The Stanchies: Canucks pay their dues as Elias Pettersson fries Buffalo with a three point night

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Lachlan Irvine
3 months ago
Before we get into any debates about Zach Benson over Tom Willander, or why Daniel Wagner might deserve the Jack Adams for lighting a fire under Elias Pettersson, I’ve got something very important to get off my chest.
An anonymous Twitter account popped up recently — one that absolutely won’t be getting credited here — decided to anoint themselves as the true measuring stick of what a “real” Canucks fan is. Because, according to them, flying into Vancouver from a continent away for the sole purpose of seeing your favourite team in person just doesn’t cut it.
In this person’s world, you have to “pay your dues,” as some random person hiding behind a burner account decides who is or isn’t a Canucks fan.
Luckily, I have a scientific questionnaire that actually answers that question.
Are you someone who has spent even a single moment of your life thinking about the Vancouver Canucks? Congratulations! You’re a true fan of this team!
Days like today are exactly why The Stanchies exist, and why we focus so much on presenting the story of the Canucks in a way that everybody can enjoy, no matter what your history with them is. No matter which name has been in the byline over the years, from Botchford to Leith, the goal of these columns have always been the same: to give Canucks Nation their own voice.
Whether this is your very first Canucks post game with us, or you’ve been here through every single era, from The Provies to The Athletties to The Armies, you absolutely matter here. The Stanchies are — and will always be — for you.
One word of advice to any newbies here, though? The Costco across the street from Rogers Arena is WAY less stingy with the French fries.
Best old habits die hard
The Canucks learned their lesson against the Avalanche and Capitals about scoring too early in the game and wasting all their momentum too quickly. So on Tuesday night, the message was clear: start off as slow as humanly possible in the first few minutes, then hit ’em with the speed game.
Carson Soucy got that memo, and got the ball rolling by high sticking Alex Tuch less than a minute into the contest.
With the Canucks on the penalty kill, all eyes were on the PK unit to see how they’d respond to Rick Tocchet’s comments Tuesday morning about their lousy recent stretch, with a particular focus on his team’s clearing attempts. Tocchet felt that the Canucks had been making it way too easy for teams to block clearing attempts, and he needed to see more power in those plays.
Elias Lindholm’s first attempt was… probably not what Tocchet was looking for.
The Sabres ended up getting multiple good looks on Casey DeSmith during the man advantage as the Canucks struggled to find a clean route out of the zone.  The only man who could save them? Pius Suter, who made his first of many small impacts on this game by forcing Tage Thompson into a panic pass that got deflected by Nils Åman and fully intercepted by Filip Hronek.
The clearing attempts will definitely become a bigger storyline if the Canucks’ defenders keep hemming themselves into their own zone for large stretches. But once they remember how to hammer the puck the way Gallagher would to a watermelon, the difference will be almost night and day.
Best Column within a Column
While Casey DeSmith is learning how to navigate a starter’s workload for the Canucks, the Sabres’ goalie of the future, Devon Levi, is just trying to make things stick with the big club.
Levi has been down in the AHL with the Rochester Americans for the last two months, posting a 9-4-3 record during his time there. While the incredibly named Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has been handling starter duties for Buffalo, the former Canadian world junior netminder has been getting the consistent starts that a developing goalie requires with Rochester. But now that the Sabres are trying to push for a playoff berth, the time felt right to bring Levi back as a backup option over veteran Eric Comrie.
And without Wyatt here to wax poetic about him being the next Dominik Hasek, let’s check in on Levi’s progress with a special, cliff notes edition of ‘In the Crease’.
Right off the first serious chance the Canucks get, it’s clear the early jitters are present for the 22-year-old. After the J.T. Miller line gets away with jumping the gun on the faceoff, Quinn Hughes settles the puck and shoots it right down the centre lane into the pads of Levi. He’s unable to control the rebound through traffic and has to go spread eagle in the blue paint just to prevent Miller and Suter from jamming the rebound in.
But once the Canucks’ new-look top line of Elias Pettersson, Nils Höglander, and Conor Garland gain the zone, Levi makes a small error that costs him dearly on the scoreboard. After Höglander and Pettersson play give and go along the right boards, a cross-ice pass lands on the stick of Quinn Hughes along the goal line. The captain then throws a bad angle shot on goal that Levi isn’t fully prepared for after initially squaring up, expecting a perimeter chance from Hughes instead.
As Levi attempts to quickly reset, rather than positioning his skate blade behind the post so the toe of the pad seals off any entry for the puck, he overshoots his mark and ends up with the blade directly on the post. That opens up just enough room for Garland to push the puck over Levi’s foot like a Corolla squeezing into a parking spot for small cars.
