How the Canucks Can Adjust Their Approach for Game 3

By: Trent Leith / April 26, 2024  

Things started to look bleak for the Canucks Tuesday morning when news broke that Thatcher Demko was injured and would miss game two, if not the rest of round one as well.

Following that, Tyler Myers was a late scratch for what we would find out later was a bad case of the flu.

The Canucks went on to lose 4-1 against the predators with only 18 shots on net, 3 of the 16 shots DeSmith faced were goals and Pettersson looked more snake bitten than we may have ever seen him.

At a glance of the scoresheet, the Canucks got blown out. But if you take a more analytical approach to evaluating the game, the disparity wasn’t that great, in fact, the Canucks outperformed the Predators in many ways. The Predators eking out a win was not great for the Canucks, but they did it in a very unsustainable fashion.

Not to say the Canucks should have won, but neither team played well. Both teams played hard, but surely neither coach was happy with their team’s performance.

Despite the loss, and the frantic feeling in the market after giving up the first game without Demko, with a few small adjustments the Canucks could easily have won that game.

Working Around The Shot Blocks

The Canucks set a playoff franchise record for shot attempts, but with 84. 31 of those shots missing the net, which was also a franchise playoff record. Only 18 shots made it on net because the Predators blocked 30 shots.

The Preds did a fantastic job getting in the way of shots. When Miller was asked about what he saw on the ice in regards to getting more on net, he told the media “I see a yellow jersey in the way.”

So what can be done to mitigate that? The Canucks need to do a better job of getting pucks through the crowd. That is easier said than done, but moving the puck east-west versus around the perimeter will cause shots to get through to the net easier, and even if they don’t make it to the net, this will still leave pucks bouncing around in front of Nashville’s crease.

The Canucks also need to get shots off fast without giving time for the defenders to get set. Take Zadorov’s goal, for no second was he thinking of passing, he received the pass and shot it right on net before anyone could cover him.

He didn’t dust it off, as soon as it’s on his stick he is already winding up for the shot, and he scored the only Canucks goal of game two.

When the Canucks have o-zone pressure, they need to get in their own shooting lanes. If there is a Nashville player blocking the net, the Canucks need to get to that player and tie up their stick, push them clear of the lane and do a better job taking back the middle of the ice.

Should all else fail, just keep shooting. Eventually shot blockers will get hurt, or slowed down. The Predators are playing a very unsustainable brand of defence blocking as many shots as they have been.

Pettersson’s Bad Game

It is no secret that Pettersson had one of his worst games in a Canuck uniform on Tuesday. Getting Pettersson going again is going to be vital for the Canucks if they want to win the series or go on a long playoff run. When Pettersson is at his best, he is decisive. He knows exactly what he is going to do before he gets the puck, but that isn’t the Pettersson we are seeing right now.

This clip for example, shows Pettersson receiving a puck and thinking twice about what he is going to do once he has it. He elects to pass the puck past the open net to Garland and ultimately no goal comes of this play. Pettersson needs to shoot this puck.

If you watch Pettersson closely, when he’s not confident he has to settle every puck before taking a shot. Doing so buys the Predators a half second to close a lane and block a shot, forcing Pettersson not to get a shot on net. Pettersson needs to be a little bit selfish if he wants to get going again.

There was a lot of “hot potato” being played with the puck in the offensive zone on Tuesday as well, as shot lanes closed. But just as Zadorov did, you need a player here and there to “be a hero” for lack of a better term and just shoot. The Predators are doing a fantastic job of making sure the Canucks never get a perfect shot, so the Canucks can’t be waiting for one.

Mix Up The Lines

On Wednesday’s practice the Canucks rolled out the same lines as they had on Tuesday, with the exception of Myers for Juulsen. There is a lot of speculation that doing this in game three would be the wrong call.

If Pettersson is to find the apex of his game, it obviously isn’t going to happen with Höglander and Mikheyev right now. It’s time to try something else.

When Lindholm was acquired, he was in large part brought in because of the versatility he had to play centre and wing. The Canucks should use that advantage and load up two scoring lines, at least to start the game and get the ball rolling.

Lindholm should play alongside Miller and Boeser as a wing or centre. By doing this, it leaves Pettersson to line up between Joshua and Garland. If there is any combo of players for Pettersson to centre, its those two. They play hard, they win battles and they set up scoring chances.

Garland and Pettersson have shown flashes of chemistry together earlier this season, and it is no secret the chemistry Joshua and Garland have with one another. If Pettersson can piggyback off of those two to get his confidence back, it could swing the momentum of the series.

Of course, it thins out the bottom six of scoring talent, but something needs to be done to help Pettersson into the series.

Don’t Overthink It

The Canucks are still the favourite in the series, even without Demko. And that is because the talent up and down the lineup is stronger, the depth is better and high-end talent is more potent. It is easy to get caught up in the highs and lows of playoff hockey, and despite it feeling like the sky is falling right now, it isn’t.

The series is tied. It would be the wrong call to swap DeSmith for Artūrs Šilovs. Once you do that, you are effectively telling DeSmith that the team has no confidence in him, and it tells the rest of the team that the goalie with 9 NHL starts is the best bet for a series win. You need to give DeSmith another game.

DeSmith was not the reason the Canucks lost. He certainly didn’t win the game for the Canucks, but he gave the team a chance, and that is all that should be expected of him.