Photo credit:© Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchies: The Vancouver Canucks are officially a wagon
3 months ago
The Canucks have been in the news for all the wrong reasons over the last decade that it’s hard to remember a time when they were an elite team.
When that 2011 core would toy with opponents, playing opponents half-heartedly until Christian Ehrhoff decided to make sweet sweet magical power play love with the Sedins, or Ryan Kesler would tip in a puck with his face or something to win the game at the last second.
And while this current 2023 Canucks squad has a long way to go to prove they are the real deal, I think we can say it:
The Vancouver Canucks are officially a wagon.
Can they lose this status at some point this season? Of course they can.
The team will invariably lose some games, have a bit of a losing streak where the Eastern Media jumps in trying to gloat, and Frankie Corrado has to sadly make a video about Canucks defensive miscues. Frank will do it, but he won’t be happy about it, because a small part of his heart is still in this city.
But until then, you know what?
Enjoy every single win.
Enjoy the wagon status.
Did the Canucks beat a tired Ottawa team that was still revelling in its victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs, despite Ryan Reaves being in the lineup? Sure did.
Have the Canucks ridden PDO like a mechanical bull this season, tossing their hat over their head like Dallas Smith on a Friday night? Damn straight.
Who cares, though?
The start of this season alone has been the most entertaining and enjoyable run in this city since 2011.
I know, I know, 2012-2013 had some high spots. But that entire season was done under the burden of trying to stay on top of the mountain, not trying to get back there. There is a huge difference between climbing out of the mud versus trying to hold off attackers from the throne in the castle.
This team honestly reminds me of the 2001 Canucks. A team that had endured a long journey of sadness and misery since losing the Cup. For the current team, they had the Decade of Benning, a time in which nothing seemed to go right. For the 2001 Canucks, they had the Mark Messier Era, shorter than the Benning Decade, but just as damaging in its own right.
The end result was two teams who finally had a season where they found their way out of the swamp of sorrows, started playing entertaining hockey, and gave fans something they had been missing for years: hope.
Not Hope that only exists to remind people they were in the Rambo movies, but ‘hope’, the thing that fuels fandom even during the darkest of times.
So sure, bring on the PDO talk about the Canucks. You want to win games by scoring five goals on sixteen shots like they did in their 5-2 win over the Senators? Have at it!
You want to talk about the Canucks having an easy schedule, running into teams playing their second of back to back games? That’s more than fair.
My only point is that the Canucks have failed in all of these circumstances for almost a decade. You name it, they found a way to lose these games.
Other team had injuries, was tired, was missing a goalie, had the plague, used the wrong emoji to their spouse on their birthday, you name the advantage, the Canucks always seemed to find a way to squander it.
So you know what, if the Canucks want to snort some PDO and get high on luck? Go for it.
The Canucks played perhaps one of their worst games of the season, and somehow they managed to get the two points. Good for them.
This team deserves a bit of fun, you know?
And you know what I deserve? To make some gif money.
Let’s do this.
Best reunited and it feels so good
It’s not quite Peaches and Herb, but seeing John Shorthouse partner up with golf buddy Ray Ferraro was music to the ears of many Canucks fans.
The shoes of John Garrett are almost impossible to fill, but if there is one guy who might have just enough
ketchup moxie to do it, it would be Ray.
It’s not that Dave Tomlinson is bad, it’s just that Ray is so good. And the chemistry between John and Ray was very apparent, leaving fans wanting more from the duo.
And yes, I’ll say what we’re all thinking: Dan Murphy’s pochette was not his best effort. Apparently he, too, is riding PDO (Pochette disappointment overload).
Best if you get down on me I’ll get down on you
The Canucks did what they’ve done for the majority of the season so far, and that’s continue to attempt to break teams in true Drago style. This time, it came in the form of scoring a goal 15 seconds into the game when the Brushin’ Brocket got his 11th goal of the season on a shot that was initially counted as a save.
But much like the game against the Oilers, the Canucks look too darn cute not to watch on the replays, wherein the league discovered the puck actually did enter the net. If that’s the ASHL, we’re all high-fiving Anton Forsberg and congratulating him on his Greg Balloch raptor-like quickness and cleverness in hiding the fact the puck went across the goal line.
Alas, the computer said no, and the Senators found out what the entire league is discovering: The Canucks will never lose a single game of hockey ever again.
Another thing to note on this play is the sublime pass from Philly Delight, as De Giuseppe picked up his first of two primary assists on the night.
Is PDG someone you would plan a deep playoff team to have in their top six? No, probably not.
