The Stanchies: Canucks dash the hopes and dreams of Montreal fans with easy 4-1 victory

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
27 days ago
For years, Vancouver was in the position the Montreal Canadiens found themselves on Thursday night.
You know the one. That spot where the season is already over and the team has nothing left to play for. Sure, they’ll talk about wanting to win games “to establish winning habits” for next year or whatever, but that feels about as accurate as medical advice your mom gives you after she reads it on Facebook.
“They say the key is to eat 14 raw lemons and then insert the tube. Apparently doctors are afraid you’ll learn this secret?”
No, you see, the only thing left to play for at the end of a dead season is actually quite simple: Toxicity.
You want to ruin the day of the better team, even if it’s just for one night. You want that team saying to themselves “how did we lose to THEM??” because that means you mattered. For one single moment, your presence mattered during the season. You have value. Even if it’s drenched in negativity.
And you can lie to yourself and say you’d never hope for such a thing. That you live life to the fullest and merely wish happiness upon those around you. But we all know everyone has moments where, even for a fleeting second, you think to yourself “I’m GLAD that person’s day is as bad as mine. Now maybe they can understand what I’m going through.”
Which is where hockey fans find themselves watching their team play out a terrible season. Canucks fans know the pain of beating a top team and laughing about it. “Ha ha! We have slightly impacted their playoff positioning, they’ll rue the day they took US lightly!”
Moral victories. Silver linings. Copium. Whatever straws you want to flail at as you run your draft lottery simulations over and over again, Vancouver has done it, and done it many times.
Which is why it’s so refreshing to be on the other side of it again. The Canucks’ 4-1 win over Montreal was not only delightful because it continued the steady march in the postseason, but also because it ruined all those Habs fans who paid high sums of money to watch their team. All those red jerseys in the crowd, sitting in their seats, and watching Vancouver thoroughly ruin their night.\
There was no silver lining. No moral victory. No grabbing at the ankles of the Canucks trying to drag them into the swamp of sorrows.
Instead the visiting Montreal fans got a clinical performance of what a top team does to those beneath them.
To quote noted philosopher Nikita Zadorov, “Don’t feed the animal. Just step on their throat and shut it down.”
To quote noted quizzical thinker John Cena, “ruthless aggression.”
To quote generational superstar Nearly Neil, “Good times never seemed so good.”
And to quote my friend, “every once in a while, it goes the other way, too.”
Best bringing the heat
Podkolzin was tied with Noah Juulsen for the team lead in hits with 6, and much like those Yorkshire puddings you keep trying to nail the bake on, not all hits are created equally.
Lafferty? Three hits, and I can vaguely remember him hugging some against the glass so I assume that counted for two.
Pius Suter had four hits. I don’t remember them so I assume that mental hits count in the stat sheet as well. Saying something really mean can be just as effective as physical domination.
Podkolzin? I can still feel some of his six hits, including this one on not-a-hockey-motion Mike Matheson:
Don’t forget, somehow, Mike Matheson is tied for fourth in the league in ice time with 25:34. This makes him someone who is repeatedly available for ice-beatings, which Vasili happily took him up on.
Now, it’s hard not to get caught up in talking about the playoffs because that’s what actually matters. And barring a monumental collapse, Vancouver is all but assured a spot in the dance for Lord Stanley’s favourite mug.
Which is why you find yourself wondering who’s going to create their legacy in the post-season. For star players, putting up points is how they earn their stripes. It’s how they get people to nod solemnly in their direction, a subtle  gesture that means “I see you hockey man, and I respect you.”
But for role players, it’s those small moments where you can really etch yourself into the memory of the fan base. For some, it’s by deploying the best back check of all time. If that’s outside of the playoffs, Jeff Tambelini tracking down Martin Erat is lost to the whispers of time. But because it was during the playoffs? I will hug that man and whisper in his ear, “Thank you.” every single time I see him.
