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The Stanchies: Canucks return the favour to Predators by grinding out low shot victory in game three

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Photo credit:© Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
1 month ago
The Nashville Predators won game two of the first-round series utilizing the thoughts and prayers technique that, by all rights, shouldn’t work. Yet despite sitting back and watching the Canucks rip 80+ shot attempts throughout the last game, Nashville escaped Vancouver with the series all tied up at one.
So there was a certain irony in watching the Canucks turn right around to give Nashville a taste of their own medicine, grinding out a 2-1 victory on the back off of twelve total shots.
That’s right, you read that correctly. The Vancouver Canucks hit a dozen shots and then essentially went, “Nah, we good fam,” and then sat back and got in a prayer circle around Casey DeSmith for the rest of the game.
This time it was the Predators generating 71 shot attempts to the Canucks’ paltry 33.
This time, it was Vancouver blocking 30 shots to Nashville’s 12.
Part of me hopes that this was all done by design. That the Vancouver Canucks wanted the Predators to have their Nelson Muntz mirror moment so they could realize what it felt like to lose a game on home ice in such agonizing fashion. That maybe both teams would agree to a good old-fashioned 30 shots apiece contest for game four.
Alas it feels like both teams seem to have embraced winning games in the ugliest way imaginable, leaving us to look forward to seeing who can pull out a single digit shot victory.
Fun fact: Only two teams have pulled off this feat, Toronto in March of 1999, and San Jose in November of 1998, both 4-0 victories on just 9 shots.
As with any playoff series, the feel of the games can swing dramatically from night to night. But so far, the Canucks vs Predators series truly feels like it’s heading towards an ending better suited for a walk off between Zoolander and Hansel, an ugly ending that awards a victor by default.
And while I find it hard to applaud a strategy that involves sitting back to the degree both teams have utilized in games two and three, that doesn’t take away from the effort put forth by the Canucks.
Blocking shots takes courage. At one point, Ian Cole blocked three pucks in one sequence, and I dare anyone to question his heart in this game.
Finding the energy to get back up over and over again after you’ve been targeted all game takes resolve. Quinn Hughes was keyed in on all game, and it felt like he was hit to the ice more in game three than he was all season long, combined.
Bouncing back from a frustrating game two takes a mental strength that is not always easy to find. Casey DeSmith was one of the main reasons his team was able to escape with the victory in game three.
Finding a way to make an impact for your team in enemy territory takes intensity. Brock Boeser, JT Miller and Quinn Hughes all found a way to provide offence on a night in which their team dearly needed it.
Honestly, if this was a chapter in a fantasy book, this game would have been thrilling. This would have been the part where the heroes are stuck in a dungeon, and you have to read about all the horrible things they do to survive. Things they would never tell their families about when they got out. They would all take a death pact before telling anyone of the teammate they had to eat or the twelve-shot victory they had to achieve in order to escape their imprisonment at Bridgestone Castle.
But as a TV experience? Much like game two, you just found yourself wondering what lengths both teams would go to in order to emerge victorious from a game with as little offensive pressure as possible.
Best sign of things to come
The first clip of the night is going to showcase two things:
One, the Nashville Predators made it their mission to obliterate Quinn Hughes during game three. It felt like they hit Quinn so hard that his hair continuously popped out of the side of his helmet to Sideshow Bob lengths. Quinn Hughes doesn’t look amused at the best of times; He often has the look of a University student who just had his third test in two days and is praying that embezzlement scam he’s working on doesn’t come to light.
But on this night, it went to the next level. On this night, he had the energy of Roger Murtaugh, looking over the horizon at retirement, wondering if he was too old for this shit.
To his credit, he pushed through it all. He still managed to chip in two assists on the night. But it was the first time it felt like Nashville made it a priority to go full Brock Lesnar on Quinn Hughes, battering him any chance they got, something that can end up paying off over the course of a long series.
How effective was it? Tyler Myers and Nikita Zadorov had more ice time than Quinn Hughes. Now, part of that was the nature of the game, where you’d rather have your brothers of destruction blocking shots to close out a game. But part of it was also Quinn Hughes didn’t have the room to move out there too much, reducing some of his rover ice time.
The second thing to take from this clip is that if Vancouver had formed a tag team and taken out the Predators’ best player on the first shift of the first home game of the playoffs, there would have been a standing ovation for it. Statues would have been built in honor of the hit, and streets would have been renamed.
“No, you took a wrong turn, you need to take a right on Zadorov Ave and then take that all the way to the JT Miller Bridge. That’ll get you downtown.”
