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THE MOJ: No matter how good the Canucks get, questions need to answered

Even a team at the top of the NHL standings is surrounded by things to wonder about
Vancouver Canucks right wing Conor Garland (8) celebrates his goal against the Arizona Coyotes during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, April 3, 2024, in Tempe, Ariz. The Canucks won 2-1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Life is funny.

Remember when you’re a young adult and you have this belief that when you reach a certain level in life a lot of your issues will be resolved?

Well it just seems like those problems are replaced by a different set of issues. Instead of having to worry about having enough money for rent, you now have to worry about how you will make your mortgage or how you will pay for your kid’s upcoming hockey season.

The same premise holds true in the National Hockey League.

When the Vancouver Canucks were struggling to become a playoff contender, there were so many questions.

Yet here we are with the Canucks sitting at 102 points, which is good for fourth in the overall standings, and questions remain - albeit different questions.

What is the status of injured goaltender Thatcher Demko? When will he return and will he be 100% for the playoffs?

When is Elias Lindholm going to return from his wrist injury and how effective will he be?

Can the Canucks power play return to its pre-Christmas form and make a difference in the playoffs?

Will Elias Pettersson return to the level that saw him score 27 goals in the first 49 games? Or will he continue to be the player that has scored just six times in his last 27 games and has polarized Canuck Nation?

And what about the secondary scoring which has dried up as of late?

As for the team itself, can the Canucks compete with the big boys when the playoffs start? Vancouver is a speed team and questions remain whether or not they can beat a heavy team such as the Vegas Golden Knights.

If you’ve come here to find out the answers to all of these questions, good luck.

That’s what make sports so interesting though.

As my old co-host Don Taylor would say, sports are the best reality television there is and that’s why we are addicted to it.

The Canucks wrap up their three-game road trip in Los Angeles on Saturday night.

After Los Angeles, the Canucks conclude their season with home games against Vegas and Arizona, a visit to Edmonton and a game against Calgary at Rogers Arena before finishing the regular season in Winnipeg.

It’s a tough schedule but it just maybe what the Canucks need right now.

There are four games against teams that are in playoff mode already with Los Angeles, Vegas, Edmonton and Winnipeg continuing to battle for playoff seeding.

If you ask Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet, he would rather be playing those teams than teams that have been eliminated from the playoffs and are going through the motions.

The four games will challenge the Canucks. It will give them a taste of what to expect come the post-season and will prepare them for the challenge at hand.

When I look at this team, I’m interested to see how the Canucks handle the challenge of playoff hockey.

Time and space are at a premium in the playoffs.

The tic-tac-toe highlight reel goals are replaced by shots going off a player in front of the net or scoring on a scramble.

The key to success in the playoffs is winning one-on-one battles along the boards and paying the price to get inside in the offensive zone.

Tocchet has admitted that he wishes his team was better along the wall but he also has told us that getting inside is all about having the will to do it.

How his team handles these challenges will go a long way in determining their fate.


* Canucks defenseman Noah Juulsen is the Vancouver chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association’s 2024 nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. The trophy is awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. Now in his seventh season as a pro, the Surrey-born Juulsen has had a solid year and established himself as an NHL regular.

* The Canucks sent forward Arshdeep Bains back to Abbotsford of the American Hockey League on Thursday. In 8 games with the Canucks, Bains has yet to record a point and is a -5.

* Quinn Hughes continues to make his case for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. Hughes picked up his 70th assist in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Phoenix, becoming only the second Canuck to do so. The other was Henrik Sedin, who accomplished the feat on three separate occasions (71, 06-07; 83, 09-10; 75, 10-11).

* Abbotsford’s Adam Hadwin took in the game in Phoenix along with his wife Jessica. The next day, he along with fellow Ledgeview alum Nick Taylor, hosted Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy and Ray Ferraro for a round of golf at Silverleaf Country Club before heading off to Augusta for the Masters. According to Murphy, both pros ‘were in the 60’s while me and Ray weren’t.’ Murphy did say that he and Taylor edged out Hadwin and Ferraro in team play.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.

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