Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchies: ‘They outplayed us in the first period, and that’s on me,’ says JT Miller, correctly
2 months ago
“They outplayed us in the first period, and that’s on me. I played a little slow in the first period there, and they were ready to play. They were desperate and they got their goals out of hard work and outworked us, and that’s on me…I’m disappointed in myself for the start of the game today. When their line gets two on you, basically they’re just playing with the lead at that point. It sucks.”
This was the frank assessment from JT Miller on a night in which Jack Eichel’s line thoroughly trounced him.
In most cases, a player will hide behind cliches and talk wistfully of picking themselves up off the ground, dusting off their pants, and getting back at it. Of how this is a valuable lesson that was learned and how it can be used to fuel future victories.
But not JT. Not tonight.
For a man who prides himself on being a top player, you could see it eating him away as he stood in front of the amassed media to discuss his game. His body language read like someone trying to sift through their own anger and disappointment so they could figure out what the hell just happened. In what was billed as a litmus test of sorts for the team, it was JT Miller and his line that were in the spotlight after being responsible for the game’s first two goals against.
Jack Eichel was simply too much to handle on Thursday night, at times making it look far too easy as he led his Vegas team to what was by all measures a hard-fought, but easy looking, victory. You almost wanted the camera to zoom in on Eichel’s face to try and see if at any point he broke a tiny sweat, to prove that at one point he had to at least shift gears to control the play the way he did.
Vegas dominated the game in about every metric, except for high danger chances, oddly enough. There, the Canucks held a 13 to 8 edge, but had little to show for it aside from a lone Kuzmenko goal. I don’t know if this plays into the idea that the Canucks are looking for the perfect shot, but it sure feels like it.
I know winning the shot count battle isn’t always a good indicator of how a game went, but it’s hard to argue that Vegas didn’t get full value out of their 44 to 22 advantage on the night.
Losers of three straight heading into the game, Rick Tocchet knew Las Vegas was going to be ready to play. To perhaps show Vancouver what Stanley Cup winning DNA is all about. To show little bro they have a ways to go yet before they can hang with the big boys. So it’s hard to imagine Vancouver wasn’t ready for the challenge that lay ahead of them. But for whatever reason, the team offered up one of their more tepid efforts on the year, on a night in which even Crazy P struggled to generate energy.
But as Quinn Hughes himself said after the game, almost with a little twinkle of fire in his eyes, this loss might in fact be fuel for revenge down the line. If this team is trying to be a Stanley Cup contender, they’ll have to figure out a way to beat the Vegas Knights of the world. And for Quinn, those future match-ups against Vegas might already be circled on his calendar.
“They won a Cup for a reason, and we’re trying to be a really good team. Vegas played better tonight, and we’re lucky we get to play them three more times.”
Best two sides to every coin
Yes, the Canucks were fighting for top spot in the West on Thursday night.
Or as I assume Drance would say, “What value does this even hold in life? Ultimately we’re all going to die, so it’s hard to put stock into the futile pursuit of a human construct of perceived happiness based on coveting the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, an object that used to be a symbol for the highest level of amateur hockey in its purist form, before falling under the wheels of the capitalist machine, becoming just another lug nut in the march towards our final sleep.”
I, uh, I think I need to call my therapist before I continue writing this.
Best gentle reminder
Sometimes I just like to start my night off with reminding myself that even if I had trained my entire life and dedicated every waking moment of my time to playing hockey, I would never be as good as Quinn Hughes:
His ability to do quick cutbacks to give himself room is tremendous.
On top of that, there are times when he takes the shot as shown in the clip above. Other times he does the same move and then keeps skating to get another look at the net. Other times he skates around the entire rink before deciding what to do.
Defending him just feels so exhausting. I feel like I would just throw my stick at him and call it a day. Not even Kitty-N could keep up with his moves.
Best sign of impending doom
Vegas’ first goal was essentially a masterclass from the Canucks in puck watching:
Vegas deserves credit for being on top of the puck, as they were the majority of the night. Every time the puck went into the corner, you just kind of assumed Vegas would either come out with it, or quickly take it from any Canuck player that managed to win a battle.
