logo

The Stanchies: Canucks experience rowdy home crowd en route to 4-2 win over Predators

alt
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
1 month ago
“I couldn’t really believe how loud the fans were, I’ve seen some playoff games, I went to New Jersey and the Garden last year and watched, but it wasn’t anything like we just witnessed.” – Quinn Hughes
“When we came out on the ice today, that’s probably one of the more special things I’ve been a part of, other than the birth of my children and my wedding. It’s hard not to get choked up when you see that.” – JT Miller
“You know when I stepped out on the ice before puck drop, take a moment, look at the fans, it was a pretty special moment, I know they’ve been waiting for this for a while…as I was stepping on the ice I got chills. It was everything we thought it would be and more.” – Tyler Myers
On a night in which playoff hockey made its long awaited return to Rogers Arena, it should be no surprise that a lot of the talk surrounded the atmosphere in the building instead of the game itself. About what it felt like to experience playoff hockey in Vancouver. About what it meant to the fans to witness a game, much less a thrilling 4-2 victory over the Nashville Predators.
And if anything, the players are under selling the atmosphere. Eddie Lack would be appalled at their, well, “lack” of salesmanship in expressing the magnitude of the game experience on Sunday night.
Ok look, I guess they have fifteen more games to win. Maybe it’s best to not get too caught up in just one game. And perhaps cutting a promo about how this was the best game of their lives and they can now die in peace probably shortens their dream journal a little short of a Stanley Cup.
But for a city that has been starving for the post-season for almost a decade, Sunday night felt like it was written by Hollywood. I mean, the cameo by Kevin James probably could have been upgraded a little bit (you’re telling me we can’t get Jason Statham on board the Canucks?), and Sarah McLachlan, proud owner of the song used on the saddest commercial ever made, felt like an odd choice to use as a video to pump up the crowd. It’s hard to cheer on the boys when you’re thinking of a homeless puppy needing a family, but you know what? Chad Kroeger was there, so it all kind of evened out.
I guess what I’m saying is, the night was special. It didn’t have that 2012 vibe of a team that’s past it’s expiry date. It didn’t have that 2015 vibe of a team with no identity getting the shit kicked out of it by Michael Ferland. It didn’t have the somber vibe of the Covid Cup run.
It felt like a re-awakening for a fan base that has long been self-deprecating. Of a fan base that was far too used to being the punch line of a joke in the NHL, to the point that they took Tyrion’s advice to heart: “Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.” It doesn’t hurt as much if you’re the one making the joke first, something Canucks fans leaned on heavily during the Benning Era.
But on Sunday night, we saw something we haven’t seen in many years in this city in regards to the Canucks: Pure, unadulterated joy.
You had parents watching a playoff game for the first time with their kids, creating a memory that will forever be imprinted on both of them.
You had friends getting together to watch their favorite team, wearing their jerseys with pride, remembering what it feels like to scream and jump and hug the person nearest to you.
Friends drank a whiskey drink, they drank a vodka drink. They drank a Lager drink, they drank a cider drink. They sang the songs that reminded them of the good times, they sang the songs that reminded them of the better times.
Yes, Canucks fans might have fallen down this past decade, but damn it, they got back up again. There was just this feeling in the air that not a single person was going to take this night for granted. Not after all the failures. Not after all the sadness. Hell, even the Canucks owner himself cracked a joke to the media as he walked past them after the game.
It was honestly the most thrilling night I have spent in this building since 2011. I had gotten so used to writing game recaps about falling short, and trying to sift through the burning trash pile of another failed season that I forgot about this side of things.
Botch was right. On Sunday night, it finally went the other way.
This one is for you, my friend.
Best flashback
Fun fact, that game was one in which Willie Desjardins just ran the lines in straight rotation. Henrik and Daniel Sedin ended the night with around 17 minutes played.
2015 was not a good time.
Best award winning performance
The Canucks better upload their intro video because if JT Miller almost choked up during the start of the game, I had to pretend I had allergies as I walked down memory lane of some of the biggest moments in Canuck history. It was one of the best Canuck video hype packages I have seen, on par with Stone Cold vs The Rock Wrestlemania 17 promo.
So you can imagine when they then transitioned into having a live string quartet playing Lacrimosa I almost had to excuse myself and go home.
Just absolutely incredible stuff from a team that has been clearly dying to produce post-season content.
Best bringing the pain
I don’t know if Brock Lesnar gave the team a pump-up speech before the game, or if they just had pent up energy after waiting years to play in the post-season, but it was clear that violence was on the menu.
