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The Skate: Buy your Lotto Line tickets, Canucks fans


Travis Green didn’t have a choice. The lineup he’d dressed for Game 1, one which he’d declared was the best lineup he thought he had, was already down at least one player.

We don’t know what Tyler Toffoli’s injury is, but he couldn’t play.

That opened a door into the top six.

Moving Brock Boeser back to the top line, restoring the Lotto Line that had done so much for much of the season, was an easy move.

Bringing in Loui Eriksson, so often relegated to spare-part status this season, wasn’t necessarily as obvious.

It’s true the $6-million man had a nice little run in December and January with Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson, but Jake Virtanen has been put on that line before, and so has Zack MacEwen.

Eriksson’s game was all right. He had a couple chances. No forward played more at five-on-five than he did. The Horvat line is leaned on to play pretty heavy minutes. He wasn’t amazing defensively — surprising given his reputation, perhaps unsurprising given how long it’s been since he played a game — indeed he was bottom of the list when it came to measuring quality shots against, but he was far from a disaster.

More important was the overall play of the reunited Insurance Line. Horvat, Pearson and Boeser had their hats fed to them by Joel Eriksson Ek in Game 1. That wasn’t the case in Game 2.

The addition of Jake Virtanen, given Game 1’s offensive struggles, did seem likely. He can score, we know that. There remain great concerns about his two-way game. Other than the injured Micheal Ferland and Antoine Roussel — Ferland’s lineup who caught collateral damage by falling down the forward rotation — Virtanen was the low man in terms of ice time.

That said, he showed his usual flashes, taking some big shots when he could. He was lauded for a back-check on a power play that was really pretty routine, but on the whole it was a solid if mostly quiet return to the lineup.

The important news was the top two lines did their job. They controlled play when they were on the ice. The Lotto Line played one of their best games of the year.

It all added up to a solid 4-3 win, levelling the series and setting up a big back-to-back on Thursday and Friday.

Boeser was buzzin’

He’d earned that goal. He was fantastic all night. He had an early breakaway. He was firing from everywhere he could.

He made that deft pass between the legs to Bo Horvat on a second-period power play.

It was vintage stuff. It was just the kind of performance the Canucks needed in this series, at this moment.

“It’s exciting to score your first playoff goal,” Boeser said. “As top-six forwards I thought we needed to contribute tonight.”

Pettersson’s supple skills

There was the touch on the Boeser goal.

There was the touch to create the rush early on.

There was him hammering at the net off the puck on the J.T. Miller goal.

There was something extra special to the Canucks’ young star’s game last night.

I wrote the other day about how big an impact Tyler Toffoli had on Pettersson and J.T. Miller’s game: They were taking more shots and yielding fewer.

But in his impressive 10 games in the regular season, plus Game 1, I’m not sure we ever saw chemistry between Pettersson and Toffoli like we did between Pettersson and Boeser on the Canucks’ third goal.

Matched against the very tough Matt Dumba-Jonas Brodin pairing on the Minnesota blue line, the fact Pettersson and company were so good is even more impressive.

The Lotto Line was everything we knew it could be in Game 2.

Was this the injury?

Toffoli wasn’t very good in Game 1. Was it because he got hurt halfway through the first period in the opener?

PP prowess

Why did the power play look so good against the Wild?

Look where their shots were from:

24-minute man

We didn’t talk about it much, but it was a game of note from Alex Edler.

Mostly paired with Troy Stecher at five-on-five, he was a big reason why the Insurance Line rebounded against the Eriksson Ek line. He played a heavily defensive-minded game.

The taking a stand question

As he did before Game 1, Wild defenceman Matt Dumba raised his fist again during the anthems before Game 2. He’s done some brave things this week. He gave a speech about racism and issues related to Black Lives Matter on Saturday, before Game 1 of the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks.

In the wake of that, we saw Ryan Reaves lead Tyler Seguin, Robin Lehner and Jason Dickinson in taking a knee before the Vegas vs. Dallas game on Monday.

On Tuesday evening, Dumba’s teammate Jonas Brodin put his hand on Dumba’s shoulder during the anthem to show his personal support.

It felt necessary that someone ask someone from the Canucks whether they’ve had discussions about doing anything demonstrative in support of Dumba’s stance, which also saw him take a knee on Saturday before the Blackhawks vs. Oilers playoff opener.

Asked about Dumba’s situation and whether he and his teammates have talked about making a statement of some kind themselves, Brock Boeser paused and then admitted the idea of doing anything hadn’t been discussed. But he did express his own support for Dumba’s cause.

