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Instant Reaction: Kuzmenko-less Vancouver Canucks lose tightly-contesed game to Blues 2-1

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Photo credit:© Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
David Quadrelli
5 months ago
Welcome back to Instant Reaction — the series here at CanucksArmy where we give you our instant reaction to the game and ask our readers to do the same in the comments section below! Wyatt Arndt will have The Stanchies out later tonight and Mike Liu will be posting The Statsies — CA’s analytics-based post game report — published tomorrow morning.
The Canucks may have been coming off of a win, but if you heard their head coach talk this morning, you’d think this was a team in need of a bounce back performance.
“When you’re up 5-0, teams sometimes let [their] foot off the gas,” Tocchet said this morning. “I understand some of it, but I think we just got away from our game. You know, our forecheck wasn’t there. When you don’t forecheck and you’re standing around and then they start blowing the zone, that’s when they start taking over the game. If you’re late, then you gotta get out and make sure you’re above people, so I think we were caught in between because of the lead, and then all of a sudden, Ottawa makes a game out of it. It’s a learning lesson for our group — you just got to make sure that you stay in your game for 60 minutes.”
The Canucks put it in cruise control after taking a 5-0 lead in the first period of that game, and as Tocchet said, their lackadaisical play in the final 40 minutes of play let Ottawa make a game of it. The players weren’t happy either, and it was clear they’d be looking to put in a better effort to kick off their road trip in St. Louis tonight.
We saw a line shakeup ahead of tonight’s game, which meant, naturally, it was the Dakota Joshua-Teddy Blueger-Conor Garland trio that opened the scoring for the Canucks early on.
Some key shot blocks on the penalty kill from Noah Juulsen and Dakota Joshua and strong goaltending from Thatcher Demko kept St. Louis off the board through the first 20 minutes of play. And we of course need to mention this play from Ian Cole:
Roughly 4 and a half minutes into the second period, Colton Parayko scored to tie things up at one apiece.
This was a tightly contested game through and through, and aside from each team taking a penalty in the second period — and of course the Parayko goal — the middle frame wasn’t very eventful, either.
The third saw more of the same, as this was a tight-checking contest right until the final horn. Before that final horn though, Robert Thomas rifled one after some shoddy defensive zone coverage by the Canucks’ fourth line:
The Canucks pulled Demko with over two minutes remaining as they worked hard to get the road trip started off on the right foot. Nils Höglander was out late during this time, and Nikita Zadorov was parked in front of Jordan Binnington, which I thought was very cool and should be a strategy the Canucks use more often. I’ve been calling for Tyler Myers to be a net front presence on the power play for YEARS, so tonight was some validation for me.
Unfortunately for the Canucks, they came up just short on a night they opened the scoring a league-leading 25th time. 2-1 Blues is your final.
Here are some other thoughts on tonight’s game…
-The Canucks’ top six was bad tonight. They just needed one goal, but the Elias Pettersson and JT Miller lines both looked all out of sorts. Just one. The Canucks just needed one goal from their top six and couldn’t get it. You’re not going to win very often when that’s the case.
-Sam Lafferty is not a top six winger.
-For the most part, the Canucks’ fourth line provided some energy tonight and played a relatively safe game — until they didn’t. That being said, there were a couple instances where they failed to finish after doing good work to get themselves in some prime spots. It may have been nice to have Andrei Kuzmenko in the lineup.
-Speaking of Kuzmenko, this was a very good point by Josh Elliott-Wolfe on Twitter:
We know the issues Tocchet has with Kuzmenko’s game, and it makes plenty of sense that all of Kuzmenko’s scratches this season have come while the Canucks are on the road.
The question now is, how many more of the Canucks’ remaining six games on this road trip will Kuzmenko sit for? The Canucks can’t possibly justify keeping Nils Aman and Linus Karlsson in the lineup ahead of him for back-to-back games, right?
What’s your instant reaction? Let us know in the comments section below!

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