Canucks Finding Ways to Win

These past couple of weeks have been pretty good for Vancouver Canucks fans. Over the past 11 games, they have gone 7-3-1, which has resulted in a bit of wiggle room in a tight Western Conference playoff race. Have all seven wins been masterpieces? Not a chance. There has been several occasions in which Vancouver has been badly outplayed for long stretches at a time or fallen behind by multiple goals, and yet they somehow manage to pull it out. And at this time of the year, the two points are all that matter.

Way back on February 16th, the Canucks took on the Minnesota Wild, a huge game seeing as the Wild were right there with the Canucks, battling for a berth in the post-season. Earlier that evening, the Canucks received news that both Alex Edler and Chris Tanev, the top defensive pairing for Vancouver, would be unable to participate in the contest. Those two devastating injuries came in addition to several other impaired ‘Nucks, including fellow top-four defender Kevin Bieksa.

That tweet sums it up nicely. This game had the potential to be a long one for Canucks fans, and yet, against all odds, they pulled it out. Super-rookie Bo Horvat potted his seventh of the year, while Alex Biega, making his National Hockey League debut, blasted home his first career NHL goal. It was nothing short of a miracle, and was arguably the most important victory to-date at the time.

After that inspiring victory, the Canucks headed out on a road trip that transpired in a way no one would have predicted leading up to it. Over the course of the five games, they had the New York Islanders, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres. They lost to the Devils and Sabres. Yes folks, these Vancouver Canucks were capable of taking down two of the Eastern conference’s top clubs and a Boston team coming off a blowout win against the Chicago Blackhawks, but they lost to a non-playoff contending Devils team, and the historically bad Sabres. However, as frustrating as it may have been to see them fall short of what should have been four points on the board, the three wins were impressive in their own ways.

Against the reigning Eastern Conference champions, the Rangers, the Canucks were able to come back from being down 1-0, 2-1 and a late 4-3 deficit to snag a rare shootout victory 5-4. This win was also impressive due to the leadership shown by the Sedin twins, as Henrik Sedin put home the 4-3 and 4-4 goals.

Facing the other team from New York, the depleted roster was able to net four goals, including a goal apiece from the white-hot Horvat and Zack Kassian, while also riding on the strong goaltending of both Ryan Miller (who was injured early in the second period) and Eddie Lack. To top it off, the beloved Lack put the team on his back and Kassian scored yet another goal to steal two points against the Bruins.

The trend of finding ways to pull out victories continued as the calendar flipped to March. The month started with a 6-5 shootout win against the powerhouse St. Louis Blues. Early in the first period of play, the Canucks spotted the Blues a 2-0 lead, but are able to score five straight to go ahead 5-2. Of course, simply being satisfied with a convincing three-goal victory was too easy for this team, so they allowed St. Louis to come back and score three late. They did pull it out however, as Radim Vrbata, Nick Bonino and Chris Higgins helped the Canucks go a perfect three-for-three in the skills competition.

The club apparently felt nothing needed fixing, as they snagged 3-2 and 2-1 wins in their last two games over the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks respectively, both with help of goals by, who else, Horvat. Throughout these contests, the Canucks let San Jose get out to a 2-0 start early, while the Ducks were allowed to outshoot Vancouver by a nearly 2:1 margin, beating them in them in the shots category 30-16.

Are there concerns with this hockey club? Yes, 100%. The defensive structure is atrocious at times, there are far too many giveaways on a nightly basis, the powerplay continues to look¬†stagnant at best and let’s not forget there was a 6-2 loss to the Sharks within this stretch But at this crucial stage of the campaign, it’s all about the results, and the Canucks have been finding ways to get it done, whether it be outstanding goaltending, depth scoring, or the big guns carrying the team on their backs, this team has gotten the job done. Hell, they had absolutely no business getting a single point against the lowly Arizona Coyotes, but Lack made several five alarm stops and Vrbata scored a timely goal in the final minute to push it past 60. Is it sustainable? Probably not, but it’s the W’s that get you into the playoffs.

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