Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchies: Top of the West Canucks defeat Bo Horvat in his return, I’ll tell you that 4-3
3 months ago
There are times this season where I have asked myself “Am I in a coma? Did I simply collapse one day due to exhaustion from constantly covering Canucks seasons that ended poorly? And this season is some sort of scenario that my brain has come up with in order to try and give me a little bit of a lift?”
Because I have to tell you, this run the Canucks are on is starting to feel a bit unreal.
If back in September you had handed me a summary of how this season was going to go up until this point I would have laughed it off. Too unbelievable. These are the Canucks, after all. You need to add in some tragedy. Some sadness. Some bleakness. Think Wile E. Coyote minus the interesting gadgets. It needs the kind of melancholy acceptance of the infinite sadness that one can usually only attain by destroying gourds. If you write a season filled with this many positives, people are going to become wise to being stuck in the Matrix. You need to keep it gritty. You need to keep it real.
I wonder what kind of script I would have come up with if someone had asked me to write an optimal scenario for the Canucks season.
“Wyatt, we need you to script out a Canucks game in the best possible way, because we have Patrick Stewart on board to play Sam Lafferty, and well, we’re going to fill in the cast around him. We think was have Michael Fassbender on board to play JT Miller, Elijah Wood is feeling out the Quinn Hughes part, and fingers crossed we have Ryan Gosling for Brock Boeser. But the point is, this is supposed to be an uplifting movie so we need a lot of good things to happen in this game. All of the good things. If a bad thing happens, then ten good things need to occur to balance things out.”
All of which is to say, if I was tasked with writing up a script for a perfect Canucks game, I don’t think I would have to make many changes to the Canucks 4-3 victory over the New York Islanders and the returning Bo Horvat.
This game had everything. It had drama. It had big moments. It had former friend-turned-foe intrigue. It had Rudy-like inspirational moments. It had the White Lotus theme song to start the third period. It had accusations of Hronek smuggling a rocket launcher onto the ice.
And if you thought it couldn’t get any crazier than that, the game ended with the current Captain Quinn Hughes out-racing former Captain Bo Horvat to secure the win in the extra frame on a gorgeous breakaway goal.
The only thing missing? Dan Cortese.
Now, I want you to take a look at the calendar. See the date? It’s November 15th.
The Canucks are tied for first in the Western Conference. The leading scorer page is headlined by Canucks. And you just finished watching another thrilling, exciting, fun Canucks game. This is actually happening.
I know I’ve said it before, but drink it in, man. Really enjoy it and savor every moment.
Because honestly? Hockey hasn’t been this fun in Vancouver since 2011.
And yes, that I can tell you for free.
Let’s make some gif money, shall we?
Best let’s get this out of the way
I went over what the reception might be for Bo Horvat on Tuesday, and after watching Horvat once again reiterate his good guy status to the fan base before the game, you might be wondering how the crowd received Bo Horvat:
Vancouver is a hockey market so it’s hard to avoid stories like this taking up the airwaves and eating up your data plan, but I do have to say it played out pretty much exactly how we all thought it would. There was some booing for the first couple of puck touches, but then honestly, it dried up pretty quickly.
Bo Horvat didn’t lean into the heel gimmick like Ryan Kesler did back when he was with Anaheim. Bo gave no real reason for the fan base to summon up a lot of passion and anger towards him leading up to this game. Off the ice, Bo Horvat was about as good a person as you can find, as I think the last time I checked 74% of the people in this city have a story about having a really nice interaction with him. And as you can see from the video, this city clearly meant an awful lot to him, which went a long way to deflating anyone’s ideas of trying to force him into a Disney villain role.
And honestly, this season has been so much fun for people that a lot of folks just don’t have the time or energy to invest in something so negative. It’s been nine years of being angry about hockey, so I think the people in Vancouver just want to enjoy the good vibes at this point. Heck, Justin McElroy is doing stories about winning trips to New West on the Price is Right, so if ever there was a sign that optimism and positivity is on the rise, it would be that.
Maybe if the Islanders were leading the East while the Canucks were mired in the basement, maybe if Bo scores a hat trick as New York stomps the Canucks, maybe in that scenario people get frustrated and he becomes the target of their ire.
But not this season. Not now. Not after that win.
I think this game was as cathartic as it gets for putting a feud to bed, and I don’t even see this town booing Horvat moving forward.
Best tough love
I get amused by the fact that half of JT Miller’s statements could be quotes lifted straight from Yellowstone.
One day JT Miller is going to refer to his opponents as cattle and it’s going to really mess with me.
