Blizzards, Bus Rides, Blue Jackets, Battlestar Galactica: A Stanchies Story

Photo credit:© Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports
Lachlan Irvine
6 months ago
It’s the Vancouver Canucks vs. the World these days.
Eastern road swings, Eastern Media, and Eastern weather, the dreaded three-headed monster of every Western Conference team, specifically Vancouver.
Before we start, allow me to stand on my soapbox for a second.
I get that today is a national holiday in the US, and that’s why a 1 pm puck drop seemed like an ideal choice for a Columbus Blue Jackets game.
But what’s fascinating is that the Canucks are actually from, and this is true, Canada. And since today is not a nationally scheduled day off, every Canuck fan in Canada with a 9 to 5 job or in school had to try and sneak a peek at a live stream without getting in trouble.
Fortunately, watching hockey in the morning is my job, but that doesn’t apply to 99% of the population. And for that, I am truly sorry. Hopefully, these Stanchies will make up for the game if you missed it.
Stream-sneek advice for next time: a pencil bag is a great place to hide a phone on low brightness playing video, and a toque conceals wireless earbuds. I watched the entire Canucks home opener in 2015-16 that way during a showing of “Ex Machina” for my Film Appreciation class in junior college. (Yes, that choice was a bad one.)
While the start time was inconvenient for fans, it was even more inconvenient for the Vancouver Canucks, who were forced to reroute their trip to Columbus from Buffalo to Toronto via a late bus ride to Pearson Int’l Airport, stopping for an extremely late team dinner at a Panda Express, before arriving in Columbus just over 13 hours before puck drop.
If there was any game that deserved a late start, it was this one!
Now, let’s get this over with.
Best idea, too smart for the NHL
Best Check Ins
Worst tempting of the fates
When the puck dropped, the Canucks really did look in control for large stretches of the first period, really showcasing the discrepancy between a team that had five players voted into the All-Star Game and a team that’s missing Zach Werenski, Boone Jenner, and first-line center Patrik Laine due to injury.
A more rested Vancouver side might have been able to play at that pace for the full 60 minutes. But Monday’s game was not the case.
Best bouncing lotto ball
When you’re as hot as the Lotto Line has been, practically everything bounces your way.
On the Canucks ninth shot of the game, a J.T. Miller clapper goes off of a Blue Jacket defender’s skate, somehow wobbles through a bunch of sticks and bodies in front of Elvis Merzlikins, and dives under his shoulder to give Miller his 20th of the season.
The goal was such a pinball that the scorekeepers initially credited it to Brock Boeser, but credit was eventually restored to Jinball Tinball Miller before the period ended.
Maybe they needed to watch the game a little harder.
Best Tick Tick Boom
It wasn’t a particularly good afternoon for Ian Cole.
Casey DeSmith gloves a high dump in by Andrew Peeke and leaves it behind the net for Cole. But rather than settle it with Johnny Gaudreau pressuring and skating it out, Cole opts to whack it around the near boards to Teddy Blueger, who has Cole Sillinger right on top of him.
Blueger ends up giving it to Johnny Hockey while Yegor Chinakhov slides towards the bottom of the right circle. With all the speed of someone who’s got a midnight plate of Panda Express Orange Chicken rolling around in their stomach, Cole does not pick up Gaudreau feeding Chinakhov the puck until he is already on the lip of the crease.
DeSmith challenges wayyy out to try and cut off the angle, but Chinakhov has the reach to hook it around him.
For all the complaints about the Canucks’ PDO, Columbus scored on their first shot, and no one DARED complain about them!
Classic Eastern media bias!
Best last car on the lot
The Blue Jackets must’ve felt bad about how easily their game-tying goal came about because they presented basically the exact same chance for the Canucks late in the first period.
A lot of this goal was thanks to the board work of Dakota Joshua, who absolutely hounded the Jackets’ defenders after catching Blueger’s initial dump-in. The combined efforts of Peeke, Adam Fantilli and Emil Bemstrom could not lift the Tacoma or the Camry off the puck, and Blueger spun around to make one of the most laser-focused, nifty passes ever to the lone Corolla left in the parking lot.
It’s always nice when the player who starts the breakout gets to finish it, and Garland was sure deserving of it here. Bonus points for the little stick twirl celly after; a go-to move of mine on the rare times I’ve played wing in beer league.
Best Wobbles
After a solid first period where the Canucks doubled CBJ in shots 17-8, it looked like they might have made it past the worst of the problems their terrible road trip created.
But slowly but surely, the weight of seven road games in a row and travelling around a snowstorm started to take over.
J.T. Miller hasn’t had a lot of bad giveaways this season compared to the first half of last year, but today, he served one up on a platter from the half wall after misjudging Quinn Hughes’ distance from him.
