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The Stanchies: Breaking down a strong contender for the worst game of hockey ever played

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Photo credit:© Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
6 months ago
Embedded tweets aren’t working today as even they fell asleep during this game, but I do want to share one thing that was sent to me via Twitter:
“That was a strong contender for the worst game of hockey ever played.”
And on that note, let’s dive into this Minnesota 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
Best egregious example of passing up on a shot
Look, a lot of us watched the entire career of Henrik Sedin. We saw him pass the puck in the most improbable of situations, situations in which you thought to yourself, “Clearly, he has no other option but to shoot here.”
But then we saw Henrik Sedin do a drop pass to his brother on a breakaway, and it was in that moment that we knew there was never a moment in which Henrik Sedin wasn’t thinking pass first. I imagine Christmas dinners in the Sedin household always include a moment where someone asks Henrik to pass the salt and he tilts his head with an “oh you” vibe, while everyone chuckles as they eat their lutfisk.
And as a result, we saw perhaps one of his greatest passes of all time, in which he sent the puck THROUGH Antti Niemi for an Alex Burrows tap in goal. It’s hard to stunt on people with just a pass, but somehow Henrik Sedin managed to do it. As Quadrelli often tells me, that pass was the new drip rizz king at the time.
So I fully understand the desire to pull off the kinds of passes that will live on in YouTube infamy. The kind of passes you can point to any time someone dares suggest you’re just a secondary assists merchant.
But I have to say, JT Miller, what is you doing baby?
Again, I get it. If Miller gets that over to Boeser for the tap in, it’s a legendary pass. That’s the beauty of living by and dying by passing in a prime shooting position. You get heralded as a clever, raptor-like genius, an unselfish hero willing to prop up his teammates at the expense of personal glory if it works.
And trying to set up Brock Boeser for a goal in his home state, to further help his march to 30 goals? That’s good shit, pal.
But when the pass fails, and all we’re left with is JT Miller on a mini-breakaway in which he decided a no look pass into coverage was the way to go, it just kind of hurts the soul a little bit. Besides, it’s Minnesota, you owe it to their fans to teach them what a shot on net looks like. Do it for the people, Jimothy.
The only good news is that it wasn’t Kuzmenko who attempted that pass, as he would have probably been in Abbotsford before the second period was over.
The bad news is that Kuzmenko’s line was one of the worst on the night, and I fear Tocchet will never leverage his natural offensive talent in a positive way for this team as his career dies a slow, mismatched fourth line death.
But I digress.
Switching gears, Fil Hronek saved a goal by making sure this wobbly puck got a cab and got home safely:
I am not going to lie to you, this game had a lot of “jam the puck on net and pray it goes in” vibes to it, so you aren’t going to get the sexiest of gifs.
Which I know, it’s against Minnesota; how is that even possible? The team that sets the bar for exciting hockey in the NHL had a slow game? Them fail english? That’s unpossible.
Yet here we find ourselves.
I blame the start time. 7pm puck drop, this is an 8-7 game, easy.
Best here’s an example of a shot
Hughes and Hronek switching spots has become one of the more recognizable plays the Canucks utilize this season:
There is always talk about just how much Hughes is elevating Hronek’s game, and I agree, Hronek is getting sufficiently juiced by Quinn. But their ability to pull off the bait and switch throughout a game is something a Luke Schenn just wouldn’t have the moxie to pull off, so we do in fact have to hand it to them.
Best Corolla Garland
You know when you have to help a friend move, and they look at your car and ask with doubt, “is this going to even fit in there?” and you just smirk because you have a Corolla?
Corolla Garland will surprise you with the versatility of what he brings to the table.
We’ve talked about the board work.
We’ve talked about the facilitating linemates.
But we really need to hammer home how he is constantly finding a way to get into shooting lanes and making saves like he’s playing mini-stick hockey with his buddies in the garage.
Again, nothing flashy, but he’s so damn reliable.
Best hey look, a zone exit
With Quinn Hughes serving a penalty for slashing, Zadorov helped clear the puck, and yes, this is what this game has forced me to highlight:
To be fair, it is a nice play from two players that have chaos running throughout their entire DNA. Myers sending the puck towards the back of the net and Zadorov jumping on the scene to prevent the takeaway and then slipping in the slick little pass for the zone exit? That’s delightful.
