The Vancouver Canucks are off to a promising 8-4-0 start under new coach Willie Desjardins. Their games have been more entertaining, as per the wishes of management and ownership. Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, and new linemate Radim Vrbata are each in the top 30 of NHL scorers. And goalie Ryan Miller has been solid, compiling an 8-1-0 record with a .918 save percentage.
But based on recent history, things might not look so rosy after Vancouver’s done with a four-game road trip that starts tonight in Denver, before making stops in San Jose (Thursday), Los Angeles (Saturday), and Anaheim (Sunday)
Winger Derek Dorsett called the trip a “good test.” Here’s why:
— The Canucks didn’t come close to handling Colorado’s speed the last time they played the Avs in Denver, losing 7-3 on Oct. 24. Granted, they’d played the night before in St. Louis, but it was a concerning performance all the same. In all likelihood, Colorado is one of the teams Vancouver will need to beat out in order to make the playoffs. And it’s not like the Avs have been lights out in 2014-15.
— The Canucks went 2-9-3 versus their Pacific Division mates from San Jose, Los Angeles, and Anaheim last season. A 9-1 loss to the Ducks on Jan. 15 was among the low points of Vancouver’s nightmarish 2013-14 campaign. Even if the Canucks can’t finish ahead of those three teams in standings, a better record against them will go a long way towards nabbing a wild-card spot.
Tonight’s game in Denver will also be worth watching as it’s expected to feature the NHL debut of rookie Bo Horvat.