Photo credit:© Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchies: Elias Pettersson steps up as Canucks defeat Rangers in the biggest game of the season
1 month ago
I can’t remember the last time a game this late in the season mattered for the Vancouver Canucks. Not only mattered, but one in which the Canucks delivered.
Sure, the Canucks have had their moments in the last decade. Some big games from their top players that got media in the East to at least catch the highlights so they could drop some talking points about “Quinn Miller” or “Brock Pettersson” if need be.
But I can’t remember the last time a regular season game felt this important for the Vancouver Canucks.
I mean, sure, we all watched games with bated breath as the Canucks raced to the bottom of the standings for a top draft pick, but there is a level of moroseness about that exercise that tends to drain your soul. Watching Spencer Martin let in six goals to secure a loss is a bit like watching your house go up in flames; you just hope the TV caught on fire so maybe you can get a new one with the insurance money.
So yes, can ‘win’ in these scenarios, but there is always a certain level of pathetic sadness that kind of fuels them. It’s hard to lose yourself in these moments, you can’t celebrate them. Instead, you find yourself calculating odds. You’re always calculating odds when you’re doing your best to mitigate losing. I cannot think of a worse scenario to hamper the enjoyment of sports than the cruel lens of “Well what do the numbers say?” while watching a game.
Now contrast that to Elias Pettersson dropping four points on the New York Rangers, at Madison Gardens, as the re-united Lotto Line propelled the Canucks to a 6-3 victory over the Rangers? There’s simply no comparison between the two.
This was the most entertaining game of the last several seasons. Not just the result but also because of who was involved.
This wasn’t the lowly Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes duking it out in front of some college students in a haircut-themed residence in a battle to see who can get kicked in the genitals hardest by the draft lottery odds.
No, this was the number two team in the league taking on the number four team, taking place in one of the most famous arenas in hockey.
And like it or not, there will always be something special about games at the Gardens. It’s a combination of the history of the arena, with the old-school lighting, and an actual organ ringing through the air that just exudes hockey. You can almost smell the popcorn in the air and the cheap cologne of Mark Messier wafting down from the rafters when you watch Rangers home games on TV.
It’s an arena that lacks the modern polish of newer buildings, but that just adds to the magic. There is a reason I will always have special memories of watching the Canucks playing at the Pacific Coliseum while walking around the concourse to buy popcorn versus the tomb of Rogers Arena, where curtains and concrete walls block of the noises and view of the game the second you leave your seats, funnelled into tight corridors giving you no room to avoid Crazy P on a bathroom break.
It’s a heritage building full of memories, an arena made for big moments. Much like the moment when the Canucks secured their victory over the Rangers on Monday night.
See, that’s another thing about New York. It’s a big city, and people tend to pay attention to it. And for the Vancouver Canucks to roll through town and go head to head with the Rangers and put on a show while doing it?
That was huge.
The Eastern Media watched as Elias Pettersson dangled through their team and scored the goal of the night.
The fans out East saw Nils Höglander try and outdo him with his own incredible display of stick handling on his goal.
People saw Corolla Garland win puck battles like nobody’s business.
It was the kind of game where I think a lot of people who were on the fence about what to do at the trade deadline might find themselves eyeing up other teams’ rosters, wondering how the Canucks might shore up their roster for a deep playoff run.
Now, we all know the caveats. Drance has made sure of that. And one game does not a season make.
But in a year in which we have promised each other, we’re just going to sit back and enjoy the ride, and to worry about PDO later?
Well, that was the most fun we’ve had all year.
Bring on those Broadway gifs, baby.
Best Monday night Raw
The Rangers’ powerplay is pretty good? It’s a rizzed up drip king is what Quads is always telling me. And while it only had two chances to rizz on the night, it dripped 50% of the time:
Now there is clearly a bit of puck luck at play on the Rangers’ first goal, but when they’re rocking 30% on the season, you can give them the benefit of the doubt in saying they might know what they’re doing with the extra man.
They move the puck quickly and with purpose, and they constantly find ways to get dangerous shots off. Not just one timers from the boards that are done more for “I’ve run out of options here” reasons, but actual high danger shots in front of the net and in the slot. Add in tipping machine Chris Krieder for Adam Fox point shots and you have the recipe for a pretty tasty stew on your hands.
