The Stanchies: Canucks die by the sword as last minute Oilers goal sinks their comeback attempt

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
1 month ago
“We need five or six guys to get going here…It’s some guys, I don’t know if they thought it was the playoffs,” was the disheartened insight from Rick Tocchet after watching his Vancouver Canucks lose 3-2 to the Edmonton Oilers.
And hey, we have gotten so used to watching the Canucks stage improbably comebacks during this post-season run that we’ve almost started to take them for granted; And after Tuesday night’s loss, you might be wondering if the Vancouver players had as well.
Now, the main focal point of the game will be the shift in which the Canucks surrendered the 3-2 game winning goal on. It happened mere moments after Vancouver had tied the game up with Artūrs Šilovs pulled for the extra attacker. It had all the usual elements of a Canucks playoffs comeback: equal parts flour, anxiety, basil, and really nice hair.
But then the Canucks had a shift to forget. A shift in which seemingly everything that could go wrong, did. It was the kind of shift that will become playoff lore for the Edmonton Oilers and just another Tuesday for Canucks fans. And in the space of a minute, the Canucks found themselves heading home to game five with the series all tied up, fresh off of an agonizing 3-2 loss.
The good news is that as bad as that shift was, it wasn’t the reason the Canucks lost. The bad news is, they lost due to the usual worrying trends that have popped up during this run. The Canucks inability to set up in the offensive zone plagued them for the majority of the game. Once again it felt like the Canucks needed more players to step up and deliver. Elias Pettersson is so far down the over-analyzed “little things” rabbit hole that he’s probably at a very bizarre tea party right now.
I mean, were it not for a reliable Corolla, this game might have gone out with a whimper.
Instead it ended in a flurry of drama, as every game in this series appears destined to do. This time there was no stick being thrust into a face, merely a dagger to the heart, which I’ve been told is a hockey play, so it’s allowed.
The Canucks now find themselves in familiar territory. Coming off of a loss in which their will to win will be questioned, opinions on what’s wrong with the team will debated hotter than any festival Edmonton can put on.
For Vancouver, it’s a spot they’ve spent all season coming back strong from. They talked about “learning lessons” all season, and it’s something they’ve prided themselves on executing.
And with game five looming large in front of Vancouver, never has the test been any harder.
Are the Canucks the team that can boot Edmonton out of the playoffs?
Or will the Arty Party be a mere footnote in the 2024 playoffs?
Buckle up, because this one is getting anxiety ridden to the point you want to vomit interesting.
Best adjustments
The hottest debate about which defensive issue has hurt their team the most has been raging between Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci versus Ian Cole.
Now, Nurse and Ceci are doing it the traditional way: Bleeding shots and chances against, and being outscored while on the ice at a healthy margin.
Ian Cole is doing it a new school way in which he actively puts pucks in his own net and then looks physically exhausted about what he’s done.
One of these scenarios is really confusing, but one of these scenarios also has an easy solution, one Edmonton chose when they broke up the Nurse/Ceci pairing for game four. Add in Stuart Skinner being replaced by Calvin Pickard and it might seem confusing to a Vancouver fan base that has watched Rick Tocchet refuse to make many changes of any kind to his lineup.
And pre-game, it was labelled as Edmonton “panicking,” but post-game, it will now be labelled as “heroic coaching” because that’s just how sports works.
How effective was it? Well Cody Ceci still had a horrible game, but it managed them to get Nurse into a better spot. Instead of actively helping his team lose he merely skated around and got some good sprints in.
Now add in Evan Bouchard and Mattias Ekholm having a hell of a night and it’s easy to see one of the reasons the Canucks struggled on the night.
Best early indicators
The game started as it often does with Quinn Hughes being mugged and then the Oilers generating a scoring chance off of it:
It wasn’t the worst mugging, mind you. Nobody walked up and hit Hughes in the face and stole his wallet. Instead McDavid merely tugged his jacket a couple of times and then stole his wallet, which is just downright polite.
