NHL Hockey

Canucks keep dreaming, hoping for best against Flames

The Vancouver Canucks are daring to dream again.

For much of the NHL season, the Canucks (32-32-10) have remained well below the playoff bar. But heading into Saturday's home game against the Calgary Flames (46-21-7), the Canucks are just four points shy of a postseason berth.

A three-game win streak, points from overtime and shootout losses, and other teams' inconsistencies have put Vancouver back in the hunt. A few days ago, many fans and media types questioned whether the Canucks should lose deliberately to gain a chance at a better draft position.

"It's just crazy," center Bo Horvat told reporters, referring to the team's renewed playoff contention. "It just shows you never know what can happen.

"Down the stretch here we have been playing some good hockey. We're just going to keep plugging away and try and make a run for it. We're playing good hockey. We just have to keep it up."

A playoff berth still appears highly unlikely. The Canucks are among five clubs vying for likely only one playoff spot. All others in the conference are virtually, although not mathematically, locked up. But the Canucks are determined to do as much as they can to avoid a fourth straight spring of watching other teams battle for the Stanley Cup.

"We still have a lot of hope in this (dressing) room," winger Jake Virtanen told reporters. "We're committed. We still believe in the room. We want to make the playoffs. Hopefully, we get some luck on our side and we keep winning games."

The Canucks are coming off a 7-4 thumping of the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday. Most of Vancouver's recent points have come against playoff also-rans. But on Saturday, the Canucks must beat a legitimate Stanley Cup contender that is getting hot at the right time.

The Flames have won five of their past six games after losing four straight at the beginning of March.

"The month of February took a toll," Flames coach Bill Peters told reporters. "And, (since) then, we've taken some additional days off, and I think we've skated better because of it."

The Flames are battling for first place in the Western Conference as well as their division.

"It's a good thing we're in this race for the division -- it's keeping us sharp and keeping us focused and hopefully that will lead to us playing our best hockey going into the playoffs," captain Mark Giordano told Sportsnet.ca. "It's great. You come to the rink and the mood is great and guys are feeling good about themselves.

The chirps are a lot funnier when things are going well."

Giordano is most proud of his club's consistency.

"We brought our game on most nights," he said. "We've been through a bunch of years where things haven't gone the best for us and we all realize you can't let it slip because if you do for even a week or two in this league, (the losses) can really pile on."

Giordano scored a short-handed goal Thursday in a 5-1 win over Ottawa to extend his points streak to six games. Peters could only shake his head in disbelief that a defenseman had scored a short-handed marker. The shorty was Calgary's 18th of the season.

The Flames boast elite offensive talent in Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk. But they have also been getting help from unsung heroes like Giordano, who has 69 points and will likely be in the running for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the NHL's top defenseman.

On Thursday, the fourth line of Andrew Mangiapane, Garnet Hathaway and Derek Ryan combined for two goals and enjoyed a six-point night as each earned two points.

"They're tenacious," said Peters. "That line is doing everything right. In all three zones, they're doing things right."

In other words, Peters appreciates the trio's defensive play as well as its offensive contributions.

"If you're one-dimensional at this time of year, you won't be playing for us," said Peters.

--Field Level Media

Updated March 22, 2019

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