This would allow them to generate the chances you see above, driving the puck to the net, with the Canucks basically all turning to watch in unison, in a way that you’d be tempted to call beautiful in its synchronicity if not for the fact that Vegas scored.
We should also point out that there is a highlight reel save from Demko on Eichel to start off the festivities. It is of course lost in the chaos of the goal, but Hronek skating behind Demko in the crease in a panic to get to the puck is probably the highlight of this “wtf are we even doing here” defending.
As Miller himself said, there were times where he was simply standing there, watching the proceedings unfold before him. During this goal, he literally watches the play for 5 seconds and only starts moving when Vegas scores, so he can go for a line change.
That is the old JT Miller. The one who doesn’t back check and gets called out on Hockey Night in Canada. That is not the 2023 Miller we have seen for the majority of this year.
Best attempt at a push back
Despite the loss, the Canucks did have moments where you thought to yourself they might have the juice to make a game of this.
Early on Quinn Hughes drew a penalty when he was tripped, which is easy to call because Quinn Hughes is such a good skater he can never fall.
On the ensuing power play, JT Miller almost popped in a goal down low, and Kuzmenko almost hammered home a rebound on the second unit:
You know how the Canucks held the edge in high danger chances 13 to 8? It was because to their credit they did generate some solid looks down low. Like, those are two good looks at the net that against other teams, could have resulted in a goal, easy.
But as a wise goalie guru told me as the game was transpiring, Adin Hill excels at shutting down down low chances like that. Now is this wise goalie guru good at fantasy football? Of course not. He’s terrible at it.
But he knows more about goaltending than I could ever dream of, so suffice it say, the Canucks high danger chances being of the down low, Grand Slam Moon’s over My Hammy Denny’s style variety was going to be a tough hill to climb.
Best anatomy of murder
This is the very definition of ugly defending + lucky bounces = on ice murder:
We have a lot to break down here, so grab a lukewarm orange Fanta and let’s get into this.
First, a tired JT Miller doesn’t bother doing a shoulder check and ignores all the trailers. So when he goes for a theoretical body check that ends up looking more like a sad defeated shrug, it leaves Nicholas Hague a wide open lane to the net.
This then leads to Hronek and Myers both sensing stranger danger, so they both go for Hague in the slot, and as Nick drives through the crease, this allows the puck to go to a now wide-open Ivan Barbeshev.
Now, because Myers is the world’s tallest man, he is still stuck in a poke checking animation, so he can’t spin around to go cover Jack Eichel. And because Barbashev knows exactly where he wants to pass this puck, he fires it off to Eichel the second he gets it, going down to one knee as if to propose marriage to the upcoming goal.
Jack Eichel is now all alone because Brock Boeser drifted away from down low coverage to theoretically cover the point in the way I theoretically eat healthy to try and get back into shape. Both are filled with hopes and dreams but ultimately end in a sobering self-reflection of failure, much like the one JT Miller used to start this article.
The end result is Eichel scoring a goal while being totally untouched. He also drops to a knee, as is tradition when proposing you score a goal.
I think Jane Austen said it best:
“It is not time or opportunity that is to determine an easy goal;—it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people score a goal, and seven seconds are more than enough for others.”
How bad was the start of the game for JT Miller? He talked about not playing well on one of the goals, and I’m not sure which one of them this quote applies to:
“Nobody covered anybody. I might as well have not even been there. Just standing there.”
Honestly, that could be either goal.
This was not a good first period for JT Miller’s line.
I don’t know if you’ve picked up on that theme yet.
Best attempt at a push back
There seems to be a worrying trend for the Canucks occurring where they can’t generate offence at 5 on 5, and even worse, when they do manage to create chances, it’s coming from their bottom six.
It’s not often you’ll see a Stanchies article go this long without mentioning Elias Pettersson, but that’s where we’re at now. After a promising look game against the Ducks, in the big game against Vegas, EP40 was nowhere to be seen.
Instead it was the Garlands, Bluegers, and Lafferty’s of the world who looked like they were having an impact on the game.