In Nashville, it was greeted with the excitement reserved for seeing your best friend you just saw the week before. You’re clearly excited to see them but you’re not going to go crazy over it.
Best believing in Casey
I don’t know if there is anyone who does more 360 no-scopes in their crease than Casey DeSmith:
Watching DeSmith in net has all the thrills of 1980’s goaltending except with way better goalie equipment. It’s like someone went back in time and gave Don Beaupre a set of new gear.
And honestly, it’s kind of thrilling to watch, but also horrifying? When it works, you have never felt more alive in your life? When he twirls in net and then stacks the pads to make a save, it fires you up to the point that you just want to start filing your taxes for next year right away. There is something motivating about watching a goalie turning back the clock and embracing the energy of the Savannah Bananas in the blue paint.
But when it doesn’t work, you just quietly mutter to yourself about how Demko would have stopped it, and then start wondering when they’ll finally make that hippy in net shave off those sideburns of his.
All of which is to say, Casey DeSmith BATTLED in net Friday night. He might have used a wild technique to stop the puck, but he made the saves when he needed to. This was a tremendous game from a goalie who has all the pressure in the world on his shoulders right now, despite The Hockey Shop’s assurances that everyone has his back.
Best anatomy of a penalty
Dakota Joshua got rung up for a major on this hit he delivered to Spencer Stastney:
The NHL officials reviewed the play and downgraded it to two minute minor for boarding.
And honestly, I would be fine if the league wanted to hand out five minute majors on hits like this. If their end goal was to put the fear of the hockey gods into players about delivering a hit that could in any way cause a head to smack into the glass, have at it.
But as we saw this year with JT Miller getting drilled in the head right against the glass by Josh Manson, this kind of hit has been deemed a minor offence.
In the ensuing scrum, as Daniel points out, both sides got a little bit tense, including this exchange between Luke Schenn and Conor Garland:
I know Nashville likes to beat up cars in the playoffs, but hands off the Corolla, Luke.
I promised in game one that I would go easy on Luke Schenn, but once you touch Garland, all bets are off.
Best barrying an old friend
Kevin isn’t wrong about this play, Ilya Mikheyev did the right thing here:
If Mikheyev shoots that, he’s just going to hit Juuse Saros right in the chest. I’d have to scramble to come up with an appropriate baked good metaphor for his shot (sour cherry strudel?), and everyone would moan about Mikheyev not being able to score.
Instead he shows good patience, and you know what, he almost sets up Nils Höglander for a nice tap in goal in the crease. If he pulls that off, all of a sudden someone fueled by playoff energy and alcohol buys a Mikheyev jersey and gets featured in the Stanchies 10 years from now. All in all, that’s a solid rush.
Also please note the horrible, awful decision Luke Schenn makes on the play that set up that counter rush. I don’t think we have seen a worse pass in the playoffs. I had to double check to make sure he didn’t still have a Canucks jersey on because it felt like he was passing to his old team on purpose. That would at least make more sense than his decision to send over that flaccid pass that died out quicker than his point totals once he stopped playing with Quinn Hughes.
Best bold strategy, Cotton
The Canucks played most of the game like it was the lyrics to an Evanescence song:
Carson Soucy goes full Sex Giraffe on the play to cut off the pass, and Casey DeSmith makes the save without giving up a rebound. That’s the good part.
The bad part was Vancouver was getting overrun by Nashville throughout the first period.
And part of that is, yeah, first home game for Nashville? They’re going to be juiced up. They’re going to come at you hard to start the game. Cousins they’ve never even heard of probably hit them up for tickets, so they want to impress them like any good person from Shelbyville would.
But getting no shots through ten minutes is a bad look no matter what the scenario is.
Best clumsy ol’ little me
After losing out on being able to draft Hunter Shinkaruk in 2013, Montreal drafted Michael McCarron with the next pick, foregoing Shea Theodore, because Gaelic names are confusing.
Since then he has found his way to Nashville, where all things considered he had a decent year for the Predators in a bottom six role, picking up 22 points on the season.
Which brings us to game three, in which he decided why score points when you can just run the back-up goalie:
That’s a scummy play because he runs right into Casey DeSmith. He makes no attempt to move out of the way, and even hangs his elbow out a little bit to make sure he gets contact.
Was it the worst hit in the world? No.
But for a team that has already lost its starter, running the back-up goalie is a garbage move. If DeSmith gets hurt on that play, the Canucks are down to Silovs and now we’re in a position where someone legitimately has to check in with Eddie Lack to see if his titanium hips can hold up to warm the bench for a bit.
