The Stanchies: Mikheyev’s slump, the Vasily Podkenaissance, and more in 2-1 win over Anaheim

Photo credit:© Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports
Cody Severtson
4 months ago
The Vancouver Canucks have ended the drought.
With their thrilling 2-1 defeat of the fifth-worst team in the NHL, Anaheim, the Canucks secured their first regulation win since February 15th, placing them second in the league by total points and fifth in the league by points percentage.
It was a perfectly cromulent road performance against a team they had no business losing to, but it was nonetheless impressive due to their recent slump in form over their last ten games.
For 20 minutes, the Vancouver Canucks dominated against a woefully inept Anaheim squad that still somehow made it a game.
This time, the Canucks didn’t rely on the PDO Gods, power play, or absurd luck to earn themselves a victory. Instead, they willed themselves to a victory on the strength of their depth players’ ability to forecheck and cycle to crush the Ducks with possession and shot attempts when it absolutely mattered.
Then they parked it in cruise control for a very boring rest of the game. But hey, a win’s a win!
We’ve all got work tomorrow, so let’s get right into it so we can get some sleep!
Sunday’s Best
Best start
I had a good feeling about Sunday’s game when they announced that Lukas Dostal would be Anaheim’s starting netminder.
The last time I checked in on Dostal, he was tending goal for the Ducks’ AHL affiliate, San Diego. In 2021-22, Dostal went 0-3-0-0 against the Abbotsford Canucks in April, giving up nine goals on 54 shots for a .833 save percentage. In 2022-23, Dostal improved his record against the Abbotsford Canucks from 0-3-0-0, to a modest 1-4-0-0.
Last season, Dostal gave up 12 goals in three games on 81 shots for a .816 save percentage.
Now, here he is, posting a .900 save percentage behind one of the worst teams in the cap era. And props to him because this Ducks team is GAR-BAGE. With a capital G.
Here’s how the game started for Anahaeim: with Alex Killorn skating around the Canucks’ d-zone for a trickling point shot on Casey DeSmith.
The next minute saw Elias Pettersson, Nils Höglander, and Pius Suter dominate the Ducks in their end with shot attempts around the perimeter.
Quinn Hughes must have generated about four attempts on his own just from the top of the circles.
After a minute of control, Pettersson rimmed the puck back to Hronek, who went cross-ice to Hughes. Realizing this is an Anaheim team that has conceded the fifth-most goals against in the NHL, Hughes walked down the right wing, dangling around future teammate Frank Vatrano for a gorgeous centring pass to Nils Höglander in the slot.
Poor Dostal, who gave up three-point games to the likes of Justin Bailey, Jack Rathbone, Sheldon Rempal, Yushrioh Hirano, and Justin Dowling as recently as last year, had zero chance on Höglander’s 19th of the season.
Look at the time and space given to Höglander here when Cam Fowler leaves the net front to attack Hughes’ play down low.
Poor Dostal.
1-0 Canucks 
Ain’t nothing you can do about Hughes going god-mode on your entire lineup to set up a guy pushing for his first 20-goal season.
Naturally, three minutes after pausing the game to write glowingly about the Canucks utter domination to start the game, Alex Killorn tied the game.
1-1 Tie
The equalizer was hilarious for the PDO-heads in the chat—two goals on two shots.
From Vancouver, you could see the smoke emanating from Toronto as Dom’s model tried to re-calculate the Canucks’ playoff odds after the opening five minutes.
It was a tough bounce for Vancouver. Höglander got back into the d-zone first and positioned himself well down the middle to take away the cross-ice pass, only to accidentally tip Max Jones’ shot attempt right to the tape of Killorn’s stick at the side of the net.
Fortunately, the rest of the first period was all Vancouver.
Höglander continued to have himself a night, casually recovering his own point shot attempts by driving into three Anaheim skaters, chipping the puck over their sticks, recovering it, and setting up Pettersson with a chip pass toward the front of Dostal’s crease.
It was like [90s Canucks player] when they [something kids born in the mid to late 90s wouldn’t remember them doing but remains iconic in Canuck lore]!
The work rate of the Canucks was absurd. If they weren’t winning puck battles, they were throwing hits or drilling Anaheim with shot attempts. With Tyler Myers out week-to-week with an injury, Nikita Zadorov and Noah Juulsen stepped up as the club’s second pairing.
After 20 minutes, Zadorov had two shots on goal, hitting Gudas with another twofer, while Noah Juulsen recorded (what felt like) 15 hits in just six minutes of ice time.
It was a tough period for Anaheim, who had to contend with the tenacious forecheck of the Canucks’ young guns and the physicality of their beefy blueliners.
And yes, before you jump to the comments telling me to relax. I am fully aware that there is a giant asterisk on the Canucks looking like a dominant, physical, two-way force for 20 minutes straight, considering it came against the Anaheim Ducks.
However, given that the last decade of hockey saw Vancouver consistently stop playing hockey when so much as a goalie didn’t leave his net in time for the extra attacker, or a drop pass gave the opposing team a breakaway. I’ll take efforts like these every day of the week, regardless of opponent quality.
