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The Stanchies: Canucks fail to punch playoff ticket for second straight game in loss to Stars

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
20 days ago
The Canucks lost to the Dallas Stars 3-1 in a contest many were calling so tight, almost like a playoff game.
And it was all in all a very entertaining game. Not in the LA Kings “Thank god that game is over so I can remember what it feels like to experience joy in my life again way,” but in a “that felt like post-season hockey to me, I wouldn’t mind seeing this play out in a best of seven series” kind of way.
It was a game in which it really did feel like next goal wins heading into the third period, which is exactly how it played out.
For the Canucks part, they battled hard and did their best to punch as many faces in the scrums after the whistles as possible. You want mean spirited shoves to make sure the other team knows you don’t like them? Vancouver had you covered. And I say that without sarcasm, it was nice to see Vancouver as a whole make the game as difficult as they could on Dallas. Carson Soucy in particular felt like he was trying out for a role on a Sopranos reboot.
But despite that, it also felt like we saw a few too many old narratives show up uninvited to this game. They just showed up said they happened to see you post the dinner you made on Instagram, so they were sure you’d be home. Are the narratives stalkers? Possibly. We can’t discount that theory.
The point is, we once again found ourselves talking about the Canucks lack of powerplay production. About their lack of offense overall. And about their inability to get to the guts of the ice and make life hard on the opposing goalie. Even down two goals with around a minute left in the game, Vancouver showcased a lack of urgency, seemingly content to pass the puck around the perimeter of the ice.
That being said, it really was a good hockey game. Vancouver was in it for the majority of the time, and it felt like if they had managed to find one more goal, maybe they win this thing. It’s just Dallas, for their part, slowly took over the game as it went along. They crashed the crease with glee, heads hanging out of their window, driving the cop car down Rosbon street with wild abandon. Casey DeSmith played extremely well, considering how much of the play ended up with a puck bouncing around in his crease, with Tyler Myers occasionally posing for Jack Dawson.
Ultimately the game was decided on a late high sticking call, which is always a let down, at least thematically. I understand penalties are going to be called but didn’t Cody Rhodes teach us anything? Shouldn’t this game have gone to overtime and ended with Nikita Zadorov going full Final Boss and beating Chris Tanev with a belt dedicated to someone’s parents?
Alas, hockey is not wrestling, and Dallas’ special teams came through for them, while Vancouver’s didn’t. There appears to be a slight difference in running a bumper play through Jamie Benn vs Pius Suter. Which I know, that’s shocking, but I ran the numbers and it’s true. Not having a functioning powerplay since Andrei Kuzmenko left town is one of those “Surely he wasn’t the secret ingredient, but maybe he was?” moments we shall save for another article.
The end result is another loss for Vancouver, and another day of waiting for a playoff spot to be secured. Which of course shouldn’t be an issue, as the probability of the Canucks making the playoffs is 99.999999999%. But you’d be lying if you didn’t say to yourself, in the dark of night, “but what if…”
So the sooner the better for Vancouver, starting with Anaheim on Sunday. Secure that playoff spot. Put those demons to rest. Let the city prepare itself for it’s journey into the playoffs with a healthy debate about whether the Covid playoff wins even counted, as they prep for towel power to hit Rogers Arena for the first time since 2015.
And for the love of all that is holy, practice the powerplay every single second you can.
Best plot twist
Elias Lindholm remains out of the lineup for a mysterious amount of time, which can mean anything from a couple of games to “sometime in 2024” to “he retired and took up beekeeping as a profession.”
Nobody is quite sure where it will land, but Dakota Joshua made his return to the lineup, bringing some size and physicality that will be needed more and more as the end of the season approaches.
Best early returns
With a broken hand you can’t do much but work out your legs, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that Dakota used those tree trunks to jump over his fallen foe and unleash a solid shot on net:
Hey, that’s a good shot with some solid power on that wrister.
But also, notice the lack of traffic in front of Jake Oettinger. We’ve heard Rick Tocchet talk about layering in front of the goalie to take away their eyes, and it just hasn’t been happening enough for the Canucks. They were tasked to bring a seven layer dip to the party but all they keep showing up with is a tub of sour cream and a can of refried beans.
These kinds of shots might work against Kevin Woodley or Frank Caprice, but against the highly technical, hugely big goalies of today’s NHL, you need to find a way to make life hard on them. Take away their eyes, but like, in a metaphorical way.