Best new Batch
The big news heading into the game was the removal of Pew Pew Suter, who sat out so Nils Höglander could showcase the power of the umlaut.
The other big news was Hronek and Hughes getting split up, as the Canucks tried to balance out their defenceman with the news that Carson Soucy would be missing at least 6-8 weeks after taking a puck to the back of the leg/foot in the game against the Canadiens last weekend.
The final big news was that Pedro Pascal is in talks to play Reed Richards in a Fantastic Four reboot.
I will let you decide how to rank these items.
Best making yourself go viral
After watching Casey DeSmith try and steal his job, Demko decided to throw down the gauntlet and let everyone know whose team this is right out of the gate:
I think I tore my groin just watching that.
If Joey Pitt tried to save that, he’d stack the pads and pray.
If Kevin Woodley tried to save that, he’d let it in and then tweet about how the defensive coverage let him down.
If Eddie Lack tried to save that, he’d be praying he didn’t wear the cream-coloured goalie pants.
If Thatcher Demko tries to save that, he just makes it look so bloody easy.
You know it’s a good save when the guy shooting the puck buries his face in his hands and lays motionless on the ice for a moment so he can gather his thoughts.
Best do your dekes, bro
I think of Botch a lot when I write these, and I often wonder how much amazement he would watch the evolution of Quinn Hughes with.
When Quinn was named captain of the Canucks, I think we all envisioned he’d be fine, but I don’t know how many of us foresaw the giant leap forward he would take with his offensive zone presence.
Even last season, in which he produced 76 points and played brilliant hockey, he didn’t have the same buzz he has going for him right now.
If last season was great, this year he is Anderson Silva in his prime, making people look foolish for even thinking they can touch him:
He’s at the point now where he makes these jukes and the crowd audibly buzzes in appreciation. You can practically hear people slapping their buddy’s arm to demand if they saw that. He just feels like he’s a dangerous threat at all times now in the offensive zone, whereas before I don’t think teams worried too much about him having the puck at the point.
Which, fair enough, he doesn’t own a 430mph shot like people named Filip do.
But if you have an accurate wrist shot AND you can dance all day?
That’s one scary person to try and defend.
All I can see in my head is Matt Martin hunched over, almost throwing up, talking about Quinn Hughes being the fastest kid alive.
Best spinning for dollars
Ilya Mikheyev’s game continues to evolve as he returns to form from his ACL injury last season.
Now instead of just blistering speed, he can hit the shoulder button to pull off a spin move:
One of the nicer aspects of the Rick Tocchet era has been him hammering away at North/South hockey, because Ilya ending that play by driving hard to the net is the chef’s kiss of this play, and the kind of thing you need to see come playoff time.
Look, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed a nice Mason Raymond rush into the zone and around the rink as much as Drance, but sometimes it’s nice when people get to basics and just power toward the crease.
It’s also nice when you don’t need a drinking movement to over-celebrate fraudulent power forwards.
See? This is a season of nice things.
Best revenge is a dish best served re-heated in the microwave
Despite that strong start from the Canucks, it was the Islanders who scored first when a shot deflected off of Dakota Joshua’s stick on the powerplay, sending it five hole on Demko:
This was a game of special teams, as five power play goals were scored in total from both teams. The Islanders’ goals felt a bit luckier than Vancouver’s as their strategy comprised of “throw it on net and hope Joshua and Hughes take turns deflecting the puck into their own net”, which eerily worked perfectly.
The Canucks power play was far more dynamic and was the kind of stuff you normally have to mark NSFW. There’s a giant rocket metaphor in here that I am going shy away from, but I think we all know the X-Rated titles I could come up with for the Hronek goal awaiting us.
But I digress.
Best just tip it in, just tiiiiip it in
The Islanders made it 2-0 when their short-sighted Operation: Force Quinn Hughes To Score On Himself And Make Him Want To Win The Game Heroically In Overtime was put into motion:
You know what? Give New York credit for moving the puck around and dragging that puck down low towards the net. There’s nothing wrong with a nice greasy goal here and there. Who doesn’t love picking up McDonald’s at the end of the night sometimes?
Best forgotten revenge game
While all the attention was on Bo Horvat, don’t forget that Anthony Beauvillier might have revenge on his mind as well, what with him being one of the men traded for Bo.
Beauvillier’s contract makes him a bit of an odd-man-out for the Canucks bottom six in the long term, but until then, we shall gif his attempts to score with as much tenacity as we once did for Luke Schenn hits:
You might be asking yourself “Why did I just spend valuable data downloading that simple gif” and I’ll tell you why: The Canucks didn’t produce much entertainment in the first period. Down 2-0, the building seemed sapped of energy, as fans nervously awaited to see if Bo was going to be handed an easy win or not.
