The Canuck Way mailbag: The playoff victory edition

The Vancouver Canucks are off to the postseason for the first time in five years. We’re here to answer your questions about the upcoming playoff journey.

It’s the weekend, which means that it’s time for another Canuck Way mailbag, where we answer your latest questions on the Vancouver Canucks.

And let me tell you, this is a mailbag that I am very happy to write. On Friday night, the Canucks defeated the Minnesota Wild 5-4 in overtime, clinching them their first Stanley Cup playoff berth in five years.

It just so happens that most of you questions concern the play-in series that has been and the Canucks’ upcoming first round series against either the St. Louis Blues or Dallas Stars, so let’s dive right in!

I want to lead off by combining these two questions into one answer, because as similar as they are, there are parts of both that I’d like to touch on. I personally feel that the Stars would be a better opponent for the Vancouver.

The Stars are a defence first squad with an aging roster. They were 29th in goals scored through the regular season, only ahead of the Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings. However, the Stars surrendered the second fewest goals in the league, suggesting that the Canucks would match up with Dallas  quite similarly to how they matched the Wild.

The Canucks finished with a better power play and penalty kill, making special teams a potential advantage, and the two teams were equally fantastic in goal.

Vancouver was more successful this season against St. Louis than Dallas, but I think the Minnesota series proves that the season series means very little in this return to play format. Plus, the Blues were better than Vancouver this season in almost every category, and playoff Jordan Binnington could be a lethal weapon.

However, I think momentum could be the biggest factor in this. I was skeptical about how much teams could carry late season momentum (or lack thereof) into the playoffs after five months, but I have been proven incorrect by the performances so far of the Philadelphia Flyers and, at the other end of the spectrum, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Stars have now lost eight consecutive games between RTP and the end of the regular season. If the Canucks end up facing them, it will be nine. Dallas would be entering the first round lacking confidence, presenting an opportunity for the Canucks to capitalize.

I think you may have just answered your own question. Tyler Myers simply needs to be more disciplined. This means fewer retaliatory moves and fewer calls will come.

A good number of the nine minor calls against Myers in this series were for roughing on plays where he got pushed or hit along the boards and decided to take a shot back at the hitter before rejoining the play, with his size doing the rest. If he focuses more on moving with the play instead of retaliation, one has to assume that the Canucks will be shorthanded less.

With all due respect to Elias Pettersson, I think Quinn Hughes was far more important to the Canucks’ success against Minnesota. He was easily their best defenceman and one of the best players all around. Hughes’ six points in the four game series were the most of any Canucks d-man ever, breaking Neil Belland’s 1982 record.

Just watching this series, whenever the Canucks were playing their best, Hughes had the puck. It was him dipsy-doodling around the Wild zone, which allowed the Canucks to maintain pressure and leading to many of their goals.

Hughes munched minutes and was still the most effective player on the ice at any given time. Pettersson was fantastic as always, but the Wild were able to slow him down and his production was maybe a little less than desired. There was nothing they could do about Huggy Bear, and I don’t think the Canucks could have survived this series without him.

Yes, I absolutely do. This might be a hot take, but Hughes is pretty darn good at this whole hockey thing.

I was pleasantly surprised by Olli Juolevi’s debut and very happy that he finally got a chance to show what he could do at the NHL level, especially in such an important game. He played 6:16,, but at no point did Juolevi make any glaring mistakes.

Instead, Juolevi made heads up plays whenever he had the puck and ended the night with a Corsi For percentage of 71.43, per Natural Stat Trick. You could tell that head coach Travis Green even began to trust Juolevi more pretty quickly, as No. 48 even saw nearly a minute of penalty kill time when Myers was in the box near the end of the first. This was a good game for Juolevi, and I’m glad to see him finally get his shot after so long.

However, I don’t think it was quite enough for him to start over Oscar Fantenberg in the first round. I think Green will lean on Fantenberg or Jordie Benn against St. Louis or Dallas, simply because they have far more experience than Juolevi.

Furthermore, playing Juolevi with sheltered minutes means playing all other defencemen even more than usual, so unless more time on ice is coming, Juolevi as a regular is less likely. That said, this game demonstrated that he may be NHL-ready, which can only lead to more opportunities.

Honestly, I have no issue with Green shortening his bench throughout the game. It just seems like solid coaching strategy. The major shortening took place later on in the second period and throughout the third, when the Canucks were behind 4-3 and desperate to tie the game and prevent a fifth game without falling further behind. It makes sense that the players Green would deploy in this situation would be their most gifted in all zones. Hence, we saw more of the Lotto and Bo Horvat lines, and less of the Jake Virtanen line. And after all, the strategy worked to produce a tying goal.

Oh dear Clay, please let me enjoy the elation of Chris Tanev’s overtime heroics before I have to think about what he’s going to cost to keep!

That said, his postseason performance will undoubtedly increase his value to the Canucks and any other team. Going into the Minnesota play-in series, I would figure his approximate value to be in the range of $4-5 million per season. Being a right shot defenceman, that number could be pushed closer to six if his strong postseason continues.

Unfortunately, with the oncoming cap crunch, I think five is the most that the Canucks should be willing to pay Tanev. With so many other important players needing extensions, I see Tanev walking in free agency unless he is willing to take a hometown discount. As nice as it would be to see him return, I think the writing is on the wall at this point. I just want to give a shout-out to Canuck Clay here for being the face of positivity through these long years of futility. Thank you for all you’ve done, and it’s time to reap the rewards!

This has been another Canuck Way mailbag! Thank you to everyone who contributed a question this week, and if you’re interested in having a question answered next week, make sure to get it in on Twitter as soon as the call goes out next weekend!