Garland, despite being the smallest player on the Canucks, constantly wins puck boards with his body positioning, so it’s no surprise that he ended up almost creating the best chance in the first period:
The way Garland draws that puck into his body to create a passing lane over to Joshua is NSFW stuff. Joshua tries to get a bit fancy with the back pass for the tap in, which actually almost works.
Alas Garland seems intent upon being a puck battling wizard who frowns fervently upon scoring before marriage, so shifts like these often end up generating a buzz in the building, but not often making a result on the scoreboard.
Best playing with fire
Perhaps inspired by Tristan Jarry’s goal scoring display on the night, Thatcher Demko attempted a cross ice pass that didn’t go very well:
Luckily Demko made a savvy poke check to save his bacon, but here is a list of people I would try to pass the puck by before Mark Stone.
That’s it. That’s the list.
If Garland is a board-battling wizard, then Mark Stone is a puck-battling demigod.
There is no one in the league I would rather face in a battle for the puck less than Mark Stone. If this was Squid Games and it was down to just us two for the 4.56 million dollars, and all I had to do was keep the puck away from Mark Stone for two seconds?
I would simply quit the game. I would look back fondly on how quickly and efficiently I licked my honeycomb umbrella, and I would go home.
Best Nearly Nils
In a game devoid of highlights, I do want to point out one play from Nils Hoglander:
I know Tocchet loves his North/South players (He gave Lafferty the “North/South” player stamp of approval after the game), but there is also another element to that, and it’s puck pursuit.
Sometimes the TV doesn’t show the best edit, but live in the arena, you could see Nils jump off the bench and make an absolute bee line to the other side of the ice. Why? Because he saw McNabb go back into his own zone to retrieve the puck, and he was going to make a zone exit along the far boards.
Because Nils skated 87mph (1 less than time travel, he’s very smart) to make it across the ice, he almost stopped that puck in the Vegas zone, and could have generated a scoring chance out of it.
Again, it didn’t amount to anything. But when you talk about small details in their game, that’s the kind of thing I am seeing from Nils that makes him stand out to me.
Best Wizard of Waverly Pucks
As I said earlier, when the Canucks look like they can’t generate much in the way of offence, it tends to be Garland who shows up with a strong shift:
The key to this kind of effort would clearly be a goal. It feels like matching Garland up with someone with a scoring touch might be beneficial to all involved.
But at the very least, it’s these kinds of plays that show how Garland generates offensive chances at 5 on 5. You always hear about how good he is at 5 on 5 play and it’s because he’s a shifty guy. He knows how to win those board battles and take the puck to the net.
Best Quinn Hughes is fun at least
This is both a testament to Quinn Hughes being good at hockey and to Vegas’ ability to defend:
Hughes basically looks at around four chances, realizes each time that his guy is covered, so he just keeps on moving.
He eventually settles for a shot on net that at the very least might generate a rebound, which again, kudos to Vegas for covering everyone.
But also, geezus Quinn Hughes is far too good at hockey. He is Pirlo out there. You can’t convince me otherwise that he’s some sort of weird soccer/hockey hybrid midfielder player now.
Best putting it away
To the Canucks credit, they pushed back after the second goal from Vegas, and it really felt like they might be about to score a goal.
However, a Tyler Minors appearance led to this William Karlsson goal:
I’m not quite sure that penalty kill formation the Canucks are rocking here, as the diamond is firmly out the window. Squished Big Mac Box formation?
Either way, they allow a ton of room in the middle of the ice, which lets Wild Bill load up his shot like it’s a super soaker, pumping away until he can get off a full blast-
OK that reads far dirtier than it’s intended to be, but I assure you, it’s just a watergun metaphor.
Either way it was 3-0 Vegas.
Best making it look easy
To Raz’s point, the game felt it was over at this point.
Canucks try to get a zone entry? Vegas turns it into a fantastic counter:
The Canucks defending in their zone? Vegas cycles the puck until the Canucks break down and start softly weeping:
Demko is going to leave this game with little fanfare but I have to tell you, this game could have easily been 8-1 Vegas.
Best meeting in the Jimmy Eat World
HE’S SO GOOD.
