By Nick Wells, The Canadian Press on December 31, 2023.
VANCOUVER – For the second time this season the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Philadelphia Flyers.
The 4-1 loss comes roughly two months after the first incident, prompting introspection from Canucks players and coaches.
Vancouver head coach Rick Tocchet was unsparing in his assessment of his team’s performance following the loss.
“I didn’t see anything from anybody, just trying to get people going,” he said about shifting line formations in an effort to find a spark.
The experienced bench boss, who is approaching the one year anniversary of joining Vancouver, said the loss should be a lesson to his team about what it will face as the season progresses.
“It’s going to get harder and harder,” he said. “We’ve got to be more invested in the game, we weren’t invested. It’s not even about the loss. Some parts of our game weren’t good and we’ve got to go back to the drawing board.”
Tocchet has often spoken this season about the need for his team to not get carried away with success, and to simply focus on the task in front of them and then move on.
“Guys are pissed about some games and I sleep at night hearing that,” said Tocchet ahead of the game against the Flyers. “I like the feeling that the guys are uncomfortable and they’re happy in certain respects but not happy about their play.”
He’s refused to get carried away as the Canucks rose up the standings, maintaining that the playoffs would provide the true test to the team’s ambitions.
Vancouver is among the three best teams in the NHL with 49 points, tied with the Vegas Golden Knights and New York Rangers.
The Rangers have played three fewer games than their Canadian counterparts while Vegas has played one game more than Vancouver.
Defenceman Ian Cole said his team knows they need to move on, and quickly, from the loss and turn back to what brought them success.
“We’ve talked about it as a team a bunch, it’s important. In a playoff series, which is what our goal is, you can’t let things slide, you can’t let things compound,” he said.
The team was confident, Cole said, but needs to understand the time and place for that belief.
“When we had a couple of chances early, open nets or whatever – we’re like, ‘Man, this game should be two-nothing right now or this game should be three-one, why isn’t it?’ and we want to try to manifest that when it’s maybe not the right time or situation,” he said.
Cole said the team needs to examine and recognize what went wrong in the loss to the Flyers – such as a lack of intensity and takeaways – and ensure it doesn’t repeat itself as the season goes ahead.
“We need to win the next game. In doing that, we need to recognize what went wrong in this game and what didn’t work for us and that was pretty much everything. We need to look at it objectively and work on it,” he said.
Defenceman Nikita Zadorov, who is approaching the one month anniversary of being traded to Vancouver, said the message from coaches throughout his time with the Canucks has been clear.
“You can’t get too high,” he said. “You’ve got to feel uncomfortable to be comfortable. It’s a good thing to feel uncomfortable every day and find something to work on.”
Tocchet and assistants Adam Foote, Mike Yeo and Sergei Gonchar have been adamant about maintaining that focus, Zadorov added.
Vancouver will next host the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 29, 2023.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version referred to the Canucks as being shut out when they had lost 4-1.