Photo credit:© Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchies: How the Canucks’ wagon lost the battle with the Leafs and PDO
3 months ago
We all knew a game like this was coming.
We were all having fun, we were all enjoying the wins and the excitement surrounding the team and this city. Hockey was great again!
But deep down, we all knew. All true Vancouverites know how to enjoy the sunshine even though they know rain is right around the corner.
So while the 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs wasn’t too surprising, you still felt yourself asking “Did it have to be against Toronto? On a Saturday night?”
The one Canucks game of the year you know the Eastern media will be awake for, and the Canucks played perhaps their worst game of the season.
The game against the Flyers was probably worse, but the fact we could have a solid half hour debate weighing both options says more than enough about the futility of the Canucks’ efforts Saturday night.
It was the kind of game where you know Dom has a tweet saved in his drafts halfway through the third period, ready to send it the second the Canucks lose.
It was the kind of game where you start using Google Maps to try and put together the pub crawl the team might have partaken in on Friday.
The good news is the Canucks have piled up a ton of points to start this season. It would take the kind of convoluted falling apart normally reserved for season three and four of Westworld before you need to worry about the Canucks’ future.
But the bad news is that PDO regression can hit out of nowhere, and boy can it hit hard.
It wasn’t just the bounces not going their way that played a big part in this game, of course. The Canucks effort against a team playing its second of back-to-back games should be examined as hard as that time your spouse promised to turn on the dishwasher before bed, yet failed to do so.
Overall, it was a pretty pathetic effort from a team that just talked about accountability and making sure everyone stayed on point. If this were a gaming group, maybe you’d post some helpful instructional YouTube videos in Discord to get everyone back on track, but alas, hockey isn’t always so easy.
Instead, the Canucks now find themselves not exactly with a must-win game against Montreal tomorrow, but certainly a should-win-so-people-don’t-panic-and-start-wondering-if-we-are-actually-frauds type of game on their hands.
Montreal played Saturday night as well, for those keeping track at home, making them another “tired team” the Canucks should have the edge on.
All of which is to say tomorrow is a pretty big test for this club.
Lose and the questions get a little bit louder. The Eastern media gets a little bit bolder. I start using more Sopranos references.
Win? And you write off the results against the Leafs and go back to building the statue of Tocchet on the corner of 5th and Burrard, and the biggest question in your life is wondering why Starbucks got rid of their holiday eggnog drinks.
Until then, let’s recap this game and make some gif money.
Stanch Daddy needs a new rain jacket.
Best all in
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Rick Tocchet just inspires something in people.
Travis Green was the step-dad you could never quite connect with.
Bruce Boudreau was your fun uncle that didn’t teach you any responsibilities but would buy you beer.
But Rick Tocchet is your Dad who raised you by himself, giving you everything he had but also demanding you give yourself everything you’ve got. He’s Matt Foley minus the van. And the river.
Now I know winning is the Big Mac sauce of life, making everything better and overinflating the value of everything it touches. If this team was winless, we’d spend less time waxing poetic about Tocchet’s coaching and would instead be demanding answers.
But the fact remains Tocchet HAS led this team to a fantastic start and the players ARE talking about being more accountable.
If anything, the loss against the Leafs is the perfect type of game for the Canucks to use to showcase how they’d run through a wall for their coach, when they face off against Montreal next.
Best what is a PDO even?
To be fair, it’s sometimes hard to tell if Anthony Beauvillier is legally not allowed to score, or if it’s just PDO:
You’ll want to enjoy these clips because aside from the two goals in the game from Vancouver, this represents some of the purest offence they put on display against Toronto.
How bad was it? The Canucks had two high danger scoring chances at 5 on 5 through two periods.
The game ended with the Canucks snagging eight high danger scoring chances at evens, but those six in the third period were mostly from the time the game was 5-2 and Toronto was fully in “oh you’re still trying? That’s cute.” mode.
Best sticking up for your teammates debate part 2712838
OK so look, a lot has been made about Ryan Reaves being terrible at hockey at age 36, yet still somehow getting a three year deal because of “intangibles.”
Those intangibles usually come in the form of sticking up for teammates, whether it be by hitting other people, dropping the gloves and tossing fists, or saying super mean cutting insults from the bench.
With Reaves 5 on 5 play being atrocious, the Leafs left him out of the lineup against Vancouver, which meant the team overall had to step up their toughness.
And how they did that was by taking instigator penalties:
That’s Dakota Joshua landing a huge hit on David Kampf.
David Kampf is not a superstar. He is not someone you need to protect. He is simply a cog in the Leafs machine much in the way you wouldn’t expect anyone to lose their shit if someone threw a huge hit on Mark Friedman.
But hockey has somehow turned “big open ice hit” into “how dare you besmirch the honor of my family name, I demand you duel me at dawn” moments.
Apparently if you don’t drop the gloves and try and punch someone for…throwing a big hit, then people online will question your bravery or something like that.