And playing the part of Chef Slowik on the night?
Jimothy.
Timothy.
Miller.
Rick Tocchet spoke after the game about how he prefers it when players get position first, then puck. And it’s clear that JT Miller listens to that advice because he is a man who thinks body first, puck second, as he did here.
Miller was only credited with four hits on the night, but it felt like he could have cracked a dozen. And with a crowd dying to enjoy every single moment in front of them, landing a big hit was met with thunderous approval from every fan in the building.
I know the idea of “intangibles” became a point of contention during the rise of analytics, and honestly, sometimes with good reason. You would have someone explaining why a player was good, and they wouldn’t really be able to explain why, so they’d trail off and just sort of mumble about, “Well, he has intangibles, you see.” Hockey men love using intangibles when they need to show their work.
But I also think there is some truth to it. Players aren’t robots, nor are they an assortment of 1’s and 0’s, as much as you binary enthusiasts want it to be. Players are human beings, and some of them? They won’t be a fan of playoff hockey. Maybe they don’t want to take a hit to make a play. Maybe they don’t want to engage in a board battle and get cross-checked in the back.
Those are the kinds of things that will separate a player in the post-season from others.
Don’t get me wrong, skill takes you a long long way.
But having a player like JT Miller dish out hits and block shots? That does matter.
Having the Chaos Giraffe and the Fashionista Bear handing out hits like candy? That does matter.
Watching Corolla Garland jump into board battles and eating multiple cross checks without giving it a second thought? That. Does. Matter.
Sometimes it’s the team that’s willing to go through hell and back that wins the series, and in game one, it truly felt like Vancouver was the one willing to go that extra mile.
So when you saw Tyler Myers obliterate Predators on the reg? That shit felt good to watch because you knew it mattered:
The Canucks might have focused a little too much on the physical play in the first period, but they weren’t chasing the hits. They simply chose to prioritize hurting people from Nashville over shooting the puck on net.
Which over a seven game series, might just pay off.
Best homage to Kirk
The first period in which the Canucks chose violence was met with a Nashville Predators team that chose a couple of timely scoring chances.
One of which was denied by Thatcher Demko, who went full Time Cop to make this save:
In Kirk McLean’s day, he would have torn both his groins and needed to replace 75% of his ligaments if he attempted that. It’s why he stacked his pads instead.
But Demko can do the splits, even if it hurts my body to look at that. Sometimes I have a spirited debate with myself about if I even need to own shoes, because I don’t want to have to bend down to put them on. Yet here’s Thatcher Demko making a split save and then bouncing back up like nothing happened.
Best checking in with the boss
At this point in the game, the hits were 16 to 8 in favor of Vancouver, but they were trailing 3 shots to 2. It felt like the Canucks were dictating the play, but they also weren’t getting any returns on it. They were putting in the work, but they were being left on read.
Part of the problem was when the Canucks were generating chances, they were maybe trying to be a little too slick with the puck:
I know Corolla Garland and Dakota Joshua have the kind of bromance we haven’t seen since they heyday of Bertuzzi and Naslund, but that’s a play that has to result in a shot on net.
Part of it is just the nature of a fancy play, as when it works, the crowd loses their shit, and then they tweet out contract demands about signing Joshua until the end of time.
But when it doesn’t, yeah, that’s when you feel like they’re playing with the fire of Tocchet’s doghouse.
Passing the puck to Garland on the outside like that? Feels like you need to just get the puck on net with a shot from the slot there.
Or, as someone suggested to me, drop the pass over to a more open Elias Lindholm who was begging to unleash a one timer clapper like ’07 Dany Heatley.
Best checking in with old friends
Luke Schenn asked me to not bury him in The Stanchies now that we are foes, but I would never attack him.
He’s like a grizzled knight who served the old beloved monarch, but there’s been a regime change. So now he serves a new master. And because he’s an honourable fellow, he’s going to serve them just as hard as he did his last boss, even if the new King enjoys awful music and has questionable hygiene. Because the man has a code, which is why Vancouver loved him so much to begin with.
So instead of burying him, here he is making a save for his goalie and then falling to his knees to protect him. Because of the implications code:
How could anyone attack this gem of a man?
Best 4D chess?
One of the surprise lineup changes was Sam Lafferty jumping up to play with Elias Pettersson and Nils Höglander. After all, it felt like the Canucks had spent considerable time playing Ilya Mikheyev with that duo, so it stood to reason they would continue down that path.
