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THE MOJ: Canucks to shoot and shoot some more, as they head into Nashville

Vancouver knows they played well enough to win and are capable of playing better
Nashville Predators’ Jeremy Lauzon, left, checks Vancouver Canucks’ Sam Lafferty during the third period in Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The Nashville Predators had a pretty simple strategy in their 4-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks in game two of their first-round playoff series Tuesday night at Rogers Arena– take away all shooting lanes.

Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet has come up with a pretty simple solution to that problem.

“Tee it up. If guys want to block it, it’s going to hurt. I wouldn’t turn down a shot if a guy is going to be right in front of me, so yeah, we are going to tee it up tomorrow,” he told the media in Nashville prior to game three of the series on Friday night.

While Canuck Nation wrestles with complex solutions on how the team can get more shots through the Predators defenders, Tocchet says it’s all about resolve.

“I just felt Nashville’s will to defend was better than our will to score. There are positions and plays there. It’s really a will. There are areas to go with the heavy stuff. There are plays there - just find them. That’s getting through people and fighting through. It’s not standing still,” he explained.

It’s strange how a couple of bounces here and there can change your entire perception of a body of work.

If Nashville’s Anthony Beauvillier doesn’t get a crazy bounce on the first goal. If Elias Pettersson doesn’t miss that wide open net on the power play at the end of the first period. If Dakota Joshua can manage to capitalize on a goal mouth scramble later in the game.

If just those three plays go the Canucks way, people would be talking about how they battled and found a way to win the game.

They didn’t though, which means a lot of hand-wringing for Canucks fans.

As a coach, you have to look at the big picture.

Tocchet knows his team played well enough to win in game two as evidenced by the fact that they had more than twice as many scoring chances than Nashville – 29-14- according to the analytics website Natural Stat Trick.

Even the power play, which failed to score in six opportunities in the first two games and is under criticism, isn’t all doom-and-gloom according to Tocchet.

“We had two basically empty net goals (in game two). If we get one of those goals to go, it doesn’t look as bad. I think we have to be a little bit more decisive if the shot is there…a little but more to the net and a little quicker pace with our power play,” said Tocchet.

There has also been some discussion among fans regarding the goaltending situation and whether or not Casey DeSmith might be replaced by Arturs Silovs.

DeSmith cannot be blamed for the loss to the Preds in game two. Barring some sort of catastrophic collapse by DeSmith, he will be the man moving forward for the Canucks for the foreseeable future given Thatcher Demko’s ‘week-to-week” status.

Tocchet does like Silovs and his game and has mentioned on more than one occasion Silovs having performed in high-pressure games for Latvia in the 2023 World Hockey Championships. The 23-year-old did play in 10 games for Latvia in the tournament and had a 2.20 GAA with a .921 save percentage but the only scenario in which he replaces DeSmith is if Vancouver is swept in Nashville with DeSmith playing poorly.

In that case, it would be ‘break glass in case of emergency’ with Silovs riding out the series.

Hopefully for Tocchet and the Canucks, that situation doesn’t present itself.

Despite pointing out some of the positives, Tocchet also knows his team can play better than they did on Tuesday night in Vancouver.

The Canucks are going to have to if they want to come back to Vancouver in good shape.


* Bob Cole, the legendary play-by-play voice of Hockey Night in Canada for five decades, passed away at the age of 90 on Wednesday. For Tocchet, Cole’s death hit close to home as he had attended Cole’s golf tournament in St. John’s, Newfoundland on a couple of occasions. “Just hanging out with him in those golf tournaments was a lot of fun,” said Tocchet.

* Tyler Myers will return to the lineup after a one-game absence due to the ‘flu’ with Noah Juulsen coming out based on the pairings at practice. Elias Lindholm practiced with the first unit power play in place of Conor Garland. Demko made the trip to Nashville in a support role for his teammates.

* DeSmith has some good memories of Bridgestone Arena. As a member of the Penguins organization, he was in the building when Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup in 2017.

* The Canucks announced that they will have a viewing party at Rogers Arena for game three. “For fans that haven’t been able to attend a home playoff game this season, we are replicating the experience for Friday’s Rogers Away Game Viewing Party so more fans and families can join us on our playoff journey,” said Michael Doyle, President, Canucks Sports & Entertainment, Business Operations in a released statement.

* Game four Sunday in Nashville starts at 2pm Pacific time.

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

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