The Stanchies: Quinn Hughes and the Lotto Line dominate in Canucks’ win in New Jersey

Photo credit:© Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
5 months ago
Never has a 6-4 win felt so uncomfortable.
It should have been a night of hearty back pats and hugs that go on a little bit too long, where neither side knows how to disengage from it without awkwardness.
On a night in which Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and JT Miller were re-united and produced 8 points between them, you’d think there would be nothing but jubilation.
On a night in which Quinn Hughes put up three assists and dominated almost every shift, you’d think people would be ecstatic.
On a night in which every line seemed to have their moments, it felt like what better time than now to sit back and revel in the fun game of hockey you just witnessed.
But there’s an elephant in the room we have to talk about. I’d love to avoid it, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I did. You can’t watch that game and just pretend everything is fine, not when there is something lurking just under the surface.
Thomas Drance thinks the Lotto Line doesn’t count if Elias Pettersson plays on the wing.
Yes, in a stunning turn of events, Mr. Drance declared the reuniting of the Lotto Line to be fake news! Instead, the Three Fantastic Players line took to the ice and produced the majority of the offence, not the Lotto Line.
I thought the debate around naming the third line would be the biggest nickname discussion of the season, but I was wrong. Things got heated.
So yes, we will dive into the fact the Canucks probably should have had 20 goals on the night.
And yes, we will also dive into the fact they probably shouldn’t have given up 4 goals on the night.
But until we get to the bottom of this Lotto Line business, we are not going anywhere.
Or we can just recap a pretty entertaining game and make some gif money.
Recap the game?
Recap the game.
Best J-Pats Truth Bomb of Serenity
Carson Soucy made his long awaited return!
Most of which was lost in this one-sided affair from the Canucks, which is one of the more salacious metaphors one can use in sports.
But I do have a single gif to prove he played on Saturday night:
See? There he is. Cutting off a pass that was going to nobody in particular.
Full credit to Soucy for being in the right position, though, as that was an issue for a couple of his teammates later in the game.
Soucy has that calming presence of that friend we all have that never gets too mad about anything, and doesn’t want to get caught up in any of the drama. You try telling Carson about how your friend was such a jerk and he’s all “Hey, maybe you caught them on their worst day” and it just makes you sit back and reflect a bit.
Best sticking to the brand
At this point, I don’t know if Drance has committed to the bit so hard he’s lost himself.
Best what’s old is new
I need Linden, Courtnall, and Ronning to officially sign off on this nickname transfer, but I do like the throwback:
You’re going to see a lot of clips tonight of the Canucks working the boards and corners hard, and generating a lot of shots in and around the net.
Why you ask? Because I really want to hammer home the absolute clinic the Canucks put on for most of the night:
(Credit to naturalstattrick.com)
The Canucks deserved far more goals than they got on the night. That PDO is a cruel mistress at the best of times.
They controlled the play so well that the four goals against feel like an unfair judgement of how things went defensively.
With that being said, a couple of breakdowns and Thatcher Demko’s inability to make a big save because he dislikes you and wants you to suffer with anxiety, led to this game being far closer than it should have been.
But for a team that struggled to generate much of anything against St. Louis, the Canucks found the middle of the ice and the front of the net HARD in this one. There was no relying on a lucky goal for this game, the Canucks worked and worked and worked some more to lock down this win.
Best little tease
I am not sure if they jumped on the ice in the right order to officially become the Lotto Line (Miller might have gotten over the boards first), but the assembled powers of the Three Fantastic Players line looked like they scored in the first period:
For those with a keen discerning eye, you might have noticed JT Miller nice and tight on top of Devils goalie Nico Daws. The Devils also noticed this, so they challenged for goaltender interference:
There’s a debate to be had about whether JT Miller was pushed and held in the crease by Jonas Siegenthaler, but if the NHL wants to be overprotective of the goalies and waive these goals off, I am here for it.
The problem for the NHL is of course consistency, as we have seen in the past Dustin Byfuglien almost spear Roberto Luongo into the net only for it to be called a good old-fashioned hockey play, and an era in which the toe of a skate would disallow a goal unless it was Brett Hull and him winning a Cup was a better story than Buffalo winning anything.
Regardless, the Canucks started the game strong, once again showcasing the ability to bounce back from a pretty dreadful game.
Which is an admirable trait for a hockey team to have, right up there with owning an Orca blimp that floats around and drops 20% coupons off at HMV when you purchase four CDs or more.