And while I am not up in arms over this decision (I can’t imagine any scenario in which I would be enraged over Ilya Mikheyev going to a new line), it felt like a very bold move to pull off for game one.
And in Lafferty’s defense, he won the Tambellini Hustle and Bustle Backcheck of the night award in the first period:
His effort on skating back into the play is what allows him to break up the shot, and then create a counter attack the other way. Heck, he even sets up Tyler Myers who drops down to his knee like he’s about to do a surprise proposal on the Stanley Park Train, only to realize he left the ring at home.
But overall? The results from that line weren’t great. They weren’t terrible. But they weren’t great.
They were decently in terms of Corsi, but were also outshot four to one as a line. Which maybe for a third line would be ok, but when your newly paid star Elias Pettersson is centering the line, it’s going to raise some questions. Should Elias be able to drive a line no matter what? Does he need better linemates? Maybe he’s born with it? Maybe it’s Maybelline?
I know one game is a small sample size. Still, it was clear that the Brock Boeser/JT Miller/Pius Suter line was the engine on the night for the offence. The Dakota Joshua/Elias Lindholm/Conor Garland line chipped in on offence and also had a heavy defensive assignment.
All of which is to say Elias Pettersson, welcome to the playoffs buddy, because the voices are going to get loud if he doesn’t have a standout game in this series.
Such is the beauty of the playoffs. Legends are forged in the fires of the post-season, in which one series can make you a legend.
But equally as important, failing to make an impact can make you the centre of attention on social media and earn you the dreaded talking point of “Is he a playoff performer?”
Again, it’s just one game. For all we know, EP40 rocks out a hat trick in game two, with Lafferty assisting on each goal, and I have to come back and hastily delete this section.
But for posterity’s sake, yeah, game one wasn’t exactly a highlight of Elias Pettersson’s career.
Best the turtle wins the race
All I’m saying is if Mark Messier is doing intermission reports on your game, never ever do his leg kick:
That’s just inviting the devil into your bedroom.
It also highlights the Canucks not taking the shot and trying those soft tips in front of the net. Which again, when they work? Delightful. I get to talk about how deftly you tipped a shot into the net, everyone goes home happy.
But when they don’t work? You end up with Steve screaming at his TV for you to shoot the puck.
Best laid plans
In what is certainly a career highlight for John Weisbrod, Mark Jankowski got the second assist on the Predators first goal of the night:
Jason Zucker gets the goal on Thatcher Demko, and if it looks like he had too much time and space, that’s because he did.
Elias Pettersson got thrown out of the draw for doing illegal things (giggling too much at the faceoff is my bet), which meant Sam had to step in and take the draw. The problem is Sam forgot he was the center on the play. Which meant he acted like a no-good, irresponsible winger who’s only goal in life is to live a party life style and score goals, instead of being a dependable center who’s only goal in life is to pay off their mortgage.
This little bit of confusion led to the Predators getting the first goal of the game, in a period in which it felt like they didn’t deserve it.
The good news is Crazy P was not fazed by this goal and continued to scream at people randomly throughout the night.
Best Zaddy Daddy promo
Anna is right, at one point they used AI to put Zadorov’s face on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator body in a video during a break in play, and it was everything you thought it could be. To the point that it is now canon that he owns a shotgun and drives a motorcycle.
And aside from his physical play (we will get to that later), Zaddy Daddy had his feet moving in this game:
Avoids a hit, submarines Michael McCarron along the boards, and still makes the outlet pass behind the net.
We’ve seen the best and worst of Zadorov this season, so we know him well enough now to know when he’s feeling it. When he gets that look in his eyes and he exudes the confidence of a man who is positive he can go end to end and go bar down like he’s prime Cody Hodgson.
Zadorov was one of the players at the top of my list of “I wonder how he’ll do in the playoffs” because I don’t know if anyone on the team seems to embrace violence like he does. He was the swagger of a mafia gangster when he’s at his best. Like he will dole out a huge hit, get into a fight, then you’ll see him calmly talking to the guy he just beat up as if he’s telling him how much money he still owes him. You know, letting him know that if he misses another payment it’s only going to get worse.
Like he’s not getting off on the violence like Raffi Torres did. But he’s clearly very good at violence, and for him it’s a necessary tool that’s just part of the job.
I have to say, Tyler Myers and Nikita Zadorov were two of the biggest standouts on the night for me.
Best gentle reminder
This is why drinking is so popular in sports.
Best little things
Tyler Myers spoke after the game about all the, yes, “little things” Elias Lindholm does that doesn’t get nearly enough credit from the fanbase and media. He talked about how playing with him is fun because he’s such a good 200 foot player.
