Photo credit:© James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchies: First place Canucks defeat the Hurricanes and decisively win the Elias Lindholm trade
14 days ago
The Vancouver Canucks are the best team in the NHL heading into the 2023-24 All-Star Break.
Wait, hang on, I feel like I did this bit already.
<re-reading his old work to plagiarize later in this edition of the Stanchies>
Oh yeah, I did this bit already. But they’re now the best team in the NHL coming out of the 2023-24 All-Star Break! And there isn’t any tie or asterisk about it.
The Vancouver Canucks are the best team in the NHL coming out of the 2023-24 All-Star break, and that’s a fact, Jack!
Newly-minted Flame Andrei Kuzmenko scored the opening goal in Calgary’s 4-1 defeat of the team who previously shared the title of “best team in the NHL heading into the 2023-24 All-Star break” in the Boston Bruins.
Bless the Kramer-haired, Nutella-eating Russian for securing the Canucks their place at the top of the NHL leaderboards.
First, waiving his no-trade clause to accept a move to Calgary in exchange for Elias Lindholm. Then, by kickstarting the Bruins’ fall off of the leaderboard-pedestal with a power play tally in his Flames debut.
Bless his heart. I miss him already.
What did I miss more, though? Canucks hockey! And against the Carolina Hurricanes, we saw the occasional valleys and Everest-ian peaks of Vancouver Canucks hockey under Rick Tocchet.
It was the perfect away game coming off a break. The bounces weren’t going their way. The goaltending was elite. The special teams were apex. And the 5-on-5 play was enough to make every Eastern-based analytics nerd rethink their betting models for next year.
Let’s get into the game, folks. It was a weird one!
Best lineup available
Best/Sleepiest revenge game
Okay, look, Elias Lindholm’s last game in a Hurricanes sweater was six years ago, so calling it a “revenge game” is a bit of a stretch. But I took this Stanchies on a day’s notice, ran very late at work, and had to think of some story threads for the first Stanchies out of the All-Star break.
Donning the totally-not-cursed jersey number 23, Lindholm slotted on a line with Ilya Mikheyev and Elias Pettersson, which feels like the dream landing spot for a player who’d underperformed through much of the season with his previous team.
Lindholm endeared himself to the coaching staff for his first shift by winning a puck battle behind Pyotr Kochetkov’s net before finding Tyler Myers with a pass. Myers then ripped a clapper into the hands of future teammate Brett Pesce (joking, kind of).
Not one to be outdone on the forechecking efforts, Elias Pettersson played F1 for Lindholm’s next shift. After beating Jordan Martinook to the puck, Pettersson hooked a pass to the net front that would have given Lindholm his first shot on goal in blue & white, were it not for the paddle of Kochetkov’s stick deflecting the puck out of his reach.
The sequence ended with Mikheyev drawing a tripping penalty against Sebastian Aho to give Lindholm his first look on the Canucks’ loaded first power play unit.
It uhhhhhh didn’t go well.
The Canucks struggled with their new power play structure that featured Miller down low at the net front, Boeser along the left wall, and Hughes at the point, with Pettersson and Lindholm on their one-timer sides.
Pettersson did a booboo, losing possession at the Hurricanes’ blue line, giving way to a high-flippy into the Canucks zone for Jordan Martinook to chase down toward the d-zone half wall.
After playing the puck up the wall to Tuevo Teravainen, who’d entered the zone to support Martinook’s forecheck, Martinook turned toward the slot for a backhander under Demko’s blocker side.
1-0 Hurricanes: Jordan Martinook from Tuevo Teravainen
Moments later, Conor Garland and the second power play unit hopped over the boards, where he and Pius Suter combined for a zippy rush up the middle for a shot off the crossbar.
Somewhere, Boestmode was fuming that a taller man making less money would’ve scored on that shot.
After seven minutes and a power play, the Canucks were somehow down 3-2 in shots on goal, which was fitting for how off this game felt at the start.
Those pesky Hurricanes don’t give up a lot, and getting shots through traffic proved exceedingly difficult for Vancouver until the Revengeholm got into gear. Reminder: this is not a revenge game; I just have very little to go off of with such short notice. Forward all your complaints to David Quadrelli.
