Struggling Canucks hope practice, rest can help turn around dismal season

·3 min read

VANCOUVER — Coach Travis Green knows his Vancouver Canucks aren't feeling their best coming off a disastrous road swing.

After dropping five games in a row, that's no surprise.

“I’m not going to sit here and say the mood in our room is unbelievable right now. I shouldn't be," Green said after practice Wednesday. "When you lose five in a row, there’s some urgency, probably doubt. That’s no secret. That’s the way it is in sport.

“In our locker room, are the guys feeling full of confidence? Probably not. But the best way to get confidence back is to go play your ass off.”

The team's last outing — a 3-1 loss to the Leafs on Monday — was a "step in the right direction" but the group needs to find a way to play well for multiple games in a row, said centre Bo Horvat.

“We can’t keep trending in the wrong direction," he said. "Being OK with well playing well and losing is not OK. We want to win. Everybody wants to win in this room.”

It's been a rough start to the season for the Canucks (6-10-0). They've given up more goals (63) than any other team in the league and top talents like Elias Pettersson have struggled to score.

A quarter of the way through the year, Vancouver has already played four sets of back-to-back games and gone on two road trips. Green called the pandemic-condensed schedule "brutal" and said it's been "a little bit frustrating" to have so little practice time.

“We own the losses. I’m not saying we deserved to win games that we didn’t, but I think the schedule has played a part in our start," the coach said. "It’s probably cost us, I don’t know, a point, two, three points.”

Tuesday and Wednesday marked the first time all season that the Canucks have had two days in a row without games.

Getting some practice time Wednesday was necessary, said Green, but so was getting a day off.

“Win or lose, we’ve just got to reset," he said. "I thought it was good to get back on the ice today with our group. We’ve been working on a lot of things through video and to get back on the ice and work on it is nice.”

For goalie Thatcher Demko, Wednesday's on-ice session was an opportunity to work on small details that, until now, he's been trying to adjust during games.

Making adjustments will be key as the Canucks prepare for a four-game set against the Flames (6-5-1).

Calgary sits just one point up on Vancouver in the standings, but have played four fewer games and have already dismantled the Canucks twice this season.

The Flames are also stocked with familiar faces including goalie Jacob Markstrom, who left Vancouver to join Calgary in free agency last fall.

He's since posted a 6-3-1 record for the Flames with a .916 save percentage and a 2.50 goals-against average. Markstrom's first shutout of the season came in a 3-0 win over his former squad last month.

Everyone in Vancouver's locker room knows how important the upcoming series is, Demko said.

“We know where we are in the standings, we know every game in the schedule’s important, playing teams in your division every night," he said. "It’s a good opportunity for us to make up some ground.”

It's easy for players to get down on themselves or their team during a tough stretch, Demko said, but the Canucks need to weather the adversity as a group.

“The teams that can pull through times like this are the teams that can stick together and stay confident in themselves and one another," said Demko, who has a degree in psychology. "And I think we have a group that can do that."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 10, 2021.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press