As a result, that Beauvillier clip was one of the most stimulating shots of the period for the Canucks.
Best PDO privilege
My options for highlights at this point in the game were three offsides, one icing, and a deflected shot that saw the puck land in the crowd after almost being caught by a lady in a brown trench coat.
I won’t lie. If I had a gif of the lady catching the puck in the stands, that probably would have taken the spot of the Beauvillier clip.
I will also say that it is going to be real easy to get caught up in the excitement of a 4-3 overtime win, but as Drance points out, this game was a tremendous test for a team that has been blessed by PDO privilege at times. I was curious if they’d be confused why every 5th shot wasn’t going in, or puzzled as to why pucks were deflecting in their own net, and sort of stumble their way to a loss much in the way they did against Toronto.
But you know what? Good teams find ways to win more often than not, so while a Toronto game can happen here or there, if the Canucks are a serious team? These are the exact types of games you win.
Not just for the two points, mind you, but so you can also win Biz’s approval.
Best fun while it lasted
Down 2-0 and your team looks listless? Adam Foote knew it was time to smash that “Break in case of emergency” glass and re-unite your best duo.
It’s like when you play Overwatch and you’re using the stupid hamster for laughs in quick play, but then the other team makes fun of you, so you switch to your real main in Zarya.
Best signs of life
To the Canucks credit, they realized they were playing a game of competitive hockey with around five minutes left in the first period, and started producing chances:
Patrick Stewart is going to have his own take on that Lafferty attempt, but the end result is the Canucks were finally driving to the net and creating a bit of chaos, even if the shots they were getting off weren’t what you’d exactly call dangerous or menacing.
Best leading by example
All this, and it didn’t involve one single toe drag.
Best exchanging dangles is the new exchanging numbers
Matty Barzal is pretty slick with a stick as he showcased to Noah Juulsen, almost dancing around him before ultimately losing the puck at the last second:
Yes, that was Bo Horvat waiting for a rebound to pounce on, who just barely missed the puck coming loose in his direction.
Not to be outdone, Kuzmenko wanted to show the Islanders what a really fancy dangle that ends with losing the puck looks like:
Kuzmenko’s scoring is down this season, and we’ve talked about him seeming to slide into more of a facilitator role on his line with EP40 and Mikheyev, but he still deserves a lot of credit.
This is a guy who had the stereotype of having a game that wouldn’t adapt to a smaller ice surface hanging over his head in his first NHL season. That he would be nothing more than a powerplay merchant. That once Tocchet came aboard, Kuzmenko’s game wouldn’t be able to adapt. That he’d never be able to adapt to Starbucks’ holiday menu.
Yet each and every time he’s counted out, he gives his impish smile, and continues to evolve his game.
This year he wins constant board battles. He uses his body to block out defenders. His gap control has tightened considerably. And he still uses his dazzling skill to generate scoring chances.
So on a night when JT Miller, Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes get all the accolades for their three point night (and deservedly so), don’t forget that Kuzmenko is still playing pretty darn good hockey, even if it just shows up as a one assist game.
Best anxiety inducing 2 minutes
The Canucks run a powerplay like someone who just downed four red bulls to chase down the 8 coffees they had that morning.
It’s just such a vast difference from the 1960’s Soviet Union Cold War approach of repeatedly hammering away with the sickle in the bumper spot on the power play.
Now they just absolutely buzz around the ice, moving the puck with speed, saucing over passes like it’s no big deal, getting off one timers from both sides of the ice, and basically being a goalie’s worst nightmare:
Kuzmenko’s puck retrieval game is on display once again as he picks up the rebound and then skates around the net to find Elias Pettersson, who then feeds JT Miller in the Petterzone for the one timer goal.
Speaking of strict adherence to rules, last year, it felt like EP40 was assigned his side of the ice on the powerplay, and that was that. If he ever tried to leave his little section, the collar around his neck would beep and threaten to explode, such was his punishment for being framed in the Bakersfield massacre.
Yet here we stand, watching JT Miller on the other side of the ice, dropping to one knee to propose marriage to the net, and unleashing a clap bomb from Elias Pettersson’s front porch.
It’s truly a thing of beauty.
