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I Watched This Game: Suter and Silovs the Canucks heroes in series-clinching Game 6

It took one goal from Pius Suter and a shutout from rookie goaltender Arturs Silovs for the Vancouver Canucks to knock out the Nashville Predators.
The Vancouver Canucks eliminated the Nashville Predators on Friday night in Game 6 of their first-round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In 2006, rookie goaltender Cam Ward stepped into the net for the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, replacing their regular starter, Martin Gerber. 

Ward was dynamite, turning their series around against the Montreal Canadiens, then backstopping the Hurricanes to their first (and only) Stanley Cup. With a sterling .920 save percentage — a major jump up from his .882 in the regular season — Ward won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.

In 2016, rookie goaltender Matt Murray stepped into the net for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, replacing backup Jeff Zatkoff after the team’s regular starter, Marc-Andre Fleury, suffered a concussion late in the season.

Murray posted a .923 save percentage the rest of the way, leading the Penguins to the Stanley Cup.

In 2024, rookie goaltender Arturs Silovs stepped into the net for the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, thrust into action after injuries to regular starter Thatcher Demko and backup Casey DeSmith.

On Friday night in Game 6, Silovs shut out the Nashville Predators to deliver the Canucks to the second round. How far he’ll take the Canucks remains to be seen but he’s got a .938 save percentage so far, which is a fair sight better than his .881 save percentage in his four games in the regular season.

The common denominator for these three rookie goaltenders is that all three teams had Jim Rutherford in a management position.

It’s really a shame that the Detroit Red Wings didn’t make the playoffs back in 1971, when Rutherford was a young rookie goaltender backing up Roy Edwards. Odds are, Rutherford would have come in to replace Edwards in the first round and carried the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup.

Let’s be clear, it’s entirely unreasonable to expect Silovs to repeat the performance of Cam Ward or Matt Murray to carry the Canucks to the Cup. But it was also entirely unreasonable for him to post a shutout in a series-deciding game. 

Silovs was outstanding on Friday night in Nashville, stopping all 27 shots he faced. He was also  quick with a pokecheck to prevent the Predators from even getting a shot on a couple of their best chances. Silovs looked like a mature veteran with dozens of playoff games under his belt rather than a 23-year-old rookie playing in just his 12th NHL game ever.

“It’s really impressive, to say the least,” said Quinn Hughes.

“I’m just super happy for the kid, man,” said J.T. Miller. “I think it’s probably better that he just kind of got thrust into the situation. It seems like he’s not overthinking anything, he’s just being himself and taking in as much as he can and having fun with it. He’s got a smile on his face all day long.”

Silovs seemed neither shaken nor stirred by the pressure of playing in such a big moment. Nothing got to him and nothing got past him

“I embraced the challenge,” said Silovs. “I had already played on big stages before, so I was already familiar with what would happen, what kind of games they were going to be. It’s a great opportunity for me to play for a big club and seizing the opportunity is even better.”

With Silovs seizing the opportunity, the Canucks knocked out the Predators and moved on to the second round. They did it with one win from Thatcher Demko, one win from Casey DeSmith, and two from their third-string goaltender, King Arturs, who was crowned in a farcical aquatic ceremony.

Well, it was sort of aquatic, seeing as it was on ice, which is water. And it was pretty farcical, what with J.T. Miller wearing Silovs’ paisley-print shirt. I witnessed Silovs' coronation when I watched this game.

