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Canucks Gameday: Game 5

May 16, 2024, 11:22 AM ET [288 Comments]
York Newbury
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Second round. Best of three. Home ice advantage. If you posed that to the Canucks and their fans before the season began, they’d have gladly taken it. And so, here we are! Tonight the puck drops on game five against the Oilers, and the winner is going to take a chance to close out the series back to Edmonton.

After Tuesday night’s loss, Tocchet called out his team and a few of his players for being passengers. It’s not what most coaches do to the media – especially during the postseason – but Tocc is a straight shooter and has been this kind of vocal all season. It’s part of his identity as a person and coach, and he knows how to get the most out of his team: as proof of how far they’ve come from last year.

“If I'm going to say a guy's playing great, which I say a lot…if you're having a couple of tough nights and I feel that you need to get going, that's the way it is,” Tocc said of his passengers comment the other night. “I know the narrative that some guys, well, you tune out. I disagree with that. But I'm not going to change. And I don't think saying three or four guys had a tough night is a bad thing.

“Why sugar-coat it? Oh, everything's fine? It's fine that it's 2-2. And I think we've played well in this playoffs (but) we've had our moments where we haven't. And a part of that is this team needs 21 guys going. It can't be 12. We all know that. That's just the bottom line.”

The players understand that and appreciate it. It’s built a level of accountability and confidence within the room that’s a positive environment for everyone. That said, he’s gonna tell players when things aren’t going well, just as he did Tuesday night. A lot of that has rightfully focused on Elias Pettersson, who has the potential to be a game-breaker but hasn’t made a lasting mark so far in these playoffs. Petey took the media slot yesterday, and was accountable in facing the music.

“It was hard getting to sleep last night,” Pettersson conceded.

“I want to play my best hockey every game,” he continued. “I mean, just going through a little adversity. I'm trying to play well (but) it's not going my way. And then at the end of the day, what can I do? Just try to play the next game better. I can't dwell on bad games or not my best performance previous games.”

Petey hasn’t been playing well, but neither have his linemates. Hoglander started the postseason with him but has been benched the last two games after just one assist in eight games, and Mikheyev has one goal in his last 60 games. Tocc talked about lineup changes coming into tonight’s game, and he acknowledged the need for Petey’s linemates to be better too.

“With ‘Petey,’ all fairness to him, I'm not sure he's getting sometimes the help he needs,” Tocc said. “But saying that, I think he still can drive play a little bit better. I think he can still, when the puck comes to him, move his feet and be more dynamic. He's got the skill set, so I think that's a two-part question.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Petey said of having better linemates. “Maybe it could help, but also, at the end of the day, I can only focus on what I can do. And obviously, I want to be better. I want to be the difference-maker. It hasn't gone, obviously, the way I want it to be. But at the end of the day, I can't dwell on it too much. We have a game tomorrow, I'm going to try to do my best, and that's where my head's at.”

There will definitely be some turnover for tonight's game. Soucy will definitely be drawing back in. Tocchet name-checked Podkolzin, Bains, Hoglander, and even Lekkerimaki as possibilities to draw in. Lekker might seem like a longshot, but if he is deemed to be up to the task, Tocc has no problem with that level of a gamble.

“I told you guys when I took the job, I’m swinging the bat,” he said. “Like I’m not scared. And I don’t know much about him, to be honest. You’ve got to get your intel but if we feel as an organization (he’s ready) I got no problem at all. I’m not scared to put somebody in.”

Tocchet has the team bought in, knows the buttons to push, and is expecting the boys to respond tonight. I have a feeling we’ll see a much better game from the home side tonight as Tocc stresses how important this moment is.

“This team, when I got here (16 months ago), I remember talking that they were tired of losing,” Tocchet explained to reporters. “They were tired of the years and years (of losing). And it's right there. So I'm trying to make them understand it's there — taste it. Like, you've got to do whatever you've got to do to get there. We've really come together as a group knowing that this team has always bounced back. All year. We show up.

“They're a close-knit team, and they want to know. They want to know if they're playing good or playing bad. And it's an honest group. I mean, J.T. Miller texted me today, you know, 'Sorry.' This guy's been unreal for me. One play or two plays (in Game 4) doesn't define (him). He's been a monster for us. He'll be a monster for us next game. That's the way we work around here. We're going to be ready to play Game 5. We've got great fans. It's going to be a fun game to play and we've got to embrace it. I guess my message: It's there. Don't regret in the summer, 'I wish I had played a little bit harder or would have blocked that shot' or whatever the deal is. It's there for us.”

Keys to the game today:

1. No passengers: pretty simple, everyone has to be engaged for 60 minutes here for the Canucks to take this. Time to rise to the occasion in front of the faithful.

2. Get in on the forecheck: the team is at its best when they’re pestering defenders and causing turnovers. They didn’t do that as well last game. The Oilers have a couple weak links on their back end and they need to exploit that. Expect whoever draws in to tonight’s game to be heavily involved in the forecheck.

“The guy is going to be on the forecheck winning pucks, that's the guy you're looking for,” Tocchet said. “Sometimes it's a committee, sometimes it's switching guys in and out to help that line have some identity.”

3. Get more shots: the Canucks have been able to put up some goals in this series, but they haven’t really tested the Edmonton netminders. Like against Nashville their shot totals have been a bit low, and the goalies in the other net haven’t been playing like walls. If the Oilers go back to Pickard, they can’t let him get comfortable and need to test him more than they did the previous game.

Puck drop today is at 7:00 PST.

To the comments we go:

(Quotes from Patrick Johnston, MacIntyre,
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