The Stanchies: Quinn Hughes keeps re-writing Canucks’ history books in flat 2-1 loss to Capitals

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
26 days ago
“I just feel like when teams push on us, we kind of stop executing, and it kind of snowballs.”
That was the accurate summary from JT Miller after the Canucks 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.
And if I thought I could get away with it, I would file this story with that quote and simply call it a night. I don’t think I could summarize the game better than “The Canucks stopped executing,” but apparently Quadrelli expects me to dive deeper than that. Maybe toss in a Goonies reference or two. Perhaps drop a Milli Vanilli song lyric. Then end it by talking about a very niche Nintendo game that very few people will remember or know about.
But you know what? I’m not going to do that. I won’t be David’s little puppet! Because right now, he’s got to do what’s right for him. Because it’s his time. His time! Up there! Down here, it’s my time. It’s my time down here. That’s all over the second we ride up Quadrelli’s bucket.
So if you gotta blame that game on something, blame it on the rain that was fallin’.
Then pick yourself up, give yourself a little snake, rattle and roll, and keep reading.
Because you know what? That game was awful, but we still need to talk about it.
Because that’s what we do.
Because Canucks never say die.
And it we hit the wrong note? We’ll all B flat.
Editor’s Note: I don’t know what any of that meant.
Best those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end.
Yes, there was a time in this game in which it felt like the Canucks had taken their beating from the Avalanche and turned it into another vaunted Rick Tocchet lesson. About learning from defeat. About looking deep within oneself, facing your demons, and coming out better for it.
So when Quinn Hughes started skating like you know he can, and Brock Boeser tipped in a puck as casually as you swipe left on Tinder (yes, it was a deft tip), it felt like the win was already in the books:
Unfortunately it felt like Canucks thought the game was over at this point as well, as their sense of urgency kind of faded away as the game progressed.
Which to be fair, it did kind of feel like Washington was keen to play along. I don’t know if they were trying to dope the Canucks’ rope, but it certainly felt like the first twenty minutes offered little in the way of pushback from the Capitals.
If I were forced to hand out credit in this game, I would say this goal was a good example of getting shots on net, something the Canucks failed to do in spectacular fashion as the game wore on. It was something Rick Tocchet spoke of when the game was done.
“It was just a low event game…you can’t score from the blue line D if we keep shooting it high. And when we do [shoot it high], the guy’s to the side. You gotta get in front of the goalie’s eyes, and we have to get shots through [knee high].”
It was at this point Rick Tocchet almost played out the scene from Tommy Boy where he explains how he feels he has a mark on his face not here, and not here, but right here, when explaining the shot height needed.
There was also one play during the game where Phillip Di Giuseppe entered the offensive zone, pulled up, and rifled a wrist shot from just inside the blue line in an attempt to go top corner with it. I would do anything to have the confidence that Phil had thinking he could pull up and go bar down from inside the blue line.
The worst part about going top corner and missing is the Mason Raymond PTSD. That shot that goes high and then, even worse, zooms around the glass and heads out of the zone. The kind of shot that can cause a dangerous rush the other way. It is something I have mentioned multiple times this season, but it felt like it was at an all time high during this game.
All of which is to say that yes, it was a low event game in which even the low events themselves were very frustrating to watch. I found myself muttering, “Hit the ****ing net,” not because I wanted the Canucks to win, but just because, at that point, I was honestly wondering if it was scientifically impossible for them to get a puck on the net.
Low shots with layers in front of the net. We’ve heard Tocchet talk about it all season long. Generate those rebounds, crash the net, blind the goalie with a bag of flour, do whatever it takes.
Best better looking in person
I’ve talked about it before: how some shots look more dangerous at the arena than they do on TV. I see something live, and I excitedly go to make a GIF of it, only to find out that on TV, it looks quite pedestrian.
A bit tedious perhaps.
Maybe even a bit jading.
Jejune if you will.