Best do what you know
No shot on net through 14 minutes of the game? No problem, just make sure you score on the first shot you take:
The Canucks powerplay has been a question mark for this team ever since the All-Star break, but on Friday night, it ended up producing two goals for them.
And this goal? That’s the good stuff right there. That’s a power play generating shots and eventually finding JT Miller skating downhill so he can unleash his shot with pace.
You can also see Elias Lindholm and Brock Boeser rotating in and out of the center of the ice, setting up the layered screens that Rick Tocchet is such a fan of. It’s no surprise that when JT Miller scores, Brock Boeser’s rear end is once again playing a vital part in everything.
The Canucks have also been taking a lot of shots at Saros blocker side during the first two games, so you have to wonder if using the screen and going glove side on the shot played a part in getting the first goal as well.
Best energy in the arena
Don’t worry, at least one rink had a playoff atmosphere on the night.
Best das a sleeeeew foot
The Nashville Predators started to show signs of a frustrated team after going down 1-0 despite holding the edge in play, culminating in a needless penalty from Ryan McDonagh on Höglander:
We’re still waiting for Nils to unleash his 5 on 5 beast in this series, but this was the first game we saw a glimpse of that guy. Any time Höglander is pissing off the other team you know he’s starting to find his mojo. It’s like Matt Cooke, minus the on ice homicide aspect.
Best didn’t see that coming
Tyler Myers? I could believe that.
Ian Cole? Him too.
Noah Juulsen? He used to love doing it at the start of the year.
But Carson Soucy? He’s the guy making a bad pinch at the blueline??
Pius Suter saves Carson Soucy from the embarrassment of having to explain to his family why the dumb writer from Canucks Army keeps using late 90’s wrestler comparisons about giving up a goal in the first period of game three.
Suter does this by winning the Jeff Tambellini Award for Hustle, Heart, and Gritty Determination on that back check.
Why did Carson Soucy go full Ahmed Johnson on this play? I’m not quite sure. He’s normally the safe one of the group. He’s the kind of guy who would get a breakaway and use it to dump the puck in and go for a change. He’s the guy who tells you to fill your tank when it’s half full because “you never know.”
But for some reason he jumps up for the puck and gets caught deep in the offensive zone.
Again, Suter saves the day on this. And the Canucks as a whole were very good at collapsing down low and taking away the middle of the ice.
It’s just on this play, Carson Soucy of all people made a very bold move, something we normally don’t see from him.
Best the hero we need
We all knew when the playoffs arrived that heroes would emerge from the darkness. That the folklore of the post-season would cement players as rock stars in this town. You could spend an entire regular season proving your worth and get zero fan recognition but if you play well in one playoff series, you’re a made man in this city. It’s the reason Raffi Torres gets free Subway sandwiches for life in Vancouver.
And right now? Nikita Zadorov is becoming the legend of 2024 for Vancouver.
It’s not just the hitting, although that certainly helps.
But it’s also how he dresses like a Bond villain on game day. There is no way this guy doesn’t own multiple boats and have a box under his bed with a variety of currency and passports. Nikita Zadorov in Canada, “Nick Sapperton” when travelling to Europe.
It’s also how during the first three games of the playoffs, he, more than any Canuck, has embraced the moment. He’s throwing even more hits. He’s playing even better defence. He’s scoring goals and taunting the opposition bench. This guy has taken on the challenge of the playoffs and excelled in them.
Also, he no sells blocking shots. Here he is not even moving, he just stares down the puck coming in and hitting him, and then he calmly clears the puck:
Nothing seems to rattle this guy.
The noise right now isn’t “Can the Canucks re-sign Fil Hronek”, the noise right now is “Can the Canucks re-sign Nikita Zadorov?”
You have Dan Milstein out here tweeting money bag emojis because he knows the power and influence a solid post-season run can have in the hockey world.
Putting contract talk aside, Zadorov has simply been the most entertaining Canuck so far in this series. From a narrative standpoint, no one has been more enjoyable than Nikita.
Best stepping up to the plate
Speaking of embracing the moment, this was JT Miller’s best game of the series. In a game in which offence was at a premium, JT Miller’s line was the best on the night. Not just for the offence, but for the way they got involved physically:
The best part is JT Miller skating around with no expression on his face, like this is just another day in the office for him.
Teams need pushback in the playoffs or they’ll run all over you.
Elias Pettersson had a cromulent game. He wasn’t awful, he wasn’t great, but he wasn’t noticeable either way.
The vaunted Canucks third line? It got absolutely caved in during this game. Corolla Garland and friends did not have a good night.
