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The Stanchies: Hronek’s decision, Tocchet’s catchphrase, and the local kid’s strong debut

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Photo credit:© Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
1 month ago
I’m going to let you in on a little secret over here.
Post-game scrums with Rick Tocchet? They’re pretty great. Especially if you experienced the Travis Green era in which you were dutifully informed every game about what a great team the other guys have, and that the NHL is a hard league to win in.
Every game.
Until the end of time.
And yeah, Bruce had the wrestling belt, which was a lot of fun even if apparently not a single player on the team had any idea how to properly hold it. It felt like the players were holding it like a stale loaf of bread, unsure if there was a compost bin nearby, or if they should just dump it in the trash instead.
But Rick, he dives deep into the game. He talks a little about game strategy here and there. Watching Daniel Wagner and Rick talk about playing along the rails is always a highlight for me. It feels like Rick is actually listening to your questions and giving real insight and answers, which is a rare thing in the NHL.
And despite all of this insight, Rick isn’t above having a catchphrase. He knows that as deep as he can get, as insightful as he can get, sometimes the room just wants you to hit your famous line. Say the line, Bart.
And with Rick, that line is always about lessons. Learning a lesson from losses. Learning a lesson from adversity. Learning from a powerplay that didn’t execute. Learning from not getting rattled about three losses in a row. Learning from learning.
And hopefully, learning about HOW TO USE A WRIST SHOT ON AN EMPTY NET.
Ahem.
Sorry.
We’ll get to that in a bit.
The point is, the media feeds into this to help him out. If it’s been a long presser and he hasn’t hit his line yet, someone will dutifully ask him, “Do you think there’s a lesson to be learned from…” insert scenario of your choice.
When this question is asked, Tocchet’s eyes light up. The person asking the question, their eyes light up.
Hell, my eyes light up because we’re doing the thing we all came here to do.
And without fail, Rick confirms with you that, yes, a lesson could be learned from all of it. There is nothing this man loves more than a life lesson. He’s the Mr. Rogers of NHL coaches, just out here trying to help the kids learn about the world around us.
So with all that being said, the Canucks better understand what the latest lesson is during this stretch of games in which they’ve lost three games in a row.
Yes, folks, we have our first official mini-crisis of the season.
Has there been questionable officiating? Yes.
Has the schedule been unkind to them lately? Always.
Did the PDO machine finally run out of gas a bit? Sure looked like it on Tuesday.
And honestly, the mere fact we’re talking about the first three-game losing streak of the season for the Canucks as being a kind of “come to Jesus” moment for the team is as positive a sign as any of the kind of good fortune this team has had.
But for a team that has designs on a long playoff run, and one that should desperately be doing anything in its power to avoid a first round match up with the kind of bigger team in Las Vegas that has been giving this team fits during the second half of the season?
They better learn any lessons they can that will help them out of this slump, because those Edmonton Oilers? They have six games in hand. And they’re only 13 points back of the Canucks, something a small winning streak could easily close the gap on.
Now a lot has to happen before this team really gets nervous and has to check their rear view mirror. But for the first time this season, it feels like there aren’t a ton of answers on what’s going wrong with this team aside from the one that’s been debated all year long: What if the bounces stop going their way?
Are the Canucks finally coming off of that watermelon sugar PDO high?
Or is it what I suspected all along, and Dakota Joshua is the real MVP of this team.
We shall find out.
Best hometown story
Surrey’s own Arshdeep Bains played in his first NHL game Tuesday night, completing a rare journey for a player who was passed on by every team in the 2020 and 2021 NHL drafts. From riding the Expo Line during rush hour wondering if machines were a mistake to playing in his very first game for the Vancouver Canucks, Arshdeep Bains can now proudly say he’s played in the NHL.
And I’m going to let you in on another little secret for any young aspiring writers out there: Sometimes news breaks earlier in the day, and a fellow colleague writes a killer article about it. In fact, they do such a good job with it, it totally negates you as a person.
Which means you just have to check out Dave Hall’s story about the hometown Surrey boy, then sit back and let the readers bask in the knowledge they just gained.
You can then carry on with your article, smug in the fact you just basked your audience. You basked them so hard.