Which is where I found myself after seeing JT Miller get this shot on net:
Now, in my defence, from high in press row, it looked like JT Miller had a lot of room on the top shelf to work with. And this was probably the only time JT Miller hit the net on the night, so make sure you savour this moment.
But it’s also where I think JT started chasing the dragon? Like he felt he almost had that shot to the point he could imagine what it would feel like to go top corner. So he started going top corner.
Every shift.
All night.
Until the end of time.
This truly was one of the sloppiest games we have seen from JT this season. I will caveat by saying he’s a fantastic player because I don’t want you angry weirdos who have made it their life’s mission to defend JT Miller over any perceived slight, sliding into my DMs.
And I mean that, truly, he is a very good hockey player. He is an integral part of this team and one of the reasons they’ve had such a fantastic season.
But he’s also one of the Canucks top players and when he struggles, the team struggles. And he struggled on the night with puck control and shot accuracy. (And yes, Elias Pettersson struggled even harder to the point that I have one highlight from him, and it’s mostly him falling to the ice to draw a penalty.)
It was just a bad night overall.
Best return on investment anxiety
Elias Lindholm will need time to fit into his new team, but I’d be lying if I didn’t have a bunch of receipts from Flames fans warning Vancouver about his game.
Now, Lindholm is a very smart player. Defensively, he does a million things Kuzmenko would never dream of doing.
But offensively, we haven’t seen even a glimpse of the guy who scored 42 goals two seasons ago.
And hey, maybe that’s ok, maybe that 42 goal season was one where everything went right for him.
It still remains to be seen if we’re even going to see a 20-goal version of that guy.
We are, in fact, within smelling distance of “Hey, at least he does the little things right,” which is one of the most terrifying sentences you can use to describe a hockey player in Vancouver.
And on a night in which it felt like everyone had their highlight of shame in terms of execution for Vancouver, here’s Elias attempting to be Henrik Sedin:
Once Lindholm gets to the puck, he has a lane to shoot it on net. All he has to do is beat a defender standing inside the net, and you know what, I’d take those odds any day of the week.
Instead he tries to force a pass through to Podkolzin, with a Capitals player between them. Even worse, his pass isn’t accurate, so instead he sends it right into Washington’s goalie Charlie Lindgren, who ends up living out Dan Cloutier’s dream of making saves with his back turned to the blueline.
There was a play late in the game in which Quinn Hughes had the puck and had skated himself into an open lane between the faceoff circles and instead of firing it on net, he instead passed it off to Elias Pettersson, who a) hasn’t taken a successful one timer since Best Buy was still open on West Broadway and b) was at such a terrible angle that the odds of it doing anything useful felt slim to none.
It was a game in which the Canucks just seemed to make life far too easy for those fat cats in Washington.
Best boom, headshot
Tyler Myers at one point took a shot that looked like it made Lindgren’s mask do the Mike Smith routine, but alas, it was Dylan Strome’s stick that lifted his own keepers lid:
Remember when Dylan Strome was drafted third overall by the Arizona Coyotes?
Best it started with a kiss
The Canucks showed a brother and sister on the kiss cam during a break in play which felt very appropriate considering how awkward things got for Vancouver in the second period.
How did it end up like this?
Well first we need to watch a clip in which Phil Di Giuseppe looks to have clearly been the player who would have gotten to the puck first:
I know that’s the rule because the season in which they introduced the new icing, everyone was fighting online and screaming about icing calls, only to be gently reminded it’s not about who got to the faceoff dot first.
So, to be clear, it’s not a race to the faceoff dots; it’s about who would reasonably have gotten to the puck first had the race been allowed to play out. They do this so players like Matt Cooke can’t slew foot the shit out of your star defenceman in a race for a puck that has been iced.
The problem is the NHL appears to forget their own rules (more like guidelines), so when of course in a game in which the linesman makes the wrong call, the Captials score on Vancouver:
The Canucks can’t clear out the puck, Washington throws it on net, and after a couple of bounces, Tom Wilson, not Jets QB Zack Wilson as my brain has programmed me to believe, pops in the goal.