Best sure why not
You know what happens when you generate a lot of shots? You tend to get puck luck to go your way more often than not:
It’s tough to get a puck to bounce in off of a rebound when you only get 22 of them.
Best rushing rocket
True story, Patrick Johnston is giving me a ride tonight and he’s standing behind me waiting for me to finish, and even though he’s not saying anything, the amount of pressure I feel to get this article done is building immensely:
Yes, that was Kuzmenko scoring a goal after being paired up with Boeser and Miller.
It’s not often that Andrei is used to inject fuel into a line, but Thursday night he was offered up to Miller and Boeser to get THEM going.
And that’s a great shift from Kuzmenko. He generates the turnover, skates hard, and gets in position to unleash a shot that only a few players on the Canucks have.
Tocchet spoke after the game about how that was the best period of hockey he has seen from Kuzmenko this season. Not only did Kuzmenko score, not only was he used to help another line, but he was also praised by Rick.
I know the Canucks lost on the night, but chalk that up to a win for Andrei.
It also begs the question, will we see more of Kumzenko with Boeser and Miller? The Professor of Pressure, Phil Di Giuseppe, has been a solid fit with that line, but with 5 on 5 production lacking, you can’t help but wonder what putting another highly skilled player with them could do.
Best Kyle Wellwood Award for Almost
I still remember Wellwood dangling through the entire Oilers team and ALMOST scoring.
It’s both exhilarating and defeating.
Well, let’s check out this season’s first contender for the Kyle Wellwood Award of Almost:
If Lafferty scores that, it’s goal of the year type stuff.
Want to see it again? I know I do:
Take that in. Revel in it. One of the few clips where the Canucks looked good on Thursday.
You could almost see Tocchet beaming when calling Lafferty a North-type player after the game. It’s starting to feel Game of Thrones like to be honest.
Sam Lafferty, of House Stark.
Best final quote
If you’re worried about the Canucks’ consistency, don’t worry, JT Miller is right there with you. When asked about the Canucks can do better, he made it real simple.
“Will and determination and things that are totally in our control. When we’re playing well, we do them, but right now, we tend to do them every other night. And the results are showing.”
Best Assistant GM Dan Milstein shake and bake
The Canucks find themselves in a lot of “this looks fine as long as…” situations right now. And possibly handing out very expensive contracts next season to Zadorov and Hronek? That is leading the charge, as both men are clearly going to want to get paid in the offseason.
Hronek because Quinn Hughes is juicing his numbers in incredible fashion, and Zadorov because NHL management types simply love paying tall men large sums of money. It’s called the Gudbranson Paradox, and it’s just how the NHL works when it comes to big defencemen.
So this is most likely the last season for both gentlemen where people aren’t scrambling to check Cap Friendly to see just how much that 0 point, -4 performance cost them. This is simply the price of doing business when you make all of the money; expectations are a mean-spirited foe.
But in terms of Allvin going in on this season, this honestly fits that prerogative quite nicely. A third rounder is good currency in the NHL, but it’s not a massive overpayment by any means. And a fifth rounder is basically the 30% off coupon Fanatics hands out to people when they screw up your order.
And for a team that is trying to lean on what is looking like a playoff season, who had a long term injury take out Carson Soucy, it’s hard to argue that in the short term, this is pretty much a home run move for the club. Especially when you consider Zadorov can play either side, and it’s hard to imagine the Canucks wanting to lean on Juulsen as a long term solution as the first injury call up.
Now, Zadorov comes from the same chaotic DNA as Tyler Myers. Nikita can both thrill and enrage a fanbase with his play. But if Adam Foote has shown this city one thing, it’s that he knows how to calm his defenceman down and simplify their game. If anyone can try and integrate some stability into your life, it feels like Foote is one of the best guys to do it. At this point I assume his abilities extend beyond hockey and he could figure out how to teach me to be organized and actually meet deadlines on time, such is the power of a man who was once waist deep in a bitter rivalry with this town.
(All of this without mentioning the fact that Sergei Gonchar is also coaching this defence as well. Just an absolute embarrassment of riches for the Canucks in terms of high level hockey skill on their coaching staff.)
