The Stanchies: Canucks put on an absolute clinic in 5-0 takedown of the Winnipeg Jets

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
1 month ago
I imagine when Rick Tocchet dreams of a perfect game, it would look exactly like what the Vancouver Canucks did to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night. Careless Whisper would be running through his head, and in his mind, he’d be watching his team just squeeze the absolute life out of their opponent with equal measures of puck pursuit and offensive production.
It wasn’t just the fact they dialled up five goals on Connor Hellebuyck, which is impressive in its own right.
It was the fact that they dominated the game from the drop of the puck to the final whistle.
Should we make your grade 8 math teacher proud and get into some numbers?
37 shots compared to 22.
17 high danger chances for the Canucks to the Jets’ 8.
Faceoffs? 56% favouring the Canucks.
Hits? 30 to 24 for Vancouver, with the big ones clearly coming from the Canucks side of things.
The Canucks played North/South hockey like their lives depended upon it. The puck was moved down the ice and onto the Jets’ net at an alarming speed. At one point I had to double check to make sure I hadn’t confused Winnipeg on the schedule with the Sharks.
Now, did the Jets play the night before? Sure. But we’ve seen countless teams in that scenario come in and grind the game down into a defensive battle. To at least put up a fight and look like there might be a chance they could win the hockey game.
Not this night. It felt like there was nothing that was going to stop this Canucks team.
You know how I know Vancouver wasn’t losing this game? Ilya Mikheyev had six shots on the night. He was throwing body checks. He was separating people from the puck. He looked more engaged than I’ve seen him all year.
If I was a betting man, I’d say the Canucks traded for some of Michael Jordan’s “special stuff” at the deadline instead of going for Tyler Toffoli, and to that, I say well played.
The only troubling stat of the night? The 27 minutes of ice time Thatcher Demko was limited to, as he left the game halfway through the second period and didn’t return. This was immediately followed by a prayer circle from the fans, which essentially consisted of people muttering, “I hope he just had to poop his pants like Luongo,” which has now become a strange, unique Vancouver tradition.
Which is also a stark reminder for Vancouver fans that even on a night where every single thing goes their way, there still has to be at least one bad moment. I don’t know why this is the case, but I assume it has something to with someone angering Ullr back in the day, and he’s held a grudge ever since.
So while the entire city waits with bated breath to hear an update on the status of Vezina candidate Thatcher Demko, take solace in the fact the Canucks played the most Rick Tocchet game imaginable and it was extremely effective against a team that just weeks ago had everyone questioning if the Canucks could survive playoff hockey.
Vancouver is now 4-0 during the “death stretch” in which they had to face Anaheim, LA, Vegas, and Winnipeg.
The last game left? The Colorado Avalanche.
A huge challenge? As Mr. Bean would say, “yes.”
But a challenge that now seems far more manageable than it did four games ago.
Maybe the real trades at the deadline were the friends we made along the way.
Best moment of the game where it felt like the Jets might have a chance
The Jets threw a blooper on net that Demko had to make an awkward save on, and then after being run into by Nino Niederreiter, simply dropped his stick and made a save on the rebound:
No indication was given after the game how Demko was hurt, or when it happened during the game, so please allow yourself a few moments to sigh to yourself as you see Demko stretching to make saves and being run into by large human beings using knives strapped to their feet to achieve higher speeds and control on frozen water.
Best playing all the classics
Just over two minutes into the game, Quinn Hughes generated a shot on net that resulted in Nils Höglander getting a between the legs shot off on net, ending with JT Miller tapping in the puck for a goal:
Things I liked about this goal:
  • Ian Cole throwing the Urkel pick when Hughes crosses over to his side of the ice. Ian skates JUST enough in the way of Vlad Namestnikov’s skating lane to cause the Jets player to stop his stride, which gives Quinn Hughes a bit of room to get his shot off. And with Quinn, you give that guy an inch, and before you know it, he’s taken at least six inches. Hey, we’re going with a reasonable metaphor for once.