This is a good example of how in gross, Wild-like games such as these that simply getting shots on net is sometimes your best approach to winning a grease off.
It’s also a good example of like without Thatcher Demko, because as good as Casey DeSmith does in trying to keep up with the bouncing puck, he tends to get himself really low to the ice on scrambles, and can get kind of hectic when he’s moving left to right. This opens up the top of the net and instead of rigid, back straight, standing tall Thatcher Demko, we get Casey doing a bit of a Roberto Luongo in Boston.
Best one two punch
There were two times I noticed Alex Ovechkin on the night.
One, when he lined up a clapper and shot it high over the net, and the puck went out of the zone (an homage to Vancouver’s offence, I presume.)
Two, when he scored this goal:
Hronek had a chance to clear the puck earlier on this play, but failed to do so. And in a lot of cases, that doesn’t result in anything. Players fail to clear the puck all the time, they screw up passes, they miss shots, etc.
But when they do a bunch of all three in a low event game like this? That’s where the magnitude of the mistakes become massive.
So Hronek’s inability to clear the puck despite probably wanting to be paid more than 8 million a year all of a sudden feels a bit mean spirited.
But again, that was one mistake. The Canucks still could have found a way to prevent the goal. But Washington moved the puck at a decent clip, and the Canucks coverage broke down in the form of Pew Pew Suter leaving Ovechkin to try and double team the slot coverage, which resulted in Alex potting in his 19th goal of the season.
We’ve seen worse breakdowns on goals from the Canucks this season, but again, it’s just in low scoring games, these are when the mistakes tend to get magnified. Which is what happens in the playoffs. Which is why people tend to tug their collar and make a variety of “urggh” noises when they see losses like this.
The good news is after losses like this the media all gets to go into the dressing room to see if the team can learn a lesson from this.
I’m still hoping that one day a player angrily refutes that any lessons can be learned from a loss, and then contemplates what the point of any of this is, before storming off loudly listening to Sum 41’s new album.
Best put in the work
Philly Delight then took a penalty for accidentally on purpose getting in Ovechkin’s way:
Was that the best penalty I’ve ever seen? No. Was it the best? No.
But it’s perfectly cromulent because the NHL, under its game management rules, paid it back in the form of a penalty handed out for Elias Pettersson falling to the ice later in the game.
The Canucks killed off the penalty, which is good.
But they never scored another goal, which is bad.
We can argue about that icing call all day long, but the fact of the matter is going down 2-1 to the Washington Capitals with half a game left to play should not be a death sentence for a team in contention for the Presidents Trophy.
Best yucky Jeff stat of the night
Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if Jeff tweeted about my 9-5 job.
“Wyatt has only closed two tickets on the day, one of which was already completed yesterday. With 19 tickets left in the queue and only an hour left in the day, you have to think Wyatt knows he’s not performing up to the standards required of him.”
Best ramping it up
The Canucks finally started pushing back near the end of the second period, but it was in the form of offensive zone time:
I mean, that’s better than doing nothing.
But it’s also a lot like saying you’ll do your taxes, but then all you do is put your documents on your desk and call it a night. You’re heading in the right direction, but you still have a lot to do.
And the Canucks found themselves on the outside looking in for most of the night. They didn’t penetrate into the middle, the didn’t get a lot of shots from dangerous areas, and when they did get shots, they got boxed out of the front of the net and the middle of the ice with incredible ease.
The Canucks can cycle in the offensive zone for minutes at a time, that’s great. They can get the TV to put up the shift chart for the Capitals, showcasing how they’ve been stuck on the ice for almost two minutes, that’s awesome.
But if you walk away from those extended offensive zone shifts with little to show for it, then all you’ve done is eat up the clock for the opposition.