In the playoffs, a giant hit from Podkolzin or Juulsen suddenly takes on far more value than anything they could do during the regular season. Put a guy through the glass in the playoffs, and you’re practically a made man in this city.
Which is what makes these last games of the season seem so insignificant. People want these moments when they matter.
Until then, all we can do is revel in the fact your uncle who loves Montreal got up and walked away from the TV after the fourth goal and told everyone he’s taking the dog for a walk.
But there is no dog.
There never was a dog.
Best it’s not lupus
Maybe it’s due to my 18th re-watch of House, but I am positive hitting is contagious and can quickly spread throughout the lineup, and is also possibly a result of acute naphthalene toxicity from termites.
How else do you explain Elias Pettersson out on the ice hunting down two hits on one shift:
Elias throws one hit along the boards and then goes full Goldberg, asking who’s next, and hunts down another hit behind the net. This guy is practically begging for the playoffs, sharpening his steel upon the whetstone that is Montreal flesh.
Legend has it Arthur Dayne was defeated by Elias Pettersson in a post-season game in Sweden. They call it the day the morgonens svärd died.
Best not really?
Montreal only had 17 shots, of which only four were classified as high-danger chances. And you have to understand, half the time, a high-danger chance is merely “guy had puck and shot on net kind of near the goalie.” So, using Scott Steiner’s math, at best, Montreal had two solid chances to score a goal on the night.
You do have to give Montreal credit in that they used their speed and effort to try and impose their will on the Canucks. They made it known early it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk for Vancouver and that the Canucks would have to have to kind of try to win the game.
But for all that pressure that had some fans grumbling, Vancouver played a tremendously strong system game on the night.
An example of this is in this clip where Teddy KGB Blueger chases down the play and gets his stick in the passing lane to disrupt the rush:
Pay that man his money, because that is solid defence from Teddy. He is striding the entire time, which allows him to be in position to make a play on the puck. In fact, this might have been one of the best Milford Man games I have seen from a Canuck this season as it felt like Teddy was doing this all night long. He was on top of the puck and in position on seemingly every shift he took.
So yeah, his stick work won’t get him sexy gif money, but it does get Teddy that knowing nod of respect from me.
Best do your dekes, bro
We had Quinn Hughes almost moonwalk the Canucks into the play of the year last game against Buffalo, and while this “almost goal” wouldn’t have been as nice, it was still a nice effort from Elias:
As coach Wagner drilled into Elias’s head this week, he just has to remember to move his feet. When Elias is moving his feet he’s creating offensive chances, or as in this case, causing the other team to take penalties in their attempts to thwart him.
Unfortunately we’re still at a point where the Canucks powerplay is about as useful as that box of old cords you keep in your closest, but still, the process behind Elias moving his feet is good. It’s ok if the Canucks go 0/4 on the powerplay, one of which was an extended 5 on 3 advantage.
The important thing is the fries we ate along the way.
Also, when can we talk about how awful the ice is at Rogers Arena?
Worst in the league? Worst in the league.
Best spirited effort
The best chance to score on the powerplay came when JT Miller found himself alone in front, where his shot was denied by Sam Montembeault:
To the Canucks’ credit, that’s a grade A scoring chance. But aside from that one shot, the Canucks never really felt all that threatening with the extra man.
Which against Montreal, sure, no problem.
But come playoff time, the better special teams can win you series.
So while this isn’t a “the world is coming to an end” problem for the team yet, it’s definitely in the “that check engine light has been on for a couple of months now, should I be worried?” stage.
Best audio cues are your friends
You know why goalies slap the ice when a penalty is about to expire? It’s not to engage in a kinky public form of ASMR, it’s to let your team know that “hey, some guy is about to open a door and he’s a possible threat to my safety.”
So while the easy thing to do would be to yell at the guy demanding you give him all your money, realistically, Hoglander should never be making this pass:
Not only is it a risky pass to make with a guy closing in on Hronek from the blind side, it’s also a pass that was meant for a left handed shooting d-man. Instead it goes to boring old right hander Fil Hronek, which causes him to try and corral the pass on his backhand.