Best pretty pretty pretty good
Despite the 3-1 loss, Thatcher Demko had himself a solid game. 24 saves on 26 shots, and a tidy little .923 save percentage that included this stop early on Mikko Rantanen:
That’s the kind of pass I always think in my head that I can make in hockey except when I do it, I backhand it high into my teammate’s face and we have an awkward conversation after the game where I apologize for it but I’m not sure if they actually believe that it was an accident.
Regardless, Demko wasn’t the issue on the night. He didn’t let in 10 goals, for one, and at one point, it felt like the Canucks could actually win this game in the third period. All good signs that a goaltender didn’t let you down!
Is it bizarre that a goalie using all white pads lost the game tonight? Yeah, I would say so. I don’t know how Ian Clark is going to handle this latest loss, but he’s going to have to figure out a way to get past this.
It was a rough night, ok? Just ask Hronek’s agent.
Best Surrey product
Bains seemed to struggle in his own zone, which would make sense if your first NHL game was throwing you out on the ice against the Colorado Avalanche and almost hard-locking you into matchups against MacKinnon and Rantanen.
He didn’t do anything egregious, but he made some questionable line changes at times, and he would double up on defence when marking a man and lose his own guy in the process, and generally didn’t play a very tight game in his own zone.
Which, hey, first game, in the crunch time of the season, against a top team, against top players, he did pretty well, all things considered. The kid came in and played hard and, as Rick would probably tell you, learned valuable lessons from this game.
And you know what, he did get a good look at maybe scoring in his first NHL game:
I’d like to think if I was going to almost score on my first-ever NHL shot that I’d get it off of a spinning Corolla Garland pass from the corner as well. Then I’d whisper, “That reliable son of a bitch!” while I grinned and chased down the loose puck.
Best homage to a legend
I just wanted to point out that scoring a Burraparound isn’t as easy as Burrows made it look:
See, getting that tight turn with the puck and then having it come off your stick at just the right angle to slide into the net? That’s incredibly tough to pull off.
Almost as tough as losing a Cup Final after going up 2-0 in the series.
And kind of hoping you’d lose a game on the road so you’d win it all on home ice.
Why did I go down this rabbit hole.
What have I done-
Best cut it out
Speaking of throwbacks, if Kevin Bieksa taught us to bow down and worship all stanchion-related things, he also taught us the horrors of skates cutting into the legs of other players. Which looked like it happened early in the game to Nikita Zadorov:
Luckily, Zadorov would only leave the game temporarily, but honestly, it feels like it’s incredible this doesn’t happen with more frequency in hockey. Not many sports are played with actual weapons attached to people’s feet, despite my repeated suggestion that the NFL be played with flamethrowers and jetpacks.
And when you think about it too long, it kind of makes you want to quit beer league life and just take up Canasta, where the worst thing that can happen is not hitting any red threes.
Best to shut down those thoughts, move on, and assume we’ll be young forever. Forever rizzing, as Quads tells me.
Best sign nobody has moved on yet
We will avoid talking about the officials both because we’ve probably beaten that horse to death over the last couple of games, but mostly because that if they read this article and they show up at my workplace to penalize me; I don’t know how far their reach goes.
To the Canucks’ credit, they killed off all three penalties they incurred, and even managed to open the scoring midway through the first period:
That’s a nice parallel to the Avalanche’s first high-danger scoring chance, where the Avs found the soft spot behind the defence along the rails and got a guy in all alone.
In the Canucks’ case, however, JT Miller was able to finish the play off for his 28th goal of the season. Brock Boeser got an assist. And this was the last known moment where it felt like the Canucks were going to win this game.
Best bounce back
Noah Juulsen had perhaps the toughest two games of his season against the Jets and Wild, highlighted by Juulsen claiming credit for the Canucks loss against the Jets. Juulsen stock seemed like it was at an all-time low to the point I would have bought it all up if humans were actually allowed to be on the stock market in a non-uncomfortable way.
People openly wondered if he had “fallen back to earth,” which seems like an aggressive metaphor that ends in your death at the best of times.
