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The Stanchies: Vancouver Canucks win dance off with Detroit to the score of 4-1

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
4 months ago
We’ve talked a lot about how things matter this season. How a team competing for the playoffs, how a team with aspirations above being an organization that can lose better than the Coyotes, it just adds an extra layer of importance to everything.
Too often in the past, Vancouver has been in the position where the Detroit Red Wings found themselves on February 10th after Jake Walman busted out the griddy after an overtime win over the Canucks.
Detroit was suddenly in the spotlight, which can be fun for a team known more for losing! It adds zest to their future matchups with the Canucks and makes the games feel a little bit more important than they normally would. People are talking about something that happened on the ice instead of the standings, which is refreshing!
The problem with these types of games is that for a losing team, they represent the high point of the season. There is no playoff run incoming. There is nothing that matters to look forward to. You simply have to try and enjoy that fleeting moment when the game felt relevant, desperately trying to ignore the futility of your situation.
It’s like having a fun moment at lunch during work before the sobering reality of going home to your crumbling marriage hits you full force.
But when your team is winning like the Vancouver Canucks are, these pissing contests become a real quest for dominance moment. It’s not just the fact the Canucks got revenge on Detroit, beating them 4-1, beating up Jake Walman in the process, and Zadorov dropping the revenge dance we all hoped and dreamed for.
No, it was the fact the Canucks did it en route to one of their best seasons ever.
See, it’s not just beating Detroit that mattered. It was the fact it was another stepping stone to the Canucks’ first real playoff run experience since 2015 (bubble run not included because empty arena playoffs don’t deserve to be spoken of).
Think about it, anytime the Canucks had one of these moments in the past decade, where they beat a top team or came out on top in a grudge match, there was always that empty feeling a few days later. Sure, you got the ol’ moral victory, but to what end? Without the playoffs in sight, those moments are empty calories. At the end of the day, your team couldn’t punch their ticket to the dance, and there is no way to paint that season as a success in any way.
Which is why this season, these types of games are so much fun. You can hear it in the crowd, there is actual pride in the fan base as they mocked Detroit Thursday night. The joy the crowd took in Thatcher Demko trying to score on an empty net bordered on giddy.
It’s hard to make fun of a team when you’re at the bottom of the league, but when you’re at the top of the table? Well, there’s a reason the DJ played karaoke’s greatest hits to ride out the third period.
That clip of Zadorov we’re going to get to? It’s going be a top viral moment of the season. If he wasn’t already beloved by this fan base for how he stands up for his teammates, he’s surely cemented himself in the hearts of Canucks fans everywhere for doing a little dance on the ice to mock the Wings.
Everything just matters now, and as a result, hockey hasn’t felt this fun in Vancouver in ages.
And again. This could all go away next season. Off-season contracts, players not playing at the same level, roster changes, etc. We all get that. Believe me, we do.
But for one glorious season?
Holy shit, is it fun to watch Vancouver Canucks hockey right now.
Best punching up
Vancouver hasn’t been this nervous about an injury to the third line since Manny Malhotra went down with a devastating injury after a puck hit him in the eye. And while hurting your hand won’t have the same career ramifications Manny’s injury had, the idea of a butterfly effect is certainly hanging nervously around the Canucks fan base.
What if the third line loses all its power when one of them is out?
What if Boeser and Miller are asked to, and prepare yourself for this one, play smart, defensive, and reliable hockey while also producing offence?
What if they have to ride Elias Pettersson even harder, and it ripples down the lineup on a long playoff run, causing players to be overworked, before eventually too many injuries pile up and somehow Tim Thomas comes out of retirement to lead Boston to a Stanley Cup over Vancouver again? WHAT IF?
It’s a lot to take in. It really is.
If ever there was a test for Corolla Garland, however, it would be this one. Earlier on in the season, he was the true engine of the line, and probably always will be to an extent. But as the season wore on, it became clear that all three players cemented their chemistry together, learning how each other worked, until they turned into, without question, the best third line in the league, and for long stretches of time, the best line on the Canucks.
