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The Stanchies: EP40’s “unselfish” performance, Miller goes full bore, and Höglander earns his spot

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
2 months ago
The reports of Elias Pettersson’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
After weeks of waiting for Elias Pettersson to take control of a game, he firmly put his stamp on the Canucks’ 4-3 victory over the visiting Carolina Hurricanes, in a win that was anything but certain.
With the Canucks up 3-1 late in the second period, they found themselves watching Stefan Noesen tie the game up a mere few moments into the third period.
Now, this is the sort of moment where some teams panic. Certainly previous versions of the Canucks would have started dry heaving as they dealt with their anxiety over what looked to be a certain loss looming in front of them. One can envision Markus Granlund sprinting to the bench to vomit in a bucket rather than attempt to try and deal with another blown lead.
And it was tempting to think the Canucks would lose the game on Saturday night after letting their lead disappear. It’s hard not to assume at times that the Canucks will fall back into old patterns, after having watched them spiral into sadness for so many years.
But as we’ve seen this year, the Canucks continue to buck old trends. They continue to pass tests that they would normally fail. And sure, there are bumps in the road like that heart-breaking 5-4 loss to the New Jersey Devils, but even that game was a test they passed. They found a way to bounce back from that loss and rattle off two wins in a row.
And the main reason they passed Saturday’s test? Elias Pettersson didn’t blink when he saw the other team tie the game up. He didn’t panic. He didn’t overthink it.
Instead, he went out and drove hard to the net, summoned the power of Alex Burrows, and slammed home a wraparound goal to re-take the lead, capping off a three point night.
It was a vintage performance from Elias, one that fans have been patiently/impatiently waiting for, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The kind of performance that Elias is always working towards.
“I’m always trying to be the best version, the best player I can be every game, and honestly sometimes it’s not going the way you want, so it’s always trying to find a way back into the groove.”
The Canucks now find themselves fourth in the league in points, and as Drance would want you to know, sixth in winning percentage.
That uneasy feeling you have in the pit of your stomach right now? That’s you pondering a life after you’ve finally gotten out of the Sea of Granlunds.
It’s scary, I know. But I promise you you’re going to enjoy it.
Best pre-game rumblings
It’s hard to tell what news is agent-generated and what is team-generated these days, but I do like the idea that both sides are trying to drum up interest in the idea of this super hot bidding wars over these two.
Best Corolla Clip of the Night
We are going to hand out the Corolla Clip of the Night every game to celebrate an underrated play that isn’t the flashiest thing in the world, but you know what? Much like Garland, it gets the job done in a reliable fashion:
Tyler Myers and Nikita Zadorov played this perfectly.
Myers tracks his man around the ice, and makes sure to keep tight to his man. Then Zadorov stands tall in front of the net and blocks out his check, stops the point shot, and then carries the puck to the top of the zone before clearing it with a backhand pass.
“But Wyatt, that clip is so boring. People do that all the time! I play hockey, you see, so I am qualified to refute your praise of people doing the basics!”
Well that’s what the Corolla Clip of the Night is all about. Praising someone for getting the job done. Especially when it’s two men that are known for their chaos.
You say that’s basic hockey, but who’s to say that in another universe Tyler Myers didn’t run over Demko while chasing his man, tearing the goalie’s ACL and ending his season? Leading to Zadorov mistakenly thinking a Hurricane had hurt Demko, so he ends up going full vigilante justice and gets himself suspended for the year with an act of violence so horrifying I dare not write about it? And after watching this unfold before him, Rick Tocchet re-signs in disgust, leading to Mike Keenan coming out of retirement to coach the team, just before Troy walks back in the room with some pizza?
So you say basic hockey play, and I say a play that clearly saved not just the season, but maybe the franchise.
Best sad trombone clip of the night
Speaking of trying to find your way back into the groove, Andrei Kuzmenko remains so far out of the groove that he finds himself sitting on the flattest piece of land you’ve ever seen, with nary a dimple or depression in sight:
We keep pondering if Kuzmenko getting into a fight with someone will impress Rick Tocchet enough to start getting back into his good graces, but surely a hard-working rebound goal would help as well.
