Photo credit:Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchies: Boeser’s twofer, Hughes for Hart, and moral victory SZN after 4-3 loss to San Jose
3 months ago
The Vancouver Canucks are DEAD!
That’s right! DEAD TIRED after losing to the San Jose Sharks in the second leg of a back-to-back!
A second leg that followed a late flight from Seattle to Oakland before a late bus ride from Oakland to San Jose due to NHL flight/travel rules.
The players looked gassed, made mistakes, and struggled to generate offence until the few brief moments when they didn’t!
Though few, those brief lapses of “wagon hockey” saw Vancouver look every bit like the second-best team in the Pacific Division. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough of those lapses, resulting in the team dropping a disappointing 4-3 regulation loss to the worst team in the NHL.
I promise I won’t be too negative through this one. But the team really didn’t give me much to work with!
Let’s get into it and [GIF money-related comment deleted due to persistent CanucksArmy commenter’ outrage].
Best available lineup
Fortunately, Wyatt got to cover the initial Andrei Kuzmenko scratch this time around.
Ironically, my Stanchies debut last season came when ex-gaffer Bruce Boudreau scratched the team’s third-leading goalscorer due to a run of poor defensive play and dismal underlying possession stats at 5-on-5.
Kuzmenko wasn’t scratched again under Boudreau. The team couldn’t afford to leave one of its most potent goalscorers out of the lineup, especially as its playoff hopes fell further and further out of reach. Two straight scratches from Rick Tocchet is quite the message sent to Kuzmenko.
The 27-year-old Russian on a $5.5-million-dollar ticket for this season and next is on track to score 13 goals, a far cry from his 39 scored last season.
Certainly a start!
The game began with Filip Hronek refusing to play a high-sticked puck in the d-zone, prompting the referee to quite audibly tell him, “It will be a d-zone faceoff if you don’t play the puck.”
It was weird.
The Canucks’ first line of J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser, and Anthony Beauvillier then spent a cool two minutes hemmed inside the d-zone, colliding with each other in the slot, trying to follow their assignments.
Perhaps it was the quick turnaround, but the offensive phenom that is Nico Sturm caused considerable problems for the Canucks in the early goings of the first period. Noah Juulsen, who has fairly/unfairly drawn the bulk of the fanbase’s ire for his play, missed a critical poke check while defending a Sturm rush chance. Fortunately, Juulsen recovered to pressure Sturm enough that he whiffed on his scoring chance.
The best chance for Vancouver came off a tremendous forechecking effort from Dakota Joshua that allowed Teddy Blueger to steal the puck from behind the net of Kappo Kahkonen to spark a scoring chance for Conor Garland.
Momentum appeared to be in Vancouver’s favour when Sam Lafferty tipped in a pass from Ilya Mikheyev over Kahkonen’s shoulder.
Unfortunately, the officiating team heard the collective cries of the goalie guild.
Lafferty clipped the edge of Kahkonen’s left skate when pacing through the crease, resulting in a NO GOAL due to interference.
Again, it was a weird start. Probably expected, given the hail-mary 3rd-period effort required to beat the Seattle Kraken the previous night.
But it was the San. Jose. Sharks…
Best “For your consideration”
If I accomplish one thing this season as Stanchies backup guy, it’s to get “Hughes for Hart Trophy” discussed as much as “Hughes for Norris.”
After six minutes of looking thoroughly underwhelming against a bottom-tier opponent, Quinn Hughes capitalized on a Mike Hoffman turnover in the offensive zone for an end-to-end skate that even the BEST analytics models would be forced to acknowledge as truth.
The separation speed.
The deke to the backhand.
The five-hole attempt.
In Vancouver, we know how perpetually obsessed the league is with the likes of Cale Makar, Victor Hedman, and Roman Josi. When Hughes was up for the Calder, not once did “team quality” come into consideration.
Pretty easy to nab the awards when you’re playing for an absolute wagon from day 1.
Hughes has had to overcome criticisms of size, skating, facial hair growth, and then some just to earn a shred of credit for his skill. Throughout his rookie year, it was always, “Yeah, but what is he like without Tanev?” As if he wasn’t single-handedly changing how the Vancouver Canucks played hockey.
Makar throws hits, shoots right-handed, and scores double-digit goals for a wagon, and will undoubtedly be the frontrunner for the Norris.
Again, pretty easy to nab the awards when your wagon-of-a-team can capitalize on your rebounds generated at will.
Heck, Makar even acknowledged how integral Hughes is to the Canucks success this season while speaking on After Hours with Scott Oake!
