Zero room for error.
That sounds more like the intense ending of a movie trailer than it does a preview of Vancouver’s upcoming road trip, but you get the picture.
The playoff stretch drive is under way and points are at a premium like never before, especially with the Western Conference standings as spandex tight as they are.
As of Monday morning only six points separated the fifth place Dallas Stars from the Phoenix Coyotes, who were toiling in 13th spot.
Through 52 games the Canucks have 56 points to put them eighth in the West; they’re headed to the dance right now, yet that could change by Tuesday.
In the same way that Alex Burrows’ late-game shorthanded heroics
will be remembered as the defining moment that ended the horrendous winless streak, this upcoming road trip could be the turning point of the season for Vancouver.
Win and keep winning and the Canucks can separate themselves from that bottom cluster in a hurry.
“We’ve got to get back to playing on the road like we were earlier in the season,” said Taylor Pyatt.
“We’re on a nice little roll and I think these last two games were a great start, so hopefully once we get on the road we’ll come together even more as a team. It’s coming down to the final stretch here in the season so we’ve got to put some wins together.”
Despite the Canucks ending their four-game post all-star homestand with a pair of fierce victories, Pyatt said he and the boys can’t wait to jet out of town.
Vancouver has won only twice in its past 10 tries at GM Place; home cooking has been as appetizing as week old road kill of late.
Points are the end goal as the Canucks begin their travels in St. Louis on Tuesday before visiting Phoenix on Thursday and Dallas on Friday, but redemption and revenge are also on the agenda.
All three of those teams waltzed into Vancouver and skated circles around the Canucks in January, now it’s time for some payback.
“Absolutely,” grinned Pyatt. “This homestand didn’t go the way we would have liked so we’ve got to get out on the road and win some tough games and everyone in here is prepared to do that.
“Nothing would take the bitterness of losing to these teams away more than stealing some wins in their barns.”
That rings especially true for the opening game of the trip against the Blues, the team that handed the Canucks a 6-4 loss
on Jan. 9; the day that grizzly winless streak began.
“They’re just one of those teams that we haven’t played well against,” said Pyatt.
“They’ve got some skilled offensive guys and I don’t know why, but we’ve just really struggled against them. I think we’ll be much better prepared this time.”
As for Phoenix, Pyatt classified them as “one of those teams that we’ve got to beat if we want to be in the playoffs and have success,” and he hit the nail on the head.
The Canucks are 1-1 versus the Coyotes this year; they kicked the desert dogs 1-0
before being torn to shreds 4-1
about a month ago – Pyatt added that the Vancouver team that showed up for that last game won’t be around on Thursday.
With any luck, the Canucks squad that blew a two goal lead against the Stars en route to a 3-2 shootout loss
a few weeks back won’t take to the ice in Dallas either.
The surging Stars, winners of eight of their last 10 games, have risen from obscurity and are now comfortably in the playoff mix. Finishing off the first half of this road trip with a W in big D would do wonders for the Canucks before returning home for a one-game stint.
“We’ve had a real rivalry with them going back to the playoffs here a few years back, it seems like we always play tight games against them.
“They’ve got a great goaltender and have really been on a roll these past few months, so it’ll be a tough game as well. That’ll be a big test and I think we’re ready for it.”
Don’t be surprised if Pyatt finds himself with a handful of points in the opening three games of this tour as the road is where the big man prefers to be.
He’s relaxed staying in foreign hotels, exploring unfamiliar cities is his bag and as a guy’s guy, the road gives him a chance to bond with his band of brothers.
“Being with the guys and going out for dinners and really just hanging out with each other is great. We’re together 24/7 on the road so it’s always fun to be on the road and spend some time with the guys.”
If there was ever a time the Canucks needed each other it’s now as coming together and playing some solid hockey will not only ensure a successful road trip, but also that the Callaways stay out of sight.