Jets 5, Canucks 0: Horvat had some sizzle, but too much team fizzle

You could count the Canucks’ good scoring chances on one hand in a 5-0 loss to the Jets

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Now comes the tough stuff.

You can’t draw it up on a whiteboard or preach it during a video session.

Motivation after being mathematically eliminated from the pursuit of a long-shot NHL playoff position on Monday means the determination to press on has to come from within. And that’s the daunting challenge facing the Vancouver Canucks in their final six games — including two more back-to-backs — compressed into nine days to drop the curtain on a dramatic season that nobody could have scripted.

For those immersed in audition season, the incentive to impress is obvious. For those who have laboured for years in trying to play meaningful games in March — which have become meaningless games in May — this final slog and Tuesday’s listless 5-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets is a sign of the times.

So, now what? There is always the drive toward reaching scoring plateaus.


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6 p.m., Scotiabank Saddledome. TV: Sportsnet Pacific. Radio: Sportsnet 650 AM


Bo Horvat is three goals shy of the 20-goal mark and pro-rating his production pace over a normal 82-game season would put the centre at 27 goals to equal his career high. However, an individual pursuit is moot for the ultimate team guy in a season of survival slammed by a coronavirus outbreak.

“It hasn’t been easy,” admitted Horvat. “It’s been a tough couple of years and I can’t say a new captain has gone through the kind of stuff I’ve been through and everybody else on the team. It’s been challenging for all of us to play as many games as we are now in midst of a pandemic.

“It’s going to make all of us and me a stronger person and player and I’ll definitely learn from this experience.”

Horvat showed up Tuesday with six shots, but no other club forward had more than a pair.

“It’s pretty obvious there’s not a lot of good things to find in that game from start to finish,” said Canucks coach Travis Green. “We weren’t good, plain and simple. They’re a good team trying to get ready for the playoffs and we weren’t up to that level.

“I feel bad for Holts (Braden Holtby). We were in our zone a lot of times and we weren’t good in any areas of the game. And when you’re not, you’re going to give up a lot of chances. We looked like we were a day late and a dollar short everywhere. Our passes and even getting a puck behind them and dumping it was a task.

“When you’re playing like that against a good team, it’s not going to be pretty.”

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Especially when your players don’t pull as hard on the rope as the captain. He led by example Tuesday.

“It’s easy to throw other people under the bus,” said Green. “I know our guys want to play well and compete. They weren’t good tonight. They’re not trying not to follow Bo. He’s a great young captain and has been playing very well. He’s on top of his game and is a bull and can play in these types of games.

“I thought tonight we had a couple of players who looked a little in over their heads with trouble on the walls.”

Here’s what else we learned as Blake Wheeler scored twice and had four points while Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele and Mason Appleton also scored for the Jets as Connor Hellebuyck made 24 saves for the shutout:


Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) makes a save on a Vancouver Canucks shot as Dylan DeMelo (2) defends against Canucks’ Bo Horvat (53) during first period NHL action in Winnipeg on Tuesday May 11, 2021.
Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) makes a save on a Vancouver Canucks shot as Dylan DeMelo (2) defends against Canucks’ Bo Horvat (53) during first period NHL action in Winnipeg on Tuesday May 11, 2021. Photo by FRED GREENSLADE /THE CANADIAN PRESS

OFFENCE ON HIATUS

You could count the Canucks’ good scoring chances on one hand.

There was Matthew Highmore putting a backhander through the crease in the first period when the club went 14 minutes without a shot. In the second, Quinn Hughes found Horvat at the side of the net with a sweet feed, but he was denied. Horvat then had a look in the slot and snapped his stick in frustration after failing to connect.

Horvat also set up Tanner Pearson from behind the net in the third period and Nils Hoglander and Jack Rathbone were also denied.

“We didn’t play full-ice hockey, kind of three-quarters and they kept shoving it our way pretty good and hemming us in,” said Pearson. “That can’t happen. It’s unacceptable. We can’t stop playing for no reason and hang our goalies our to dry, which we did tonight.

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“You still have to come out with a positive attitude. Even when the games don’t mean much and your captain is still trying hard and creating chances, you want to chip in.”

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It was also a quieter night for Rathbone in his fifth career game.

His only shot attempt of the first period was blocked and he also committed a pair of giveaways. He did draw a tripping minor and some ire in being rammed hard into the end-boards by Adam Lowry.

“That’s the way the league is,” said Green. “If you’re a skilled guy, people are going to try and hit you. He has watched Hughes for a while and he’s a smart kid, he knows that’s going to happen. You have to live it and you have to learn it.”

Rathbone smartly ran a second-period power play with crisp passes but was hesitant to shoot. He finished with one shot on two attempts and three blocked shots.


CP-Web. Winnipeg Jets’ Pierre-Luc Dubois (13) skates around Vancouver Canucks’ Quinn Hughes (43) as goaltender Braden Holtby (49) looks on during first period NHL action in Winnipeg on Tuesday May 11, 2021.
CP-Web. Winnipeg Jets’ Pierre-Luc Dubois (13) skates around Vancouver Canucks’ Quinn Hughes (43) as goaltender Braden Holtby (49) looks on during first period NHL action in Winnipeg on Tuesday May 11, 2021. Photo by FRED GREENSLADE /THE CANADIAN PRESS

NO HOLTBY SUPPORT

Braden Holtby didn’t get much help Tuesday.

He held the Canucks close in the first period after Connor got around Travis Hamonic and snapped a shot between the stopper’s pads to open scoring. Holtby rebounded with a stare-down blocker save off Appleton, who was sprung on a long pass by Paul Stastny, who was playing his 1,000th career game.

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However, in the second period, Wheeler wheeled untouched to the net and slipped a backhander home as Nate Schmidt was caught up in the slot with Alex Edler prone at the far post. Scheifele then got position on Tyler Graovac to tip Wheeler’s point shot to make it a three-goal cushion.

“Obviously, it wasn’t good enough from our side,” said Edler. “We didn’t really have a good enough response. We have to make sure we’re playing good in front of our goalies and I don’t think we got up to our standard tonight.”

The Canucks will be happy to see the last of Wheeler and Scheifele, who combined for 23 points (8-15) in the completed season series.


Winnipeg Jets centre Paul Stastny (25) wears a commemorative jersey to celebrate his 1000th game before the game against the Vancouver Canucks at Bell MTS Place.
Winnipeg Jets centre Paul Stastny (25) wears a commemorative jersey to celebrate his 1000th game before the game against the Vancouver Canucks at Bell MTS Place. Photo by James Carey Lauder /USA TODAY Sports

BATTLE LEVELS WANING

What awaits in the final days is not lost on Green.

He’s going to eventually get Jonah Gadjovich and Will Lockwood their first career regular-season games. He’s going to fiddle with his lineup to get a better read on free agents like wingers Jayce Hawryluk, Kole Lind, Jimmy Vesey, Marc Michaelis and centres Tyler Graovac and Travis Boyd for a bottom-six mix that could sport a different look next season. He’s going to learn a lot.

“I will talk to players to see how they’re feeling and have open and honest communication,” said Green. “But guys want to play and you want that as a coach. We want guys who are looking to get into the battle and in the hard areas and hard situations. We’ll take it game by game.”

OVERTIME — Canucks prospect Michael DiPietro, who’s 2-1-0 with the AHL affiliate Utica Comets, has been added to Team Canada as a depth goaltender for the world championship tournament. Darcy Kuemper and Adin Hill of the Arizona Coyotes are the starting duo.

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