Canucks have what it takes to beat the Oilers: analyst

What a difference a year can make. On Wednesday night the Vancouver Canucks will begin Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs — a feat that seemed unlikely after last season’s disastrous end.

The Canucks have home-ice advantage as they gear up to take on the Edmonton Oilers, a team they faced in the playoffs in 1986 and last in 1992, losing both series.

For the Canucks to get past the Oilers, they’ll have to find a way to contain superstar Connor McDavid, continue to dominate defensively, keep the play five-on-five and stay out of the penalty box.

Sportsnet 650 Host Dan Riccio is also imploring anyone to wake up Elias Pettersson, who hasn’t looked like himself since late January.

“You’re not going to be able to beat the Edmonton Oilers without Elias Pettersson playing closer to the level we expect him to play at,” said Riccio, who doesn’t think Petey is hurt.

“He was one of the three stars of the month in January and then he went to the All-Star Break, and he vanished. He has zero goals in the playoffs, so far. He’s got to start playing with a little bit more conviction.”

Vancouver Canucks centre Elias Pettersson.
Vancouver Canucks centre Elias Pettersson. (Courtesy Vancouver Canucks)

Beginning next season, Pettersson will be the highest-paid player on the team after signing a massive contract, worth $11.6 million a year, but he’s not playing like it.

“You’re one of the best players on the team. It’s that time of the year and you’re going to be expected to perform no matter what. This is not just a playoff problem. This was part of the end-of-season storyline for Elias Pettersson. I think his last goal against a playoff team — you’d have to go back to Mar. 9 against the Winnipeg Jets.”

Riccio says it’s hard to read Pettersson because he never shows how he’s feeling.

“Rarely does he show emotion. It’s part of his persona. If you contrast it to J.T. Miller, who is absolutely the engine of the team from a heart and soul perspective, wears his heart on his sleeve, is that emotional leader of the Vancouver Canucks and shows it every second he’s on the ice, they’re two very different players.”

It’s also entirely possible that Pettersson is battling himself and is getting in his own way.

“I think with Pettersson, he wants it too much. He’s getting to a point where he’s allowing that to affect his play on the ice. You can see the gears moving in his head and he’s thinking, ‘Oh my God, I have to do this. Oh my God, I have to score’ — you can’t do that in the playoffs. You have to just play on instinct, and he is not doing that.”

Another concern for the Canucks highlighted in Round 1 was the lack of shots on net. Riccio doesn’t feel that should be a problem against the Oilers.

“For the most part, the Canucks still out-chanced the Nashville Predators in pretty much every game. But it’s going to be a different story against Edmonton. You’re only going to be able to hold them at bay for so long. You have to be able to generate more and I think because the style of the two teams, you’ll see more shots in this series.”

Riccio cautions the Canucks when it comes to puck management, adding the Oilers “feast” on turnovers.

In the regular season, the Canucks swept the series 4-0, but that doesn’t mean anything now.

“You look at three of those wins, they were all in the first 11 games of the season and the Canucks absolutely took the Edmonton Oilers out back and beat the snot out of them,” said Riccio.

The Canucks also played a key role in why former Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft got fired, which ultimately helped Edmonton turn a dismal season around.

“I think it ended up saving the Oilers’ season that they fired their coach, and they play much [differently] now. Their system has entirely changed and in the one game towards the end of the [regular] season, Connor McDavid was injured and did not play, so you can only take so much from it,” he added.

“It’s the playoffs. Everything’s going to change — the intensity, the pace, everything is amped up so anything that happened in the regular season does not matter.”

Riccio says it’ll take something close to a miracle for fans to see netminder Thatcher Demko play in this series, adding, it’s best for the Canucks to continue riding a hot goalie, who is Arturs Silovs.

“It’s almost like he’s too young to understand the moment at times. Whereas Casey DeSmith is a little more erratic. He is a smaller goalie, so he has to do some things to make sure that he cuts down his angles and that can lead to some weaknesses and some extra rebounds.”

Riccio thinks the Canucks will win the series in seven games.

Canucks Head Coach Rick Tocchet says as the playoffs continue, he needs some players to step up.

“There are only eight teams left. Edmonton is in our way and we’re in their way. You can’t take this for granted. This may not happen again for some guys. The stakes are high. You should be angry and mad and whatever it takes inside your body to get your game to that level — find it.”

VPD costs to police playoffs

It is very likely keeping an eye on large crowds during the playoffs is costing Vancouver Police a lot of money, but the department isn’t saying how much just yet.

“The games are ongoing, and it will take some time before we know the total costs,” said Sgt. Steve Addison in a statement. He adds the paperwork required to get the final tally won’t be done until the playoffs are over.

“We’re working closely with various partners and stakeholders, including the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Canucks, and other policing agencies, to maintain a safe environment that is welcoming to families and fans who want to celebrate responsibly,” explained Addison.

The VPD will continue deploying as many officers are needed to ensure crowds don’t get too rowdy, Addison said, regardless of whether the team is playing at Rogers Arena or on the road.

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