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Breaking down the Canucks’ new-look defence pairings without Carson Soucy: Canucks Conversation

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Clarke Corsan
30 days ago
On today’s episode of Canucks Conversation, David Quadrelli and Harman Dayal looked at how the Canucks’ blue line will shape up without Carson Soucy available. 
The discussion is coming off the heels of the news that Soucy is going to be out for 5-6 weeks due to a broken knuckle, which is a massive blow to Vancouver’s blue line. In 5-on-5 situations, Soucy has mainly taken on a matchup role alongside Tyler Myers on the second pairing, regularly facing tough opponents and maintained solid underlying stats, with a score-adjusted Corsi percentage and expected goals percentage consistently above 50%. Additionally, he’s had a positive impact on Tyler Myers’ performance, with their Corsi percentage improving from 48.8% without Soucy to 51.2% with him.
“I’ve been quietly impressed with his composure,” said Harm. “Going back for pucks in the defensive zone, how well he’s able to make that quick D-to-D pass, absorb pressure; that’s an area where, when I watched the tape from Seattle, Soucy didn’t have that same level of composure. It seemed as if his puck skills were pretty limited, and I remember thinking if he can get 10-15% better in those situations, you’re talking about a player that I think could be a complimentary top-4 defenseman. He’s making smart decisions, and it’s such a big difference compared to last year where it felt like anytime Quinn Hughes was on the bench, the Canucks’ blue line couldn’t move the puck. There’s been a big difference in the second and third pairs’ ability to control play. Last year, with Hughes on the bench, the Canucks were minus 43 in 5-on-5 goal differential.”
In other words, Soucy has been a steady presence for the Canucks’ play at 5-on-5, using his long reach and positioning to disrupt plays paired with calm transitional play to keep the game out of his own end.
“[Soucy] has been massive in that sense,” Harm continued. “He’s been massive in terms of his zone-entry defence, with his stick and his reach. It goes back to crediting the Canucks’ management regime for bringing in Zadorov for a cheap price because you feel a whole lot better about the bottom-four’s ability to keep things running smoothly even without Soucy.”
Beyond 5-on-5, Soucy plays a significant role on the penalty kill and has the lowest rate of goals against among Canucks’ defensemen. The penalty kill unit has been successful lately, killing off 44 of the last 50 penalties in the past 18 games, and Soucy’s return in early January played a part in these impressive numbers.
Fortunately, the Canucks have some defensive depth to address Soucy’s absence. Noah Juulsen, who temporarily stepped out of the lineup when Soucy returned, has shown improvement since the season’s start and is set to rejoin. Additionally, Mark Friedman, with a notable performance in the AHL (4 points in 4 games), has been called up from the Abbotsford Canucks.
Harm gave his thoughts on Noah Juulsen and Ian Cole potentially being reunited as the Canucks’ third defensive pairing against Chicago: “Super reliable defensively. You never had to worry about them starting in the defensive zone, which is an important litmus test for head coaches: If my third pair is trapped on the ice, if it’s by necessity or desire, do we have trust in them with a defensive zone start? You never had to worry about Cole and Juulsen in those situations. Plus, on the penalty kill, they’ve typically been effective together. I’m curious about potential in-game adjustments; we’ve seen games where the Canucks are missing defensemen, and they’ll show us certain pairs at morning skate, but throughout the game, mix and match.”
You can watch the full segment in the video below:

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