Canucks Army Postgame: Nichushkin vs. Virtanen

I’ll make a confession: this Canucks post-game actually belongs to our good friend and Canucks Army mainstay, JD Burke. 

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Unfortunately, we’ve all got bills to pay, and JD had to work tonight. So I’m going to pay him tribute, and give you a nice recap of the game the way he would have written it. 

That means I’m going to ignore that two goal blown lead for the Canucks. 


That’s right: here’s your game day recap, as told from reports of Val Nichushkin and Jake Virtanen. 

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The Rundown

I’m contractually obligated to give you guys a feasible run-down of this game, so here goes. 

Alex Burrows? Awesome capitalization of that penalty shot early in the game. The vet went into this game 0-4 in career penalty shots, and the league was 0-6 on the season in penalty shots across the board; by capitalizing on his windy, cleverly-executed shot tonight, Burrows earned his first career penalty goal and opened the season’s penalty scoring. Not bad. 

Ryan Miller? Still too reactive for my taste; he relies too much on his reflexes, which hurts him when there’s a ton of traffic in front of the net. It cost the Canucks two of their three goals, and that’s not an exaggeration. 

Luca Sbisa? Holy crap. He overskated a drop pass about mid-way through the game and cost his team a breakaway; that stuck out to me the most, because that’s pretty much how he looked all game. He also scored on Miller when the puck deflected off his skate and he just watched it go in. 

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Val Nichushkin: Talking Offense

The Dallas Stars have some clearly talented offensive skaters in their lineup, and Val Nichushkin was certainly one of them. 

Tyler Seguin is crafty, Jamie Benn is unREAL, and John Klingberg actually gives me little tingles when I watch him play – and I watch Oliver Ekman-Larsson 82 times a year. They’ve got some good little cookies on that team. 

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What really made Dallas’ offense differ so much from Vancouver’s, though, wasn’t talent – the Canucks clearly have plenty of that, as well. The Sedins are still brilliant, Vrbata continues to be human perfection, Alex Burrows is still pretty underrated by 99% of the league, and I was pleasantly surprised by Brendan Gaunce – kid’s a little slow, but he’s a slow build that turns into a powerful shot from the point when he wants to be. He and Bo Horvat were both as noticeable to me in the game as Nichushkin, and that’s a compliment. 

No; what differs about Dallas’ offense is the way it accelerates throughout the game. Head coach Lindy Ruff doesn’t mind making changes on the fly until things click, and it shows in the possession charts: 


By the end of that game, the Stars had taken control; that’s a big part of the reason why they won. 

Jake Virtanen: Talking Defense and Toughness

I praised Dallas’ offense – but let’s quickly run through Vancouver’s defense, which I thought looked solid throughout the game. 

I’m a vocal critic of Ryan Miller, but I thought that Vancouver did a mostly-excellent job of playing to his strengths (and yes, that excludes you, Sbisa. Sorry, bud) throughout the game. The forwards and the blue liners both looked like they were holding Dallas’ most effective snipers to the perimeter, and it paid off – through most of the game, that is. 

I’m still falling slowly but surely in love with Ben Hutton, who had a few moments out there with Chris Tanev that actually made me squeak with excitement; he was able to read both his teammates and the opposition well for yet another game. 

Then, there was toughness – which brings me to Jake Virtanen laying down the murder midway through the game. 

(gif brought to us by none other than GIFBoy)

Never change, Jake. 

I was less impressed with Virtanen’s game than I was with guys like Hutton, Horvat, and Nichushkin, but he certainly had his moments. He’s perfected the art of the squeaky-clean but punishing check along the boards, and that’s fun to see. 



3 vs. 3 overtime is a gong show, and I’ll die on that mountain; it also seems like Ryan Miller’s worst nightmare, especially with a guy like Jamie Benn. 

I was also a bit unnerved by the fact that at one point in the third period, three separate Canucks were laying on the ice at the same time, trying to block shots. Maybe don’t do that. 

Overall, Canucks walked away with a pity point and solidified their spot as second in the Pacific Division by pulling a point ahead of the Arizona Coyotes. They face them tomorrow night in Arizona (where I’ll be watching from the lower bowl at Gila River Arena, ready to bring you scorching analysis and my lukewarm taeks), so they’ll either pull farther ahead of the desert club or fall behind them in the standings. 

