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Canucks JT Miller: ‘I don’t think we view ourselves as underdogs’ against the Oilers

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Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
1 month ago
Despite winning the Pacific Division title in the regular season, going 4-0 against the Edmonton Oilers this season and having home ice advantage, the prevailing thought in most hockey circles is that the Vancouver Canucks are in tough in their second round match-up which starts later this week.
Most media pundits and Vegas oddsmakers see Edmonton as the favourite in this clash of the last two Canadian teams standing in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Oilers have Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, a scorching hot power play and are completely healthy. The Canucks, on the other hand, struggled to score against Nashville, have a star player in Elias Pettersson searching for his game, and have thrown a third-string goalie into the ultimate pressure cooker.
But as the Canucks have shown all season, bet against them at your peril.
“I don’t think we view ourselves as underdogs by any means,” JT Miller said on Sunday morning at Rogers Arena where the second round will start either Tuesday or Wednesday. “All of that is out of our control. We’re not worried about that. We’re another clean slate. We get another chance to re-rack and go again. Against a good test.”
Miller is well aware of what the Oilers did to the Los Angeles Kings in the opening round. McDavid had a goal and 10 assists while Draisaitl scored five times and set up five others. The Oilers as a team went nine for 20 (45%) on the power play against the league’s second best penalty killers during the regular season. 
But Miller knows his team’s strengths, too. And he’s not worried about the outside noise. He knows what the Canucks did well in their four meetings with the Oilers – three of them early in the season prior to Edmonton’s coaching change. He knows what the Canucks did successfully in their six-game win over Nashville. 
And he’s certainly not backing down from this next challenge.
“It doesn’t matter who you’re playing in the second round, they got there for a reason,” he explained. “It just so happens to be one of our rivalry teams and it’s going to be an emotional, passionate, hard-fought series. And that’s going to be good for us.
Quinn Hughes echoed Miller’s sentiments. The Canucks captain, who found himself in the cross-hairs of the Predators in Round One, knows he’s going to be a big part of the Oilers’ game plan, too.
Hughes finished the opening series with five assists and will be looking to build on that – particularly on the power play, where the Canucks went just two for 13 against Nashville.
“I don’t know if we’re an underdog or if anyone is expecting us to win – I have no idea,” Hughes said, trying to stay focussed on the task at hand. “All I know is what I know and I’m just trying to put myself in a position where I’m best prepared to play my best hockey and I think that’s what everyone on our team is trying to do.”
For his part, head coach Rick Tocchet embraces the fact people are once again doubting his Canucks. He’s seen it from the outset of the season and all his team has done is post a 50-23-9 record, compiling 109 points and a division crown along the way. 
Tocchet was one of six Canucks to represent the organization at the All Star weekend and is one of four members of the hockey club named this week as a finalist for year-end NHL award.
“I love being doubted,” Tocchet said with a smile. “I think it started at the start of the year and you asked if Vancouver was going to make the playoffs and a lot of people said no or a bubble team, so we’re underdogs there. As the season went on, when are they going to fall? Same thing. People said the Preds are going to win. I think we kind of like that underdog role and I think players should embrace it. I really do.”
The Canucks have a system and structure they believe in. It’s clearly going to be put to the test by McDavid and the Oilers. But one thing is certain, the Canucks have faced every challenge they’ve encountered this season head on. And they’re ready for this next one whether they’re the underdog or not.

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