Edmonton Oilers v Vancouver Canucks

VANCOUVER, BC – If your team can win the net-front battle, says Vancouver Head Coach Rick Tocchet, there’s a good chance you’ll win the war in this second-round series.

“Not to build them up too much because they're a hell of a team, but there are some strengths that they have that we have to make sure that we're clean on,” Tocchet said.

The Jack Adams Award nominee for coach of the year has keyed in on the net-front area as vital to their success against Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the Oilers as a team that despite winning the Pacific Division and all four meetings against Edmonton in the regular season, still feels well and truly like the underdog who'll have to fight to fend off Edmonton's overpowering offence that notched 22 goals in their five-game first-round victory over Los Angeles.

“They're very good at attacking. They're one of the better teams at taking the puck to the net. They're underrated when it comes to that. Everybody talks about star power and these tic-tac-toes, but to me, the net front for them offensively, they're one of the best teams at that.”

"Hyman's one of the best. Even Connor. They have a lot of guys who hang around the net and go to the net when they beat pressure, so we've got to be really stingy in front of our net."

Zach chats with the media ahead of Game 1 vs. the Canucks

Tocchet did allude to the identity of Hyman as one of the best net-front presences in the NHL and also picked out the ability of McDavid to mine the area around the net for scoring opportunities, along with Edmonton’s depth options like Corey Perry and Evander Kane who’ve developed reputations as close-quarters competitors that have the ability and the want to mix it up in front.

However, the Canucks boast confidence in how their big blueline can contend with Edmonton’s high-flying offence by closing down the slot, using the long reach of guys like Nikita Zadorov (6-foot-6) and Tyler Myers (6-foot-8) to break up passes and shooting opportunities in front of rookie netminder Arturs SIlovs, who’ll get the start for the Canucks with Thatcher Demko and Casey DeSmith still out with injuries.

“That's where a lot of goals are scored,” Hyman said. “It's so hard to score goals in the playoffs, so if you want to score goals, go to the net. They have big defencemen over there, so there'll be lots of battles if they collapse down to try to protect their net, especially with their goaltender."

Zadorov says the Canucks’ defence played as a tight unit in their first-round triumph over the Predators, which will be required again to shut down the high-flying offence of the Oilers – including their 9-for-20 power play in Round 1 against the Kings.

Connor addresses the media prior to Game 1 in Vancouver

“It's just buying in from every guy in the room,” Zadorov said. “We’ve got different skill groups in our team. Some guys are more offensively gifted, and some guys are more defensively gifted. But in the playoffs, you gotta put aside the stuff you would do in the regular season and then play as the team; a unit of five all the time on the ice. So I think staying connected on the ice is a really big challenge for us.”

McDavid acknowledged his own team's challenge of getting inside Vancouver's big defenders, but mentioned they'll be prepared to exploit the perimeter with big shots like Evan Bouchard's available to them if they're given the outside to pepper Silovs, who has three playoff games and 15 regular-season games of NHL experience – none against the Oilers.

"Obviously, they're a really good team that defends well," McDavid added. "As you said, they do a great job of collapsing on their net. They have big D-men that don't leave the net. They make it tough to get on the inside."

"We have guys who can score from the outside as well, so we can shoot. If they want to collapse around the net, then we can shoot through them and shoot around them. I think D-men will do a good job of getting pucks through and we'll find a way to work around that."