Scenes from Abbotsford Canucks practice: Hello Vasily Podkolzin, special teams struggles, and who needs to step up and lead
By Faber6 months ago
The Abbotsford Canucks are in tough.
After losing the first two games of the best-of-five series against the AHL’s top team from the regular season, the Canucks need to take all three of the coming games against the Calgary Wranglers.
All three upcoming games will be at the Abbotsford Centre, a place where the Canucks have played the Wranglers well but still have a lot to work ahead of them after a pair of overtime losses at the Saddledome in Calgary.
We were out at Canucks practice at the Abbotsford Centre and have some updates to bring to you ahead of Wednesday’s game three.
Let’s get into it.
It’s good to see Vasily Podkolzin with the Canucks.
It’s not good to see that he is still not shooting the puck with much power.
The 21-year-old winger is battling a left wrist injury from the NHL’s regular season and still looks like he has a while to go before being back to 100%. Podkolzin came onto the ice about 20 minutes into practice and spent time at the opposite end of the ice of the special teams’ drills with third-string goalie Marco Costantini.
Podkolzin has been with the Abbotsford Canucks since the beginning of the second-round playoff series. The organization is hopeful to have Podkolzin join the team and be impactful but when asked about his status, head coach Jeremy Colliton said that the best thing for Podkolzin’s recovery is for the Canucks to win some games and extend the series. That quote as well as what we saw on the ice make us believe that Podkolzin will not be available for Wednesday’s game.
We are hopeful to see Podkolzin join the AHL team but don’t believe it will happen in this series.
It would be great to be surprised and see him in the lineup soon, but it just doesn’t look or sound like he’s ready.
Two numbers explode off the box score from the first couple of games in this series.
The Canucks are 0-for-9 on the power play and they were shorthanded nine times in game two.
A large portion of Monday’s practice was spent on special teams and Colliton made it very clear that his team needs to be better.
“We’ve got to be better. In the end, special teams were the big deciding factor in both games. That’s it, exclamation mark.”
One player who has been good on special teams is the local kid, Arshdeep Bains.
Bains picked up a pair of shorthanded goals during one single penalty kill in game two.
Bains looked like one of the more vocal players at Monday’s practice. He is a pretty quiet guy but you can tell that he will do whatever it takes for this Abbotsford team to be successful.
We saw Bains talking with penalty killers throughout practice and even took to the whiteboard to draw out some plays.
Being a strong penalty killer is something that Bains has embraced this season and this is a great thing because if he can become an effective penalty killer — that’s a great way to crack the NHL.
“The penalty kill is something I take huge pride in,” said Bains when asked about his time on the PK. “Teams try to just kill the penalty, but I think we can build momentum off of a big kill by not giving them much and I think that’s what we’re doing for most of [the playoffs].”
As for the power play, something needs to change.
There’s a lot of offensive talent on this roster but the Abbotsford Canucks finished the regular season with the 22nd-ranked power play in the AHL — with an 18.1% conversion percentage.
Linus Karlsson, Danila Klimovich, Kyle Rau, Justin Dowling, and Christian Wolanin need to get hot with the man advantage. All five of these power play contributors are without a goal in these playoffs. Karlsson, Klimovich and Rau were the Canucks’ three leading goal-scorers in the regular season and have not been able to find the back of the net through four playoff games.
From some of the looks on Monday, we may see some changes to the power play units. Looks for Nils Höglander to get more time and Karlsson to potentially move away from the net front position and into the bumper or left half-wall. The coaching staff was very vocal at Monday’s practice and walked through situations from each position on the ice.
These players are critical for the Canucks in this series and a big part of our next heading.
Who is going to step up and lead this team?
There are some very talented AHL contributors on this Canucks team. They need their horses to run wild if they have a chance at coming back in this series.
Christian Wolanin was named the top defenceman in the AHL this season and we call liked what he did at the NHL level this year as well. Wolanin led the team in points this season, with 55 in just 49 games. Wolanin has zero points through two games in this second round. Wolanin hasn’t gone three games without a point since November and has to get more involved offensively for this Canucks team to have a chance in this series. Wolanin had 14 multi-point games this season and one of those would go a long way in extending this series.
Linus Karlsson is another scorer who needs to step up. He’s been about as effective as Bo Horvat in an Islanders jersey through these playoffs.
Karlsson has no goals and just one assist through four games. He’s a -3 through those four games and has looked dangerous at times but can’t seem to beat goaltenders with his usually effective shot. Karlsson is the type of player who can score NHL-calibre goals and those NHL-calibre goals are required to beat a goaltender like Dustin Wolf from the Wranglers. Wolf is the reigning AHL MVP and is just a tremendous goaltender.
Nils Höglander was excellent in the opening round but has not contributed anything of substance in the second round of the AHL playoffs. He’s taken six minor penalties in two games and you just simply cannot do that. Colliton mentioned that the standard of refereeing changes from game to game and that they need to figure out what the standard is. He also said that the team needs to be better with their legs and not get into spots where they take stick infractions.
Höglander was so dominant in the opening-round series and will need to get back to that in games three, four, and five for this team to come back.
One of Jett Woo, Filip Johansson, or Jack Rathbone can provide much-needed offence from the backend. Woo finished with the team lead in goals from a defenceman during the regular season and we know that Johansson and Rathbone can provide that offensive spark. It’s going to take a lot of scoring chances to beat Wolf and a boost from the defenceman can certainly help.
If Abbotsford is to come back and win this series, they are likely going to need at least two tremendous goaltending performances. Wolf is just so good for the Wranglers and we still don’t know if it will be Arturs Silovs or Spencer Martin for the Canucks in game three.
We aren’t really even going to guess. Martin was the choice for game one of the playoffs and with the team rotating through the two goalies, Silovs started game two, so that means Martin will be in for game three, I guess?
Silovs was the team’s MVP from the regular season and we are like 51% sure he will be the goalie to lead the Canucks onto the ice for game three. We honestly have no idea who will start.
Whoever it is for game three is likely the guy they ride for the remainder of this playoff run.
Game three goes at 7:00 pm on Wednesday and we will be out at the Abbotsford Centre to bring coverage for you with Cody Severtson hitting The Farmies hard for postgame coverage.
Let’s hope this ride isn’t over on Wednesday. It’s all we’ve got.
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