“I think it’s really good what he’s doing,” he said. “To go out there and give a speech like that, it was really cool to see. I think our whole team stands by it and supports him.”

St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo spoke in similar terms, by the by .

Bubble questions

The NHL says teams can do what they want on game days. In normal times, if a team doesn’t have a morning skate, they’re required to do a limited pre-game availability. But in the hub cities, with all media encounters done using Zoom, there’s no such standard.

On Tuesday, only one team did pre-game media: Rangers coach David Quinn.

It wasn’t as quiet on previous game days. Sunday: Torts spoke for CBJ. Bruce Cassidy for the high-flying Bruins. Dumba spoke before Game 1 about his speech. Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe and captain John Tavares spoke.

Monday: The coaches for the Habs, Pens, Oilers, Caps all spoke. Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton spoke, and so did a handful of Hawks players.

It’s not the end of the world in the short term, but it does lead to endless speculating and having to ask questions sometimes at less than ideal moments.

The shot chart

Still a pretty lean picture from the Canucks’ offensive perspective. You’d like to see a little more red in their offensive zone shots. But as has been repeated over and over, the Wild are the league’s stoutest defensive team.

Conversely, the picture at the other end of the ice is a nice one for the Canucks’ defence. The Wild didn’t dominate the Canucks’ defensive slot either, getting in a pretty average performance in terms of shot quality.

Whither Ferland?

He played four shifts in the first period, then disappeared.

There were a few puck battles, a hit near the end of the Wild bench after a dump in, a glancing touch to the side of his head right before he went off on what would be his final shift.

If he’s suffered a recurrence of the vestibular issues — dizziness, difficulties with his eyesight — he was dealing with as a result of his concussion last October, that’s terrible news, not just for him as a player but for him as a human being.

He’s got a young family. You hope it’s not a concussion-related issue that forced him from the game, especially given the difficulties he dealt with in the past. Even if they are, you hope they don’t linger and don’t impinge on his family life.

Unfit to play?

Tyler Toffoli didn’t skate in yesterday’s morning tuneup . We have no idea how long he might be out, but if he was banged up enough to not even try skating in the morning — Rick Scoops Dhaliwal says it’s a foot problem — and couldn’t play Tuesday night, it’s likely serious enough that he’s got to be considered doubtful for Game 3 on Thursday.

Green said post-game that both Toffoli and Adam Gaudette — who did skate with the group in the morning, at least according to the photo accidentally released by the Canucks’ social media department — were “unfit to play,” the NHL’s catch-all phrase.

Unfit to play could mean anything, of course. Maybe Gaudette came down sick. Maybe he tweaked something. Maybe he didn’t. Coaches have been mandated not to tell us under the current policy.

Even when there’s no such policy, it’s up to the individual coach to tell us. For the most part, Green has been very good on telling us what he knows. There have been moments when you suspect there’s something missing but in the end, the timelines, when revealed, have been pretty accurate.

With Ferland not returning and both Toffoli and Gaudette apparently out of action too, that’s a pretty big hole in the Canucks’ lineup.

Might Zack MacEwen play Thursday?

Board weirdness

Most teams have photos of past great moments or players or team achievements scattered around their building.

In Toronto, they include the photo of every board member the Leafs have ever had (as far as I know).

That’s what those little black and white photos way in the back are.

You should be embarrassed

Two years after he shipped Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith to the Vegas Golden Knights in a fit of pique, Dale Tallon traded James Reimer to the Carolina Hurricanes for Scott Darling so he could buy out Darling and create roster and cap space to sign Sergei Bobrovsky.

And then what happened?

The numbers-conscious Hurricanes chose Reimer as their guy in the playoffs and they are a dark-horse choice to go a long way in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Your dark-horse scoring leader

In Postmedia’s predictions project — yes, I did pick the Wild in 5, their stout defensive play and good-enough offence my rationale — we were asked to choose a player who could be a sleeper pick for hockey pools.

Sebastian Aho was my choice.

The double-take

My rugby world is colliding: Dean Evason keeps reminding me of former Rugby Canada men’s head coach Kieran Crowley.

Don’t go to house parties, friends

Keep your social circle tight. Wear a mask. We still can’t behave like we did before the virus arrived.

The house party in 2022, when we’re past this, is going to be epic. Save yourself for that.

Game 3 is Thursday at 11:30 a.m. on Sportsnet.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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