A five-game losing streak already has the Vancouver Canucks’ season on the edge of a precipice, and four consecutive games against the Calgary Flames, which start at home on Thursday, add up to a make-or-break situation.
And they know it.
“It’s a huge four games coming up,” Canucks captain Bo Horvat said. “Every game’s big when you’re playing teams in your division all the time. You’ve gotta win the miniseries.”
“We can’t keep trending in the wrong direction,” Horvat added. “Last game was a step in the right direction, and we just have to keep going up from here.”
The Canucks ended a six-game road trip with a 3-1 loss in Toronto, a game in which they were by far the better team through two periods but did not get the result.
“You never feel good about losing, but when you’ve been in a rut and played the way we have, you have to hang your hat on something,” coach Travis Green said. “There was definitely something to build off, and we can take something positive out of (it).”
“We have a competitive group,” added defenseman Quinn Hughes. “Guys want to win. No one likes losing, including myself. It sucks.
“We have a lot of new pieces. We lost some pretty good players last year, and we’re just trying to figure it all together. And I think that we’re going to get there. (On Monday), we were pretty close to that. We’re right there. I’m worried we lost five in a row, but I’m not worried because I’m confident in the group we have. In the long run, we’re going to be all right.”
Calgary won the first two meetings between the long-time rivals in mid-January by scores of 3-0 and 5-2. The Flames are also riding a two-game winning streak, the latest a 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night — which may be their most complete effort of the season.
“I think we’re slowly getting better and better,” said forward Elias Lindholm. “The last two periods against Edmonton (a 6-4 win last Saturday) were really solid and (Tuesday), I think we played our best 60-minute game so far. Hopefully it can keep going and keep getting better every game. Obviously, we’d like to create more and have more shots, but that will come.”
Helping Calgary’s cause is the scoring depth the last couple outings. The big guns have contributed, but the offensive support has come from all four lines. In fact, the trio of Mikael Backlund, Milan Lucic and Andrew Mangiapane — which could be seen as the third line — has been the best unit.
“We’ve talked about the depth of our team all year; we believe it’s a strength of ours,” coach Geoff Ward said. “Everybody up front contributed. I thought the back end was good, as well, but when you get everybody chipping in, it’s a good sign for your team. Hopefully now we can springboard it into something.”
Dominance of the struggling Canucks, such as winning three of four games or even better, would be akin to what Ward is looking for.
“I think the biggest thing for us is that we’ve got to take it one game at a time,” Ward said. “We know that they’re going to be really, really prepared to come out and play a really hard hockey game, and we’ve got to get ourselves ready to match that.
“This division is so close, the teams are all good, and if you let your guard down, start feeling too good about yourself or start getting complacent, it can bite you.”
–Field Level Media