Sabres’ coach Don Granato challenges the play for goaltender interference, but when it’s interference of your own goalie’s making, that’s an argument you’re just not winning.
Levi adjusted more to the pace of play as the game wore on, but his exuberance to make saves nearly got the better of him a few times. I counted quite a few instances of Levi either sliding past his intended spot, getting twisted up off an in-close scramble or full on losing track of the puck being passed and shot at NHL speeds. There weren’t any egregious major issues that stuck out in his play tonight, which is frankly the best you can ask for if you’re the Sabres. All he needs are more reps.
Best We Could’ve Had It All
In the other crease, Casey DeSmith was on a mission to drown out the alarm that’s been ringing since Thatcher Demko’s injury. Tonight, albeit in limited work, he at least managed to hit the snooze button.
DeSmith looked calmer and more crisp in his movements tonight compared to his last couple outings, starting with this in-close stop on Victor Olofsson.
The most dangerous chance the Sabres got in the first might’ve been this shot deflected near the net by a certain rookie named Zach Benson.
After electing to pass on drafting him last June for Tom Willander, it’s impossible not to look at Benson and wonder what the Canucks would look like today if the Chilliwack native were wearing the opposite sweater in this contest. Despite being the second youngest player in the NHL this season – the first naturally being the other local top prospect – Benson hasn’t looked out of place, proving he belongs with a 23 point campaign thus far.
There’s so much time for the Canucks to prove that decision wasn’t an error, and there’s a fair chance they will if Willander finds his way in their development system. But as far as the early dividends go, Buffalo is building a nice head start with Benson.
Best Death Wish
When Tyson Jost initially knocked over Elias Pettersson, it was a clean hit that could’ve ended up being a sparkplug for his teammates.
But he just had to get his extra lick in.
Jost giving Pettersson an extra shove into the ice when he was already down might’ve gone unnoticed by the refs, but not Petey’s teammates. And they’d make sure to exact some payback for it in the second period.
Best Black Knight
J.T. Miller has taken a bit of a beating in his last few games, but like the knight from ‘Monty Python & the Holy Grail’ no matter how many of his limbs get chopped off he still comes back for more.
Tonight, Miller took a point blank shot off the back of his right ankle, and it was clear that he was fighting off a mountain of pain for the rest of the shift.
Miller has never been one to play up an injury, so you knew he was labouring when he doubled over right after a DeSmith held out a netfront scramble. He’d leave the game briefly in the second period, but he’d eventually return after a checkup that I can only assume involved the super soldier serum from Captain America.
He does have a bit of a Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier vibe to him, no?
The absolute biggest play of this game wasn’t a goal, a save or even a discounted plate of fries. It was Quinn Hughes laying the absolute hit of the century.
To even call this a hit feels like an understatement. Victor Olofsson cut across the Canucks blue line and ended up getting knocked into next week by a guy who rarely throws hits of that calibre or ferocity.
If seeing your captain bowl a guy over that badly doesn’t get you pumped, nothing else will. But the best reaction was Hughes’ own after seeing it on the jumbotron afterwards.
Look at that sly grin. He knows he’s a bad, bad man.
Best Deja Vu
When the Canucks’ power play units aren’t playing at their most confident, the first thing to go is always the creativity.
This is why, if you’re anything like me, you probably pointed at your screen like the Leonardo DiCaprio meme when PP1 opened the second period with the Hail Mary bank pass! Quinn Hughes, with all the swagger of a guy who absolutely trucked somebody 20 minutes ago, makes a spin near his own blue line to keep the puck out of Dylan Cozens’ reach, buying a little bit of time and space for Brock Boeser. The Sabres’ penalty killers are all caught puck watching as Boeser fires the puck all the way to where ‘ROGERS‘ meets ‘LiUNA!‘as J.T. Miller skates behind the defenders undetected.
Miller elects to take a slap shot off the ricochet rather than carry it to the net, and Levi is just able to get his left toe in front of the shot. Maybe a fresher J.T. who isn’t still labouring from the shot block in the first takes a different route, but that’s a mystery for the ‘What If…?’ machine now.
Miller ended up heading back to the locker room a few minutes later, giving fans another reason to sweat beyond the one goal game (he’d return in time). And if you thought the price for fries was bad at Rogers Arena, don’t ask how much the water bottles cost.
It might not have translated directly into a goal, but that’s the kind of heads up play that you LOVE to see from the Canucks on the man advantage. And that’s a move we’re very familiar with in Vancouver; Boeser, of all people, knows this set play extremely well, considering he was once on the receiving end of the same bank pass from Elias Pettersson back in 2018.