Best making it up as we go along
This was one of those games where it felt like the officials were calling feelings more than penalties on the night. They only wanted to follow the rule of “Yes, and…” to keep the scene going, which hey, kudos to them for making the Granville Island improv troupe proud.
“Ok so Ian Cole shoves Wyatt Johnston into DeSmith…”
“Yes, and….then we call a penalty on Johnston as well.”
My most favourable read of this situation is the officials saw DeSmith laying out and selling that contact like a young Dolph Ziggler, so they called the play dead. They then assessed penalties for the initial shove and also for Johnston using said shove to “whoops did I just run your goalie? Silly me, I’m so clumsy, tee hee” his way into some free contact.
None of which changes my outlook that the referees were booking this game more than officiating it. Gotta get those storylines in, brother.
Best early bird
The first period didn’t see a lot of scoring chances from either team, it was mostly a period of both teams trying to assert dominance by urinating on as much of the ice as possible. A lot of the first twenty minutes was full of spirited board battles and trying to keep the other team to the outside, which resulted in very few whistles and not many scoring chances.
The Canucks best chance at a goal was on a Corolla Garland set up to Elias Pettersson:
Quinn Hughes starts this play off purely by being a better skater than almost everyone else in the league, allowing him to buy time until he can find Elias Pettersson. EP40 tries a cheeky little shot from the side of the net, which had no chance of going in, but lets Jake Oettinger know his intentions with his net, which is just good manners.
Then Garland swoops in to get the puck, circles behind the net, and finds Elias in front for the scoring chance.
This is one of those plays that looks dangerous and is dangerous, but Oettinger makes the save look so easy that you’re almost embarrassed that you felt like a goal could have been scored on the shot. He bats it aside with such ease that you’re mad at yourself for thinking this was a scoring chance. This is the state of big goalies in the NHL, though; they make hard saves look incredibly easy.
In my day, a 5″6 goalie would have had to have completed a full spin, and then the ninja kicked three feet into the air to make the save on that shot, before taking a quick timeout to smoke a quick cigarette before heading back into the net.
Best sticking it to them
If you like reoccurring themes, then the Canucks had you covered with their first of two goals against due to a high sticking penalty:
Fun fact, I am so used to Tyler Myers taking penalties that I just assumed he had committed the crime. I looked around and exclaimed to press row “Tyler Minors is back!” before sitting down smugly, waiting to hear the penalty call.
But it wasn’t Tyler. It was Quinn Hughes. Quinn Hughes had betrayed the nation and I had followed him blindly into battle like a fool.
Hughes’ attempt at a stick lift completely missed, and instead he booped Jamie Benn right in the face. You can tell he made contact with his stick because Benn did the whole “holding his face while screaming and spinning in place, before finally falling to one knee” thing you do to let the refs know you REALLY got hurt.
As a result, Dallas got their first goal of the game:
To the Canucks credit, they did a decent job of boxing Dallas out on the night, but on this powerplay the puck movement from the Stars just ate them alive. We’re talking Globetrotters level of moving the puck to the point where they essentially had Elias Pettersson almost doing a head slide like he was trying out for Dance 360 on UPN:
This is very much one of those moments where you have to hand it to the opposition for generating a great goal. They moved the puck so quickly and efficiently that Vancouver lost their structure and Dallas was able to use that for the cross crease tap in that EA Sports truly believes is the only way you can score a goal in the NHL.
 
Best enhance that
The Canucks challenged the goal, however, saying it was struck by a Jason Robertson high stick:
The call on the ice was no high stick, so you need definitive proof to overturn it and you know what? I am going to save my arguments for another call.
I feel like I could argue this and say it should have been overturned. That it was in fact a high stick and that Dan O’Rourke is the kind of guy who gets on the Skytrain before letting people get off.
But at this point in the season I’ll save it for another battle.
It’s probably a high stick, but also it’s close enough that I don’t care?
If this was the playoffs, then clearly I would go to war on this call. I would see this as the NHL doing everything in its power to hold the good people of Vancouver down, and I would once again bring up those Colin Campbell e-mails.
On this night, though, it is what it is.
At the very least, being down 1-0 after one period of play should very rarely be the reason you lose a game of hockey, especially if Vancouver is as good as they think they are.
