Being down 5-0 in the first period is insurmountable: game, set, match to the Islanders
Quinn Hughes is expected to return to the lineup after being in COVID-19 protocol
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
The Vancouver Canucks returned from the NHL All-Star break. And unfortunately, the team is not getting any “breaks” from players entering COVID-19 protocol. At the time of writing, Vancouver’s record is 21-21-6. They are still seventh in the Pacific Division with 48 points and six points out of a Wild Card playoff spot.
Sportsnet reported on February 7 that Canucks defenceman, Quinn Hughes, entered the NHL COVID-19 protocol. The 22-year-old defenceman, in 45 games played, has two goals and 32 assists. The Province reported Hughes must stay in the US under NHL protocol quarantine guidelines. He is eligible to return to the lineup when Vancouver plays on the road in San Jose on February 17. Rick Dhaliwal, c0-host from the Donnie and Dhali television program posted on Twitter an update about Hughes’ status: “Just talked with Jim Rutherford on Quinn Hughes in [COVID-19] protocol—[he] was at the all-star game in Vegas, tough break for us, we are scratching and clawing to stay in this race. He will not be available for us the next 3 games, hoping Feb 17th in San Jose.”
Canucks coach, Bruce Boudreau, spoke with reporters on February 7. He said the loss of Hughes hurts the team, but other players will need to step up their performance. “If you look at the amount of goals that [Hughes] creates from the back end, (on) a team that is somewhat offensively challenged…I mean, that’s going to be the challenge right there,” he said. “He’s a great player. We’ve gone with [JT] Miller and (Bo) Horvat being out at the same time. We’ve gone with (Thatcher) Demko being out and (Jaroslav) Halak at the same time, so we’re going to go through with this.”
The Canucks held a practice on February 7. Canucksarmy.com reported Tucker Poolman, Matthew Highmore and Elias Pettersson were absent from practice. Sportsnet later reported that Bruce Boudreau stated after practice that Pettersson was away due to non-COVID-related flu symptoms. Vancouver played the Arizona Coyotes on February 8, winning by a score of five to one.
The next evening, the Canucks lost to the New York Islanders by a score of six to three (Canucks were losing 5-1 after the first period). The Islanders’ fifth goal was scored by Coquitlam native, Mathew Barzal (with friends and family in attendance)—before Vancouver’s starting goalie, Jaroslav Halak, was removed. Thatcher Demko played in net the rest of the game. Bruce Boudreau said after the game, the Canucks played better in the second period—and scored two goals to make it 5-3. But being down 5-0 in the first period is insurmountable: game, set, match to the Islanders. “You give up five goals in a period, I mean, there’s not too many good things to say,” he said as reported by Sportsnet. “It’s crazy but they looked twice as fast as we did in the first period. I thought in the second period, we looked a lot faster than them. We’ve just got to be ready to play. I can’t explain it any better than that.”
Since Boudreau replaced Travis Green as head coach in December 2021, the team won eight of nine games (8-0-1). But after January 1, the Canucks have only five wins in their last 14 games (5-6-3). Also, discussion continues with fans and media about the play of Elias Pettersson. In 48 games this season, he has 27 points (13 goals and 14 assists). Boudreau told the media that he wishes Pettersson would just shoot the puck more. “It’s not like he hasn’t been told,” he said. “I try to tell him to be more selfish. Matter of fact, in Nashville (a 4-2 Canucks loss last Tuesday), I told him to start shooting the puck more, and next shift he went out, shot the puck and hit the cross bar. But that was his last shot of the game. I would love him to get four or five shots on goal a game. And I think…the rest of the group would too.”
In other NHL news, NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, held a press conference in Las Vegas on February 4 during NHL All-Star Weekend. Bettman stated that he may move the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, scheduled for July 7 and 8 at the Bell Centre in Montreal if COVID-19 restrictions are still in place. “It has been extraordinarily painful to see [the Montreal Canadiens] play in an empty building, particularly, as I understand it, people are going to restaurants and bars,” he said as reported by Sportsnet. “This is very frustrating for everybody.” Deputy Commissioner, Bill Daly, sitting beside Bettman, stated the NHL Entry Draft may go virtual—with Bettman interjecting: “No. I think we might go somewhere else.”
Lastly, NHL coaches are “hired to be fired” and that philosophy came to fruition once again with the Montreal Canadiens firing head coach Dominique Ducharme on February 9 as reported by TSN. Martin St. Louis was named interim head coach for the Habs. The next day, Sportsnet reported the Edmonton Oilers fired head coach, Dave Tippett, replacing him with Jay Woodcroft. St. Louis, during his press conference as reported by Sportsnet, displayed his sense of humour—making light of his limited experience as an NHL coach (coaching only peewee hockey): “Well, if (there’s) anything this team needs right now, it’s to have fun. I know when they were peewees, they had a lot of fun. So, you know, I’m probably the most qualified guy right now.”
Canucks’ schedule this week
Thursday, February 17 @ San Jose Sharks (730 pm)
Saturday, February 19 vs. Anaheim Ducks (7 pm)
Monday, February 21 vs. Seattle Kraken (7 pm)