The Stanchies: Vancouver Canucks coming into form as Stanley Cup playoffs near

Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
13 days ago
The Canucks inched ever so close to clinching the Pacific Division with a solid 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night.
Did the Oilers have Connor McDavid in the lineup? No, because he fears the one true Conor in Vancouver, a man who doesn’t have a complex that requires him to double down on the number of consonants in his name.
As a result, there was certainly less firepower on display from Edmonton’s side of things.
Instead of watching Leon Draisaitl dominate the ice, it was Just Leon, the guy who you think might work at Subway?
Instead of Zach Hyman sniping out the lights, it was Just Zach, someone you think you might have gone to high school with.
And instead of Evander Kane getting pissy and throwing equal part hits and tantrums on the ice…well, ok, some things never change.
The point is, even without McDavid in the lineup, you have to assume this was an important game for the Oilers. They had worked so hard to get back into the race for the division title, it would surely be nice to complete that glorious comeback, especially at the expense of Vancouver.
This was also a revenge game of sorts for the Edmonton Oilers, who hadn’t seen Vancouver since November, back when Vancouver kicked the shit out of them so badly that they had to reflect on all the mistakes they made in their lives that had brought them to that point.
And to the Oilers’ credit, they started the game off strong, looking like the better team throughout the first 20 minutes. It’s just Casey DeSmith decided to body the Edmonton Oilers, shutting them down for the majority of the night. It was Casey’s best start in weeks, if not months, as he looked sharp and in control the entire night. He had that bored swagger goalies get when they know they’re in the zone, where when they stop the puck they almost feel insulted by the shot taken on them.
“That was the shot? That’s what you thought was going to beat me? Wow.”
The icing on the cake from Vancouver’s side of things? Secondary scoring, a problem during the second half of the season, produced the three goals for Vancouver. No JT Miller. No Elias Pettersson. No Brock Boeser. No Quinn Hughes. In fact, aside from a secondary assist from Jimothy Timothy on the first goal, the Canucks’ top five scorers didn’t factor into the scoresheet.
So the quick summary is the Edmonton Oilers all wanted to go out and party, but Casey quietly reminded them they have school the next day, so they should go home and get some rest.
The long summary involves a variety of gifs, movie references, and two random quotes from the Stephen King thriller Misery.
Now, if any team can find a way to choke away a division title that merely needs one point to crown them the champs, it would be Vancouver. This is sort of their specialty, they excel in finding new and unique ways to torture themselves.
It’s something Markus Naslund almost made into a global brand back in 2003, when those plucky Canucks were one point away from being crowned Division Champs for the first time in over a decade. A blown 3-1 lead against Phoenix the game before meant they just needed to get one point in their final game against an LA Kings, a team that had already been eliminated from playoff contention.
But everyone knows the second you turn your back on Mikko Eloranta, that’s when he’s going to drop you with his fifth goal of the season, much like he did back in 2003. And everyone knows that Jamie Storr turns into Dom Hasek when closing out a losing season, it’s just science at this point.
So while the loss was likely out of their hands due to the superstars waiting for them on the other side of that fateful last game of the season, there will always be that thought in the back of your mind “How will Vancouver mess this up?” It just sort of comes with the territory of watching a team that has never won a Stanley Cup and seems really into degradation kinks.
But to Rick Tocchet’s credit, those voices that tell you everything is going to fail? That face in the mirror pointing and laughing at you for daring to dream the Canucks might have a bit of a run in them? They seem more muted lately. Call it a side effect of the Tocchet Structure, but it feels like Vancouver has more control over things than they have in the past. That failure isn’t just waiting around the corner waiting to jump out at you.
And while no one is bold enough to assume a long playoff run is incoming, there has been a quiet joy about the stability of the team that has put up 107 points so far.
The only thing left to do is watch it play out over the last two games and see where this season takes us next.
Best when you own a piano it’s harder to think about moving
I know curmudgeonly JT Miller takes a lot of penalties, but show me a guy who gets more value out of his trips to the sin bin than this dirty birdy:
He knows his getting called for the trip, so why not toss an angry shove onto the pile?
And he’s smart enough to not go too far with it. Like, he’s not out here drop-kicking Vincent Desharnais in the shins and waving in The Rock to come get the three count.
He knows he can get away with an angry, sullen shove as long as he keeps the power to an “angry 12-year-old mad someone took their video games away” level.