Unfortunately Kuzmenko’s 27.3 shooting percentage from last year was not a sign of a generational elite low shots, high goals player entering the NHL, but rather one of those pesky regressions waiting to happen Dom and Drance are always yelling at you about the second you feel happy about any sporting moment.
Kuzmenko currently sits with a 10.5 shot percentage, which all things considered, isn’t that bad. We’ve seen players hit awful streaks where they’re sitting at a paltry 3%.
But oh my goodness, those 38 shots Kuzmenko has taken sit firmly in the “What is happening here?” category. If his shot total this season were a person, you’d be embarrassed to sit beside it, lest anyone think you were friends with it.
Now for context, several players are sitting around that mark, including Sam Lafferty (36), Anthony Beauvillier (37), and Nils Höglander (34).
The problem is, however, that Kuzmenko gets first unit powerplay time, and spent a considerable amount of time in the top six. EP40, JT Miller, Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes all have north of 60, which is what you expect out of your top offensive players.
I know Kuzmenko can be a clever playmaker, but when your coach talks about how Winter is coming and screaming at you to skate to the North, you just have to lean into that and start taking shots.
Fun fact: Corolla Garland, the third line darlin’, has 60 shots. The guy drives his third line like it’s the car he’s named after: Ruthlessly efficient.
Best Laff-ing at the Leafs
Playing the part of Andrei Kuzmenko in the top six this night was once again Sam Lafferty:
That’s just honest, hard-working hockey right there. Nothing too complicated from Sam. He just skates fast to the net, taking two Canes players with him, opening up the room for Elias to skate in closer to get his shot off.
Sam then carries his momentum to the net and deposits the rebound into your favourite local credit union, allowing all of us to once again reflect and ponder why the Leafs felt the need to make a play for Ryan Reaves.
The best part about this goal? Sebastian Aho tries to set a pick on Lafferty but he just skates right on through it, and then both Slavin and Aho get mesmerized watching Elias shoot the puck. This leads to them slowly turning around into a record-scratch moment as they see Lafferty all alone in front of their goalie.
It was the kind of goal that put a smile on his coach’s face.
“I had a great big grin…that’s a typical power forward goal. If you look at that goal, he goes through the middle drive, bulls his way in, knocks people out, then rebounds there and he puts it in. That’s a power foward type of goal. You have to have those types of goals to win…He’s really helped Petey being that fast forecheck.”
That’s honestly the kind of stuff Rick Tocchet seems to absolutely love, where you put pressure on the other team and try to get them to break, aka Drago hockey. The man loved two things in the 80s, riding his hair as hard and as long as he possibly could, and leaning heavily on the other teams. No passive hockey from this man.
All of which is to say it put the Canucks up 1-0.
Best random stat
This is very true.
Best passive hockey
Hey you know what you should probably do here Ilya? Shoot the puck:
Like, I get the play he’s going for. He’s in this spot where everyone assumes he will shoot, so he’s hoping to create an easy tap in as the team over-commits to his side.
The problem is that only two people I trust to make that pass: Henrik Sedin and Kyle Wellwood.
The pass from Mikheyev ends up going to neither of his linemates, and effectively ends a potentially dangerous chance in the slot. Don’t do the other team’s job for them.
No offence to Ilya, but he has a season of 15 assists in the NHL. The man is known for his speed, so just shovel that puck on net, don’t overthink things.
Best he can dance all day
The reason people were questioning whether Elias was hurt or not is because when he’s on his game, he is constantly using his dangles to try and create room on the ice, which often results in scoring chances, or as pictured here, drawing a penalty:
As John Shorthouse informed us on air, that makes it twelve drawn penalties for Elias this year, with none taken on his end, which seems good. That’s good, right?
The Canucks’ power play, which went 0/3 on the night, still generated some good looks on net. The best one being this Brock Boeser shot that caught Antti Raanta so off guard he almost turned Pro Raanta:
 
Every time I watch Kuzmenko, I instinctively flinch when he makes a failed pass, or doesn’t take a shot. I can’t help but wonder if that’s going to get him into trouble with the coach, and I worry about him. I blame the anxiety of growing up with toxic parents, I can’t help but relate to someone who is confused about how to get someone to stop yelling at them.
