Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchies: Boeser’s big night, Demko’s quote, and Kuzmenko’s “ok” return to the Canucks’ lineup
2 months ago
With the Canucks 3-1 defeat of the Mightiest Ducks in all of Anaheim in the books, normally I would launch into a ton of Team Iceland references, and then dive deep into the bullshit life philosophy about how if the puck had gone a quarter inch the other way, you’d have missed the post entirely.
(After having experienced Nathan Lafayette’s post, I still find this to be the most egregious moment in Disney history. I don’t know how whoever wrote the dialogue for that scene sat back, looked up at the sky and went “Yep, nailed it.” but I would dearly like to discuss it with them one day.)
But when I’m at the arena we don’t have time to play around in the intro. All I can tell you is that Faber does indeed rock out to Creed when it comes on the speakers, Kevin Woodley bops his head along to Tsunami when the Canucks get a power play, and I arch an eyebrow and do a little shoulder shimmy when Abba’s Gimme Gimme Gimme bursts out of the speakers.
Also, fun fact, they lock the soda drinks fridge at night (fair policy, I am not disputing that) which means I made the mistake of not grabbing two drinks at the start of the game. Much like the Canucks’ second period, I had to make several adjustments to raise my game and get through this article.
So while it wasn’t the most entertaining game I’ve ever witnessed (I cannot emphasize enough how dreary that second period was) it ended with a burst of energy normally reserved for a child eating cotton candy for the first time.
Shall we begin?
Let’s make some gif money.
Best line combinations
I am convinced the Canucks put Ian Cole and Cole McWard together so we could all get confused when talking about Cole/McWard the pairing, or Cole McWard the person.
“Cole McWard was fine in the game, but I was actually impressed with how Cole/McWard handled the game as it went on.”
Best slow gains
Sometimes I write The Stanchies and the first period is just a handful of really small, seemingly insignificant gifs that reference some storylines that play a bigger factor as the game wears on. It’s like creating my own multiverse where it all comes together in the final act.
And it’s also what happens when two teams find their legs (or whatever body part you want to use for the metaphor), as neither team has really hit their stride right away.
So, for instance, in this clip, Ilya Mikheyev, still trying to find his thighs, has what looks to be a decent wraparound chance to start the game:
Nothing too amazing. Certainly not a gif you’d pay top dollar for on the streets.
But when we look at the DNA of the gif, we see strands of the future.
The Elias Pettersson/Mikheyev/Kuzmenko line has come under fire in several ways as of late, with EP40 being diagnosed by the world’s best Twitter doctors for injuries, and with Rick Tocchet using what appears to be the tough love approach on Kuzemnko with the two healthy scratches.
Well this first clip shows all three players engaged in the play, winning battles, and creating scoring chances, playing perhaps their best game in several weeks. They are not innocent bystanders here, oh no, they are mean-spirited jerks trying to ruin the nights of several young Anaheim defencemen.
So yes, while the game was tedious for 40 minutes, these three players still factored into the game in a way they haven’t done much of as of late, which is a good sign for a team that needs more from half of their top six.
Best Fil The Thrill
I’m going to go ahead and give a spoiler alert for forty minutes of this game. The Canucks had twelve shots through two periods but they led in high danger chances seven to four. Which if you’re a conspiracy theorist and/or Theo Fleury, you might think the Canucks are trying to juice their PDO to prove all the naysayers wrong.
“You don’t think we can win a game with under 10 shots? Challenge accepted.”
So yes, chalk this game up as one of those experiences that can frustrate a hockey team that gains an edge in offensive zone time but ends up having very little to show for it. No goals, no shots, but a handful of good chances.
One such chance that didn’t result in a shot was this smart read by Hronek where he jumped up into the play to create the turnover:
Now that pass was mostly fueled by hopes and dreams, but sometimes you just have to go for it Sean McDermott. Sometimes it’s ok to do that. Notice how Hronek didn’t just kneel on the ice to end the game, and I don’t care if this metaphor is losing steam.