Best nearly Nils again
We are going to break Nils Aman down into tiny pieces later in this article, so enjoy this moment of peace while you can:
Overloading all your skill on one line and weakening your centre depth is going to be the context in which the team is viewed whenever they load up the Lotto Line.
But when you have the Corolla line playing at such a high level, maybe you can get away with throwing Suter on a line with your two Russians and then duct-taping together a fourth line while Mikheyev and Dakota argue about who the true second line is.
It’s only been one game, and judging results against an injured, tired Devils team is probably not the watershed moment to start declaring victory for a loaded top line. But for a lot of the game it felt like the Canucks had all four lines going. Certainly enough to try it again in the next game to see if this is a viable option going forward.
If anything, it makes the trade deadline even more interesting as the Canucks might want to ponder looking at centres more than wingers if they want to shore up their top six in a Lotto Line world, and get a name other than Jake Guentzel trending in the lower mainland.
Best at least it looked good
Much like Justin McElroy’s rankings, sometimes we disagree on how good a donut is.
And unlike Lee’s overrated donuts, the Canucks’ power play left you wanting more:
Notice the lack of too much fancy passing. The Canucks still moved the puck around, but it felt like they had an agenda with it on this powerplay. Getting the puck on net was their first thought, making fun fancy passes that gets you into a Stanchies gif was a distant second.
Speaking of shooting more, Kuzmenko receives the pass from Boeser on this play and just slams it on net like a young Jason King:
Again, nothing too fancy. Just enough puck movement to create space. Then they just slammed it on net.
It was clear the game plan on the night was to get pucks on net and attack the net hard, rather than sit back for an entire game and lose to Jordan Binnington, which, I have to admit, feels like a better strategy.
Best struggle to find your flow
Thatcher Demko ended the night stopping 21 of 25 shots, giving him a save percentage of .840, or as Dan Cloutier would call it, pretty solid playoff game numbers.
I do think this was a tough situation for a goalie to find their groove in due to the giant lulls in action that Demko faced.
He did, however, make some good saves, including this stop on a Dawson Mercer breakaway generated off of a slow line change:
Sometimes I wonder how Eddie Lack would fare in these moments, and then I remember the Winter Classic pants.
Best Chris Higgins Principle
Ilya Mikheyev has a career high of 32 points in a season (though it should be noted he’s never played more than 54 games in a season). The point is, he is far from a proven commodity when it comes to locking him into a top six spot on your team.
He is one of those players who you feel would be perfect on your third line, a spot where he could possibly be the best 7th forward from either side, and if you could just get enough depth to be able to slot him in there…
But a lot of NHL teams deal with that issue, if we’re being honest. Depth is something NHL teams are always craving, and in a salary cap world, sometimes you run that Chris Higgins Principle and have a Tanner Pearson or Ilya Mikheyev platoon in your top six as best they can.
As we’ve seen, Ilya Mikheyev has a lot of speed, but his hands aren’t necessarily the best in the business. Which is why you will routinely see him miss some pretty fantastic set ups from the Hughes’ or Pettersson’s of the world:
The Canucks having the Corolla line going helps them with this, as they can kind of share minutes amongst their middle lines, but once again it does bring back the idea that the Canucks are probably looking to add a top six forward come trade deadline time.
It’s also why Elias Pettersson probably hasn’t smiled that large during a game in a long time, because he got to play with line mates that can convert on his passes and have the added benefit of being skilled enough to set him up as well.
It’s also why people enjoyed Kuzmenko with Elias because he felt like someone who had enough talent to make more out of playing with Pettersson than the Mikheyev’s of the world.
Best perception is a hell of a drug
The Canucks dominated the first period. It was probably their best first period of the season.
Yet we’re no dummies. We know that’s basically taunting the hockey gods by playing that well without scoring a goal. You’re basically spitting in their faces, begging to be scored on.
So when Sam Lafferty charges down the wing and almost taps in a rebound past Daws, only to walk away without a goal, part of you was right to worry:
The first period ended 0-0 with the Canucks holding an edge in high danger shots 8 to 2.
Quinn Hughes played nine minutes of hockey and had 14 chances for, and only 1 against. In fact, there wasn’t a single Canucks player who ended below 50% in Corsi on the night.
This would have been the perfect game for the Canucks of the Benning era to screw up somehow, before hastily trading for a 29 year old defenseman and paying him 7 million dollars.
But as we’ve learned, these aren’t those Canucks.
They might make you nervous late in the game, but they actually find ways to win now.
