Fatigue will be the Vancouver Canucks’ toughest opponent as they conclude their NHL season, let alone try to chase down a playoff spot

Article content

To see Thatcher Demko after the Vancouver Canucks dropped a 3-0 decision to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday was both good and bad.

The good was that the goaltender was there talking about the thing he loves doing most: Playing hockey.

The bad? Both audible and visible reminders of what he and his teammates have been through the last three weeks. The 25-year-old netminder, in the prime of his life, was breathing heavily and just didn’t look well.

COVID-19 sucks, he affirmed in all but the actual word.

“The biggest thing for me was some fatigue and the body aches. And some of the brain-fog stuff that you’ve seen in the media,” Demko said.

And then there was the haymaker truth: “I don’t know if anyone is at 100 (per cent).”

Healthy enough to play, he intimated, but you could see that this was, at least for now, a struggle.

The players have pride. They want to do their best. This is how they’re wired. Tell them to jump and they’ll jump as high as they can.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

They’ve been told they have to finish the season, and so that they will do.

But even the dream of a playoff chase was only going to last for so long. It was a thin veneer stretched over the truth. Even healthy, the Canucks need to win something like 70 per cent of their remaining games to even have a hope of coming level with the Montreal Canadiens, who have been stumbling of late but are still in the driver’s seat.

The players and coaches, understandably, don’t want to talk about this, but it only gets harder from here on for the Canucks. Adrenaline helped them get through two games against Toronto, but it won’t last through what’s to come.


NEXT GAME

Saturday

Ottawa Senators vs. Vancouver Canucks

7 p.m., Rogers Arena, TV: CBC, Sportsnet Pacific, Radio: Sportsnet 650 AM


After playing Ottawa Saturday, they’ll fly east to the nation’s capital on Sunday for another two games against the Senators on Monday and Wednesday at the Canadian Tire Centre.

Then it’s down to Toronto for games on Thursday and Saturday. You can already figure out their non-game-day schedule for the coming week. Sunday is a travel day, Tuesday might be a practice day but more likely a day off. Friday in Toronto, coming after back-to-backs, will surely be a day off.

And on and on it goes.

Literally no time to catch your breath.

Before Thursday’s game against the Senators, Canucks head coach Travis Green acknowledged he was performing a difficult balancing act. His team needs to practise but with his players priming their engines from a cold start, how he manages their energy between games is very important.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

And so they took the day off between Tuesday’s 6-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs and Thursday’s loss to the Senators.

“We just felt it was more important to keep our team rested. I like how they skated the second game against Toronto with the day off,” he said. Going forward, that balance might change, but even without COVID-19 in their backstory, getting rest in the coming weeks would be essential anyway.

After all, there’s still the basic desire to win.

“(I) said we’re here to win. That’s the mindset,” Green said Friday after his team held an optional practice, one that was mostly populated by players near the bottom of the depth chart and the taxi squad.

“We’re not looking for excuses, we’re not going to talk about excuses. Sometimes we’re not going to be at our best, but you need to find ways to win,” Green added. “That’s the culture we’ve tried to install here anyway.”

Canucks winger Jayce Hawryluk and the Maple Leafs’ Alexander Kerfoot (right) collide during Tuesday’s game at Rogers Arena. Hawryluk said his second round with COVID was mild compared to what his teammates and coaches experienced.
Canucks winger Jayce Hawryluk and the Maple Leafs’ Alexander Kerfoot (right) collide during Tuesday’s game at Rogers Arena. Hawryluk said his second round with COVID was mild compared to what his teammates and coaches experienced. Photo by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winger Jayce Hawryluk has had COVID-19 twice now, but said his latest bout turned out to be pretty mild compared to what some of his teammates — and his coaches — experienced. Credit the antibodies he developed during his asymptomatic experience in March 2020, he said.

Like his coach, he said the plan from here on, with 16 games still to play in 26 days, is to put their best foot forward.

“We’re trying to bring the energy as much as we can every night … That’s our mindset going forward every game, too,” Hawryluk said. “No one feels sorry for us. No one is going to give us the game.”

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

And so the Canucks move on.

ICE CHIPS: Tyler Motte took part in Friday’s practice, the first time he’s been on ice with his teammates since the team returned to practice last week. Green acknowledged after Thursday’s game that the after-effects of COVID-19 had kept Motte from practising or playing. With Motte back on the ice, the coach said Friday he hoped the hard-working winger would be able to play Saturday against Ottawa.

pjohnston@postmedia.com

twitter.com/risingaction

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com.

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here