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Boeser was only a sophomore at that point. Now he’s a savvy 30-goal-scoring veteran setting up his teammates with precision plays.
Time truly makes fools of us all.
Best Small Strides
Here, Ilya Mikheyev makes a smart chip forward that Sam Lafferty picks up near the Sabres’ blue line right as Lindholm makes a beeline for the front of the net. Lafferty takes his foot off the gas just long enough to open up the lane for Lindholm before he throws the puck at the net for a deflection. Lindholm wasn’t able to beat Levi on the tip, but it was a step in the right direction.
A couple of shifts later, Lindholm almost found himself on a breakaway opportunity, but Alex Tuch made a flawless impression of himself from the 2020 bubble playoffs, using his speed to break up the rush from behind.
As the eternally sage Ray Ferraro put it on the broadcast, Lindholm was “skating with a purpose” by working his way into the middle of the ice for scoring chances, something that’s been lacking from him over the last few weeks. But until the points start landing for him, his skating will only get him so much credit.
Best Hook, Line & Sinker
Tyson Jost’s work on Pettersson in the first was clearly still front of mind for the Canucks in the second, and it showed.
Jost gets bumped from behind by Conor Garland and rolls conspicuously into the path of another bearded Canuck, Filip Hronek.
Hronek has no time for such shenanigans, and he immediately wraps up Jost like a Fraser River fisherman wrestling the freshly caught sturgeon in his boat.
Did I just look up “big fish in BC” to make this joke more accurate? I guess you could say you Cod me red-handed.
Speaking of caught, a few shifts later, Tyler Myers lined up Jost on a dump in attempt and sent him hurtling between dimensions of space and time.
Elephants never forget a face, but neither do giraffes.
Best Short King Impression
When you’re as tall as Nikita Zadorov, I’m guessing it must be exhausting always towering over everyone and everything. Or at least, that’s what I told myself as a goalie in U18s before I hit my late growth spurt.
Being tall isn’t always the blessing it seems to be. You’re always hitting your head on doorframes, picking things up off the ground might as well require an elevator, and you never have enough legroom on flights (unless it’s a Boeing 737, then the loose bolts in the floor will take care of that issue for you).
So you can forgive Zadorov for wanting to see what life would be like as a shorter man like his captain Quinn Hughes. And that’s probably why when his stick broke mid-shift, the stick he reached for was Huggy Bear’s.
Big Zaddy seemed to regret taking the first stick offered almost immediately, when he had to lean forward to make a routine poke check like an old man waving his cane at a pigeon. As soon as the coast was clear, Zadorov made a quick exit and handed Hughes his stick back with a smile.
Some people just aren’t built for the Short Life.
Best “…and I took that personally”
For this play, we need to take you back to Monday afternoon, when friend of the blog Daniel Wagner made the gutsy call of offering some analysis to a struggling Elias Pettersson.
Without audio or crucial context to pair with this transcript, these quotes might come off to some as bold at best or outright rude at worst. But as someone who’s read/heard his fair share of back and forths between the media and players over the years, my read on it is the complete opposite: both the question from Wags AND the answer from EP40 were perfect.
Wagner wasn’t trying to poke the bear. He was just offering what he’s seen in the last six years that make Pettersson great to the person who might need to hear it most at the moment. When things aren’t going your way at work, at school or at the rink, it’s easy to forget your talents and put too much of the focus on your flaws instead. Lord knows I’ve been there many times, and you likely have too.
And if that exchange was supposed to light a fire under Elias Pettersson, it fully worked.
After Ilya Mikheyev drew a holding call against Owen Power and Zadorov stepped out of the box from an earlier penalty, Pettersson turned on the jets for a 2-on-1 chance that Conor Garland just couldn’t get a handle on. But with the power play already looking lightyears better, the pieces of the puzzle finally clicked in place when a deflected Miller shot was cleaned up by a Pettersson backhander.
The reason Pettersson was in the right place for that rebound? He kept his feet moving around the net.
Best Breathing Exercise
After Pettersson’s last few games produced some of his toughest outings in recent memory, a few too many people on my social media timeline were quick to pounce on the narrative that Pettersson is “not a player capable of taking over a game.” To me, this is an absolutely absurd take.
Pettersson has taken over plenty of games in the past,  but in their rush to diagnose his cold stretch, some fans are clearly letting recency bias fog their vision. Yes, J.T. Miller has been the better of the two players since the All-Star break, but that doesn’t mean EP40 isn’t also a game breaker when he’s at his best.
Not to mention that even with performances not up to his normal standards, Pettersson is still on pace for a 90+ point season! So maybe let’s not get carried away when it comes to the “not take over a game good” accusations.