Now don’t get me wrong, standing up for your teammates is a great thing. Fantastic even. It truly bonds people together to know someone is willing to try and beat the shit out of another human being on your behalf.
And hey, sometimes a moment calls for it. It truly does.
Remember Ryan Miller standing up for Troy Stecher? Now, Stecher wasn’t a big name, but he was a rookie at the time, and it felt like Matt Martin was taking advantage of that. So Ryan Miller, in his own words, wasn’t about to let Troy get baptized by Matt Martin.
That was a moment where it felt team building.
But taking an instigator penalty in order to defend the honor of David Kampf? That feels like a short-sighted move.
Why not hit the other team back? Why not go throw a huge hit on Elias Pettersson in retaliation? Hell, take a number and drop Dakota Joshua on the next shift with a huge hit.
At the very least, make sure Joshua drops his gloves first before you throw down. Rushing in their with wild cocaine eyes and tossing your gloves to the ice immediately isn’t the play here, chief.
Now with all that said, Giordano did step up and he did beat the tar out of Dakota:
As everyone online pointed out, never underestimate Old Man Strength.
Was it a pretty bad ass moment when Dakota waved off the refs from ending the fight so he could keep dancing? Sure was.
Did it feel good to immediately eat another right hand from Gio after the fight continued? Probably not.
If Randy Couture taught us one thing, old man strength combined with controlling your opponent can lead to some pretty impressive wins.
The end result, however, was the Leafs handing the Canucks their only ability to do any damage, which was with the man advantage.
Best they were the best of times
JT Miller made Giordano pay with this solid wheel, snipe, celly combo:
Yes, that dashing blonde man in front of the net was Brock Boeser, who continues to be one of the better players at setting screens in the NHL, whether through blocking with his body or by making goalies get lost in his eyes.
And yes, that was Quinn Hughes picking up another assist as he backed to draw in the defenders to give JT Miller a few precious inches more of space on the ice.
All in all, that was a tidy piece of business.
Best don’t you, forget about me
As discussed in previous articles, Kuzmenko isn’t scoring goals at the same clip he did last season, but he is definitely playing a more well rounded, dare I say it, Tocchet-style North/South game. His pursuit of the puck has been noticeably better this season, even if it doesn’t always land him on the scoresheet.
Best reaction gif
I assume Giordano was shouting something about “just you wait” and “regression is coming” and damn it, he was right.
Best back and forth affair
The Leafs were supposed to be the tired team, but it was Toronto who was digging in the dirty areas and coming up with treasures:
The Leafs simply never give up on the puck in this sequence and the Canucks look like they’re caught standing around looking.
Even odder is the play of Thatcher Demko. Normally he is a robot in net, someone who moves so little you often have to put a glass under his nose to make sure he’s still with us.
But against the Leafs, it felt like he was fighting his positioning all night long. It’s not often Demko loses track of the puck and ends up turning around and staring directly into the soul of his net, questioning both himself and the very point of human existence.
Yet here we found ourselves with the Leafs finding a way to get the puck on net from any angle they could, eventually turning it into a goal from Matthew Knies.
Best instigator part deux
With the game tied 1-1, and the Canucks still assuming the PDO gods would simply find a way for them to win, Ian Cole was the next player to step up and show that even if the Canucks weren’t playing like a wagon, they could still hit like one:
How big is their belief in the PDO gods? Ian Cole was the last man back so he misses that hit or that puck gets by him, that’s a potential breakaway for the Leafs.
Alas, Cole landed the hit, and according to the Etobicoke bathtub law, he must defend himself via fisticuffs.
The end result? A Toronto penalty, once again giving the Canucks the only way they seemed able to produce offence on the night.
Honestly, look at that clip and tell me Max Domi couldn’t have wait two seconds longer before tossing his gloves. You have to sucker the other guy into doing it first, that’s the key.
Best let’s make it two
The best part of this game for me was the fact that Pew Pew Suter scored, so I could say his fun nickname:
The Canucks powerplay looked downright efficient in the first period, so soak it in, because that dries up completely after this goal.
But the point remains, the Canucks were up 2-1, were outshooting the Leafs, and looked primed to ride their PDO into the victory column.
Best PDO is a hell of a drug
Fun story, I had just finished making a gif showcasing how Tyler Myers was making smart, solid, safe plays mere seconds before he scored on his own net.
First, proof that I made said gif:
See? Tyler Myers runs over, uses his long reach to get the puck in deep, and then backs off and sticks with his check.
That’s downright beautiful boring effective hockey from the Chaos Giraffe.
But then he got shoved and fell into his net, both blocking Demko out and also putting the puck in the net:
That is a Lemony Snicket’s chain of events for Tyler, both from being shoved and having the puck bounce in perfectly off of his knee, if we’re being honest with each other.
But this is the Chaos Giraffe, so when weird things happen you don’t say “What are the odds??” you instead find yourself shrugging and accepting that life without government would be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
And while Myers finished off this goal, it was still odd to see Demko lunge across and commit so hard on Nylander, leaving himself in trouble even if Myers hadn’t come cantering through his crease.
