Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchies: Tocchet wants more from Pettersson after Canucks’ loss to Blues
1 month ago
Every hero needs a villain, and apparently, the St. Louis Blues have applied for that role with Vancouver.
Not a good villain, mind you. Not a memorable one like Kefka, a court jester who rose through the ranks to become almost a literal God who broke an entire planet in half.
No, more like a mid-season storyline arc where the show has clearly gone on too long and the showrunners have run out of ideas. So here comes the boring neighbour who’s harbouring a dark secret, and before you know it, the Blues have escaped Vancouver with a 4-3 victory.
And hey, the Canucks used to play that role during the Benning years. A good team would seemingly be unable to solve the Canucks, and it would cause people to titter with glee, a rare high point in a season drowning in moral victories.
The silver lining of course is that Vancouver came back in this game to secure a point. Any time you tie a game up with your goalie pulled and under a minute on the clock is going to feel like you pulled a fast one on somebody. It’s the Craigslist equivalent of selling someone your Canucks tickets in 2019 at full price.
But for a team that has higher designs than simply feeling good about all the small things, even the roses on the stairs and surprises that show she cares, the tone in the locker room was sullen. It felt like a loss, even if they managed to get a point. There was no celebrating that single, solitary point, which is probably how most fans want the team to view that game.
You won’t hear much insight into the mental side of the game in the post game quotes, of course. Brock Boeser was tight-lipped and stuck hard to the cliches. Pius Suter, the hat trick hero, was quick to deflect any praise for his efforts. Ian Cole openly talked about the game with the insight we’ve come to rely on him for, but that’s just Ian. The team could lose 10-0 or win 9-1, and he’d be just as even-keeled and analytical about the team’s performance.
Coach Tocchet is probably the best barometer for how the game went, because he only has two types of pressers:
One in which he excitedly explains how the game went, and dives so deep into your question that it feels more like he’s teaching you more than anything.
And one in which he just looks kind of disappointed, like you can see his mind is still breaking down the game, trying to figure out what went wrong. He has the look of a man thinking about how he screwed up making the lasagna the night before and just wants another chance to make it right.
He will still explain how the game went, mind you, but he won’t dive AS deep into your question.
So yes, the Canucks got a point against a team that seemingly has their number. A team that can drag the game of hockey right into the mud, slowing the game down, clogging up the middle, and giving Vancouver fits as they try and figure out how to break it down.
Which makes it not quite a moral victory, it’s more of a moral loss, you see. Because they lost a game they wanted to win, but the point they earned is actually valuable. You have to hate the loss for it to be a moral loss, because the laws of opposites state that.
Look, it’s new branding, so we are just going to go with it.
Best prep work
Sure, the Canucks wore new blue metallic helmets, but how does that affect the Toronto Maple Leafs??
Best get ready for this
Fair warning, this was not a pretty game. Games with St. Louis rarely tend to be that exciting due to them hating puppies; dreariness just sort of bleeds out of their pores. This means we have two periods of “Yes, Wyatt, technically, this is a hockey highlight” to get through before the comeback in the third.
Which means you get to enjoy clips of Noah Juulsen playing solid defence when he blocked a shot in the slot on a turnover:
Which hey, considering I legitimately thought Noah was never going to be an NHL player, is pretty good! He has excelled at making me look like an idiot who jumped to a conclusion, something normally reserved for the Wendy’s drive through.
You know what else is a perfectly cromulent video clip to show?
Tyler Myers just straight shoving a dude to the ice:
Sometimes it’s like Chaos Giraffe realizes he is the Chaos Giraffe, and the quickest solution is to just dummy someone to the ice.
And then we have a contender for Spin King of 2024, as Nils Hoglander attempts to take the crown from Andrei Kuzmenko and Conor Garland:
The fact a Hoglander spin not only helped him evade a hit along the boards, but then doubles down on another spin, and causes two Blues players to collide, one of whom falls to the ice in a comical fashion, is top level stuff. Nick Leddy has to explain to his grandchildren one day how this happened to him.
“He just….he just kept spinning. Spinning and spinning. I tried to keep up, but my knees, you see, my knees weren’t what they used to be and I….I just didn’t know where to turn. I didn’t know where to turn.” before breaking down in that soft gentle crying where you don’t know whether to pat their arm or just silently watch to see if they pull through it on their own.
Now again, these aren’t the sexiest highlights. But they do represent some of the high points of the first 40 minutes of the game. Remember, St. Louis is tedious.
