JPat: Canucks can’t afford another slow start as series shifts to Nashville

Photo credit:© Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
6 hours ago
NASHVILLE – The Vancouver Canucks were the best first period team in the National Hockey League this season. So far through two games against Nashville, however, the opening 20 minutes haven’t been kind to the Canucks.
Not only have the Predators opened the scoring in the first period of both games of this opening round series, the Canucks have yet to score a goal.
More than that, the Canucks have been held to just four shots on goal in each of the opening frames. Rick Tocchet’s team is the only one of the 16 clubs participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs that has yet to score a first period goal.
In the regular season, the Canucks scored a league-high 96 first period goals, and their +38 goal differential also led the NHL. This is a team that jumped on opponents, stretched the lead and then showed the poise and polish necessary to see games through. That hasn’t been the case in the playoffs. At least not yet.
“I think it is important and it would be nice to start with the first goal,” captain Quinn Hughes said after participating in the team’s optional morning skate at Bridgestone Arena. “I’m sure that will be a big focus for us tonight having a good first five, ten minutes especially while their crowd is into it.”
Through the first two games of the series, the total first period shots favour the Predators 10-8. The Canucks have to find a way to get more pucks through the layers of Nashville sticks and bodies and force Juuse Saros to make some saves. The Predators goalie has allowed four goals on 38 shots. That’s an .895 save percentage. That’s hardly the kind of number that should allow a goalie to backstop his team to playoff success. But the Preds have done an incredible job blocking shots so that their netminder doesn’t have to.
Nashville opened the scoring just 71 seconds into Game 2 and led wire to wire. In the series opener, Jason Zucker scored late in the first period to give the Preds the 1-0 lead. Through 120 minutes of hockey, the Canucks have not held a lead in either the first or second periods and have played from in front for a total of 10:49 of the the third period of the series opener.
With the boisterous crowd in Nashville ready to welcome its team home from the road with the desired split in Vancouver, Rick Tocchet wants his guys to feed off the emotion in the building – even if they are in enemy territory.
“You want guys screaming at you,” the Canucks coach said on Friday morning. “I think it’s a great thing and embrace it. It’s fun. The first five minutes, they experienced it on the good side in Vancouver – those fans were unreal. These guys are top, too. So they’ve all experienced loud noise. Just block it out and play.”
The Canucks showed they could overcome a deficit scoring three unanswered goals and taking Game 1 by a 4-2 final. They haven’t had the chance to be early front-runners in this series. That’s something they want to change tonight.
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