Again, normally Demko moves so little you often wonder if Sandford is going to get rid of him for the greater good.
But that’s the thing about PDO, it can strike out of nowhere. Just mere moments earlier Nylander almost got off a grade A scoring chance right in front of Demko, only to see the puck bounces off his skate:
And earlier on the powerplay the Canucks found themselves caught on a counter-attack that was deftly thwarted by a back-checking machine who goes by the name of Jimothy Timothy:
This was just one of those games where the Canucks top players weren’t elite, and Toronto out-worked and out-bounced the Canucks.
Best sticking to the script
Much like Friday night in Vancouver, the power fizzled out for residents of Vancouver. While the Canucks started the game strong with the extra man, they ended the night two for six, often times failing to even get set up in the offensive zone.
The Canucks best chance was on the ol’ Hank to Daniel dump in pass that JT Miller shot over the net:
In Ottawa that goes bar down, but in Toronto that heads in the general direction of Yasu.
Best the beginning of the end
You know what normally doesn’t beat Thatcher Demko?
That shot from Noah Gregor.
Give the Leafs credit, they enter the zone efficiently and they fire a nice pass across the royal road. And it’s not often the Canucks defence overloads one side like that, nor does Demko often overcommit yet again to one side of the net.
Yet here we find ourselves. Staring into the void.
Wondering if Mike from Surrey was right all along.
Best attempts at pretending to win a hockey game
There was a close tie between the best offensive burst of the second period, and it was between this very slick pass attempt from Hronek to the top of the crease:
Or JT Miller getting riled up and banging his stick:
Part of me wondered if JT Miller had his cell phone on the bench so he could send angry emojis at Colin Delia.
JT Miller’s style of play is very much from the Ryan Kesler playbook. Looks inspiring when he’s winning, but looks pouty when he’s not.
On this night it felt like we saw more of the stick banging and angry glares than actual offence, so it didn’t feel like a great game from JT.
We saw more dangerous-looking shot attempts with his elbows than we did with his stick in the third period:
All of which is to say, yes, nobody looked that great from the Canucks.
You know who looked like the best player? Conor Garland. Conor Garland kept grinding and winning puck battles all night.
How do you know he was their best player? I haven’t used any gifs of him making mistakes or looking sad or demoralized on the ice.
I know he’s on the trading block but oh boy, he seems to fit right in with what Rick Tocchet wants out of his players.
Best keep on keeping on
The Canucks were already dead by this point, they just didn’t know it. So it wasn’t much of a surprise to see Toronto continue to win all the puck battles, and continue to find ways to generate dangerous shots on net:
This was yet another goal in which I almost demanded the Canucks show proof that Demko has a belly button, so I could ensure this wasn’t a clone that was just made yesterday and hadn’t had time to get up to speed on elite goaltending.
Demko goes post to post, stays on his knees, offering up the entire top of the net as he shuffles out to face the shot from Nicholas Robertson.
Again, this is a solid combo of poor team defence and questionable goaltending. Clearly the Canucks can’t just be watching Robertson literally skate off of the bench and head right to the slot unmolested.
And we all knew Demko’s bat-shit insane high danger save percentage couldn’t continue at .970% forever.
But when you have Demko overcommitting and out of position on the majority of goals, it’s pretty safe to say he had subpar night.
You know it’s a bad game when I start to parse jokes like this.
“Does it count as instigating if they don’t actually make any contact in their fight with the puck?” I ponder to myself as I read the tweet, waiting for the inevitable passing of time to carry me
Best live by the sword die by the sword
Post on one side:
Goal on the other:
Quinn Hughes doesn’t clear out the front of the net.
Thatcher Demko goes full Felix Potvin and once again makes himself small in net, but this time with the added bonus of pushing himself deep into his crease.
And voila. You have the result Dom was dreaming of.
Best is this it?
You ready for the best offensive push in the third period from the Canucks?
Three shots that hit the side of the net.
This is like applying to UBC and getting into Langara instead.
Sure, you did something, but did you really?
Best you’re not wrong
Despite leading the league in points, despite producing offence almost every game, if you’ve wondered if Elias has looked a little bit off, you’re not crazy. Rick Tocchet confirmed as much Friday.
Is it an injury? Is it back filing taxes? Is it dealing with the road work on Broadway?
Whatever it is, there is just something about his game that seems off lately.
He doesn’t have those shifts where he controls the puck and dominates the offensive zone.
He doesn’t have those hits where he uses his body to separate people from the puck.
He doesn’t have those moments where he dangles around people and makes them look foolish for even having thought they could stop him.
It speaks volumes to his skill that he’s still able to score points and help the team get wins, but this city knows Elias well enough to know when he isn’t going at 100%.
Up next? Montreal.
Are the Canucks a wagon with an engine or a wagon with a handle for pulling?
We shall see.
Best always and forever
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