Best fueled by momentum
Good teams don’t fold. They find a a way to get back into games. I don’t know how many times I saw a Sedin or West Coast Express team have a bad period of hockey only to turn it up and take over the rest of the game, which is exactly what the Canucks are starting to do now:
I assume Peaches & Herb were running through Hughes and Hronek’s head as they got to re-unite and do their switch play along the blue line, this time resulting in Hronek being able to skate to the faceoff circle before unleashing a dangerous shot on a screened Sorokin.
This is what good teams do. They go full Animal House.
Best but wait…
There’s a lot to unpack on this one but first let’s show the Horvat goal in its entirety:
First up we have Quinn Hughes trying to be fancy along the boards, which results in a turnover. His amazing plays to bad plays ratio is stunningly in his favour, so aside from pointing out that this goal started due to Quinn Hughes, you can’t get mad at him. Besides, Quinn Hughes seems like the kind of guy that even though he was the overtime hero, he’s going to be up all night browbeating himself for turning this puck over. He will learn from this.
Then we have JT Miller at the end of a shift just sort of floating back into the play and playing defence by visualizing a Demko save into existence. He’s out of gas and hasn’t had many of these moments, so you give this a pass. At least he didn’t yell at Colin Delia at any point.
Then we have Demko letting one squeak by him. Some people told me he’d like to have that one back, to which I say goalies want every single goal back. But do we think Demko might feel it was a weak goal? I wouldn’t agree with that. He is defending a two on one situation at that point, and he’s caught moving back and forth, so I find it tough to pin blame on him for not making some random scorpion kick save out of nowhere.
The end result was Bo Horvat scored after the Canucks looked like they had all the momentum in the world.
If this was any other year from the last decade, you would have been able to head home at this point, safe in the knowledge that you didn’t have to wait around and watch the Islanders score four more goals.
But this isn’t any other year.
Best keep on keeping on
The Canucks are able to put Pettersson, Kuzmenko, Hughes, Boeser and JT Miller out on the powerplay.
This feels like a cheat code, especially when JT Miller can put more syrup on a pass than a Denny’s waiter:
I both want more money and want to showcase just how slick the sauce on this assist was, so here are two more angles:
That pass was so good that we haven’t even gotten to the ironic joy of Brock Boeser scoring from Bo Horvat’s old bumper position.
Remember the days when a lot of NHL teams were locked in to have two defencemen on the powerplay at all times? Like even if you only had one really good d-man, you’d still have Dan Keczmer trotting out there to stand and watch Al MacInnis fire shots at the net?
It’s truly been one of the more evolutionary parts of the game in hockey in recent years.
Yes, you are reading that correctly. This is an actual thing that is happening.
Best live by the high octane, die by the high octane
Despite the Canucks finding ways to get back into the game, they were still giving up dangerous chances to the Islanders.
This sloppy zone entry from Fil the Thrill (Look, I’m not happy about that nickname either, it’s blatantly ripping off Phil Kessel, but Alan Walsh keeps using the hashtag so who am I to argue) lead to a breakaway that was just barely thwarted by Elias Pettersson:
I like how EP40 is essentially playing under the assumption of being hurt, yet he’s still able to lead the league in points and make plays like this.
Which is to say, the rest of the league must be dreading his return to full health.
Best everyone doing their part
Fun fact, that tweet was about the previous penalty Dakota Joshua drew, but I get to use it here because Dakota drew a second penalty as well:
In a throwback to the Luke Schenn days, Joshua had eight hits to lead both teams, and as discussed before, when you have a powerplay like the Canucks, drawing penalties is a massive advantage:
I would apologize for putting myself in The Stanchies but you know what, this is the only way to get the video in here because it’s too large for me to insert directly into this article. And it’s damn well worth it because look at the team move that puck around. NSWF. NSWF.
As for Joshua, even when the Islander’s tried to hit him, he stood them up like Josh Allen trucking into the end zone:
The good Josh Allen. The one that doesn’t throw interceptions and give confused looking faces as his team forgets how to count to 11.
Best powered up by plays
Did the Canucks score on that powerplay Joshua drew? No, they did not:
But they still looked threatening while doing so.
This was then followed up by a couple of Teddy Blueger chances that weren’t good enough shots to make gif money off of but instead get Jane Austen level descriptions instead:
Teddy: “Mr. Sorokin. I have struggled in vain and I can bear it no longer. These past two shots have been a torment. I came to Rogers Arena with the single object of scoring on you… I had to score on you. I have fought against my better judgment, my team’s expectations, the inferiority of your team by rank and circumstance. All these things I am willing to put aside and ask you to end my agony.”
Sorokin: “I don’t understand.”
Teddy: “I love you.”