Before the goal was scored, however, I do want to showcase a Thatcher Demko scramble just seconds earlier:
He makes a tremendous save on that play, but it’s not often we see him with that much movement in his crease. I have hammered home how ‘boring’ Demko is in net due to him being so technically sound, but lately we’re seeing his game become a little more loose. A little more panic, a little more scramble to it. Instead of being a nice cup of coffee in the morning, he’s a hastily put together smoothie made of lime Jell-O, apple sauce, and some old pecans you found on the counter.
It could just be the natural highs and lows of a goaltender, so maybe there isn’t too much to read into this. And we saw countless times with Jacob Markstrom where his game would kind of get away from him before Ian Clark locked him a room full of nothing but white pads and his own thoughts, leading to Markstrom becoming more static in net.
And we saw it with Roberto Luongo that no matter how many incredible saves you made on the night, if you let in a couple of goals that looked stoppable, it can still end up being a talking point.
So I only bring this up to suggest “hey, Thatcher doesn’t look as calm in his net as he normally does” for posterity sake when reading through old articles.
Because honestly, I love how hard he fought in this game. Walking away with a 39 save, .929 save percentage, 14 high danger saves game is an absolutely amazing result. This was an elite game from Thatcher Demko. And I, more than anyone, love a goalie who is willing to make ugly saves. To drop their stick and say “eff it” and just gunning for those scorpion saves. To void their bowels at the Winter Classic if it means stopping the puck.
All of which is a roundabout way of me trying to not have Canucks fans yell at me for “attacking” Demko by saying “hey, Thatcher didn’t look as dialed in technically as he has earlier in the season.”
The dude still played out of his mind, and made some highlight reel saves. It was fun to watch, to be honest.
Best cashing in those Lotto tickets
Do yourself a favour and go watch this game. After you read this article of course.
But go watch this game because it lived up to the hype, and more:
Yes, that’s JT Miller tying the game up rather quickly, and my favourite part of this goal is watching the Rangers try to clear the zone, but being tracked down by a Canuck at each pass. Eventually they fail to get the puck out at the blue line, and the puck ends going back the way it came before being sent out in front for Jimothy Timothy to bang it home. Nothing is more defeating in life then trying really hard to get a boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down again, which is what happened here.
The Lotto Line talked last game about not getting pretty goals, but just playing basic hockey, which was at play once again on this goal. They didn’t dangle here. They didn’t try no look passes, they just out-worked the Rangers and eventually found a way to get the puck on net in a a high danger spot. Like a young John Cena, they utilized ruthless aggression.
Hey, remember when the Canucks refused to use the Lotto Line for a couple of years? Good times.
Best unremarkable remarkability
I want to take a quick break from the goals and excitement to give a shout out to Carson Soucy. At least once a game he manages to put himself in front of his goalie and just calmly shut a play down:
Nothing fancy, he just boots it over to the boards and hopes his teammates take care of the rest, his job is done on this play.
This is what we in the business call a Jordan Bowman play.
Best Nearly Nils
How do you follow up a nice goal from the Lotto Line? You dive right into some Nils on Nils crime:
Nils of House Höglander goes high hard and fast and quickly gives the Canucks the lead. Lafferty takes his man out of the play, Nils of House Aman skates with the puck until he can open up a passing lane, and then Höglander skates into the broken Rangers coverage to snap home the goal.
It’s important to note that the Tokyo Drifting that Tyler Myers is so fond of is exactly what the Rangers do on this play. They overload the left side of the ice and leave a lot of open space for Nils 1 to skate into, thus proving other teams can commit the same mistakes Vancouver makes.
Best and now for something different
I don’t know what Tyler Myers was arguing about, but I have a sneaking suspicion it was about how the side of the mall on Park Royal North is a weird desiccated landscape that should be removed from existence. And how jarring it is to have Park Royal South be so functional only to drive over to the North side and find a hodgepodge of stores that aren’t connected to each other like malls are supposed to be. And how The Bay should be a crown jewel of any mall, and not just some forgotten corner store that no longer has a working escalator or access to the second floor.
It’s just a working theory at this time.