It also points out a nice trend we’ve noticed this season of the Canucks being the team that’s making smart reads and utilizing well-timed pinches correctly.
Instead of having OEL pinch into the offensive zone, and while being buried under the weight of his contract, watch helplessly as he gave up a 2 on 1, we now see players like Hronek and Hughes going full DaRon Bland and creating offensive chances off of their takeaways.
Best 30 in 30 Brock
Because it sounds like a 30 for 30 doc, you see:
Yes, Brock Boeser scoring in their Hockey Fights Cancer game is the kind of stuff that makes you put aside all your petty gripes with sports and just sort of take in the moment.
After almost being scratched last season for this game, it’s impossible not to sit back and just enjoy a human moment as Boeser scores on a night that hits so close to home for him.
As for the goal itself, every single player on the ice partook in this goal, but you know who stands out the most on this one for me?
Jimothy Timothy Miller.
When JT Miller is in full Rip Wheeler mode, I don’t know if there is a more fun player to watch. Body parts flailing, driving hard and fast wherever he goes, the guy just makes hockey look cool and badass. He gets that Scott Hall machismo oozing out of him.
Like, there is nothing small about his game when he’s like this. There is no intellectual Sedin elegance about his play, he’s just straight up smash mouth hockey, and the primal part of your soul can’t help but grunt and want to drink some beer when he’s on like this.
Speaking of Smash Mouth, have you ever wondered if you could recite the lyrics to All Star in one go without making a mistake?
Something to ponder.
Best Nearly Nils
This was one of those games the Canucks win where people will kind of go, “Sure, they won, but it shouldn’t have been that hard, right?” and you know what? I’m going to give the Ducks some credit in this one. They played the Canucks tough and forced Vancouver to come up with some adjustments to finally beat them.
But you want some smash mouth hockey? Well they have you covered:
OK so I am now realizing I screen capped my writing down the time of this hit and you know what, if I can put the Canucks on blast for their mistakes, I can do the same for myself.
Complete amateur hour on my part and I would healthy scratch myself if I were the coach. Inexcusable effort on that gif.
Hopefully I bounce back like Nils Aman did on this hit. To Nils’s credit, he ate that hit and shockingly, shockingly, nobody on the Canucks tried to hunt down
number 26 Brock McGinn for daring to get physical in a game of hockey.
Best ok performance
In my eyes, Kuzmenko had a very tight game. As Tocchet stated previously, he’s fine with Kuzmenko trying out his spins, but just pick your spots. Don’t go spinning into three guys, just try and contain to one or two.
So in relation to that ideology, I felt Kuzmenko had a game that was very focused on generating scoring chances:
In this clip, he does his one spin, and instead of shying away from the center of the ice, or holding onto the puck too long (something Tocchet also appears to dislike), he passes quickly into the slot where Mikheyev has dropped back to give himself room for a shot.
It’s a quick smart play that should, at the very least, make Rick Tocchet give a lukewarm assessment of Kuzmenko’s game merely being “ok.”
Best all the small things
Hard work pays off, dreams come true. Bad times don’t last, but BAD GUYS do:
Much like Hronek’s earlier read, this one also results in the Canucks securing a takeaway and generating a dangerous shot attempt on net.
Even better than the shot? Ryan Strome yeeting himself off the screen when he misses the puck. He’s like George Costanza landing a big laugh and just calling it quits for the day.
Best Hughes your daddy
The next three highlights are silly shenanigans but what else do you expect on a Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks who were previously mighty but are now merely fowl:
I don’t know what starts angry online hockey fight more, debating slew foots or how much credit to give a goalie for a huge save (“He shot it RIGHT at him bro, come on”), so I will just sidestep that part of this clip and just say how delightful it is that we have this random ice level camera set up for games.
The odds of them utilizing clips from this camera must be incredibly low so that when they do get a chance to use it, the production team must get so excited.
Also can we name this kind of footage as being shot with the Carlo Colaiacovo Cam?