Best that just happened
I audibly said out loud “they won’t call that second trip” and was legit blown away when the officials actually called it:
Yes, that is Andrei Kuzmenko drawing not one, but two penalties on the same play.
Dakota Joshua is out here busting his ass on multiple shifts to draw penalties, while Kuzmenko just waltzes on and picks up a full 5 on 3 powerplay like it’s nothing. Shameful.
Let’s get the bad part out of the way. Andrei Kuzmenko took a JT Miller shot to the face and it looked real bad:
Anytime a player kicks their legs on the ice while covering their face, you know they are in a lot of pain.
The game was stopped and luckily Kuzmenko left the ice on his own feet, but it was not a scene for the faint of heart.
What does good mean? We will wait and find out. The fact he was smiling should be a good sign that his jaw isn’t smashed, but this is Kuzmenko we are talking about, this guy has more smiles per 60 over any other athlete in this town. He could be smiling through all of the pain. All we can do is wait to hear the official medical report later.
Best but what about the other shot
Did you order the nuclear missile?
Filip Hronek smashed the ever loving hell out of that pass from Quinn Hughes.
Just smashed it harder than if he was on season one of the Jersey Shore.
It’s so fast that the gif can’t even track it in normal time. Only by slowing it down can you kind of see it.
I cannot wait to see what Hronek asks for on his next contract.
We haven’t seen that kind of power since the Sami Salo days.
Best raising the price
Best keeping you on your toes
Oh don’t mind Thatcher, he just wants to make sure you’re still awake:
I don’t know why he did this. Nor do I care to ponder it.
All I know is that it happened. And we should do our best to forget it ever did.
Best pulse check
The Islanders did that thing where a team tries to grind out a road win by playing defensively, only to lose the lead, so they wake up and give some pushback:
Barzal was constantly creating chances that Demko had to shut down faster than Quadrelli googles my 80’s movie references.
And yes, that is Ian Cole saving the day by clearing the puck off the line. Normally we’re used to Canucks players kicking the puck into their own net, sometimes even in their debut with said team, so this truly feels like a new era.
Every time the Islanders came close, though?
Demko was there to shut the door.
No, I’m serious, he was there every single time:
I feel like there’s a possible advantage to having a top tier elite goalie on your team. I can’t quite figure out the connection yet, but I am working on it.
Best teasing the ending
The game was almost over five seconds into overtime when JT Miller broke in all alone off the faceoff:
He shot high, leading to Quinn Hughes having a chance to win it when he dangled in from the blueline:
I assume it was after these two chances that Hughes and Miller got together and thought why not combine their powers and see if they could win the game that way.
Best Hollywood ending
No big deal, just Quinn Hughes out here scoring the overtime winner on the breakway:
OK so some things to talk about.
One, I don’t know if you could write a better ending than Quinn Hughes scorign the breakaway goal in overtime with Bo Horvat on the ice watching it all play out. After blowing a two goal lead.
Two, there was a bit of a debate online when I pointed out that Bo Horvat was the guy closest to Quinn Hughes, and thus was responsible for giving up that breakaway. While it’s true Pelech and Barzal are pushing high and deep on the play, and ultimately Pelech needs to be safer with his own zone, Bo Horvat sees both his teammates playing up high, yet he still decides to curl away from Quinn. I feel like seeing Quinn Hughes going anywhere near your side of the ice should be a situation of immense alarm, but Bo curls away anyways.
And why does Bo peel off? Because JT Miller pulls the bait and switch with his own little curl play. All three Islanders fall for it, in fact, as they assume JT Miller is simply slowing things down and is about to send the puck back into his own zone, as is tradition in overtime. He lulls them into a false sense of security. But as Jamie Kennedy once tried to teach us, sometimes this isn’t actually Bob Saget’s real house.
It’s both a brilliantly executed offensive play, as well as a defensive lapse by the Islanders, and yes, very much a lapse by Bo Horvat.
All of which is to say the Vancouver Canucks earned two points in thrilling fashion at the expense of Horvat, which in sporting terms, is the best possible ending they could have come up with.
Kind of hard to feud with a guy when you win that outright, you know?
Best bang for your buck
Employee of the month.
Best update of an update
Best jersey Botch
It’s not often we see an Auld jersey, but we have on occasion had an appearance or two in The Stanchies:
This is definitely a rarer sighting, as I don’t think we’ve ever featured a Brashear jersey before:
But of course, Tryamkin always makes it in to the prime spot. We will never forget the tall Russian that they tried to Clockwork Orange into Chris Pronger:
Best what is this strange feeling
Well now they can’t change the goal song.
Hockey is back. It truly is.
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