The Stanchies: Canucks blow chance at securing a playoff spot in 3-2 loss to Kings

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
17 days ago
With a potential playoff spot on the line with a Canucks victory, Vancouver instead found themselves watching the LA Kings doing what they do best: Choking the life out of anything that even closely resembled excitement. If you giggled to yourself at some point during the game, count yourself lucky that the Kings didn’t hunt you down and try to smother you for daring to experience happiness.
The Vancouver Canucks’ 3-2 loss to the LA Kings was as if the plot for Back to the Future was centred around Doc Brown never quite figuring out time travel, and it instead devolved into a two-hour marathon about Marty McFly never quite living up to expectations, showcasing the futility of hopes and dreams.
This was the kind of game that Jacques Lemaire would read about endlessly in the Georgian Era, the closest thing to adult entertainment he would have been able to find in that time period.
“It was necessary to laugh when she would rather have cried. Her father had most cruelly mortified her by what he said of Mr. Darcy’s zone entry attempt, and she could do nothing but wonder at such a want of penetration, or fear that perhaps instead of his seeing too little, she might have fancied a forecheck too much.”
The LA Kings continue to be a problem for the Vancouver Canucks. And as boring as they might play, it’s an effective style of hockey. We saw it in 2003 when the Minnesota Wild rode this style to the third round, only to be outdone by a team that did it slightly better than them.
And should Vancouver run into LA in the playoffs, they’re going to have to figure out how to win four games in a series against a style of play that has repeatedly shut down their top players. It’s almost a foregone conclusion at this point that any playoff series between LA and Vancouver will go seven games, which would be a cruel trick from the hockey gods indeed; Canucks fans praying for the playoffs, only to see their wish granted in true leprechaun fashion, pitting them against a team that has a Dementor-like ability to rob you of your life’s essence.
It was a game in which the Canucks seemed content to dump the puck into LA’s zone, only to watch it get pushed right back out again; the world’s saddest game of whack-a-mole. It was only the last five minutes of the game, in which Casey DeSmith was pulled, where the Canucks finally managed to set up in the offensive zone for a sustained period of time.
Now, there are some silver linings. This is still a team with its top goalie in Thatcher Demko. And when the game was tied during the second period, the Canucks felt like they were flirting with a goal or two, even if they were still struggling to get to the guts of the ice.
And at the end of the day, it’s a loss that most likely won’t amount to much. The Canucks have bounced back from far worse losses than this one.
But there was something frustrating about watching a team being unable to break LA’s system that will might make you think and wonder if they can figure it out come playoff time. I don’t think you need to announce to the world that you have scientifically proven the Canucks don’t have “it” for the playoffs, but it’s been enough games now against LA that, at the very least, you have a bit of concern should they meet in the postseason.
Best increase in testosterone
You know what is science at this point? The Canucks play a meaner game when they wear the Skate:
With Noah Juulsen out of the lineup for Ian Cole, Nikita Zadorov was the lone bash brother to hand out the massive hit of the game, and he certainly made this one count.
I imagine Blake Lizotte had a chuckle to himself and whispered, “I’m in danger,” when he saw Nikita coming in at the last second, but there isn’t much you can do when the giant Russian wants to impose his well-fashioned will on you. You’re going to get hit, but at least you’re getting hit by a guy that might be featured in Vogue.
Fact: That hit landed 25% harder due to the Skate jersey.
Think about it, the green and blue jerseys promote rain and nature, calming sounds. You listen to those jerseys to put yourself to sleep. That’s not going to intimidate anyone.
The black, red, and yellow jerseys? They represent fire, and chaos, and the eternal darkness awaiting us all. You’d be lucky to be able to get out of bed looking at that, much less play a game of hockey at the highest level.
Skate jersey in the playoff just makes sense at this point.
Best failure to communicate
The Canucks gave up the first goal to the LA Kings, and there are several things to discuss after you’ve seen it:
So, first things first, Brock Boeser stopped moving his feet and offered up a thoughts and prayers poke check that failed. This is the “hey, at least I tried” style of defence that was popularized by Todd Bertuzzi.
When that didn’t succeed, Brock then gave a couple of token strides to showcase that he at least knew the direction the danger was headed in, but then he forgot Rick Tocchet’s rule of 3: Find a way to dig down and find those three extra strides. The three extra strides Teddy Blueger is often known for.
Had he moved his feet, had he summoned his inner Jeff Tambelini, he would have had his stick in the passing lane. Instead he coasts and watches LA score the goal.
Which brings us to problem number two on the goal, which is the fact the Canucks only had four players on the ice. Quinn Hughes went off for a line change and nobody replaced him, as apparently someone took it literally that Hughes is irreplaceable. The coaching staff went full Otto Mann on the play and watched in blissful silence as the Canucks offered up an impromptu powerplay to the LA Kings.