It’s not an egregious error, by any means. And some people would say of course you should try and pass the puck to your leading scorer Brock Boeser.
But Kuzmenko isn’t Corolla Garland. He has a lethal shot when he wants to unleash it. And to make matters worse, he sends the pass behind Boeser, killing the scoring chance.
We’re at the point where it’s impossible to tell if Kuzmenko is just low in confidence or he simply will never be the player Rick wants him to be.
Best never in doubt
The broadcast team openly opined about the idea of Corolla Garland being hurt, and even went out of their way to play a clip of it:
 
We of course know that Corolla Garland’s never break down, they simply need to idle for a few minutes and they’re good to go. And sure enough, Garland returned to the game like nothing happened.
Garland, he gets you where you need to go.
Best penalty buffet
It was at this point in the game in which it felt like the Canucks started taking penalties on purpose, as they came in hot and heavy for a period of time in the second period.
Up first you had JT Miller going Rip Wheeler and retaliating with a slash to the hands that the NHL always calls when they want to hand out a penalty in a game, putting the Canucks down two men:
The good news is Vancouver has a pretty good goalie in Thatcher Demko so he did that thing where he made a bunch of saves look so easy that they appear boring, so Quads tries to pay me pennies on the dollar for gifs of them. As a result, I don’t often end up posting these clips because you end up watching 10-30 saves and think to yourself “that doesn’t look so hard” because that is the power of Thatcher, he makes hard things look far too easy.
But here are a couple nonetheless that just showcase Demko at his best, putting himself in position early and often on shots, reading the plays like a grown up version of Sly:
He just makes it look so smooth. Slides to his right and casually shrugs a shoulder, and then slides to his left and closes his five hole.
Fun fact about Baby Geniuses, the role of Sly and Whit were played by triplets, Leo, Gerry and Myles Fitzgerald, the pride of Port Alberni.
Sad fact about Baby Geniuses, they were cast in the role because they could rotate the triplets into the lineup and get around those pesky child labor laws that limited how many hours kids could work.
After killing that penalty, JT Miller then made amends by drawing a penalty when he used one of his vaunted power moves to the net:
That is a very generous power play the Canucks were awarded if we’re being honest with each other, but the Canucks didn’t complain, and give JT credit for creating it by going hard to the net.
Alas, the Canucks didn’t score and didn’t do anything really worthy of making a gif out of it.
All of which led to the first of two too many men penalties, which I will never not think of Marc Crawford when it happens:
Quinn Hughes is absolutely at fault on this play, as he jumps the line like he’s Max Verstappen, ready to showcase how overrated Lewis Hamilton is.
Please note that Ian Cole was slowly heading to the bench for a change because we’re going to argue about him later.
Carolina then matched the Canucks power play efforts by doing nothing of note on their power play chance, as they really only got one decent shot off on a one timer, but it wasn’t worth crashing your browser over with another gif.
Best rat killer
Nikita Zadorov does not appreciate it when you try and hit him:
I do admit that I slightly giggled when he got a rear mount on Michael Bunting because I enjoy any time someone in hockey utilizes a grappling move I normally see in the UFC.
There are a handful of players I am patiently waiting to see in a 7 game playoff series from the Canucks, just to see how they handle the physical side of everything (both in terms of taking it and handing it out), and Zadorov is already high at the top of my list.
Best getting into the groove
You always know when Elias Pettersson is on his game when the other team gets caught puck watching him with the puck:
The vital moment on this play, and the one that separates Pettersson from most players, is that when he recovers the puck, he doesn’t simply fling the puck on net or shoot it around the boards. A lot of players who chase down that puck are happy enough that they got control of it, and now they’re worried someone is about to close in on them, so they get the puck deep in the zone rather than risk turning it over and being caught flat-footed.
But Dekey Pete is called that for a reason, so he does a little Texas Two Step, or whatever the Swedish version of that is (Sundsvall Två Steg?), and then continues to push the puck towards the net.
Now this is where we give Pesce full credit, because he barely blinks at this move before he’s back on top of EP40. But that fraction of a second is all the room Pettersson needs to skate to the net and find an open lane to fire a pass over to Ilya Mikheyev to bang home.
