The Stanchies: Hughes and Hronek’s struggles take the spotlight in Canucks’ 5-1 loss to LA

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
1 month ago
There are good games.
There are bad games.
Then there is the Vancouver Canucks’ 5-1 loss to the LA Kings on Thursday night.
It was the kind of game you’re embarrassed to say you even watched.
The kind of game where if your friend asked you what you did Thursday night, you would scramble to come up with a lie, anything but admit you watched the Canucks.
“I was cleaning my cat. Yep. He got into some dirt, you know how cats get, so I cleaned him up. Used a nice sponge. Did you know that a German scientist accidentally invented sponges way back in 1937? I know this because I had time to look into it, due to having so much time on my hands not watching the Canucks game.”
It was the kind of game you’d use as an example to teach your children lessons about how hard you have to work in life; otherwise, you might end up broke, jobless, and losing 5-1 to the LA Kings, knowing that Wil Wheaton was made directly happy by these results.
It was the kind of game where the only redeeming quality was that it happened on Country Night at Rogers Arena, and if any themed event deserved that garbage heap of a game, it would be this one. I know you’ve got friends in low places because I just watched them attempt to play a game of hockey.
It wasn’t just the fact it was a 5-1 loss, mind you. It wasn’t just the fact the LA Kings did this in their third game in four nights.
It was the fact it was done in such a clinical, playoff-like fashion that even the most ardent defenders of the Canucks might have alarm bells starting to go off in their heads. As Tocchet said after the game, “They didn’t have many chances, but they were egregious chances.” Which is how playoff hockey can often go: tight games in which the team that makes fewer mistakes will win. And when you offer up chances on a platter? Baby, you got a stew going.
Now, we’ve often talked about Rick Tocchet going on about tests the team will face, and how they have to learn from them. We have heard JT Miller discuss how in order to be the team that they want to be, they have to find ways to show up in these types of games.
Well, we have now seen plenty of examples of the Canucks running into a hockey team that plays tight hockey, wins board battles, puts pressure on the forecheck, and makes getting to the middle of the ice incredibly difficult. And it feels like the Canucks, more often than not, have struggled in these situations in the second half of the season.
It also gets worse for Vancouver, as aside from the Ducks game on Sunday, they face four massive tests after that in the form of games against LA, Vegas, Winnipeg and Colorado. With the way Vancouver has played those teams, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which the Canucks go 1-3 during that stretch, which would finally be a talking point that might just overshadow Elias Pettersson’s ongoing contractual situation.
All of which is to say, to quote the late great Mr. Arnold, hold onto your butts, because we have quite a ride ahead of us.
The good news for Vancouver is that they’ve responded to setbacks in the past. And we all knew they’d fall back to earth eventually in terms of getting every bounce to go their way, and with hockey at the end of the season being so competitive, it’s easy to see how this team might struggle at times. That being said, something about the kind of hockey the Canucks have been playing as of late feels very deflating. The effort level and attention to detail just isn’t there. At times it feels like JT Miller is the only guy who consistently shows up for this team, which is great for his brand, but not a great sign for the team itself.
It also feels like this is a season in which management might be going all in. Jim Rutherford seems like the kind of guy who plays cards like Austin Powers, with the kind of bravado usually reserved for showdowns in old Western movies. Which isn’t to say that it’s the wrong move, as only time will tell us that. But just in terms of stress management, this current stretch of hockey from the Canucks combined with management maybe selling some future property to prop up the playoff run? Yeah, I’d say it’s putting the fan base on edge.
But to quote the great Tammy Wynette, “You’ll have the bad times, and he’ll have the good times, doing things that you don’t understand.”
And while we wait to see how the next few weeks play out, let’s make some GIF money, shall we?
Best setting the tone early
Arshdeep Bains continues his run with his hometown club, and if there is one thing growing up teaches you, it’s to set the tone early and also make sure to not miss the last Skytrain from King George.
