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Tuesday Mailbag: Canucks’ game five starter, Filip Hronek’s next contract, Elias Pettersson’s struggles, and more

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Photo credit:Cody Severtson
Cody Severtson
1 month ago
Sorry for the delay on this one, folks.
Do you know how hard it is to write a mailbag when your jaw is still on the f****** floor!?
Seriously, a Monday wakeup at 5:30 AM has never hit harder than this one! Not even the afternoon start gave me enough time to recoup the energy I expended when Brock Boeser tied the game with seven seconds left—screaming BROCKSTAR over and over like I was in the background of a WorldStarHipHop video.
When I went to bed at 11:30 PM, I posited that this playoff series against Nashville has been so loaded with drama that it’s as if the core has been actively trying to make up for half a decade of wasted seasons, playing the most exhilarating hockey imaginable…
Granted, that exhilarating hockey comes in the teeniest of well-timed bursts, where the games have otherwise been an anxiety-inducing slog of misery, more or less.
But, baby. When they’ve won games, they’ve done so with panache, and when they’ve lost, they’ve done so in the most Canuckian way—like taking iconic playoff moments from the last three decades of Canucks hockey and pumping them full of adrenaline. I mean, look at what the club has done so far:
  • Winning a game off of two goals in 12 seconds!
  • Losing a game despite 7-billion shot attempts!
  • Winning a game with two power play goals on 12 total shots!
  • Losing a game for 57 minutes before a Brock Boeser hat trick with under seven seconds left on the clock, seconds after Colton Sissons rifled an empty-netter off the post, and minutes before Elias Lindholm scored his second of the playoffs in the first minute of overtime to cinch the comeback!
It’s absurd!
I can’t even imagine what’s next on the docket for this team because there have already been enough iconic playoff moments to fill a memorial wall inside Rogers Arena.
The club has a chance to end the series on home ice tonight, so let’s get into your questions ahead of this critical quarterfinal game five.
How far has Nyquist slid since getting his ankles broken by Hughes?
According to this meme from Canucks subreddit user Here_they_come, Nyquist is still going.
Are you worried about the lack of offence in the first 57 minutes of play?
Oh boy, am I ever!
Credit to the Nashville Predators. Their coaching staff and players deserve a lot of credit for implementing and executing a system that has neutered the Canucks’ ability to generate meaningful offence inside the Preds’ zone. It doesn’t matter how many times the Sportsnet shift clock graphic pops up against Nashville; they have found a way to completely neutralize the Canucks’ cycle, such that it wins come down to who’s better at sticking to their system.
For 57 minutes on Sunday afternoon, the Predators jammed up the middle and won practically every single 50/50 battle for rebounds.
Boeser’s first goal came only because Carson Soucy dished a fantastic no-look feed to J.T. Miller in the slot, which drew three Preds defencemen to him. This allowed Boeser to uncork a wrist shot over a flopping Saros for the opening goal.
The Preds’ respect for Miller’s playmaking bit them in the ass in the final three minutes when three Predators jumped to the circle to block Miller’s shot. The over-commitment opened up an absurd amount of space on Saros’ left for Boeser to receive Lindholm’s cross-ice pass, halving the Preds’ lead.
Then, with ten seconds left in the game, Roman Josi jumped out of the crease attempting to block Miller’s shot, opening the door for Boeser’s double rebound effort that tied the game.
All three goals in regulation saw the Predators trying to commit to two basic principles.
1. Take away Miller’s cross-ice passing options and shooting options, especially if he’s on Saros’ blocker side!
2. Clog the middle so that pucks don’t get through, and if they do, be first to every loose puck.
With Boeser’s second, the Predators were clearly shaken by the Canucks’ late push. After Boeser’s third, the wheels came off entirely. The overtime goal sequence was amazing in that the Predators completely blew coverage in a bad way for the first time all series, with Forsberg forgetting his job duties on a shift with O’Reilly, opening the door for Elias Lindholm to park at the front of Saros’ net completely uncontested. It was a spectacular breakdown that I wouldn’t bet on the Predators repeating in game five.