So while Lindholm has struggled offensively during the lead up to the playoffs, there is truth to the argument that while it’s fun Kuzemnko scored a lot of goals for Calgary, Vancouver would do that trade every day of the week in order to get the more complete player.
And Lindholm with Garland and Joshua? You just know that has the DNA of a line that could go off in the playoffs. Defensively, offensively, they can do it all. And as Jurassic Park taught us about DNA, scoring, ah, ah, ah, finds a way:
It’s probably not how Lindholm would have drawn up his first playoff goal for Vancouver. It’s probably not going to be a play he scores on often.
But in a game in which people were screaming “SHOOT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SHOOT, WHY DO YOU HATE HAPPINESS”, simply shooting the puck to get a goal felt quite cathartic. Sometimes good things do happen when you put the puck on net.
Suffice it say, the building absolutely exploded when Lindholm scored that goal, and I don’t think a single solitary Canucks fan gave a tiny shit about Kuzmenko’s scoring at that moment.
Best top line doing top line things
Rick Tocchet said he felt like JT Miller pulled his team back into the game throughout the night, and it was because his line would end up with extended shifts in the offensive zone constantly.
You know that “shift length” clock that pops up when someone has been stuck on the ice too long? The clock 2020 Tyler Myers made famous?
Well, JT Miller’s line kept making it happen to Nashville players. They did it by winning puck battles, cycling the puck, throwing hits, and probably saying really mean things to them once in a while. You can’t tell me someone didn’t call Roman Josi “Josi Grossie” at one point.
They also leaned on low to high plays, a favorite of Tocchet’s because that goes hand in hand with the layering strategy he loves so much:
Creating chances, throwing hits, this is just what JT Miller does.
There is a reason when Al Murdoch says “J….T……MILLER” the entire crowd loses its mind as it screams it along with him.
Best driving through traffic
I don’t think I enjoy anything this season as much as I have enjoyed watching Garland and Joshua form their chemistry together:
I feel like they are both teaching things to each other. Garland teaches Joshua patience, and Joshua teaches Garland that sometimes it’s ok to lean on the accelerator and speed through that red light as you crash the net.
Best tall men doing tall things
Look, I know it’s primal, but I don’t know of many things better than a huge hit in the playoffs:
There is just something so satisfying about watching a guy straight up go “I could try and take the puck from you with skill, OR I could just truck you right into the boards.”
Tyler Myers and Nikita Zadorov were constantly choosing the latter on the night. And you didn’t have to feel bad about about them bullying people, because they were beating up people from Nashville. It’s like you got to celebrate the school bully taking the scrawny kid’s lunch because he was wearing a Filip Forsberg jersey.
Every single time one of them lands a huge hit, I have to resist the urge to act out that clip from Gladiator:
I know I should be better, be more civil, but something about a huge hit in playoff hockey unleashes the primitive side of me.
Best dialling up the pressure
JT Miller’s line continued to put in the work in the second period, cycling the puck, generating shots from the point, and crashing the net:
AKA Rick Tocchet hockey.
It was the best line on the night by far.
Best small hiccup
The Canucks got hit with some penalty trouble in the second period, and Nashville’s red hot powerplay? It struck gold:
The Canucks end up chasing the puck aggressively, which can work if you end up clearing it, but can burn you real bad if the other team keeps moving the puck away from you.
Which is what Nashville did here, as Vancouver chased the puck hard, only to see Nashville pass it around until it found Ryan O’Reilly open in the slot.
Now, there was some debate about whether Nashville clipped Demko’s glove hand on this goal, but the Canucks ultimately chose to not challenge for interference.
Which meant once again the Canucks found themselves trailing in a game that they clearly should have been leading in.
Best grit and determination
Remember what Tocchet has said all year? That each game was a learning experience? And how they had to get used to playing uncomfortable? Trailing 2-1 might have made previous Canucks teams panic, but this years version? They stayed the course. They kept grinding.
And you know if there is grinding going on, Garland is going to be involved:
Eats several cross-checks then comes up with the puck and generates a shot on net. Corolla Garland is built for playoff hockey. Always has been.
Best question
Look, I already told you he struggled on the night!
Best give and go
Best pattern recognition
Noticing a trend yet? It’s JT Miller’s line dragging this team back into the game:
Brock feeds JT Miller for a dangerous chance down low, and the line draws a penalty.
JT Miller is built for playoff hockey. Always has been.