The end result was almost a tap in goal for the Oilers, who to their credit, had a fantastic first period of hockey, the kind of period you’d possibly hold a festival for.
Best it could have all been different
Had the Canucks powerplay been effective on the night, maybe we’d have a different result on the night. Alas, it went 0 for 3, with all of the penalties coming in the first period.
Fun fact: The Canucks only generated four shots the entire period. Not even Al Murdoch could put enough “Za za za za za” noises on that to make it sound sexy. Zexy? Za za za zexy?
The point is, the Canucks essentially left to get some milk for the first frame and you found yourself wondering if Edmonton would let you move in with them and crash on their couch that smelt slightly of mildew and urine.
Fun fact 2: Darnell Nurse got two minutes for cross-checking despite not loading up to land it, which I was told was a key element for a cross-check:
Fun fact 3: Darnell Nurse then punched Dakota Joshua in the face which I’m told is also a hockey play, so there was no extra penalty on the play. Sometimes you lead with rock in a spirited game of paper, rock, scissors and things get out of hand. Who amongst us hasn’t found ourselves punching out grandma during Christmas dinner once or twice in our lives, because we all know that jerk was going to lead with scissors. You know it and I know it.
Fun fact 4: I am actually shocked Dakota didn’t get called for head-butting Nurse’s hand to be honest.
Fun fact 5: Even if he had gotten an extra penalty for the punch, the Canucks powerplay was so awful it feels like it wouldn’t have mattered. It might have been a gift from the officials?
The most important part of that entire sequence was Joshua looking off Nurse’s punch like someone had slightly coughed in his direction. He no sold that like Hulk Hogan in his prime. I feel like it emotionally damaged Nurse because he stopped punching dudes after that and instead just took up shoving contests instead.
Best of the worst
The Canucks powerplay was a hot bag of vomit but the one shining light was Corolla Garland generating multiple chances off of the half-wall:
You could almost see his eyes light up as the Oilers kept giving him time and space, so he would just circle in and shoot, or circle in and then pass into the slot to set up a possible high-danger shot. It was like watching someone doing donuts with their Corolla in the Walmart parking lot, it was cool to watch but you kind of felt sad for everyone involved after a few minutes.
Best Ian Cole is still a thing
We’re at the point where you have to start seriously considering the idea that Ian Cole has been blackmailed into playing for the Edmonton Oilers. I don’t know what he did, but I assume it involves Minecraft and cryptocurrency, because he continues to struggle heavily in this series while also looking like someone who enjoys building a nice fort in his spare time.
The end result of the Canucks being hemmed in their own zone? JT Miller took a penalty for touching Leon Draisaitl’s face, or at least generating enough wind to cause Leon to stumble and flail about in pain:
And since the Oilers are powerplay merchants, but extremely effective powerplay merchants, they scored on it:
It’s hard to get too riled up over Oilers powerplay goals because this is what they do. This is what they are built for.
It would be like showing up to a Jake Gyllenhaal movie and being outraged about him being such a fantastic actor. Why be mad at someone for being so good at what they do?
Artūrs Šilovs also got a piece of the Draisaitl shot, but it still somehow fluttered into the net. Which just kind of feels fair with Šilovs, where for every nine incredible bizarre bounces that goes his way, the tenth one comes with a price.
Now I know what you’re all thinking, why wasn’t Tyler Myers sitting immobile in front of the net with his stick on the nice? Well sometimes we don’t always get what we want in life.
Best Arty Party
I made an audible fart noise on the Oilers game winner near the end of the game, but don’t let that distract from what was another terrific game for a goalie that wasn’t even supposed to be here. End results were 30 shots to Vancouver’s 21, with eight high-danger chances for the Oilers compared to the three Vancouver got.
