Oilers of the Eighties.

The Canucks, 16-16-3 even after December’s surge, try to make the Stanley Cup event for the third time in 9 years.

“We labored laborious to get ourselves again on this race and we’re in it now,” veteran Vancouver defenceman Luke Schenn stated. “And you’ll’t have a visit the place, you understand, you do not put up factors within the win column, so clearly it is an enormous journey.”

Schenn has Stanley Cup rings earned with the Lightning the final two seasons, so he understands higher than anybody else on the Canucks what they should aspire to, and the starvation required to maintain successful.

“As quickly as you lose that starvation and that competitiveness and … you are content material with the place you might be, it is precisely if you begin to fall,” Schenn stated on Zoom. “There is a cause why groups clearly do not win again to again fairly often. It is since you undergo it as soon as, you understand how laborious it’s and what it’s a must to put into it, and it isn’t a straightforward factor to do. Identical factor if you’re in a grind in the midst of the season. We all know how laborious it’s to win hockey video games, and you have to present up each evening as a result of … as quickly as you do not deliver it and also you let your foot off the fuel somewhat bit, that is precisely when issues do not go your manner. We noticed that final evening.

“You take a look at all the great groups across the league; they’re on the high of the league, the highest of divisions and conferences, as a result of they do not lose a number of video games in a row. That is what acquired us out of the race (in November) and successful a number of video games, that was what acquired us again into it. So the extra consistency you possibly can have and being resilient after a loss is the signal of an excellent staff.”

Boudreau stated: “When Luke talks, individuals ought to hearken to him as a result of he is aware of what he is speaking about. He is a really excessive first-round draft alternative that is gained two Stanley Cups, and I do not suppose there’s too many guys in that room that may say the identical factor.”

About zero, in truth.

Thatcher Demko, one of the best goalie within the league in December, regarded particularly chilly after the layoff. However he most likely isn’t stealing a recreation towards a number of the titans the Canucks face on this journey. The gamers in entrance of him should be higher than they had been Tuesday: faster, cleaner with the puck, extra attentive defensively, higher on particular groups.

They’ve misplaced their momentum, however want to keep up that starvation.

“We’re studying as we go right here and final evening was an instance,” Schenn stated. “After a loss, your character reveals by means of going into the subsequent recreation. Everybody desires to bounce again and step up and, like I stated, not let it carry over and bleed into consecutive video games.”

It took the Canucks 9 video games to play themselves again towards the outer fringes of the playoff race. It will take far much less time to play themselves again out of it.

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