But for this Canucks team, whose end goal right now is to simply make the playoffs, having a guy who makes $750,000 a year being able to compliment one of your top lines isn’t the worst thing in the world.
In fact, it’s downright enjoyable when you consider how many overpaid pieces the Canucks have tried to insert into their top six over the years, and failed miserably.
I didn’t say Loui Eriksson, you did.
Best score early, score often, then peace out for 40 minutes
The Canucks heard all that PDO chatter and thought, “why not score on every shot and see what happens”:
Ilya Mikheyev scored his fourth goal of the season mere moments into the game, as it appears giving Elias Pettersson linemates who are either very fast or have very good hands is a good thing.
One of my favourite things about the Treaty of Värälä line, aside from how many umlauts it contains, is how Kuzmenko has kind of shifted gears in his approach to the game.
Last season, when it became apparent that EP40 and AK96 were officially a couple, and that Beauvillier wasn’t exactly what you’d call a finisher and was being used more to make memes about Bo Horvat, Kuzmenko really leaned into shooting the puck and scoring goals. To the point where I jokingly (but also kind of not?) said he might score 50 this season, despite the fact his shooting percentage was unsustainably high last year.
So while his three goals this season haven’t exactly lit the world on fire, it’s his play away from the puck, and his downright determination to apparently rebuild Mikheyev’s game that has stood out.
He wins puck battles, he gets back in his own zone, and he views Ilya like Ryback; He’s just constantly feeding him the puck.
Add in Elias Pettersson basically being Gandalf the Grey on the Canucks, and I can’t think of a better rehab program in the league then playing with Elias and Kuzmenko.
All of which is to say Ilya Mikheyev is playing some fun hockey. Vancouver has seen its fair share of speedy players who can’t score, so it’s kind of nice when one of them might actually be a 20 goal scorer.
Best Pretty Dope Offence
Best signs of impending doom
The Canucks did all the right things in the first period (establishing a lead on minimal shots in an attempt to ride PDO to the finish line), but there were some cracks in the armour:
That is not a solid line change from the Vancouver Canucks. That’s the kind of line change where Rick Tocchet isn’t mad at you, he’s just disappointed.
The end result was a play in which Jacob Two Two Chychrun drew, well, two minutes of powerplay time. That’s the kind of play where even if the Canucks commit a penalty or not, the ref is going to have a real hard time not blowing a whistle when one dude jumps between two defencemen and flops to the ground.
Luckily for the Canucks, the closest Ottawa would get was the crossbar, though Casey DeSmith going low and down to the ice was a hint for things to come:
If you notice the puck bouncing all over the place in these gifs, that’s because apparently the ghosts of the Shiners’ War still inhabits the Canadian Tire Centre to this day, leading to contentious ice conditions.
Best I feel the need
The need for speed:
Obviously, the best part about Mikheyev’s start to the season, aside from his 8 points, is the fact that he most likely isn’t even up to full speed yet. His ACL surgery is something that usually takes most athletes a while to fully recover from, so clearly everyone is excited about the possibility he hasn’t even raced his perfect lap yet.
Also some things to note in this gif:
1- Andrei Kuzemnko sees a clearing attempt coming along the boards and he reaches out to tip it upwards, changing the trajectory of the puck, helping it get by Senators defenceman Artem Zub. This sort of active engagement on the puck, whether it’s on the defensive side of things, or the offensive side of things, has been very noticeable this season.
2- Ilya Mikheyev has fast feet but he also has fast hands. His ability to track down that puck, steal it, then turn it into a breakaway is what makes him a top six player for this team.
3- Like all Russians, Mikheyev pays homage to Alex Mogilny by thinking five-hole first on any breakaway.
Best tastes like PDO, on a winter evenin’
Despite this not being the sort of game you’d show highlights to the family at Christmas, there were still moments where you could showcase the new structure under Tocchet. And as we pointed out earlier, one of them is simply making life harder on the opponent by having an active stick.
On this play Ian Cole harasses the puck carrier and then Dakota Joshua makes sure to close the gap and get a stick on a pass attempt across the rail, deflecting it out of play:
That’s the sort of play this team doesn’t make last year, and is one of the reasons that despite the PDO sugar high, you do get the feeling the Canucks might have a solid squad on their hands this season.
Now, let’s use a TemPad and fast forward to the third period to another rather innocuous looking play from Tyler Myers:
That’s the Chaos Giraffe being rather, well, pedestrian.
Which honestly, is fantastic. If his offensive game is starting to decline, the only way to salvage value of that contract is to lean into his size and wingspan and make him a reliable presence on the blueline.
The last five games have seen Tyler Myers play a solid, if unspectacular game, which is great for him.