Unfortunately, setting the tone was deemed a tripping penalty:
The Canucks penalty kill did their job, however, which can be confirmed by the fact that this was the best highlight to come out of that two minutes:
Bains doesn’t score, nor does his shot look particularly threatening (If his shot approached me in a dark alley, I would be pretty relaxed, to be honest), but I will say this about Bains: He gets in the right spots offensively.
He seems to thrive on playmaking, however, which feels like the wrong sort of player this team needs right now.
Put him on JT Miller’s line, well, JT is the guy who distributes.
Put him on Garland’s line, again, Garland is the one who knocks.
Put him on the fourth line, and then he’s setting up Philly Delight for goals, which is a rare event.
Put him with Pettersson, well, we can never do that because Mikheyev has to play with EP40 UNTIL THE END OF TIME.
All of which is to say I am not sold on him being a permanent addition to this team during this stretch run. It feels like the Canucks need shooters or people who crash the net, or players who are so solid defensively they can help protect the middle of the ice again.
Which brings us back to the fact that I can’t believe it’s March and I can honestly write that the Canucks miss Dakota Joshua far more than any of us ever expected.
Best cutting off your nose to spite your face
I understand when things aren’t going well, you try and change them up.
That Subway you had for dinner timing up suspiciously well with your stomach issues? Hey, maybe it’s time to make your own dinner tomorrow. Maybe that “Mondays are for meatballs” theme that you stretched out for three days in a row was poor planning on your part.
And with the Canucks’ powerplay recently looking like a convoluted plot point in Lost that was cut for time, you understand the team trying to change things up to spark some success. I just don’t know if I am convinced that spreading out the talent is the way to go. And hey, the powerplay did score on the night, going 1/3. Maybe this new divorced parents approach with EP and JT Miller on different units will lead this team to loving the fact they get two Christmases.
But it still feels like an awful lot of the highlights from the special teams end up looking like this:
Puck goes in, puck goes out.
Lack of confidence? Fatigue? Teams figuring them out? Missing the energy Kuzmenko’s smile brought to the team?
Whatever the reason is, the powerplay looks confused at the best of times.
Long gone is the dazzlingly quick puck movement leading to one timers from either side of the ice. In its place are the Washington Generals showcasing how fundamentals can be sexy too, even if they don’t end in winning results.
Best losing your smile
I will say I don’t believe the Kuzmenko trade ruined the chemistry of the team. I think it’s the fact that the Canucks regression has kicked in, and the fact hockey gets tougher this time of the year. As Travis Green always warned us, this is a tough league to win in.
I also think this team feels like a serious bunch, where even after a 4-1 win they talk about having to be better. Which is good! That feels like a Rick Tocchet inspired ethos.
But it does make you wonder if Kuzmenko ever giggled during a team video session, eating a banana cheerfully, whispering how farts are just giggles from your butt, and wondering why everyone was so grumpy all the time.
Regardless, team chemistry isn’t the reason LA scored on this goal. Soft defence was:
Sometimes, you watch a team score a goal, and you see how they enter the zone and set up their shot, and you marvel at the complexity of movement and skill involved.
Sometimes you watch a team enter the zone and just pass to the open guy and score a goal as easy as can be.
LA didn’t do anything masterful on this goal, it was a lot of Vancouver giving and LA thanking them for their generosity and taking. LA walked in, Vancouver backed off, and then nobody really thought to cover future Hall of Fame defenceman Drew Doughty walking into the slot.
Was it a good shot? Hell yes it was. Sometimes you do have to give credit to the other team, even when it’s Drew.
Could Demko have made the save? Maybe, but that’s also a tough ask with Noah Juulsen setting up shop and ignoring personal space boundaries.
But for a team that has defended the middle of the ice so well this season, we’re starting to see some sloppy habits slip into their game.
Again, give the Kings credit because they clearly earned their victory Thursday night with their relentless pressure and forechecking, but the Canucks’ response to said tactics was downright disheartening. Endless shifts ended with a line caught in their own zone, for minutes at a time, to the point that the “shift length” graphic felt like it was being copy and pasted at an alarming rate by Sportsnet.
