Can the Vancouver Canucks bounce back to keep their slim playoff hopes alive?
After an embarrassing 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Saturday night, the team will be looking to end their homestand on a good note against Rasmus Dahlin and the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night.
It wasn’t all bad at the beginning for the Canucks, who were able to secure five of a possible eight points in their first four games at home to keep the postseason momentum alive.
However, the team has been quite disappointing since then, allowing six goals against while only notching two of their own in the past two outings. The team also continues to struggle with putting up full 60-minute performances, which was quite evident in the second period on Thursday night against Detroit, as well as the first period on Saturday night against the Flames.
Simply put, the Canucks haven’t performed nearly as well as they should be given their current position in the standings, and will need to come out swinging against the Sabres on Sunday.
With only a 24-hour turnaround between games, the team did not take to the ice for morning practice, keeping fans and media in the dark about possible line combinations for head coach Bruce Boudreau.
The biggest question mark, of course, will be between the pipes.
Boudreau was rather tight-lipped about the matter during Saturday’s pre-game media availability, not giving away any hints about who he was planning to start in the second half of Vancouver’s back-to-back this weekend.
However, given Vancouver’ sheer desperation for points, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if Boudreau gave the nod to Thatcher Demko.
The 26-year-old was once again the team’s best player on Saturday night, stopping a handful of high-danger scoring chances from the Flames during their dominant opening frame. Demko did end up giving up four goals in the first two periods, and eventually found himself on the bench to start the third period, but that’s definitely not what Boudreau had in mind for his team’s weekend plans.
Following the game, video surfaced of an exchange between Boudreau and back-up netminder Jaroslav Halak prior to entering the tunnel. Although the video did not have any audio, it appeared that Halak was not pleased about the news that he would be playing the last 20 minutes of the game, possibly alluding to the notion that he expected to play the full game against Buffalo instead.
The Canucks also made a massive move on their blueline early Sunday afternoon, trading away Travis Hamonic to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a third-round pick in the upcoming draft.
Hamonic, who had recently found himself playing on the third-pairing with Brad Hunt, carries a $3 million cap hit for the remainder of this season, as well as next.
With a victory on Sunday night, Vancouver will be just three points back of the Vegas Golden Knights for the second and final wild card spot in the Western Conference. The Canucks are also chasing the Dallas Stars, who are just two points ahead in the standings, but also have three games in hand.
Puck drop is set for 7:00pm PST.
What are your thoughts heading into Sunday night’s clash against Buffalo? Let us know in the comments!