Hell, the Canucks were the ones skating more than the Capitals on those shifts. In order to exhaust your opponent on those shifts you have to break through the guts of the ice. You have to pass the puck and start skating right away, forcing the defence to follow you. There’s a reason you didn’t see an exhausted Capitals player dying on the ice, trying to chase the puck. They simply set up their box and kept the Canucks on the outside looking in. Vancouver just didn’t move their feet enough. They didn’t open up any lanes, they didn’t cause any chaos.
And we know what dead tired defence looks like. We’ve seen Tyler Myers almost puking on the ice because he’s been chasing the puck around his own end for minutes at a time, to the point CBC isn’t sure they have a 4 minute shift clock stat ready for him.
Washington never reached that point because they didn’t have to.
To quote noted philosopher DJ Khaled, congratulations Vancouver, you played yourself.
Best Elias Pettersson cameo
Elias Pettersson’s highlight of the night? Making a nice pass, and then drawing a penalty for gently colliding with someone:
All players go through slumps, but if there is one thing the salary cap era has taught us, the heat goes UP when you consume a large percentage of your teams salary cap.
The Elias Pettersson we saw tonight was one who struggled to show up when he was needed most. That noise will only increase exponentially if he plays like this in the playoffs.
The good news is that’s many moons away, and we can’t use this one game as damning proof that his contract isn’t worth it, as much as that random guy with a bunch of numbers after his name on Twitter tells you it is.
The bad news is it still feels like Elias Pettersson hasn’t been a consistent threat from the Petterzone for a long time:
This is some sort of thing, boy, I can’t explain. My emotion starts up when I hear your name. Maybe your sweet, sweet shot was ringing my ears. Stimulates my senses boy, when your shot is near.
You had a part of the ice branded after you Elias. You used to be a killer from there.
Worst handles
There are games where JT just doesn’t have his A-game, so he turns into angry piss baby. And I mean that in the best way possible; he starts throwing hits, gets into scuffles, and generally brings a physical presence, even if he can’t find his offence.
So yeah, he had five hits on the night, which was great. And he was still trying to disrupt the Capitals and cause turnovers. But when he finally got the puck? He was either firing wide or bobbling the puck or making those weird JT passes in which it looks like he’s passing to the ghost of Christmas past:
It was a tough night for JT. Can’t really dress it more than that.
Best keeping it simple
The Canucks best chance of the night? A simple point shot from Zadorov that bounced out to Lindholm on the rebound:
They didn’t score, but the process was good. Lindholm goes to the net after the pass to Zadorov. Zadorov gets the puck low and on the net, creating a rebound. Lindholm goes for the puck but give Hendrix Lapierre credit for getting his stick on the puck to prevent the tap in.
That’s the kind of chances the Canucks needed more of in this game.
Best merciful ending
“One guys blocks a shot on Petey’s [shot] he was literally hurt and going to the bench, they had three guys, and we held the puck, I couldn’t believe we wouldn’t attack, we had six against their three, and we stayed around the outside.”
That was Rick Tocchet’s assessment of this play:
And he’s right. Lack of urgency. Lack of determination. Lack of whatever you want to call it.
The end result is the Canucks held onto the puck, and kept it to the outside all night long. They didn’t make Washington sweat. They didn’t make them nervous. They made life easy for their opponents by keeping things on the outside, with nobody moving their feet. Nobody skating hard to the net. Nobody trying to force Washington into taking a penalty chasing the play.
And when they did take shots? High and wide.
Or when they did have the puck? Oops, butterfingers:
It was that kind of night for JT and the Canucks. They didn’t execute on the night, and they paid for it.
We’ve seen both sides of the Canucks recently, the one hardened by the road trip of death in which they got points in five straight games against top flight opposition.
And we’ve also seen the one that let points get away against the Avalanche and then against the Capitals.
With Buffalo fighting for their playoff lives, it doesn’t get any easier against the Sabres on Tuesday.
We just have to wait and see which team shows up for Vancouver.
Best jersey Botch
A Jeff Cowan jersey was shown on the big screen at Rogers. I put out the word. My people answered. Jeff Cowan jersey was found.
You guys are the best.

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