Worst jinx (positive!)
A large chunk of the first period saw the Canucks struggling to match the Hurricanes’ cycle. Granted, it yielded just as few shots as the Canucks were generating, but the prolonged stretches of puck-watching and puck-chasing were the stuff of nightmares for Canucks fans.
The few times the Canucks weren’t stuck inside the zone, icing the puck, or generally looking exhausted were whenever the Garland-Joshua-Blueger or Lindholm-Pettersson-Mikheyev trio were on the ice at 5-on-5. The tough part was getting those groups on the ice at all, as Rod Brind’amour found a matchup advantage early in the game that saw his lineup crushing the Canucks fourth line and 3rd-pair with possession.
Were it not for the giant engine that could (Zadorov), the Canucks could have ended their first period back from the All-Star Break looking quite worse for wear.
Zadorov’s name has come up quite a bit lately as a potential outgoing asset at the trade deadline. Now under the microscope, he played a safe, straightforward game during the first period that highlighted his strengths as a blueliner.
First, this slick end-to-end rush for a shot off Kochetkov’s right pad rebounded wide of Dakota Joshua’s backhand.
Then, perhaps wanting to score some brownie points with the coaching staff, Zadorov showed off impressive wheels, ending up as the first skater back into the d-zone while matching the Hurricanes’ counter-attack off his initial rush.
Midway through the first, Zadorov snapped a shot off a faceoff won by Joshua; nothing fancy, just a Corolla-like reliable reaction to a positive action.
Late in the frame, Zadorov blew up former Canuck/future teammate (joking, kind of) with a massive hit in the neutral zone.
The hit punctuated a noticeable momentum shift in Vancouver’s favour. Suddenly, faceoffs were happening more often in the Hurricanes’ zone than in Vancouver, and shots began to find their way on Kochetkov.
Off a faceoff win, Garland nearly equalized with a shot off a faceoff won by Teddy Blueger.
Blueger then drew a hooking penalty against future teammate Jack Drury (joking, kind of) to give the Canucks a second power play opportunity. Much to the fanbases’ chagrin.
Best jinx (also positive!)
A guy on track to score 50 goals, a defenceman on track to score 100+ points, two forwards on track to score 100+ points, and a recent 40-goalscorer go on the power play together; did you think the team setting new PDO records with each passing game would just never figure it out?
Oh, ye of little faith.
Scoring a goal only the PDO gods could allow: Elias1 batted down a puck at the top of the circle to get the puck to Hughes, who walked the blueline for a wrister on the net, absolutely nowhere near the goal. Elias2, spotting the puck in transit, redirected the puck with his outstretched stick to bank the puck past Kochetkov.
Canucks Goal: Elias Lindholm from Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson
Yes, the Hurricanes Hurricane-d Vancouver for a large chunk of the period, but they forgot to factor in the Canucks’ trump card in their defensive structure: PDO/60.
Best trade ever?
Look, the second period was more of the same as the first. Lots of action off the rush, lots of puck battles, lots of cycles, and lots of irrationally angry tweets directed toward Conor Garland.
In the first that I can recall, the Canucks managed to draw the infamous Sportsnet Shift-clock counter twice in the first ten minutes of the second period, giving the Hurricanes a dose of their own medicine with a Hurricaning of their own! At one point, the Canucks’ held Dmitry Orlov inside the d-zone for two-and-a-half minutes, cycling the puck and firing pucks on Kochetkov at will.
Midway through the first, Canucks fans got their first look at Elias Lindholm on the PK while paired next to Nils Åman.
While Andrei Kuzmenko scored his first goal in Calgary slightly earlier than Lindholm did scoring his first as a Canuck, we can confirm that Lindholm played a role in the Canucks’ PK. Kuzmenko did not, therefore making the trade a surefire win for Vancouver.
The PK was the result of Ian Cole hooking Carolina’s Jordan Staal.
There weren’t many “standout” moments from Lindholm on his trade-winning PK shift. Still, he did execute a timely stick-lift, disrupting Martin Necas’ controlled entry, allowing Zadorov to steal the puck and clear the zone, allowing the Canucks to change personnel.