It’s about effing time they played like they give a f***.
Speaking of playing like they give a f***!
Best Podkenaissance 
Sunday night may have been the most important call-up of Vasily Podkolzin’s career as a Vancouver Canuck.
With just three points in his last ten games for the Abbotsford Canucks. His spot on a line with Elias Lindholm and Conor Garland felt like the most “prove it” of all “prove it” call-ups in recent memory.
The club recalled Podkolzin after sending Arshdeep Bains down to Abbotsford ahead of a five-game road trip.
Through the first period, Podkolzin did everything he could to show he could thrive under Rick Tocchet.
He was eating hits to gain the zone, anticipating dump-ins, retrieving pucks, and using his feet to gain separation from the defence to create scoring chances for his linemates.
This setup for Conor Garland may have only resulted in a one-timer to the shins of Olen Zellweger. Still, it encompassed everything Tocchet has demanded of his players since taking over the bench for the outgoing Bruce Boudreau.
Podkolzin finished his first period of NHL hockey this season with the Canucks out-attempting their opposition 7-2 at 5-on-5.
Though he didn’t get any shots on goal, he did show a willingness to fire the puck toward the net—a criticism that befell Ashdeep Bains during his cup of coffee with the club.
Unlike Bains, Podkolzin’s willingness to shoot has never been in question at the AHL level. Through 44 games played, Podkolzin led Abbotsford with an average of 3.68 shots per game (162 shots total). For those concerned about his lack of production, his lack of points hasn’t been for lack of trying!
Podkolzin hosts one of the lowest conversion rates on the team (9.3%) while having played most of his ice time with ECHL-AHL tier players like Dmitri Zlodeev and Chase Wouters. His production increased when Podkolzin moved onto the first power play unit and the top line alongside Tristen Nielsen and Sheldon Dries.
As he’s done for most of the 2023-24 season, Podkolzin has done everything he can to seize the opportunities presented to him.
After throwing a hit on Vatrano in the neutral zone, Podkolzin ripped up the ice for a breakaway with Elias Lindholm, where he calmly settled the puck under pressure before dishing off to Brock Boeser for a one-timer.
The sequence drew an appreciative nod from the Minnesota native.
A too-many-men penalty to close the opening frame meant that the Canucks had outshot their Pacific Division rival 15-3 after 20 minutes.
Best Milk-aging technique
With the power play struggling lately, it feels a bit silly to be up in arms about any player getting power play reps. When you’ve gone 1/29 in the last ten games (don’t fact-check me), you might as well elevate anyone who can conceivably breathe some fresh air into something so evidently stale.
Though they failed to convert on the too-many-men power play opportunity before the end of the first period, their best chance did some from Garland tipping Hughes’ point shot into Dostal’s right pad.
So, jot that down, bozo.
During the 1:35 of power play time that the Canucks had to start the second, Garland & company drew a holding penalty against Sam Carrick to send them back to 1:55 of 5-on-4 time.
Podkolzin, who’d had an immaculate first period, earned a look on the club’s second power play unit featuring Lindholm, Pettersson, Suter, and Hronek. After about a minute of losing and gaining the zone, PP1 returned to the ice, featuring Hughes, Miller, Boeser, Pettersson, and Garland.
PP1 also struggled, but upon the return to 5-on-5, Zadorov hopped over the boards for Hughes, exchanging with J.T. Miller down the right wing before setting up Garland for a gorgeous chip over Dostal’s glove side.
2-1 Canucks
Boestmode should complain about more skaters scoring droughts. Maybe the PDO-Gods will respond in kind with further gorgeous tic-tac-toe plays?
Podkennaissance (Vasily’s version)
The second period was more of the same from Vancouver, with Podkolzin doing everything he could to steal a roster spot away from someone else in the lineup.
Nils Åman, Sam Lafferty, and Phil Di Giuseppe had already been put on notice with healthy-scratch duty. So my eyes gravitated toward the work of Ilya Mikheyev and specifically everything he wasn’t doing at 5-on-5 on a line with Miller and Boeser.
For good measure, here’s the end of one of Podkolzin’s second-period shifts, where he tipped the puck through his legs to the crease for Lindholm to attempt a tap-in. This sequence came after Podkolzin had executed the perfect shift, dumping the puck down the ice, cutting through the Ducks’ defence, retrieving the puck at the endboards, using his frame to protect the puck, and holding possession long enough for his line to catch up and begin a cycle.
While admiring this version of Podkolzin, who frankly never showed this quality of play while down in Abbotsford, I couldn’t help but notice the difference his speed made in the club’s puck retrieval game.
Enter Ilya Mikheyev, who has entered the “as fast as Cam Fowler in a straight-line race” era of his career. Unfortunately for him, it feels like the knee injury has removed any hope of Mihkeyev ever returning to the “as fast as McDavid” form advertised upon his signing in Vancouver.
Yes, this came at the tail-end of a shift. But, seeing Mikheyev labour through his strides to catch his own dump-in was hard to watch.
I digress.
