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THE MOJ: Don’t look now, but the signs are in place for a Canuck run

Improbable goalies and improbable comebacks give reason to think the cards may fall Vancouver’s way
Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid, left, and Vancouver Canucks’ Filip Hronek vie for the puck during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Monday, November 6, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The Vancouver Canucks could be a very dangerous team now that they’ve slipped by the Nashville Predators in six games.

I know what you’re thinking: “C’mon Moj. It’s not like they put on a clinic in that series. Demko is hurt and Pettersson was basically invisible for all five games.”

It’s a valid argument.

While they didn’t exactly score a lot of style points in winning against the Predators, a couple of things happened which both could be a harbinger of great things to come.

First off, the Canucks were down to their third string goaltender in game six with Arturs Silovs and won that contest 1-0. Not too many NHL teams can start their third-string goalie and come up with a win – never mind in a playoff-clinching game on the road.

Then there’s the comeback.

Down 3-1 with three minutes remaining in the third period of game four, the Canucks got a couple of goals from Brock Boeser to tie it and then won it on Elias Lindholm’s goal in overtime to take a commanding three-games-to-one lead in the series.

It was a surreal moment, an improbable comeback that could be the one thing that galvanizes the team moving forward.

It’s kind of a yin and yang in the world of sports.

The yin is there are teams that always find a way to lose. They get a bad break or two against them and they go into the “here we go again” mode. Those teams lack confidence in critical situations and aren’t successful.

Then there’s the yang part. Those are the teams that always believe they are going to find a way to win no matter what the circumstances.

After the series against Nashville, which category do you think the Canucks fall into?

I’m not guaranteeing that the Canucks will win the Stanley Cup but when teams have moments that bring them together early in the playoffs, some special things can happen.

Look at the Florida Panthers last year in the opening round against the Boston Bruins. Down three games to one, the Panthers won three consecutive games with two of those wins coming in overtime. The Panthers went on to the Stanley Cup Finals before they lost to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Probably the best example of this by a Canuck team was in 1994, when down three games to one against the Calgary Flames in their opening round series, the Canucks somehow prevailed by winning three consecutive games in overtime.

Buoyed by that confidence, they advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals before they lost to the New York Rangers.

With Vancouver facing Edmonton in the second round, the Canucks have a good matchup. Yes, the Oilers are a highly-skilled team with arguably the world’s best player in Connor McDavid but they don’t play as physical of a game as Nashville. The Oilers are similar to the Canucks in that they love to run-and-gun, which actually bodes well for Vancouver if they can maintain their defensive structure.

It won’t be easy beating the Oilers but the Canucks have been hardened by their series against Nashville. They’ve played with a third string goalie and won. They won by winning three games in an opposing rink. They won by not playing their best hockey at times.

The bottom line?

They found a way to win.


* “I think we’ve had ten guys that have never played a playoff round. I think there are a couple of guys early on…it wasn’t overwhelming but it was like ‘wow, this is playoff hockey” and it took them awhile to figure it out. I think this round might help these guys figure it out that “OK. Now I know what playoff hockey is about.” Hopefully going into this round we can loosen up a little bit more. Our team sometimes played a little too tight the last series. Saying that, you still have to have the same staples and the same attitude when it comes to playoff hockey. I think getting out of the round winning is going to loosen some guys up – I do,” said Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet.

* Tocchet believes his blueline corps was instrumental in the first-round win over Nashville and will play a key role against the Oilers. “Our defence held the fort for us, experience-wise. When things got crazy out there, I thought they held it together…The experience helped us that round,” said Tocchet.

* Tocchet has been named as a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s Coach of the Year along with Winnipeg’s Rick Bowness and Nashville’s Andrew Brunette.

* Elias Pettersson is up for the Lady Byng Trophy given to the “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.” Carolina’s Jaccob Slavin and Toronto’s Auston Matthews are also finalists.

* The schedule for the second round series is as follows: Friday May 10 - 8 p.m. in Vancouver; Sunday May 12 - TBD in Edmonton; Tuesday May 14 - TBD in Edmonton; Thursday May 16 - TBD in Vancouver; Saturday May 18 - TBD in Edmonton; Monday May 20 - TBD in Vancouver.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.

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