Best goaltending does not cause misery, it is born of misery
Edmonton got the memo pretty early on that Casey DeSmith wasn’t tending the nets like your kid brother/sister took the controller and wanted to show you how good they’ve gotten at manual goalie. Any chance Edmonton got in the first period, Casey was making the saves and looking cool and calm doing so:
We’re not allowed to use cigarettes in the mouth to showcase someone’s unflappable nature, and a toothpick seems like a dangerous substitute even in a metaphor, so let it be known that DeSmith had a fantastic night in terms of looking in control. He wasn’t sliding across his crease like a maniac. He wasn’t spinning in circles, flailing his glove and blocker while screaming just loud enough to be heard on the mics. He looked like a guy confidently tracking the puck, trusting his defence, and making the saves he needed to.
Oilers crash the net on the powerplay? No problem. DeSmith gets low and wide to take away the bottom of the net:
3-1 victory aside, this game could have been a very different story if Casey didn’t shut down the Oilers quicker than the Coquitlam Express crash out of the playoffs every year:
JT Miller gets out-worked, the Oilers crash the net, but DeSmith tracks the puck, takes away the bottom of the net, then stretches out to take away the rebound.
The Canucks were the worst team in that first frame, and were it not for DeSmith going full Monstar and stealing a star goalies power for this game, they could have been down a couple of goals easy.
Best Only a silly person would try to start a good work with a bad tool
This is one of those plays where you don’t realize who shot the puck at first, but when you see it’s Ilya Mikheyev it all makes sense:
Like, that’s a fantastic bit of spade work from Teddy KGB Blueger on this shift. He even does the over the top dramatic fall to really sell the moment.
But Ilya Mikheyev doesn’t shoot the puck with lasers, he instead choose muffins. If there is ever a situation in which he must forcefully direct a puck on net, you will see his hand reach out instinctively for those banana chocolate chip muffins you baked this morning.
And even when he gets a good shot on net in a good situation, it feels like he won’t score a goal due to some unknown slight of the hockey gods. No one knows what he did to anger them (double parked for longer than five minutes is my guess), but he’s clearly done something that will not allow him to score until that debt is settled.
For posterity sake, the Canucks did end the period by turning the tide of play the other way. Daktoa Joshua gets a nice drop pass from Corolla Garland and fires it just wide:
I included this gif so that five years from now, when you think to yourself, “Man, how did game 79 go in 2024? I wish I knew the flow of that game from the drop of the puck to the final whistle.” we have you covered.
A box score is fine and dandy, but nowhere else will you find a clip of Dakota Joshua firing the puck just wide of the net in a 0-0 game at the end of the season.
This is why we’re the best.
Best so you think Sam Lafferty is a clown, do you?
The Canucks ended the period when Stuart Skinner went full Artus Silovs on his positioning:
Any time you can square up to the boards and push over to your left as much as possible, you take it, that’s just goaltending 101. You give that entire right side of the net so that when you save the shot, you absolutely crush the spirit of the guy who took the shot.
Imagine skating down Robson street, looking a goalie dead in the eyes before realizing he’s 20 feet out of his net, only for him to still make the save? That’s the sort of thing that can ruin a guys confidence for life. Stuart Skinner wasn’t trying to deny Sam Lafferty a goal, he was trying to take away his career.
Unfortunately bold plays have bold consequences, as you need to make the save to put that plan into action.
Instead, Lafferty skates in and picks the corner of the net, and it’s 1-0 for the good guys.
Best can’t have it all
The Canucks power play remains a work in progress, much like my declaration of doing household chores in a timely manner.
Which is why instead of showing you a clip of the Canucks generating chances with ease on the powerplay, instead the main highlight is Corey Perry kind of, maybe, getting a scoring chance:
All things considered, Corey comes pretty close to pulling off the bank shot from behind the net. 2011 Hart Trophy-stealing thief Corey Perry pulls that off.
2024 Corey Perry is just happy social media wasn’t as big back in 2011.
Best Flow
Much like the end of the first period, the Canucks were starting to generate more looks at Stuart Skinner as the game wore on, and Brock Boeser? Yeah, he can go full Reinhardt when he needs to:
Pius Suter swings at the puck and can’t pop in the rebound, but you know what? Pew Pew isn’t about that garbage lifestyle. Pew Pew is about one thing and one thing only, and that’s deft tipping.
