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Why the Hughes-Hronek pairing has been getting caved in the last five games: Canucks Conversation

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Clarke Corsan
3 months ago
On today’s episode of Canucks Conversation, David Quadrelli and Harman Dayal recapped Vancouver’s loss to Seattle and dove into the Canucks’ recent struggles, namely the team’s top defensive pairing of Quinn Hughes and Filip Hronek.
The show kicked off with the guys discussing the Canucks’ slew of tired performances, most recently their 4-3 loss to the Seattle Kraken this past Saturday.
“Two tired teams in the same boat, and to me, the Canucks made more critical mistakes,” said Harm, who noted the team’s ability to limit Seattle’s chances through the 1st period but lack thereof for the rest of the game. “If you’re going to play this tired ‘bend, don’t break’ style – that’s fine, you just can’t make those disastrous mistakes like the one leading to the Oleksiak goal.”
Here’s Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet during his post-game presser, when asked for his thoughts on his team’s performance.
“There’s a lot of different reasons we lost that game. Our changes were awful, that’s .500 hockey and you can’t win that way… There’s no excuses; they played as many games as us (in the same number of days). They were hungrier on pucks.”
Quads looked to veteran and two-time Stanley Cup Champion Ian Cole for some insight, playing a clip from the post-game interviews:
Quads: “What goes into winning and playing well when you’re tired?”
Cole: “It’s different for every team. I don’t think there’s one set blueprint; I would say we need to play a patient game, get the puck in deep, keep shifts short – all the cliche things to say but I think they’re all appropriate when you’re trying to play that game.”
Quads touched on the Canucks’ change in pace compared to their hot stretch to open the season.
“There was at least one, maybe two (plays) where the Canucks turned over the puck at the Seattle blue line, and the forwards are just too gassed to get back. We saw it on the Oleksiak goal. That can’t happen in this league. We need to see them get back to those things we’ve seen them do well, like being first on pucks… I understand fatigue, but it’s like Ian Cole said – fatigue shouldn’t be a factor in the NHL.”
The guys wrapped up their recap and moved on to discuss Canucks’ captain Quinn Hughes and D-partner Filip Hronek. The duo came out of the gates firing to begin the season, posting a combined 42 points and +31 plus-minus through 15 games, leading all defensive pairings and the Canucks to a 12-3-1 start – their best in franchise history. Recently, though, the elite pair may have started to come back to earth, as the team dropped 3 of their last 5 games with Hughes and Hronek posting 11 points and a -7 plus-minus during that span.
“Over the last 5 games, high danger chances are 26-13 in favor of the opposition, and the Canucks have been outscored 7-4 five-on-five with Hughes on the ice,” said Harm. “He’s been A+ offensively, but they’re being hemmed in their own zone for a lot of shifts and having more difficulty than usual breaking the puck out.”
The Canucks are without one of their top defencemen, Carson Soucy, for up to eight weeks after he was sidelined with a leg injury. Quads noted how teams are attacking Hughes and Hronek differently as a result, and thinks their recent slump (if you want to call it that) is a culmination of that and the increased workload.
“The answer isn’t, ‘you just play the next guys more.’ It would be great if you could just let those top guys have a night off; they can’t have a night off,” said Quads, emphasizing the workload facing the Canucks’ best defencemen. “It makes it a lot easier to compound mistakes. We’ve talked about how good they’ve been at avoiding them, but we’ve seen that pairing struggle with it recently.”
The guys mentioned the Cree-Canadian defenceman Ethan Bear as a possible option to help bolster Vancouver’s blue line, as well as reminding the fans that at 12-5-1, the Canucks are still sitting pretty and with a get-right game coming up tonight against the San Jose Sharks, have a good chance to get back in the win column.
Previewing the game, the guys featured former Canucks Conversation co-host Chris Faber’s question for Rick Tocchet during the Canuck’s practice on Sunday.
Faber: “What’s the biggest thing you’re looking to get this team back to on Monday and nip this two-game losing streak in the bud?”
Tocchet: “Changes and turnovers. There’s certain parts of the game where you need to make the right play. It’s ok to make a high-risk play, but the next play it better be a great chance.”
Quads followed up by suggesting Canucks’ forward Andrei Kuzmenko, who was benched in the 2nd period of the game against Seattle, was a factor in Tocchet’s desire to get this team back to the basics. Kuzmenko has goals and 14 points through 17 games but has seen his goal production pace significantly drop off from the previous season, when he scored 39 goals in 81 games.
The show wrapped up with the guys looking at tonight’s lineup, what they expect from the team, and potential changes that could be coming to the defensive group.
Watch the segment of the guys discussing the Hughes and Hronek pairing below:

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