But here is Šilovs tracking the puck and making a couple of saves, looking  like a regular starting goalie in the playoffs and not in fact three kids in a long trenchcoat:
It was a good game from him and he was not the reason the team lost. Again, last goal, fart noise, but that fart noise was aimed at the entire team, and not just him.
Best hockey play
Evander Kane didn’t cross-check Tyler Myers in the face, you see, he merely utilized the traditional Vancouver four way stop greeting where you scream at the other guy for going on your turn, as you extend your hands to show your displeasure:
What’s interesting here is that Evander was only given four minutes for high sticking, and not a five minute major and game misconduct. It’s interesting because Kane ended up playing a huge role in the game-winner, much in the way that it’s interesting that 76% of people in Edmonton pretend to know how to read.
Again, the Canucks lost for many reasons. They were their own worst enemy on this night. But it is an honest talking point to wonder how Kane avoids getting kicked out of a game in which he has two hands on a stick, hits Myers in the face, and draws blood.
Best power failure
It’s always a good sign when Mattias Janmark is one of the main highlights of a Canucks powerplay, right?
Coming off of a game in which the powerplay looked lethal and generated two goals, it felt like a return to the norm for the Canucks in this game. The powerplay never got set up, never really threatened, and generally looked about as disinterested as one can be about the idea of scoring a goal. They had the energy of a teenager who was just told to get off their phone basically.
We’re at the point where I would be ok with the Canucks putting two Canadian geese out on the ice because at least I’d know they’d run around aggressively on the ice.
The only bright spot of the powerplay? The second unit with Corolla:
Miller finds Garland down low and he immediately spins and rams the puck into the crease, forcing Pickard into having to make an actual save, which felt like a huge accomplishment at this point in time.
Best trusting the process
As I said earlier, the Oilers first period? Fantastic. They deserve full credit for it. They out-worked the Canucks, and even when Vancouver generated scoring chances, they shut them down quickly:
Brock Boeser can’t even get a shot off because the Oilers clamp down defensively on him. It’s not often another team wins the Jeff Tambellini Award for Hustle and Energy, but on this night? It happened.
Best checking in with Spector’s friends
The Canucks came out a bit stronger in the second period and actually generated shots that looked like they might hit the net, which was a nice change of pace.
First up the Canucks get a little cycle going on, that ends with Pius Suter returning to his natural form of hitting posts:
Posts aside, that’s an incredible forecheck from Suter. If you could combine Suter’s mind with JT Miller’s abilities, you’d have a possible league MVP. Suter’s hockey IQ and ability to scan the ice constantly leads to him winning puck battles and intercepting passes. With JT Miller it’s all cardio and vibes which hey, sexy as hell, until you see him staring blankly at his own goalie while letting Evan Bouchard wind up from the point.
Teddy Blueger was the next guy to get a shot, and while it was in a high-danger spot, it doesn’t count as high danger because Teddy is the one shooting it:
And hey maybe you’re thinking, “Why the snark, Wyatt??” And I’m not trying to be mean! I’m not! But admit it, there are a handful of players on this team that when they shoot the puck, you know you have time to go for a bathroom break. You’re not going to miss anything. Some of the Canucks shooters on this team don’t generate fear in a goalie, not even Calvin Pickard. I would feel pretty solid about Greg Balloch going out there and shutting some of the Canucks shooters down.
Like if it was game 7 in the Finals, in overtime, and Ilya Mikheyev and Teddy Blueger got a 2-on-0, you could comfortable walk away and go make a sandwich. That’s all I’m saying.
You know who is scary, though? Brock Boeser:
Fil Hronek’s one handed shove pass was actually redirected to Brock Boeser by Cody Ceci, but the end result was Brock getting the best shot of the game off for the Canucks.
You might find yourself upset that Calvin Pickard picked up a win against the Canucks and made saves like these along the way, but since Artūrs Šilovs has defeated the Predators and and beaten the Oilers twice, it also feels like balance has been restored to the universe in a way.