Sillinger (who was all over this game for the Jackets) nearly capitalized, but Casey DeSmith clocked him and made a pair of huge saves, including off the rebound on Gaudreau.
This wouldn’t be the last time that DeSmith showed he was by far the most well-rested and freshest Canuck in the lineup.
Miller’s struggles would continue onto his next shift when he took a high sticking penalty against Chinakhov that was so blatant that he didn’t even bother to argue on his way to the box.
Usually, a fiery guy like Miller will at least try to make his case for innocence. But this one was obvious enough that he probably knew it’d be an insult to the ref’s intelligence if he tried.
Best Who??
With Miller in the box, it didn’t take long for the league’s 25th-ranked power play to make the 20th-ranked penalty kill pay. And all it took was parking 6-foot-5 Dmitri Voronkov in front of the net, a player I had to double-check was real and not just two kids in a trench coat.
As his body language after might have indicated, DeSmith’s defenders don’t do him many favours here. On the far-end camera, I count at least four players standing in DeSmith’s line of vision, with Sillinger also nearby as a decoy.
Boqvist notices the wall of humanity in front of him and smartly throws it low, hoping for the deflection, and the super tall guy obliges with a little Rockette kick to boot.
Best anything you can do…
Once again, the Blue Jackets didn’t seem content with playing any kind of hockey that didn’t look like a game of HORSE. So a few minutes after Voronkov’s PPG, Jake Bean gave the Canucks their turn on the power play by hooking Andrei Kuzmenko behind the net.
Maybe no power play unit in hockey was as starved for a goal as the Canucks’ unit, and Elias Pettersson decided to snatch a goalie’s soul in the process.
When Petey receives the pass across from Miller by the right faceoff dot, Merzlikins squares up to the puck rather than Pettersson’s body like he’s supposed to. For a lethal shooter like Pettersson, with the amount of time the Jackets’ defenders gave him, it wouldn’t have mattered.
All those concerns about injuries and cold streaks from earlier in the season sure feel light years behind us now.
Best guilty conscience
Once the Canucks were back in the lead, the refs saw an opportunity to do less work for the same pay and put the whistles away for a long stretch of the second period.
And that’s how Sillinger got away with a blatant slash on Quinn Hughes in the corner, breaking Hughes’ stick directly in front of the ref.
In a rare showing of emotion, Hughes let the ref hear it, snapping his stick the whole way through as the play was still ongoing. Then, he placed himself (minus his stick) back in a position near the netfront in a way that would make an anonymous Canucks person want to call Bruce Boudreau with an idea.
Do you know how badly you have to mess up to get Quinn “Huggy Bear” Hughes yelling at you?
He’s going to have an extra long nap on the plane right home after this.
Best Chopped Hög
The slash on Hughes started leading to a bunch of liberties from both sides of the ice, and the referees might’ve let it all go had it not been for Damon Severson trying to decapitate Nils Höglander.
Höglander puts his arm high into Severson’s back just above the jersey namebar and gives him a ride into the boards, prompting Severson to spin around and chop Höglander across the face like a guy scraping ice off his frozen windshield.
Was it a deliberate attempt to injure? We can’t know for sure, but from the force Severson uses, it sure looked like a red mist moment.
Best Giant Warnings
By the time the second drew to a close, Columbus had completely erased the massive shot differential from the first and was firmly in the driver’s seat.
If the Canucks were a car, the empty gas tank light had already come on before Nikita Zadorov crosschecked Chinakhov into next week to give Columbus a late power play.
Then while killing Zadorov’s penalty off, Bash Brother #2 Tyler Myers got his stick tangled up in Adam Fantilli’s legs and earned his own ticket to the sin bin, forcing the Canucks to end the period on an extended PK.
The Jackets couldn’t convert on either penalty, but it did help stretch an already energy-depleted group even more thin, setting the table for a gruelling third period.
Best Times Have Changed
Best the bill always comes due
Let’s be clear: this game would’ve been over sooner if not for DeSmith’s heroics in the final 40 minutes.
Columbus really pressed the issue with some weird shots on goal, including this one from Kirill Marchenko in the dying seconds of the middle frame.
Then, in the third period, a low shot off the stick of a trailing Chinakhov couldn’t beat DeSmith through the wickets.
By the time it was all said and done, DeSmith ended up with a 41-save performance, an effort deserving of two points on its own and further proof that the Canucks’ roster has never been deeper.
For all his efforts, sadly, today would not officially conclude as the “DeSmith Game.”
Best …almost
Of the few chances the Canucks had in the third period, this one stands out, when Elias Pettersson deflected this Hughes shot that Merzlikins just barely gets a piece of and knocks into the corner.
