Canucks this week, playoff edition: Heavy underdogs against the Oilers

Everyone’s taking Edmonton to win the series, Quinn Hughes takes more shots in the media and the Oilers discount their losses to the Canucks

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A special playoff edition of our weekly roundup of what they’re saying about the Vancouver Canucks around the hockey world:

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Long shots?

They call the playoffs the second season for a reason.

But can you completely disregard everything that happened between two teams just a few months prior?

Despite winning all four games against the Oilers this season, the Canucks are underdogs heading into their second round series.

Heavy, heavy underdogs.

Everywhere you look, everyone’s taking Edmonton.

At ESPN, 23 out of 24 hockey analysts — including Ray Ferraro, P.K. Subban and Mark Messier — are choosing Edmonton to advance.

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Only one ESPN writer, Seattle-based Ryan S. Clark, took the Canucks to win in seven games.

It’s the same at NHL.com, where 16 out of 17 analysts picked the Oilers.

FanDuel, DraftKings, The Athletic — you name it, the Canucks are seemingly overachieving long shots.

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That’s fine, according to Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet, who said on Sunday that his team should embrace the underdog role.

“I love being doubted,” said Tocchet. “At the start of the year, if you asked, ‘Is Vancouver going to make the playoffs?’ A lot of people said no or a bubble team. So, we were underdogs there. As the season went on, when are they going to fall? Now, same thing. People said the Preds are going to win. … I just think we kind of like that underdog role and I think players should embrace it. I really do.”


Brock Boeser catches his flying stick after scoring a goal on the Edmonton Oilers during the third period of their NHL game at Rogers Arena on November 6, 2023 at Rogers Arena.
Brock Boeser catches his flying stick after scoring a goal on the Edmonton Oilers during the third period of their NHL game at Rogers Arena on November 6, 2023 at Rogers Arena. Photo by Derek Cain /Getty Images

‘So long ago’

The analysts don’t care that the Oilers went 0-for-4 against Canucks this season.

The Oilers players, meanwhile, would rather not acknowledge it.

Captain Connor McDavid said on Saturday that the Oilers “aren’t putting much stock in it.”

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When asked by Sportsnet’s Mark Spector how the Oilers felt losing 8-1 to the Canucks to start the season, McDavid didn’t want to go there.

“It was so long ago,” he replied. “I’m not even going to answer that, it was so long ago.”

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In Spector’s followup story on Sportsnet.ca, defenceman Mattias Ekholm also wasn’t in the reflecting mood.

“It feels like years ago, to the start of the season,” Ekholm said. “I don’t even remember the games.”

Give the Oilers players credit — they’re not giving the Canucks any bulletin board material.

McDavid, in fact, has had a hard time calling the Canucks rivals all season long.

During the All-Star break, McDavid left the Canucks out of the conversation when discussing his team’s biggest rivals on the 32 Thoughts Podcast.

But wingman Leon Draisaitl, known to speak his mind more often, zeroed in on Vancouver.

“Yeah, L.A. and Vancouver — they slapped us around a little bit a couple times this year so, yeah, I’d like to get some redemption.”

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Ekholm eventually admitted as much on Saturday, with the series set to start on Wednesday at Rogers Arena.

“Do we have something to prove?” asked Ekholm. “Yeah, absolutely. They beat us every single time.”


Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid, back left, checks Vancouver Canucks' J.T. Miller during the third period on November 6, 2023.
Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid checks Vancouver Canucks’ J.T. Miller during the third period on Nov. 6, 2023. Photo by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS

Scouting report

McDavid won’t give the media much, in terms of headline material.

But the game’s brightest star can break down the opposition when called upon.

In Saturday’s media scrum, McDavid compared L.A.’s man-to-man defensive coverage to Vancouver’s zone coverage.

“They (Vancouver) pack it in pretty tight, so we’ve got to find a way to generate, even with them playing so close to the net,” said McDavid. “They’ve got big D-men, obviously, who don’t go too far from the net.”

McDavid also said his team will have to be ready for “whoever’s in the net.”

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“Ultimately, they’ve got a great team that is in front of those guys, they make it hard to get to the net … they’ve got three good goalies, they showed that last series.”


Edmonton Oilers' Vincent Desharnais and Dakota Joshua fight on October 11, 2023.
The Oilers’ Vincent Desharnais and Dakota Joshua fight earlier in the season on Oct. 11, 2023. Photo by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS

The gloves come off

Quinn Hughes was targeted relentlessly during the first round series against Nashville.

The target’s still on his back ahead of Vancouver’s second round showdown against the Oilers.

Shots were fired at the Canucks captain on Edmonton radio on Friday, with 630 CHED producer Brenden Escott taking aim at the Norris Trophy front-runner on hockey analyst Bob Stauffer’s ‘Oilers Now’ show.

“Quinn Hughes, to me, always struck me as the kind of player who if you really start pulverizing him, he looks like he’s going to cry all the time,” Escott said.

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The wily old veteran Stauffer tried to interject — “you know what, that’s going to make its way onto Vancouver radio.”

“Whatever, if I have to tap dance around that, so be it,” replied Escott. “But he’s taken 17 hits in the five games before (Game 6) so they’re making a concerted effort and it maybe looks like it’s paying some dividends.”

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Hughes, mind you, took his licks against the Predators but came out of the series win with five assists, while dictating much of the play.

As for the lowbrow discourse, it’s expected among some in the fiery fan bases. It could get ugly on social media over the next two weeks.

Let’s just hope the focus on the first Vancouver-Edmonton series since 1992 is on what’s happening on the ice, and not off of it.


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An unlikely alliance

They really don’t like each other in Edmonton and Calgary.

So much so that Flames fans are putting their rivalry with Vancouver aside to root for the Canucks against their provincial nemesis.

The message from Calgary couldn’t be more clear: it’s Go Canucks Go.

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reference: theprovince.com

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