Live by the sword, die by the sword.
Best oops he did it again
It’s safe to say Ian Cole doesn’t get a lot of leeway from the fan base right now:
Ian Cole is not the swiftest of skaters, he’s about as far from Taylor as one can get. He also made a bit of misjudgment cutting over to the right point while Tyler Myers was pinched deep along the boards. There is also something disheartening about seeing Myers end up being the guy that gets back to check the shooter.
But here’s the thing.
I don’t have anything else to add.
Ian Cole is not playing good hockey right now. He is not making good decisions. It’s made all the more bizarre by the fact he played so well against Nashville.
He’s a veteran player. This is what he’s here for. He’s the guy who shouldn’t be making mistakes.
Yet, every game he is making visible mistakes, oftentimes ones that lead to goals against.
Sometimes, people just tweet, “Ian Cole,” and you know something bad has happened.
If your name is Ian, I’m sorry, but you’re getting dragged down a bit here by Cole’s play. If we can’t trust Ian Cole, how can we trust any other Ian?
Best play it again, Sam
Ian Cole would then get into another 2-on-1 situation on his next shift:
At least in this scenario, this is more on Suter not covering the point for a pinching Tyler Myers. If Suter covers the point, then this never turns into a thing.
And to Cole’s credit, look how far back he is on this play. Dude is skating so close to his own zone he might as well be Dana Murzyn out there. He is clearly aware that he needs a lot of space to handle any odd man rushes.
Cole also lucks out that Draisaitl ends up passing the puck over to Ceci, of all people, who, even though, according to Curtis Joe, “Has elite finishing ability and shot that could melt steel,” is not your typical top-end goal scorer.
Best signs of life
Two constants in this game? Quinn Hughes and Conor Garland playing good hockey:
Hughes dancing to the point until he finds an open Garland, who then shimmies his way into a good shooting position is the good stuff. I see this kind of play and I turn and point at my dog, because I know he knows how slick of a play that was.
Garland’s shot ultimately ends up being deflected over the net, but on a night in which you found yourself pining for the offensive skills of Jeff Cowan in the lineup, these sorts of plays stood out.
When Tocchet said some people didn’t even look like they thought it was a playoff game, he was clearly not talking about Hughes or Garland.
Best debate
If I had to pick which goal made me make an audible fart noise the loudest, it would be a close race between the second and third goal.
The Oilers’ second goal of the night just felt so unnecessary. The Canucks were closing out the period and heading into the third period lucky to be down only a goal, when Noah Juulsen decided to have himself an adventure:
Noah starts this play by clearing the puck around the boards, but none of his teammates are over there to support it. So it ends up being a turnover in the neutral zone.
And hey, fair enough, he hasn’t played in a while, so sometimes just off the glass and out is better than game planning a 180 spin where you try and sauce it to your D-partner. Simple and easy is a solid choice. You don’t want to do a lot of that, because turning the puck over is how you get articles written about you by Harman Dayal and your inability to generate proper zone exits, but we can give Juulsen some slack here.
The problem begins when he sees his turnover and thinks, “Nah man, I gotta smack the shit out of Ekholm.”
You get a really good idea of the impact this decision had from this angle of the goal:
Kendrick Lamar couldn’t have written a better beat on this play than what Juulsen does here. Noah sees Elias Pettersson and Ilya Mikheyev skating and turning with Ekholm, but he still decides to step up and hunt for the hit. It’s wild behaviour. I don’t know how you enter a playoff game in a bottom pairing role, in a 1-0 game, heading into the third, without “safe is sexy” blasting through your brainbox.
And hey, big hits are cool, I get it. I enjoy watching meat slappers go at it in the playoffs as much as the next guy. And Juulsen had gotten so much better at cleaning up that part of his game during the season. And yes, I understand that he’s been put into a hard position due to the Soucy suspension, so you’re asking a lot of a kid playing playoff hockey in the NHL for the first time in his career.