The fourth line was better, but not by much.
JT Miller, Brock Boeser, and Pius Suter provided the pushback the Canucks needed in this game, in the form of scoring and in terms of physicality.
Rip Wheeler taking Predators to the train station was a constant theme throughout the night.
Best roll of the dice
The Chaos Giraffe lives and dies by freaking people out:
It wouldn’t be Tyler Myers if you saw this play develop and were uncertain if he was going to shoot the puck into his own net by accident, or clear the puck out of the crease.
Casey DeSmith had a tremendous game, but give credit to his teammates for bailing him out anytime things did get a little spicy in his crease. Whether it was in the form of blocking shots, blocking passes, or collapsing down low to take away the middle of the ice, the Canucks did their best to protect their goalie.
That being said, there is a part of that which is worrying. If the Canucks feel they have to play this way every game to protect Casey DeSmith, it’s hard to picture them running through four rounds like this.
Best close call
Elias Pettersson’s most noticeable shift was probably in the second period when he set up Höglander for a smash and grab in the crease:
It’s a good forecheck, and on a night in which your team only got twelve shots I guess it’s something to be proud of to be a line who got three of them? It sounds better to say you produced 25% of your teams shots on the night?
And again, they were the second best line on the night. Defensively they were leagues ahead of the third and fourth line. But they were also outplayed by the first line which will do nothing to quiet the noise surrounding EP40’s playoff performance so far.
Big contract is going to equal big discussions every single time, fair or not.
Best getting back to your roots
Let your PDO guide you, don’t fight it:
Once again JT Miller plays a central part in the Canucks offence as he finds Brock Boeser in front for the powerplay goal.
This is a playoff type goal, and one we haven’t seen a lot of from this team. Normally they’re shooting from the point with layers, or trying the one timers from the side,  or working it to the bumper spot.
This goal? This is covered in good old fashioned McDonald’s grease. That’s the kind of goal that Don Cherry would feature on a VHS back in the day, giving kudos to “Brock Bozer”, while a royalty free techno track hammered away in the background.
Now as we all know, JT Miller lives by the sword and dies by the sword. For every nine plays he makes, there is always a tenth “wtf is he doing” moment where his belief in himself leads him to making poor choices in life:
The fake slapshot into a slow pass almost gets turned into a breakaway against, were it not for a fumbling of the puck by the Predators.
That’s life with JT, though. You don’t get to a 100 point season without breaking a few omelettes along the way.
And if we’re being honest with each other, that’s the kind of pass Luke Schenn normally makes. Just an ill thought out pass that had very little chance of succeeding, as are most of Luke’s plays.
Best checking in back home
Best fight for your right to party
Nothing looks easy with Casey, but that is the joy of the goaltending energy he brings:
Casey tracked the puck really well on the night, and fought through screens repeatedly, but the puck tends to wander away from him at times.
You can either get anxiety from the chaos, or learn to embrace it. And if Tyler Myers has taught us anything over the years, it’s to sit back and just come up with a fun animal name for it.
Best way harsh, Cody
Cody isn’t wrong, Brock and JT were the guys showing up to Nakatomi Plaza and joining the party on the night:
This was one of the most physically engaged games I have seen from Brock Boeser ever. That entire line was grinding it out like it was last call at The Roxy.
Even though this play ends in a missed shot, Boeser chasing down the play and knocking the puck down out of the air? That’s the Brock Bozer Don Cherry loves.
Best getting eaten alive
Best focusing on the goal at hand
This was Casey’s best save of the night in my opinion:
Stops the initial shot, then kicks out the pad to stop the rebound. That very well could have made it 2-1 at that point, with an entire period of momentum ahead for Nashville.
Instead the Predators were still down 2-0, mentally broken due to the fact they live in Nashville they couldn’t find a way to generate a single goal yet. Casey DeSmith kept the fans out of this game for the majority of the night, which was a huge factor in the Canucks victory.
Best disgusting brothers
Brock Boeser and Gustav Nyquist started going at it, and you know who won’t stand for that? Jimothy Timothy Miller:
I know I can’t quantify what standing up for your teammate does. I can’t tell you “Well clearly that will translate into a team winning a game if JT Miller avenges Brock Boeser.
But I also can’t discount it either. I know as a person I’d be pretty excited if JT Miller would beat someone up that was picking on me, and it would inspire me to try harder at the task at hand. I get really excited if one of my buddies avenges me in Warzone, so I can only imagine the excitement of it happening at the highest level of hockey in front of live fans.