Best deft tipping
Ask any waiter in Vancouver and I would bet they’d all agree: Pius Suter is the best tipper on the team:
That might be the deftest tip we have seen on the season. It’s so deft it has it’s own area code. Tyler Myers glances over his shoulder and he knows right away he’s saucing this in for the tip shot and nothing else.
Now we all know tip goals are naughty by nature, so it’s no surprise Suter is down with O.P.P.
O is for other. P is for people scratchin’ temple.
The last P…well…that’s not that simple.
It’s sorta like another way to call a henchman for Oberon.
It’s five little letter’s that are missin’ here.
There’s no room for relationship there’s just room to tip it
How many brothers out there know just what I’m gettin’ at
Who thinks it’s wrong ‘cos I’m splittin’ and co-hittin’ at
Well if you do, that’s OPP and you’re not down with it
But if you don’t, here’s your membership
You down with other people’s pucks? Yeah you know me.
Best Boom Shacka Lacka
Apparently Evander Kane doesn’t enjoy being hit by Carson Soucy?
Not to defend Carson here, as he doesn’t need my help, but he doesn’t go full Mike Matheson on this hit.
Yes, his arm sweeps back slightly after landing the hit, but he doesn’t follow through like he’s trying to chokeslam someone to win a casket match. He does a small sweep and then Evander Kane grabs a hold of his waist as they awkwardly dance and tumble to the ice.
Essentially it’s a hit Evander Kane throws all the time, he’s just mad that it happened to him this time.
Best no bang for your buck
Filip Hronek has played with an angry edge the last month, which we all assumed was due to him gearing up for the playoffs. His beard looks a little bit longer, and his eyes glare just a bit harder in any scrum around the net.
When it comes to winning 50/50 battles for the puck, though? That’s just not really his bag.
He’s very good at many aspects of hockey. Having the offensive instinct to play with Quinn Hughes the way he does is something nobody else on the team has. His skating is good, and he is very skilled at passing the puck, especially when making zone exits. Small smart passes are absolutely his bag. He’s also right handed, which as a defenceman in the NHL puts you in a very good supply and demand situation.
But yeah, when he runs the numbers and sees a situation where he and another guy have to bang and crash for that puck? He’s out:
In his defence, a lot of times, he makes smart plays that can cover for his lack of wanting to fang and bang like Gangrel in his prime. He will either cut off passing lanes, or make efficient stick checks, to try and offset the fact he doesn’t want to go to pound town with the other team.
When his other skills fail him, however, it can lead to visually ugly plays like this. Nothing gets a Canadian angrier than watching a goal scored against their team due to a lack of physicality. I’ve seen fist fights break out at Tim Horton’s over this very topic.
So when Hronek gets beaten to the puck and the end result is Evander Kane gets to enjoy a moment of happiness, it is deeply unsettling.
And sure, that’s a deft tip, as they all are. Even if it flirts with being a high one, it’s still deft as hell.
But it’s also a shot on net that came as a result of a lack of physical battle, which is never going to be welcomed with open arms in Vancouver.
Best Norris winning defenceman
There is a bell curve of excitement on defence that has a Juolevi stretch pass at one end and a Quinn Hughes zone exit on the other end of it.
In the middle is all the goals, assists, fights, etc, what have you.
But on the far left is a Juolevi stretch pass. It happens. You remark that it happens. You might comment how nice it was, but you just go about your day with a calm and stable heart rate.
On the far right is a Quinn Hughes zone exit. It happens. You remark that it happens. You might comment how nice it was, but you just go about your day with a calm and stable hear rate.
Such is the power of Quinn Hughes’ that we can all just sort of sit back and take his ability to exit the zone with the puck for granted:
Quinn Hughes’ ability to not only generate zone exits but also turn half of those into zone entries with possession is truly next level stuff. He just essentially beat three Oilers on that play, casually back heeled the puck to himself at one point, and got the puck out of the zone without breaking a sweat.
We talked about how one play from Hronek led to a shot on net that turned into a goal, and well, that’s kind of how hockey can work. In the small sample size of the playoffs, sometimes those random wandering shots on net find their way past your goalie. Which is why Quinn Hughes’ ability to retrieve the puck and exit the zone with it at such a high rate is the single most valuable weapon this Canucks team possesses.
Speaking of possession, that’s why Quinn Hughes leads the league in having the puck on his stick by a wide margin. Remember our good friend Fil? Well, there’s a reason Hronek plays so well with Quinn, and it’s because he’s skilled enough to make passes in tight quarters, and smart enough to know that getting the puck to Quinn as soon as possible is always the best play.