Best they just ask how many
Thatcher Demko FOUGHT in this game. So even if he wasn’t dialled in, or if it was just the natural flow of hockey for him, he found a way to make saves:
That spin cycle he does at the end, that’s the sort of thing I am talking about. We’re used to seeing him square up to the post and slide back over to his other side, but here he’s extending for that pad save and goes past his net. That’s all I’m saying.
I will say that Demko faced a ton of five-alarm saves down low, and he was tremendous on all of them.
Here the Rangers flip a shot on net that leads to a rebound, and Demko handles it easily:
The Rangers would then do deft tip (always deft, always) shot that Demko snuffed out:
Again, he was a huge factor in the Canucks win. Just look across at the Rangers to see a goalie who couldn’t make a big save early, and his team never found their way back into the game.
It’s just unusual to see Demko make saves look so flashy and fun. He’s that friend who said they’d never travel because they’re scared of flying, but then one skydiving dare later, and they’re travelling all over the globe.
You sold us a bill of lies, Jeff.
Best sign of the times
What I liked about this game was that both sides had their moments. That’s what really made it feel like a heavyweight tilt, because both teams would take turns having a big shift and generating scoring chances. But since 1994 scarred me for life, I’ll be damned if I show you anything good the Rangers did on the night, so instead he’s Corolla Garland’s line grinding out some scoring chances:
The theme of this line has been winning puck battles, keeping puck possession, and driving the puck on net whenever possible.
It’s honestly kind of what the Lotto Line does, but at a Joe Fresh level. The Lotto Line has the added benefit of high end dangles, though. The ones that leave you scrambling to find your phone so you can text your friend “OMG DID YOU SEE THAT?” along with however many eggplant or peach emojis you deem suitable.
Speaking of which…
Best ruthless PDO efficiency
Why shoot many when few is easy:
Let’s break down this goal into a sum of its parts. Not a Sum of All Fears, that’s a movie, but a collection of events that make this goal worthy of at least 8 eggplant emojis.
1 – That pass from Quinn Hughes. Not only does he take down an airborne pass, he makes it look far too easy. If I try to get that puck on my stick like that it ends with at least a broken leg for myself plus a heated Twitter exchange with Dan Milstein. Why? I don’t know.
Regardless, Hughes knocks down this pass that looked like it was thrown by Tua to lose a divisional crown, and then he starts going full Smooth Criminal. All the while he’s scanning the ice, trying to figure out how to best make a bunch of people from New York sad. He sees Elias down by the blue line so he sends in the perfect bank pass off the boards.
2 – Elias, knowing he is playing with skilled players, waits for the puck right outside the blue line. Elias, who has Brock with him, draws in his defender to open up room for Boeser to skate into a leading pass. Elias can make this pass knowing his linemate won’t get healthy scratched if he misses it, which is an added bonus. The emotional baggage he must have had with Kuzmenko, knowing every failed scoring chance could lead to a demotion must have been heavy.
3 – Brock Boeser then takes the puck and dangles towards the net, and yep, makes it 3-1.
I don’t know where I saw it but one stat showed that the Canucks scoring off of rush chances like this is tops in the league. Like, they are first in the league, then there are a million numbers, then there is a team in a distant second place. So once again, PDO is probably having a fun time with these results. The Lotto Line won’t always make things look so easy.
Still, there is something therapeutic about watching EP40 making passes and setting up top line players vs trying to decide which corner Sam Lafferty is going to grind the puck towards.
And I say that without malice to Sam. He had a solid game on the night.
There is just something special about watching the best players line up together, playing highly skilled hockey with each other.
Best trying your best
You know when you didn’t read that book for the report that was due on Monday? So you quickly watch 15 minutes of the movie, then hammer out an entire paper on it, leading to the teacher wondering why you wrote about how Beth March’s most enduring quality was her big heart and her ability to bounce back from anything?
That’s what Colby Armstrong does here with his commentary on Elias Pettersson:
Elias Pettersson has always thrown hits in his career. Sure, he lands them better now with the weight and muscle he’s added over the years, but to suggest Rick Tocchet had anything to do with a physical evolution in Elias’s game is just ludicrous, to the point of almost going plaid.