This brings me back to my initial point in that I’m deeply concerned that if these Nashville Predators can neutralize the Canucks’ offence to such a degree, I wonder what the Oilers, Avalanche, Golden Knights, or Stars will do to them.
After the All-Star break (excluding playoffs), the Canucks were tops of the league in terms of denying offence, ranking top 3 by rate of shot attempts allowed, unblocked shots, and shots on goal per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time. However, during that same stretch, the club ranked league average in shot attempts and unblocked shot attempts generated, with the most significant concern being their rate of actual shots on goal generated at 5-on-5, which ranked bottom-ten in the NHL.
The only teams that ranked worse than Vancouver after the All-Star break in terms of 5-on-5 shot rate were the Montreal Canadiens, Seattle Kraken, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Capitals, and Anaheim Ducks. That isn’t exactly a laundry list of teams a playoff contender should be associated with, a bunch of teams in the Celebrini Sweepstakes, a team that entered the playoffs with one of the worst goal-differentials in the cap era and got swept by the Rangers, a team that got worked over by the Florida Panthers in five games, and a team getting a bye (Boston) against a team of proven losers (Leafs).
Undisclosed injuries are also impacting the club’s offence. Hughes, Hronek, or Pettersson are clearly playing through something right now. A victory against Nashville tonight would give them some much-needed R&R ahead of their next series—R&R that would significantly alter my concern over the club’s lack of offence generation.
Arturs Silovs and the starter for game five
I’m sure that the evening’s starter will be confirmed by the time this Mailbag goes up on the site.
That, or there will be news that Arturs Silovs is also injured, and Zach Sawchenko has been called up to Vancouver to make his NHL debut following his 47-save, series-clinching victory for Abbotsford against the Colorado Eagles.
For real, though, I bet Ian Clark goes back to Casey DeSmith, assuming he’s good to go.
If they want to win this series in style, they should give Nikita Tolopilo a look. He’s big, calm, and used to high-volume games. Why not?! Set the record for most goalies used in a series win! It’ll be great!
Also, David, why would people apologize to you for you doubting Arturs Silovs?
I jest. Quads has been on the Arturs Silovs beat ever since he got his Goalie Guild Membership card laminated. He’s believed in Silovs even when he had a sub .900 save percentage in the OHL with the Barrie Colts, a sub .900 save percentage in his first year with Abbotsford, and a 4.34 goals-against-average in the top Latvian league (OPtibet Hokeja Liga) with the HS Riga. I’m very happy for my friend that one of his goalie takes finally paid off. I know how it feels to have an age-old take finally proven correct!
Speaking of which, the Canucks should sign that Michael Carcone fellow this offseason. Undersized ex-Coyotes have worked out pretty good so far in Vancouver after all.
Elias Pettersson: injured, or indifferent?
In the first 49 games of the season, Pettersson scored 27 goals on 137 shots, a tidy shooting percentage of 19.7%, and a shot rate of 2.8 shots per game.
In the final 33 games of the season, Pettersson scored just seven goals on 70 shots, a less-tidy shooting percentage of 10%, against a shot rate of 2.12 per game.
At this point, I’m not sure how you can watch Elias Pettersson reluctantly take wrist shots and not deduce that he’s playing through something debilitating.
I personally don’t think he’s taking any more of a beating than, say, Quinn Hughes, Conor Garland, or Teddy Blueger; it’s just that Pettersson’s woes are under an electron microscope right now due to his complete inability to fire the puck the way he usually does.
Given how beat-up some of the Canucks look—seriously, watch how laboured Filip Hronek’s skating is—I don’t think I can say there is a simple “find X to get back to Y” solution here. To me, this feels like a time heals all wounds type of situation.
Hronek’s contract value given the play of Nikita Zadorov and Tyler Myers during the playoffs?