  • Nearly Nils having the confidence and skill to pull off the shot between the legs. It’s a massive game against a big opponent and Höglander is just like “yeah sure, let’s try this out.”
  • JT Miller tapping in the goal at the side of the net like it’s Rocket League, then getting shoved to the ice, then staring up looking miffed. It was very on brand for JT.
Best tl/dr of the game
The Canucks have won a lot of games by riding that sweet PDO high of low-volume shots and high-volume goals.
Well on Saturday, they shot. Then shot some more. Then continued shooting. You don’t get 17 high danger scoring chances without finding a way to effectively get the puck on net.
Now, are all shots created equal? Of course not.
For instance, Garland’s attempt to go full Hodgson?
I mean, that’s delightful. I, more than anyone, would have lost my mind if he went bar down on a clapper there. It’s just when you use the Wellwood Special for a stick, you don’t tend to get a lot of power on your shots. If his stick was a hoverboard, he wouldn’t be able to use it to cross a pond.
He can stick handle for days. Nobody gets around a phone booth with a puck like Garland can. But even the NHL has to have a healthy debate about whether to register a shot attempt from Garland as an official shot on net.
On the other side of things, you have this shot from Elias Pettersson:
The shot itself wasn’t a world-beater, but it’s EP40. The fact he’s in that close to your goalie means he could do a variety of things to hurt you. He’s the Dexter of the NHL, if you’re not careful you could find yourself booted off the series in season 4 for plot purposes.
Also notice how quickly the Canucks transitioned that puck up the ice. A zone exit to Pew Pew, who pushes it up to Nearly Nils, who receives a tough pass with ease before finding Elias for the shot. All night it felt like the Canucks were just carving the Jets up with passing plays like this.
Speaking of transition plays, here’s Hughes sending the puck to JT Miller, who deftly tips the puck over to a rushing Mikheyev:
Again, not all shots are created equal. And for all the good Mikheyev did on the night (he truly had a fantastic game), he still tends to bury the puck into the chest of the goalie. If this was Warzone, I’d accuse him of abusing rotational aim assist.
But the fact he was skating hard up the ice and could skate onto the puck like that? That’s Rick Tocchet hockey.
Now let’s go to this Quinn Hughes shot after some tremendous work was done by Vasili Podkolzin:
Now I don’t know if Podkolzin will ever find a scoring touch in the NHL, but if he can crash and bang and pursue the puck like he did against Winnipeg then Rick Tocchet will always have a job for him.
As for Quinn Hughes, he looks like he’s back on his horse again, or whatever animal you think he should be riding to signify that he’s playing top tier hockey. It’s not surprising that when Quinn Hughes is feeling good and playing well, the team suddenly looks like a world beater again. As I have said since day one, where Quinn goes, the Vancouver Canucks go.
How good was Quinn Hughes on the night? When he was on the ice, the Canucks had 21 shots for, and only 5 shots against. Imagine playing him and for every shot you get, when he’s on the ice they get four. Line up the trophies and give them to Quinn Hughes because he has been absolutely everything for this Canucks team.
Now add in the special teams looking better, and all four lines look like they’re starting to get some chemistry, which is a solid recipe for an ass-whooping.
Dakota who?
(I’m kidding, please don’t yell at me.)
Best proof is in the giffing
Remember when they said Quinn Hughes couldn’t play defence? That he was too small? Well, here he is defending against noted large man Mark Scheifele:
Quinn hits him to the ice before boxing him out from the puck, then draws Namestnikov into his tangled web, before sending the puck politely over to Fil Hronek.
Remember, this is a guy who handles the puck more than anyone in the NHL, so he’s already playing high level defence by simply playing keep away.
Now add in him using angles efficiently, playing physical, and boxing players out?
This kid is a generational talent.
If Quinn Hughes doesn’t win the Norris trophy this year, then the entire thing is rigged. That’s all I’m saying.
Best actual power forward
Hey apparently just being born in Abbotsford can only artificially extend your NHL career so far:
To be fair to all involved, that’s an absolute muffin of a goal Connor is letting in on that shot.
