Drance: How Elias Lindholm fit in seamlessly in his impressive Canucks debut



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RALEIGH, N.C. — Elias Lindholm made his presence felt immediately.

You wouldn’t have known it to watch the veteran forward play, but it’s been a whirlwind 10 days for the newest Vancouver Canuck.

Last Saturday, Lindholm scored the game-winner for his former club, the Calgary Flames. The next day, he headed on to the Mexican Baja for some sun and relaxation during the bye week.

By Wednesday, Lindholm was traded while in the air, on his way back to Calgary. Then it was on to Toronto for All-Star festivities.

This week has seen Lindholm take part in a pair of get-to-know-you practices with his new teammates and then make his Canucks debut on Tuesday night.

And he didn’t just make his debut. He contributed, meaningfully, with two goals in a 3-2 road win against the Carolina Hurricanes, one of the NHL’s top teams. And he contributed in every single situation.

Lindholm started the game at five-on-five and led all Canucks forwards in minutes played at even strength. He was net-front on the first power-play unit. He was first over the boards on the penalty kill, a daunting task given how short his runway has been this week to adjust to a new system and new teammates.

“Honestly, I was the most nervous about the penalty kill,” Lindholm said postgame. “I’ve only played the same system throughout my career, so this was new to me. I was kind of nervous.

“They told me to take the faceoff and get off if I had the chance. I just beared down on the draw, and tried to get off. That will definitely take some time to get used to.”

Before the end of his very first Canucks period, Lindholm was on the board with a deft deflection of a Quinn Hughes point shot. The goal tied the score, and Vancouver didn’t trail again.

Lindholm’s first Canucks goal was a power-play goal. More importantly, it was precisely the sort of power-play goal that this Canucks team has required more of.

“If you look at it, that’s high-end hand-eye coordination,” summarized Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet, who also runs the power play. “First of all, he’s in front of the goalie.

“Secondly, Quinn made a couple of nice plays, getting it through. Those are goals you have to get on the power play in tight games. The tic-tac-toes, they don’t happen very often late in the season, so I might be the happiest guy. Those net-front goals are my favourite.”

This is the sort of goal that is going to be key for the Canucks going forward. Though Vancouver’s five-on-four play has mostly been dynamic this season, the deflection goal hasn’t been enough of a staple.

Where Andrei Kuzmenko, for example, scored 14 deflection goals during the 2022-23 campaign, he’d only contributed two this season. In discussing the power play, the need for more goals at the net front has been a constant focus of Tocchet.

“Yeah, it’s a massive element,” Hughes acknowledged. “Not only the tips, but he (Lindholm) can play anywhere, great shot, great hockey sense, his reads are really good. You saw tonight the way he supported the puck, the way he can make skilled plays coming out of tough situations. And it’s just the start; you’re going to see a lot more.”

In his Canucks debut, Lindholm scored two power-play deflections in a single game. If one of Vancouver’s needs was to find a player who could do damage down low on the power play, Lindholm immediately showed that like he’s up to that specific task.

“He’s a very skilled and talented player. I mean, he had 42 goals a few years ago,” said Hughes of Lindholm’s immediate impact. “That doesn’t just happen.

“He made a great tip, and that main thing was that he was patient enough to just wait there and wait for the puck to come.”

As for Vancouver’s big new add, he was just happy to contribute, and to get some positive reenforcement, given that his offensive production has lagged behind his expectations for much of this season.

“I haven’t had too many tip goals this year, so that was just a lucky touch, honestly,” Lindholm said, downplaying his two-goal evening. “Hopefully I can have some more luck with those.”

In every phase of the game, Lindholm’s seamless fit was on full display on Tuesday night in the research triangle. It’s just one, strong 60-minute effort, but it was a very strong first impression.

“When we targeted him, the one thing we said as an organization was that if we get a guy and go for it — or however you want to say it — you want to get someone that’s intelligent,” said Tocchet. “There was a minute or two left, he’d just got off, and I was telling him something about a switch and he goes, ‘Yep, I got it.’ Sometimes you get guys and they’re like, ‘Whoa, hang on a sec,’ and they start to panic — or not panic, but they get antsy. He’s just calm.”

(Photo of Elias Lindholm: Josh Lavallee / NHLI via Getty Images)





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