I almost hate to disappoint our readers by showing what happened in the follow-up to Hughes’ scoring chance that created a rebound opportunity.
Oh, Philip. That’s a tough one.
Look, it was a dogs**t ten minutes of hockey from Vancouver to start this one. But Pettersson’s play with and without the puck stood out like a sore thumb.
Cross-ice passes like this were tape-to-tape every single time at the start of the season.
Remember when Pettersson was bodying guys in the neutral zone?
No chance he misses a check on Mikael Granlund like this if he’s 100% healthy.
Even simple things like carrying the puck over the blue line have looked laboured. Quinn Hughes (again, for your Hart Trophy consideration) recovered on Pettersson’s misplay in the neutral zone that sent Granlund into the zone to ice a tape-to-tape rink-wide feed to Pettersson on the opposing blue line.
Rather than gain the zone and rifle a shot on net, Pettersson missed the puck and had to opt for another missed cross-ice feed to Mikheyev, crashing the crease.
A bizarre start for Vancouver, with shades of last season, but they had their fun as the game progressed.
Best *Simpsons collar tug sound*
Like I said, the first ten minutes? Pretty lame, Milhouse!
At the midway point of the period, the Canucks were caught chasing the Sharks’ cycle to no avail. A five-man screen formed in front of Casey DeSmith comprised of Vancouver and San Jose skaters, allowing Ty Emberson to rifle the puck from the point over his right shoulder.
San Jose Goal—1-0 Sharks: Ty Emberson from Tomas Hertl and Mike Hoffman
Off the reset, the Ian Cole and Noah Juulsen pairing continued to struggle at evens. While holding possession in the neutral zone, Cole went coast to coast for a pass to his partner, Juulsen, only for him to be playing way back in the neutral zone on the defensive.
Rick Tocchet has repeatedly stated that he wants his team to play “forward hockey.” That’s aggressive hockey through the neutral zone to deny entry attempts that spark entries in their favour.
As a journeyman tweener defenceman who is not fleet of foot, that’s a tough system for a player like Juulsen to thrive in. Defending the rush and gap control is challenging for d-men who aren’t quick on the retreat. The lack of confidence to activate inside the offensive zone alongside his d-partner is unfortunate for Juulsen. In my view, Juulsen plays fine, safe, boring hockey.
But an offensive zone possession with Miller, Beauvillier, and Boeser cycling the puck can’t die because of one player’s desire for risk-aversion while trailing to the San Jose Sharks.
Because I know the majority won’t believe me when I say Juulsen plays safe, boring hockey. Here’s a clip of him denying an entry to spark a Canucks zone entry from Nils Höglander.
Mercifully, after trailing the San Jose Sharks for six consecutive minutes while looking completely out of it, the Canucks drew a penalty against Kyle Burroughs and did their thang.
The penalty wasn’t for the high stick that shattered Höglander’s teeth in plain view of the ref.
But for a hold along the half-wall moments later.
[Commentary on referee competency has been deleted due to a violation of NationNetwork’s terms of service]
Alas, on the “two defencemen” first power play unit, Hronek scored a squeaker on Kahkonen off a pass from none other than Hughes.
Vancouver Goal—1-1 Tie: Filip Hronek from J.T. Miller and Quinn Hughes
The assist on Hronek’s goal gave Hughes the lead for “most points in a month by a defenceman in Vancouver Canucks franchise history,” surpassing Dennis Kearns’ 21 points in March of 1977.
A reminder to see the above section titled “For your consideration.”
Worst “I could’ve been watching Christmas Movies tonight…”
I paused watching Home Alone with my wife to begin the Stanchies write-up.
Boy, I would have rather watched Daniel Stern step on a nail, get a spider dropped on his face, and stomp glass ornaments with the might of 10,000 men on a loop than the start of the second period.
Good lord, it sucked.
The first ten minutes saw both teams try to nurse their nonexistent one-goal lead, combining for an exhilarating five shots on net.
Conor Garland mucked it up with Givani Smith after a whistle at one point. That was something.
The Pettersson-Mikheyev-Lafferty line sparked a dangerous chance, their first after having Sam Lafferty’s goal called back due to goaltender interference.
A run of possession from the Joshua-Blueger-Garland trio led to a dangerous wraparound chance from Garland.
Past the midway point of the period, Nils Åman drew a tripping penalty against Marc-Edouard Vlasic to give the Canucks the second power play of the game.
Unfortunately, it was one of those power plays where you wished the penalty had never been drawn in the first place.
Then it was over, and the Sharks made it 2-1 shortly after.