Add all of this up and you’ve got a recipe for a breakaway for the other team.
The good news continues to be that Casey DeSmith seems to have found a groove of sorts, so even when the team does break down, he’s been stepping up and making the big save.
That’s the kind of save that Johan Hedberg would make that would lead to Marc Crawford furiously screaming at his Swedish goalie for being too flashy, but it’s the kind of save that Rick Tocchet would give a subtle nod of respect to.
Best even steven
With the Canucks inability to score on the powerplay being canon at this point, they’ve at least found a way to produce at 5 on 5.
Even if the goals they score can occur on harmless-looking shots:
Now, was that the most lethal shot in the world from Zaddy Daddy? Clearly not. But the Canucks got at least one layer in front of the net, which allowed them to take the eyes away from Zadorov’s shot.
We also need to give credit to Elias Lindholm for making an incredibly smart play with the puck at the blueline. A lot of players might get to that position and try and force a pass to Zadorov. You’re being chased by the other team, you want to dish the puck off, maybe it’s tempting to throw it over to the other guy, even if he’s covered. It’s his problem now, not yours! That tall, well dressed Russian guy can handle this! He can navigate interviews with Scott Oake and bad passes at the blue line with ease!
But Elias sees it’s a bad pass to make. It’s the high risk low reward play that Rick Tocchet absolutely loathes.
So instead Lindholm loops back into the zone. He dumps the puck in deep behind the net to Ilya Mikheyev. And Ilya, who has been skating better than ever these last 10 days, skates with the puck and buys enough time and room until Zadorov can find himself open again for the shot on net and subsequent goal.
It’s an intelligent play and the kind of thing Lindholm does an awful lot of. He’s an incredibly smart player who often makes the right play in these situations. It’s why you don’t see a lot of turnovers from him, because he’s very much into low risk high yield investments. He was buying Bitcoin on day one and has lived a life of very few turnovers ever since.
And yes, you can wonder when the goals are going to start coming. The trade for Lindholm was done in the hopes of adding goal support to the top six so maybe fawning over bad passes he didn’t make isn’t floating your boat.
But in the meantime, can we at least give him the subtle nod of respect for his 200 foot game?
Best North/South hockey
For all the effort Montreal brought into the game, the Canucks were ruthless on the counter attack. When Montreal pushed, Vancouver was right there to turn play back the other way and get the puck on net in a hurry:
Hronek chips the rebound up to Suter, who thinks a mean thought and registers a hit due to it, then quickly passes the puck up to a streaking Brock Boeser, but not in the sexy way you’re thinking, and then JT Miller gets hit from behind to draw a penalty.
A lot happened in the seven seconds after that puck hit Casey DeSmith’s pads.
This is Vancouver when they are at their most Tocchet-y. When they’re pushing the puck with pace and heading straight to the net.
No east/west play. No pulling up with the puck and waiting for friends. No getting off at Production Way so they can snag a train going to Waterfront.
Just direct hockey, the way Tocchet likes it.
Best late Norris entry
Zadorov gets this play started by hitting Lafferty with a pass:
The end result is the Canucks second goal, but let’s hand out some credit for it.
  • Sam Lafferty deserves props for both not being Ryan Reaves and for the fact he used his speed to push Montreal back on their heels. Tocchet has hammered home the fact that when you attack the neutral zone with speed, good things happen. Teams back up too quickly, passing lanes start opening, shooting lanes get discovered. Good things happen with speed.
  • Ilya Mikheyev picking up his second primary assist of the night. After I had publicly written to the mayor of Vancouver to have Ilya banned from the city, he has turned into a different player. I am convinced nothing gets a Canuck player going more than exposing and embarrassing me. That knee injury recovery that felt like it might last until next season might finally be rounding into form, as Mikheyev is throwing hits, skating with speed, and making good passes seemingly every game now.