And since I have a dog to put through college, I am still going to make some gif money off of them.
Best are you sure about that?
The Blues essentially out PDO-d the Canucks, as they ended the night with only 18 shots to the Canucks 32, got out Corsi’d on the night, and lost the high danger scoring chance battle 24 to 13 in all situations.
But that doesn’t mean Casey DeSmith wasn’t called upon to make some big saves:
One of the things Rick talked about in the post game was how the Canucks had to limit their turnovers. And sure, that’s something every coach is going to want to say. Even Travis Green would let that one slip through the cracks, dancing with the devil by talking about hockey tactics with the media at just barely under the surface level.
But Tocchet is a super open coach, and he honestly does give you the best insight we’ve heard from a coach here in decades. He went deeper and talked about limiting specific types of turnovers.
“We just got to stop with these turnovers at crucial times. You just can’t do that. You have to stay in a team game…We don’t mind if you’re trying to make a play…If somebody is wide open and you turn it over, I get it, because if it goes by, the guy gets an empty net. But if you’re going to pass the puck and the guys still got three guys to through, that makes no sense to me. So I think that’s really our philosophy is don’t turn the puck over when there’s no play.”
Which has been his philosophy all year. Play smart, simple hockey. You can make your fancy plays, but it has to be done with a purpose, and it has to make sense.
It’s almost jarring when a coach just openly talks about hockey like this.
Best chrome dome
The Blues opened the scoring in the first period when the Canucks found themselves unable to clear the puck, leading to scrambling in their own end, leading to loose coverage:
The end result? Jake pleading won’t you be his Neighbours.
A lot of goals tend to happen when the coverage breaks down in a teams own zone, and that is pretty much what happened here. Suter and Boeser go full Canadian, and have a polite stand off over who will hold the door for the other in terms of covering Jake.
And that was kind of how half the game went. The Blues pressured the Canucks, leading to plays that tended to be high risk, low reward, which is the bane of Coach Tocchet’s life.
Which is also probably good insight into why Tocchet and Kuzmenko struggle to get on the same page.
Skate hard in a northern direction, and make smart decisions. That’s Tocchet Hockey 101.
Best all eyes on me
With Tupac ringing through his head, Kuzmenko and Hronek took their turn having a Canadian stand off, with both men offering the right of way to each other on a turnover at the blueline from number 96:
Like, they literally both take turns pointing to each other, trying to assign coverage on the counter attack, which I found quite amusing. You could almost hear the “bro.” “bro.” going off in their heads.
The Blues almost made it 2-0, but Kuzmenko managed to block a shot, and then sweep the puck off the goal line, which is kind of a win? He didn’t get benched in this game, so you have to think he came out ahead? Make one mistake but make up for it twice, that’s just good relationship math right there, that evens out the books at the end of the day.
Best inevitable conclusion
At this point the Canucks were playing like a listless Orca blimp, dropping off HMV coupons and free copies of Weathered by Creed, waiting to park itself for the night.
Which was the perfect time for the Blues to strike on the powerplay:
Power play goals are always hard to critique because by their nature they are unfair and cruel mistresses.
And the Blues, they made some nice passing plays here. Could Myers have cut that pass off down low? Of course. Could Zadorov gotten a stick on the puck at some point? He has a 30 foot reach, so you’d hoped he could.
But the Canucks didn’t make a play and the Blues made it 2-0 after one period, something Vancouver isn’t really used to. All of which led to a fantastic quote from Ian Cole after the game when asked about how maybe it’s a good thing for the team to go through these tests down the stretch run.
“Well, I think it’s probably never ideal to have to try and play catch up.”
Best oh no Charlie Brown
I have no idea what the future holds for Kuzmenko, but it is clear he is going through a moment right now.
A far cry from last season where everything went right for him.
Best Q and A
It’s true, he listed his favorite player as Luongo due to the explosive diarrhea in the playoffs.
Best let’s dive into this
You’re going to want to pay attention to this, because it is going to come up at the end of class:
Jake Bad Neighbours runs into Ian Cole, hits him with the ol’ wooden two step, and is assessed a cross checking penalty. The goal? Waved off. The Blues? Incensed.
Was it the most egregious cross check you’ve ever seen? No, that belongs to Tyler Myers hammering away at Morgan Reilly like he’s the last chocolate bar in the vending machine that won’t quite drop.
But it’s clear Neighbours moves over and leans on Cole, and interferes with him.
