It came as bit of surprise to see the Vancouver Canucks scheduling a practice for Super Bowl Sunday coming off a long eastern road trip but there was work to be done according to head coach Rick Tocchet.
Plus, game day morning skates are not the favoured habit for the Canucks bench boss. He prefers a full practice of hard work rather than putting on and taking off equipment the morning of a game, which for some is just a ritual.
Sunday brought battle drills and an emphasize on defensive play.
“There’s another level of defensive, whether it’s awareness or just grit,” Tocchet said after practice. “There are times when you’ve just gotta get that puck out.”
Tocchet used a late game play from Vasily Podkolzin against New Jersey as a good example. “Pods” hit a guy to force a puck out, which Tocchet equates to scoring a goal. Even though everyone wants to score goals, keeping one out at your end is just as good as putting one in at the other.
The players are buying into the coach’s accountability.
“We really want to create an identity, I think we failed to do that the first half of the year,” Canucks forward J.T. Miller said after the drills. “We’re pushing for that now, I think there’s been a lot of good things since he’s (Tocchet) been here.”
The Canucks Lines
Ben Kuzma of the Province posted these Canucks lines from practice:
Anthony Beauvillier – Elias Pettersson – Brock Boeser
Vasily Podkolzin – J.T. Miller – Conor Garland
Dakota Joshua – Sheldon Dries – Jack Studnicka / Andrei Kuzmenko
Phil Di Giuseppe – Nils Aman – Curtis Lazar
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Tyler Myers
Quinn Hughes – Ethan Bear
Riley Stillman – Luke Schenn
Miller further commented on Tocchet’s accountability and honesty factors, as in, guys need to know what they’re doing right and wrong and correct it. No hard feelings.
He feels that approach, along with game and mindset conditioning, are keys moving forward, with sights already being set on next season.
“It’s a 24/7 job, not just during the game where you’ve gotta treat your body the right way,” Miller said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re doing that, and that’s got to become part of the standard identity as well. Obviously, it’s a little harder when it’s almost March, to get in shape if you will, but at the same time, we want to make sure we’re doing the right things throughout the rest of the season. That way in the summer we know what to expect as a group, and kind of hit the ground running for next season.”
The Canucks host the Detroit Red Wings Monday in the back half of a home-and-home with puck drop a little after 7 pm pacific. The Red Wings won Saturday’s game 5-2.