With Boeser out, Canucks must rely on trademark resilience in Game 7

Danielle Michaud is joined with Elliotte Friedman to discuss the sudden news of Brock Boeser's injury, including the severity of it, and how it will affect the Canucks in the do-or-die game against the Oilers.

VANCOUVER — Rick Tocchet started his Sunday afternoon meeting with the media by dropping a bomb.

“Before we start, (Thatcher) Demko is starting for us tomorrow.”

He doubled down, too, before relenting.

“I’m joking.”

This was the affable head coach’s way of diffusing tensions after the Vancouver Canucks failed to close out their second-round series in six games, thus forcing a winner-take-all Game 7 at Rogers Arena on Monday night. Likely not how the team envisioned ending its second-round series, but it’s the high-stakes situation it finds itself in after a 5-1 pounding from the Edmonton Oilers.

Tocchet’s message to the team after that dismal Game 6 was to stay the course. As a coach, he isn’t going to drastically change the way he manages the bench. Stick to the strategies and systems that have made this team so successful through the regular season and the first round.

Two hours after Tocchet left the podium, that task became a lot taller.

EP Rinkside’s Irfaan Gaffar first reported that forward Brock Boeser would not be available for Monday’s Game 7. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman confirmed that it was due to a blood clotting issue that is not life or career-threatening. Sportsnet has since also confirmed Boeser is done for the season because of the issue.

The Canucks have often used the word “resilient” to describe themselves, but that mantra has never been put to the test more frequently than this post-season. An early injury sidelined their Vezina Trophy-finalist starting goalie, thrusting backup Casey DeSmith and then third-stringer Artūrs Šilovs into the Canucks’ first real playoff spotlight since 2015.

They weathered that storm, advancing to Round 2 and playing a hard-fought series against an Oilers team that many believed were too tough an opponent for this Vancouver squad. Now, they’ll be asked to do it again, this time without their playoff points leader.

“The good thing about Game 7 is it’s one game, right?” J.T. Miller said, before the news about his linemate broke. “We just have to put all our energy and focus on that game.”

Boeser’s ailment is not just a loss for the player himself — who has overcome tremendous hardships in his personal life and is enjoying his most successful regular and post-season in the NHL yet — but for the team as well. The longest-tenured Canuck, Boeser is popular with this roster and his contributions on the ice cannot be overstated.

The good news? The Canucks have seen adversity, and they’ve been able to rise to the occasion. This is the first time in these playoffs that they are facing elimination and they have yet to lose back-to-back games this spring.

“The moment can’t be too big for us. It’s something we need to embrace,” Canucks defenceman Ian Cole said. “Game 7 is do or die at this point, so we’re going to need to flush everything that’s happened up to this point.”

“This group, we’re fighters,” defenceman Carson Soucy added. “Right from training camp, we came in with the mindset that this year was going to be different. We’ve kind of showed that throughout the year, the ups and downs, we’re going to come back next game ready to play.”

[brightcove videoID=6353208427112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

Though lacking playoff experience as a group, the Canucks have individuals who have been in this position before — Cole won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Miller appeared in five playoff runs before joining the Canucks and just last year, Soucy played in Game 7s in back-to-back rounds with the Seattle Kraken.

Playing in front of an energized home crowd in Rogers Arena, those veterans know what it’s going to take to win.

“It’s always going to be stressful and, in some regards, anxiety-inducing, but if you can approach it with the right mentality, you can kind of use that as a performance booster,” Cole said. “It’s a very fine line between hitting that flow state, if you will, and being nervous, so we’re going to try to handle it as best we can.

“I think everyone’s aware of the opportunity that we have. I mean, we’re in a Game 7 against, you know, an extremely good hockey team that no one gave us a chance to really be in the series with, so we’re in a good spot.”

Each game is a fresh slate in the playoffs, so with sights firmly set on Monday’s showdown, Saturday’s disappointment is in the rearview. If the Canucks want to have a fighting chance at meeting Dallas in the Western Conference Final, though, they need to remember the staples that got them to this point, especially in the absence of a top-line winger.

“You’ve done it all year. Just replay those good things in your head. That’s really what it comes down to,” Tocchet said.

They know what it takes to beat the Oilers — they’ve done it seven times this season. But the final win is the hardest to achieve and Edmonton will be just as hungry for it. To win Game 7, the Canucks will need urgency and heroics from up and down their lineup.

“We preach the crest. It’s the Vancouver Canucks, it’s not individualism around here,” Tocchet said. “A hero to me is, it could be as simple as getting that puck at a certain time. I know it sounds funny, but it’s a good (line) change. It’s a blocked shot.”

It takes a village — the Canucks, of all teams, know this well. They can bend in the absence of Boeser, but they can’t break. They’ve beaten adversity once, now they have the opportunity to do it again.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.