Is that a call I need being made every game? No, not really. But by calling that penalty, it feels like you’ve set a precedent in this game at least: If you shove someone to the ice in a cross checking manner from behind, on a scoring chance, that is going to be called.
We will touch on that later, but remember that play. Savor it. Inject it into your veins.
Now, the Canucks got a powerplay out of this, with the best chance coming at the hands of Brock Boeser:
You’ll notice the Lotto Line was split up for this game, and you’ll notice that there is still a distinct lack of 5 on 5 offensive highlights from their top forwards the last few games. After that blazing hot reunion of the Lotto Line, they have been decidedly flat at even strength for a while now, which is what led to Suter playing with Brock and JT.
And while Suter had fantastic results with his new linemates, Elias Pettersson once again found himself floundering back on his Russian line, to the point that after the game Tocchet conceded that he needs more from Elias.
“I haven’t like his game the last three or four games. We gotta get him going. He’s gotta skate, he’s gotta start skating a little bit.”
That trade deadline couldn’t loom more if it tried. You can hear it breathing heavily from the closet, whispering names of players that could help Elias out on his wing. It’s looming so hard.
Best all eyes on me, again
There are many ways to get benched in the NHL. One is to draw the ire of your coach, and the other is to high stick someone in the face so you have to sit for four minutes:
I’m not sure if Kuzmenko was arguing his case, saying he was shoved so how could he possibly be expected to control a slab of wood in his hands, or if he was pleading for them to reverse the call so his coach wouldn’t get mad at him.
Either way, the Canucks walked away from that exchange shorthanded due to a double minor for high sticking, down 2-0, in a game in which they were struggling.
So yes, this was not a banner moment for Mr. Kuzmenko.
Best dressed to kill
The Canucks, to their credit, killed off both penalties. They then even showed signs of life, as who else but Quinn Hughes got the party started in a decidedly Black Eyed Peas way (Fun for a second but ultimately unsatisfying):
JT Miller batting down that puck to keep the puck in at the line? Sublime.
The passes back and forth between Hronek that were low risk, high reward? Rick Tocchet approved!
That shot from Quinn Hughes? Delightful!
But no goal was scored.
Elias Pettersson then took a turn to showcase that hey, he remembers what 5 on 5 production looks like:
Elias’ defensive acumen is well documented, as he tracks down this puck like an Amazon delivery left on the wrong porch. He even ends the play with a shot on net, which was good, because most of the night it felt like he was hesitant to shoot. There were countless times he found himself in good spots to unleash the puck and he would just sort of peace out and leave you on read for a couple of days.
The good news is there were signs of life from the Canucks, but the bad news is they didn’t score, which lead right to a J-Pats tweet of a depressing, sobering reality check:
Best depressing, sobering, reality check
Best PEW PQEW PEW Take One
You like greasy goals? So does Pew Pew:
Hey, I know they tell you not to fight in the mud with the pigs because you’ll get dirty, but when you play the Blues, you just have to get messy.
And that’s a solid hockey goal that Don Cherry would be proud of. Hard work, lots of whacking at pucks, all leading to a rebound scored by a guy that Cherry would 100% confuse with Gary Suter.
This was also the first goal scored in the helmets that so many people loved and definitely didn’t tweet angrily about, and it totally wasn’t the wrong colour, blue, leading the team to look like a bunch of level 5 World of Warcraft players who just found their first helmet.
Best quick response
Want to see a magic trick? Watch Rick Tocchet make a giant Russian man disappear:
Yes, after losing a puck battle in the corner, then watching Elias Pettersson get walked, Zadorov could not box out Toropchenko on the Blues third goal.
To be fair to Zadorov, Toropchenko is also a very tall man. Both men are from Moscow so I assume there is something in the water that grows large giant hockey players.
But even then, you need to box a guy out and control his stick, neither of which Nikita could do. This led to the coach doing the unusual approach of shortening the bench on defence, riding with only 5 guys the rest of the way.
Say one thing about Tocchet, he’s fair in his punishments.
Best you were THIS close
Not much to break down on this one, Brock simply missed the net:
It did lead to my favourite response when asked about it post-game, however.
“Obviously I want to score when you get an opportunity like that.”
I wish you could have seen his eyes. Just the look of “I cannot believe I have to say this.”
Which hey, I am not knocking the question. Post game scrums are a weird dance of guarded players, PR restrictions, JT Miller throwing shots at Drance, and media trying to get any insightful answers they can out of all this. Which means, yeah, sometimes you have to lob up the “So you got a hat trick, that has to feel pretty good, right?” starting points, hoping beyond hope that a player opens up on a subject.
