One step forward, one step back. Both the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks have been experiencing that feeling all season.
For one night, one of those struggling squads will take a step forward when the Flames play host to the Canucks on Wednesday night.
The Flames are back home after an unsuccessful three-game road trip that ended with a 2-1 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday. Their last two defeats were in extra time, so the Flames have at least managed a couple of points from their journey.
Even more frustrating for the Flames is how, when one element of their play finds its form, another element seems to fall by the wayside.
In Montreal, as well as the 3-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets to kick off the trip, the offense went dry while struggling goaltender Jacob Markstrom appeared to have upped his game.
Markstrom stopped 61 of 64 shots in those outings, a major improvement for the goalie who was at a very low point just over a week ago.
“A loss is a loss,” Markstrom said after a very strong 37-save outing in Montreal. “So I’ve gotta be better. I’ve gotta be better than the other goalie and I’ve gotta allow fewer goals than the other goalie.”
There was no word on Tuesday whether the Flames would have any good news on the roster front. First-line center Elias Lindholm didn’t play in Montreal due to injury and top-four blueliner MacKenzie Weegar was sidelined because of a non-COVID illness.
During the game, defenseman Chris Tanev was hit in the head while blocking a shot. Tanev did fly home with the team after being taken to hospital.
“I told the players, ‘The toughest guy in the building is Chris Tanev, so let’s go do it for him,'” coach Darryl Sutter said.
The Canucks last played on Saturday, when they suffered a disappointing 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild that snapped a three-game winning streak.
Maybe hitting the road will be good for the Canucks, who are riding a five-game road winning streak. On Saturday, they were booed off the ice by their fans, who are just as tired of all the peaks and valleys in their season.
“We couldn’t buy a goal and then you hear the boos? It sucks to hear that,” said captain Bo Horvat, not hiding how much it stung. “It sucks to hear your own fans booing against you. We’re not trying not to score … but it is what it is.”
Seeing as the Wild were playing their third game in four nights, that loss was a big missed opportunity for the Canucks, and they know it. The objective is to start another winning streak, even if it is only a modest run.
“We’re always watching the scoreboard and knowing what we have to do,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “The players and the coaches are well aware of what’s needed that particular night when it comes to the points. Everybody knows that it was an opportunity. When you don’t play till Wednesday and other teams are going to get to play, it’s going to be back to the grindstone. We got to work it up again and win a few more in a row and then get back close and hopefully at one point you can sustain it and get over the mark and go from there.”
–Field Level Media