Earn the day. Earn the break.
Rick Tocchet is a big believer in keeping his club engaged by making the most of every day.
The Vancouver Canucks head coach also knows a five-game homestead before a welcome 10-day break was the motivational carrot to avoid a dip against the improving Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.
The first game back from an arduous and successful seven-game, 13-day, 5-1-1 road trip could be a mental hurdle — despite having the second-fewest losses on home ice — but Tocchet wasn’t buying that.
Even though the Coyotes are better than their record and use speed and youth to cause all kinds of problems in the neutral zone, there should be a path to victory.
“Guys know we have to empty the tank — we can’t wade our way through,” stressed Tocchet. “This is really where we can separate ourselves and set ourselves up for the stretch drive.”
If the Canucks needed extra incentive, they got in a chippy and confusing first period which contributed to lots of edge in a gritty 2-1 victory at Rogers Arena.
It was settled late in the second period when big winger Dakota Joshua scored his career-high 12th goal. He not only hustled to drive to the net, he took a Nils Hoglander feed and showed presence and patience to put his rebound home to snap a 1-1 draw.
The only goal to beat Thatcher Demko was a pinch by former Canucks defenceman Travis Dermott, who picked the short side late in the opening period, Demko finished with 20 saves.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Vancouver Canucks
7 p.m., Rogers Arena, TV: SN Pacific, Radio: Sportsnet 650
Here’s what we learned as Elias Pettersson also scored for the Canucks, who improved to 15-4-1 on home ice and 30-11-4 overall:
Power-play outage should outrage
The Canucks’ power play is always a story. It’s either connecting or confounding.
It looks so good on paper. It often looks like the Harlem Globetrotters with rotations and sweet dishes and circus shots. It’s supposed to be a dagger and a difference-maker, but it lacks is finish.
It has plunged from fourth to 11th and the numbing numbers can no longer be ignored. When you go 4-for-28 in the previous 12 games — and are blanked in eight games including four straight — it’s not something to shrug off.
There was hope late in the first period on the second man-advantage opportunity. J.T. Miller won the draw, fed Quinn Hughes and his high slot pass to Pettersson set up his one-timer slapshot howitzer to open scoring. However, giving Pius Suter a bumper look on the first unit, and going 1-for-5 Thursday with eight shots, isn’t going to cut it in the tougher second half of the schedule.
Even if there was a great spin-a-rama pass to feed Miller, who shot high. Or Brock Boeser shooing wide from side of the net. It’s not enough.
“We’ve just got a mental block with the attack style,” said Tocchet. “We think plays instead of attacking. That’s the one thing. It’s not just one guy. When we beat pressure, we want to attack and the best power plays do that. We did it the first six weeks.
“I just don’t want the guys to get frustrated. You have to outnumber on the attack and it doesn’t always have to be a tick-tack-toe goal. It’s a shot and rebound and it’s in the net. That’s when the PK is the most vulnerable.”
Bumps in the night, one-sided fight
Coyotes enforcer Liam O’Brien revved up the Canucks.
He first took exception to a heavy and clean endboards hit by Sam Lafferty on Michael Kesselring. O’Brien got to Lafferty at the bench, threw five punches, and somehow only drew a roughing minor.
He then came directly off the bench to take on Nikita Zadorov and came out on the wrong end of a unanimous decision by absorbing 10 blows in the one-sided bout. The scrappers got majors but O’Brien should have also received a game misconduct for leaving the bench to start an altercation.
In the second period, Carson Soucy and Michael Carcone also mixed it up to keep the game temperature rising.
So much for needing smelling salts to get into the heat of the battle.
If that wasn’t enough, Miller was called for goalie interference to negate what looked like a Boeser goal.
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