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Canucks = Pacific Division Champs

April 17, 2024, 9:32 AM ET [237 Comments]
York Newbury
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Your 2023-24 Canucks, Pacific Division champions ladies and gentlemen. With an even-handed beating of the Flames 4-1 on Tuesday night, the Canucks locked up the division with a shot to win the conference. The boys looked dialed in, and the return of Demko was formidable as the team ramps up to their first home-ice playoff game in nine years next week. If you missed the game, here are your highlights:

Standing on business, as the youth say.

It was a solid showing from the Canucks on Tuesday night, handing the dwindling Flames a 4-1 loss. The team was well balanced in their attack (only three Canucks forwards didn’t record a point), the lines looked good together, and they were stalwart in their zone. Back-from-injury-but-no-rust Demko was stellar, turning aside 39 shots and looking like he hasn’t missed a game. It was clinical, and it’s what you expect from a team closing out their year on top. Having your number one goalie back in doesn’t hurt, either.

“Demmer was excellent tonight,” Tocchet gushed. “It’s his temperament. The big-time goalies, you can just tell. When the pressure hits, they’re not flipping and flopping and diving. They continue with their style. Demmer is a big goalie and just looks big in the net.

“It doesn’t matter if the team is all over us or not, he stays to who he is, and that’s why I love him.”

The game was great, but clearly the larger point is what this team has accomplished. It’s been a long journey for most of this group – thinking back through the last couple years to this year, it’s been a huge turnaround and journey.

“Honestly, I'm just happy we won the Pacific Division,” Tocchet said after the win. “The guys did a [heck] of a job all year. Let's face it, nobody really picked us to win the division, so you’ve got to give the players a lot of credit. The game wasn't a Picasso, obviously but you’ve got to take the positive: we won the Pacific tonight. So, really happy for the guys. It's a big honor and the guys should enjoy it.

“It’s a hell of a feat going into training camp and working for this. It’s a resilient group. They bought in and we try to do the right things every day.”

It’s been a long time coming for this team to climb out of the hole. More than a few players were tired of losing year after year, and they took it upon themselves to change that. Drawing inspiration and motivation from Tocchet’s conviction last season, it was soon-to-be-captain Quinn Hughes that took those reins and forced a commitment to change the team culture – and it all started from the team group chat. Hughes wanted everyone in Vancouver early to work out and skate and be ready.

“Huggy sent us that text in the summer,” Garland recanted Tuesday. “Him and Millsy were like, 'Yeah, get out here early and we're going to work.' We did right from the start. Training camp had a different feel this year, pre-season had a different feel. And we came off hot right from the start. We had some bumps, but we kept our foot to the gas pretty pretty much the whole year and put ourselves in a good spot. And now we'll see what we're made of.”

You can tell this meant something to the players, especially as so many people had been (and continued to) write them off.

“This means a lot,” Boeser said. “I mean a year ago, I don't know if you'd have been thinking Pacific Division champions. Winning it? I don't know, we were just trying to make the playoffs. But I think the mindset we had at the beginning of the year, even before camp, that set the tone. This is just a huge accomplishment for us. I think we took a big step but, obviously, we need to keep building off that.”

“It’s cool,” Miller said. “A couple of years ago here it felt like time was standing still for our team. Lots of turnover. Lots of new faces. We have a lot of reasons to feel good about how far we’ve come in a short amount of time.”

“It means a lot just because what a group of us have gone through the last few years,” Myers said. “It just kind of goes to show if you bury your head and put the work in, things will start turning around. I'm really proud of what the guys were able to accomplish tonight winning the division. By no means are we satisfied with that, but it means something. It's a good feeling.”

The team is pleased with what they’ve accomplished – it’s no small feat – but as they say, it’s not enough. There’s more to do.

“When you have a chance to win the division, you realize how hard it is to win it,” Garland added. “In the grand scheme of things, does it mean much? Not really, but it puts us in a good spot going into playoffs. But it is hard. We have a really hard division, a couple of wagons. It's tough. You've got to be good and you've got to be consistent and we were, right from the start. We earned it. But now, it will all be forgotten in Game 1 of the playoffs.”

And that’s it, it can all flip so fast. The Canucks have their final game against the Jets on Thursday, and depending on how Dallas does tonight they could face any of three opponents still. It’s a big game for the team – if Dallas loses they could potentially win the conference – but does that supercede the potential for injury?

“You want to win every game, but there are precautions,” stressed Tocchet.

To end it, I’ll leave it with this quote from Tocchet, which seems fitting for the culture he’s instilled in this team.

“The crest means a lot to me,” Tocchet explained. “We always talk about the emblem on the front, more than the back, and I think a lot of guys have bought into that. We try not to preach individualism around here. You know, it's good for guys to get accolades -- 100 points, some guys 40 goals. That's all great, don't get me wrong. But it's all about the crest. That's what wins in the playoffs. And so that's what I'm most proud of.”

To the comments:

(Quotes from MacIntyre, Kuzma, and
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