  • Zadorov mentioned after the game about how the team has been practicing finding the soft spots on the ice, which is what Nikita did when he saw the Montreal forwards retreat so close to their own net. He was quick to recognize the ice Montreal was giving up, so he stopped gliding and instead jumped up into the play, and due to his speed he was able to slide into the slot to get the pass from Ilya and snipe his second of the night. When Zadorov is on his game, he truly feels like a top two d-man, the kind of guy you want around for all of the years. The problem is consistency is what separates top defenseman in the league from the rest, so you just kind of have to enjoy these nights when they happen for Zaddy instead of picturing a future in which he’s happily accepting his third Norris of his career.
Again, if I had to define the night for Vancouver, I would say it was clinical. The Canucks just looked like a team in total control the entire time.
Best Moj Fact of the Night
“Hey Wyatt, put this stat in your damn Stanchies” said Moj as I sat there wondering when Nearly Neil was going to perform again.
You know the last time a guy with the last name starting with Z got two goals for Vancouver?
Peter Zezel on October 12th, 1998. He had two goals and an assist. And I assume Mike Keenan yelled at him a bunch.
This has been your Moj’s Musings Fact of the Night.
Best smart hockey is efficient hockey
Just to give you a temperature check on how the night went, here’s a good example of Noah Juulsen shutting down a Montreal Canadien zone entry attempt:
He times his jump perfectly, he’s got a man covering him even if it fails, and he creates a good counter rush the other way. North hockey executed flawlessly.
No hunting for a huge hit. No panicking over defending his blue line. He simply reads the play and steps up and ends it.
It was good hockey.
Best walk it like Tocchet
Want another example of Tocchet hockey?
Montreal held the puck behind their net and could not find a man open for the life of them. It was like looking around for an open Wendy’s on a drunken Saturday night, sometimes you just can’t find one.
So instead Montreal tries to force a long pass down the ice and Vancouver steals it. Hronek takes the puck and turns it back down the ice to Lafferty, who finds Mikheyev, who skates hard to the net and gets off a backhander that I assure you looked far more dangerous in person than on TV:
Once again the Canucks only took seven seconds to get the puck and generate a scoring chance out of it on Montreal.
This is the kind of hockey that wears a team down mentally. They’re trying so hard to engineer a successful zone entry only to see the other team repeatedly generate scoring chances against them.
It’s the kind of mental warfare that very few people can stand up against. The kind of mental warfare that you have to be able to scream at your captors and say yes, there were only four lights.
Best MacGruber Effort
Hey, sometimes JT Miller can be sloppy with the puck, but damn it if that man doesn’t know how to put on a show.
Tired on the penalty kill and you’re boxed out from getting the puck? Hell, just shove Caufield into the puck so you can clear the zone:
This is one of my top five plays of the year from JT Miller.
Sure, he can score pretty goals and make incredible passes. But get me that Brock Lesnar alpha energy of tossing a kid in a wheelchair down some stairs in order to make a play.
Now before you accuse me of being flippant about a kid being thrown down some stairs, I do want to assure you this is a storyline the WWE actually ran.
This was a real thing they decided to do.
Best Luke Schenn Effect
Remember Luke Schenn throwing 12 hits in a game to take away the record from Michael Del Zotto? Another very important example of not all hits being equal?
Well Luke Schenn always mixed in some thunder bombs in those hits, much like Noah Juulsen does now. There is something fun knowing there is a guy in your lineup that can do mic drops with human beings playing the role of the microphone:
In a long, grueling, seven game series, that’s the kind of player you want sitting around in your lineup. That’s someone you go to war with.
Best scratch and win
Rick Tocchet talked post-game about putting the Lotto Line out there to maybe get the team that third goal to really put the game away.
Which seems like a solid idea. Your team has blown a couple of leads, so maybe you can flex your star power a bit and send out your top guys to get a goal.
And it almost worked, as the Lotto Line dominated to the point the other team got the dreaded “on ice shift clock of doom” graphic, letting the world know they are both tired and bad at their job at defending their zone.