I feel like it’s pretty hard for players to hurt their stock in the playoffs. We always hear after the fact how players were playing in the playoffs with broken legs, broken wrists, shattered hands, or missing feet. Getting to the playoffs is a feat in itself. If a guy is playing below their standard, it’s probably because there’s something wrong! Or because they’re 18 years old, and the moment catches up to them! Or, because the playoffs are physically and mentally taxing and playing at the apex of your ability for 24 additional games after 82 is really hard to do!
I think Hronek’s arbitration case will suffer more because after scoring four goals and 38 assists over the first 51 games of the season, Hronek then rattled off just a single goal and five assists over the final 30. That’s a massive disparity in production over two near-halves of the season.
That disparity makes me believe that, like Pettersson, Hronek has been playing through something for quite some time. Missing the final game of the season against Winnipeg was a clear indicator that something was off. Tyler Myers and Nikita Zadorov have been playing stellar hockey for Vancouver this post-season, and I believe a lot of that has to do with them taking on minutes that would have otherwise gone to Hronek and Hughes. They’ve kept it physical and simple, rarely making mistakes by trying to force plays, just meat and potatoes hockey.
Long story short: Hronek’s first half of the regular season built a strong case for a massive payday, but his second half gave the Canucks considerable legroom at the negotiating table to try and bring that number down.
If we do end up trading Hronek, what do you want, and what do you think is realistic?
Despite what I wrote above, I still think that no team in the NHL will want to touch Hronek’s arbitration case with a ten-foot pole. If the Canucks moved off of Hronek, I would hope it was because they got a younger, better, right-shot defenceman who is locked up with a term in the $5.2 to $6.5 million range or has the potential to be locked up to a figure like that.
Irfaan Gaffar reported that Hronek’s camp turned down an offer in the eight-year $52 million range, which worked out to a cap hit of $6.5 million per year. Hronek’s current deal requires a qualifying offer of $5.28 million.
Right shot defencemen in that price range that are around Hronek’s age include Charlie MacAvoy, Adam Fox, Cale Makar, Erik Cernak, Rasmus Andersson, John Marino, Noah Dobson, Evan Bouchard, Zach Whitecloud, Sean Durzi, among many others. And let me tell ya; I don’t see Joe Sakic trading Cale Makar to take on Filip Hronek anytime soon! It’d be pretty cool if he did! But, barring a central registry error benefitting the Canucks, I don’t think that’s happening.
I wrote several trade proposals before deleting them all, realizing it would probably cost Vancouver to pawn his arbitration case off to another team.
#1 Aatu Räty Enthusiast, I would be shocked if Vancouver trades Hronek.
Is it over for the Preds?
I don’t want to jinx the team. So I’m going to plead the fifth and say never to count out any team in the playoffs.
They may surprise you and tie the game with seven seconds left before winning in overtime!
If you were the GM, what does the Canucks D core look like next season?
All I know is I want Nikita Zadorov to be a part of it. The dude’s been a rockstar these playoffs, and out of sheer fanboy desire to see him play more playoff games for Vancouver, I want him brought back.
Otherwise, I’d stick with the volume approach of trying to land UFAs who are inexpensive and who could potentially raise the team’s floor.
If I’m the GM, I’m looking at players like Sean Walker, Matt Roy, Chris Tanev, Michael Kesselring, Jalen Chatfield, Brett Pesce, Brendan Dillon, Dylan DeMelo, and Shea Theodore.
RE: Theodore. Did you know the Golden Knights have $897k in projected cap space next year while needing to re-sign Jonathan Marchessault, Anthony Mantha, Chandler Stephenson, William Carrier, Michael Amadio, and Alec Martinez?! If I’m the GM, I’m floating Tucker Poolman’s LTI deal for someone like Nic Hague or Zach Whitecloud.
Who scores the game winning goal in game 5? Pick one for both teams.
From Vancouver: Sam Lafferty
From Nashville: Roman Josi
Let me know in the comments who you’re picking for tonight’s game-winner!
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