Through hard hits and aggressive penalty killing, ‘Big Boy Hockey’ from Canucks’ defence has shaped their series against the Predators

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Lachlan Irvine
1 month ago
For a team built around its offensive firepower and stellar goaltending, it’s the adage of “defence wins championships” that’s come through for the Vancouver Canucks.
Through the first four games of their series against the Nashville Predators, the Canucks’ defence core has been remarkably consistent for the team. In the wake of slower offensive starts for the Canucks’ stars and injuries to their goalie tandem, the team’s towering back end has had their work cut out for them, and they’ve looked good playing backbone through the team’s bumpy ride through the opening round.
Fortunately, despite the bumps, Vancouver has the chance to end the series tonight, and their blue line is a key reason why.
While Quinn Hughes certainly deserves much of the credit for that success, the heavier-hitting second and third pairings have been giving Nashville’s forwards fits all over the ice with their imposing physicality.
On Monday, Rick Tocchet credited the Canucks’ defencemen for stepping up in key moments. “Zee, Myers, Soucy—Cole has been a monster for us—those guys stand out,” Tocchet said. “Those big guys have really [been] kind of our pillars in this series, I think. Even when they were coming at us, I think we’re holding the fort in front, and I gotta give those guys a lot of credit.”
Tyler Myers credited their success to the team’s “proactiveness” in their own end.
“I think we’re making good reads of when to pressure, when not to pressure,” Myers said Monday. “Guys are going out with the mindset of creating momentum with the penalty kill, which I think you can do. And we just have to continue that mindset.”
That proactiveness has been felt most right in front of the net. Canucks’ defenders have been positioning themselves well in front of their goaltenders (regardless of which one is in net), giving them the lane to see the puck while still being right on top of any Predators forward looking for rebounds, and blocking pass attempts around the net.
“Nashville is one of the better teams of getting those pucks behind the net in front. They’ve gotten a lot of goals this year, though we’ve limited that,” Tocchet said. “We’ve had some really good sticks getting in the way of people, I thought. Off the rush, we’re trying to keep them to the outside, the big guys that are keeping them on the outside, I really do.”
Myers feels the long reach that guys like himself and Carson Soucy is helping to give Nashville a lot less time and space. “We’re able to cover quite a bit of ice even just standing still so we want to use it to our advantage… we just want to keep the mindset of defending hard and getting the puck up quick, and just staying consistent.”
Ironically, that long reach has arguably helped most when they’re playing shorthanded. While the Canucks power play has been nothing to write home about so far—tied for 11th among playoff teams with two goals on 11 opportunities—their penalty kill has been rock solid, allowing just one goal against 15 power play opportunities, second only to Edmonton in shorthanded effectiveness.
Tocchet, always an advocate for ‘big boy hockey,’ echoed those sentiments.
“The advantage of a big guy is if you get beat real quickly, somehow that stick is another defender, right? Smaller D you get beat, you don’t have that extra six, seven inches like Myers. You can beat him out of the corner, but somehow he gets a stick on the puck and saves the day,” Tocchet said. “The technique of it and being in people’s way is a big thing for us.”
Hard to believe that the last time Quinn Hughes and Tyler Myers advanced to the second round was in their Canucks debuts back in 2019-20. Newcomers Nikita Zadorov and Ian Cole last got to the second round back in 2021-22 with the Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes, respectively, while Carson Soucy is the most recent blueliner to make it to the second round, with Seattle just last season. On the other hand, Filip Hronek is playing in the NHL playoffs for the first time in his career!
For the Canucks’ big boys, Tuesday night will be their chance to punch through to the second round for the first time in a long time.

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