Look, Tocchet has been a fantastic coach here, but if ever you wanted to see the difference between national coverage versus local coverage, this is it right here. This is filling in the blanks of dinosaur DNA with frog DNA.
So with that being said, I do want to point out to the talking heads out East that Quinn Hughes? He’s pretty good at hockey.
No, not just the offence, but the defensive side of things. If you aren’t a giant who crushes others, some people think you can’t be a top level defender.
But as Scott Niedermayer showcased before him, it’s a lot easier to play defence when the other team can never get the puck from you:
He just has this shiftiness to him that allows him to escape danger at a moment’s notice. It doesn’t matter how many people you send after him. He will more often than not find a way to elude you. The Canucks have a couple of players like that in Höglander and Garland, who, despite their size, just seem super annoying to play against.
I just picture a lot of “fastest kid alive” moments from big guys on the other team during a seven game series.
Best wearing an onion on your belt was the style at the time
Just to give you a microcosm of how this game kind of went, here’s a stretch during the second period.
First you had the Canucks causing a turnover, leading to a decent shot on net:
Normally when a Canuck player bats down a clearing attempt, a mythical creature is about to be slayed, but here it just results in a shot on net.
Next, Carson Soucy gets caught when he doesn’t notice the tap-in attempt behind him:
Did the Rangers score? No, they did not. As we said earlier, Demko was FANTASTIC on shutting down the tap ins and the backdoor attempts.
Where Demko did struggle a bit? Shots from the slot:
Demko loses his net a bit, and Panarin makes him pay for it. That’s one of those “that’s a nice shot” combined with “maybe he could have had it?” moments.
And with the Rangers within a goal, Demko had to keep making saves:
He stops the shot down low, then tracks the puck to the point, and makes another series of saves.
The teams then took turns trading scoring chances when Boeser gets a great look on net and the Rangers once again try and jam home a tap in attempt from the crease:
This game was a Chuck Liddell-style fight, where you were just left wondering who was going to land the overhand right first.
Fun fact: I watched Chuck Liddell get knocked out by Rashad Evans in a bar in Surrey and I have never heard a more raucous group of people go deathly silent so quickly. It remains one of my favourite UFC memories.
Best what more could you want?
You know when you need to get to work and you don’t know if you have enough gas to get there? Well if it’s a Corolla, you never worry:
That’s Garland at the end of his shift. No big deal, he’s just winning battles against four New York Rangers, giving his team time to complete a line change, all while doing so in front of the Enterprise logo.
I bet Corolla rentals shot through the roof after this game.
Best Mrs. Dash of skill
A 3-2 game, a battle between two titans, the Rangers closing in, looking for the equalizer, sticking their chins out and…
Elias Pettersson lands that overhand right:
Bro, do your dekes, indeed.
That’s the kind of goal that gets Elias Pettersson paid.
That’s the kind of goal that people have been waiting for.
That’s the kind of moment people wanted to see from Elias before he secured the bag.
The amount of skill on display on that goal was worth the price of admission alone.
Fun fact: I had to google to figure out if it was Mrs. Dash or Ms. Dash. What’s the marital status of my seasoning? I must know.
Best why not two?
Speaking of skills, Nils Höglander then went full not safe for work on this goal:
Things to note:
1 – Pius Suter was a huge part of this goal. He has enough skill to drive the zone, protect the puck, and find Nearly Nils nearly all alone with the goaltender. Pius Suter is the kind of player Vancouver hasn’t had in the past decade, a skilled guy for the bottom six with an affordable contract. For some reason paying for veteran leadership from guys who couldn’t skate was something the team was looking for, which makes me wonder why I couldn’t make a buck or two from them. You want someone who can’t skate but is great in the room, I am your guy!
2 – I assume all Swedish players have a Highlander type thing of there can be only one filthy goal scorer on a team, and they are constantly battling each other over it. I have no other way to explain Nils Höglander seeing EP40 dangle and deke his way around Sheshterkin and thinking “I can top that.”
Which I mean, he kind of did? Dragging the puck between his skates like he’s Pavel Bure in an angry contract dispute and finishing it off with a goal? That’s goal of the year contender stuff right there. That’s the kind of goal that will make its way into the Sportsnet intro package next season. Just an incredible goal from Höglander, who continues his tremendous bounce back season.