And with that fatigue of running around in your own zone comes a team that shrinks and collapses down low, giving up time and space at the point to the opposition, leading to ample opportunities to crash and bang the puck on net.
Essentially anytime I see you play hockey and I think to myself, “Hey, that looks like Oliver Ekman-Larsson Canucks hockey,” things probably aren’t going well for you.
Best sign of things to come
I’ll say this for Ian Cole. When he made mistakes on Thursday, he made sure they were big ones:
That looks like me when I want to jump around my dog in the hallway, so I throw a snack to his right and then dodge him on the left. Except in this case, there is no snack. Only sadness.
Spoiler alert, Ian Cole was actually one of the Canucks best defencemen in terms of results on the night.
“Well that can’t be a good sign, Wyatt.”
No, no it isn’t.
Best what we do in tQhe shadows of Gastown
When it comes to zoning ordinances, the LA Kings have a few thoughts.
Best NHL 95 hit garbage can sound effect
Take your time with this clip because between you and me, this is as good as it gets from this game. Like, this is the highlight of the game and the last time you’ll have thought to yourself, “You know what, this has been a good use of my time.”:
Noah Juulsen continues to hit like an absolute truck for the Canucks, and since I compare all heavy hitting defenceman to Luke Schenn, Juulsen finds himself only two hits behind Luke on the season with 130.
Fun fact, Dakota Joshua is far and away the Canucks leader in hits, sitting at 195 on the season, with JT Miller behind him in second place with 160.
Though if you want proof that all hits are not delivered equally, Sam Lafferty is fifth on the team in hits with 114, and I’m pretty sure “skating really fast to engage in a board battle” is clearly accounting for every single one of his hits. Sam has the energy I bring to Safeway when I see someone trying to hit up the Pink Lady apples in that I will do everything in my power to not let you beat me to them, but I’m not going to bowl you over to get position either. I have produce decorum.
All of which is to say Noah Juulsen is clearly the hardest hitter on the team and yes, he would smash your face if it meant he got to pick the freshest apples.
Best I’m so sorry you watched this game
The LA Kings scored their second goal when Anze Kopitar, who just refuses to retire despite my many strongly worded letters I have faxed him, scored his 18th goal of the season:
Again, this isn’t next level gamesmanship from the LA Kings. Nobody busted out a whiteboard and used a variety of x’s and o’s to break the Canucks down.
This goal was simply passing the puck around and watching the Canucks doing their best to give a shit about it. It’s passive hockey at its best, as Myers and Pettersson are just kind of vibing out there.
You know when you can vibe? When Lil’ John helps design and renovate a room in your house. Then it’s all about the vibes.
You know when you can’t vibe? When you’re playing hockey in the NHL.
This is also another case of a good shot combined with Demko maybe holding the post a little too long and giving up a little too much net. We’re officially at the point now where Demko is getting so many games that you wonder if that Minnesota game really soured the team on Casey DeSmith. Thatcher might benefit from some rest, as he currently sits third in the league in games played at 45.
As we have seen in the past, there is a high risk associated with running your goalie into the ground in today’s NHL, something Shakira warned us about back in 2005. Now, to be fair to Vancouver, Colorado is doing the same with Alex Georgiev, but long gone are the days when you wanted your goalie flirting with 60+ games played on the season if you could avoid it.
That game against the Ducks feels like the perfect game for DeSmith, doesn’t it?
Fun fact: Arturs Irbe played 77 games in a season for the Carolina Hurricanes back in 2001, yet another goalie that was better than Dan Cloutier that Marc Crawford refused to believe in.
Fun fact #2: Marc Denis also played 77 games in a season with the Columbus Blue Jackets and went 27-41-8, making him the only goalie with a losing record who played 75+ games.
Best he called it
Aside from the Canucks’ lone goal, this was probably their best shot at a second one on the night?
