Paterson’s Point(s): Thoughts on Canucks-Oilers as the temperature rises through three fiercely-contested games

Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
1 month ago
This article is a presentation of HelpStartsHere.gov.bc.ca
The Dallas Stars may feel like they won the NHL Trade Deadline with the way former Canuck Chris Tanev has played since arriving in the Lone Star State. But the Vancouver Canucks have to feel pretty good about the work they did well in advance of the early March trade freeze. Could they have used one more scoring winger? Sure. But with each night out in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Canucks are reaping the benefits of the players they were able to add – first Nikita Zadorov on November 30th and then Elias Lindholm on January 31st. 
Lindholm was a major factor in Sunday’s 4-3 win in Game 3 against Edmonton. From setting the tone with a huge first shift of the night to a pair of goals to his 3:23 of penalty killing duty and his game-high 14 face-off wins, Lindholm has looked like the player the Canucks targeted when they got a jump on the trade market at the NHL All Star break. The 29-year-old Swede is second on the team with five playoff goals and leads the club with two game winners and a pair of power play goals. Zadorov, meanwhile, has been a beast throughout the post-season leading all NHL defencemen with four goals and giving the Canucks a physical presence every night out. All told, the two former Flames have combined to produce nine goals and 14 points through the Canucks first nine post-season games. Jim Rutherford had a reputation as a guy that liked to make his moves early. He did it again this season and it’s paying off a big way for the Canucks in the playoffs.
The Canucks injected a pair of Stanley Cup playoff newbies into the series on Sunday and both Linus Karlsson and Nils Aman acquitted themselves nicely. Karlsson looked far more at ease in the pressure cooker of the playoffs than he did in any of the four regular season games he played for the Canucks. The team’s minor league scoring leader generated a couple of shot attempts, won a few board battles and was credited with a pair of takeaways in his 9:48 of ice time. Aman, meanwhile, played 2:49 of short-handed time as part of his 10:52 on the night. This is a guy that had played once since April 8th, has practiced hard to stay ready and on Sunday was thrown out against one of the best power plays the NHL has ever seen and more than held his own. The Canucks have embodied the ‘next man up’ mentality needing three goalies to get past Nashville in the opening round. And on Sunday Karlsson and Aman became the 13th and 14th forwards and the 20th and 21st skaters to suit up for the Canucks in the playoffs. The team’s depth is being tested and yet the Canucks are up 2-1 in this series and have won twice as many games as they have lost in these playoffs so far (6-3).
Speaking of depth, the Oilers are three games into this series and have goals from just three forwards – the three you’d expect. Zach Hyman and Leon Draisaitl have each scored twice in the series and Connor McDavid had tallied once. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has four helpers with three of them coming on the power play. Otherwise no other Oiler forward has more than a single point in this series. Compare that to the Canucks who have goals from six different forwards through the first three games of this match-up. Perhaps the surprise of the series so far is how much offence the Oilers are getting from their blueline. In fact, their defence corps has outscored their forward group with the blueline producing six goals led by Mattias Ekholm who has found the back of the net in all three games of the series. Evan Bouchard has a pair including the overtime winner in Game 2. With how much the Oilers are leaning on their top players, it’s certainly worth monitoring to see if any of their supporting cast of forwards can find a way to impact this series.
It may sound odd on a night the Oilers power play went 2 for 4, but the Canucks penalty kill played a huge role in preserving the team’s 4-3 victory. With the only third period penalties of the night to Nikita Zadorov and Ian Cole, the Canucks bent but didn’t break against an Oiler power play that has basically been unstoppable in this series and through the playoffs. The Oilers generated eight third period power play shots on goal, but were unable to cash in. Credit Arturs Silovs, but also the work of the skaters in front of him. Through three games of this series, the Oilers are 4 for 8 with the man-advantage and look like a threat to score every time they’re on the power play. But their four power play advantage has been offset by three Canucks goals with an Oiler in the box including a pair on Sunday night. Vancouver is three for nine on the power play in the series, have outscored the Oilers 7-5 at 5-on-5 and have a 2-1 edge in goals scored 4-on-4.
And give the Canucks all the credit in the world for finding different ways to push their road record to 4-0 in these playoffs. They are the only team in the NHL post-season to record four road wins so far. They took all three of their road games in the opening round in Nashville and then added to their collection with Sunday’s win in Edmonton. Remarkably, all four of the victories have been one-goal wins. So there isn’t much margin for error and over the long haul it’s hard to continue to grind out one-goal victories. But the Canucks have yet to yield more than three goals in any of their four road games in these playoffs. It’s remarkable because they have been outshot 133-80 in those four games away from home. That’s an average of 33.3-20 and two of the wins have come with fewer than 20 shots on goal. The Canucks prevailed in Game 3 in Nashville with a dozen shots on net and last night ground out a 4-3 victory while getting outshot 45-18. As Rick Tocchet said last night, it isn’t always pretty. But at the end of the night, Tocchet and Canucks nation certainly liked the look of the scoreboard high above the ice surface at Rogers Place.

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