This just as well could have ended up with one of them pulling out a knife and giving odd speeches about how they got their scars.
Best awww nuts!
Normally Sportsnet nails all the angles when something like this happens, but today, they have failed us. You see, when someone gets hit in the nuts in sports, we demand in close replays. As the Simpsons taught us, football to the groin had football to the groin; it’s a winning strategy.
We at least have this angle, showcasing the Chaos Nutcracker going to work on hanging up some berries:
In defence of Myers, I feel like Brandon Duhaime really sold this, as he jumped back up far too quickly for someone really feeling the effects of someone going hard to nard contact.
But with that being said, I do appreciate the sell job, as slowly falling to his knees and then his side was the perfect amount of drama to showcase that someone had bruised your berries.
Best proof that the Wild can score in a game of hockey
This is basically when you play Warzone, where you drop an enemy, and even though he’s surrounded by three teammates, you’ve got that thirst in you. You want to go finish off that kill so you can put a point up on the scoreboard, so you rush in despite all logic screaming at you to play it safe.
So while JT Miller runs off with his Akimbo snakeshot TYRs, his defence is scrambling as they are now dealing with three guys spread out across their blue line. Add in Höglander and Boeser gliding back into the play and Hronek being blissfully unaware of how much danger he’s actually in, and you’ve got yourself a goal against.
Miller’s line once again struggled on the night, as they got heavily out-chanced and outplayed, and it was a rarity when they had the puck for any length of time in the offensive zone. We actually saw glimpses of 2021 JT Miller, the one who feels that the backchecking rule book is more of a guideline than anything, as he was caught looking around the ice and not covering anyone several times on the night.
Is it fatigue? Is it sickness? Is it just the random ups and downs every hockey player goes through? Who knows at this point?
All we know is that for a few games now, JT Miller has not been playing like he did earlier in the season.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think he will ever be a shutdown centre, nor will his defensive play ever be in the upper echelon of the NHL. But when JT Miller is on, he’s so good offensively that he usually more than makes up for any defensive issues.
That’s why his stretch of play stands out recently, because we aren’t seeing the usual offence from him.
The team still winning through that is a good nod to their depth, structure, and any of that PDO high they’re still riding.
Best saucing the sauce
The thing about JT Miller is sometimes all he needs is one chance to put some points on the board:
That’s a tremendous pass from JT Miller, with just the right amount of sauce on it, and Brock gets off a very dangerous shot. Full credit goes to Gustavsson for stopping it, even if he is crushing the local kid’s dreams of getting to 30 goals.
Best hey look another goal
It wasn’t until the second period that the Canucks finally got on the board when, who else, Corolla Garland dropped a slick leading pass for Dakota Joshua just after entering the zone:
Joshua showing a little bit of flair on that pass in front to Blueger, who makes the perfect contact on the puck and gets it up high so quickly that you’d think he was hotboxing the Expo line to Surrey Central on a Saturday night.
(We need more team names that can be adjectives by the way. Wild Gustavsson just sounds fun. The Washington Dangerous? The Ottawa Vicious? The Calgary Gentle? The possibilities are endless.)
This third line has been the teacher’s pet in terms of how they’ve been playing. They have been one of the most consistent defensive presences on the team, which all coaches love, and it’s now leading to offence, which you KNOW Tocchet is going to love even more. It’s the perfect example to show anyone who isn’t all in on defence. “Look at that line. They play the game the right way. If you play hard in your own zone, it will eventually pay off with offence!” It’s like a time management scheme, you just gotta get enough people to buy so you can start making money.
If this line continues to be a defensive juggernaut that can also chip in reliably with offence, it’s going to need a name.
I am leaning towards The Toyota Line, because they’re all durable, consistent vehicles in their own right. We already know Garland is the ’99 Corolla. I’m sure Joshua can be a 2013 Tundra for all the hard work and rugged, heavy forechecking he does for the line, and Blueger is a 2013 Rav4, a solid middle ground between the other two vehicles.
Best all the small things
This might have been the best offensive thing Blueger did in this game aside from the goal:
I like how Dakota primed the pump so to speak, kicking the stick up on the first fly by, before Blueger comes in to finish the job.
To go back to Warzone, this is like when your buddy downs a player on top of a building, and then you quickly call in a precision strike.
Yes, I have been getting back into Warzone lately. Why do you ask?
