JPat: Game 6 a good time for Rick Tocchet’s tactics to push Canucks past Predators

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
1 month ago
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For most of this season, Rick Tocchet has had the Midas Touch. Almost every decision the Vancouver Canucks’ head coach made this season has been the right one leading to career years for a number of his players on an individual basis. And collectively, Tocchet guided the Canucks to the third-best regular season record in franchise history.
But now, five games into an almost too-close-to-call playoff battle with the Nashville Predators, Tocchet needs to find that Midas Touch again. To this point in the series, the coach has basically let things play out without many tweaks to his tactical approach. Aside from having his hand forced by a pair of goaltending injuries and an illness to Tyler Myers in Game 2, Tocchet has seemed content to run with the same 18 skaters in four of the five games. And beyond that, the coach has made next to no changes to the deployment of those skaters. 
His biggest personnel switch to this point in the series was to swap out Conor Garland and replace him with Elias Lindholm on the team’s top power play unit. And heading into Friday’s Game 6, the Canucks power play – just two for 13 (15.4%) – remains near the top of the list of issues that have contributed to the team’s scoring woes in the series. 
On a few occasions, Tocchet has reunited the Lotto Line. But beyond that, the coach has stayed remarkably patient with the same 12 forwards and, for the most part, the same four forward lines.
And now with Vasily Podkolzin assigned to Abbotsford for the AHL playoffs, the only real forward option to inject into the series at this point has been removed. Based on Thursday’s practice at Bridgestone Arena, it looks like the Canucks will go with the same line-up and the same deployment they’ve used for most of this first round.
With another chance to eliminate the Preds and advance to face Edmonton in the next round, Tocchet needs to show the same sense of urgency in his coaching that he will surely demand from his players. 
In 2015, Willie Desjardins got absolutely roasted – in fact, he still does all these years later – for simply rolling four lines in the Canucks 2015 first round match-up against Calgary. Desjardins was trying to keep his stars fresh for a seventh game that never materialized because the Canucks got bounced in six.
Obviously, this version of the Canucks knows its season can’t end on Friday night. But that shouldn’t enter the thinking for the coach or his players. Tocchet needs to get a feel for his group early in Game 6 and ride the players that he thinks can swing the outcome in the Canucks favour. Move some pieces around. Elias Pettersson at centre isn’t having any impact on this series. Why not give him some shifts then on the wing with Elias Lindholm in the middle? Why not move Conor Garland higher in the line-up in an attempt to drive play and produce a spark? Challenge Dakota Joshua to be a difference maker and let him play up the line-up for a few shifts in place of the ineffective Ilya Mikheyev. And maybe, on occasions, throw Joshua and Garland back with Teddy Blueger for old time’s sake?
What the Canucks have been doing to this point hasn’t exactly yielded a lot of offence with just 12 goals total and only seven of them at 5-on-5.
The Canucks ought to consider riding their horses on Friday. Load up two top lines and force the Predators to counter. Try to take Andrew Brunette out of his comfort zone – something that hasn’t happened to this point in the series. 
More of the same is likely to produce more of the same. These teams are five games deep into this series, it’s unlikely at this juncture that Game 6 is going to fundamentally look much different than the first five. So if it’s essentially another coin toss, perhaps a few coaching tweaks can make the difference to swing the series in the Canucks’ direction.
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