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The Stanchies: Kuzmenko’s snipe, Boeser’s hatty, and Demko’s poise star in Canucks win

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
2 months ago
It might be cold outside, but the Canucks are still going streaking.
Winners of three straight, the Vancouver Canucks find themselves once again battling to get into the good books of Thomas Drance by levelling up that winning percentage.
Regardless of how you view your numbers, you have to admit, it’s still pretty bizarre to see the Canucks sitting at 39 points in the middle of December.
Yet here we find ourselves, watching JT Miller attempting to chase down Nikita Kucherov for the league lead in points. Seeing Quinn Hughes go head to head with Cale Makar. Sitting back and revelling in Brock Boeser going toe to toe — thus completing our body metaphors — with Auston Matthews for the league lead in goals. Gazing upon Thatcher Demko trying to take the lead in most wins by a goalie on the season against Alex Georgiev.
The Canucks’ PDO-fuelled wagon slowed down after that hot start, but I have to tell you, it’s still going at a pretty decent clip.
And for all of the breakdowns in their games, for all of their sloppy play in recent weeks, the effort against Tampa Bay was about a complete of a game as we have seen in some time here.
Best curd-mudgeon
Like a house of cards (or your hastily constructed Lego Fortnite base), sometimes one mistake is all it takes to cause a chain of events that leads to a total collapse. All I can hear is Rick Tocchet hammering away at how Kuzmenko not doing his job properly affects everyone on the ice, leading to a series of events that leads to a total structural breakdown.
But as hard as it is to believe, not every goal against is Andrei Kuzmenko’s fault. Sometimes Elias Pettersson can play a role in a goal against:
We talked about it with Hughes last game; where if you’re a top-calibre player who makes fantastic plays on the reg, nobody is going to be that angry about a mistake here and there.
And it’s not an egregious error by Elias Pettersson. He simply gets caught swinging his stick while trying to block a pass. And honestly, a lot of the time he knocks those down. But by missing this puck, he’s now stopped skating, and he ends up in catch up mode as the Tampa players are now entering the zone with speed.
Which again, everything is still fine here. It’s like Vancouver when there is snow in the forecast. Sure, that could potentially be a very bad thing, with one inch shutting down the entire city, making UBC neigh impossible to access due to being on a slight hill. But there is still plenty of time to prep for this and get the city’s one snow plow out of storage.
The problem is you’re now asking Tyler Myers and Nikita Zadorov, two agents of chaos, to be the ones in charge of “settling things down.” It’s a bit like telling your partner to “calm down” when they’re getting upset. You have all the good intentions in the world, but the road to hell and all that.
As a result, you have Zadorov, a firm believer in his long reach, going for a poke check on the puck carrier and easing off his man. Myers, surprised someone else believes in their arm length as much, if not more than himself, actually correctly backs off here and stays with his man. That’s right, he’s watching someone more chaotic than himself, resulting in him settling his own game down. I assume this is much like Nelson Muntz looking into the mirror and coming to a harsh realization.
Zadorov then takes turns covering someone who no longer has the puck three separate times, seemingly mystified every time he shows up to the crime scene and the murderer is gone.
Pettersson makes one last wild dive to block the pass across the tracks but cannot stop it, leaving the puck open to go to Mik Sergachev, who passes it back to Brayden Point for an easy tap-in, who Zadorov earlier let skate right by him for reasons.
On top of this, it’s a 2022 JT Miller level-esque back check effort from Nils Höglander that allows Sergachev to make that pass so easily and so cleanly. Höglander might be scoring, and nobody questions his efforts on the forecheck, but I am still waiting to see if he can use it as effectively in his own zone.
Tampa Bay goes up 1-0 as a result of all of this.
Defence in hockey, much like life, can be so fragile.
Best Bingpot!