Oh, and the Anaheim Ducks lost again tonight. They suck. 

  • Larionov18

    I know there is going to be a lot of vitriol after another 3rd period collapse, but whatever, that’s going to happen. And right now it’s happening more than we’d like. So what! What we should be focusing on, is that this rag tag bunch of hasbeens and wannabes is actually being competitive with the elite teams of the league, so much so that we’re actually blowing leads. It could be worse, it will be worse, it will be better. Forgive me, I’m a little drunk.

  • acg5151

    You can spin it anyway you want, the Canucks game was simply not good enough tonight. I know it is easy for me to say but the boys have to step up their game and outwork the competition when they have the lead in the third. Brain-less plays are not acceptable. Players who are prone to making mistakes in close games ought to be on the bench or better still sent to the minors.

  • andyg

    So we beat the Canadians and people have visions of the cup. We lose in an overtime game and we suck. Our fans are funny.

    Lets not lose site of the fact that we are playing 5 young players. We all know that if we make the playoffs this year we will be doing good. Would it not be the best to just squeak into the playoffs.

    Do you really want to be in the top five in the league?

  • andyg

    I don’t think the blame can be pointed at WD and the coaching staff for the 3rd period collapse tonight (or any other night for that matter). He can use all the coaching tricks in the book and he can pace up and down the bench screaming at the top of his lungs and it wont make a damned difference if his players decide to turtle. It boils down to a lack of killer instinct. When the foot in on the throat, step hard. This is where Henrik has to step up as captain and have a closed-door team meeting and figure this out among the players. This team needs to get their poop in a group. 7-2-1 is a hell of a lot better than 4-2-4.

  • Larionov18

    This is getting a little old, It’s the ghost of AV screaming protect the lead.
    Getting bottled up in your own end like its a penalty kill is suicide. Its such a crappy way to lose. Attack!! Damn the torpedoes.
    End of rant.

  • Larionov18

    I thought the Canucks deserved this win. Miller only let in the one bad goal. No chance on the other 3. I wish he would play McCann 3 on 3. He and Vrbata are the only guys that can shot and score. Not a great night for Jake. Solid hit on VN but nothing else. Almost looked like Zack watching the play. More physical but still needs to up his intensity. Bo has not looked dangerous since the preseason. Still not a terrible effort. They played with them.

  • acg5151

    As soon as Willy goes into protect mode, Canucks look horrible… coach either needs to bench different guys or continue to roll four lines somehow, whatis (unfortunately) clear is that there is something off in terms of Willy’s talent assessment and team deployment- dude needs to figure it out, or he’ll be looking for another job pretty soon.

  • acg5151

    Wow I just had the weirdest Dejavu…. The Canucks were playing grey then in the 3rd period and overtime??

    Something has to be done! I don’t know what, but the ice turns and the Canucks play prevent D which prevents them from getting 2 pts.

  • Spiel

    How are we supposed to grow as a young team when we have a career minor league coach who really does not believe in young players?

    How many goals has Hansen averaged over his tenure as a nuck? Yet Desjardins starts him 3 on 3 in ot,lol! Hey this kid McCann who has 4 goals and plays much better in time and space would have been a much better choice! Then before the winning goal this genuis Desjardins put 2 dman out against 2 forwards? Playning not to lose instead of playing to win again, got bit.

    We will go nowhere with this amateur wannabe coach

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    Always fun to see the myopic views of the average message board poster.

    Good and bad teams often give up leads in the 3rd. Score effects happen to every team every year.

    But here we are, lamenting hard work, protecting leads instead of attacking and questioning the coach.

    The so called best team in the league, with the best goalie in the world just gave up a 3 goal lead to the crappiest team ever in Edmonton.

    Anaheim is the league wide favourite to win the cup and just gave up a 3 goal lead to the same Stars team.

    Often just randomness results in blown leads. Dallas scored twice in the 3rd on wrist shots from the point.

    Add a small sample size and right away we’re throwing out old, stale narratives?

    • Spiel

      4 blow 3rd period leads in the first 10 games shows a structural deficiency in the game plan to play with the lead.

      Add in game 6 of the playoffs last year and well there you go.

      I have no idea where to find the actual stats but under AV back 6-7 years the Canucks were slam dunk win leading after 2, and so have the Rangers been under AV.

