Photo Credit: © Gerry Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Toffoli’s impact on the playoffs was hampered by injury

By The Numbers

Following a ten-points-in-ten-games stretch after being acquired from the Los Angeles Kings, Tyler Toffoli looked poised to make a major impact for the Vancouver Canucks in the postseason.

But the postseason had other ideas.

One game into the playoffs — a pointless effort for Toffoli in a Game One loss to the Minnesota Wild — he suffered a reported high-ankle sprain that would keep him out for the remainder of that series and the entirety of the first round against the St. Louis Blues.

But Toffoli made an immediate impact upon his return, and we do mean immediate. After sitting out Game One against the Vegas Golden Knights, Toffoli dressed for Game Two and it only took him 1:29 to score, tapping in a gorgeous backdoor setup from Elias Pettersson. Before the first period was through, he’d add a primary assist on the powerplay, and later another helper on Pettersson’s second-period dangle. And if all the chances he set up had been converted on, he’d probably have had a couple more.

Toffoli’s three-point night powered the Canucks to a 5-2 victory, their first of the second round, but all was not quite as well as it seemed.

Rumours persist that Toffoli reinjured his ankle during the latter stages of that game, and it’s hard not to believe it, given what followed.

Toffoli stayed in the lineup for Games Three through Seven and continued to play a regular shift, but only managed one goal throughout the rest of the series — a powerplay marker in which Quinn Hughes conveniently did all the skating and Toffoli just had to snipe it home. General Manager Jim Benning revealed yesterday that Toffoli was set to be out nearly twice as long as how long he was actually sidelined for, stating that the veteran winger wanted to come back and help the team win in any way he could.

Even worse, his advanced stat line shows that Toffoli spent the remainder of Round Two getting buried at even-strength, which his presence on a line having a noticeable detrimental effect on his linemates.

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We’ll discuss Toffoli’s apparent mobility issues in our next section, but first, we’ll leave you with one last bit of statistical food for thought. While the eye-test certainly holds that the Canucks are a more dangerous team with Toffoli than without, it should be noted that they scored at a rate of two goals-per-game with him in the lineup and nearly three-and-a-half without him. Of course, much of that can be blamed on most of his games coming against the dominant Golden Knights — but it is something to consider when pondering a possible contract extension this offseason.

The Eye-Test

This section won’t take long, because the eye-test on Toffoli for these playoffs was rather conclusive.

In his Game Two return, he looked every bit the player that had won the hearts of Vancouver fans post-deadline, elevating the performance of his teammates and demonstrating truly elite offensive instincts.

Then, reinjury struck, and Toffoli became a much easier player for the Golden Knights to contain.

Toffoli’s skating was clearly hampered by a recurrence of his ankle sprain — or perhaps some new malady — through Games Three through Seven. His straight-line speed was still fine, but his turning, manoeuvrability, stops, and starts all suffered immensely, and there’s little chance that Vegas didn’t notice. Toffoli was pounced on pretty quickly whenever he picked up the puck in his own zone, leading to some of that caving in we discussed in the last section.

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Toffoli could still shoot, stickhandle, and pass with the best of them, setting up great chances whenever he was fortunate enough to gain some consistent time in the offensive zone. His high hockey acumen also meant that he still knew where to go on the ice, he just had a much harder time getting there. Post reinjury, his impact was felt mainly on the powerplay, where skating is less of a factor, though the unit as a whole faltered despite his addition.

Toffoli looked like exactly what he was, an injured player still trying desperately to hold down a top-six role on an offence-starved team.

Playoff Grade: C+* (with a caveat for extenuating circumstances)

If we’re grading on output alone, it’s hard to giving Toffoli anything above a barely-passing mark. But if extenuating circumstances are allowed, then Toffoli deserves some serious leeway. He battled through an injury, put in a gutsy effort, and didn’t complain.

And if Game Two’s mostly healthy performance offered a glimpse of the true Playoff Toffoli, that might just be something the Canucks want to keep around.