Which brings us to problem three, which is Casey DeSmith playing so far out of his crease. He’s a smaller goalie, so he tends to come out of his net further to cut down angles. When Demko sits on his knees, he still somehow towers over the net, whereas DeSmith, in comparison, looks like a small child who happened to buy a pair of beginner goalie pads from Canadian Tire.
It makes life in the crease more interesting for Vancouver, but being out that far on this play forced DeSmith to have to cover a lot more ground to try and make the save, ground he couldn’t quite make up.
The end result is three mistakes compounded into a goal, which, against the LA Kings, is playing right into their greasy, smelly, Cheetoh-stained fingers. Give them a one-goal lead, and they will be content to fall back in a 1-3-1 formation, happily extolling the virtues of consensual erotic asphyxiation.
Best Russian tank rushing
Podkolzin might never be a goal scorer at the NHL level, but he might be able to carve out a career on the bottom six if he continues to forecheck like a literal demon out on the ice:
The fact I’m talking about Podkzolin before even mentioning the insane Sam Lafferty goal tells you all you need to know about this shift from Vasili.
Not only did he hound the puck tirelessly the entire shift, but he also caused several turnovers from LA and then charged to the net to take Gavrikov out of the play, allowing Sam Lafferty to have an open lane to walk around Cam Talbot.
All of which brings us to not-Ryan-Reaves Sam Lafferty, who had the goal of his season with this Brendan Morrison-inspired triple silencer across the crease goal.
Sam isn’t going to score goals like this every day, that’s what makes him a bottom six guy. If this was just a regular kind of goal for Sam, he’d be making a lot of money and would have a sponsorship with Audi, playing a spirited game of copulate, consummate, and exterminate with speed, agility, and power.
But the mere fact he can pull a goal like this off is what makes him an upgrade on seasons past. No offense to Matty Two Shoes Highmore, but this kind of goal is above his paygrade. When goals are hard to come by in the playoffs, if Lafferty managed to pull this out in a post-season game? That’s the kind of thing that becomes massive for an extended run for the Stanley Cup.
Again, not saying he will do this in the playoffs. But just the fact the Canucks have made their depth players better means there is a slight chance it COULD happen, which feels better than watching Juho Lammikko trying to bat one in out of the air with one hand on the stick.
Best five on five threat
This game lacked momentum at the best of times, but if there was a period of time in which you thought to yourself “hey I think I am enjoying this sporting contest” it would have been the few moments during and after the Lafferty goal.
The best example of this would be the back check from Elias Pettersson that almost created a second cross-crease EA money goal by Nils Höglander:
Elias pestering his check and then intercepting the pass attempt is a great example of the defensive game he brings to the team. This is what they mean when they say good defence leads to good offence.
And Nils, he’s a five-on-five beast. This guy scores more goals at evens than some of the best players in the league, so you know he’s looking to drive this one right into the net.
Except Cam Talbot is a smart fellow, so he sees that puck bouncing out a bit wide and sweeps it away with a healthy poke check.
Fun fact: All tip goals are deft, all successful goalie poke checks are healthy. These are the rules they teach you in hockey journalism school. That and how to hide your drinking problem.
Best sticking to the rules
The game had some stick work going on early, and while the NHL would never allow the officials to let people know “Yeah I warned both benches to cut that down or I’d be calling one”, we can only assume the official was trying to cut that down by calling this slash on Quinn Hughes:
If this was a court of law, yes, Quinn Hughes’ stick technically contacts Viktor Arvidsson’s leg. I assume Quinn was angered about Viktor attempting to go full Dirty Dancing by leaping into the hit.
But the contact was minimal, at best. I mean, kudos to Arvidsson for not screaming and clutching at his leg like Drew Doughty might have, so give him credit for that.
I think the intent behind the slash was called more than anything. Quinn Hughes made it look bigger than it was. When trying to slash someone without getting caught, you can’t make it look like you’re chopping firewood. If you come in with that downward motion, you’re begging the officials to call something.
You need to do a mid-level tickle. Tickle the pickle, as I always say, never the shins.
Best resting those weary bones
Ian Cole took a few games off so Noah Juulsen could attempt to break people in half for a little bit, and it appeared the rest did him well. He had been struggling in the games leading up to his time off, so whether it was the rest, or him simply recovering from bumps and bruises, he had his best game in a long while on Monday night.
The highlight of his night? Going full WrestleMania on Trevor Lewis in the corner:
I know Ian Cole doesn’t have a cool entrance like The Rock does, but that was about as close to a Rock Bottom as you can legally get away with in the NHL. Just absolutely flattens Lewis in the corner in a move of pure physical dominance.
