With the news that Saturday’s game against the Ottawa Senators has been postponed, the Vancouver Canucks have now had seven games removed from the schedule over the last month.
For a team that has been on a roll, with an 8-0-1 record over the last month in the games they did play, it’s been frustrating to have so many interruptions.
“We want to play hockey,” said Canucks captain Bo Horvat. “We feel like we have a pretty good thing going right now and it just keeps getting delayed.”
Despite all the positivity surrounding the Canucks right now, it’s still a trying time, with players having to deal with so many other concerns.
“Not only do we have to worry about winning hockey games and getting pumped up to play, but we’ve got to worry about whether we’re gooing to test positive the next day or if we’re going to make it home from a road trip or get left behind,” said Horvat. “There’s just so many things that we have to worry about instead of just going and playing hockey.”
There has been one positive to having so many games postponed. With their schedule cleared of games, the Canucks have been able to get in a lot of practices. For a team with a new head coach who has some distinctive ideas about how the team should play, it’s been beneficial.
One thing Boudreau lamented when he was hired is that he didn’t get a chance to have a training camp with the team.
“I don't think there's a coach alive that wouldn't rather have a whole training camp to get everything going because I'm watching stuff that I'm like, 'Oh yeah, I've got to show that, gotta do that, gotta do that,’ and you're all over the place and then you've got to bring yourself back in and say, I've just got to take baby steps and work on one thing at a time,” said Boudreau at his first press conference.
Even a couple of weeks into his tenure, Boudreau said, “We haven't been able to implement all the changes I would like to implement or practise the changes that we have made.”
With both of their games postponed this week, the Canucks have a total of 10 days between games. Has it felt like a mid-season training camp for the players?
“I think it has,” said Horvat. “We had a couple good skates and he kind of got our legs under us at the end of a couple practices, which was good, I think, just trying to keep us in game shape.
“But I think it's been good to go over our systems and go over things that we have to work on still and things that he wanted to implement in our game that were a little different from before and I think it's been good for us to get those practices in.”
Boudreau previously talked about having to focus on big picture changes — adjustments to forechecking, neutral zone regroups, defensive zone play, and special teams — and lamented that he hasn’t been able to focus on some of the smaller details that would get addressed towards the end of a training camp. This longer string of practices has given him and the coaching staff more time to make those types of adjustments.
“It’s been great that way,” said Boudreau. “It’s better than learning on the run when you’re playing games.”
For the team, it’s been important to approach these practices with the right mindset.
“If you look at it in a way where it’s a negative, it will be — like, we’ve just got to practice again and kind of get by until the next game — but if you use it the right way and work on some details, whether it’s systems or competing — the first couple of days we were working hard on the conditioning side of things — it can be a positive,” said Luke Schenn.
The rest of the schedule is unlikely to give the Canucks another chance for this many practices. Next week, they head off on a tough road trip where they face some of the top teams in the league, like the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Carolina Hurricanes. Any gaps in their schedule are likely to be filled up with rescheduled games. This week feels like the calm before the storm.
“It was a good week of practice,” said Tanner Pearson. “Especially as the games go on here and you get further into the season, practice time gets less and less. With a new coach, definitely getting a string of practices to kind of understand more of what he wants, it definitely has helped.”
Just like at the end of any other training camp, now the Canucks just want to play hockey. While the gap between games has been beneficial in terms of practice time, it has still been frustrating. Still, the team has one focus.
“We can't dwell on it or make excuses for ourselves,” said Horvat. “We’ve got to go out and play and try to win hockey games.”