Best next level defense
Elias Pettersson heard your concerns. He heard your talk of him losing a step. Of him being hurt. Of him not being the superstar player you all expect him to be.
Well he is here to remind you, he doesn’t even need to be holding his stick to defend on the penalty kill:
Conventional wisdom says EP40’s stick broke and that was just a solid case of non-Cusack-based serendipity, but the high level thinkers realize Elias is out here playing 4D chess.
You know what doesn’t need a healthy groin to block passes? A discarded stick.
Best textbook crashing the net
They don’t call Phil Di the Professor of Pressure for nothing. Not only is he one of the best forecheckers on the Canucks, he also knows the correct way to take out the goalie “by accident”:
He’s just skating and lost an edge, that’s all! Happens all the time. Kolvoord Starbursts are very hard to pull off for a reason.
The only goalie who can counter that? Mike Smith.
He would have flung his helmet 10 feet in the air before Phil had even slid into him, and then he would have spun around in a circle 8 times, spraying fake blood all over the ice before crumpling to the ground with just the right amount of moan to mournful wail ratio to really drive home how fake hurt he was.
The good news is John Gibson would not take this collision personally, would not in any way harbour a grudge, nor would he fester with it the entire second period, before taking his anger out on someone else in the third period.
Best that’s what you think
That you saw. A good detective remains hidden in the background until he unveils your crimes at a fancy dinner party.
For the record, he finished with just under 10 minutes of ice time. I’m not sure I saw him once. Which as cliche as it sounds, is the perfect way for a young defenseman to debut on the season.
You can always tell a Milford Man.
Best drilling into the details
I just wanted to make some money off of this gif.
Best pass it forward
The Canucks power play went 1 for 4 on the night and didn’t look particularly angry or threatening, but it did showcase once again how Quinn Hughes might be really good at hockey:
I know Chris Tanev was the guy Kevin Bieksa once dubbed as someone who should play with a cigarette in his mouth because he looks so cool and calm out there, but maybe we should update the metaphor out of the Mad Men era?
Because I tell you, Quinn Hughes makes hockey look so incredibly easy. Look at the way he collects the puck and just dances right around his check before making the perfect breakaway pass. He almost looks bored doing it. He looks like he feels sorry that the Anaheim Ducks think they can check him.
He might as well have played with a CBD gummy in his mouth. He looked so cool and calm and ok let’s just stick with the cigarette.
Best give credit where it’s due
When you make the Ducks’ 25th ranked powerplay look lethally efficient, yeah, it could be time to have a little chat about the penalty killing:
I think the Ducks played this well. Made some smart passes, broke the Canucks’ diamond down, got Ian Cole chasing, which opened up room for Ryan Strome to magically reappear in the game and score the Ducks’ lone goal of the night.
It’s also a pretty nice shot from Strome as well.
But yes, I do understand that letting the Ducks’ paltry power play score isn’t a great look, but yeah, I’m feeling positive tonight, I think we can tell Anaheim they did a good job on that one.
And look, Tyler Myers made a save mere moments later on a rare bad rebound from Demko to make up for the Canucks’ blunder on the PK:
So sure, it was 22 shots to 9 at this point in Anaheim’s favour, and yes that shot hit the crossbar, but you know what? A quarter inch to the left and that misses the net completely.
Makes you think, right?
Best standing up for Chaos
Tyler Myers has earned a reputation in this city that will be hard to get out from under, so anytime he makes a mistake, you’ll get that “Not AGAIN Tyler!” like a disapproving mother wondering why her son can’t throw out the garbage like she asked.
But as Tocchet said in the post game scrum, he’s been very happy with Myers’s game. And look, you can see how hard he is working to curb those chaotic giraffe instincts:
You can almost see the exact moment where his heart breaks and he knows he can’t pinch along the boards for that puck. He physically stops himself from jumping up into the play to try and keep the puck in the zone.
Instead, he merely skates back and gets into position. Playing boring, safe hockey, in the most un-giraffe-like way possible.