Like if I knew JT Miller back when I used to work at Blockbuster and he beat someone up who hit me with a DVD copy of Marley & Me, I’d probably check in videos from the return bin at a much faster rate than normal.
Best there you are Pettersson
Elias Pettersson showed a tiny twinkle in his eye when he unleashed this shot at the end of the second period:
This was as close to a Hook moment we’ve had where we started to see a glimpse of the former leader of the Lost Boys. Walking in with that swagger, that confidence, and unleashing a shot on net? That’s the EP40 everyone is waiting for. Embrace your inner Cody Hodgson and go bar down.
Best he does it all
Look, sometimes you just wanna trip a dude:
I love this because the officials could have clearly called a penalty on that play had they wanted to. During the regular season, they probably would have.
But this is the playoffs. And in the playoffs, you don’t call a penalty on that.
Instead you wait to call a random penalty on Brock Boeser in the third period when you get bored.
Best the legend grows
Best iron deficiency
Brock Boeser almost started the third period off with a bang but had to settle for a clang:
I think we’re all on the same page on this, right? JT Miller’s line was the best line for the Canucks? We’re all in agreement?
Best when you’re good you’re lucky, and when you’re lucky you’re good
The Nashville Predators almost got on the board when the puck bounced off of Ian Cole’s skate in the crease:
You’ll notice how on this play the Canucks have taken away the middle of the ice so the Predators only play is to heave it in from the boards and pray for a bounce, ie my favorite shot to take in beer league. You bounce that in off of a defender’s skate, you still get to celebrate it like you went top shelf.
But Casey DeSmith was feeling his inner Andy Moog and he took care of that bounce no problem.
Best game management
The officials were fine on the night, but they did make one awful call on Brock Boeser:
That’s just not a penalty. I’m sorry, it’s not. Alexandre Carrier leaning back and holding a stick shouldn’t lead to Brock Boeser getting penalized.
This is where it starts becoming game management math and people start talking about an earlier trip on Ryan O’Reilly that wasn’t called, and how this was just a makeup call, and before you know it you’re having an intense discussion on reddit about the underrated Ashton Kutcher film The Butterfly Effect.
What made this situation worse for Vancouver was Nikita Zadorov would flip the puck over the glass while penalty killing the Boeser penalty, giving Nashville a short 5 on 3 situation.
Which for most teams would be a prime opportunity to score.
But when you have Ian Cole on your team, it’s merely another moment to showcase the futility of man:
Ian Cole blocks the centering pass.
He then blocks the shot from the point.
He then drops to the ice and eventually blocks the rebound off of his stick and then off of his helmet, to preserve the Canucks 2-0 lead.
Without Ian Cole on this penalty kill, that’s an easy goal for Nasvhille.
This is the kind of effort Patrik Allvin brought in Ian Cole for.
That’s the kind of play where Luke Schenn would fail in.
Best casual Casey
Even with tipped shots from the point, Casey was tracking the puck and making the save:
Give DeSmith his flowers, he earned them in game three.
Best playing with fire
Nasvhille got their lone goal with around three minutes left to play:
A lot of people were yelling about Hronek jumping up to make a play in the middle of the ice and letting the puck get by him, but I didn’t have an issue with that. The Canucks still had everything covered on the back check, nobody was open on the Predators. It was when Elias Lindholm bit on a fake pass, that’s what allowed Luke Evangelista to get enough room to score the goal.
I think Fil Hronek just has that “anticipatory contract stress” surrounding him. People are readying themselves for Hronek to be overpaid and not worth the money, so they’re already getting pre-angry about anything he does. Even if he scores, people get annoyed because they see the cost for keeping him rise even higher. It’s like they’re on a first date with Hronek and he’s out here ordering 8 appetizers before he’s even gotten to the main course.
I honestly give Evangelista credit for baiting Lindholm into defending a non-existent pass as the main reason for this goal.
Best fight until the bitter end
The last three minutes of the game were fuelled by pure panic and stress, as the Canucks did everything in their power to block every shot thrown their way, including this incredible sequence:
Tyler Myers going full Sex Giraffe? Check.
Casey DeSmith going full Pete Peeters? Check.
JT Miller cross-checking a a dude to the ice and causing him to block his own teammates shot? Check check check.
It was utter chaos, which is how many a one goal playoff game end. And as with all close victories, luck and effort played their parts in this one.
Regardless, the Canucks walked away with the win in game three. With game four looming during a dreaded Sunday matinee, I can’t even begin to guess which team is going to show up for Vancouver.
Do they try and repeat game three? Or do they play like game two and just hope things play out better this time around?
We shall see.
Best soundtrack of our lives

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