After last summer’s breakthrough by a team that hadn’t played in the Stanley Cup for five years, the Canucks were eliminated from the 2021 playoff race with six games remaining on their pandemic schedule.
Their regression was cemented.
As the National Hockey League confirmed Saturday’s start of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs late Monday, the Canucks beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 after the Montreal Canadiens lone point in a 4-3 overtime loss. against the Edmonton Oilers guaranteed Vancouver would miss the postseason for the fifth time in six years.
The Canucks never envisioned a 6-11-0 start, they never knew when star center Elias Pettersson left the roster on March 3 with a daily injury he wouldn’t play again. The Canucks didn’t expect to be flattened in April by the worst COVID-19 outbreak of the NHL season, or to find themselves without a total of eight forwards soon after. And they couldn’t plan a revised schedule that would force them to finish with 19 games in 32 days, the last seven games in just 10 nights.
But after all of those surprises, they saw Monday’s elimination come around the time the emotional charge of their COVID-19 recovery dissipated after a few unlikely wins over the Toronto Maple Leafs three weeks ago. .
There have been too many setbacks, including all those early losses, for the Canucks to get back on the standings.
The end came on Monday not with a thunderclap, but a muted celebration of a win in Winnipeg and resignation over how things are different now than they were last August, when the amazing Canucks won two playoffs and took the Vegas Golden Knights to Game 7 in another.
“I think we knew the odds were stacked here for the last few games,” coach Travis Green said Monday night. “So I think mentally the team is probably prepared for this. When you start a season, you want to make the playoffs. Once it’s official, it always stings a bit.
Canucks captain Bo Horvat said, “Missing the playoffs is never fun. That’s what you play the game for, and that’s what you want to do every year is make it to the playoffs because anything can happen. It’s really disappointing that we weren’t going to go in.
Horvat is nearing the end of his seventh season in Vancouver and has made the playoffs twice.
At 21-26-3, the Canucks face the daunting prospect of playing in insignificant catch-ups against the Calgary Flames next week – after the playoffs start elsewhere. Really, a season like none before it.
Goalkeeper Thatcher Demko, who was in pre-COVID form Monday with 39 saves on 40 shots against the Jets, said motivation for the last six games would not change with Vancouver’s mathematical elimination.
“Not for me,” Demko said. “I’m sure, you know, a lot of the guys on the team feel the same way: we want to win. No matter the circumstances, it’s a matter of pride for the organization, pride for our teammates, coaches, staff. You play for a lot more than people think. We will try to win every time we step on the ice.
“He’s spot on,” Horvat said. “We play for pride, we play for our organization, our fan base whatever the circumstances. We’re going to go out and try to win every night. We have to be proud of our group and find ways to win hockey games.
The Canucks are 13 points behind the fourth-place Canadians, who only have one game to play.
Monday’s victory, just Vancouver’s second in nine games, put the team ahead of the Ottawa Senators in Canadian division winning percentage.
He provided promising glimpses of the renewal that must continue around the Canucks so that the team can build on their excellent base of young stars and avoid a repeat this season.
Rookie Nils Hoglander has scored twice for the Canucks and may have been their best skater, and defenseman Jack Rathbone had his most impressive game to date as the 22-year-old promoted to the American Hockey League. for the first time 16:20 short- protected ice time in his fourth NHL appearance.
Rathbone was also deployed to the right side of the Canucks’ power play, throwing passes from quarterback Quinn Hughes as Green accompanied two defensemen in a unit that was in hibernation 0 for 15.
The new-look power play generated four hits on his advantage alone, and Rathbone finished the game with three hits to the net, three hits and four blocks.
“He’s playing with authority, passing the puck with authority,” said Green. “He doesn’t look too cute of a game and he can break it quickly. It is important when you leave. I found he looked very comfortable. It’s probably the best of our power play for some time.
“I think he got better with every game. I think it comes with a little bit of confidence. Obviously, there is educational and video work to go with it. You can tell he loves the game. He can’t wait to learn. You can also see the competitive side in its own area. “
The Canucks and Jets replay Tuesday.
Forward Jonah Gadjovich, who scored 15 goals in 19 games for the Utica Comets before his recall, could be the next Canuck to make his NHL debut.