Chaos Giraffes goes hard to the net with the wraparound, which is sort of his thing now, and Corolla Garland just shovels the puck wide.
These kinds of highlights from the Canucks are few and far between on the night because they just weren’t able to set up sustained time in the offensive zone. They were getting pucks in deep, but they weren’t getting to them. They weren’t winning board battles. And when they did make passes, they were mishandling the passes and holding onto the puck just a little bit too long.
Much like the lineup for a Costco hotdog on Saturday, this game was ugly, and yes, smelled of hotdogs.
Best folding like a cheap tent
You know what I am not going to show you a clip of? The two minutes the Canucks spent stuck in their own zone, during which the LA Kings made two line changes on.
Instead I will spare you that and ask you a question: Who would be the one forward on the team that would be dead tired but still able to make a clutch defensive play that leads to a zone exit?
Corolla Garland, man. It might not be pretty, but he gets you where you need to go.
Every time.
Unless it’s overtime against the Penguins.
Best with great contracts come great responsibilities
The “don’t mention the war!” Fawlty Towers nature of Elias Pettersson’s contract continues, with him refusing to discuss the reports that surfaced this week after the game, as he only wanted questions about the game in question.
Well, if that contract comes to fruition, he’s still going to have to discuss how he hasn’t had a signature game recently. The kind of game where he takes it over and ends up with your Aunt texting you to ask about that Elias person she’s hearing so much about lately.
This was EP40’s best chance of the game, and he clearly ripped this move off of Tyler Myers:
Copyright infringement aside, I’m not sure how much long you can trot Ilya Mikheyev out on his line, as Garland had to step into that spot halfway through this game. Come trade deadline day, that feels like one of the biggest team needs should the Canucks be planning a long playoff run.
And that doesn’t even get into Elias Lindholm who aside from a couple of games, hasn’t exactly made his mark on the team yet. He’s going to need to have more than Tobias Harris energy during this last stretch of the season if the Canucks are going to get back on track.
Best thwarted yet again
JT Miller, being the good playmaker that he is, showcased that once again when he set up Bains for a decent chance to start the third period:
Again, that shot isn’t a scary one. It’s the kind of shot that would threaten me with a knife and I’d go “oh you!” before ruffling it’s hair and sending it on its way. It’s the kind of shot that would start a conflict of Anglo-Zanzibar levels, if we wanted to be historical with each other.
Also notice the Kings boxing out Brock Boeser so there is no screen on Cam Talbot, something they were on top of most of the night.
Best flow
The Canucks lone goal of the night was on the powerplay, and once again it was due to Brock Boeser absorbing the powers of Bo Horvat, and using them in the bumper spot:
Watch Brock look over to his right and notice that Danualt is watching Miller. Brock uses that second to glide backwards into soft coverage, allowing Miller to find him open for the shot. Brock is very good at taking notice of the coverage on the ice so he can slip into those pockets on the ice where he can have time and space to get a shot off.
It was at this point where the Canucks could have gotten back into the game. We have seen many times this season in which the Canucks played poorly for a couple of periods but still managed to win the game. Their powerplay had just scored, the crowd was into it, everything seemed to be going their way.
But then…
Best Kirk Van Houten vibes
The Kings just weren’t going to be denied on the night. They didn’t crumple in the face of pressure, instead they stepped up and quickly put the game to bed:
Again, Ian Cole played ok hockey on the night, it’s just when he made a mistake, he made a MISTAKE.
He’s out there penalty killing, and it looks like he assumes that it’s going to be a dump in from Anze Kopitar (who again, refuses to retire despite several strongly worded DMs I have sent him). Hahah just kidding, instead it’s a back door pass to Kevin Fiala, last seen manhandling his way down the ice with ease despite around 37 stick lift attempts from Elias Lindholm.