But this is where we go back to that cliche of making your own luck. The Canucks don’t get these kinds of goals if all they’re doing is shooting a handful of times on net from the point. If you’re constantly crashing the net, setting up layered screens, and taking a lot of shots, that grinds a goalie down.
It essentially creates a bad relationship situation in that it erodes the trust between the goalie and his team. Instead of assuming the guys on the ice in front of him have everything under control, now he’s thinking “shit, maybe they didn’t clean the toilet like I asked them to”. So now Hellebuyck is maybe too deep in his net or trying to overplay the puck because he’s not quite sure if what his defence is telling him is true or not.
Best JT being JT
I’ve just accepted that for every ten amazing things JT Miller does in a game, he is legally bound by law to commit one whacky turnover:
This guy pulls off some magical plays, so you just kind of say “Oh Jimothy!” and move on with your life while ignoring that this could have made it a one goal game and changed the course of history dramatically.
Best from couple to throuple
Podkolzin was impressive on Saturday night, and the underrated game of Lindholm continues to shine in the Canucks recent victories. Lindholm is a lot like Suter in that he thinks the game very well. He might not throw flashy hits or generate a lot of fancy shots on net, but defensively he does pretty much everything Kuzmenko refused to do. He gets in shooting lanes. He angles guys off the puck. He anticipates where the puck is going. He’s just a very smart player.
Now add in Podkolzin who is basically like unleashing a German Shephard in a cat café, and that’s a pretty fun combo to watch:
It’s nothing fancy in the clip, but you can see the rotation this line gets, and how they don’t get too caught up in playing on the outside. They don’t cycle just for the sake of puck possession, they cycle until they find a way to get to the net.
Corolla Garland’s game is fitting in really nicely with Lindholm and Podkolzin’s as well, but that’s because he’s a Corolla; He’s just a reliable, serviceable guy.
When Joshua is back, and if the team wants to leave Mikheyev on the Boeser/Miller line, it would be real tempting to see a forward group of:
Now do I think it will happen? No, I think the team will try and leverage Garland with Lindholm to try and allocate proper third line minutes to both players.
But it’s also hard to move on from what was the most elite third line in the NHL until Joshua’s injury.
I believe they call these champagne problems.
Best period of the season
The NHL went back and decided the Canucks only got 20 shots in the period, but the point stands: The Canucks played their best period of the season.
Oh, and they got a third goal as well:
That’s when you know it’s a good game, when how the Canucks were playing was more of a story than the score itself.
Now, remember those 8 high danger scoring chances the Jets got? They did manage to get a handful of “uh oh” moments on net. In this case, Demko makes a huge save, and the puck ends up going down the ice for a 2 on 1 that Philly Di Giuseppe converts after a nice pass from Teddy Blueger.
But as good as the Canucks played on the night, this is the beauty of having a Thatcher Demko in net. There were several times when if the Jets scored, maybe it would have been a different outcome. Maybe they cut the lead in half and they get some momentum.
Every time they got close to that, though, Demko was there to deny it.
Best 10 for 1 deal
JT did 10 really good things before this, so he had to get the turnover out of his system:
Who was that pass to? Fin? Crazy P? Miss Elisabeth? We might never know.
All we know is that Thatcher Demko made another save on a high danger shot. Because that is what he does. He smells salt and makes big saves.
Best thinking outside the box
The Jets finally realized the best way to generate scoring chances was on plays in which the referee took Quinn Hughes out of the play:
I like how Quinn is skating back to retrieve the puck and assumes the ref is going to get out of his way, until he realizes the ref is never going to leave his life, so he just kind of tries to shove him out of the way. Felt like a lot of “what the eff are we even doing here” energy from Quinn.
Also, oh hey, Thatcher Demko made another big save.
These saves are why everyone in Vancouver is nervously chuckling and eyeing the injury report, trying to see when the update about lower and upper body injuries comes out. Doing their best to pretend that Minnesota game never happened so Casey DeSmith in net doesn’t cause heart palpitations.
