NASHVILLE -- Arturs Silovs was a 23-year-old rookie with nine games of NHL experience when the Stanley Cup Playoffs began.

To say he's become a surprise backbone of a Vancouver Canucks team that has reached the second round of the postseason for the first time since 2020 is quite the understatement.

But Silovs played the biggest game of his career in arguably the biggest spot he's ever been, making 28 saves for his first NHL shutout in a 1-0 series-clinching victory against the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round at Bridgestone Arena on Friday.

"I just embrace the challenge," Silovs said. "I knew I had already played on big stages before, so I was already familiar with what could happen, what kind of games they're going to be. It's a great opportunity for me to play for the big club and seizing the opportunity."

Silovs was voted the most valuable player of the 2023 IIHF World Championship for helping Latvia win the bronze medal, with the tournament played partially in his hometown of Riga, Latvia.

The environment in Nashville provided a different kind of intense experience.

"I feel like it gives the same pressure," Silovs said. "Especially when we have the pressure because we're playing at home at Worlds. And then here, it's like more pressure. It's an away game and you know you have to seal the series so you don't have a Game 7."

VAN@NSH R1, Gm6: Silovs earns shutout over Predators in Game 6

That it was Silovs in net to avoid that Game 7 scenario is quite the story.

Thatcher Demko, the Canucks' Vezina Trophy finalist, sustained an undisclosed injury during Game 1. That thrust backup Casey DeSmith into the starter's role, with Silovs his backup.

DeSmith played well in starting Games 2 and 3 but sustained a lower-body injury that pushed Silovs up another rung for Game 4. Now he's the starter.

Was there any panic in the locker room?

"No," defenseman Ian Cole said. "We're really confident in our team, what we've done this year. We're really confident in our goaltending, all the way from 'Demmer' to Casey, who was great for us when he came in, to 'Arty,' who was great for us when he came in. We have a lot of depth on this team, a lot of high-quality depth, and the ability for guys to step in and step up and embrace that moment and play great hockey.

"Some guys flourish under that pressure. And he is most definitely one of those guys who welcomes that pressure, who welcomes that spotlight. Who's not afraid of success. There's a phenomenon where guys are a little leery of having success, of being that guy, getting that spotlight and being able to step up in that moment. There's an anxiety that comes along with that. And you can choose to have that anxiety be debilitating, you can choose to have that anxiety elevate your game and your preparedness. I can't say enough, he certainly elevated."

And that's exactly what Silovs did starting the final three games of the series. He made 27 saves as the Canucks rallied to win 4-3 in overtime in Game 4 and made 20 saves in a 2-1 loss in Game 5.

Then came Game 6 and a decision on which goalie to start: DeSmith, the now-healthy, 32-year-old veteran who played well enough to go back into the net, or the unknown rookie.

Silovs' demeanor never changed through all the tumult.

"You could just tell the moment's not too big," Canucks coach Rick Tocchet said. "He's calm in the net. This is the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and you're the third goalie and you've got to go in there. That takes a lot of [courage] to do that. And the guys have confidence in him."

Tocchet also has confidence in Silovs, but it wasn't the easiest choice to make. The closest situation he had been part of was during his time as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I learned that as an assistant coach in Pittsburgh and Mike Sullivan had to make a big decision between [Marc-Andre] Fleury and [Matt] Murray. This kind of was the same somewhat of a situation where you've got to pick. You take all the elements, who's healthy and who's practiced well, who's played games. And you've got to make a decision."

The Penguins chose the less-experienced option in Murray and won the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017.

And much like Murray endeared himself to his Penguins teammates then, Silovs has done the same now.

So much so that forward J.T. Miller wore Silovs' now-famous salmon-colored paisley dress shirt on the ice for the start of practice Thursday.

"I think it looked great on him," Silovs said. "Took a couple shots. Should have left it for a whole practice."

Miller said he might wear Silovs' jersey next. Much like his rapidly growing fan base in Vancouver, where they were chanting Silovs' name outside Rogers Arena.

"I'm just super happy for the kid," Miller said. "He stepped in and what a crazy scenario he'd been thrown into. He made the saves when he needed to in such a big and crazy environment. We're happy for him."

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