Elias Pettersson’s struggles were on full display in Game 2, but Rick Tocchet is keeping the faith

Should the Canucks take Elias Pettersson off the top powerplay?
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Lachlan Irvine
1 month ago
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Elias Pettersson knows when he’s struggling more than anybody else. And Tuesday night’s 4-1 loss to the Nashville Predators might’ve been one of the toughest nights of his young NHL career.
In a moment that will be played on repeat if things don’t turn around, Quinn Hughes found Pettersson for the last shot of the first period on a power play, with Preds goalie Juuse Saros completely out of position and a wide open net staring at him. Pettersson shockingly shanked the shot into the side of the net, falling to his knees and looking to the heavens as he searched for an answer for how he could’ve missed.
That miss proved to emblematic of the rest of his night. Pettersson finished Game 2 with zero shots on goal on nine shooting attempts, a few uncharacteristic decisions to look off a scoring chance in favour of passing, and a brutal giveaway in the second period that led right to Colton Sissons’ goal giving the Predators an insurmountable 3-0 lead.
The 25 year-old refused to shy away from his mistakes. Pettersson owned up to his performance in the locker room, highlighting the missed empty netter.
“I put us in a bad spot with my mistake on their third goal, that can’t happen. If I score in the first it’s a 1-1 game, different outlook,” Pettersson said about his tough night on the ice. “I’m always my biggest critic and I take a lot of blame for this one.”
As has been the case with any lackluster Pettersson performance, some on social media are loudly calling his true skill level into question, arguing that his type of play can’t win games in the playoffs. His coach, on the other hand, was far more forgiving.
When asked about his franchise centre’s struggles in the first two games, Tocchet chose to first bring his answer back to the team’s struggles overall, rather than singling out one player.
“I think Petey, like the team, I think there’s times we’re not decisive,” Tocchet said. “Like you’ve got that puck and you beat pressure… and it’s a shot on net, people to the net. And for whatever reason, we had some of those. But then we deferred, tried to throw a cross-ice pass.”
Pettersson made that choice in one very noticeable case. Midway through the first period on a power play, Pettersson elected not to shoot on a similar open net scenario, instead deferring back to J.T. Miller across the ice from a sharp angle.
“He’s got to be very decisive with the puck, I want to see him shoot the puck. He’s got to take it, but I think he’ll be fine. This is good for him, good learning lesson.”
That decisiveness is what’s made Pettersson generally so automatic from the right faceoff dot. But his shot into the side of the empty net wasn’t the immediate scorching one-timer fans are used to seeing from that spot. Instead, Pettersson collected the pass from Hughes behind his skates and whipped a wrist shot that hooked right instead of sailing straight forward.
But even all with the mistakes, Tocchet’s total faith in Pettersson’s abilities was obvious. If anyone believes that he can find the gear required of a clutch playoff performer, his coach is one of them.
“He’s a young kid. This is his first kind of taste of pressure, playoff [pressure], and this is good for him. He’s got to dust himself off and be ready for Game 3.”
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