The best part of this goal? Pesce giving the full death stare to Martin Necas covering, or lack of covering, of Ilya Mikheyev’s stick on the tap in.
This is the Elias Pettersson, eater of worlds, that we know and love.
Best leeway
The Hurricanes would then quickly score their first of the game on a rare mistake from Quinn Hughes:
Hughes chases a loose puck and ends up deep in the zone, which Blueger sees so he jumps up into the play and skates towards the net. This does two things: one, it creates a passing option for Quinn Hughes, but two, it immediately makes this Quinn Hughes foray 79% more dangerous.
This is one of those plays where if Blueger taps in that pass from Hughes, we’re all marvelling at the Canucks’ offensive daring and ability, but when it backfires, we furrow our brows and exclaim, “how dare they!”
So if you’re wondering how dare they, it’s because Quinn Hughes straight up puts his head down and attempts a no-look backhand pass into the slot.
If that’s Tyler Myers, then the entire internet would have exploded. Chaos Giraffe would have been trending right up there beside Brock Lesnar’s doppelganger daughter.
But that’s where the reputation comes into all of this. It’s rare Quinn Hughes makes an egregious mistake like this, so you do tend to give him a pass for it.
The end result is Teddy Blueger tries his best to skate back into the play, but no one can catch Sebastien Aho as he makes it a 2-1 game.
Best driving along at a steady pace
You want a car that can drive really fast down the highway? Or do you want a car that has the brakes to pull up to quickly avoid an accident, so you can pull over to the side of the road and dial 9-1-1 to assist people?
The Corolla Garland once again gets the job done with an efficient zone entry, and then pulls up until a lane opens up to make a nice pass over to Dakota Joshua.
One person tried to explain this away as me praising an NHL player for making a pass, and that everyone should be making this 9/10 times, which clearly means they drive a Ferrari and are very embarrassed about how much they spend on gas.
If you can’t credit Garland for not only having the hockey IQ and patience to create that passing lane, and then making said pass through a very brief window of said passing lane, then you are not a serious person.
The guy is a solid hockey player. He’s constantly setting up Joshua with scoring chances multiple times a game, and while that’s not going to get you a lot of assists due to the scoring touch of Dakota, the process is still good.
Best changing properly
The Canucks then made it 3-1 when JT Miller rushed onto the ice to finish off a nice cycle effort from Boeser and Höglander (who continues to thrive in a top six role):
Why was JT Miller free to race into the zone to score the goal? Because as that clip shows you, Elias got the hell off the ice in a timely manner to let it happen.
“I saw Hoglander was in, so pretty much his line was in…I just tried to get it deep, and that worked out great for him to pretty much just skate in and get it on his stick and it was 3-1 for us.”
It was something that stood out to Rick Tocchet who talked after the game about what a big play it was by Elias.
“I went up to Petey and said you should get an assist on that play. That’s the unselfishness. If he stays on, who knows? But he comes off, and Millsy comes on full bore.”
Best time to yell at each other
Again, sports fans are contentious by nature, I know this. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, you could have a player scream out loud, “I AM GOING TO SLASH YOU IN THE FACE RIGHT NOW”, then proceed to slash said player in the face, and to most people this would be an obvious penalty.
But because sports fans are fanatics for a reason, there would be actual people who would say, “How can you penalize a guy for doing that? He announced his intentions. That’s on the other guy for not getting out of the way. Besides, he totally sold that, look how he dives on the ice and lays there motionless; he’s clearly faking it.”
So when this line change led to another too many men penalty, everyone began yelling about whether it was Quinn Hughes’ fault again or Ian Cole’s:
You can clearly see Cole skating to the bench, waving Hughes on from centre ice, before regretting this decision when the play starts coming back his direction.
But it’s too late, as Captain Hustle has already jumped on the ice in anticipation of said change, and before you know it, the Canucks are penalized once again.
To me, that’s on Ian Cole. You wave Hughes on, and you get to the bench as fast as humanly possible. But as one person online told me, “Are you ***ing stupid??”, I am well aware you may not share the same opinion.
All that really matters is that the Canucks ended up going down a man, and if you give a team multiple power play chances a game, they will find a way to burn you eventually.