Like, Ian Cole commits to this dump in harder than Jimmy does to Chelsea, and it is just as questionable. I wish I had a belief in something in life like Ian does that this was going to be a dump in along the boards. He just skates away from Fiala and starts a new life in a single bedroom apartment in Bachelor Arms.
Best attempt at a pushback
The Canucks fought back a little bit and generated some better chances in the third, most noticeably this play by Corolla:
That’s actually a really nice pass from Lindholm to set Garland up for the drive to the net, but Talbot played him perfectly the entire way, aided by the fact three LA Kings descended on Garland like a weighted blanket.
Nils Höglander then got off a nice backhand with a drive to the net as well:
The problem was that for every chance the Canucks got, the LA Kings got their own chances, but with the added bonus of grinding the Canucks down in their own zone.
For the Canucks to have won this game, they would have truly needed all of the bounces to go their way, as it felt inevitable that LA was just going to grind this one out.
Best giving up completely
This was the ugliest goal of the night and the best sign that the Canucks were done:
Quinn Hughes pinches in to make a play on the boards, which leaves Brock Boeser to cover for him.
Which Brock does.
For a second at least.
All I will say is if Kuzmenko had ever back-checked like Brock did on this goal, Rick Tocchet would be in jail for attempted murder after the game.
Ok, well not attempted murder. But oh my god you just know Rick would have given the biggest sigh when asked about it post-game.
It’s lazy hockey, plain and simple. Brock stops skating the second the pass goes over to Quinton Byfield and then gives a token “hey look, I extended my stick, I tried!” effort when Brandt Clarke skates by him for the tap in.
Which fair enough, that’s what I model my defensive game after, but it feels like the stakes are a bit higher for an NHL player.
Best please make it stop
Arshdeep Bains is a wonderful hometown story. I, like everyone else, would love to see him score a goal in a Canucks uniform.
It’s just, I’m still not sold on him. Especially to the tune of the 13:40 minutes of ice time he got on the night.
To quote Love Island (as we often do here), this play gave me the ick and I don’t think I can come back from it:
Here is my list of players I would allow to not shoot in that position and instead pass it:
  • Henrik Sedin
That’s it. That’s the list.
Some people were debating maybe he didn’t have a full handle on the puck, but man alive, you have to get that on net. Your team is down 4-1, skating yourself out of a scoring position is just a rough scene. Or tough beans if you’re into that sort of thing.
There is some good news for Bains, as I got the ick with Noah Juulsen and I have now famously had to walk back my initial thoughts on him. My ick with Bains probably results in him getting 10 goals to end the season if we’re being honest.
Best finishing touches
And just for laughs, here is the LA Kings feasting on the corpse of Vancouver for one more goal:
As good as JT Miller has been, that is a sloppy pass fueled by thoughts and prayers that gets easily intercepted.
Best strongly worded thoughts
It’s not often you see Quinn Hughes at the bottom of this chart. It’s also extremely rare when Tocchet has to discuss their poor play in the post game scrum.
“They gotta play better, I mean they know it. The best solution is they gotta play better…maybe we’re playing them too much, but they gotta defend better I think. And take what’s given.”
Tocchet would go on to say it’s not just them, but that the entire team needs to play better. When Rick is seemingly calling someone out, it’s usually just him answering a direction question honestly, which is why he’s such a great coach in these post game conversations.
But on a night in which Quinn Hughes was steamrolled and shut down, it does offer a glimpse of the worst case scenario in a playoff series. A scenario in which Quinn Hughes is nullified, and the Canucks still have to find a way to win. Something they have yet to answer.
Best ending on a good note
Jonny Lekkerimaki has gone from “hey maybe he can be used in a trade at the deadline” to “THIS GUY IS THE FUTURE, HE CAN NEVER LEAVE” in a very quick period of time.
My favorite part about this goal is Lekkerimaki big timing the goal, looking like he does this every day. He blows some air out of his cheeks like I do after finishing a big meal.
“Phew, can’t believe I got through that meatball sub for a third day in a row.”
Ice cold.

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