The Canucks got their first taste of the shift clock when Elias Pettersson shattered his stick (not a euphemism) while blocking a shot on the PK.
Rick Tocchet could be seen giving Pettersson some love on the bench when the Canucks earned a well-deserved stoppage in play.
Late in the period, Teravainen tried to tear Pettersson’s head off, which we’re sure was something he picked up while in Chicago.
It was a foolish move because it opened the door for Vancouver’s first lead of the game, with who else but Lindholm scoring his second of the night.
Canucks goal: Elias Lindholm (2) from Quinn Hughes and Brock Boeser
The Canucks’ would pull a booboo shortly after when wires got crossed, and the Canucks got busted with three forwards and three defence on the ice.
Sebastian Aho netted the equalizer with a rising snipe over Demko’s glove side.
Carolina Goal: Sebastian Aho from Brent Burns and Seth Jarvis
Lindholm was on the ice for the PK, patrolling above the hash marks as the Canes executed their cycle. However, Andrei Kuzmenko did not play any shorthanded time against the Boston Bruins, nor did he have a second power play goal. Securing the trade victory for Vancouver after two periods.
Best [additional effusive Garland-Joshua-Blueger praise]!
I didn’t know where else to squeeze in this effusive second-period Garland-Joshua-Blueger praise, so here ya go!
After the Cole PK, the Canucks returned to their dominant ways at 5-on-5.
Dakota Joshua sprang onto a misplayed breakout pass from Jaccob Slavin, resulting in a fantastic backhand shot on the net from Garland.
Somehow, this line continues to defy their own team’s deal with the PDO gods. They were, well, godly at 5-on-5 against the Hurricanes.
With Garland, Joshua, and Blueger on the ice, the Canucks outshot the Hurricanes two-to-one at 5-on-5, 6-3. Their shots generated at 5-on-5 doubled the next-best trio, Miller-Boeser-Suter, for shots on goal.
If the NHL counted shots off the post, the Corolla line would’ve been up 7-3 at 5-on-5, as Joshua rifled a puck off the post not long after Lindholm’s second power play tally.
Personally, I can’t wait for the snarky tweet from the “analytics model” dorks on Twitter over this one!
Early in the third, Tyler Myers rifled the puck over the blue line for a dump-in, after which Kochetkov left his net to play. The puck took a favourable bounce off the endboards, ricocheting off Kochetkov’s back and out to Brock Boeser for the initial shot attempt—credit to Kochetkov, who made the initial stop after missing the last 26 games with an injury.
Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do to stop J.T. Miller from stealing a sure-goal away from Boeser once more for s***s and giggles.
Vancouver goal: J.T. Miller from Brock Boeser and Tyler Myers
You know, I’d like to think Wyatt asked me to cover this game for him because he knew it would be a breezy finish.
The third period after the Miller goal felt like it took place on the beach from the movie OLD.
I looked up after summarizing Miller’s hilarious PDO goal, and suddenly, there were less than twelve minutes left in the game.
Dare I say it…but beyond getting outshot 13 to 3 over the final twenty minutes, it was the perfect road period.
The most notable aspect of the third was a bunch of spinoramas from Carolina and a brutal non-call on Miller along the right wall.
Seriously, what the hell is happening in reffing these days that this goes uncalled?
That penalty is about as textbook as it gets.
I digress. The period flew by in a breeze, which was of great relief to me, personally, and the thousands of Canucks fans on the West Coast, who were able to start their dinner preparations about a half-hour earlier than expected.
The Canucks came up with a gutsy road win to start their five-game road trip, guaranteeing Canucks fans another week of Tommy Kippes tweeting “Good morning Canucks fans :)” with a picture of the NHL standings for 1k+ likes per tweet.
Best “pump the brakes”
I don’t want to be that guy, but remember that the club’s star center remains unsigned.
And appears to have zero interest in talking contract extension until the summer.
Best “wait, DON’T pump the brakes”
Perennial cup favourites Carolina dropped four of four possible points against the Canucks this season, including two of a possible four last season.
What a bunch of losers.
EDITOR’S NOTE: They are a perfectly fine and talented team.
Best friends :’)
Boestmode in shambles.
Best “Tier 3B Defenceman”
Put that in your model, nerds.
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