Projecting what changes Tocchet will make to the Canucks lineup ahead of crucial Game 5

Vancouver Canucks lineup changes for Game 5 against the Edmonton Oilers
Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
1 month ago
After what Vancouver Canucks fans thought was just another remarkable comeback on this exhilarating playoff run, Evan Bouchard and the Edmonton Oilers crushed their hopes and dreams with a goal in the final minute of the third period. 
Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet didn’t call specifically call anybody out, but he did go on to say: “We need five or six guys to get going here. This is the Stanley Cup playoffs. There’s some guys I don’t know if they thought it was the playoffs.” He later added: “You can’t win if you have five or six passengers.”
I’m not going to try to predict who that handful of players he’s eluding to are, but it doesn’t take much more than a look at the player stats or just the eye test from this series to piece together who the disgruntled coach is referring to. 
However, I think it’s a fun exercise to try and predict what lineup configurations may help give this Canucks team a jolt to those struggling forwards. 
Firstly, let’s listen to what Rick Tocchet said to the media yesterday about his potential changes.
“Everybody’s in play,” Tocchet said when asked who may draw into the lineup for Game 5. “We need a better forecheck against Edmonton; we all know that.” He would later list Nils Höglander, Vasily Podkolzin, and Arshdeep Bains as potential options to help the forecheck. 
“The Lindholm line has been good most of the series, the Miller line’s been good. I’m not sure breaking those guys up is the right thing to do,” Tocchet replied when asked if he’s thought about throwing Edmonton some new looks in Game 5.
So, to accurately project what lineup changes will be made, let’s assume those lines all stay the same. 
The questions now revolve around who Tocchet will put on either side of Elias Pettersson to help him hopefully get going. “Guys got to be on the forecheck, winning pucks. Sometimes, it needs to be a committee,” Tocchet explained.
Here’s my first rendition of what the Canucks Game 5 lineup would look like:
With the first two lines intact and listening to Tocchet speak on forechecking being a leading quality for the new Pettersson linemates, I thought putting Höglander and Podkolzin are great fits.
Let’s start with Höglander first. He has the most chemistry with Pettersson dating back to the regular season. Höglander was tied for 10th in the entire league in 5-on-5 goals for the Canucks this season. Granted, most of this production came on the fourth line against lesser opponents, but his production didn’t fall off after being bumped up with Pettersson. 
Since the playoffs started, Höglander has lost his regular season swagger. But you often see coaches scratch forwards for a game or two to get their heads back into the game, and they return to form. Pettersson has received the Bo Horvat treatment of years past with a revolving door of lesser wingers all year – maybe some familiarity can get the two Swede’s back on their game. 
Vasily Podkolzin could be the perfect complement for these two. He showed signs last season where he may become your prototypical power forward who finds an extra gear come playoff time. He’s a heavy forechecking power forward who finished in the top 10 in hits/60 of Canucks to play 300+ minutes last season, despite averaging the sixth-fewest average ice time. 
These two have the speed and toughness along the boards that could help Pettersson get the puck. He can play less around the perimeter and more in the high-danger areas, where Pettersson is the most dangerous. 
This one is a little out of the box, but I think it could help. They still reconnect Pettersson with his most familiar winger, Höglander, while also giving Teddy Blueger some much-deserved extra playing time. 
Blueger was one-third of what was the Canucks best line all season but got demoted to the fourth line after some line juggling in hopes of finding Lindholm fit on this roster. Since then, Tocchet has spoken about how having Blueger as your fourth-line centre is a luxury. Well, this luxury may be no more. 
Putting Blueger on this line will allow Pettersson to move to the wing — where he plays when he’s a member of the lotto line — giving him fewer defensive responsibilities, allowing him to focus on finding his offence again.
In terms of the fourth line, Sam Lafferty or Nils Äman can resume Blueger’s centre role between two Abbotsford teammates: Linus Karlsson and Vasily Podkolzin. 
With Phil Di Giuseppe away from the team for personal reasons, it remains to be seen when or if he will draw back in the lineup. Di Giuseppe has played eight of Vancouver’s 10 playoff games this season, and while he has just one point, his forechecking is his strong suit. 
Di Giuseppe has proven he can play with big-name players. He spent most of his time last season on a line with J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser, where he had the highest point-per-game average of his career. He wasn’t one to bring the offence, but he cycled well and was the main puck retriever for two of the top Canuck forwards.
Linus Karlsson continues to impress during his two games up with the big club. He did take an unfortunate penalty in Game 4, but he still logged more minutes than Lafferty and Äman. Karlsson’s earned the trust of this Canucks coaching staff, and even the players seem to like his play, as he earned the team puck after their Game 3 victory.
Similar to the first set of lines, Höglander and Podkolzin reconnect but with Blueger. Putting Höglander back on the fourth line against weaker opponents could ignite the same Nils Canucks fan who saw him succeed early on in the season. 
To those who want to see Jonathan Lekkerimäki get thrust into the lineup will likely have to wait a bit longer. Throwing your highest touted forward prospect since Elias Pettersson into his first NHL action in a near-must-win playoff game is a tall task for the undersized forward.
Grady Sas said it perfectly:
Although Tocchet said he didn’t want to ruffle any feathers that could kill their current chemistry within his top two lines, there’s always the option of the lotto line. Or hey, why not put Pettersson in between the dynamic duo of Dakota Joshua and Conor Garland, who seem to elevate whoever they play with? 
What do you think Canucks fans? Who do you want to see in the Canucks lineup for this crucial Game 5 matchup against the Edmonton Oilers?

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