Best thanks, tips
Again, there wasn’t a ton of offence from either team on display during the game, but I did like this deft tip attempt from Pettersson in the second:
It at least made Gustavsson have to move quickly in the net, giving the illusion that a goal might, perhaps, be scored. I appreciated that.
Best gift exchange
Sometimes you just want to trade breakaways for Christmas and call it a day:
Watching Quinn Hughes skate with the puck until he finds someone open is one of the more sensual beautiful things to enjoy in hockey. It’s like watching a really good quarterback scrambling until they find an open guy, or like watching Pirlo cut through the midfield until he can send in the perfect lob pass.
Alas, JT Miller did not score on the breakaway, but surely, if it came down to it in a shootout, he would score.
Eriksson “No Hyphen All Hype” Ek would then burst out of the…wait, burst is too exciting to describe anything in this game. Ok let’s try that again, Eriksson Ek would then quietly, and with good manners, exited the penalty box to find himself in possession of a fortuitous bounce:
Somehow, some way, the referees called a slashing penalty on Hronek on this play. Now, this isn’t a “the Canucks never get the calls” situation or whatever, as the Canucks had five powerplays to Minnesota’s two on the night.
But just in terms of looking at this in a vacuum, that is one god-awful call.
This is clearly a case of a guy bobbling a puck on a breakaway, but because there was a Canuck player in the vicinity, waving his stick in the general direction of Double E, the ref just sort of assumed some sort of penalty must have occurred. Clearly Eriksson Ek should have scored a goal or gotten a perfect shot off, so something must have caused him to make a mistake.
Just an absolutely brutal call from the officials on that one.
The good news is the Canucks killed off that powerplay very efficiently. Casey DeSmith was a large part of that, and the trade that brought him to Vancouver feels less heralded than it perhaps should be.
Bringing in a veteran backup for your number one starter isn’t the easiest of tasks, as we saw for years with Luongo, and have seen with Demko. Honestly, Andrew Raycroft was the last time I saw a veteran backup goalie in net for Vancouver that didn’t give me a panic attack.
DeSmith, however, has been absolutely fantastic for Vancouver, allowing the Canucks to rest Demko when need be, and not having to rush Silovs into a role he might not yet be ready for. Did you read last night’s Farmies?
And even though he’s a bit looser in net and owns a set of black pads, DeSmith still calms things down by making saves reliably like this:
Sometimes, there is a goalie in net who worries you. A goalie that you feel you need to protect at all costs lest one shot get on net because it will probably go in.
When that happens, teams play with more panic in their game, and they start playing prevent hockey. It can throw off a team’s vibe real quick.
With DeSmith in net, there’s honestly not much difference in how the team performs when Demko is net, which is the highest compliment you can pay a back up goalie. Some goalies you can see the team beaming with pride when their back up gets a win, as they celebrate it like it might be the last time that guy ever gets a dub.
I have no Warzone metaphor here.
Wait, it’s like when you win a game of Warzone and your buddy Jay did zero damage the entire round, so the rest of you tell him how important he was in securing that victory due to how good he was at spotting enemies during the round.
With Casey, the team just sort of expects him to win, there is no coddling. Again, this is another sign of respect for his abilities from the team.
Best respect my authority
Rick Tocchet spoke last game about how Kuzmenko needs to develop a one timer so the other teams have to respect him on the powerplay. He noted that teams aren’t bothering to cover Kuzmenko, which allows them to cheat over and cover the rest of the guys on the ice, so confident are they that Kuz won’t shoot.
Well there are two ways to make a team respect your shot.
You either start scoring goals like last game, or you start crippling people like this game:
Speaking of shots that hurt, Brock Boeser briefly left the game after taking a shot to the foot:
I think everyone remembers Brock’s rookie season where an errant open door cost him his shot at 30 goals that season (ended with 29), so anytime he gets hurt or shows any pain, the entire fan base holds their collective breath.
Luckily for Brock, all was well, and he would return to the game mere moments later.
Best official assistance
PDO flared it’s ugly head up to start the third period, as a bad bounce off an official almost led to a Marcus Foligno goal:
Through some miracle, the Canucks weren’t called for slashing on the failed breakaway, so the Canucks escaped another dire situation due to a perfectly timed poke check from one Casey DeSmith.