But it took another hero to make it 3-0.
A hero who wears a turtleneck.
Best being the elite
Montreal makes one bad pass, and wouldn’t you know it, in seven seconds, the Canucks turn the puck up the ice and make the Habs pay for it:
Clearly that’s a tremendous shot from Corolla Garland. We all know by now what a delightful player he is and that any debate over his value has long been won by us Corolla Truthers. Board battles, high danger passing, and now sniping shots top corner? That’s clearly the path of a man marching down a 40 point season.
But we also want to give credit to Teddy KGB. You can clearly see in the clip him flick his head up and see Garland motoring along at a respectable 55kmh. He then gathers the puck and sends in a perfect pass to Corolla, who then skates in and does the rest.
That’s the kind of chemistry that is awaiting the Canucks when Dakota Joshua returns.
We haven’t forgotten about the Canucks Bullet Club re-union awaiting Vancouver.
We haven’t forgotten about the most elite third line in all of Vancouver waiting to make their comeback.
Best bad memories
Remember that delightful Lotto Line shift? Well, this one didn’t go so well:
Brock Boeser has the puck bounce on him a bit as the Canucks are playing on what looks like gravel, and then JT Miller slams the puck off of Boeser’s skate, and the puck finds its way to the point. Then it’s a shot that gets hit with a tip that is 100% deft. Always a deft tip.
You can probably argue about who’s at fault for this play, but to me, it just felt more like bad luck than anything, combined with some really good hand-eye skills from Slafkovsky.
Like, if that’s the only goal Montreal scored on the night, then you’re doing something right.
Biggest scandal
The worst part about Montreal’s goal wasn’t the fact they scored, but the fact that the goal horn briefly went off after the Habs scored.
That’s right, Montreal fans got to celebrate a goal in Rogers Arena to the sound of the home team’s goal horn.
If this was Game of Thrones I would assume there was a lengthy subplot over the course of four books that led to this moment.
But since real life is slightly less exciting than the mind of George R.R. Martin, there is probably a boring pedestrian reason behind it.
Nobody should be fired over this of course. But someone should have to tweet a sad emoji face and express sorrow over it. Maybe even a little shame.
Best fully Nils
How effective were the Canucks in the third period? In a situation in which teams that are trailing often make a desperate push for offense, Vancouver handled them with incredible ease.
They held Montreal to only three shots.
The Canucks had 5 high danger scoring chances.
Montreal had 0 high danger scoring chances.
And Nils Aman scored the only goal of the period:
The Canucks win the draw, Tyler Myers shoots the puck, Nils Aman deftly tips the puck.
Montreal was shut down so badly they don’t even deserve another gif. Vancouver played so well that I don’t even need to use another gif to showcase it.
The entire period was Vancouver keeping Montreal out of their zone, and continuing to generate scoring chances.
You know how I know it was a good game? Players openly smiled at the media when we walked into the room. Casey DeSmith’s eyes were sparkling. JT Miller didn’t glare at anyone. Conor Garland made eye contact a couple of times. The room felt happy. You could tell the team was proud of that game, as they should be.
Another two points, another victory, another step closer to the games that actually matter.
H0ckey is about to get real fun again, real soon. And this team? You can’t help but feel like they might make some noise in the playoffs.
Best reviews
True fact, Nearly Neil has a 4.1 google review.
Nearly everyone gave him 5 star reviews, except one guy named John Wick who gave five star reviews to Wendys (“good chicken burgers” and Safeway (“you can buy groceries here”) but only had 1 star for Neil (“I don’t have time for Nearly Neil.”)
There is no reason I am telling you this, but I felt like I had to share it.
Best A for effort
This looks like if you asked AI to generate a Canucks fan with face paint, but you know what, I still love it.
Maybe his grandkid drew it on his face, or he held a mirror up and just went for it. Either way, I am here for people putting in the effort.

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