Best second period summary
Not even the good empty calories, either. There was no sugar involved. Just a lot of confused looks at the shot attempts and not once, not once did I think to myself, “I better get a drink before they lock that fridge.”
The best shift of the second period that kind of gave the fans hope was once again led by Garland and his forechecking demons as they finally generated good zone time as the second period was coming to a close:
Garland, who spins the correct way, manages to maintain possession of the puck and feed it to his linemates several times on this shift. Dakota Joshua drives the puck to the net hard and just after the clip cuts off, he sends in a pass that is tipped on net by Dakota as well.
Garland remains in that “will he or won’t he” mode where nobody knows if he’s going to be traded or if he even wants to leave now that the team is winning, but he is without a doubt one of the team’s best board players, which has really shone through this season.
Best cameo featuring an angry goalie
Oh hey, you want to punch Andrei Kuzmenko instead of focusing on Elias Pettersson? That feels like a bad plan:
Kuzmenko is actually quite good at getting near the crease, but never actually impeding it. He’s the kind of guy who would point a finger inches from your nose while saying loudly, “I’m not touching you,” over and over again until you get angry enough to hit him before you realize he’s the world’s happiest person and you feel shame for ever thinking of raising a hand against him.
But here, he finds himself very much in the blue paint, and perhaps due to that earlier collision, John Gibson isn’t in a very giving mood (or I guess he is), so he decides, “hey I better punch this affable Russian fellow instead of tending my net,” and before you know it, Elias Pettersson is slamming home the wraparound.
Asked about the goal after the game EP40 said he had no idea that said punching was going on; he was just trying to focus on driving the puck hard to the net, which he clearly did.
Which hey, if you’re Andrei Kuzmenko and you go to the crease hard enough to make the other goalie punch you, that feels like that would garner a better result than a merely “ok” rating from the Coach, but Tocchet is out here giving 3 stars out of 5 for Kuzmenko’s delivery service on DoorDash.
Biggest yikes moment
Elias Pettersson’s post game scrum was pretty by the numbers, but when asked about the hitting part of his game, his eyes lit up.
“I mean, it’s fun. I wish I was a little heavier earlier in my career. Sometimes I get pretty mad out there and I want to throw hits.”
Asked about his favourite part about hitting?
“Laying guys out.”
Which then caused the entire media scrum to burst into laughter because, let me tell you, anytime a player seems to enjoy himself in the scrum even a tiny bit, we in the media grasp onto it like a man dying of thirst finding water in the desert. It’s honestly a remarkably weird energy where we know the players probably don’t want to be doing this, and we know it’s just part of our job, so anytime a player shows the tiniest sliver of “hey this ain’t so bad,” everyone sort of high fives and hugs each other while a mission accomplished banner drops from the sky.
But I digress.
This question was brought up because the big hit Elias threw in the game almost saw a skate hit him in the head:
It’s scary stuff, especially considering what happened with Adam Johnson, and it feels like we are just seeing the beginning of the conversation around neck and head safety in regards to being cut by skates.
Best ballroom blitz
Hey look at that. Garland doing good work along the boards generates a shot that Blueger almost wraps into a goal:
Rick Tocchet discussed how the team changed up its strategy in the third period, and it certainly seemed like getting the puck off of their stick quicker was a big element of this, as the Canucks continued to generate chances with quick puck movement:
Nils Aman fires that pass off immediately instead of circling the net or finding “the perfect shot/pass” which seemed to help the Canucks generate more chances against the Ducks, and certainly more shots than the first 40 minutes.
The Canucks ended the third with 15 shots, compared to 12 from the first two periods.
The Ducks? They got 4 in the third.
If that feels like a team metaphorically sitting up in their chair to take the game seriously, you would be correct.
Best chaos blast
Of all the people it had to be Tyler Myers:
Tocchet said after the game the X-rays came back negative, which is good news as it looked like Mikheyev could barely put any weight on his left leg as he left the ice.