It was, however, just two games, and he has earned a bit of leeway with how he has played the last few months. You can’t claim he has fallen back to earth after two poor games if he’s given you two months of consistent, stable hockey.
So it was not too shocking to see him back out there, on the ice, eating shots like a young, fully teethed, 2011 Chris Tanev:
He ended up playing almost 16 minutes of ice time and had really good underlying numbers. That’s the Noah Juulsen people have seen the last little while, not the mean-spirited version from the last two games which was clearly sent back in time to rob the team of the President’s Trophy because they know the curse it carries.
Best PDO machine does not go brrrr
I promised everyone that when the Canucks finally did struggle, and that maybe the bounces didn’t go their way, that we wouldn’t hold an intervention demanding to know what went wrong. We wouldn’t throw every player under the bus, and we would just accept it as the ups and downs of a season, and at most, we would blame Steve for angering the PDO gods.
So if your name is Steve, this loss was on you.
For the rest of us, however, here is a clip to showcase that hey, the JT Miller line? It played pretty good hockey on the night:
They generated chances, they kept possession of the puck for long lengths of time in the offensive zone, and if Pew Pew Suter had just wound up and taken a slap shot there on that empty net, that’s clearly a goal.
I mean, who takes a wrist shot on an empty net? Just madness. Pure madness.
The point is, this was a close game for the majority of the night, and it truly felt like a bounce here or a bounce there would have changed the fortunes of Vancouver dramatically.
It’s just, if ever there was a season in which it was very much illegal for anyone in Vancouver to complain about not getting a bounce, it would be this one.
Best feathering
Remember those good looks I told you Bains got on the night? Here was one of his best ones:
Part of me wishes Bains had just shot the puck there. Or attempted a toe drag while whispering “progressio per diversitatem” which is the motto of Surrey, something Jordan Bowman knows nothing about because he’s a big phony, unlike myself, who was just recently voted Surrey Man of the Year.
But then you think about it and realize he’s a rookie who just got called up for a huge game against the Avalanche, and he’s on a two on one rush with a guy who has 31 goals and the best hair on the team. Could you imagine you try your shot or attempt your deke and you get nothing out of it? And when you get back to the bench Brock tosses his hair out of his eyes and just gives you a quizzical look? Not a mean-spirited look but just a look that says, “What was that about buds?”
You bet your ass you are going to be passing that puck in that situation every single time.
Best mistaken identity
Ilya Mikheyev continues to make an awful lot of money for doing what looks to be very little, which should make him a hero of mine, living out the dream of every 9-5 sucker trying to keep food on the table.
Now in his defence, ACL surgery is a hard thing to come back from, and it’s something that honestly tends to take a couple of years to recover from fully. Which means I 100% have a script ready that will erase every bad thing I have ever said about him when he scores 30 goals next season.
But right now, in this moment? I am finding it hard to picture him as a 100% has to be in the lineup kind of guy. I won’t even get started on how I don’t understand why he’s on the second unit powerplay, but let’s just focus on a man who’s main weapon (speed) is no longer there.
So when you get none of the Tyler Motte breakaways, but you get this instead:
You can’t help but eye that salary cap hit when Mikheyev has a lot of time on his hands and then bombs a pass that somehow evades three of his visibly tired linemates, keeping the play alive and eventually leading to the Avalanche’s first goal.
Again, I get it. His knee surgery has to be holding him back. But on a season in which it feels like the Canucks are rolling the dice hard on one year game plan, Mikheyev’s cap hit feels like such an anchor at this point.
Best step up, the movie
Anything is going to feel better than a 10-7 to the Minnesota Wild, but when the team only scores one goal it might feel a bit odd to praise the top players, but I really thought they had some moments in this game.
JT Miller’s line had several long shifts where they cycled the puck, played volleyball in the sand for an extended musical cut, and then generated good chances near the net like this:
And while more is expected of Elias Pettersson, especially as he marches towards a big payday, he was still creating room on the ice and making smart plays:
If you’re sitting there angrily sending me a DM on twitter about how Elias needs to score points, I fully agree! You should expect more from him, and I suspect he expects more from himself as well. I merely want to point out that this wasn’t a game in which EP40 went full Loui Eriksson on you. He wasn’t invisible or hurting the team, or showcasing his training videos from Bali. He was producing some offensive chances and wasn’t sewering his team on defence, which, again, might not be the bar you want him to clear, but it’s better than the alternative.
