NHL Pacific Division Notebook: Taking On Water In Vancouver

NHL Pacific Division

Travis Green did an excellent job of getting the Canucks playing a hard style of hockey. He got a young team moving in the right direction and got some important young pieces comfortable at the NHL level for the Canucks. The most impressive thing? Green has the Canucks competitive as we approach Christmas. Unfortunately, this may be it for Vancouver in terms of being relevant in the playoff race.

On Sunday night, Vancouver was smacked around by Calgary in a 6-1 loss. In the process, Vancouver lost young star Brock Boeser for an extended period of time with a lower-body injury. Boeser joins center Bo Horvat and defender Chris Tanev as key pieces now on the injured reserve.

To make matters worse, the Canucks have lost Derek Dorsett, forced to retire. Forwards Brendan Sutter and Sven Baertschi are also on the IR right now. It’s basically a M*A*S*H* unit in Vancouver right now.

The Canucks sit four points back of a playoff spot and are 15-15-4 on the season. They’ve done a good job of hanging in there, but overall this team is in a bad spot. They are starting to fade on the ice, and the injuries are mounting at a fatal rate. At some point, especially if the losses start to pile up, the Canucks need to keep looking to the future and embrace being sellers.

The first 30 games of this season were a good start for the future.

Reinforcements Coming In Edmonton: 

Speaking of injuries, the Oilers appear to finally be getting over them. Starting goaltender Cam Talbot returned and backstopped the Oilers to a 3-2 victory in Minnesota on Saturday. Talbot replaced Laurent Brossoit, who had to make seven straight starts with Edmonton’s workhorse on the shelf. If the Oilers are going to make a push for a playoff spot, and it is still a big if, they’ll need Talbot playing at last year’s level. Saturday was a good start.

Speaking of getting healthy, defender Adam Larsson is going to be dressed tonight and will return to the Oiler lineup after missing a handful of games with injury. He’ll replace Yohann Auvitu in Edmonton’s lineup, lined up with newcomer Brandon Davidson. This is another huge add for Edmonton, as Larsson is one of the club’s three best defenders.

Speaking of Edmonton’s three best defenders, Andrej Sekera could be back as soon as Thursday night. The more likely outcome is Sekera returns next week, but this is another massive addition for the club. The man dubbed “Papa Rej” by his teammates has been sorely missed by the Oil all season long. Getting him back will give the Oilers another top-four defender, something the club is in need of.

The Oilers have played much better in their last five games and will be at full health within the next ten days. If they are gonna make a run at the postseason, it’s going to happen now.

The Playoff Push In Vegas Begins:

Here’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d be writing this season: The Vegas Golden Knights playoff push is well underway right now. The team continues to collect points and recently got goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury back from injury. With their franchise face back in the fold, Vegas knocked off Florida last night in a grudge match at T-Mobile Arena.

That victory put the Golden Knights at 44 points on the season, and thanks to playing two less games than Los Angeles the win also propelled Vegas to first place in the division. Whether Vegas completes this stunning story is honestly irrelevant. What they have done already this season is amazing and it is, to me, the best story in sports right now.

I’m still not sold that the Golden Knights get into the dance, but they are going to be in the race till the end at the very worst. What a remarkable story.

The Rest Of The Gang:

– Calgary’s 6-1 win in Vancouver was massive last night. The Flames were shutout 2-0 by Nashville on Saturday and have been struggling to put the puck in the net as of late. Calgary is still in the thick of things here, but they have been playing .500 hockey for the last month and change. For a team that went all in this summer by bringing in Travis Hamonic, Jaromir Jagr and Mike Smith, these first 30+ games have been a disappointment. I wonder if the Flames go against the norm and look at Evander Kane of the Buffalo Sabres in the next little while.

– What a heart breaker for Arizona over the weekend, as they surrendered two goals in the final 15 seconds of regulation time to drop a 4-2 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Coyotes have lost six straight games and have slipped back to the level of play we saw at the start of the season. The holiday roster freeze starts at midnight tonight, but once it lifts at the end of December I wouldn’t be shocked if the Yotes started selling off veteran pieces. Players like Brad Richardson, Luke Schenn and Adam Clendening could be appealing to contending clubs.

– Los Angeles has finally had a tough week. The Kings saw their lengthy winning streak snapped last Tuesday against the Devils, then dropped decisions to the Rangers and Islanders, collecting a single loser point in Brooklyn on Saturday night. LA’s three game losing streak could easily extend to four as the Kings visit the Flyers tonight, winners of six straight contests. The good news for LA? They return home to face a struggling Colorado team on Thursday night.

– Sticking in California, the San Jose Sharks suffered a tough 4-3 overtime defeat on Friday night in Vancouver. Tonight, the Sharks get a shot at revenge against the Edmonton Oilers, who knocked them out of the playoffs last April. They’ll have to get by without leading goal scorer Logan Couture, however. The Sharks, after a bit of a tough start, have worked their way up to third in the Pacific but are only a single point ahead of Calgary and two in front of Anaheim as we approach the holiday. The good news? San Jose has games in hand on everyone in the division right now.

– Emotional night for new Anaheim center Adam Henrique tonight, as he’ll be back in New Jersey for the first time after the recent trade that sent him to the Ducks in exchange for Sami Vatanen. The Ducks opened an eastern road trip on Saturday night in Washington, falling 3-2 in overtime to the Capitals. Tonight they’ll face New Jersey, then go through New York to battle the Rangers before finishing the pre-Christmas slate in Pittsburgh. This is a tough portion of the schedule for Anahiem, and it could be a costly won as the Pacific race starts to heat up.


Read More: 

NHL Central Division Notebook: Predators Back on Top


Photo Credit: Connor Mah/Flickr  C.C 2.0

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