But due to that hit, Juulsen not only drags himself out of position, but he also takes out Mikheyev and Pettersson on the hit as well. Instead of turning and skating with Ekholm, now EP40 and Mikheyev find themselves running into a wall of meat, which stops all of their momentum.
The end result is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins betraying his hometown and scoring the Oilers second goal. It’s like he never waited in the North Van McDonald’s drive through for 15 minutes with the rest of us.
It just felt like such a self-inflicted wound to make on this play.
Best by the numbers
Carson Soucy butterfly effected. Without him balancing out a defensive pairing you had Quinn Hughes being the only guy who could tilt the ice, and you had Juulsen stepping up to land a big hit, costing the team a goal.
Best 5 minutes into the third
The third period wasn’t a great start for the Canucks, as noted by the fact the most interesting clip I have from that time period is Artūrs Šilovs making an incredible save:
Eddie Lack could never.
Best she’s not wrong
Corey Perry is unable to skate or generate points, but at least he can still give us memes:
It’s good to know he has a job waiting for him as a rope to curtain off VIP rooms in the future.
Best stock drop
All of the money people had tabled for Fil Hronek halfway through the season has now officially been tabled for Nikita Zadorov:
I know every time the playoffs end you’re at risk of hearing how horribly mangled a player was, and what awful injuries they played through, so you have to be careful with your critiques. The second I lean too hard into Hronek’s sub par play, the second we find out he lost both legs in a boating accident at Granville Island in December and what we’ve been watching since then has been projected images and two small people pushing him around the ice.
That being said, Hronek has been wildly mediocre for the second half of the season. He’s the October version of Hronek you buy at Presidents Choice. He’s Joe Fresh Hronek. I know Curtis Joe once said Hronek skates faster than Denny Morrison and defends with the vigor normally associated with a mother bear protecting her cubs, but Hronek has been struggling to be the player he was during the first half of the season. Injury? Poor play? All we know is the results on the ice haven’t lent themselves to good reviews.
Best numbers don’t lie
Best who else
Who betta than Conor?
Garland does what he has all season long: find a way to contribute. Whether it’s defensively or offensively, he continues to be one of the most reliable parts of this Canucks team.
And it’s funny because this goal kind of came out of nowhere. The Canucks hadn’t shown signs of life, and Edmonton was still motoring along.
But Garland, man. The guy is a gamer. He finds ways to contribute. He’s so damn reliable.
And what happens when you finally score in a close game in the third period?
The other team shuts down and you go on a bit of a push.
Best yes chef
The Canucks played their best hockey in the second half of the third period, marked first by the Garland goal, and secondly by Quinn Hughes embarrassing Corey Perry in front of thousands of people:
Some of the best skaters in the game see Quinn Hughes and tell themselves not to chase the hit. They know they can’t track him down.
But 73-year-old Corey Perry is out here saying to himself, “Yes, I got this?” He had about an hour to line up that hit as well, but Quinn Hughes hits the deke button and goes right by him.
The Risotto was good Coery. But Quinn didn’t say it was perfect.
Best push back
The Canucks finally had consecutive shifts in the offensive zone. Moving the puck around, winning battles, generating shot attempts on net, all that good stuff:
Pickard was up to the task, but you just got the feeling this game was going to get tied up. You knew once they pulled their goalie that the Canucks magic would just somehow kick in again. That’s what we’ve been taught.
Best but wait
The highlight of the night for Artūrs Šilovs? The Boss going full Dominik Hasek mode on a Evander Kane breakaway:
When we say this kid has swagger, this is what we mean.
Thatcher Demko? He stays in his net and calmly stops the breakaway.
Casey DeSmith? He barrel rolls, coin flip if he stops it.
Eddie Lack? He’d quit hockey and take up real estate instead of trying to make the save.
