Goldobin put in effort to get back on ice
Winger is reunited with Pettersson Saturday after being a healthy scratch for four games
DENVER — Nikolay Goldobin has watched more game film than Netflix.
In reclaiming his roster spot, the mercurial Vancouver Canucks winger put down the popcorn and picked up on his shortcomings to earn the trust of coach Travis Green.
After sitting out four consecutive games and six of the last nine, he was reunited with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser on Saturday while Markus Granlund was scratched.
And if you think the Canucks are simply showcasing the restricted free agent in advance of the Feb. 25 trade deadline, think again.
“That’s not the case,” insisted general manager Jim Benning. “He’s a good kid and wants to do well and he’s progressing to get better and that’s part of development. It’s also the skill set that makes it worth our time to get that out of him.
“We’re going to continue to work with him and hope that he can get to where he needs to be.
“I’m hoping he’s going to be hungry to do the things he’s capable of and the things he’s been working on. When he’s on, he has good chemistry with Petey. With young players it’s more about consistency and we need that every night. He’s just going through a learning process.”
What the Canucks have learned is the 23-year-old restricted free agent has had his moments — seven points (1-6) in a seven-game stretch in late October and a November to remember by starting the month with 11 points (3-8) in 10 games. He has also gone 13 games without scoring and his play without the puck was waning.
So after instruction on the ice and in the film room, where is Goldobin at?
“I couldn’t wait to get back on the ice, especially after the break, and I’m excited to go,” said Goldobin. “I’ve learned certain things and everyone knows what it is. I think I’ve improved and we’ll see. It was obviously frustrating that I wasn’t playing, but I’m glad to be back. I know they (management) believe in me and I’m trying to do my best and help the team make the playoffs.
“I don’t think a lot of people believe in us, but we have a good shot.”
Goldobin is an effortless skater and that can lead to the perception that he’s gliding more than going full out. And when he isn’t aggressive on the forecheck to go after pucks and create turnovers — or hustling back in support to ensure he’s got his check — he can become a polarizing player.
Goldobin does things you can’t teach thanks to his natu- ral offensive talent. He was still tied for third on the club with 18 assists and fourth in points with 23 heading into Saturday’s meeting with the Colorado Avalanche. Part of that is a penchant to defer to Pettersson and part of that is still finding his way.
“We’re kind of similar players and he’s super skilled, so I thought we had chemistry to start the year,” Goldobin said of Pettersson. “Thirty games left and every one is like a playoff game.”
Green isn’t into head games. He’s into getting the best out of every player and ensuring they understand the collective goal of being players you can win with. And that’s where he’s at with Goldobin.
If there was no upside, there might be trade debate. Now, there’s curiosity about whether he can rekindle his offence through better and stronger puck possession and develop consistency in all facets of his game.
What does Green need to see?
“A little quicker getting to places and a little stronger in his one-on-one battles — even when he has the pu ck ,” said the coach. “Being able to get away from someone when you have the pu ck in the corner. At this time of the year, the game tightens up so you’ve got to fight for space.
“He’s got a lot of attributes that we need at this time of year. He can make plays through the neutral zone and offensive zone and I want Goldy to play well. Not just for him, but for us. It’s confidence and he’s gone through a tough stretch and we’ve been open and honest with him. It’s not scolding. It’s talking and wanting him to do it for himself and the team.”
It also means Goldobin’s line must press the issue more to retrieve the puck before doing something with it.
“They’re creating offence and the one thing we need from that line is to not just be a rush line.” Green said. “I want them to be a rush line and make good plays, but they’ve got to get the puck back as well.”
Canucks winger Nikolay Goldobin, here battling Montreal’s Kenny Agostino earlier this season, has had a streaky campaign, starting hot before going ice cold over a 13-game stretch and earning time in the press box.