3 – You know it’s a nice goal when people are scrambling to find another word other than “filthy” to describe it, although “That goal from Nils was absolutely dishevelled” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
4 – Here’s the goal again from a different angle. I want you to soak in that move from Nils. I want you drenched in it:
Best shooting your shot
Sometimes we break down a goal and talk about the Canucks defense falling apart. We question the chaotic nature of giraffes and openly wonder why we’re on this planet.
Other times a goalie just gets beat:
If you’re dead set on yelling at someone, you could probably send Teddy Blueger a hand written letter about how disappointed in him you are for letting Trochek fly on right by him I guess?
But Hronek staying in the middle of the ice and giving Demko that shot from that angle? You take that all day long. You take that chance 100 out of 100 times. That’s the spot you shoot from in beer league when you’re all out of options. You just want to get back to the bench so your buddies can slap your leg and tell you “nice try man”.
That’s the goal Demko probably wants back the most from this game.
Best queasy feeling
Chris Krieder then took a shot on net that hit Demko’s glove and flirted with scoring:
In terms of entertainment, this was fantastic. The Rangers were coming back in the game, they almost made it a one goal game again, you didn’t know if Demko was rattled or not.
For Canucks fans, not so much fun.
But for everyone else, it was great.
Best never forget
Hronek got called for slashing and I only bring this up for one point:
Calling someone for slashing a stick is the absolute worst.
Because it is used so arbitrarily. As Tim Peel showed us, sometimes a ref is just vibing out there and wants to hand out a free penalty like some demented version of Mr. Beast. This penalty, more than any other called, just feels like the highest potential usage for game management.
Allowing refs to call a penalty for something that literally happens all game long is just an incredible amount of power to wield, and I’m not sure NHL officials are strong enough to handle it. I feel like it’s a Gollum situation waiting to happen. One day it’s Jeff Jefferson, friendly NHL referee, then next it’s Jollum, the wispy haired, large eyed angry official, whispering about his precious Stanley Cup and how no one can haves it, handing out slashing penalties whenever they feel threatened.
Best say my name say my name
I must admit, knowing that NHL players fall for someone calling out their name makes a lot of ASHL players feel better about themselves:
Not great, Fil!
Best Saucy Soucy
Hey, we haven’t seen Soucy make a solid play in a while:
He didn’t have many big moments in this game, but stepping up in the third period to win a puck battle and help get the puck out of his zone is exactly why the team signed him.
Notice the lack of
chaos panic in his game, he just slows things down, keeps a hold of the puck, then finds a way to get it over to Nils Aman for the zone exit.
Not all gifs are sexy.
Best finish them
And with the Rangers pushing in the third period to score a goal, mounting as much pressure they could muster a strange thing occurred…nothing:
The Rangers didn’t score a goal. They didn’t really come all that close in the dying minutes of the game.
Instead it was Elias Pettersson scoring the empty netter, silencing a crowd that had been so loud throughout the night.
It was the Canucks best players taking center stage, putting the NHL on notice.
In a season full of “well, let’s see how this pans out…” this might have been the tipping point for a lot of people. This might have been the game that made people truly believe in this season.
Obviously things can change quickly in sports. The Jacksonsville Jaguars are living proof of that.
But right now, at this moment in time, never has there been a stronger belief in this hockey club in the last ten years.
They walked into New York, took on the best the Rangers could throw at them, and they didn’t blink. They not only won the game 6-3, they did it with a style and confidence we haven’t seen since the days of the West Coast Express or the Sedins era.
There was no grinding out a 2-1 lead and holding on for dear life. There was no trap hockey on display.
There was instead a team more than willing to go blow for blow with a top opponent. A team wanting to show the world that they they are for real.
That was the kind of performance that will sell tickets.
That is the kind of performance that will put a team back on the national stage.
This, quite simply, was the best game of the season from the Vancouver Canucks.
Best Free the Skate forever
I like that someone took the time to write a letter, in pen, that required an additional piece of paper. They then tracked down Roberto’s address, and sent him said letter.
This is how we used to have to tweet at celebrities, folks. You have it so much easier nowadays.
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