Best and now for something different
Sometimes Sportsnet busts out the most cinematic camera shots for no reason, and I absolutely adore it.
Do I know why they slowly zoomed in so tight on the puck battle in the skates? Nope.
Do I care? Not at all.
I am here for the ride.
Best doing the thing
Elias Pettersson scored the first goal of the game off of a deft tip, which I am pretty sure is how 85% of tipped goals are described:
The deft tip that deftly tipped in the puck deftly made it 1-0 for the good guys.
As JT Miller noted after the game, their offensive production wasn’t anything fancy. They didn’t go full West Coast Express and go end to end, nor did they go full Sedin and cycle a team to death until they began weeping and just gave up.
No, the Lotto Line was all about ruthless efficiency, as they just found ways to get the puck on net.
And if the puck was tipped on the way to the net? So be it.
Just as long as it was done deftly.
Best getting around video limits trick
I am as scared as the next guy/gal about Hronek’s next contract, but I will say that despite him being a passenger with Quinn Hughes, he is an elite passenger.
We’ve talked about it before, but there is something to be said about having a player that can read off of your best players and can help create magic with them. It’s why the Lotto Line is so fun to watch, or why Christian Ehrhoff was the perfect straw to stir the Canucks drink (sounds dirty, it isn’t) back in 2011.
You watch Hronek with Quinn and you see Hughes doing all this skating, juking and jiving to make plays, so you kind of discount Hronek’s contributions. But being able to keep a play alive by getting to the right spot on the ice for an outlet, or being able to get the puck back to your superstar? That is a valuable commodity. I realize this is a bit like me saying the guy who ordered pizza on the movie set of Face/Off for Nicolas Cage should get their props, but you know what, people gots to eat. We can’t discount this service.
How much do you pay for said service, you ask? Well, the NHL market for right handed, puck moving defenseman that can put up points will probably make it very expensive.
But that’s a future you problem, so let’s just ignore it for now.
Best two for one special
You want pretty goals?
Too bad, you get this greasy effort instead:
Quinn Hughes fires a shot on net, Elias provides the traffic in front of the goalie, and JT Miller gently guides the puck behind Daws, perhaps quoting his favorite John Keats poem under his breath whilst doing so.
All of which was aided by Siegenthaler being injured on the play and almost being unable to put any weight on his foot, due to breaking it blocking an earlier shot. One of the benefits of shooting so many pucks is, yes, you do make the other team pay a price if they want to block them.
Cold? Maybe.
But the NHL is Game of Thrones, man. Sometimes people are going to have to make decision about whether blocking that 100mph blast is worth it or not, or if eating that hit in the corner is worth racing to win that puck battle.
Generating a low volume of shots just makes life way too easy on opponents, which speaks to the effort they put forth on Saturday. They made New Jersey have to make some tough decisions on how sore they wanted to be the next day.
Best can’t stop, won’t stop
This was probably the prettiest Lotto Line goal of the night, to the point where JT Miller dropped to a knee to propose to it:
That’s the beauty of giving Elias Pettersson elite linemates.
Can EP40 carry linemates? Sure he can, he’s done it before.
Can you produce easier and better results when you give him more to work with? Damn straight.
Setting up JT Miller for a shot is a far easier path to a goal than setting up Ilya Mikheyev or Sam Lafferty. It just is what it is.
Best twinge of worry
The good news is that the Devils first goal wasn’t due to a defensive breakdown:
The bad news is that Thatcher Demko should have had that one.
To the Devils’ credit, all of their shots were well placed on the night. It wasn’t like anyone went full Pius Suter and pancaked a puck on net and it bounced over Demko’s glove.
But for a goalie who has set the bar so high with his goaltending these past few years, there was a part of you that was kind of like “you sure you couldn’t have gotten that one?” You start rewinding the clip to see if Demko was screened or if maybe a Mogwai had gotten wet and Thatcher was preoccupied with that situation, but nope, the shot went in clean.
As I said earlier, the Canucks dominated the game for the most part, but they did have little blips where they’d let a guy have an open shot from the slot:
Dawson Mercer couldn’t beat Demko but you could feel the Devils starting to build a bit of momentum after their first goal. Chances that weren’t there in the first suddenly started appearing for them. You started worrying that Dan Murphy was going to have be stern in his intermission interview rather than jovially talking about pochette etiquette.
Jesper Bratt almost scored to cut the lead down to one, but again, Demko made a good save.