      Slick Willie needs to go back to the drawing board on how to coach from the lead.

  • Spiel

    “prevent” defense prevents you from winning. Am I right?
    Obviously we need to work on our defensive shell to close out games. Weird thing is that Dallas was looking anything but dangerous until the last 10 minutes of the game.

    Also, I never thought I would say this, but 3-on-3 is terrible. I prefer a shootout. At least penalty shots are a semi-regular occurence in the course of a regular game. How many minutes of 3-on-3 hockey are even played in regulation time over a season.

  • andyg

    So far this season, the Canucks have yet to lose by more than one goal. This suggests a fundamentally sound system, despite the average record so far. It’s even more impressive considering that three of the four lines are new, and that four players are rookies.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    3rd period ice times:
    Baertschi 3 shifts 1:40
    McCann 3 shifts 1:33
    Gaunce 3 shifts 1:33
    Virtanen got 7 shifts 4:25

    I knew WD shortened the bench in the third but I was somewhat shocked when I came across this.
    WD has done this for every third period meltdown. Why roll aged and tired legs and keep young quicker and rested legs on the pine?
    Play the youth for ***** sake.

  • Spiel


    This is a sincere message to you. As someone who has some professional experience in this area, your posts concern me. Talking about raping other players’ wives and randomly beating up old people in their homes is, frankly, cause for worry. If you want to talk about this, please get in touch with someone at Canucksarmy. They have my e-mail address.

    Wishing you (and yours) good mental health.

  • acg5151

    If i am not mistaken the canucks have scored 6 times in the 3rd and OT and at the same time have been scored on 14 times, not to mention that on 4 seperate occasions have held the lead.

    Seems like there is a is a pattern here starting from last years meltdown in game 6 where i believe they were outscored 6 – 1 after a 3 – 0 lead.Its very difficult to pinpoint where the exact problem lies but there is obviously a number of new players since the game 6 fiasco so to some extent i think coaching needs to prepare themselves and the players to exicute a totaly new approach when holding leads.

  • acg5151

    I can only conclude that these types of losses are almost entirely on WD. Why, why, why change your tactics and deployment in the 3rd – it’s not working dude. Maybe try ONE game where you just continue what you were doing the previous two periods. Worth a shot, no?

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    Maybe I just had pretty low expectations going into the season but I can’t get that bothered by these losses, even when it’s frustrating staying up on the east coast having to wait till the last minute to see them lose. But I’d much rather see us be competitive and lose with a lineup that is not just full of new faces but young new faces — I feel like each of those young players shows so much more potential as a group than I can remember seeing in anyone since the Sedins, Kesler, Burrows, Bieksa, Edler, etc all came up.

    Hutton made a couple of plays last night that were so smart, so in-control and so talented; small pivots, turning the back back against the grain, etc. I don’t know what you were watching but Gaunce did NOT look slow to me — his skating is miles ahead of when he turned pro. Made some smart plays, looked dangerous on a few occasions. So happy we actually brought him up and played him rather than Cracknell. Baertschi has continued to look better each game I think and McCann looked as good as the last couple of games.

    My concern is more with Miller — he is just wearing down with the over-play. If we can’t trust Bachmann with one start maybe look for a different backup? Even Raycroft and La Barbera got in some starts behind Luongo…and Weber and Bartkowski are…not great.

    Regardless, if this really is about process, we can’t help but feel better about this (much as the Leafs should feel better than the Avs or Flames at this point) on the basis of structure and direction if not immediate results.

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    This third period meltdown is frustrating. When the momentum shifts, Willie should use his time out to slow things down and regroup. What else can he do.

  • birdie boy

    In case you guys that are hanging willie already havent noticed ,there young guys havent been scoring and yes i mean horvat and bar cheeee,that line needs to get going for sure even bo lost those last two draws in the defensive zone which one turned into a goal,so patience they will gell and get more confidence with the proper be expected with the path they took,and hutton wow he is playing like a first over all lotto pick and we didnt have to totally suck to get him .

  • Spiel

    And one more thing, that was clearly interference by Benn on Dorsett on the tying goal. We all know that had the tables been turned, Dorsett setting a pick on Benn, there would have been a penalty immediately. Blown call there.