Remember last year where it felt like the world’s cruellest contest between OEL and Myers, with both men seemingly trying to turn over the puck and manage their gap control the worst?
Whatever the reason is this season, after a rocky start, Tyler Myers has simplified his game and is now making plays like the one above, where he’s using his long reach to his advantage, and isn’t roaming out of position. It feels like he’s no longer chasing the play and is instead letting the game come to him.
And after watching OEL kind of find his game again in Florida this season, it honestly makes you wonder if having top defenceman in Adam Foote and Sergei Gonchar on the coaching staff is starting to make an impact.
Best challenge extended
Sometimes you just have to challenge a man to a spin off:
Sadly, neither Conor Garland nor Quinn Hughes took him up on this challenge.
Best of God’s Plan
All Ian Cole can do is live off of prayers and hopes like he’s on the Taylor Swift ticket waiting list as he watches Drake Batherson dance on by him:
You know what, sometimes you have to tip your hat to the other team, so that’s what I’m going to do here.
Yes, Ian Cole misplayed that puck and then let Drake get by him. But to his credit, he has been remarkably solid this year, so this isn’t a case of us rolling our eyes and wondering why that happened for the fourth time this game.
Likewise, Casey DeSmith could have played that better instead of going full Felix Potvin and shrinking himself into a tiny little box, but my word, that is a slick slick move from Batherson, and an incredible finish on that goal.
Sometimes they wishin’ and wishin’ and wishin’ and wishin’ bad things on Drake, but he still comes through, you know?
Best New Age Outlaws
Oh you didn’t know?
Quinn Hughes and Filip Hronek are gaining chemistry with each other more and more every game, so your ass better call somebody!
One of the major things that has stood out to me has been Quinn Hughes and Hronek running the switch along the blueline, but not in a Will Smith way, but in an actually enjoyable way.
Most of the time, it’s Quinn with the puck, but we’re seeing Hronek start to lean into it as well, where one defender moves across the blueline and switches with his partner, creating open ice for the other one by drawing in defenders and sending a nice pass over the other way:
On this play, you see Hronek initiate the switch, and as both Senators forwards close in on Fil, thirsty for that sweet pressure-leading-into-a-turnover scenario, they instead watch as #17 deftly flips a backhand pass to Quinn Hughes.
Last year’s Quinn Hughes might have just shot it on net, but this year’s Quinn, powered by the “C”, instead pushes into the zone to try and create even more of an open look for himself or a teammate. To Ottawa’s credit, they defend against Hughes on this attempt very well, so Quinn instead passes the puck back to Hronek for the one-timer into traffic.
This is the sort of play we are seeing more and more of from Hronek and Hughes and really underscores the fact that while Luke Schenn was an absolute darling to watch play with Quinn, he is quite simply no match for the level of hockey that you can get when you pair someone who has a high offensive skillset with Hughes.
Which amusingly enough led to the intermission panel talking about this “new age” concept (hence the New Age Outlaws, for those following at home) of no longer having to pair your smaller skilled d-man with a giant oaf of a man.
This is why when certain people moaned about having a team that deployed both Troy Stecher and Quinn Hughes you just kind of shook your head. Was a world in which Travis Hamonic patrolled your blue line better simply because he broke the 6″ barrier? No, clearly, it was not.
Size and skill are clearly important come playoff time, but give me skill all day every day over someone who only packs size in their travel bag.
Speaking of skill, Quinn Hughes’ ability to create zone exits at will remains one of the most enjoyable parts of this season:
Much like Pirlo, his own teammates know there are two options they have with the puck: Keep the puck for themselves, or give it to Quinn Hughes.
For 95% of the players, the best option is to simply give the puck to Hughes because he will find a way to escort that puck to safety like he’s pushing for a win on Route 66.
And speaking of skill, even when the New Age Outlaws mishandled the puck and turned it over, they were immediately back in the play, chasing down the puck, and in most cases, getting the puck back with ease:
Now I know the question you’re all asking is who will be the first people Hughes and Hronek stuff into a dumpster and shove off of a stage, and to be honest, I’m not quite sure yet.
Best the one that got away
Sometimes the 2023 Canucks don’t get a bounce to go their way. No, I swear, it’s true:
Elias Pettersson’s terrible, horrible, no good very bad day continued when he deflected a puck past noted high danger save percentage hater Casey DeSmith.
In Pettersson’s credit, all he does is find ways to put the puck in the net, so it’s not really his fault his instincts kicked in here.
My favourite part about this goal wasn’t the fact the Canucks had 7 shots, or the fact Ottawa had now tied the game up, it was that the Vancouver fan base wasn’t alarmed or angry over it.
