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Canucks vs. Oilers Notebook: Latest series developments before Game 4


Juulsen learned how to block shots with rubber pucks, Zadorov learned gift of gab to assess Soucy suspension

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Noah Juulsen can thank an old crusty coach for a new way to soften the blow.

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The Vancouver Canucks defenceman, who replaced the suspended Carson Soucy on Tuesday in Game 4 of a second-round NHL playoff series against the Edmonton Oilers, is adept at delivering crushing checks and falling in front of vulcanized rubber.

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And it’s the second set of skills that can leave a mark or break bones.

Juulsen was taught how to block shots in the WHL by tough Everett Silvertips coach Kevin Constantine. Instead of absorbing frozen pucks, it was softer rubber variety that ensured he could turn and concentrate on technique, instead of wincing.

“It was good,” recalled Juulsen. “You just get out there and it was stop and drop. A lot of guys, especially whey they’re younger, might be a little timid to block. With the rubber pucks, you’re there and in position.

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“And if it hits you in the wrong spot, it’s okay.”

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Canucks defenceman Noah Juulsen and Kraken winger Oliver Bjorkstrand battle during Feb. 22 meeting in Seattle. Photo by John Froschauer /AP

Constantine was no day at the beach. He was fined and suspended in 2006 after forcing his club to eat a post-game meal on the bus after a WHL preseason loss.

“He was good to me,” said Juulsen. “Obviously, a hard-nosed guy and the way he coached was different than a lot of other guys. But I had no issues with how he treated us when I was there.”

Those skills and shot-blocking drills would come in handy for Game 4 in Edmonton. The Oilers fired 45 shots on Sunday and the Canucks blocked 23 en route to a 4-3 triumph to take a 2-1 series lead.

Juulsen had 85 blocks in 54 regular-season games and 163 hits, but the playoffs are a different animal. It tests your mettle at even strength or killing penalties.

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Juulsen, 27, got his first career NHL postseason lineup call in Game 2 against the Nashville Predators with Tyler Myers sidelined by the flu. The Surrey native and Abbotsford-raised hockey product started slow before family and friends at Rogers Arena, but eventually found his game.

He finished with five hits and two blocks in a disappointing 4-1 loss.

“The pace was a lot faster and the atmosphere was a lot bigger and the physicality was ramped up,” recalled Juulsen. “It was about not changing my game, and I like the physical part to bring something to the team.”

Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet has often lauded Juulsen for being the consummate team player.

“He’s one of our best penalty killers,” said Tocchet. “An organization has good depth when your seventh defenceman is one of your best PK guys. He’s a great shot blocker and physical, and at 5-on-5, one of our best hitters.

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“We have to be disciplined, but you’ve also got to play tough.”

EDMONTON, ALBERTA - MAY 12: Evander Kane #91 of the Edmonton Oilers is checked by Nikita Zadorov #91 of the Vancouver Canucks during the second period in Game Three of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on May 12, 2024 in Edmonton, Alberta.
Nikita Zadorov launches Oilers winger Evander Kane into the bench during Game 3. Photo by Codie McLachlan /Getty Images

‘They have to protect their investment’

Leave it to the engaging Nikita Zadorov to put a one-game suspension for Soucy’s crosscheck on Connor McDavid at the end of Game 3 into some sort of perspective Tuesday morning.

Or, at least, how the hulking defenceman sees the world, the game and its officiating.

Zadorov started the suspension sequence with a crosscheck to the lower back of McDavid after the Oilers captain gave Soucy a two-haded whack on the leg. The resulting whiplash saw Soucy’s intended crosscheck to the chest find McDavid’s jaw.

“Carson is a big part of our team and it’s a big loss for us,” started Zadorov. “My thought on that, and I’ve been thinking for a couple of days, is it’s unfortunate that it’s the world we live in.

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“Sometimes, social media and the public can create some hard decisions for specific people. They might make it a questionable decision at the end of the day. They have to protect their investment (McDavid). That’s my understanding of this situation for sure.”

Zadorov received a $5,000 fine for his role in the incident.

“I had no intention to hurt anybody, but I saw my teammate get

slashed and I had to step in,” said Zadorov. “I’ve been doing it for 11 years. It was just an unlucky play and I got caught up and reacted on adrenalin.

“Whatever. Move on.”

bkuzma@postmedia.com


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