It’s always scary to see a player struggle to get back to their feet, especially on a knee that previously had surgery, but without knowing any details, all you can do is hope for the player’s sake that it’s a very bad, no-good bruise.
And because Tyler Myers has that reputation, people of course chalked it up to CG57 being CG57 which isn’t a fair assessment, but it’s how sports works. You think I enjoy always being known as the most handsome writer in Vancouver? These are just some of life’s burdens.
I also can’t think of many things I would enjoy less in life than having Tyler Myers get absolutely every single inch of a shot as he rocketed it in my general direction.
Best ok drive to the net
He’s trying! Kuzmenko is trying! He’s basically driving to Tsawwassen, it’s an ok drive!
He goes hard to the net, he makes a quick decision, this is a very ok hockey play!
Best killing them softly with his song
The Canucks killed off this penalty, but the main thing I want to highlight is this faceoff play JT Miller seems to run frequently:
We saw it on a 5 on 3 kill earlier in the season, and it’s where he draws the puck to his corner and then retrieves it himself while his teammates set small picks that they pray won’t get called.
It’s a very smart play, and it works, but man alive it feels like Pettersson is flirting heavily across the bar at an interference penalty on that faceoff.
Best most exciting part of the game
The loudest the building got was when they realized they dodged a bullet when the Ducks hit the post (quarter of an inch the other way, that misses completely), and got the two on one the other way.
Conversely, the quietest the crowd got was when EP40 pulled up and it became clear he wasn’t going to shoot. In his own words, he was thinking pass the entire way, but that crowd had manifested the idea that he was going to go bar down on that play, and when it didn’t materialize, everyone just sort of sat down quietly to watch it play out.
And despite the Ducks playing that two on one very well, Garland still almost had the tap in goal on the pass from EP40.
But we leave empty net goals to one man around here.
Best finish them!
Brock Boeser is dialling in these long-distance shots like a young Loui Eriksson:
The best exchange after the game came in the form of an empty net shoutout to Loui, when Brock was asked about his empty net prowess this season:
“Did you pick up any tricks from Loui?”
“Oh yeah, I should shoot him a text.”
Best in his own words
Best hard love, soft love
Best cotton candy energy
You can’t tell me this didn’t inspire that third period energy burst.
Best and now for two completely unrelated things
You may have noticed Anthony Beauvillier wasn’t mentioned once in The Stanchies tonight. And I will resist the urge to make the “how would you even know he was missing if you watched the game??” joke because we’re above that. And to be honest, Beauvillier had been playing better as of late.
But that cap hit meant he had an impossible hill to climb in front of him, because there are two universal truths in the NHL: A high salary cap and low point production puts a target on your back. And you don’t win friends with salad.
And in isolation, this is very much a winning trade for the Canucks. Not having to add a sweetener to shed salary cap is about as good as it gets at time in the NHL’s current financial landscape. It’s a bit like Starbucks getting your order right during the morning rush and it feeling like a huge win; It shouldn’t be that low of a bar, but you know what, you take your wins where you can.
Now, people are of course doing the six degrees of Kevin Bacon on the deal. Tracking back to what was ACTUALLY traded for Bo Horvat. Or what was lost by holding onto Beauvillier’s cap space during the off-season. And while I honestly think there is a lot of merit to be had in that kind of discussion, I just don’t have it in me to partake in it right now.
Again, you are not incorrect to wonder what the Canucks could have done differently, or how they managed the Horvat trade. But after surviving the Benning years, I’m just going to ride this one for what it is right now, a small victory from a team that has in the past struggled heavily to jettison large contracts.
Will the Canucks invest heavily in another Dan Milstein client perhaps as soon as possible? Do they have other plans for that space? It’s pretty clear the Canucks are going to invest heavily in this season, and fair effs to them for going for it (to an extent), but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
For now? It’s just nice to see a team utilizing a process that makes sense. Because even if the team thought they had something more in Beauvillier when they traded for him, it’s a nice change of pace to see them correct paths midstream.
Again, low bar. But it is what it is.
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