Am I sad he didn’t follow that up by tossing his elbow pad into the crowd and delivering a Cole’s elbow? Clearly. But it’s still a solid play that again, you can’t help but picture being a very useful asset come playoff time.
The physical game was on display for most of the night, not in an over the top kind of way, but with a “finish your checks” kind of way.
Jimothy Timothy Miller got in on the action with a big hit on Adrian Kempe:
Adrian Kempe got into a scuffle with Nikita Zadorov on the first shift of the game and seemed to be involved in half of the scrums in the game. He was their Conor Garland on the night.
Best Sex Giraffe deployment
60% of the time, it works every time:
I used to hate the slip and slide defence. I despise how it takes you out of the play if it fails, and it allows another team to walk right around you if they’re patient enough. Just giving up control alone is enough for me to scream when I see a d-man going full Bieksa.
But now that it’s been re-branded Sex Giraffe? I am fully on board.
Look how efficient that is from Tyler Myers. He drops down, lulls Viktor Arvidsson into a false sense of confidence, and then boop, here comes the extra tap.
Sex Giraffe, the newest fragrance by Aquilini. It’s illegal in nine countries. It’s made with real bits of giraffe, so you know it’s good.
Best nearly Nils
At the young age of 34, Drew Doughty leads the league in ice time. He is just that damn good.
But Nils wants him to know the future is now, old man, as he skates right around him, takes possession of the puck, and finds Elias Pettersson near the faceoff circle:
EP40 doesn’t get a shot off because this is a game against the Kings, and getting a shot on net from the slot is something only spoken of in hushed whispers down dark hallways, but the process behind this play? Fantastic.
Best so close yet so very far
Ilya Mikheyev’s game has excelled by leaps and bounds as of late in terms of his skating, physical play, and puck possession, but his scoring? That still leaves something to be desired:
Ilya turns with the speed at which the Barge got stuck in English Bay, leaving Talbot plenty of time to get back into position to kick the leg out.
The good thing is that Ilya is at least getting these shots in close. There was a time when Mikheyev avoided the crease at all costs, leading me to believe there was some sort of subplot I wasn’t aware of working its way into the background.
Did Ilya have a bomb on his person that would explode if he touched blue paint? Would said bomb be set off if he skated more than 15 miles per hour? Would the bomb detonate if he attempted a shot on net?
I have many bomb theories that were thankfully disproven in March, and Mikheyev looks like a solid piece of the bottom six puzzle at the moment.
Best Minnesota on line 1
This honestly brought me back to the 2003 second round series against Minnesota:
The Canucks playing well, but can’t find a way to get the lead.
The Kings get a powerplay, and through a healthy combination of luck and goaltending, get the lead and never look back.
You know how Casey has a tendency to try and cut down angles? He also slides a lot in his crease. To the point where he often slides in spots Demko dare not tread.
And on this goal, you can see DeSmith going full Cloutier, sliding very far to his left at the top of the crease, taking him away from the centre of the net. Which is where the puck luck comes in as it deflects off of a skate four times before finding it’s way into the back of the net.
Casey DeSmith had some big saves in the third period of this game, so he wasn’t the problem. But he also wasn’t the solution, if you know what I mean. Which is what you’d expect when you’re missing your Vezina candidate goaltender. It’s easy to imagine Demko being square to the puck, not losing his crease, and stopping that shot, weird deflections and all.
Best make the bleeding stop
The Kings then made it 3-1 near the end of the second period after enough shifts in which they simply threw the puck on net:
The funny thing is the Canucks generated some of these same shots in the second period, but couldn’t beat Talbot. With DeSmith, the Kings managed to catch him losing the puck and putting himself out of position.
Watch the goal again and watch when Casey fumbles the initial shot. He drops to his feet to try and cover the puck and he’s almost entirely out of the blue paint. He’s not guarding the middle of the crease at all at this point.
When Casey does try and get back to the middle of the net, he can’t, because Fil Hronek has set up shop to try and guard the goal for him. All DeSmith can do is little baby shrugs as he watches Anze Kopitar pop in the loose puck on the other side of the net.
You’ll also notice how the Canucks back off a lot on this Kings possession. The Canucks got into trouble the most when they backed off the puck like this and gave up the points to the Kings. They’d collapse down low and find themselves in trouble because it allowed LA to skate downhill into their shots, giving them time and space to find effective shooting lanes.
Now, the Canucks didn’t give up a lot defensively, they really didn’t. But the mistakes they did make? The Kings seemed to score on them each time.
Best fear factor
You wouldn’t like Corolla Garland when he’s angry:
I do enjoy the fact that seemingly every team in the NHL wants to punch Conor Garland. I know he quipped recently on After Hours that it’s because opponents choose a fight they can win, but there’s more to it than that.
