In the Canucks recent stretch of games they’ve managed to climb to the top of their division, their conference and the league all while going about their business and not changing a lot. This hasn’t been because one player has carried the load, or because of a few lucky bounces. If the Sedins aren’t lighting the lamp, the fourth line is stepping up, and you can’t get enough lucky bounces in 21 straight games to have a 17-1-3 record in them. When the forwards aren’t winning games, the team is playing tight defense and Luongo and Schneider are giving the Canucks a chance to win every night.
Amongst all the success and record point streaks, the Canucks have managed to stay focused. They’re playing Canucks hockey with an air of confidence right now. Whether they’re leading or trailing on the scoreboard, they’re dictating the play. In their last 12 games the Canucks have only given up the first goal of the game once. They have a game plan and they’re sticking to it.
What’s been most noticeable in this recent string of success has to be the way in which the Canucks have forced other teams to play their game. Too often we’ve seen the Canucks chase the other team, or even worse, play to their level. It’s been most obvious against teams that have been struggling as the Canucks would have typically played down to them.
Against the Edmonton Oilers on Boxing Day, they came back from a 2-0 deficit to win; Kevin Bieksa’s goal late in the third period in a 3-2 scored the game-winner. Against the same Oilers last Friday, the Canucks built a 3-0 lead in the second period and never took their foot off the gas; they scored another 3 goals in the third period and won 6-1.
The Canucks aren’t skating to the tune of any team no matter what the score.
The Canucks aren’t playing flashy hockey. They’re not trying to wow. They have a system and a game plan that they’re executing to perfection in all zones that’s allowing them to capitalize on nearly all the chances they create for themselves. The 3-1 win against Calgary last week was nothing short of textbook. For the most part it was a boring game, but the resounding takeaway is that the team is buying into a brand of hockey and winning games together from the net out.
I questioned whether the Canucks would have any gas in the tank down the stretch with the way they’re playing right now, but I don’t think that’s even a question. Every team has to play 82 games and ultimately winning is a lot easier on the squad than losing. That’s going to pay off come playoff time.