When talking about the Canucks bottom six forwards, you always need to consider if they possess the ability to kill penalties.
In Travis Green’s eyes, the top six does their damage on the powerplay and the bottom six needs to be defensively responsible at 5-on-5 and be able to kill penalties if they don’t bring enough offence at even strength.
So much has been made about who the penalty killers will be for the Canucks in the playoffs. The entirety of the fourth line will likely consist of players who can kill penalties for the Canucks.
Tyler Motte, Jay Beagle and one of either Brandon Sutter or Loui Eriksson will be the placeholders for that fourth line. The team has some players in their top nine that will need to help kill penalties as well.
Tanner Pearson killed 74:24 of penalties this season and JT Miller started killing penalties late in the season but still was on the ice for just 44:07 of shorthanded time. The top six needs to focus on overpowering the Minnesota Wild at even strength.
The top six battle is one of the spots where the Canucks are favourited against the Wild.
Giving JT Miller some time off of the penalty killing unit will be beneficial for his health should the Canucks go on a long run. During the final stretch of four games late in the season Miller averaged 23:21 of ice time and that is just not sustainable for a playoff run when everybody is looking to finish every check.
This is where Antoine Roussel comes in.
Roussel and the third line don’t get a ton of minutes. As the third line is looking right now, they have the potential to do some scoring damage at 5-on-5 but I think Adam Gaudette does his best work on the power play and Micheal Ferland is a wildcard. Ferland could make that line very good if he plays like he did in camp though.
The third line will only be getting seven to nine minutes of 5-on-5 time each night. These players will be given other opportunities on special teams to impact the game as well. Roussel was bumped off the second powerplay unit for Ferland at the end of camp. This is a good thing.
The right spot for Roussel is on the penalty kill.
Roussel killed penalties all throughout his career up until this season. He even got a bit of time last year before Travis Green went away from using him with the shorthanded unit.
This past season Roussel only played 25 seconds of penalty kill time. He did have a drop off last season when it came to how many goals he was on the ice for as you can see the 11.63 goals against per 60 being a huge jump from his time in Dallas.
To be fair, the goaltenders let him down badly during his first year in Vancouver while shorthanded.
I spoke with Roussel at training camp and asked him if getting back on the penalty kill is something he and coach Green have discussed after the layoff from hockey.
Yes, I mean you always want to have an extra role on the team, those guys were directly better than I for a stretch and then I kind of lost my spot there. It’s something to always look back to but at the same time, we’re trying to win and if coach feels like it’s (better) the way it is, then it’s the way it is and I’ve got to find a way to create more ice time for myself and just (try) being more involved with the team.
For now, it looks like Pearson, Motte, Beagle and Sutter/Eriksson will be the four players killing penalties.
If the team need an extra forward to kill penalties, I would go with Roussel in the playoffs. He processes the game at a high level and has more experience killing penalties than any of the other replacement options. We will see how things shake down but it would be nice to have Roussel take away some of the tough shorthanded minutes from top six guys like Pearson and Miller.
It could help the top six stay healthy and fresh through a potentially long playoff run.