Canucks vs. Oilers: How Arturs Silovs shares a path with Ken Dryden

‘Silovs knows the situation. If Thatcher (Demko) comes back, he’s not the guy. But if I’m Rick Tocchet, I’m delaying Thatcher as along as I can.’ — former Canucks goalie John Garrett

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Connecting intriguing NHL playoff dots can do more than pique curiosity.

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They can be a window to the future by paying homage to the past.

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This connection is about two lanky rookies of the same age, height and stature. They stole the net and the show on separate stages, but are linked from what occurred in Montreal 53 years ago and what’s happening now in Vancouver.

It’s about Ken Dryden and Arturs Silovs.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves in linking the rich Hall of Fame resume of Dryden to the short book of work by Silovs, but their paths to become “the guy” through regular-season results and post-season circumstance captures the imagination.

In the spring of 1971, the Canadiens recalled Dryden, who made an instant impact in six games with a 1.65 goals-against average. At 23, the 6-foot-4 stopper won the playoff net over veteran Rogie Vachon and won the hearts in “La Belle Province.”

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He also won his first of six Stanley Cup titles and the Conn Smythe Trophy that stunning season, where calmly leaning on his blocker after a superlative save became a signature trademark.

canucks vs oilers arturs silovs ken dryden
Montreal Canadiens goaltender Ken Dryden in his signature pose. Photo by Bruce Bennett /Getty Images

“He established himself as the No. 1 guy and you know what Ken is like,” former Canucks goaltender John Garrett recalled Saturday. “He’s such an intellect and such a mind-control guy that he was able to handle the pressure just by deflecting the situation he was in.”

Silovs, 23, has become the talk of this town for a laid-back approach to carrying the heavy load.

What he accomplished in his first three career playoff starts this spring — including a 28-save shutout Friday in a 1-0 victory at Nashville as the Canucks clinched the first-round series — hasn’t gone unnoticed.

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He has posted a 1.70 GAA and .938 save percentage in the playoffs. And after supplanting the injured Thatcher Demko and Casey DeSmith, the growth in the 6-foot-4 stopper is matched by the demeanour to handle the heat.

Backstopping his native Latvia to world championship bronze last May on home soil with a stunning display — 7-2-0, 2.20 GAA and .921 saves percentage — earned MVP honours and considerable confidence. Even a little world stage swagger.

“There was always a thought we could win against Canada in the semifinals,” recalled Silovs. “We could have played in the final, and who knows? Maybe win? It was great. But I always have that thing where I think I could have played a little bit better.

“I have that kind of thing in my head always. A goal or situation you could have handled better.”

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Arturs Silovs stretches to make a tough second-period save Friday in Nashville to post his first NHL playoff shutout. Photo by Brett Carlsen /Getty Images

Silovs could get into the heads of the Edmonton Oilers in a second-round series matchup with his constant desire for improvement.

“I don’t see him a lot right now and Clarkie (goalie coach Ian Clark) has him in a chokehold right now,” Canucks centre J.T. Miller chucked Sunday. “He goes about his business and is obviously learning a lot. This is an important time for him. He’s feeling good about himself, which is really important.”

For those who have played the position, that mindset and a willingness to work on his game, are going to be springboards to success.

“You have to give Clark a lot of credit,” said Garrett. “When Arturs first came in, he was so athletic, but was overplaying a lot of things. First couple of times I saw him, I thought it was going to be hard to rein him in. Obviously, Ian has done that.

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“He’s in control and calm and cool. He’s at the stop of the crease. His feet are steady.”

Garrett suggest the Canucks do what the Canadiens did so long ago. Ride your horse.

“In his books, Dryden describes the pressure and how he handled the guys around him,” added Garrett. “With Silovs, he knows the situation, if Thatcher comes back, he’s not the guy.

“But if I’m Rick Tocchet, I’m delaying Thatcher coming back as along as I can. And nothing against Casey. He’s older (32) and been around the league longer and the pressure might get to him more than a guy like Arturs.”

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Arturs Silovs gets a hug from Teddy Blueger after backstopping a Game 4 overtime win on April 28 in his NHL playoff debut. Photo by Brett Carlsen /Getty Images

The rationale is whatever the minor lower-body ailment DeSmith is nursing — he was good enough to back up Friday — may hinder quick post-to-post or sealing-up movements that could decide the outcome of a game or a series.

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Which gets us back to Silovs. He admired goalie Jonathan Quick, but knew he had to tailor his game for today’s NHL.

“He was really agile and competitive and was always making split saves,” said Silovs. “I’m sort of like him. I can do splits, but I don’t really like to try his way because he’s really aggressive. I try to use my abilities and my whole package.

“Clark is a great mentor and not only a coach because it (goaltending) is mental and physical and it’s giving equal attention to both. He’s here to put pressure on me and I’m here to take it.”

And what of all the sudden adulation? Silovs has become a fan favourite.

“For me, I have to keep on top of my things with the game,” he stressed. “It’s outside noise. It’s nice to have it but you have to just be so focused to do your job.”

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We’ll leave you with this from Dryden.

He became an author, commentator, sports executive, teacher and politician once he left the net. He knew how to handle pressure on every platform and this is what he told the Montreal Gazette in 2013. It remains relevant today.

“There is that expectation,” stressed Dryden. “So a place like New York for the Yankees or Montreal for the Canadiens, it is either the best place to play or it’s the worst place to play.

“If you can’t live up to those demands and expectations, if you’re not comfortable with them, if you’d rather cash a cheque that is just as big somewhere else where you’re not particularly noticed and you can go home when the game is over and not be seen until the next game, then New York for the Yankees or Montreal for the Canadiens are not for you.

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“But, if you want centre stage, and if you love the limelight of centre stage and the limelight of playing for championships all the time, there’s nothing better.”

Silovs would concur.

“Every day is a challenge and you have to be ready to embrace the moment,” summed up Silovs. “A lot of things happen in life.”

And it moves fast. Especially for Silovs.

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