Best High Danger Corolla
There was some pushback from the Canucks in the form of a good shift from the Corolla line:
I can’t remember where I read it (I want to say JFresh posted a graphic, it’s always JFresh and his graphics isn’t it?) that said Garland’s best quality was his ability to make high danger passes.
Which delighted me because high danger scoring chances are fine and dandy, but knowing there is a high danger passing stat for some reason makes me so happy. Probably because Henrik Sedin probably topped those charts along with Joe Thornton during their playing days. If we can’t find a way to celebrate Henrik’s ability to make passes through a goalie’s five hole to set up Alex Burrows then I question how advanced have stats actually gotten?
But the point is, Garland’s ability to set up teammates, but also not get visibly sad or defeated when they can’t convert them, is probably his best trait as a hockey player.
That and his ability to utilize mini-hockey strats.
Best stanning for Kuz
Noah Juulsen continues his campaign of trying to make me look stupid for questioning him as a hockey player by setting up this good stretch pass to Kuzmenko:
The positives here are that Kuzmenko straight up just took a shot on net (no spinning back and waiting three hours before deciding to skate towards the net again), and he followed up his shot with a great pass for another scoring chance.
Kuzmenko would get benched near the end of the game (and hey, fair beans if you see your team about to blow a 5-2 lead so you hesitate to put Kuzmenko out for a grinding defensive effort shift), but overall he had a pretty fantastic game. He generated far more scoring chances then he allowed when he was on the ice, and he led all players with six shots on the night, even beating out the shot volume machine known as Tyler Toffoli (he got 5 on the night). The man played well.
In summary, it would be absolutely crazy if Rick Tocchet benched him next game.
Best keep on grinding
You want scoring chances? Here’s Nils Höglander winning a puck battle and setting up Sam Lafferty for a chance that almost turns into a goal:
Sam just loses a handle on the puck, despite the fact Ryan Reaves has only played 21 games this season, you hate to see it.
I know the Canucks could have had more goals, and the game ended up being closer than you’d like, but it was pretty darn fun to watch a team generate scoring chances at will and handily win the puck possession battle. Some articles all I get is one clip like that Lafferty one, and that’s it for an entire period. If I’m lucky Tyler Myers does a slip and slide, and maybe Jeff’s pointing his camera at the ground again, but it can be slim pickings on some nights.
Not Saturday, though.
Best Tokyo Drifting
Here’s the “uh oh” part of the article where we go over the Devils making this game far closer than it should have been.
First up we have Erik Haula scoring a goal to make it 3-2
It’s hard to understand Chaos Giraffe at the best of times, it’s just the nature of his chaotic beast, but he is watching the play develop with both Devils covered. He sees this, yet he still skates away from his right side, over to the left.
Not once does he shoulder check when he merges onto the Queensborough. He just straight up drives straight and goes full yolo.
Should a forward have been skating with Haula? Hey sure, that would have been nice.
But Tyler Myers is first on the scene here, he has no reason to drift over to the right side, yet he does.
It’s like when your buddy in Warzone just runs right at the nearest threat and doesn’t check the corners and before you know it, your team is wiped, everyone is angry on team chat, and nobody talks for the next hour.
Due to the decision making of CG57, Haula has ample time and space to load up his shot and pick his corner, before Myers makes it back just in time to set a partial screen.
Would you have liked Demko to have saved that? Sure, of course. But Bubble Demko won’t always be there to bail you out, especially on plays that felt extremely needless.
Everything was under control until Myers went Tokyo Drifting.
Best 10 second answer
What do you do when your car breaks down and you’re late for work? You call your friend with the Corolla for a ride:
That’s shades of Alex Burrows on that wraparound. That’s the kind of save Luongo would make, but Tim Thomas might not.
In a game in which it felt like the Canucks had lost all the momentum, Corolla Garland’s prompt response to the Devil’s goal was massive.
His ability to create that goal utilizing low fuel usage despite not having an oil changes in years is not surprising. That’s just his reliable gameplay going to work.
At the start of the season it felt like Garland was on his way out, that he was done here, that it was time to move on.
He now sits as the most important third liner in the league and feels like a vital part of any Canucks picture.
Sports is weird, man.
Best almost jinx
Almost Kate.
Best maybe there’s something
Will be fun to see the results over a bigger sample size, but very promising returns to start.
Best keep on trucking
The Lotto Line started the third with a purpose, as Elias Pettersson once again showed the joy of giving him skilled linemates:
Not only did he have JT Miller to pass to, but he also had Quinn Hughes as well.
