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Expect road warrior Filip Hronek to step up for the Canucks in Nashville for Game 6

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Photo credit:© Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 month ago
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Like a country band that is nearing the end of their touring career, the Vancouver Canucks really didn’t want to have to go to Nashville again. Alas, in losing Game 5 of Round One of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs, they’ve punched their ticket all the same, and will be facing off with the Predators in Music City for Game 6 on Friday evening.
Win, and the Canucks are on to the second round and the Edmonton Oilers.
Lose, and it’s a flight back to Vancouver for a dire do-or-die Game 7 with all the pressure firmly on the Canucks.
Obviously, the game-plan at play is to finish the series off in six with a hard-earned road victory on Friday. And, thankfully, on that front the Canucks should be able to count on some outsized contributions from their two most important defenders.
Quinn Hughes and Filip Hronek have been outright road warriors throughout the 2023/24 campaign, with Hronek being arguably the team’s top away player overall.
There’s no real debate as to whether or not the Hughes/Hronek pairing is the “top pairing” on the Vancouver blueline. They are, they have been all year long, it’s patently clear. But there is a debate to be had about whether they’ve been the best pairing in this first playoff series.
They’re still skating the most minutes on the blueline. But each has shaved at least a minute off their average regular season ice-time.
Hughes is, at the very least, still putting up points with five assists through five games. Hronek, on the other hand, is pointless through five. As a pairing, Hughes and Hronek have been outscored 6-3 at even-strength, despite holding positive control over things like possession and scoring chances.
There are multiple factors at play here. Hughes is probably playing through at least some form of injury, and has clearly been hampered by the excess physicality of the Predators. Hughes’ effectiveness being limited obviously and automatically has a detrimental impact on Hronek’s quality of play, though he definitely needs to play better as an individual, too.
At the same time, the rest of the blueline has stepped up in a – literal – big way. That has contributed to the lowered ice-time for Hughes/Hronek, and to the Canucks still being in control of the series. Overall, the play of the blueline has been a net-positive in this series, but two truths still remain:
A) The Hughes/Hronek pairing needs to be better.
and
B) If anyone is going to step it up for the most important road game of the season (thus far), it’s going to be them, and it’s going to be Hronek in specific.
The Canucks, as a whole, were a better home team in the 2023/24 season than they were a road team, which is not all that surprising. Vancouver went 27-9-5 at home, and went 23-14-4 on the road.
But two players in particular performed better away than at home, and those two players were Hughes and Hronek.
The pairing played about the same amount of minutes between home and away games. But by measurable impact, there was a locational discrepancy.
Home Hughes did outscore Road Hughes, 51 points to 41 points in the same 41-game sample size. But the Canucks scored less on the road in general, and Hughes saw much less of a drop-off than his teammates.
At home, Hughes was eight points behind JT Miller for the team scoring lead. On the road, he was just two points behind Miller.
But Hronek is another story altogether. Hronek did the bulk of his 2023/24 scoring on the road.
At home, Hronek posted just 17 points in 41 games. He nearly doubled that production on the road, with 30 points in 40 games.
Why is this? It’s tough to say. It could just be a statistical anomaly. Not having the last line-change should result in the Hughes/Hronek pairing being out for less ideal situations and receiving fewer clear-cut offensive starts each game. And, yet, Road Hronek outpaces Home Hronek by a significant margin.
It could just be that Hronek is one of those rare players that plays better away than at home. There’s only one other Canuck who raised their PPG from home-to-road, and that’s Conor Garland – someone else who fans can expect to step it up for Game 6.
The same split can be observed in Hronek’s defensive numbers, too. At home, he was on the ice for 44 even-strength goals for and 32 against, a respectable +12 rating. But on the road, Hronek was on the ice for 52 goals for and 33 against, for a second-on-the-team +19 rating.
In fact, Hronek’s +19 EV road goal differential is fourth in the entire NHL, behind Gustav Forsling, Auston Matthews, and teammate Miller.
That trend has not continued into the postseason, however. Of the pairing, Hughes has been the better playoff road player thus far, at a point-per-game through two and even at even-strength. Hronek, meanwhile, is point-free and -2 in two playoff road games.
But if there’s any time for Hronek to get back to his regular season habit of dominating on the road, it’s Friday night, and if there’s any place for him to do it, it’s the loud and combative Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
The entire team is going to have to step it up in Game 6 if they want to avoid returning home for a Game 7. But if we’re laying odds on which individuals are more likely to step up than others, the regular season record says that the smart money is on Hronek – and, probably by extension, the Hughes/Hronek pairing as a whole.
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