Emotional Game 1 victory prompts Canucks’ Tocchet to alter off-day practice strategy

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
4 days ago
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Rick Tocchet wanted his Vancouver Canucks to practice on Monday. The head coach was pleased with the club’s 4-2 win in its playoff opener against Nashville on Sunday night but still felt there were a number of areas he wanted to address. But in the moments after the emotional victory to kick off the team’s post-season, Tocchet recognized that practice wasn’t what the players needed.
So instead, the coach gave his guys the option to take the ice and nine skaters and goalies Casey DeSmith and Arturs Silovs went for a quick skate during the noon hour at Rogers Arena. Conor Garland was the highest profile skater among those who opted in.
“I would have rather practiced today, early in the series, but I could tell guys were spent after the game,” Tocchet explained as he addressed the assembled media. “Usually early in a series, I really believe a team should practice for 15, 20 or 30 minutes. I’m not a morning skate guy, but I felt the guys deserved it (the day to rest).”
Instead of a full group practice, the Canucks met as a team to go over some of the areas they want to clean up before Tuesday’s Game 2. Tocchet knows his power play needs to find a groove after failing to convert and generating just two shots on two opportunities on Sunday night.
The coach also wants his team to be able to break up the Predators’ transition earlier in the game. The Canucks eventually were able to slow Nashville’s breakout, but through the first 30 minutes of the contest, the visitors seemed to have little trouble breaking the puck out of their own zone with speed.
Eventually the Canucks found their game and turned the opener in their favour with a pair of goals 12 seconds apart midway through the third period.
Brock Boeser picked up his first point of the playoffs dishing the puck to Quinn Hughes whose point shot was tipped by Pius Suter. The chance to play playoff hockey in front of Canucks fans has been a long time coming for Boeser, the club’s 2015 first round draft pick. And the night was everything he’d hoped for – and then some.
“Probably one of my coolest experiences of being in the NHL,” Boeser gushed about the role the home crowd played in the team victory. “It was crazy. It lived up to the hype. It was a whirlwind of a night. I was pretty wired and it was probably the worst sleep I’ve got in a while.”
And because of that, Rick Tocchet emphasized the need for players to build their energy levels back up on Monday. Trying his best to stay in touch with the needs of his players – many of whom had not experienced Stanley Cup playoff hockey prior to Sunday – Tocchet put the decision in their hands.
“The beauty with this is they always tell me ‘you decide’, but I want them to know, no ‘you can decide’” the coach explained. “At this stage of the playoffs, you have to give the players the freedom. What’s the best for you to perform tomorrow? It doesn’t always have to be my decision. I just felt take an optional, it’s up to you guys.”
The Canucks have a chance to grab an early stranglehold on the series if they can back up Sunday’s performance with a similar effort on Tuesday night. The beauty of playoff hockey is the pressure mounts the deeper a series goes. The Predators, who took a full team day away from the rink on Monday, want no part of heading home empty handed. As the lower seed in this match-up, the Preds know they’ll need to win at least once in Vancouver. They played well for 50 minutes on Sunday, but didn’t do enough to come away with the result they wanted. Now they find themselves in an early hole.
Rick Tocchet is hoping to use home ice and all that comes with it to its fullest advantage again on Tuesday. He has no doubt the crowd will once again be amped up and he hopes his players will be ready to take their games to another level as well.
“The hard part is getting jacked up for Game 1. How do you come into Game 2 and stay that jacked?” Tocchet asked rhetorically. “I think there are four or five guys that can really help us tomorrow. I thought they were just okay yesterday. I have to lean on them to bring the juice for us tomorrow to come out of the gate hard for us. That’s what happens in the playoffs. You’re not going to have the same guys do it every night. It’s hard. But there are some guys when it’s my turn. I’ve got to get these guys up and we’re looking for some individuals to really step up for us tomorrow.”
The coach is hoping that by giving his players the option to stay off the ice Monday, they’ll be rested and ready and will come out firing for the 7:08 pm puck drop on Tuesday night.
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