Add in one part Stanley Cup aspirations, and another part rabid fan base. Now, mix in a streaky start to the season, some uninspired play, and what do you get?
You’d have to be in Vancouver to really get a taste of it.
On Friday night the Canucks had their most lopsided win of the season, as they sunk the Sharks 6-1 in front of a raucous crowd at Rogers Arena. Mikael Samuelsson responded from a demotion to the third line with a two goal performance, and Roberto Luongo had perhaps his best game of the season – making several key saves to keep the Sharks at bay. It was Vancouver’s second win in a row and keeps them atop the Northwest division with a record of 12-7-3.
“I think the last couple of games we took some great steps in the right direction,” Roberto Luongo told the Vancouver media, after stopping 32 shots for his sixth win at home. “We’re trying to do things the right way and improve as a team and we’re taking advantage of the other team’s mistakes and that’s the type of hockey you want to be playing.”
As the clock wound down on the Sharks, the fans stood and gave their Canucks a standing ovation. But one couldn’t help but wonder what a difference a week makes in a hockey-mad market like Vancouver.
It was just last weekend the Canucks faithful were booing their team off the ice after a cringe-worthy 7-1 scalping from the archrival Blackhawks. The next night wasn’t any prettier, as Vancouver extended a four-game losing streak as the Coyotes slunk away with a 3-2 win.
If it were up to the fans, it would have been off with their heads. Venom was being spewed in every media vesicle Vancouverites could get their hands on. Among the most common damnations were Luongo is not worth his star status (and contract), the defence appears to be dazed and confused, the team doesn’t stick up for one another, and Head Coach Alain Vigneault should get the axe.
But on Wednesday, after the Canucks bore down and bumped the slump versus the visiting Avalanche, Vignault spoke of another kind of execution.
“We kept our shifts short and intense, and our execution to what it needed to be,” Vignault told the Vancouver media.
Another home win against the Sharks and it’s now utter utopia around the city.
Through the first quarter of the season it appears the Canucks are gaining valuable experience dealing with the hype –and the pressure –that comes along with being among the Cup favourites.
When the team has faltered, they only have themselves to blame. For example, after winning six straight earlier in the season, the Canucks went on their yearly exodus to the East thinking they walked on water. Lacklustre efforts in four out of five games resulted in a 2-2-1 road trip and, ultimately, the bad habits that cost them dearly against the Hawks and Coyotes at home. Moving forward, it is important for the Canucks players – and their fans – to maintain their collective heads.
The ingredients are there for a long run to the Cup. This team just needs a little seasoning.