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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 18, 2020
There were two major reasons the Vancouver Canucks won Game 3 of their Stanley Cup qualifier Thursday: the outstanding work of netminder Jacob Markstrom — and the shot-blockers in front of him — and their power play.
Markstrom’s story we know well.
After a shaky 3-0 loss in Game 1 against the Minnesota Wild last Sunday, where Markstrom gave up a bad goal and the Canucks had just one power-play opportunity, Markstrom rediscovered his form in Games 2 and 3.
With Vancouver’s defensive base restored, the Canucks also found themselves on the power play. They scored three goals, including two in Thursday’s 3-0 win at Rogers Place in Edmonton to grab a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
That they scored with the extra man isn’t a big surprise as they had the fourth-ranked power play during the NHL regular season. But against the Wild, they’ve kicked it up a gear.
And it’s not necessarily about Brock Boeser being restored to the first power-play unit after Tyler Toffoli’s foot injury. (Ironic, given that Toffoli was acquired after Boeser was knocked from the lineup in February with damaged rib cartilage.)
Really, it’s mostly about increased shot volume from the Canucks’ power play as a whole. Compared to their man-advantage rate during the regular season, the Canucks are getting off nearly two more shot attempts per minute against the Wild.
Not every shot is created the same — shots from the outside are low quality, while shots from the slot are far more likely to become goals — but more shots mean more scoring opportunities. And extra shots on goal means additional chances for rebounds and tipping shots.
Rookie defenceman Quinn Hughes has proven to be more adept at getting point shots through to the net than Alex Edler, creating chances for tips by the net-front man and the man in the slot — Bo Horvat’s goal in Game 2 a prime example — while putting J.T. Miller on the left side has added movement on the opposite side from Elias Pettersson, opening space for his notorious one-timers.
The net-front man’s job is to create havoc in front of the opposing netminder, to make it harder for him to see the puck, to be ready to tip hard shots from the outside and find rebounds.
“Picking up garbage,” a smiling Boeser said after Thursday’s win, using an age-old analogy for the kind of goals that get scored from on top of the crease. With Toffoli out of action, he’s playing the role of net-front man.
It’s not a role that Boeser has filled often. Toffoli is known for being an in-tight scorer, picking up goals on top of the crease and in the slot, while Boeser’s powerful wrist shot gives him a reputation for scoring goals more from the faceoff dots than from in close.
Boeser’s efforts in front, which earned him a goal off a rebound Thursday, drew praise from his coach after the game.
“You want to score at this time of year, you can’t just wait for a shot, sometimes you’ve just got to get your nose dirty and find a way to score,” Travis Green said.
“I think because of him maturing as a player, he’s able to stand in there. It sounds easier than it is, to go stand in front of the net while someone is taking a slapshot … you’ve got to have a little bit of grit in your game to do it.”
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