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THE MOJ: Goaltending a difference as Canucks continue to win the tight ones

Game 1 more proof Canucks can win any game no matter what the circumstances
Vancouver Canucks goalie Arturs Silovs (31) makes the save on Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl (29) during second period second-round NHL playoff action in Edmonton, Sunday, May 12, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Arturs Silovs got beat seven times on 49 shots Sunday night in Edmonton.

Luckily for Silovs and the Canucks, four of those shots wound up hitting a goal post as Vancouver defeated the Oilers 4-3 in game three of their second round series with Silovs making 42 saves.

With the win, Vancouver took a two-games-to-one series lead and regained home ice advantage.

As for Silovs, he continues to be a major factor in why the Canucks keep winning playoff games.

“The kid is giving us games. It’s a big stage and he’s not blinking. These are some high-pressure games,” Vancouver head coach Rick Tocchet said afterwards.

As for Silovs, he’s just enjoying the experience and not letting the moment get too big.

“I felt confident. The guys had my back in game one, so I had to have theirs today. Everyone was resilient and blocking shots. They (Edmonton) had some high-scoring chances but our guys managed to block a lot of them, so that’s a big credit to them too,” said Silovs.

The Canucks pretty much matched the Oilers in scoring chances (8-9) in the first period according to the analytics website Natural Stat Trick but wound up leading 3-1 after 20 minutes of play.

After Brock Boeser took a bad penalty for a trip on Leon Draisaitl just inside the Canucks blue line, the Oilers opened the scoring on a Mattias Ekholm power play goal at 5:37.

With plenty of traffic at different levels, Boeser made amends when Elias Lindholm deflected his shot from the point at 8:45 to tie it up at 1-1.

The Canucks took a lead they wouldn’t relinquish when J.T. Miller lured two Oilers into the corner leaving Boeser wide open on the right-side face off dot. Boeser beat Oilers netminder Stuart Skinner with a shot on the far side to give Vancouver a 2-1 lead.

Then with 1:26 remaining in the period, Pius Suter took advantage of a Warren Foegele giveaway and found Boeser behind the play, who went underneath the glove of Skinner to give the Canucks a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes.

The second period belonged to the Oilers, who had ten scoring chances to the Canucks four, but the Canucks somehow managed retain their two-goal lead after two periods.

After a Filip Hronek penalty, Draisaitl scored from a bad angle at 3:36 after Silovs couldn’t track the puck due to a screen.

The Canucks withstood some pressure from the Oilers and regained their two-goal lead when Lindholm got a puck in the middle during a power play and managed to beat Skinner, who had a shaky night and was pulled after the period in favor of Calvin Pickard.

As much as goaltending has been a positive for Vancouver, it’s been a negative for Edmonton.

With just 11 saves on 15 shots in the game, Skinner has now compiled a 4.63 goals-against-average with a .790 save percentage in the series against the Canucks.

“We need more saves. Defense, along with goaltending, is very important to winning hockey games. Especially in the long term. Yeah, it’s (goaltending) got to be better,” said Edmonton coach Kris Knoblauch, who saw his team outshoot Vancouver 45-18.

The third period saw the Oilers dominate in terms of possession – outshooting the Canucks 22-3 – but it really didn’t translate into scoring chances as the Oilers only had a 6-2 advantage in that regard with only two of those being classified as high danger.

A goal by Edmonton’s Evan Bouchard with 1:16 left in the third made things interesting but in the end the Canucks hung on for the win.

“We just grinded it out. They obviously threw a lot at us. There were some really good efforts from some individuals. They made a push and we did a nice job there at the end. We made the most of our chances. Our power play was good. PK did a great job in the third. That power play is as good as I’ve ever seen. It’s dynamite, so I give them (penalty kill) a lot of credit,” said Tocchet, referring to Vancouver killing off two Edmonton power plays in the third period.

In the end, the Canucks won a game that perhaps they didn’t deserve to win.

Following the process will see you prevail over an 82-game season, but in a small sample size such as a best-of-seven series, you can still follow the process and wind up losing due to a hot goaltender…or a cold one.

If Silovs continues to perform at this level and the Oilers can’t solve their own goaltending issues, the process might not matter for Edmonton.


* The Canucks made a pair of lineup changes with Nils Hoglander and Phil Di Giuseppe coming out with Linus Karlsson (9:48 TOI) and Nils Aman (10:52 TOI) drawing in. Karlsson wound up getting the game puck for his efforts. “I thought they were really good. I thought Karlsson did a nice job. Good intel from the guys down in Abbotsford of how he could step in there and I thought Aman did a hell of a job on the PK. They didn’t seem out of place,” said Tocchet.

* The 4-3 game marked the seventh consecutive one-goal game the Canucks have played in the post-season.

* Despite all the talk about Edmonton’s big guns, it’s Ekholm who has a goal in each game of the series thus far.

* Boeser was originally credited with Lindholm’s goal but the call was changed at the end of the period taking away a natural hat trick. The last Canuck to score a natural hat trick in a playoff game was Geoff Courtnall, who pulled off the feat in 5-0 win in game seven of the 1992 Smythe Division Semi-Finals versus the Winnipeg Jets.

* “(Hitting) a post is not part of good goaltending. We can certainly do a better job of bearing down and capitalizing on our looks,” said Draisaitl, who praised Silovs efforts but also was quick to say the Oilers need to be better.

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

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