Best four to the floor
No big deal, just Quinn Hughes picking up his 63rd assist on the season on an Elias Pettersson power play goal:
That much maligned power play unit? It looked lights out on Saturday. Puck movement, confidence, swagger, it was all there.
Two things that shouldn’t shock people:
  • The Canucks powerplay looking better when Quinn Hughes actually gets time to rest
  • Elias Pettersson no longer sounding like he questions why he ever played hockey in the first place when doing media scrums now that his contract is done
The vibe around EP40 is completely different right now. He smiles in interviews. He doesn’t seem as tense. It no longer feels like he’s about to give the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech to Vancouver every time he talks. It truly feels like that contract situation was in his head a bit.
As for Quinn Hughes, apparently letting him rest a couple of times when his average ice time is almost 25 minutes a game on the season helps him recover? It’s an early hypothesis but the science checks out so far.
Best putting in the work
Ilya Mikheyev was feeling it on the night:
Once again skates hard down the ice, gets a shot on net, and then gets involved in a kerfuffle? Rick Tocchet can only get so aroused in one night.
And again, it wasn’t just the cute adorable shots on net he was getting, it was his physicality as well.
Here he is separating his check from the puck and then once again driving hard to the net:
North. South. Hockey.
I’ve watched every single Ilya Mikheyev game of hockey this season. These last few games have not been the same player. The difference between the last few games and the rest of the season is staggering.
Now I’m not accusing the Canucks of using clones, but I’m also not not saying that.
Best Jeff Bomb of Disappointment
I leave this in for posterity so you know when Jeff bummed everyone out.
Best where Quinn goes
Remember when the Canucks would get a successful dump in on the powerplay and it felt like a victory? In this game they generated three high danger scoring chances on one powerplay alone:
  • Elias Pettersson almost hits Garland for the cross crease tap in, which was only thwarted because Corolla didn’t have time to fully set up into his mini-hockey stick stance
  • Brock Boeser continues to thrive in the old Bumpin’ Bo spot, as he almost scores high in the slot
  • Quinn Hughes then almost pinballs a shot in from point
The Canucks dominated in every aspect of the game. Even Fin wasn’t as annoying as usual, and that’s saying something.
Best slippery snake
Garland evades Sean Monahan like I avoid small talk at work about what I did over the weekend:
The key is to say “weekends? who has time for weekends?” then walk away really quickly when the start laughing politely.
Or if you’re Garland, fake one way, then go the other, and leave Monahan in your dust.
Pound for pound, there is nobody better at puck possession along the boards than Garland except maybe Mark Stone. But he’s not real because he’s on Long Term Imagination Reserve.
So by default Garland wins.
Best besmirching
Chaos Giraffe didn’t deserve that stray.
But you know who deserves praise?
Ilya Mikheyev:
The dude looked scared to touch the puck for 75% of the games this year and now he’s out here dangling around people and setting teammates up for good shots.
All I am wondering is if someone can confirm if this Ilya has been seen with a belly button. I’m just asking questions here.
Best tweet of the night
You’ll notice there are only a couple of clips from the third period and that’s because the Canucks suffocated the life out of Winnipeg to the point that I think the Jets wished they could have just forfeited the last twenty minutes of the game.
I could post endless clips of the Canucks playing structurally sound, aggressively forechecking hockey, or I could just hit some dingers:
The same formula was used on the Canucks fifth goal as they used all night. Move the puck up quickly, make smart passes, find a way to get the puck on net.
That’s how Pew Pew Suter found himself looking at a rebound in his feet, and that’s how he spun and flicked in his 13th goal of the season, shoulder checking like he’s trying to make sure he can change lanes without hitting a cyclist along Burrard.
Now the NHL credited that goal as unassisted, but clearly EP40 and Nils deserve some apples on that one.
Either way, the Canucks basically kicked the absolute shit out of the Jets. In convincing fashion. To the point that the playoffs have never looked further away than they do now because this city is dying to see what kind of team they have on their hands.
The one that stumbled out of the All-Star break?
Or the one that just reeled off four straight wins during one of the hardest stretches of their season?

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