Best working through some stuff
The Canucks fourth line didn’t have a banner night either, as at times they did give up too much room or find themselves making mistakes in coverage:
Three players float over to the side, leaving the point wide open, that’s generally frowned upon in hockey circles.
I get that it’s part of a fourth line to be not as good as the other three lines, but that’s the beauty of the playoffs, everything is magnified.
In the regular season a screw up maybe gets a gif made of it and everyone forgets it by Tuesday, but in the playoffs if you make a mistake, you get made into a meme with a beachball and a mean nickname gets assigned to you.
Best lady in the back
 
Best 12 seconds of heaven part one
The Canucks finally tied the game up halfway through the third period when they finally got their seven layer dip on:
Work the puck low to high, get levels in front of the goalie, ????, profit.
If this was a Cactus Club the Canucks would be the best tippers, as Pius Suter gets the deftest of deft tips on the Canucks second goal. He slammed 25% tip, after tax, without even batting an eye. That’s a baller move on a first date.
The Canucks kept their cool this entire game. There was no panic. They just kept hammering away at their game plan. Low to high, shoot through levels. Simple and effective playoff hockey.
It’s weird coming from a coach like Travis Green, who acted like state secrets were trying to be pried out of him after a 7-1 loss, to go to a guy like Tocchet, who openly explains his strategies to you, and then watch said strategies play out in the playoffs.
Best 12 seconds of heaven part two
This was the goal that created the loudest god damn arena I have heard in many many years:
If you put glass breaking before this goal, I would have sworn 1998 Steve Austin just walked down to the rink, it was that loud. The building was shaking, people were losing their absolute minds as they got to experience the thrill of potentially winning a playoff game for the first time in years.
And you know what starts this goal off? Those little things of Elias Lindholm.
Watch Elias chase down that puck and throw the big hit on the forecheck. That causes a loose puck. And you know what happens anytime a puck is loose?
Corolla freaking Garland swoops in to take it.
Remember in the first when Garland charged towards the crease? That was fun, but Garland is a high danger passing maestro, so this time he just finds his BFF Dakota Joshua.
And what does Joshua do? He uses his newfound patience and confidence to hold onto that puck and drag it just long enough to open up Saros.
This was just an absolutely fantastic goal. You couldn’t have come up with a better looking playoff goal. I would slide into this goals DMs, no questions asked. That’s a goal that could go up on PornHub and nobody would question it.
After the game Tocchet mentioned how Dakota Joshua doesn’t know how good he can be as a player.
Well, if game one was any indication, he’s going to find out real quick.
I am also starting to realize the Canucks might not be able to walk away from Dakota Joshua in free agency.
Best continuing trends
Hey remember that pattern we saw about JT Miller creating all of the offense?
He throws a big hit, they get the puck to the point, they generate another shot on net.
JT Miller was the first start of this game.
Best crushing on them
Sign him:
Sign him now.
Once again Zadorov has a choice between playing slick defense, or just blasting a dude to the ice. I wouldn’t be surprised if he demanded the guy give him his clothes, his boots, and his motorcycle while he was at it.
Now look, I know it’s only been one game.
But bring back Tyler Myers and Nikita Zadorov.
The Canucks need the Brothers of Destruction for any and all playoff games.
I can’t go back to a Yannick Weber lifestyle in the post-season, I just can’t.
Best opening statement
Who better to close out the game than Dakota Joshua?
This game was over once the Canucks got their two goals in twelve seconds. The crowd was jacked, the team was jacked, there was no way they were losing. Nashville had a couple of looks on net, but nothing too serious. Nothing the doctor would have to give you a call about.
And that was the ball game. The Canucks took game one in the absolute most entertaining game I have ever had the joy of writing about. Vancouver was the better team on the night, and they deserved the win.
The best part? We have more games to go.
See you at game two.
Best say the line
I actually took a moment to applaud this tweet.
Well played, sir. Well played.
Best jersey Botch
Take a moment to explain Shawn Matthias and Steve Bernier to your younger friends.
Now take a much longer moment to explain Ossi Vaananen to your younger friends.
I don’t know how this jersey came to be, but I like it.
That is incredible. The only thing I need now is someone wearing a #27 Todd Bertuzzi jersey to sit beside him.
I debated whether to include this on such a fun night, but at the end of the day, I had to do it.
Apparently it had a “C” on it as well.
I don’t know if it’s a bet gone terribly wrong, or someone upping their troll game, but either way, Zadorov and Myers would like to have a word with this person.

Check out these posts...