I don’t think he trash talks like Alex Burrows, but I think the mere fact he tries so hard pisses people off. Which to be fair, I get that. When someone sits up in their chair and tries to beat me at something with all they’ve got, I immediately get angry.
“How DARE they try their best! You seeing this guy? Get a load of this goober.”
This is then followed by an unhealthy amount of muttering and “chh” and “pfft” noises from myself, as I look around the room for support in my cause.
Best rinse and repeat
Yes, they can give up a breakaway:
That’s the Wild way, though, right?
Richard Park, Blake Lizotte, it doesn’t matter the name, all that matters is that when the Canucks have to push up against a 1-3-1 when down a goal, it can end up with breakaways against. It’s what the system is intended to do.
There was honestly a 12 minute stretch in which the Canucks would cross the red line, dump the puck in, then watch as the Kings recovered the puck and simply got it back out again.
This went on shift after shift, the end result the same each time. Tocchet put the lines in a blender to try and jumpstart something, anything, but nothing was working.
Best flaming lips
The Canucks then took a penalty late in the game, and it’s safe to say the crowd and Brock Boeser were on the same page:
Kids, if you read lips, turn away:
For those who can’t read lips, it doesn’t seem like Boeser said, “You’re the VERY BEST ref in the NHL!”
Brock might not be the biggest fan of Chris Lee. Probably won’t be on his Christmas card list.
The debate will be had about whether it was interference or not, and I can see that being interference in the “whoops, did I do that?” kind of accidental way where a player slowly glides into a skating lane. I think the fact his arm comes up high and gets involved with the whole production made it look worse than it was.
But that is also an Oscar-worthy performance from Drew Doughty, who someone broke scientific rules by gaining momentum without adding new energy to the equation. He just sort of starts flying through the air out of nowhere, perhaps due to the power of Brock Boeser’s flow. It didn’t result in a goal, as the Canucks killed off the powerplay, but that took away two minutes in which the Canucks could have spent dumping and chasing to no effect.
Best why not
Tocchet pulled the goalie with around five minutes left, and my reaction initially was, “wtf is going on?” quickly followed by, “You know what, that’s a good call.”
At this point, the Canucks were doing absolutely nothing to cause the Kings to take a penalty. Vancouver was politely dumping the puck in, then politely watching as the Kings took the puck out of the zone. There was never a moment in which any Kings player thought to themselves “shit, we’re in trouble here, I better start hooking.”
So why not generate your own powerplay by pulling the goalie and going full Patrick Roy with it?
And for the first time in the game, the Canucks set up shop in the Kings’ zone, and wouldn’t you know it, they got a bit of puck luck of their own:
Brock Boeser gets the lucky bounce, but this was after the Canucks had several looks on net. They moved the puck around the zone, they tired LA out, and they finally started getting shots on net with people in front. They broke the Kings’ trap by adding a player to the ice instead of taking one off of it for no reason.
Best you tried your best
To the Canucks’ credit, they managed to generate several more looks on net, a couple of which were just tipped and shovelled wide:
There is probably a world in which one of those shots goes in, the Canucks tie the game, then win it in overtime to book a playoff spot. Then, instead of JT Miller angrily talking about statistics with Daniel Wagner after the game, he’s hugging him and promising to name any future children after him.
But that was as close as the Canucks would come. JT Miller would bobble the puck twice in the dying moments of the game, and it’s hard to tell at this point if it’s just JT being in a funk, or if the ice is dog shit. It’s probably both.
JT Miller will be fine, he’s going to find his game again, that’s honestly not a worry for me.
But the ice? Players were falling down all game long. Pucks were bouncing left, right, and centre. Simple passes were handled like hand grenades.
When the team is losing constantly, the ice isn’t an issue. But come playoff time, can you imagine if the league’s worst ice costs the Canucks a playoff game? Imagine the ice being so bad, leading to a fumbled shot or pass with the game on the line?
I don’t mean to tell the owner how to spend his money, but for a team that is built with a healthy does of skill, having garbage ice sure seems to play right into the hands of the 1-3-1 teams of the league.
The seat upgrades are a welcome vision for this club, but they need to turn their eyes towards the ice before anything else.
Best proof is in the stats
The stats tell the tale: The Canucks were fine defensively for the most part, but offensively? That’s a big yikes right there.
Ian Cole, however, had the stats back up the eye test. Best game in months from Cole.
Best coaching
You see JT Miller getting angry at Daniel Wagner, innocently asking him a question about what statistics the Canucks forward looks for after the games, but I see Coach Wagner getting JT absolutely fired up for the game against Dallas on Thursday.
JT Miller, two goals and an assist. Book it.
Coach Wagner gets it done again.

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