I have included the above video, a classic Simpsons bit, because it adequately illustrates the mental state of many Canucks fans, myself included. The Canucks are 1-1-1, taking away only three points from their first three games, and a tide of malcontent is beginning to ebb into the shores of reason. I've even heard the term must-win used in reference to tonight's game against the LA Kings. It needs to be addressed.
Is tonight's game a must-win? No. No it isn't. It most certainly is not. It is neither a must-win nor a must-not-win. It is a hockey game, one of eighty-two, and it's much too early to tell whether or not its outcome will have any grand ramifications at all.
You see, apart from elimination games (at the end of which the team must emerge victorious or be eliminated), there's no such thing as a must-win game. The problem is that this term gets thrown around all the time, sometimes so drastically early in a team's season you'd think some people didn't even know what the word "must" meant. Last year's Canucks started 0-3, and the term must-win was used before the end of October, too soon by about half a trip around the sun. I remember when, back in 08-09 during the 10-game winless streak, every game after about the third loss was a must-win. And yet, not only did they eventually win a game well past a litany of must-win games, they went on to do fairly well in the postseason. In fact, they only lost one must-win game all year, but, because it was a real must-win, it ended their season.
Why am I telling you this? Because it's way too early to be concerned about the state of this team. In fact, we've actually been playing fairly well. While I often disagree with coaches who say that process is more important than outcome (it's not--whisking an egg is not as satisfying as eating a cookie), the Canucks' process in the first three games should be grounds for optimism, at the very least. The defense has looked steady and physical, the penalty kill has looked better, the Sedins are already clicking, and Roberto Luongo looks fantastic. Once the offense starts to go, the Canucks will be just fine.
Hopefully, that's tonight. It would be nice if the Canucks beat the Kings, to set the groundwork for some serious momentum, and because the LA Kings are bad, but if they lose, here's what not to do: don't throw yourself out a window. That is the wrong reaction. Instead, just mope for ten minutes, eat a bagel, and set the PVR for Sunday, because that's when the Canucks will be playing again.
And, regardless of the outcome in tonight's game, that game will also not be a must-win.