Soucy G1

Game one of the second-round series saw Nikita Zadorov score the game-tying goal and then set up the game-winning goal 39 seconds later with a breakout pass to Dakota Joshua to set up Conor Garland.

Connor McDavid was shut down by the Carson Soucy and Tyler Myers pairing, giving McDavid his first playoff game without a shot on net.

You can’t teach size.

It is a saying that has been around sports for as long as we can remember, and it’s true. 

You cannot teach a defenceman to be 6’6” or 6’8” but you can teach them how to use that size to be a major advantage in the sport. 

That has been a work in progress for the Vancouver Canucks this season as they have assembled a defence corps that features three defencemen who are 6’5” or taller. 

Tyler Myers, Nikita Zadorov and Carson Soucy are three of only 25 players who are 6’5” or taller and have played a game in this year’s NHL playoffs. On top of the three tall defencemen, Ian Cole brings size and experience to the defence corps’ depth in the playoffs.

"The advantage of the big guy is if you get beat quickly, somehow that stick is another defender,” said Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet. “You can beat Myers out of the corner but somehow, he gets a stick on the puck and saves the day. You can say that about Soucy too; he has a good stick. The technique of being in people's way is a big thing for us.” 

With the guidance from coaches Mike Yeo, Sergei Gonchar, and Adam Foote, the second and third defence pairings have always had structure and system to fall back on.

Myers and Soucy make up the tallest defence pairing in the NHL and the pairing has developed chemistry as the season has progressed. The two big bodies realize they must use their reach to be successful, but with the game’s evolution, they’ve got to be smart with their timing. 

“We have to use our reach, especially with how fast forwards are getting,” said Soucy. “They are getting so good now that they can use reach against you sometimes by going under the reach. You’ve got to pick your spots, but obviously, Tyler's good at knowing when to use his reach. It's still beneficial a lot of time to have that long reach where a guy might have a step on you, but you can get that last little reach to push the puck away.” 

Soucy believes they straddle a line about where to use your reach and where to be physical. He mentioned that a lot of the time, you can use the reach to draw in an opponent, but you then need to be ready to be physical and that is where a controlled reach is so important for a defenceman.

Controlling your reach and being smart defensively is going to be extremely important in the second round of the playoffs. The Canucks’ defence is focused on sticking to their game instead of adjusting to what the Oilers do offensively.

"We’ve had our team system, our team structure, [and] it’s been consistent the whole year,” said Myers. “Minor details that we look to improve on within the system, but [we are] not looking to change anything really and no matter what they do or how they play, it’s not going to change our system and the way we approach our team defence and the other side of the puck as well.” 

Adam Foote and Mike Yeo’s influence on the defence’s way of defending in their system requires daily effort and advice. It’s something that all of the defencemen on the roster appreciate and shows us that the learning never stops. 

“Every coach I played for, a big question for me was why I don’t use my stick in the right position all the time and it was because I was trying to be over-physical and go for hits. That’s why I used to lead the league in hits,” said Zadorov with a laugh. 

Zadorov has seen his defensive game flourish in Vancouver. It was the second-best season of his career for goals against at five-on-five. He is using both his strength and reach to utilize his size to the fullest. 

“There's so much more in this team compared to my old team,” said Zadorov of the coaching. “It’s so demanding from the coaching staff with Tocc and Footie on how to check the body. It makes life so much easier for your teammates. I think a balance between physicality and reach is definitely something I learned this year a lot from this coaching staff.” 

The Canucks will continue to lean on their size on the backend to help support their team commitment to being hard to play against. 

The evolution of Myers, Soucy and Zadorov has been a season-long effort from the coaching staff, and they are seeing that when this group is on the same page and supporting each other, size is such an advantage in the defensive zone. 

Insider Extra

Chris Higgins joined to provide us with some Insider Extra coverage, talking about his experience going up against big defencemen. 

“It just keeps you honest,” said Higgins. “Sometimes when you play against bigger defencemen like Myers, Zadorov, and Soucy, as a player, you have to decide to make a play or protect yourself because if you protect yourself, those guys hit hard and they know how to hit and that could lead to an injury or something nagging you in the series. With a lot of these guys, you want to make the play, but you also want to protect yourself and I think in that way you keep some of the opposing forwards honest.” 

Physicality is one thing but how about the reach that players like Myers or Soucy have?

“It's really annoying to play against guys with a long reach especially if you’ve got a half-step on the guy and with most defencemen, you're able to turn the corner or protect the puck and take it to the net, but with their reach, it pushes you and keeps you on the outside. You always want to penetrate the inside, but that extra little bit of stick length influences the player, or they can poke the puck away. It's really annoying to play against.” 

Higgins even has a memory from his playing days when he was going up against a young Tyler Myers. 

“I remember playing for the New York Rangers against Tyler Myers on the Winnipeg Jets and I thought to myself in the neutral zone that I was going to go in on a two-on-one and next thing I knew with his skating ability and his size, he cut me off and I had to pull up and find the next wave of attack. I was fully expecting to be going in a scoring opportunity and he closed me off quite easily, to be honest.”