Speaking of the fragility of man, Andrei Kuzmenko has been struggling a little bit as of late. You probably hadn’t even realized, as it’s flown under the radar for the most part, but yes, the friendly Russian has found himself failing to land on the score sheet. And while there is some amusement to be had in seeing just how frustrated Rick Tocchet can get fielding questions from media about Kuzmenko, you can’t help but feel for both parties involved.
You feel for Tocchet, especially when the media delivers questions on Kuzmenko like a small child asking for more dessert, complete with starting down at their feet and grinding one toe into the dirt.
You feel for Kuzmenko because he just gets to repeatedly confirm that, yes, he understands the concept of a forecheck.
But on Tuesday night, it felt like Kuzmenko was on a mission as he was passing the puck around with the kind of crispness usually reserved for Let’s chips:
I think my favourite part about watching a team move the puck around like that is how much they do with so little room on the ice. That’s just straight-up video game passing right there.
And while that passing play didn’t lead to a goal, this one did:
Kuzmenko taps his stick to the ice, calling for the puck like a young Ryan Kesler, and he absolutely wires the puck past Andrei Vasilevsky.
Was Kuzmenko happy?
I think he was happy.
When asked about the goal after the game, however, the most Jeff Paterson could get out of him was a tiny nod to the importance of it.
“It’s ok. It good…little bonus for me.”
Kuzmenko shooting the puck is always going to be a good thing for this team, and the fact that no matter how angry Tocchet gets at his 5 on 5 play, he still has a chance to make an impact on the first unit power play.
Say what you will about Tocchet’s view of Kuzmenko; he clearly respects his offensive skill set with the extra man. Which I get it, it’s a bit like congratulating your friend for getting a Warzone win when the other team dies in the gas, but you have to take what you can get sometimes.
You know how good of a game it was for Vancouver? Elias Pettersson’s line was missing in action, and it didn’t even matter.
In fact, this might have been EP40’s best chance at scoring a goal on the night:
The save makes that shot look far more dangerous than it most likely was, but I’m a wrestling fan, so I enjoy a little drama being added for effect. Heck, have Vasilevskiy chase down Pettersson and deliver some chops to his chest, let’s really lean into this.
Best bold personality
It’s hard to use one goal as a way to convince your coach you get it now, but if anything, Tuesday night was a solid piece of the puzzle for Kuzmenko trying to earn his way back into his coach’s good books.
And yes, we’re at the point where even one Kuzmenko backcheck gets highlighted because that’s just how hockey coverage works in Canada:
Kuzmenko could have floated there, but you see him move his feet fast at the last moment, and he prevents a high-danger scoring chance for Tampa.
Even better? He keeps his pace up and ends up pressuring his check near the boards, thus giving a complete effort on one shift.
Sometimes you have to play every shift under Tocchet like you’re Wile E. Coyote: It might not end with the results you wanted, but you have to at least show you went to great lengths to try and complete your task.
Best stinks like a butt
You know when you’re feeling it in beer league hockey? Like, you’re normally a stay-at-home kind of guy/gal, and you pride yourself on your low-risk, low-reward style of play? But one game you’re feeling frisky because last game you got a couple of second assists, and you know what, maybe you do have untapped offensive potential, and maybe the only thing standing in your way of moving up the lineup is yourself?
So next shift, you make a move and beat a guy and you start thinking, “holy shit, I AM Connor McDavid,” so you go for the no-look drop pass?
That was Dakota Joshua here:
Collects the puck, busts out a slick dangle to get around a Tampa Bay player, and then drop passes the puck to a surely open Corolla Garland for the easy tap in.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, as the Lightning recovered the puck on the errant pass, but honestly, full credit to Dakota for going for it. When you feel it, you feel it.
Speaking of guys who feel it, but can also rack up almost 100 point seasons, JT Miller took his turn thinking he could make any pass he wanted:
You don’t want Kucherov to have the puck at the best of times, let alone serving him a giant piping hot pizza, but give credit to JT Miller for getting back into the play and blocking the subsequent shot.