Best we have a problem
Pew Pew Suter is now rocking that nickname ironically as I, for one, do not think he is the answer on the powerplay:
He does the right things, he goes to the right place. He is also very smart with the puck and is very smart at cutting down lanes so the opposition can’t clear the puck easily.
It’s just he isn’t much of a threat with the extra man. He feels like a second unit powerplay kind of guy. That’s where he should peak in life.
Like, I know I can’t play Guitar Hero on the highest difficulty on a lot of songs. I understand that. I stick to Miss Murder by AFI and call it a day.
Brock Boeser is a better option down low, we saw that last year when he battled Kuzmenko for the tap in goals.
The bumper spot, honestly, maybe you try Elias there at this point. The “Petterzonze” one timer has disappeared, it’s no longer a threat. It feels like people talk about his one timer goals from the right side like they talk about the McLean toe save, most people just pretending they were old enough to see it. “Remember all those one timer goals on the powerplay from Elias?” Jeff chuckled nervously, praying nobody would drill him too hard on the details.
And hey, I don’t want to say Andrei Kuzmenko stirred the drink on the powerplay, but I do think he helped it out quite a bit. His ability to handle the puck in tight, work down low, but also rotate and pass the puck quickly helped the movement on the powerplay quite a bit. It’s impossible to say he’d fix this powerplay, but I think it’s fair to say the first unit has gotten quite stagnant since he left.
Best pushing to win
Again, this was a pretty solid game for Vancouver despite their issues on the night. In the second period Vancouver had several chances to tie the game up, including this play started by a thunderous Podkolzin forecheck:
That hit from Podkolzin allows Corolla Garland do what he does best which is set up someone with a successful high danger pass to Teddy Blueger. Oettinger makes a great save, however, and the Canucks remained without a goal on the board.
Best pretty pretty pretty good goal
The Canucks lone goal of the game came as a result of, wouldn’t you guess it, Corolla Garland making a successful high danger pass:
Look, that shot is a thing of beauty. There are few things in this world more glorious than watching a professional hockey player wind up and get everything on a puck, overpowering the goalie as if to say “you are less of a man than me, nobody can question this now.” I hate to use the term cuck here because it means Quadrelli will have to have a moral battle about allowing it in this article, but it’s very clear that one timer goals create cuck energy.
But that pass from Garland needs all the love here. Not just the pass, but the board battles he wins. He eats one, hit, falls to a knee, gets back up. Eats a second hit, but as he’s taking it, swings a no look pass right to Jimothy Timothy Miller, thus proving how efficient the crumple zone is on a Corolla.
It’s in the top five passes of the season for the Canucks. I don’t know for sure, but I would bet money that Henrik Sedin would have tipped his cap to that pass.
Hell, he might have gone full Fortune on that pass and given a solid clap while watching from the stands.
The day Garland retires I’m hiring him to teach my team on how to win battles along the board and retain puck possession.
Best angry men
When they say playoff hockey it usually means teams taking turns plowing each other with cross checks for daring to try and score on their goalie:
Hronek goes full Jim Duggan and clear his crease, which is fantastic, but also watch how Dallas layered two guys in front of Casey DeSmith. They didn’t quite take away his eyes, but four Canuck players collapse to try and deal with the traffic, which is the kind of thing that can lead to an open guy in the slot if Dallas gets the puck back.
The Canucks played well, I’ve already said it several times, but it did feel like Dallas was better at causing chaos in the crease on the night.
Best we need a doctor
Look, the bumper play is good, it’s how Dallas won this game, but when Pius Suter is your shooter, JFK goes on to have another term of presidency:
He gets the shot off, which is fine, but he’s never going to be a guy who snipes home goals consistently.
I like that they’re trying different solutions, I just find it hard to believe Suter is the guy who is going to fix it.
Best rough housing
Meanwhile the Dallas Stars powerplay was continuously creating havoc in front of the net, and finding ways to get high danger shots off:
Give Casey DeSmith credit because that sequence ended with a shot that very easily could have been a goal.
Best you can never go home
The Stars almost took the lead right away in the third period when the Canucks had two guys chase down a puck to the point, leading to a wide open Chris Tanev shot:
Did Chris hit the post out of loyalty? Or did the guy with a season high six goals not have the lethal finish we normally expect of him? Sometimes it’s too tough to tell.
