Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Paterson’s Point: Why Canucks’ win over Carolina was worth much more than just two points in the standings
2 months ago
All wins are worth two points in the standings, but don’t fool yourself, not all wins are of equal value.
Saturday’s 4-3 victory over a good – albeit struggling – Carolina hockey club was one of those wins that should have added significance for Rick Tocchet and his Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks were forced to grind out the result and hold off the Hurricanes over the final 17 minutes after Elias Pettersson put the home team in front.
The ‘Canes, as you’d expect, pushed for the equalizer, but the Canucks showed maturity in the way they defended. They adhered to the structure Tocchet has been harping about since the opening day of training camp. It would be easy to look at the box score and point to the fact Carolina outshot the Canucks 10-3 over the final 20 minutes as proof that the home team was hanging on for dear life. That Carolina held a wide edge in shots is not up for debate. But dig a little deeper and you’ll see the Hurricanes managed just two shots on goal over the final seven minutes of the hockey game.
And it’s results like this one and even Thursday’s 2-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild that will serve the Canucks well later in the season and – dare it be said – in the playoffs.
The season-opening 8-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers was fun for the home fans and the 10-1 romp in San Jose a few weeks later was great for padding stats. Toss in a 5-0 shutout of the St. Louis Blues and a 6-2 victory over Edmonton and a number of the Canucks early season wins were impressive, but ultimately full of empty calories. They weren’t pushed. They weren’t pressured. Once they’d put the hammer down, they were able to put their feet up and cruise through third periods full of garbage time.
This team needs to be hardened. It needs to be battle-tested. Too many members of the core group really haven’t played many games of consequence in the regular season and even fewer when the stakes are significantly higher in the post-season.
And although it’s only the second week of December, the Canucks should start to view their results through a playoff prism. As they were busy beating Carolina, the Canucks picked up two points on Western Conference middleweights Calgary, Nashville, Arizona and St, Louis and a single point on Seattle . Saturday was a very good night for the Canucks on the ice and in the standings.
With an 18-9-1 record through the team’s first 28 games, the Canucks have positioned themselves remarkably well to bring playoff hockey back to Rogers Arena for the first time in nine long years. Oh sure, there is work to be done and the Canucks haven’t clinched anything yet. But Saturday’s game should serve as a template for the hockey club as it finds itself in more games against good opponents as the season winds along.
“We just want to be comfortable in that situation, I know that’s easier said than done, but if we want to be where we’re at, we’re going to be in that situation a lot,” JT Miller said of a bend, but don’t break third period. “We don’t want to change our game and sit back. If we sit back, teams are going to eat you alive and at some point they’re going to get their looks. We’re getting better at it. Not perfect by any means. At points, that game was kind of hard to watch with rims and flips but sometimes that’s how it is. We knew it was going to be that kind of game and we didn’t want to crack with turnovers and such.”
Earlier this season, Rick Tocchet spoke of his team’s need to feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations. He was referring to the way the team played in a game that was scoreless as it reached the middle stages. Playoff hockey will be like that. And playoff hockey will also present challenges like Saturday night where the Canucks find themselves up a goal fending off a good opponent.
It doesn’t always have to look pretty. And at times against Carolina, it most certainly did not. But in the end, the Canucks defended well, limited the Hurricanes’ chances, and made that one-goal lead stand up.
The two points in the standings are valuable. Make no mistake about that.
But it was the way that result was achieved that held the real key for the Canucks and it should give them confidence the next time they find themselves in a similar situation.
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