Yes, we are crediting JT Miller for making up for his mistake, because damn it, we didn’t watch Luca Sbisa sit back and passively watch the horrors unfolding in front of him for nothing.
Best who’s guarding Hades
Whenever the Canucks did give up chances to Tampa Bay, you know who was there?
Thatcher Bubble Demko:
We’ve talked before about Demko being so ruthlessly efficient that he’s essentially a dispassionate sentient AI being sent back in time to take over the human race from within. As a result, he has a tendency to make top-notch goaltending look boring because he makes it look so easy.
So the fact that this save looked kind of hard to pull off makes this save the equivalent of a Kirk McLean double pad stack, or a Roberto Luongo windmill glove save, with Jim Hughson almost climaxing while making the call on the save.
I just feel like we need to give more credit to Demko for making Joey Pitt think he’s a step away from the NHL, that’s all I’m saying.
Best we’re BRB-ing
Now look, I am fully on board with finding Kuzmenko someone to play with who isn’t Aman and Giuseppe. I in fact have been pining for Kuzmenko to get a look with Garland because I truly think Andrei can be a fantastic passenger with an absolute beast of a line driver like Corolla Garland.
But I would understand if Rick was hesitant to break up a third line that has been an absolute rock defensively for the team.
So while we wait to see how that all plays out, however, there will only ever be so much Kuzmenko can do with the fourth line.
That being said, I don’t fault Aman for not getting this pass:
Kumzenko pushes that puck pretty hard towards the point, and it’s hard for Aman to skate into it. It also worries you that he’s pulled up and pushed the puck away from the net, because all I can hear in my head is Tocchet screaming about North/South hockey on plays like these.
Still, Kuzmenko got a goal in this game. That has to count for something, something Tocchet echoed after the game.
“I thought he had more energy tonight. It was a good little building block for him.”
Best Wunch-time is over
You can take the player from the fancy line, but you can’t take the fancy line out of the player:
To be fair to Kuzmenko, it’s on the powerplay, so if ever there was a time for a little bit of razzle-dazzle, it would be here.
But the no look pass up the middle does lead to a rush the other way because all the Canucks have shifted to the left side of the ice, so there’s nobody hanging back on the right.
Brock Boeser, however, will have none of that, as he maintains pace with Cirelli the entire time, before eventually knocking him to the ice.
Cirelli would then hit a solid 7 out of 10 on the crying Patrick Mahomes scale as he complained to the officials for a penalty, but it was to no avail.
Best Velevt Thunder
Fil Hronek would then pick up a puck along the boards on a dump in, and after sending in a harmless-looking shot on net, the Canucks worked and worked and worked some more until it turned into a goal:
The Brushin’ Brocket ends up with the puck on his stick, much I’m sure to the chagrin of Matt Murray, finding himself lucky once again.
Brock buried his 19th goal of the season in essentially an empty net (his current specialty), and lost amidst that chaos was Höglander briefly touching the puck to earn an assist and keep his point streak going, which is my absolute favourite way to get a point in beer league. The kind of assist where you know you didn’t really do much, but you were still involved, so it’s nice to get rewarded with an apple. Supervising goals is not nothing.
The Canucks kept riding the momentum of that goal and almost scored four minutes later when Quinn Hughes set up JT Miller in the slot:
I really like this shot. JT fires it low and tries to catch Vasilevskiy moving in the wrong direction, but that’s a good save from the Tampa goalie.
Best vindication
Wanna see Quinn Hughes literally circle the ice until he finds a pass he likes?
Quinn Hughes ended with three assists on the night, and man is he fun to watch.
I honestly thought Ehrhoff or Jovanovski would be the most exciting Canucks d-man I would watch in the Orca, but Quinn Hughes continues to impress me night in and night out. He’s even busting out the moves Jyrki Lumme used to do, circling around the entire offensive zone, except Quinn has the added bonus of highly accurate passes not fueled by hopes and dreams.