  • When Silovs was asked about Miller wearing his shirt after the game, Silovs just had to grin: “He’s going to wear it now every single day, after this game.”
  • Game 6 started with a surprise, as Rick Tocchet sent out the Lotto Line — Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, and J.T. Miller — for the opening faceoff. It wasn’t a permanent lineup change but Tocchet did use the Lotto Line several times in the opening period and started them in the second period as well. It didn’t work — that line generated absolutely nothing — and it showed exactly why they haven’t been a go-to line for Rick Tocchet. The truth is that the Lotto Line just hasn't been very good this season apart from a brief stretch.  
  • The Predators had the better chances in the first period but Quinn Hughes did have one glorious chance to open the scoring. Off an offensive zone faceoff, Miller and Hughes orbited the zone in opposite directions like a giant game of duck-duck-goose to open up the Predators’ defensive scheme. Hughes then worked a cross-ice give-and-go with Boeser that gave him a wide-open net, only for the captain to fire across the face of the net like it was a warning shot across the Predators’ bow.  
  • Silovs then came up with his biggest save that wasn’t a save, followed by his biggest save that was a save. Gustav Nyquist got in behind Carson Soucy but Silovs alertly poked the puck away as he fended off Soucy’s backcheck. A moment later, Silovs had to contend with a Roman Josi slap shot that threatened to whistle by his ear before he made like Drax with a metaphor and caught it with his fast reflexes. 
  • The Canucks had just five shots on goal in the first period and even that seemed generous. Considering their struggles with getting shots all series, it seemed like this game would be more of the same. Shockingly, the Canucks managed a dozen shots in each of the next two periods, finishing the game with a series-high 29 shots on goal. That’s still not a lot but it at least got their average for the series up above 20 shots per game, so I’m calling that a win. Also, they won, which is a win.
  • Unfortunately, the Predators also upped the shot count in the second period with 13 shots, forcing more Silovs saves, such as this shoulder save on Filip Forsberg that had Roman Josi saying, “Are you kidding me?” on the bench. Silovs probably responded, “Do I look like I’m kidding?” and it’s a really good thing he wasn’t wearing his pink paisley shirt at the time or it definitely would have looked like he was kidding.
  • The Canucks penalty kill has been outstanding all series and it provided the crucial turning point of Game 6. Boeser got called for a four-minute double minor for high-sticking (no, it was not a follow-through; yes, it was the correct call) and the penalty kill swung into action. The best chance on the four-minute Predator power play was a shorthanded shot off the rush by Elias Pettersson that was labeled for the top corner but was incorrectly shelved in Juuse Saros’s glove.
  • The penalty kill could have gone very differently if not for Nikita Zadorov, who used his long reach to disrupt a backdoor pass from Josi to Ryan O’Reilly. If Zadorov was a few inches shorter, that’s probably a goal.
  • By the time the third period came around, it seemed like a next-goal-wins situation, adding even more tension to every single scoring chance. Bridgestone Arena nearly exploded when it looked like Gustav Nyquist had knocked a puck out of mid-air into the net but it actually landed on top of the net. The only thing that went in the net was Filip Forsberg’s stick to pop up the puck back into play. Either that or Forsberg was trying to slice a hole in the net to make the puck drop through, which would only be a goal if this was a Looney Tunes cartoon.
  • The Canucks responded with a near miss of their own, as Miller picked off a puck in the neutral zone and sent Boeser in alone for a glorious chance. Boeser deked to the backhand but Saros went full starfish to get his blocker on the puck.
  • Pius Suter scored the Canucks’ second goal of the series in Game 1 but has seemed snakebitten ever since. He’s had chance after chance to score while playing with Miller and Boeser but wasn’t able to find the back of the net. That continued in Game 6, as Suter was robbed multiple times by Saros: once on a rebound from a Miller shot off the rush, another on a puck that rebounded off the end boards, and again on a backhand in tight. It had Canucks fans — and Suter himself — lamenting his lack of finish.
  • “I got a little frustrated for a moment there,” said Suter. “Let it out quickly and then, obviously, you just try to focus on the next shift, do the right things, and it will come.”