Watch any game this season, and you will see a team that is constantly looking to get Quinn Hughes the puck because they know, and Quinn knows, and the other team knows, that this is the best play Vancouver can make.
And even with knowing that, other teams can’t stop him from doing what he wants.
Quinn Hughes wins the Norris this year and frankly, it’s not even close.
Best reliable ride
Corolla Garland knows that there are going to be bumps along the road:
But he also knows he needs to keep on motoring. You think a Ferrari could handle taking a shot like that? I don’t think so.
This is also a prime example of the superiority of staying on your feet and not going full Sex Giraffe.
If that’s Tyler Myers, he might go all out sliding trying to block that shot, which often leads to him sliding out of frame and into space.
Garland? He drops to a knee and after blocking the Darnell Nurse shot is already up and skating to chase down the puck.
That is what makes him a reliable ride.
That is what makes him a Corolla.
Best tricksy little hobbits
The Sedins long-bomb play lives in infamy in Vancouver, and the Canucks continue to use it to this day. And as Jeff notes, it’s best when used sparingly, so as to catch the other team off guard:
Brock retrieves the dump in, pulls up to find Nikita Zadorov, who sends in the searching shot to Pius Suter, whose eyes practically light up at the chance to get down with O.P.P.
Best choose your own adventure
Being a Chaos Giraffe means you have to make choices in life.
Do you play the puck and just shove it back in offside?
Or do you retreat and skate as last man back towards your own zone and potentially lose the puck to a surly Evander Kane?
Sometimes less is more in hockey, and honestly, I wish Tyler Myers just pushed that puck back in offside.
I know intentional offsides create a faceoff in your own zone, but bobbling the puck at the blueline and pushing the puck back in, the refs will most likely give you the benefit of the doubt. You just have to convince them that you really tried to keep it onside, but gosh darn it, would you look at that, the puck just came outside the zone.
But as someone pointed out to me on social media, that would mean the Chaos Giraffe wasn’t being a chaotic giraffe, so who am I to ask a tiger to change their spots.
Best cashing in the PP
The Canucks got a penalty halfway through the third, and while it didn’t score, it at least got a good look on net?
JT Miller sends it down low to Garland, who tries the Sedin special down low by spinning and pulling the puck to the crease, which almost leads to Boeser swiping it in.
Again, I included this so when ten years from now and you’re having a huge debate with your friend about game 79 in 2024, you can settle the bet by pulling up this article and showing that you were in fact right and it was Garland who almost scored on a down low play on the powerplay.
Best thin line
Playing defensive hockey and going into survival mode is a very thin line in the NHL, but I think Travis Green really soured this market on either one.
The proof is there. Under Rick Tocchet, the Canucks have done a very good job defending leads.
It’s just Travis Green hammered how hard it is to win games in this league as his teams blew lead after lead playing “defensive” hockey, so sometimes people still feel uncomfortable watching third periods play out in this city.
And honestly? The Oilers best chance to tie the game was a hurried shot from the slot that DeSmith handled easily:
The main highlight of this play was Zadorov busting out the ol’ drive by chicken wing that sent Zach Hyman flying to the ice. I would accuse Hyman of embellishment but this is the Russian Andre the Giant, and I assume if he were to elbow me in such a manner I would probably get booted into the air and end up in the crowd.
Best season sweep
How effective was the Canucks’ defending? They scored literally the second Stuart Skinner got to the bench for the extra man:
Dakota Joshua ended the night for the Oilers to the sounds of what sounded like an awful lot of Vancouver Canucks fans in Edmonton.
Two games left. One point. One division crown.
This might be a tough league to win games in, but something tells me the Canucks aren’t too worried about it.
Best secondary sources
Best I believe you have my revenge game
Best nothing to see here
I won’t dive too deep into having to listen to the Edmonton team every time the Canucks play them on Saturday, all I will say it was interesting how a huge Tyler Myers hit was completely ignored on this play.
Best jersey Botch
Not quite an esoteric jersey, but still an item worth showcasing.
Mostly because I’m unsure how this shirt didn’t just burst into flames the second it touched human flesh, unleashing an inhuman scream, before a demon visibly shot out of the image of Mark Messier, clutching at wads of dollar bills as it floated back to whatever hell it came from.

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