Canucks, on season-worst skid, aim to recover at Seattle

By Thomson Reuters Feb 22, 2024 | 2:34 AM

In Major League Soccer, the teams from Seattle, Vancouver and Portland play for the Cascadia Cup.

The cities tucked away in the Pacific Northwest — or in Vancouver’s case, just north of the U.S. border — have long had rivalries, whether in minor league baseball, minor league hockey or even, for a few years, the NBA (remember the Grizzlies and SuperSonics?).

So with the NHL’s Canucks headed to Seattle to play the host Kraken on Thursday night, there is talk of a potential first-round playoff rivalry matchup.

The Canucks have a four-point lead atop the Western Conference while the Kraken are among the teams battling for the final wild-card playoff spot.

If the Kraken are to make a move, the time is now. They opened a six-game homestand with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, a result that snapped Seattle’s two-game winning streak.

Following games March 4 and March 5 at Calgary and at Winnipeg, respectively, the Kraken have five more in a row at home.

“Definitely the last three games have been good for us, heading in the right direction,” said Seattle forward Jared McCann, who scored twice against Detroit. “But every single game here is must-win, so we’ve got to come in with that mindset.”

McCann, who has a team-leading 24 goals, was recently reunited on the Kraken’s top line with Jordan Eberle and Matty Beniers. McCann has a five-game point streak (four goals, two assists) and has 19 points (10 goals, nine assists) in his past 15 games.

“A little bit of that chemistry has returned between (McCann), Ebs and Matty Beniers,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “Five-on-five, that’s been important.”

The Kraken are getting the Canucks at the right time. Vancouver has lost three in a row, becoming the last team in the NHL to suffer that fate this season.

The Canucks’ skid started with a 4-2 loss at home Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets. Vancouver was blitzed 10-7 Monday at Minnesota and then dropped a 3-1 decision Tuesday at Colorado.

Canucks coach Rick Tocchet said his team needs to get used to the adversity.

“You can ask Colorado: If you want to go far (in the playoffs), you’re going to face it,” said Tocchet, referring to last season, when the defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round in seven games by the upstart Kraken, who were just in their second season of existence.

“You don’t pick and choose adversity. Adversity can hit you at any time, and it can hit you 10 times worse at any time. It’s always good. I mean, who wants to play hockey games for nothing? We tasted that last year. We’re playing for something, so that should get you going and that should help you have scar tissue for that adversity that hits you.”

Because, as Tocchet put it, “The heat’s going to get hotter.”

The Thursday matchup will be the third and final game between the teams in the regular season. The Kraken won 4-3 on Nov. 18 in Vancouver, and the Canucks took a 5-1 decision on Nov. 24 in Seattle.

–Field Level Media