Höglander’s struggled but Canucks coach Tocchet sees encouraging signs

Good Co. Bars is your home for the playoffs! Enjoy $5 beers, prizes, a full game-day experience, and the best atmosphere to catch the game. Join us at any of our 5 locations.

Nils Höglander hasn’t played his best hockey during the Vancouver Canucks first-round series.

After scoring 24 goals and 36 points during the regular season, the 23-year-old has been held off the scoresheet against the Nashville Predators.

Höglander has played an average of just 9:33 per game, less than forwards like Phil Di Giuseppe and Teddy Blueger. He ranks last among all Canucks, except Noah Juulsen, who has appeared in just one game in total ice time during this series.

However, the head coach said during his media availability yesterday that he’s seen some encouraging signs.

“I think he’s played better the last two games,” said Rick Tocchet in Nashville. “I think he’s starting to realize playoff hockey, I can feel he was better last game.”

Höglander started the last game by delivering a big check to Jeremy Lauzon. He finished the game with three hits, the most he’s had during this series.

The Canucks have struggled to generate offence at five-on-five during this series. Höglander was one of the team’s biggest even-strength weapons during the regular season, but his struggles have resulted in the team’s goals drying up.

The Swedish winger has just two total shots across the five games. That’s a huge drop compared to the 1.5 per game he averaged during the regular season.

Part of that may be attributed to the team changing strategy after getting so many of their shots blocked early in the series. However, Tocchet said they need to swing the pendulum back the other way and get shots on net.

“I think we’ve gone overboard on that, yes,” the head coach said about his team’s frequent use of slap passes and shooting for tips instead of at the net.

It hasn’t just been him. His line, including Ilya Mikheyev and Elias Pettersson, has yet to score during the series and has been a major disappointment overall.

“Moving your feet in the neutral zone, demanding the puck,” said Tocchet when asked what he wants to see from Pettersson specifically. “There’s no reason to not move your feet because if you don’t move your feet, they’ve got you.”

There are signs a turnaround is coming for Höglander and his line. If they can flip the script, it would be hard to pick a better time. With the Canucks needing just one win to advance to the second round, they’ll be looking at their spark-plug forward to get the team going.