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THE MOJ: Coin-flip loss to the Kings nothing to lose sleep over, Canucks fans

Stifling defensive match the type of game Vancouver has been winning more often than not
Vancouver’s Brock Boeser and Los Angeles’ Mikey Anderson battle for a puck in Monday night’s game at Rogers Arena. The Kings defeated the Canucks 3-2. Los Angeles Kings photo

A coin flip.

That’s the term that Vancouver Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet used to describe Monday night’s 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Arena.

The two teams exchanged first period goals with L.A.’s Kevin Fiala opening the scoring and Sam Lafferty responding for the Canucks. Blake Lizotte and Anze Kopitar scored late in the second period to give the Kings a 3-1 lead after two periods and they were stifling the Canucks for the first 10 minutes of the third, only allowing one shot during that time.

Down by two goals and looking for some juice, Tocchet decided to pull goaltender Casey DeSmith with more than three minutes remaining. That tactic resulted in a goal by Brock Boeser to get Vancouver within one with 2:53 left but that’s as close as the Canucks would get. Despite some very good looks with the extra attacker, the Canucks couldn’t get the equalizer.

“It was low event (hockey). There were eight or nine chances for each team – they just got a couple in the paint,” stated Tocchet.

“They played well. It was a hard-fought game. They capitalized on the little (amount) of looks that they had and they’re a hard team to beat whenever they have the lead,” added Canucks forward J.T. Miller.

It was a tough loss but not one that will cause too much stress for the players and the coaching staff.

For the most part in the month of March, the Canucks have found a way to win these type of low-scoring hockey games. If playing solid defense is an indicator of being prepared for the upcoming post-season, the Canucks are trending in the right direction.

In ten games since the beginning of March, the Canucks have held the opposition to two goals or less in eight of those games with the outliers being the 4-3 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche on March 13th and the loss to the Kings.

Tocchet has his team doing the things he wants them to – containing the opposition’s speed in the neutral zone, denying the inside in the defensive zone and taking away cross-ice looks and back-door plays to allow the goaltender to know where the shot is coming from.

It’s about being aggressive – and smart – defensively.

“I just like players skating forward to defend. Backwards skating to me…you’re on your heels. There are times when you have to skate backwards but for the most part I like everyone skating forward – even the defenceman sometimes. When you are connected as five, gaping up and skating forward it’s hard to break through that. Most of the time when you get into trouble it’s because your back-skating and opening up lanes,” Tocchet explained prior to the game.

According to Tocchet, another key for the team’s success as of late has been the ability to dictate the game by playing fast.

“I think it’s when we play fast and don’t let the other team to play in their structure. We like to advance the puck – let’s go. I think once we start to hold it, massaging the puck or regrouping with the puck, I don’t think it’s to our advantage for us to play that way. I’d just rather we just break team’s structure before they get into it. And if they are in their structure – which is going to happen – we will game plan on how to break through it,” added Tocchet.

With ten games left to play in the regular season, the Canucks are hoping that this focus on defensive play – and playing fast - will pay dividends in the post-season.


* Elias Lindholm did not play against L.A. as he is dealing with an undisclosed injury and there is no timeline for his return. * Boeser continues to rack up the numbers against the Kings. With a goal in Monday’s game, Boeser now has 16 goals and 6 assists for 22 points in 19 games against the L.A. during his career.

* The Canucks first round pick from the 2022 NHL Entry Draft has joined the club’s AHL farm team in Abbotsford. Jonathan Lekkerimaki will be practicing with the team and possibly even see some game action according to a story by writer Chris Faber. Lekkerimaki led Orebro HK of the SweHL in scoring with 19 goals and 12 assists for 31 points in 46 games. The 19-year-old’s visit maybe a short one as it’s anticipated that he will be going back to Sweden to try out for their World Hockey championship entry.

* Injured forward Dakota Joshua has returned to practicing with the team – all be it in a red non-contact jersey – and is close to returning to game action. Joshua hasn’t played since injuring his hand in Chicago on February 13th and has missed 18 games as a result.

* Had the Canucks won against the Kings, they would have become the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot. Vancouver currently leads the overall standings with 98 points. Next up for Vancouver is a game against the Dallas Stars on Thursday night at Rogers Arena.

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

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