We will dive into Zadorov’s play as the season goes on. We will look at the positives and the negatives and figure out which 90’s movie fits him best (Cliffhanger? Cliffhanger.) But if you’re a fan of massive hits, Zadorov automatically becomes the heaviest hitter the Canucks have had in a while. The guy literally runs through people like a tank. And I am using ‘literally’ with full intentions:
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You can actually feel the impact when you watch his hits. You can visibly see the transfer of energy from his body mass into his opponent as he trucks them. Science teachers will one day use Zadorov to help explain thermodynamics.
In one of those hits he makes 6″3 Corey Perry look like a small child wandered into a bull fighting situation they simply weren’t prepared for.
Now I know the quest for the Stanley Cup is always the ultimate end goal, but I do have to say, in terms of entertainment? This city tends to lose its absolute shit over huge hits. So for a city that played some of the most boring, dreary hockey known to man and woman the last decade? There is something fun to take away from this, even if it’s just the fact there is now an angry bear roaming the ice of Vancouver.
Best riding the roller coaster
Ryan Pinder, our friend over at Flames Nation, has watched Zadorov play the last several seasons, so The Stanchies reached out to get his thoughts on what kind of player Vancouver is getting.
“Big Z arrived in Calgary and formed a surprisingly effective third pair with Gudbranson with both enjoying career years in the first full season of Darryl Sutter (2.0). Zadorov likely overplayed his hand in free agency that summer (2022) as he went looking for a Gudbranson-sized deal (4×4 in CBJ), but returned to Calgary on a 2 year pact at 3.75M AAV. We often compared the Nikita Zadorov viewing experience to riding a rollercoaster on our daily show. Anxiety. Fear. Euphoria. Shock. He’s an incredibly toolsy player who’s decision making has always been his biggest weakness. Got a touch better on the penalty side here, but arrived as one of the worst in the league at handing out power plays. Zadorov can be a very effective piece if used in limited role. Things always got dicey when Zadorov had to play a top-4 role. He’ll again be looking for a big pay date this July 1st. You still can’t teach size? Right?!”
Canucks fans will get some PTSD when they hear the name Gudbranson, but it is a fair warning about players that seemingly get a lot of leeway from NHL execs due to their size. The Gudbranson Paradox is a real thing.
So the big question for Vancouver moving forward is how much money are they willing to pay to keep Zadorov past this season, and can the coaching staff work their magic on him like they have with Tyler Myers.
Best nickname game theory
Chaos Giraffe and Calamity Rhino?
Chaos Giraffe and the Pandemonium Bear?
Chaos Giraffe and the Anarchist Ostrich?
Chaos Giraffe and the Moscow Moose?
We’ll figure this out.
Best cap flexibility
It’s hard to remember a time when Vancouver had the upper hand in terms of cap flexibility, but that is where we find ourselves.
What a world.
Best leaving his mark
Say what you will, but you cannot deny that Allvin is putting his stamp on this team in a big way.
I’m telling you, it feels like this will happen. If for no other reason than the amount of good will and PR they have gotten over the Skate jerseys. It feels like they’re in everyone’s top 5 list for best jersey in the league.
The Canucks also have that Skate plastered all over the place at Rogers Arena, and sure, you might just think that’s what a good company does; it leans into all of its brands. But the Canucks aren’t known for throwing money around. They tend to be a thrifty sort of people, so the fact this Skate logo and the colors are popping up everywhere? It really makes you think.
It’s on Fin’s flag, it’s printed, IN COLOR, on the lineup sheet they hand out to press row, and it’s even on the little food labels in the snack area at Rogers.
You know what’s nice? Peppermint tea. You know what’s even better? Peppermint tea nestled in comfortably on a pile of straw underneath the Skate logo telling you this is where the tea lives.
The Canucks saw the herbal arrangement of peppermint and tea leaves in a nice tidy little bag and thought to themselves, “it would be best if people visiting knew we have a Skate logo when they’re about to warm up with a nice hot beverage.”
You can fight it all you want. You can clutch onto your Orca and pray the day will never come.
But it sure feels like an inevitability that the Free the Skate movement isn’t done yet.
White. Skate. Jerseys.
Your move, Vancouver.
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