  • Here’s the thing: as much as Suter was failing to finish on so many scoring chances, the fact that he was getting so many scoring chances in the first place is a good thing. He led the Canucks with 15 high-danger chances in this series, according to Natural Stat Trick, which is second so far in the playoffs among all skaters. That doesn’t just happen by accident.
  • “There’s some frustration but for Sutes, he’s had so many looks,” said Miller. “I’m like, ‘Buddy, this is a good problem to have, it’s gonna go,’ and it pays off for him in the end. He keeps going to the right area and if you go there enough times, you’re going to get rewarded.”
  • Let’s also keep in mind that Suter was literally eating through a straw leading up to this game after taking a puck to the face in Game 5. He was sporting some big blue stitches across his lower lip, looking a little like he was chewing a pen and it exploded. Battling through the pain to deliver a great game is the epitome of playoff toughness.
  • “I think it helped that it was two days in between. Obviously, it’s a lot of smoothies in bowls and drinking out of a straw just makes it easier,” said Suter. “Can already eat some fish and mashed potatoes — no steaks, but other than that, it’s all right. I’ve got some great guys that take care of me. It is a little uncomfortable sometimes but not too big of a deal.”
  • It was an unusual line on the ice when the Canucks finally opened the scoring in the final minutes. Miller was on the ice with Elias Lindholm and Dakota Joshua as insurance for a defensive zone faceoff but was stuck on the ice for a full shift. So, Elias Pettersson took his place between Suter and Boeser. The makeshift line worked out pretty well.
  • Pettersson picked off a Colton Sissons clearing attempt on the boards and fed Suter, who was promptly checked. Pettersson then dodged a hit from Jeremy Lauzon to get to the loose puck and chipped it behind the goal for Boeser, while Suter bolted to the front of the net. Boeser hit Suter with a spinning backhand pass — not to be confused with Alex Pietrangelo’s spinning backhand on Tyler Seguin — and Suter finally put the puck past Saros. 
  • This was not a good series for Pettersson but you have to give him credit for coming up with a couple of important battle wins to help set up the series-clinching goal. Yes, sure, with his upcoming contract, he should be the one scoring the series-clinching goal, but don’t you want your star players contributing any way they can?
  • The best reaction to the goal was the complete lack of reaction from Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin. There was no fist-pump, no high-five, no shout of joy, not even a smile. The two of them simply shifted in their seats. “Act like you’ve been there before” is a lifestyle for those two.
  • The Canucks’ attempt to close out the game was complicated by a surprising crosschecking penalty called on Lindholm. It’s not that it wasn’t a crosscheck — by the letter of the law, it was — but that similar crosschecks went uncalled all game. It was particularly galling because the Canucks didn’t get a single power play all game. The Canucks were apoplectic in disbelief at the call — Dakota Joshua was literally hopping mad.
  • The penalty led to a wildly chaotic final ten seconds, as the Predators pushed for the tying goal at 6-on-4 with their net empty. A Jason Zucker shot was stopped by Silovs, then he stopped Colton Sissons on the rebound, but the puck caromed out to Nyquist with an open net. That’s when Tyler Myers went for the two-pad stack but instead got a puck to his nether regions, with Ian Cole batting the puck away with his glove after the costly shot block. That’s as close as the Predators would come.
  • You think chaos is your ally, Predators? You merely adopted the chaos. Myers was born in it, molded by it.
  • “You get nervous, especially once the scramble mode starts,” said Suter about watching the final seconds from the bench. “Guys are laying on the ice, playing like a soccer goalie out there. Mysie just kind of jumping around, trying to block the shot, you just kind of hope the puck bobbles over a stick and goes out of the zone. Those guys did a great job.”
  • As the Canucks poured onto the ice to celebrate, most went to Silovs. Suter alone went to Myers, who was doubled over, either overcome with emotion or the pain flooding in over and above his adrenaline after his shot block. Either way, you could tell Suter appreciated Myers’ efforts.
  • The Canucks didn’t win this series by being the better team every game. They won it by being the better team in key moments. Two goals in 12 seconds in Game 1. Two goals on 12 shots in Game 3. A stunning three goals in four minutes to come back and win Game 4. And then a single goal and a nerve-wracking final thirty seconds in Game 6. They can be better — they’ll have to be better — but they proved that they can show up when it matters most.
  • Four wins down; twelve to go.