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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: Where to put Toffoli, Juolevi’s debut, and taking victory laps over Eriksson and Sutter

Another week, another mailbag. But this wasn’t just any week, this was a week in which the Canucks won their first postseason series since 2011. Sure you can make the case that their series against the Wild technically wasn’t playoffs, but it looked and felt like a playoff series, that’s for sure. Regardless, we’ve got a lot to talk about.

Let’s see what you wonderful people asked this week.

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The big story of the week is that the Canucks defeated the Minnesota Wild and advanced to the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a thrilling overtime win on Friday night. The St. Louis Blues then lost to the Dallas Stars on Sunday, and as a result, the first-round matchups for each team were finalized. The Canucks and Blues will face off against one another while the Stars will take on the Calgary Flames.

We’re going to have ample coverage leading up to this series, but I’m writing this before having watched a bunch of game tape on the Blues and their system, so I’ll go with a common theme for now — the Canucks should not try to change a thing. Well, maybe other than taking a bunch of penalties, they should certainly look to change that.

Minnesota came at the Canucks hard in that series and were zeroed on playing physical on Elias Pettersson. If you were paying attention, you’ll know that Pettersson responded extremely well to that. Unless a team plans on doing something stupid and dangerous (looking at you Ryan Hartman) playing physical doesn’t appear to be an effective deterrent for the Canucks’ offensive stars, especially when one of them is a defenceman.

The Canucks were playing with a healthy combination of finesse and physicality and they’ll ideally want to carry that over into this series.

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I saw a lot of Tyler Motte praise on Twitter, so it’s hard to say him, but I think he had an excellent series and did everything you’d hope he would have. Same goes for Sutter and Eriksson, their solid performances went noticed so it’s hard to call them unsung.

I guess my unsung hero would be Troy Stecher, who looked like he was playing in a playoff series for his childhood team. He grew up dreaming about this moment and against the Wild, he didn’t disappoint. I can’t think of a time where he made a mistake during that series, and he was reliable on the second pairing at various points alongside Alex Edler.

As for who will benefit the most from a matchup against the Blues? I’ll say Elias Pettersson. Any opportunity to further show why he deserved to win the Calder Trophy over Jordan Binnington last year is one that he’ll certainly seize.

Absolutely not. I never thought I’d say this, but Loui Eriksson was quietly good for the Canucks in that series against the Wild. You’re not going to get much in terms of offence or finishing ability, but with Eriksson — it’s the little things that matter most — and those little things were on full display right from the moment he stepped into the lineup in game two against the Wild.

He won the majority of his board battles, many of which were vital in jumpstarting offensive plays the other way. Additionally, he was effective at both 5 on 5 and the penalty kill, and he did everything Travis Green wanted him to in the absence of Tyler Toffoli.

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You can still hate his contract, but the fact of the matter is that Eriksson played well in that series, as did Brandon Sutter.

There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

More on Sutter later, but to wrap up, I’ll go with the bold prediction that not only does Eriksson not leave the lineup, but he’s also still likely going to line up on Bo Horvat’s wing in Travis Green’s game one lineup. If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.

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I think the spot on Bo Horvat’s wing is going to need to be lost by Eriksson before it’s given to Toffoli. Toffoli had a tough outing in game one against the Wild (then again, who didn’t?) but was likely playing through an injury as he was unfit to play for the rest of the series.

As a result of Toffoli’s absence, Boeser moved up to reunite the Lotto Line and Eriksson made the trek down from the press box right onto the second line. As mentioned before, Eriksson performed well and surprised a lot of people in that series.

As a result, I think Toffoli will find himself on the third line for game one, but no doubt that Green and his staff will be watching Eriksson closely to see if he’s better off utilizing Toffoli in that spot.

Gaudette is also fit to play, and while I think he should be in the lineup, I’m not sure if Travis Green feels the same way, and his opinion is really the only one that matters here. So I’ll say the Canucks game one lineup will look like this if Toffoli is healthy:

9-40-6
70-53-21
26-20-73
64-83-18

Gaudette would be my personal pick to center the third line, but the third line with Gaudette and Ferland on it in game one was legitimately unplayable. After the series Sutter had, I just don’t see Green taking him out of the spot he found that success in.

Lots to unpack with this one, but let’s begin with the Myers question.

He was shaky at times getting the puck out of the defensive zone but was for the most part solid and able to eat up some big minutes for the Canucks. You’d obviously hope he can stay out of the box and clean up the play in his own end a bit, but all in all, I think Myers was just fine against the Wild.

In Myers’ defence, some of those calls against him were questionable and you certainly don’t hate to see him playing more physical, especially in the playoffs. That being said, some of the penalties he took were just unnecessary and could have been easily avoided.

As for that other question, I don’t really know where to start, but here goes.

I think everybody was giving credit where it was due for the solid performances of Loui Eriksson and Brandon Sutter against the Wild. Hell, I’m even suggesting Eriksson will still be in the top six for game one against the Blues.

Does that mean anyone needs to eat crow for saying their contracts are absolutely atrocious? No, it doesn’t. If the conversation sounded more like this, then yeah sure, things might be different:

“Brandon Sutter was a pretty solid late August signing for $1.05M, right? Credit where it’s due, he helped them in this series. And sure, Loui Eriksson may be a bit overpaid at $2M per over 2 years, especially for a regular healthy scratch, but at least he can provide solid two-way depth when called upon.”

But that’s not the reality of the situation, is it? If their contracts better reflected their actual value, and they were actually paid like “depth vets” you likely wouldn’t hear a peep from the “bitter bros”.

To clarify, Sutter and Eriksson’s performances against the Wild don’t somehow make it wrong to criticize their monstrous contracts, and it’s certainly not the time to be taking victory laps on them just yet.

I’ve become a believer in Olli Juolevi. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him at camp, in the exhibition against the Jets, and in his NHL debut Friday night against the Wild.

I broke down each of his shifts from that game, and although he played sheltered minutes, I think it’s important to remember that if Oscar Fantenberg played six minutes and did the exact same things as Juolevi did, we either wouldn’t be talking about it or might even be criticizing Fantenberg.

During game two of that series, Fantenberg logged 11:49 minutes of total ice time which meant Hughes got to play 22:39; and in game three, Fantenberg played 12 minutes while Hughes played 22:46.

Now compare that to game four, where Hughes logged 27:31 of total ice time while Juolevi got just 6 minutes total and did not play in the final 12 minutes of the third period.

Fantenberg is able to play more minutes and lighten the load for his fellow blueliners, but in a pinch where he’s unfit to play as he was against the Wild, you’re more than happy to play Juolevi with sheltered minutes.

If both are healthy though? I’d say it’s still Fantenberg’s job to lose, and don’t forget that Jordie Benn could be ready to go soon as well.

Getting that confidence boost against NHL competition is great for Juolevi’s development, but asking him to log 10+ minutes a night in the playoffs could be asking too much of him and in turn, could diminish some of that confidence. For now, during these playoffs, the third pairing spot still belongs to Fantenberg.

To start next season, though? I’d say there’s a real shot Juolevi earns that spot right out of training camp.

That’s all for this week, folks! We’ll have plenty of coverage for you all week long and get you set for game one between the Blues and Canucks, which starts at 7:35 PM on Wednesday evening. Follow me on Twitter @QuadreIli to ask a question in a future mailbag!