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Checking in on ex-Canucks' playoff peformances and setting up the U18 QFs

April 24, 2019, 3:30 PM ET [628 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
With one game left in the first round, let's examine the fate of ex-Canucks in their current playoff homes around the NHL.

I saw this Tweet last night about the Kings, which got me thinking:

I won't limit the ex-Canucks to the ones who were traded away—I'll also include free agents, even a guy who literally played one game for the team.

Here are the players who are through to the second round:

Adam Clendening - Columbus Blue Jackets - on his fifth NHL team since leaving the Canucks as part of the Brandon Sutter trade in 2015 - 2 GP, 0-1-1, 8:09 average ice time

Taylor Fedun - Dallas Stars - only played one NHL game with the Canucks while spending most of the 2015-16 season in Utica - on his second team since leaving as a free agent - 2 GP, 0-0-0, 8:16 average ice time

Michael Del Zotto - St. Louis Blues - traded to Anaheim for Luke Schenn, then flipped to the Blues at the deadline - has been a healthy scratch for all six playoff games so far

Still alive, but could be eliminated on Wednesday:

Nic Dowd - Washington Capitals - acquired as a free agent - 6 GP, 1-0-1, 10:25 average ice time

Already eliminated:

Dan Hamhuis - Nashville Predators - left Dallas as a free agent last summer - 6 GP, 0-0-0, 13:20 average ice time

Yannick Weber - Nashville Predators - left Vancouver as a UFA in 2016 - was a healthy scratch for all six playoff games

Erik Gudbranson - Pittsburgh Penguins - traded for Tanner Pearson at the 2019 deadline - 4 GP, 1-0-1, 16:14 average ice time

Jared McCann - Pittsburgh Penguins - left Vancouver as part of the Erik Gudbranson trade in 2016 - 3 GP, 0-1-1, 16:16 average ice time; missed Game 2 with an upper-body injury but returned for Games 3 and 4

That's it — plus, Torts, of course. I have to admit, as much as I'm a fan of Jon Cooper, John Tortorella did a great job against the Lightning in the first round—not just in motivating his players, but also in executing a system that stymied the best team in the league, and in handling the difficult waters of playing against the club where he'd won the Stanley Cup himself back in 2004. He refused to talk about that at all, even before the series began.

Another Blue Jackets detail that I haven't seen discussed much was Torts bringing in Lightning hero Martin St. Louis as a special teams consultant just before the All-Star Break.

St. Louis, of course, was part of Torts' cup-winning Lightning team and is widely regarded as one of the franchise's best players ever.

When he joined the Blue Jackets, the Columbus power play was 28th in the league at 14.6 percent and the penalty kill was eighth at 82.9 percent. For the rest of the regular season, the power play bumped up slightly, to 16.9 percent, and the penalty kill was best in the league at 88.7 percent.

The Lightning finished the regular season with the NHL's best power play and tied with Columbus and Arizona for the top penalty kill, but special teams were a huge advantage for the Blue Jackets in the playoffs. With the man advantage, they went 5-for-10, for 50 percent through four games. Shorthanded, their best defense was limiting the Lightning to just six power-play opportunities in four games, which led to just one goal.

Much has been made of the personnel tweaks that the Blue Jackets made at the deadline. I wonder if their special-teams prowess will become more of a story against Boston in the second round?

In Pittsburgh, Penguins fans have expressed plenty of love for both Gudbranson and McCann, but it's interesting to note that Gudbranson's ice time ended up only sixth-highest among Pittsburgh's defensemen when all was said and done—and was well below the 18:58 a game that he was logging with Pittsburgh in the regular season.

Beyond that, we're not exactly seeing a list of ex-Canucks that are enjoying meaningful playoff success elsewhere. We've got a fourth-liner in Dowd, and a handful of depth defensemen who play limited minutes when they're even in the lineup.

I'll leave that there for now.

Who do you have for Wednesday's Game 7 between the Caps and Canes? If Washington loses, all four division winners will have been eliminated in the first round—which makes me think it's not outside the realm of possibility. At times, the Caps have shown the benefit of their playoff experience, but they've also played very emotionally. I mostly feel like they'll be able to feed off the energy in their home rink, but that's also a place where Game 7 demons from the past might still lurk. Should be fascinating!

As for the U18 tournament, Wednesday is the travel day before Thursday's quarterfinal matchups. The U.S. and Canada were both perfect with 4-0 records through the preliminary round, with similar efficiency. The U.S. scored 31 goals and surrendered 10; Canada scored 29 times and also gave up 10.

The top three scorers so far in the tournament are all American: Cole Caufield, Jack Hughes and Matthew Boldy. Alex Newhook is the top-scoring Canadian.

With 11 goals already, Caufield has tied Nikita Kucherov and Ilya Kovalchuk for the second-most goals ever in a U18 tournament—and he has the medal round still to go. It's easy to imagine that he could challenge Alex Ovechkin's all-time record of 14 goals when all is said and done.

Caufield moved from a mid-term ranking of 15 up to eight in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings, released 10 days ago. I'm hearing talk now that despite his small stature, it's not inconceivable that he could end up going in the top five in the draft in June.

All four quarterfinal games will be televised on TSN on Thursday.

The early games will have USA vs. Finland and Belarus vs. Russia at 6:30 a.m. PT, followed by Canada vs. Latvia and Sweden vs. Czech Republic at 10:30 a.m.
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