Vancouver Canucks pass first test without Torts

Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella lost his cool after a fight filled first period against the Calgary Flames last weekend on Hockey Night In Canada. The game began with a line brawl, spawning a regrettable decision by Torts to storm the Flames dressing room in the first intermission. The entire ordeal was caught on camera and subsequent disciplinary action has since been rendered. As of Monday of this week, Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella has been suspended for 15 days; a total of 6 games.

Game 1: Without Torts behind the bench for Tuesday’s game between the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers there was a pre-game sense that if the Canucks go on a tear without their coach and then slump when he returns, there may be trouble in paradise for the highly controversial Tortorella.

The Vancouver Canucks won Tuesday, defeating the Oilers by a score of 2-1. No Torts, no problem. But then again, the Edmonton Oilers aren’t exactly a team to fear – their 15 wins are second least in the NHL, two more than the tanking Buffalo Sabres.

Kellen Lain’s first game in the NHL was the night of the brawl with the Flames. The rookie was involved in the opening faceoff and melee that ensued. He was ejected immediately, playing a total of 2 seconds. In his second game – the win against the Oilers – Lain scored his first NHL goal en route to victory.

The Vancouver Canucks have struggled recently, winning 3 of their last 10. Recent trouble securing victory has caused Vancouver to sit stagnant in the Western Conference playoff race, however, they have been lucky that the closest claims to their grasp of a wild card spot have not fared well either of late. The Phoenix Coyotes – sitting 6 points back of the Vancouver Canucks – have only won 3 of 10 themselves. The Dallas Stars are 10th in the West, and they’ve only won 2 of their last 10, which is not helping their cause to close the 9 point gap that separates them from the Canucks.

No Torts, no problem, at the moment.

Cries of “West is best” can calm slightly as the middle of the road teams in the Western Conference struggle; conversely, the same playoff bubble teams in the East have experienced a surge in recent weeks.

For the Vancouver Canucks this means: yes, the pressure is on to qualify for the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, but there is a cushion in place between themselves and the 9th place Phoenix Coyotes.