Following a d-zone faceoff loss, the Sharks line of <checks notes>, <checks notes>, and <checks notes> worked the puck around the backboards before finding a wide-open Fabian Zetterlund for the one-timer past DeSmith.
San Jose Goal—2-1 Sharks: Fabian Zetterlund from Tomas Hertl
Worst Jacob Trouba impression
In the final minute of the second period, Tomas Hertl gave the ol’ baseball swing to the back of Hughes’ head, giving Vancouver their third-consecutive power play opportunity.
Worst of all, beyond giving the Canucks a third power play opportunity, Hertl’s penalty gave the fanbase hope when Brock Boeser capitalized on a Hronek rebound to sweep the puck beyond Kahkonen and tie the game at 2-apiece.
Vancouver Goal—2-2 tie: Brock Boeser from Filip Hronek and Quinn Hughes
The Joshua-Blueger-Garland trio then rallied in the dying seconds of the period to extend the Canucks lead but somehow drew offsetting minor penalties to close the middle frame.
Dakota Joshua—number 81, bottom left—took a roughing penalty for this late sequence that saw him take three crosschecks to the back from Tomas Hertl.
Worst…ah, who cares
The Canucks held the game to a tie for 22 seconds to start the third period.
Mikael Granlund sliced and diced through the neutral zone like he was a giga-fed Renekton staring down an under-levelled Miss Fortune defending the final inhibitor while her AFK teammates sat in the base.
Translation for the non-League of Legends players: Mikael Granlund cruised through the neutral zone toward Casey DeSmith completely uncontested, as if every Canuck skater was just waiting for the game to be over.
San Jose goal—3-2 Sharks: Mikael Granlund from Calen Addison and Mario Ferraro
Adding insult to injury, Tyler Myers took a needless high-sticking penalty off the ensuing centre-ice faceoff to hand the Sharks their first power play of the game.
With 12 seconds left on the 4-on-3 man advantage, Mike Hoffman found himself all alone at the side of DeSmith’s net, giving him the easiest tap-in goal to give San Jose a two-goal lead.
San Jose Goal—4-2 Sharks: Mike Hoffman from Mikael Granlund and Calen Addison
Sensing that I’d commented on his lack of physicality, Elias Pettersson drilled San Jose’s Calen Addison with a massive hit along the boards, drawing a dangerous boarding from ex-Canucks GM Jim Benning’s nephew, Matt, sparking a massive line brawl.
My favourite part of the sequence ended up being my favourite part of the game when Pettersson gave Addison the classic, “F*** you gonna do about it?”
Miraculously, the Canucks wound up on the power play after the brawl, but they failed to close the gap. Brock Boeser had the first unit’s best chance, wiring a shot on Kahkonen from the Bo Horvat spot.
DeSmith ripped to the bench for the extra attacker with less than five minutes to go. As DeSmith raced to the bench, Boeser tipped a point shot from Hughes that deflected bizarrely into Kahkonen’s glove.
Though the above tip didn’t go Boeser’s way, he put the Canucks within reach on his seventh shot of the night, tapping in a J.T. Miller rebound from the side of the net.
Vancouver goal—4-2 Sharks: Brock Boeser (2) from J.T. Miller (3) and Elias Pettersson
Boeser’s second of the night tied him with Nikita Kucherov for the league lead in goalscoring, with 15 total.
Maybe it was Pettersson’s hit on Addison that woke up the Canucks’ top players because they came out guns-a-blazin’ for the final home stretch. The club’s leaders played the entirety of the last four minutes, dominating the Sharks while looking for the equalizer.
With 20 seconds left, J.T. Miller had a glorious chance on a Hronek rebound, only to send the puck over the glass.
It was a valiant effort from a dog-tired Canucks team against a dogs*** team after struggling badly through 90% of the hockey game.
Should Patrik Allvin and Jim Rutherford be fired for this? No. Though I admire the above Tweeter’s passion for wanting justice after watching their team lose to the worst team in the NHL.
Best Paterson Points
Except for the Leafs game, the Canucks have been competitive in all of these last ten games.
A tough look, losing to the Sharks, certainly.
But, big picture, the Canucks overcame a tough start, defensive gaffes, and exhaustion to make it interesting. If that high-stick to Höglander gets called properly and the Canucks get a four-minute power play, if Miller doesn’t sky the puck in the dying seconds of the game, maybe Vancouver extends their head-to-head record to 13-straight victories over the Sharks.
Sadly, those bounces weren’t in the cards on Saturday night.
Oh god, is it moral victory season again?
Stanchies road-game jersey botch
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