Best threat I guess?
Look, I am not suggest an Ilya Mikheyev and Pius Suter two on one situation isn’t very threatening, but it’s also a scenario in which I would be comfortable taking a quick bathroom break, assured in the knowledge that I wasn’t going to miss anything:
Pius did the right thing taking the shot, and good on the Canucks for generating chances off the rush like this, but again, it just felt like the Canucks weren’t making life too hard on Jake. At the very least say something mean to him as you skate by him. Make fun of his hair, or tell him he pays too much in rent on his condo. Get inside his head somehow.
Best turning a blind eye
The main reason you’ll see Canucks fans upset about this game will be the fact a high sticking call was made near the end of the game, but this was ignored:
Miro Heiskanen skates in and takes out Dakota Joshua’s leg before the puck even gets there, ending with Dakota taking a pretty gnarly fall into the boards.
Then he doesn’t even have the decency to look ashamed about it, he just hangs his hands by his sides as if to say “why’d you trip and fall, bro?” Joshua then tries to implement “the code” and asks for a fight, but Miro declines, which fair enough, he doesn’t want to get the shit kicked out of him on a Thursday night in Vancouver, I get it.
But the officials put their whistles away on this play for whatever reason. They didn’t even give Vancouver a chance to not score on their shitty powerplay, which feels insulting you know?
Like we all know Vancouver would have passed the puck around for two minutes and not scored, but at least give us a chance to watch it, you know? Family dinners with your family are terrible because we all know your sister is going to drink too much and end the night saying things she can never take back, but at least we get to watch it play out together.
Best chance to win it
Vancouver kept pressing and generating chances, but even when they managed to get their seven layer dip going, the would miss the net or have their shots blocked:
I have seen the world in which 50% of the Canucks shots don’t go into the net, and it’s a very bleak world. It’s a world in which Westworld season 3 is the only season available to watch, something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.
All the more reason the Canucks need to stack the middle of the ice and crash the crease and embrace the grease. Hit the guts of the ice already.
Fancy goals are fun, don’t get me wrong, but getting a nice, dirty, greasy goal? That’s the good stuff right there. Go full beer league, whack that loose puck in the crease five times, score the goal, then over celebrate and challenge the other team to a fight in the parking lot, go full Pesky with it.
Best this is the end
I didn’t clip the high sticking call, which might be better for your mental health if we’re being honest, but here’s Dallas scoring on the Teddy Blueger errant high stick:
I mean, at the end of the day, it was a high stick to the face. You’re going to get that called against you, it’s how it goes, unless you’re Wayne Gretzky and LA being in the finals sounds way cooler than Toronto getting there.
It’s just the fact that the Canucks deserved a call on that Joshua hit, and didn’t get one, that left a sour taste in the mouth after this one.
Which again, the Canucks powerplay was trash on the night, so you can’t definitively say that call would have saved the day. But you’d at least like the penalty calls to make sense. Why rob us of two more minutes of complaining about Pius Suter in the bumper spot, it’s our constitutional right, damn it.
And yes, Dallas ran the bumper play to perfection, ending with Jamie Benn sniping it home easily. There is something to be said about having one of your best shooters in that spot versus a guy who averages 14 goals a season.
Best finishing it off
Vancouver pulled their goalie with around three minutes left, which caused me to lean forward in anticipation of a possible goal, but then they didn’t score, so it kind of felt like why did I put in that much effort leaning if they were just going to let Dallas score?
Vancouver got their seven layer dip on with the goalie pulled, and had a couple of shots, but there is a definite problem when the only time your powerplay looks threatening is when you’ve pulled your goalie.
And that was the game. Dallas won, and the Canucks lost another one of those games where you wonder if they can figure out a way to beat that style of play in a seven game series. But that’s the beauty of the playoffs, all the storylines go out the window when you get there. Today’s problems can disappear in the blink of an eye if a goalie catches fire or Tyler Myers scores 8 goals in a series.
You just have to, you know, lock up that playoff spot first.
Best scrum rules
A man can dream.
“Rick Tocchet said Tyler Myers was going to be net front on the powerplay the rest of the season before asking where everyone was dropping first when Rebirth Island comes back next week.”
Best not the solution but…
The trade was fine, I have no issue with it, I just want to say I do miss those hands at times. That’s all.

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