Best Flood
The dam finally burst with five minutes to go.
The much fresher legs of the Jackets took over and hemmed the Canucks in, forcing repeated failed clearing attempts and multiple turnovers. Huffing and puffing like me lifting any weight over 20 pounds, the Nils Åman line, Zadorov and Cole, got stuck on a long shift as CBJ’s third line of Jack Roslovic, Voronkov, and Marchenko pounced.
It wasn’t a great night for Cole, who failed two clearing attempts on the late game-tying goal sequence.
Voronkov’s hook shot from the goal line wasn’t the nicest one that DeSmith has ever let in, but it came after several five-alarm saves he’d already held out, making the goal a tough one for Canucks fans to accept.
Best hanging on for dear life
The Blue Jackets nearly took the whole enchilada in regulation, registering a high volume of late scoring chances that had the Canucks clinging on to DeSmith’s coattails, just hoping they could make it out of Ohio with a single point.
After every close call save, DeSmith seemed to say, “I’ve still got one more in me,” like a cop nearing retirement who’s getting too old for this, singlehandedly guaranteeing the Canucks an “at least you tried!” point.
Best greedy
If you thought the late stages of this game were chaos, overtime was that, but on Adderall.
Trust me, I would know.
First, DeSmith saves his teammates’ bacon with a perfectly timed poke check on Adam Boqvist.
Then Pettersson took advantage of a blown tire, and Kuzmenko—who had a quietly strong game despite zero points to show for it—showed off his fuel reserves to beat the Jacket’s defenders only to struggle in getting a real shot away.
Then, lo and behold, a break!
The Blue Jackets got caught with too many men on the ice, giving the Canucks a 4-on-3 power play in OT. But even that was shortlived, as 40 seconds into the man advantage, EP40 made an extraordinarily rare mistake, tripping up Cole Sillinger to negate the Canucks’ power play.
Even though Pettersson did what any good Tate McRae fan would do in his shoes, it’s still a penalty in the eyes of the NHL.
Despite the trip, Sillinger was still able to get a good chance on the breakout, taking a backhand shot while colliding with a backchecking Hughes that DeSmith barely got his toe on.
From there, the Jackets got a few decent chances to run the clock out, but nothing dangerous enough to prevent us from needing a shootout.
Best Just Let It End
After 65 minutes of hockey, the Canucks were completely out of gas.
They were exhausted, fighting off every urge to curl up on the bench and take a nap, and absolutely worn out after two weeks of heavy hitting, long flights and insane travel through an East Coast winter.
Before they could embrace the sweet release of comfort in their own beds, a nice book and maybe a warm cup of tea with loved ones by their side. They had a shootout to take care of.
First, Gaudreau nearly slid the puck through DeSmith to start, but DeSmith was able to close the door just in the nick of time.
For his try, Kuzmenko charged down the middle with considerable speed and head fakes but no dice.
Chinakhov tried what can only be described as ‘the Diet J.T. Miller,’ but his shot barely registered on DeSmith.
Then J.T. Miller did “the Diet JT,” too, and it didn’t work either!
Adam Johnson tried to deke out DeSmith but ran out of room.
Then Petey, dear sweet running-on-fumes Petey, couldn’t get much on his usually lethal snap shot.
Marchenko finally cracked the goose egg with an admittedly slick Kucherov ‘no shot’ move that DeSmith never saw coming.
Pius Suter tried to keep the tired Canucks alive with his shootout attempt, but Merzlikins stuffed him, then celebrated like he’s just sent the Jackets to the Stanley Cup Final.
Some people will see that celly and think, “You won a game in January, and you’re happy about that? Pathetic.” But let me phrase it to you in a different way.
When was the last time that beating the Canucks was a big accomplishment for a basement-dwelling team? When was the last time keeping Vancouver in a close game and coming out on top felt like the Stanley Cup for their opponents? This outcome might be thanks to some bad weather and a lot of jet lag, but to Merzlikins and his teammates, this was their championship. This was a big game and a big result.
When you’re sitting on the throne, teams will rejoice when they knock you off of it. It might not be a good feeling right now, but no one is excited about beating the bad teams.
Only being one of the best can make that moment.
Best Scavenger Hunt
Last season, I started a new game called the “Stanchies Scavenger Hunt” as a way of getting Canucks fans in other NHL cities more involved in all the fun we have here.
Here are the basic rules: I mark a location in or around an opposing team’s arena and ask fans to get a picture with it. We did it only twice last year, sending people to find statues of Wild Wing (Anaheim) and Michael Jordan (Chicago), and since I loved seeing the pictures that came through so much, I wanted to bring them back today.
Today, I asked fans to find the infamous Columbus cannon, and Cody Sweet came through just like he did on the first prompt last season.

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