Later in the period, a bit of a communication mishap almost led to another Wild goal:
 
DeSmith drops the puck for Ian Cole, and you can see the alarm in Ian Cole’s body posture when he realizes he needs to skate onto the puck. Before he can get there, however, Eriksson Ek has already gotten off a quick shot that DeSmith turns aside with ease.
Now, I haven’t checked with goalie guru Kevin Woodley on this yet, but I think a huge part of this play from DeSmith is he didn’t triple check the slot before passing it directly onto the stick of the opposition. That feels like an important part in all of this.
Best Spotify wrapped
Elias Pettersson’s usage of the Burraparound this season is one of my favourite subplots so far:
Not enough people use the wraparound, which was a terrifying memory of the days in which you held your breath the second someone tried to wrap the puck around on Kirk McLean.
I loved Kirk as much as the next guy, but his way of dealing with wraparounds was either standing straight up, hugging the post, thus covering none of the far net. Or he would fall on his back and just sort of scissor his legs in the air like it was a synchronized swimming program.
Modern NHL goalies have all these reverse alphabet saves they can bust out, making it a far easier viewing experience for the home fans.
Real ones understand the fear, though.
Best playing with fire
The Canucks have been excellent at shutting down teams in the third period when they have the lead this season, but it felt weird to see them attempting to do it in a tie game:
It really felt like they were playing for the single point, which hey, fair enough, but in a game in which one single bounce might kill you, it felt like a risky proposition.
And if JT Miller was disgusted with his game against the Florida Panthers, I imagine he will be just as upset with his performance against the Wild.
That shift was kind of a microcosm of his game where he wasn’t engaged offensively and when he was in his own zone, he got that look in his eyes. You know the one. Where he gazes at nothing in particular and kind of “oversees” everything but doesn’t actually do anything. He goes on vacation without leaving an out of office message.
He basically goes full middle manager mode sometimes, which is where he found himself with seconds left in the game:
Once again he was stuck in his own zone, staring at the play develop around him, with the play ending in a tremendous scoring chance.
At least he jumped in at the last second to sit on Goligoski, so I do appreciate that.
It just hasn’t been the sharpest stretch of hockey from JT lately.
Best I get it now
Back when there were rumblings of the NHL looking to change up the rules of ovetime to make it more exciting, I just didn’t get it.
“Why would they want to change overtime, it’s so exciting as it is! You don’t need to do anything! You see teams trading odd man rushes constantly, and it’s exciting to see how the teams are going to take turns trying to attack the offensive zone!
Then I saw the Minnesota Wild play in overtime, and I get it now. They need to change the rules.
The game saw three shots total in overtime, as the Wild someone managed to make 3 on 3 hockey look more boring that 5 on 5 hockey.
The best chance was Corolla Garland driving to the net after Hughes did his usual thing:
Two things to note on this play.
One, Quinn Hughes played 4:17 of overtime, and honestly, I would have been ok with 5. In fact, the only duty a defenceman other than Hughes has when getting a shift in extra time should be to count down the clock until Quinn tells you he’s good to go again. It’s the Poochie rule at play.
Two, Corolla Garland gets you where you need to go, but he’s not flashy. Expecting him to score in overtime, with all that attention on him like he’s driving down Robson, honking his horn at people grabbing their Starbucks at Thurlow? He ain’t about that life. He’s already driven to Grounds for Coffee in the morning to get his brew on.
The end result was this game going to a shootout, wherein the Canucks forgot the cardinal Trevor Linden shootout rule: Just shoot, baby.
Best just shoot, baby
See? It doesn’t take much. Sometimes a goalie is so intent upon waiting out to see what dangles you surely have in store for them that they get caught off guard when you simply shoot it instead.
Trevor Linden feasted in shootouts because of this approach:

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TL currently sits tied for fifth all time in shootout percentage at 58.33 because of his simple approach.
In a game in which it felt like the Canucks were fighting the puck all night, it feels like keeping it simple with shots might have been the better approach.
Best one last shot
JT Miller, however, had a chance to keep this game going and –
OK, maybe he should have tried passing to Boeser on this one.
Best moving on
Luckily Canucks fans can put this game out of their mind as quickly as possible as the Bedard game is up tomorrow against Chicago.
Lachlan will have you covered for that one as hopefully we get a more entertaining game out of that one.
In closing, go Bills.

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