Sure, we joke about PDO and sustainability, but the fan base is pretty on board with the knowledge that this gravy train isn’t going to last forever. This fan base, more than any other person or group, is emotionally invested to see what happens when things don’t go the Canucks way.
So sure, the game was tied 2-2, but most of the people watching this game were really intrigued to see how this one was going to play out.
Best bang for your buck
Who needs to hand a 36-year-old a three year contract when you can just find younger people who do it cheaper:
The Senators got dinged two minutes for retaliating against Dakota, leading to a Canucks powerplay.
Which in the past has meant a mesmerizing display of puck movement and offensive chances.
But in the PDO Bowl, it meant giving the Senators two prime scoring chances.
The first was handed to Matty Two Shoes Highmore when DeSmith tried to make a viral moment by giving himself a chance to dive for a save:
Alas, Highmore was unable to shoot the puck, as is his way.
Up next was Elias Pettersson’s no good, bad, etc day continuing when he bobbled the puck and then made a no look pass to the Ottawa Senators:
Fortunately for Vancouver, much like Ryan Reynolds’ interest in purchasing the Senators, this chance goes nowhere as DeSmith makes a very timely save.
Best I PDO the fool
Not for the Canucks, mind you, but the Senators.
When you miss an open net like Brady Tkachuk does here, you just know the Hockey Gods are salivating and rubbing their hands gleefully together as they plan the next goal for the Canucks.
Best what did I tell you
Again, you miss that empty net tap in, PDO or not, you’re going to have to suffer:
Don’t let Ian Cole’s brilliant pass get lost in the bar down glory of JT Miller’s shot.
Ian Cole not only shuts down a zone entry, but he turns the puck back against the flow of play, allowing PDG to drive to the net, creating some room for JT Miller.
You know who used to do this type of play all the time?
Todd Bertuzzi and Markus Naslund.
Relax, I’m not calling PDG or Miller either of those two, but the concept of one guy charging the net and taking someone with him before dishing off to the trailer to unleash their wicked shot is Bertuzzi-Naslund hockey 101.
PDO or not, the Canucks are utilizing some very smart hockey plays which is why even when the lucky streak ends, you’re kind of sort of optimistic this team isn’t going to collapse their season.
Best history repeats itself
Best the crowd is fickle, brother
To the Senators’ credit, it’s hard to be loud when the home team’s best play in the third period is a Quinn Hughes turnover that he immediately gets back:
Hughes doesn’t just do the 2019 JT Miller and look into the distance, pondering if he should buy a boat as his check skates in for a breakaway.
No, Hughes chases Claude Giroux’s stunt double Rourke Chartier down, gets the puck back with ease, and then helps create yet another zone exit.
Best offensive outburst
There was a time when this was going to be the gif I was going to have to use to put my kids through college:
That point shot right there was the most action we saw for half a period in the third.
The PDO lifestyle ain’t for everyone.
Best bang for you buck
But who needs shots when you can score on every 5th shot you take in the game??
Yes, even during Pettersson’s worst game he can still pile up points and have big moments. His shot is deftly deflected in by Ilya Mikheyev who I have to assume is a big Ibrahimovic fan:
The fact he makes a kicking motion AFTER the puck has deflected off of his skates is a real chef’s kiss, salt in the wounds type situation here.
At this point I assumed Ottawa fans were in a state of shock, but this is a city that survived a fight over vexillology in 1965, so this was probably a mere speedbump in comparison.
Best here comes the boom
The Canucks lone power play goal of the game? A two second rocket straight to the moon from Elias Pettersson:
I don’t know what else to say about that.
That’s just nasty.
Imagine if even on your worst day at work, you could do that.
That’s why you pay the man his money and let him splash the pot whenever he feels like it.
Before every third period at home, the Canucks have been pumping this into Rogers Arena.
Is White Lotus the true power behind the PDO? In this essay I will-
Best scientific summary
Points are points. End of the day, it’s that simple.
It’s why Dan Russel would always remind me on the radio that losing two points in October counts as much as it does in April.
If the Canucks continue to go on a heater and pile up points, it would take a monumental collapse to miss the playoffs.
Which of course, could happen. This is Vancouver we’re talking about, after all.
But I am going to go back and tap the sign and just remind everyone to have fun with this run, because damn it, you deserve it.
Best simple question, simple answer
Best Simpsons reference
As of the time of this article, the Sharks lead 2-1 after two periods.
Quadrelli might provide an editor update.
Editor’s note: 3-2 FINAL HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
Best fight of the night
So this is what it looks like when an NDA expires.
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