You know who else knows Quinn Hughes is a fun player that maybe the opposition gets caught watching? Brock Boeser.
“I was just kind of scanning the ice, I saw most guys were watching Quinn…so I just thought the high ice was open for a one timer, and it worked out well.”
For a player that has gone through so much, for a player that it really felt like a 30-goal season was waiting for him right after his rookie season, it’s been incredible to watch his return to form for the Vancouver Canucks.
It felt like just yesterday, people were wondering what the Canucks would have to throw in a deal in order to move off of Boeser’s contract.
Best yas queen
For all my doubts about Höglander in his own zone, you have to admit the dude is kind of a beast in the offensive zone:
Like, if you’re on the other team, you should straight up be scared when you see Nils lining up across from you. He has that uncanny ability to close down distance while also twirling his stick like Zorro so he can deflect any pass attempt you make.
And I know I said Elias had a down game, but I do want to point out that Höglander and EP40 share that similar style of putting pressure on a player in that they’re trying to think one step ahead of their opponent.
EP40 puts his stick here so his opponent will put the puck there, and before you know it Elias is off to the races:
Just a nice change of pace from the years when you’d be praying Jayson Megna could figure out which bench to make a line change at.
Best wrong fluffy boy
The thing about Thatcher Demko is he knows where you’re going to shoot the puck before you do:
Again, that shot would have had a lot of goalies busting out acrobats to make the stop.
Demko? He’s the villain that takes you out and then casually tosses you a napkin and tells you to clean yourself up.
He is ice cold.
Best boost my bottom
Every time I see Lafferty or Höglander driving the net like this, I have to laugh and remind myself that for many, many years, people actually tried to convince you that Jake Virtanen was a power forward:
Mason Raymond was more of a power forward than Jake Virtanen.
Nils Höglander is without a doubt more of a power forward than Jake Virtanen. He is just straight up fun to watch in the offensive zone. It’s like watching your cat running from their poop demons. You just sit back and watch how it’s all going to play out.
Best hot damn!
Ian Cole wins hit of the night for dodging Cirelli, then moving out of the way when Stamkos comes in for the revenge hit:
I feel like if I was Stamkos I would just quit for the night. I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it, I would just quietly walk to the locker room, pack up my gear, and head home.
And speaking of hits, Big Zaddy got into the action when he exploded on Mitchell Chaffee:
Chaffee ended up taking down the big Russian as well, so you know what? Kudos to the 6″1 lad from Grand Rapids.
Best you know me, I see a pair of thick, weighty goals, and all logic flies out the window!
The storybook ending almost didn’t happen when Nils went into business for himself and fired a shot on the empty net from the corner instead of dumping the pass into the slot for Brock:
Now, people argued about what the right play was, and hey, fair enough if you want Nils taking that shot and not risking a pass being intercepted as it’s going to the slot.
But when Nils fires the puck at the net and rims it around the boards and out, I think you can safely say the right play was not chosen.
This is splitting hairs, of course, and we don’t really need to argue over empty net ethics on a Tuesday night in December.
Instead we will watch Brock Boeser secure the hat trick by scoring into an empty net, like a young Tanner Pearson:
And that was the ball game.
It was honestly one of the more efficient wins of the season for Vancouver. Low event hockey when your goalie is in the zone makes for a very straightforward recap. There was nothing in the game that stood out too much aside from the Boeser hat trick.
How tepid was the game?
I don’t even have a closing metaphor for anyone and I forgot to mention making gif money in the intro.
That’s the kind of game this was.
Best question and answer to Brock
“How good did that feel?”
“It felt good.”
This has to be my favourite volley in the sports media game.
Best booooooooone!
Again, I’m no expert, but it feels good.
Best he’s not wrong
I could write a million word article on my distrust and dislike of Crazy P., but I shall save that for another day.
Best jersey Botch
I know I am still emotionally spent from that Ian Kidd jersey sighting because I didn’t even blink when I saw this Poolman jersey.

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