And if you need any extra reminder on why you shouldn’t push the panic button when it comes to the Alien, here’s a stat for you. Neither Daniel nor Henrik Sedin, the two most clutch players in franchise history, reached the 60-point plateau until their respective fifth seasons.
Pettersson has already done it in five of his first six years.
Deep breaths. He’s doing just fine.
Best Suter-ble for all ages
Outside of his iconic hat trick game earlier in the year, tonight very well might’ve been Pius Suter’s best game as a Canuck.
Here Suter’s aggressive forechecking forces Jaycob Bryson to take a hooking penalty midway through the third period, which leads to one of the longer runs of puck possession the Canucks will have all evening.
Suter’s ability to fit in so many different scenarios for the Canucks makes him one of the most fascinating utility players we’ve seen in this market since Jannik Hansen. He’s a jack of all trades, a one-man wrecking crew, and so fun to watch.
This guy has clutch playoff game-winner written all over him.
Best Missed Cable Bill
This game wasn’t a barnburner by any metric, but it was at least shaping up to have an interesting finish. With about half a period left, the Canucks looked to be firmly in the driver’s seat and prepared to close out the win.
But that’s when someone at Sportsnet accidentally tripped over a cord to the satellite feed.
While everyone watching on cable was only affected for a few frames, the ones streaming the game on SN Now (myself included) were left in the dark for a good 6-10 minutes. And it turns out that in the age of corporate inflation, there are a lot more cable cutters watching hockey online now than there used to be.
For a service that costs about triple the amount that Americans pay to use ESPN+ for every NHL game, SN+ sure isn’t giving you three times the value. Even when it’s actually working.
And tonight, it offered up four goals for the price of five.
Best Cake Walk
With half of Vancouver now in the dark, Rasmus Dahlin set out to answer a question. “If you score a goal against the Canucks and no one watching the game online can see it, does it count?” It turns out the answer is yes, as long as someone has a massive defensive breakdown at the wrong time.
Tonight, that player was Filip Hronek.
After Alex Tuch gains the zone and Owen Power feeds Dahlin the puck near the blue line, the Sabres’ captain skates right down Main Street with Hronek as the lone defender standing in his path. Hronek proves to be nothing more than a slight inconvenience as Dahlin walks right around him with the ease of someone avoiding stepping on sidewalk gum.
And considering the report from Rick Dhaliwal earlier in the day that Hronek’s camp had quickly rejected a recent contract offer by the Canucks, today was probably not the best time for this kind of lackadaisical mistake from him.
Best Nail Biting Hours
The rest of this game came down to a time-honoured tradition: “Can the Canucks hang on for dear life?”
The Sabres nearly caught a huge break when a clearing attempt hit linesman Kiel Murchison in the leg. This gave the Sabres an extended look that Tage Thompson narrowly missed turning into a scoring opportunity.
But with Levi on the bench for the empty net, J.T. Miller took away a centring pass attempt from behind DeSmith’s net and sprung Pettersson. All EP40 had to do was draw both Sabres defenders out of position with a small deke, leaving the game out of reach and a mess of bodies in his wake.
The Sabres mustered a second comeback attempt with less than a minute to go. Rasmus Dahlin scored his second goal of the night with a slapshot that banked off Zadorov’s leg and past DeSmith’s outstretched glove.
For DeSmith, the flashbacks to other recent blown leads were probably dancing in his head in those final 30 seconds. But once Teddy Blueger forced Jordan Greenway into a penalty and the Sabres into a defensive zone faceoff with less than five seconds to go, he was finally able to relax.
He wasn’t as busy tonight as he had been in the last pair of games, but DeSmith earned this victory all the same with how those previous two games ended.
You might say he paid his dues.
Best YIAY answers
One of my all-time favourite YouTubers (yes, I am Gen Z, how did you know?) is Jack “Jacksfilms” Douglass, who you might know as the creator of a YouTube series called “Yesterday I Asked You” where fans provide funny answers to silly questions.
I wanted to do my own kind of spin on YIAY for this game, so yesterday I asked you how you paid your dues to the Canucks recently.
Here are your best answers!
Best Parenting
Our good friend Samantha took her daughter to her very first Canucks game tonight, and now the team is undefeated when Sloane is in attendance. Coincidence? I think not!
She might need a new First Game certificate though, cause no notary will make a game against the Buffalo Sabers official. A for effort?
Best Jersey Botch
Is that Tom Fergus and Adrien Plavsic with him?
This might take the entire cake of jersey botches. How did they find a patch that big? Why did they want to commemorate something that disappointing? And what kind of knockoff gets the striping on the bottom that incorrect?
I love it so much.

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