June 16th, 2024

Oilers learned from tight second-round series vs. Canucks: Tocchet

By Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press on June 6, 2024.

Vancouver Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet stands on the bench during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, February 27, 2024. Watching hockey hasn't been easy for Vancouver Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet recently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER – Watching hockey hasn’t been easy for Vancouver Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet recently.

His team’s playoff run came to an abrupt end last month with a Game 7 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in a grinding second-round series.

Watching the Oilers take on the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference final, Tocchet couldn’t help but think about what could have been.

“I got mixed emotions watching the series,” he told reporters on a video call Wednesday. “You’re always like “˜What if we did this? What if we did that?’ And you’ve got to be careful because you can torment your mind.”

The Oilers dispatched the Stars in six games. Now Edmonton is set to face the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup final, beginning Saturday.

After watching the first four games of the series between Dallas and Edmonton through the eyes of a coach, Tocchet tried to simply enjoy hockey as he viewed the final two bouts.

He couldn’t get away from thoughts about what his team could have done differently.

“It’s hard. I’ll be honest with you,” the coach said. “I wish we had a better first period. That’s my big thing in Game 7. I wish we had a better first period. And maybe things would have been different. But, hey, that’s the way it works.”

Edmonton outshot Vancouver 13-2 in the first period of Game 7 and leapt out to a 3-0 lead in the second. The Canucks finally replied with a pair of goals midway through the third, but simply couldn’t overcome the deficit.

The Oilers picked up a thing or two from facing the Canucks, said Tocchet, who won this season’s Jack Adams Award as the league’s top coach.

“I’ve got to give Edmonton a lot of credit. They had a hard series against us, I thought. And they went into Dallas and really played very well,” he said.

“They were comfortable playing a 2-1 hockey game. I heard some of their players say they learned a lot from our series, where they were comfortable playing a 2-1 hockey game. That’s what you do from series to series, you learn some things.”

Tocchet knows all about playoff lessons.

He made 145 post-season appearances and won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins during his NHL playing career. He added two more championships as an assistant coach in Pittsburgh.

Losing in the post-season can be great fuel, Tocchet said.

“Hopefully our players, when they watch (the Edmonton-Dallas) series, it motivates them even harder,” he said. “We know it’s going to get harder and harder. And I hope the players understand that because we know it’s going to be harder.

“And I know that I have to come up with something different for this year to hold up my end of the bargain.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 6, 2024.

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