The Boss? He takes fate into his own hands and races out to bat the puck away, no problem. Doesn’t even hesitate. If he was a character on The Sopranos, everyone would be crowding around talking about the balls on this guy.
Down 2-1, in the third period, and Šilovs is out here chasing down pucks at the blueline.
Best we all saw it coming
And with Artūrs Šilovs pulled, the Canucks do what they always do, which is score to mount another insane comeback with their goalie pulled:
Why is Brock Boeser always involved?
Why is the team so much better at 6 on 5 hockey vs 5 on 4 hockey?
Why can’t they score goals before everything is on the line?
I have no answers for these questions.
All I know is that the Canucks once again played a pretty terrible game only to find a way to salvage it. Once again they tied a game up late.
The building was DEVASTATED. Fans slumped over in their seats knowing that the only festival in their future was a celebration of sadness.
The Canucks have done this before, they know how to ride this out. They did it against Nashville where they KNEW the Predators were dead inside. They had the Oilers right where they wanted them. Get the game to overtime and then let Brock Boeser end this shit.
Best large audible fart noise
I wanted to include the entire clip, so watch through it on the tweet.
And this will sound like a harsh recap of this goal, but it’s the playoffs, so breaking down one goal into CSI levels to assign blame is a proud tradition.
First off, the butterfly effect of Kane not being given a misconduct comes into play as he makes the initial huge hit on Hronek. He in fact gets the secondary assist on the eventual Bouchard goal.
I am not saying the Canucks lost solely to this, but it’s now a part of this stories lore.
At this point the Canucks are still okay, though, because they get the puck over to Zadorov who pokes it up to Boeser. Brock tries his best to flip the puck out of the zone but it gets batted down.
This is where mistake number one from JT Miller kicks in, as he sees a bouncing puck and decides to play 50/50 with it. If he gets that puck he has a one on one rush the other way. So he blows the zone, but doesn’t get the puck. The thing is, we’ve seen Miller do this plenty of times. Risky hockey is kind of his thing, and to his credit, he is good at pulling this stuff off.
But there are times when he makes risky decisions and they don’t pay off. He can be prone to being lazy in his own zone either in coverage, bad passes or blowing the zone. It’s the reason I think Ryan Kesler comparisons are way off. JT Miller is a much better complete offensive player than Ryan Kesler, but he is no where near the level of Kesler defensively.
So because Miller plays the 50/50 and loses, the puck gets stuck in the Canucks zone, and the Oilers begin to cycle. And this is where JT Miller mistake number two comes into play:
At the start of the clip, Miller is still in a decent spot above the tracks. He can still reasonably cover the point. But then out of nowhere, he takes a stride and skates below the tracks and in front of his net. He doesn’t need to, because the puck is behind the net, so at best JT can offer up a bit of extra coverage on Evander. But all this does is lead to Bouchard having all the time in the world to get his shot off:
Hronek also gets bodied again in the lead up to this goal, which will do nothing to help his status in this town.
And on a night in which Artūrs Šilovs was truly fantastic, you’re not going to bury the guy for letting this shot in, but it does feel like a goal he would want to have back.
A lot of things went right on that play for Edmonton and a lot of things went wrong for Vancouver.
But at the end of the day, the Canucks lost 3-2 on a night in which two of the goals they gave up felt like easily avoidable mistakes.
I shouldn’t have to say it, but JT Miller is one of the Canucks best players. He has been absolutely fantastic this season and one of the main reasons they’ve even made it this far.
But on this night, it might have been Miller’s worst game of the playoffs.
Best final note
Matt is right on the button, though.
As I said in the opener, the Canucks have bounced back all season long. And Tocchet’s coaching has been a huge part of that.
Mentioning passengers? Talking about players not being ready? He’s firmly in button pushing mode and after a game like that, it’s warranted.
The big test will be game five, where we will see if Tocchet’s message lands as well as he hopes.
Feels like a seven game series, right?

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