It was 20th Century philosopher George Santayana who wrote “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
An ominous quote that reminds us that learning from our mistakes is the best way to avoid making them again. How this comes into play is that the Vancouver Canucks find themselves in a somewhat similar position as they were before a two-game road trip in the first week of March with games in Phoenix and Dallas.
With a chance to close the standings gap on those two teams and with the reality of changing their fortunes for the better and getting on a roll, the Canucks simply did not show up in either game and lost by a combined score of 7-1. With four wins and three losses since then, the Canucks haven’t exactly righted the ship, but they have allowed for a glimmer of hope that if they sweep this two-game road trip, their playoffs hopes are still alive.
There have been a few corrections recently in the play of the team in comparison to their first twenty-odd games of 2014, and that is mainly due to the play of the Canucks top line. With the arrival of Nicklas Jensen, and the decision to put him in a prime spot with recently injured players Alex Burrows and Henrik Sedin, the Canucks had a top line that was dangerous and more importantly, contributing. Add to that the return of a power play that has scored in three out of the last four games, together with a penalty kill that has managed to keep the opposition from scoring a game-changing power-play marker, (with the exception of the Tampa Bay game), and the Canucks are playing like a team that has figured things out, or learned from the past.
Most notably though is the ability to be the better team in the third period. The Canucks have outscored the opposition 10-5 in third periods since the home-ice meltdown versus the New York Islanders. That’s almost 20 per cent of their season total for third period goals in the last six games.
So what’s changed in their play for that to happen? The answer is the buzzword for this season: mindset. Instead of waiting to see how a game will end, the Canucks are staying aggressive, fore-checking hard and pushing the play.
Is it too little too late? Only time will tell. But in learning from their past mistakes like looking for the perfect play on the man-advantage instead of shooting, being too passive in killing penalties instead of pressuring and waiting to see how the opposition plays in the third instead of dictating tempo, the Canucks have allowed themselves the thoughts of post-season play.
If they remember how passive they were in both losses in Phoenix and Dallas, and how lifeless they were during a time where they needed to be aggressive, they will overwhelm the home teams in Minnesota and Colorado from the start to the end, and the scoreboard and standings watch will continue.
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