It’s like asking EP40 to cook you a meal. Can he make you Kraft Dinner? Yeah, he can.
But why not give him fresh ingredients so he can really wow you.
Best cashing in that ticket
The Lotto Line would then make it 5-2 early in the third when Quinn Hughes would start the play off with a zone entry, dishing it off to Brock Boeser, who would then find an open EP40 in the slot:
It’s honestly been kind of weird we haven’t seen more of the Lotto Line the last few seasons. I know trying to balance your lines is always going to be desirable but the Canucks resistance to putting the Lotto Line together has been odd at times. It’s proven effective in the past, you’d think they’d smash in case of emergency more than they have.
Will this lead to more Lotto Line appearances? You’d have to think so, even if after the game Rick Tocchet seemingly played it off as if he’d never heard of this line before.
“Why not put it together every once in a while, we’ll see how long I keep it together….somebody told me about [The Lotto Line name], I don’t know much about it though.”
Best proof
See, as long as they line up properly on the goal celebrating, and get their numbers in the right order, it’s still the Lotto Line. Shawn’s right.
Best Bubble Demko appearance
See? He did make some big saves.
It’s just, the next two goals kind of ruined any buzz that save generated.
You know how I know Demko made some 5 alarm saves in this game but might not have been feeling it? I have actual clips of the saves in this article because he didn’t make them look flawless.
I’ve had games in which he’s stopped 41 shots and I had one clip of him sniffing smelling salts, as that was the most exciting he made something look on the night.
A high bar, but that’s the technical bar Demko has set for himself.
Best almost Blue it
Just another clip to showcase how the Canucks were pressuring the Devils into making mistakes and then generating shots off of it:
As people on Twitter assure me, not every clip needs a joke.
Kind of like how Robert De Niro and, no, you know what, no. No joke here, I’m going to be strong.
Best deviling those eggs
This time it’s Nils Aman’s turn to Tokyo Drift, as he finds himself skating down low, leaving Colin Miller wide open:
As Rick Tocchet would speak on after the game, it felt like the Canucks were over back checking in the third period. Perhaps in their haste to get back into the zone and protect the slot and down low, they forgot their responsibilities at the point.
And as Tocchet would also make mention of, scanning the ice and realizing when there is enough coverage around you is a key part of winning hockey games. If you notice every player around you is covered, that means you’ve got an open guy somewhere, so you need to find him.
On one hand it’s a bit like trying too hard on a first date. You appreciate the effort but it’s probably best if they find another man.
As a result of Aman not covering Miller, he has time to lean into his shot, and he beats Demko.
Your mile may vary on how much blame you want to put on Demko, but at the very least we can agree that it was a well placed shot from Miller on the goal.
Best drifting away
Once again with bad coverage down low, and questionable coverage from Kuzmenko as the one guy up high, leads to the Devils fourth goal of the game:
Again we find ourselves debating how much blame to put on Demko. Once again it’s a well placed shot, but once again it’s a shot where Brendan Smith has all the time in the world to get it off, one that ends up being credit to Hischier for the tip.
Was it a deft tip? No, it was not.
But the fact remains that the Canucks once again found themselves bunching up on the ice and giving up too much time and space to their opposition.
Best do a barrel roll
With Dakota Joshua off for a questionable holding penalty, it wasn’t too surprising to see some game management come into play when the officials didn’t put the Canucks down two men on this trip by JT Miller:
I do think Luke Hughes sold this one as hard as he could, which might have swayed the officials to not make the call. Anytime you look like you’re performing an actual Psycho Crusher maneuver on the ice I feel like it’s going to make the officials hold up for a second. I don’t doubt that JT Miller clipped Hughes’ skate, and that he probably would have fallen down from it, it’s the fact he tries to land a triple axel afterwards that makes it a bit over the top. I think if he lands that Axel, he gets the call out of respect for pulling it off, but to stumble and fall to the ice? NHL won’t give a 5 on 3 for that.
Best all good things come to a spinning end
Speaking of spinning, here’s Dakota Joshua making an empty net goal look both way too hard and way too impressive:
Brock Boeser is out here sniping empty nets with straight shots, while we have Dakota wheeling and dealing to finish a game off.
And that was it, the Canucks finished off with the 6-4 win.
Was it pretty? Nope. But you take that every single day over what the team produced against the St. Louis Blues.
Up next is the double header against the Rangers and Islanders, so tougher tests await this team.
The only question is, will the Lotto Line be front and centre for both of them?

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