Anaheim was much more active during the middle frame—as teams tend to do when they are behind by a single goal. Eight minutes into the period, Benoit Olivier-Groulx rang a shot off the post, doubling the Ducks’ shot total from three to six.
However, even with Killorn drawing a “””””holding””””” penalty against Juulsen, the Ducks still only managed to go even in shots with Vancouver, 8-8.
If Juulsen is holding Killorn there, then is Killorn also not elbowing Juulsen there too?
Oh well! The Canucks PK was stellar, even with Juulsen in the box.
Tying this back to the Podkolzin v Mikheyev conversation, it’s worth noting that Mikheyev played the third forward rotation after Lindholm-Blueger and Di Giuseppe-Suter.
While Podkolzin did not play any PK time in Abbotsford, I’m definitely side-eying Mikheyev’s ice time and usage in an area highlighted in the past as one of his strong suits.
This Sunday nighter was against the third-worst team in the NHL by points percentage, with Vancouver on the PK while holding a one-goal lead. That Mikheyev appears to be losing both bread (PK reps) and butter (skating) to players who are often sitting out as the 13th forward is eye-popping, to say the least.
Not helping Mikheyev’s case for a permanent spot on this club moving forward was the strong play of Phil Di Giuseppe through the middle frame.
On top of usurping Mikheyev’s role on the PK, Di Giuseppe was executing rush plays like the one below. After taking a pass from Garland, Di Giuseppe wheeled around a pinching Ducks defenceman for a shot on Dostal and a secondary chance after catching his own rebound.
Through 40 minutes, the Canucks had outshot the Ducks 8 to 2 with Di Giuseppe on the ice at 5-on-5.
With Podkolzin on the ice at 5-on-5, the Canucks outshot the Ducks 5 to 3.
With Mikheyev on the ice at 5-on-5, the Canucks were outshot by a team-worst 5 to 3.
Mike Liu will get into this in the Statsies tomorrow morning, but the Canucks control of expected goals was at its worst with Mikheyev on the ice at 5-on-5 through the first 40 minutes.
Alas, the rest of the team was game. They dominated possession to close the period.
“How dominant was it?”
Well, the Canucks cycled in the Ducks’ zone long enough to draw two instances of the Sportsnet Shift Timer graphic.
You don’t see that too often!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Canucks fans did see that often last season.
Boringest Third
The end of the second period planted Vancouver firmly in the driver’s seat for the third period.
The Ducks weren’t without their looks! Casey DeSmith gave Ian Clark every reason to give him more starts down the stretch with this scrambly sequence of saves in the early goings of the period.
Then, Mikheyev tipped a shot from Miller above Dostal’s net.
At the start of his next shift, Mikheyev began a drive through the neutral zone before laying off the gas in anticipation of the Ducks’ regroup.
Mikheyeve then had a chance to end his goalscoring drought with a tap-in at the netfront, only to have his legs taken out underneath him by Pavel Mintyukov.
Worst reffing shenanigans
Is it a Canucks game without refereeing shenanigans?
No. It isn’t.
It’s playoff prep, folks. Get used to it!
Look, I’ve watched at least 75% of the Canucks’ farm team games since the 2018-19 season. I’ve seen a lot of lousy icing calls in my time. Refs are human, and AHL refs may be the most human-est of them all. The chasm in skating quality between the top and bottom end of every AHL team is Grand Canyon-esque. Being able to tell which guy is going to win the race to the red line, whether the defending team touched the puck in the neutral zone, whether the backchecking player can play the puck before it touches the red line, or determining the geometry of whether the puck will bank off the boards and onto the pads of the defending goalie is a lot for a ref to consider in such a high-paced game.
The icing call against the Canucks in the dying minutes of the third period, though?
That is, without a doubt, one of the worst I’ve ever seen.
With Anaheim pressing, Höglander spun the puck out of the zone, where Garland chased after it. The puck was scooped up by Anaheim’s Olen Zellwegger well before the puck crossed the red line. On top of playing the puck, Zellwegger eases up on his skating for the race to cross the line.
The call wouldn’t have mattered had Elias Pettersson not taken a one-timer to the collarbone immediately off the ensuing d-zone faceoff.
Fortunately, Pettersson was fine and played one more shift to close the game without issue. However, if the Canucks lost one of their premier forwards off a botched icing call? You know what? Let’s not get into dark alternate timelines.
Anaheim pushed late to equalize, but the Canucks held on to win their first game in regulation since February 15th.
Best VAN GIF, man
God bless that Daniel Wagner, who is as sharp at combining in-game events with recent Canucks-Twitter shenanigans as he is at running a DND campaign or bailing people out during karaoke when they forget the words.
It was me.
I forgot the words.
What can I say? Those $13.00 Coronas hit hard, and there are a surprising number of verses in Last Nite by The Strokes!
Best playoff preparations
Get used to it, Canucks fans!
It’s only going to get worse as the season moves on!
Besides, the Canucks winning games without the need for a lethal, league-leading power play is character-building. Don’t we know by now that counting on the correct calls is a poor strategy come playoffs?
Worst goal of the night
The Vancouver Canucks and goalies giving up goals from center-ice clappers.
Name a more iconic duo.

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