Why the Canucks should put in Vasily Podkolzin, past playoff pro

Photo credit:© Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 month ago
On the one hand, the mood is pretty darn positive in Vancouver right now as it pertains to the hometown Canucks.
And why wouldn’t it be? In Game 4 of Round One against the Nashville Predators on Sunday afternoon, the Canucks completed what might just go down as the greatest comeback in franchise history. In doing so, they earned a 3-1 stranglehold on the series itself, headed back to BC with a chance to end it all in Tuesday’s Game 5.
On the other hand, the very nature of that greatest comeback means that the Canucks were very, very close to coming away with a different result on Sunday. And despite being on the precipice of eliminating the Predators, there are some troubling signs showing that could impact the Canucks; if not now, then perhaps in the series to come.
In Game 4, Brock Boeser scored a hattrick, including the game-tying goal with fewer than eight seconds left on the clock. It was Boeser’s fourth goal in as many playoff games.
Then just 1:02 into overtime, Elias Lindholm notched the game-winner, his second goal of the postseason.
Which gives a hint as to what one of the issues at play may be. Throw Dakota Joshua and his two Game 1 goals into the mix, and you’ve got three players responsible for eight of the Canucks’ 11 total playoff goals thus far.
JT Miller, Nikita Zadorov, and Pius Suter have each got one, and then that’s it.
In other words, the scoring on the team has been both low in general and unevenly distributed in specific.
Which is, perhaps, to be expected. Four games is a rather short sample size, and Andrew Brunette and the Predators have made a concerted effort to gum up the guts of the ice, reducing the Canucks’ total number of shots and scoring chances to a literally unprecedented degree.
But, all the same, there should be a desire to inject a little more offence into the Canucks’ lineup when and if at all possible.
Thankfully, they’ve got someone waiting in the wings. Someone with a lot of untapped offensive potential. A burgeoning power forward who might just prove adept at pushing through Nashville’s cloying defence. Someone who has, in previous stops along his career, made a real habit of stepping up his production in the postseason.
We’re talking, of course, about Vasily Podkolzin.
Podkolzin, along with Nils Åman and Mark Friedman, has been a black ace all playoffs long thus far. He was never re-assigned to Abbotsford for their own playoff run, and has instead been patiently sitting in the pressbox waiting for his shot.
Now, it is difficult to tinker with a winning lineup. But this is a winning lineup that came just seconds away from losing on Sunday, and that has managed a cumulative 32 shots over the past two games.
If the coaching staff is looking for a reason to shuffle, they’ve got it.
And there’s a lot that Podkolzin could add to the mix. We’ve seen that the Predators are intent on crowding the middle of the ice with sticks and bodies, making it all but impossible to get shots through. One seemingly obvious solution might be bringing more pucks to the net directly, and few on the Canucks are better at doing so than Podkolzin is when he’s on his game.
And post-recall? He seemed to be on his game more and more often down the stretch-run of the regular season.
While Podkolzin has yet to appear in an NHL playoff game, his history at every other level of hockey tells us there’s a good chance he’ll be at his very best with the pressure on.
Unlike most players, Podkolzin has virtually always increased his scoring in the postseason. Back in the Russian MHL in the 2018/19 season, Podkolzin scored eight points in 12 points for SKA St. Petersburg in the regular season before going point-per-game in the playoffs.
Podkolzin’s struggles with ice-time in the KHL were well-documented. He managed just two goals and eight points in 30 games in his KHL “rookie” season of 2019/20. But come the playoffs, his coaching staff no longer had a contractual reason to limit Podkolzin’s minutes, and were instead focused entirely on winning. His opportunities increased, and so did his scoring, with three points in four playoff games.
That same trend continued the following year, with just 11 points in 35 KHL regular season games and then another 11 points in just 16 playoff games as St. Petersburg made a run.
The following season, Podkolzin was in North America. He got in just two playoff games for the Abbotsford Canucks in 2021/22, but he did get a goal and an assist in them.
If we count international tournaments as pseudo-playoff games, the trend is even stronger. In 2018, Podkolzin led the Russians to a bronze medal in the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup with a hattrick in the final game and eight goals and 11 points through five total games. He’s played exceptionally well at the World Junior Championships, too, especially in the medal round, including a memorable run to silver in 2020 that included five points in seven games.
The point is that the Canucks sure seem like they could use someone who could shift the offensive momentum a little bit in this series. Someone who plays a power forward game capable of busting through the sticky Nashville defence. Someone with a history of stepping up in big moments. Someone with some genuine youthful vigor, if they can manage it.
All that, and more, can be found in the form of Vasily Podkolzin.
And, let’s be honest here, if Boeser had not gone full superhero mode at the end there, the Canucks would have lost Game 4, and Podkolzin probably would have drawn into the lineup for Game 5 anyway. Phil di Giuseppe has not exactly impressed, and with Sam Lafferty having a particular strong effort on Sunday, it’s di Giuseppe who is the somewhat obvious withdrawal.
So why not make the change all the same?
If Podkolzin’s presence can help the Canucks break out of their current mild offensive stagnation, even a little bit, it will be worthwhile, both in this series and any future series yet to come.

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