Best truth hurts
True story.
Best power outage
The Canucks only had two powerplays on the night, and the closest they got was this stunningly solid ding off the iron on a Quinn Hughes shot:
Currently the Canucks power play strategy consists of Quinn Hughes racing all over the ice like he’s a literal Mario Kart, as you find yourself praying he’s going to snag a triple mushroom or a red turtle shell at some point.
Alas this never happens, so you either see him fire a shot on net that creates a rebound nobody gets to, or he passes to someone standing very still, who seemingly ponders life for a few precious moments, before doing everything in their power to get the puck back to Hughes.
Never a shot, mind you. Oh no, you musn’t ever shoot the puck on this kind of powerplay. Shooting on this powerplay is an affront to the god of your choice.
Instead you just kind of wait. Wait and watch. Maybe vibe a little bit if you have the time.
For what you ask? Not sure. I just know this is what the Canucks do.
Should JT Miller go to the left half wall where he can generate offense skating downhill with his dangerous shot?
No, no. Never that.
Instead, cycle the zone, remain as still as possible, shoot as little as possible, and occasionally pass the puck to Elias for a one timer that never comes.
This is the way.
Best two sides of a coin
To be fair to the Canucks, this was a close game, and both teams generated an equal amount of high danger chances. It truly was a game in which PDO basically told the Canucks to eff off for a bit and give them a bit of space.
The Avalanche have very good players so it’s not like they aren’t finding down low plays like this against every other team they play, as that’s what good teams do:
Thatcher Demko played a solid game, I already told you this back in the intro. Scroll up if you don’t believe me.
Best moving on with our day
It’s very important we don’t upset the NHL officials, so let’s just watch this high sticking call on JT Miller in silence:
Does part of me wonder how you can get a high sticking penalty with your stick? Obviously. I am dying to know how ones glove can morph into a stick and back again so quickly. I assume this is covered in one of the throwaway chapters in a Harry Potter book. Ron turning his hand into a hockey stick wasn’t the main focus with Snape possibly trying to murder Harry, I get it.
And does part of me wish they had called this roughing if they wanted to penalize the hand in the face? Yes, I would humbly suggest calling the penalty the correct thing you witnessed seems like a good idea for officials to follow. Otherwise why not just hand out two minutes for “I wasn’t feeling it” on every play? Why define anything if you can just spin a wheel on your phone app and arbitrarily assign a randomly defined penalty?
The important thing is the NHL officials are infallible and in no way ever make a mistake and in no way have to retroactively punish the Vancouver Canucks in any future games out of pettiness or spite.
Best he was the key all along
I highlighted Mikheyev taking a shot from tight and in close in the game against the Jets that led to a goal against, and I stated quite strongly that only one player should be allowed to take a shot like that, and it started and ended with Quinn Hughes.
So imagine my delight when Quinn Hughes came in tight and close and took a shot that didn’t end up with the puck careening around the boards and out of the zone, thus causing an odd-man rush against:
See, Quinn Hughes is either going to score on this play, or smack the goalie in the face. Here, he smacks the goalie in the face, but by doing so, ensures he isn’t sending the puck out of the zone with three of his linemates caught deep.
This is why Quinn Hughes is the only player who should take this kind of shot.
Not JT Miller. Not even Elias Pettersson.
The only player who can handle the responsibility of a high risk high reward play like this is the captain.
Never Ilya.
Never.
Best sorry about your trauma
You know how you can tell when PDO has turned their back on you, aside from leaving your messages on read? Ian Cole slightly moves his hands and deflects the puck in behind Demko for the game winner:
Honestly, you can’t even break this play down and point out anything that went horrifically wrong in the defensive process.
Conor Garland goes full road hockey goalie and cuts down the shooting lane. Good.
Ian Cole boxes out his check and knocks him down in the process. Good.
But PDO is a fickle beast, so the puck clips off Ian Cole and beats Demko.