In the end, it’s a fantastic pass that gets by the Canucks best d-man in Quinn Hughes and best defensive forward in Elias Pettersson that leads to the Canes’ second goal:
This is where you tip your hat to the Hurricanes for making a great play, but then turn and look at Ian Cole and shake your head in the way only a disappointed father can.
Best structural integrity
The Canucks then found themselves looking straight down the barrel of the gun as the Hurricanes tied the game up early in the third period:
That’s classic Travis Green throwback hockey right there, with the Canucks collapsing down low, leaving the points all the time in the world to get a shot off, and then despite everyone being down low, somehow not winning the battle for the puck.
Ian Cole and Noah Juulsen, in particular, both take turns confusing me with their decisions in life and, before you know it, tie ball game.
Best a moment like this
But as the intro paragraph warned you, Elias Pettersson wasn’t about to let this game get away from him:
Asked after the game about his second wraparound goal of the season, Elias merely chalked it up to trying to be more dangerous.
“I just tried to create space for myself and yeah, do the wraparound. Yeah, glad it went in…I think it’s just for me getting more shots off, or being more dangerous…creating more chances. I’ve scored two of them, so I’d like to keep going with them.”
Best Casey Printers allegory
This is in no way meant to disparage Joshua, but he won’t be the guy to convert chances like these:
Again, that’s a solid setup from Corolla, and Dakota drives hard to the net, but he doesn’t have the hands of a scorer.
Does Pius Suter change things? Do you perhaps dare to disrupt things and throw Kuzmenko on that line to see if Garland can get him going? It’s going to be interesting to see if they can find a way to cash in on the passing of Garland or not.
Either way, even if they aren’t scoring, you know Garland’s line isn’t going to bury you defensively, which isn’t something the Canucks have been able to say about their bottom six too often in the last decade.
Best Jeff Tambellini effort
You know who is in the coach’s good books?
Nils Freakin’ Höglander:
You’re trying to close out a game and you see your boy race down the ice to keep the puck deep in the other end? It’s hard not to applaud that kind of effort. He clearly outthinks the opposition on this play as he knows they are not expecting a grown man to go full out and dive like that. Höglander is bringing Timbits hockey strats to the NHL, and it’s working.
And then, with two minutes left in the game, who else but Höglander working the boards and grinding the puck out of the zone:
Now, I will say that Höglander’s defensive game still needs work. There are times when he’s not on his man, or he’s cheating a little too much for his offence.
But that being said, his effort level can make up for those inefficiencies on a lot of plays, and there is still plenty of time for him to figure out his 200 foot game.
The end point is he’s earned enough of the coach’s trust to have gotten a look in the top six as well as being put on the ice to close out games.
That’s about as big of an approval as you’ll get from Rick Tocchet.
Best grinding it out
Speaking of trust, here’s Dakota Joshua helping to eat up 15 seconds of time off the clock in the last minute of the game:
Hey, he might not be a lethal scorer, but Joshua is also a big reason that bottom six has looked much improved over previous years. That tremendous effort played a huge role in limiting the Hurricanes from generating scoring chances as the clock wound down.
Best J-Pats bomb
It’s true, and it didn’t feel like an elite game for Quinn Hughes. It could be just a case of that being bound to happen over the course of a season, or perhaps it’s what happens when you lean on him so heavily to eat up minutes every single game.
Whatever the reason, it’s a good sign they closed out a game without having to utilize him too much.
And yes, Garland didn’t figure into the offense at all, but you know what? Defensively?
He got you where you needed to go.
Corolla Garland won’t break down on you.
Best I surrender
I honestly wanted a new goal song to differentiate this era from the Bo Horvat era, but alas, I don’t think I can beat a goal song that is now tied into the best start to a Canucks season in a long time.
Best respecting your history
Worst assessment 
Look, I don’t like getting in a war of words with my fellow Stanchies writer. I still remember the time Botch got real mad at me for going against the Bo Horvat “Hunch” nickname he was pushing. We didn’t talk for days over it. So I don’t want to start a rift here with Cody.
But come on Cody. Would you rather a boring member of royalty drop the puck and then deal with months of weird unhinged royalists yelling at the fan base? Or Darth Vader?
Easy choice.

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