Vancouver is fifth in the Pacific Division and are five points out of a Wild Card playoff spot. But on March 26, the second game of their four-game road trip, Vancouver was impressive in a 4-1 victory over the Dallas Stars.
Thatcher Demko makes another incredible “scorpion” save in Dallas
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
The Vancouver Canucks’ playoff chances are about as good as Will Smith and Chris Rock filming an anti-violence commercial together. The Canucks lost back-to-back games to the St. Louis Blues. The first was a 4-1 loss in St. Louis on March 28, then a 4-3 loss again at Rogers Arena on March 30. The Canucks finished a four-game road trip with a record of 2-1-1.
At the time of writing, the Canucks’ record is 32-28-9 and they have 73 points. Vancouver is fifth in the Pacific Division and are five points out of a Wild Card playoff spot. But on March 26, the second game of their four-game road trip, Vancouver was impressive in a 4-1 victory over the Dallas Stars. Notably, there were tense moments late in the third period with Vancouver holding onto a 2-1 lead. Dallas was on a powerplay, and the Canucks were under siege with their goalie, Thatcher Demko, making an incredible “scorpion” save. Sportsnet writer, Iain MacIntyre, described the play in his March 27 column: “…Demko looked beaten on a rebound but reached back with his right pad and elevated it, like a scorpion’s tail, just enough to rob Dallas defenceman Esa Lindell of a tying goal during a frantic power play.”
There were a few more Dallas chances in close, but the puck somehow did not cross the Vancouver goal line. MacIntyre again described the frantic sequence: “Twelve seconds later, with Demko now lunging around without a stick, Jason Robertson missed the net point-blank. Another dozen ticks later, Lindell had an open net and the puck again and somehow pushed his shot against the post while bothered from behind by Canuck Elias Pettersson. Then there were two more stickless saves by Demko on Robertson. Demko later described the sequence as ‘chaos.’ Sportsnet play-by-play announcer John Shorthouse had another description, in real-time: ‘This is crazy.’ It was. There is no way the short-handed Canucks should have survived those 40 seconds of chaos. But they did.” Bo Horvat later scored into an empty net followed by another goal in the final minute by JT Miller to seal the victory.
Canucks coach, Bruce Boudreau, was once again impressed with Demko’s performance. “When he’s like that, the confidence on the bench and behind the bench is great,” he said. “You just don’t think that anything’s going to get in on him. And that’s what great goaltending gives everybody…the confidence to know that even if you make a mistake, he’s going to be there to back you up.” Boudreau also discussed that frantic Dallas powerplay. “I just kept waiting for it to go in the net, quite frankly,” he said. “I’ve never seen so many open nets a team miss in succession. I mean, Demmer was great, making great saves. But they did have some looks with no Demmer in the net. So when that happened, I thought: Okay, karma is with us tonight; we’re going to sneak this one out.”
Canucks’ defenceman, Luke Schenn, said after the second loss to St. Louis, it hurts their playoff chances—but he does not believe the season is over. “I wouldn’t say hopeless [that our playoff hopes are gone],” he said to the media as reported by Sportsnet on March 31. “It looks like a lot and a big task when you look at the big picture. But you focus on the next game. Vegas is obviously a team that is right ahead of us. That’s a huge game coming on Sunday, so we look forward to that one and go from there.”
Schenn also says the team continues to struggle to play a full 60-minute game. “If we’re not at our best, you know, we’re not winning games,” he said. “We need to play a full 60 minutes. We’re not a team that typically puts up a [ton] of offence, (so) we need to play the right way and keep goals out of our net. We need everyone going.”
Unfortunately, not everyone has been going. The Canucks’ poor starts and inconsistent play are the reasons they will be on the outside hoping to make the playoffs. This is evidenced by the fact that Vancouver has only three wins in its last 11 games. And in those 11 games, the opposition outscored the Canucks 31 to 27. But what really hurt the team trying to stay in the playoff race and gain momentum, was a seven-game homestand in March—with Vancouver winning just two games (2-3-2). The Canucks’ home record has also been poor as they have a .500 record (14-14-5), in contrast to their road record (18-14-4). The Canucks, at times, have shown they have the potential to be a solid team. Unfortunately, it has not been seen enough.
Other NHL news
Sad news emerges in the NHL as Sportsnet reported on March 28 that longtime Ottawa Senators owner, Eugene Melnyk, passed away at age 62 after battling a lengthy illness. The Senators released a statement mourning the passing of Melnyk, who had owned the franchise since 2003: “It is with great sadness that the family of Eugene Melnyk and the Ottawa Senators hockey organization announce his passing on March 28, 2022, after an illness he faced with determination and courage. Eugene never wavered in his desire and commitment to bring the Stanley Cup to the nation’s capital. Under his ownership, the Senators played in the 2007 Stanley Cup finals and the Conference Finals in 2017. Eugene was confident the current team of talented players and coaching staff that he and his organization built will challenge for and eventually deliver on that championship promise.”
NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, also issued a statement about the passing of Melnyk on March 28: “The National Hockey League mourns the passing of Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk. The words ‘passion’ and ‘commitment’ define the man who has owned the Ottawa Senators since 2003. Whether it was in the boardroom with his fellow governors, at the rink with his beloved Senators or in the community with his philanthropy, he cared deeply about the game, about his team and about bettering the lives of those in need, particularly underserved children, organ donation and, most recently, with his commitment to his parent’s home country of Ukraine.
“While successful in business, it was our game and his Senators that he was most passionate about. Eugene was often outspoken but he maintained an unwavering commitment to the game and his roots and he loved nothing more than donning a Senators sweater and cheering on his beloved team. On behalf of the entire National Hockey League, I extend my deepest sympathies to Eugene’s daughters, Anna and Olivia, his extended family, and all those who benefited from his generosity.”
Canucks’ schedule this week
Wednesday, April 6 @ Vegas Golden Knights (7 pm)
Thursday, April 7 @ Arizona Coyotes (7 pm)
Saturday, April 9 vs. San Jose Sharks (7 pm)