But not everyone can be Ian Cole, so sometimes you have Brock Boeser looking like he’s dying inside as he explains that yes, missing a wide open net like that does in fact not feel very good.
Best PEW PEW PEW Part Two
Pius Suter, who has been described as the smartest man in the room as of late, got the Canucks second goal by being in the right place at the right time:
Suter has had a couple of games on the first unit PP, and while he doesn’t have the same razzle dazzle Kuzmenko has, he produced a goal tonight, which if we asked Brock Boeser, I am sure he would stare woodenly at us and patiently, albeit with a tinge of exasperation, explain that yes, a power play goal is a good result.
It’s made even better by the fact that the power play just looked kind of off all night. I don’t know if it’s just the regular ebbs and flows of a long season, but the Lotto Line members just aren’t clicking as of late. The power play just felt messy and barely in control at times.
Best defining a role
Counter point: He’s the chaos giraffe and nobody puts CG57 in the corner:
I won’t lie, I know there’s no cheering in the press box, but if Myers had scored on that play I would have stood up and given a firm clap like the janitor in Rudy.
Best Quinning hockey
Joel Hofer played a heck of a game, and we have to give him credit for several “The **** you are” glove saves to end a scoring rush:
He doesn’t go full Luongo, but he does enough of a “oh what do I have here in my glove? Is it perhaps your crushed dreams, you simple fool” lift of this glove that we all know what he’s putting down.
Best shot in the dark
I really don’t want to hit 4000 words on a Blues game, so let’s fast forward through this and get the overtime everyone was talking about.
Here was JT Miller almost scoring with a no look shot:
And here is PEW PEW PEW Part Three:
Because no one realized Suter got the goal, no hats rained from the sky until after the period ended. So for those wondering at home, he got his due hat credit.
We can all agree Suter had a fantastic game? And has been a fantastic signing? Because he has been. He gets greasy smart goals, it’s just what he does. Right place, right time and all that.
All of which sent the game to overtime where a lot happened in a short amount of time.
First up you had a breakaway that Hofer once again absolutely stunted on:
He makes the glove save on Hronek and he looks bored doing it. So bored that he simply gives the puck right back to Vancouver as if to say “that’s all you got? Here, try again, make it good this time.”
I think he mentally beat the team in this moment.
But even after that showboating, Kuzmenko was still back checking like a demon:
That’s fantastic from Kuzmenko. I know every single thing he does is analyzed, including what he ate for breakfast, and while he had a very up and down game, that effort in overtime is exactly what the coach wants from him.
Oddly enough it was Elias Pettersson who once again, looked slightly off. He was that yogurt in the fridge that smells ok but expired a week ago; you aren’t quite sure if it’s good or not.
All of which led to the Schenn overtime goal:
If you’re watching that and wondering if that looks awfully familiar, it’s because once again it involves a cross check to the back on a scoring play.
Except this time the officials chose to put away their whistles.
Now, do I think Elias should have gotten up quicker? Yeah. I get that’s he tired and it’s overtime, but if you don’t get that call, you can’t sell that by lying on the ice. You have to jump up and get right back in the play.
But I also think it just speaks to NHL officiating. Game management is a real thing, we know it is. Tim Peel made sure we know it is.
Which is what is maddening about watching NHL hockey. How a call during the first period can suddenly go away in overtime. How calls that are made earlier in the game somehow go away later in the game.
When asked about the play after the game, nobody from the Canucks was willing to say much. Tocchet simply said the officials on the night are a great crew, while Ian Cole said that kind of question was above his pay grade.
Blues coach Drew Bannister had no problem weighing in earlier penalty on Cole, and the play on Elias.
“I just saw a lot of guys going down pretty easy tonight. That’s what I saw…I mean, that’s a 6-foot-3, 220-pound defenceman. It’s a push on the back. That’s the way I saw it. I saw some guys falling pretty easy out there.”
That is the quote of a man not working in a Canadian market, on the road, away from home.
And hey, I get it, he’s going to go to bat for his team. And I am not here to argue about whether the play on Elias was a penalty on it’s own.
I am just saying consistency and game management can make the game of hockey a hard thing to swallow at times.
The good news is the Canucks got a moral loss out of this.
The bad news is those St. Louis Blues? They’re creeping up in the Wild Card race.
Which means a first round showdown is very possible.
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