That’s all it takes to lose a game when PDO is tired of your shit.
Best PDO Machine go pfft
Is Nils Höglander addicted to high stick goals? The science says yes:
Is Teddy Blueger unable to score goals charging hard to the net out of solidarity with Dakota Joshua being out with an injury? Once again the science points to yes:
As you can see, though, the team was creating chances. They were generating high danger threats that were just for once not going into the net with ease. There was no 2/2 shooting goals off the rush on this night, instead you had Nils shooting the puck on Alex Georgiev and drawing comparisons to Dom Hasek from John Shorthouse:
Did Alex deserve a Dom Hasek nod? There is no chance in hell he earned that comparison. It was a decent save, but that puck had no pace. It had no ill intentions. It was just wandering by like a tourist in Stanley Park; at most it wanted its picture taken on a horse carriage ride while it sadly commented on the state of the non-working train ride. You can only credit someone so much for stopping that puck.
But when PDO is against you, it makes everything suddenly feel bigger. More malicious. All of a sudden that slow glove save a goalie made on his knees feels like Dom Hasek himself suited up and went back in time specifically to stop you from ever scoring again.
And believe me, it gets worse.
Best never go full Ridly Greig
Once you witnessed this you knew the Canucks weren’t winning this game:
This play is going to generate a lot of talk, so let’s dive into it.
On its surface, it appears to be a man who gets the puck in the slot, facing off against a goalie almost lying on his back, with two defenders on either side.
Hronek gets the puck, surveys this situation, and decides “a wrist shot is too pedestrian, what this situation calls for is a bit of flair.”
He then winds up and decides “hey, clap bomb time” and unloads a far less accurate shot in the form of a slapper, and uses up valuable seconds in his wind up, allowing the Avalanche defenders to collapse and block the shot.
Now there will be some pushback about the speed of the game. About how the Avalanche deserve credit for blocking that shot. And how Hronek didn’t have a lot of time on this play so who are we to judge. Who do we think we are.
But for the people who enjoy honest conversations and don’t hate themselves, we know the truth of the matter:
Just wrist the damn puck on net.
This isn’t a complicated situation here. That’s the play. That’s it. The only thing you have to do here. This is 100% the “you had one job” meme summarized perfectly.
You get the puck in that spot, you wrist the puck on net. Pick your spot and go. Use your most accurate and quickest shot possible.
Would it have been dope as shit to score on a slapshot there? Yes. A million times yes.
But two points were on the line and god knows what would have happened if Morgan Reilly saw you do that anyhow.
Let’s watch it again, from a different angle:
He just has so much time to boop a wrist shot on net and go about his day. Instead, he winds up for a slapshot.
I don’t get it.
I don’t like it.
I fear that which I don’t understand.
I want this play burned in a fire.
This is the play that cost the Canucks the game. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
This was the work of the devil.
Best last gasp
Rick Tocchet talked about it in the game against the Jets, but the Canucks need to move their feet on the powerplay, they really do.
The only real chance they got on their third period powerplay was when Elias Pettersson took the puck hard to the net:
They have to find a way to generate shots. They  have to find open shooting lanes. They have to make their own space.
Otherwise the Canucks are going to continue to lose games due to special teams.
Best finishing touches
Hey look, the Avalanche got the empty net goal:
 
Best where does this leave us
So where does this leave us?
Right there beside Rick Tocchet. Using the word soft to describe what we’ve just seen.
Fact: The Canucks have gotten no points out of games against the big boy teams of Boston, Colorado, Vegas and Winnipeg. The narrative that they can’t hang with teams made for the playoffs will only get louder if they can’t secure some points against these teams as the season comes to a close.
All of a sudden that showdown with Boston next Saturday feels even more important.
Does one game break a season? Not usually.
But for a team that is facing it’s first crisis of sorts, it feels like some big answers will be on the line against the Bruins when Brad Marchand rolls into town.
Was this three game losing streak just a culmination of bad luck, tough scheduling, and the natural ebbs and flows of the season?
Or do the Canucks have a bigger issue at play, and is big boy hockey going to be their kryptonite in the post-season?

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