And if we’re being honest with each other, if you want to try and force in hastily put-together West Coast Express metaphors, it felt like Dakota’s power drives to the net and big hits along the boards truly brought that dash of Todd Bertuzzi to the line, minus that franchise-altering whole blood debt thing on an opposing player.
The good news is, again, that it’s just a hand injury. This is something I used to say before Tanner Pearson taught us that even that injury is enough to create nightmare scenarios in your head. If there is one fan base that is dialled into the idea that the hockey gods hate you and never want you to experience the happiness of any kind, it would be this one.
As my therapist often reminds me, though, doom forecasting about things out of our control is a slippery slope into drinking alone until 2am in the morning, tweeting wistfully about the good old days when video games actually meant something, before diving into fun facts about how Super Mario 2 was just a reskinned version of Doki Doki Panic.
So with that said, the only thing we can do is remind ourselves that this is what Garland was built for; nay, made for.
The fuel gauge is low, the window doesn’t go down anymore, and that check engine light is flickering on. And despite all of that, we still know there is one guy who will get you where you need to go…and his name is Corolla.
Best new look?
Ilya Mikheyev took the place of Dakota Joshua, and that is about as opposite a player as I could imagine joining that line.
To Ilya’s credit, he is sound defensively; it’s just since the knee injury, we haven’t seen his vaunted speed, and he’s never been particularly blessed with a good finishing touch; he’s the contractor that shows up to redo your deck and just leaves the wood in your back yard for a few months before you find out on Instagram that he signed with another team.
And while the top six did most of the carrying on offence on the night (I know, I’m weirded out by that as well), the new look line had its moments:
And hey, that’s a solid play. They get a zone entry, get a shot on the net, and force a faceoff; that’s solid third-line work.
The problem is this line set the bar ridiculously high, so even on a night in which they were perfectly fine, heck, even better than fine for a normal third line, it pales in comparison to the elite results they were generating before. It’s like when you dress up for a date and you wear a nice pair of jeans and your best hoodie but then you get to the restaurant and you realize you probably should have done better.
All of which is to say, get well soon Dakota.
Best comeback player of the year
Within the NHL, there exists the real-life equivalent of the “I can fix him” scenario some people find themselves in.
That sure, the person has a terrible track record in dating, and their life seems to be falling apart at the seams, but maybe, just maybe, you’re the person who can turn their life around. You, and only you, can unlock their vast hidden potential and turn this person into the superior human they were always meant to be if you just show them enough love.
Inevitably, it plays out like Tobias assuring you that it might work for us, but that dream of unlocking the potential of former first-rounders is its own economy in the NHL. It’s the reason why when you see a former high draft pick get traded, invariably, you will hear someone go, “Well, you know he was drafted in the first round,” as if that holds weight. Which it does in the NHL, it truly does. If you want to double that effect, watch when it’s a former first round right-shot defenceman.
You want to see a hockey man get all riled up? Tell him a tall, former first round pick defenceman is available and they will have to fidget with their pants as they try and find a way to sit down as quickly as possible. It’s the NHL’s equivalent of an attractive cousin walking by in Shelbyville.
Luca Sbisa? First round.
Erik Gudbranson? First round.
Michael Del Zotto? First round.
Derrick Pouliot? First round.
Luke Schenn? First round.
Tyler Myers? First round.
Now, most of the time, this plays out with expected results. If a player hasn’t figured out how to be a top player by the time they’re in their mid-20s, the odds are they are what they are.
But every once in a while, you get the Luke Schenns out there, the players that find a way to avoid having to live up to their draft position and instead carve out a solid NHL career being a serviceable defenceman.
Which is where we kind of find Noah Juulsen. And to be fair to all involved, it is a small sample size. Anyone claiming victory or saying this kid is destined to be in the top four would be rushing to a conclusion as fast as I did in declaring him unfit to play in the NHL earlier in the season.
What we can all admit, however, is that he is playing fantastic, reliable defence at a time when they need it most. Carson Soucy, their normal source of “Hey, that’s what Tanev used to do,” has now quickly shifted to Noah Juulsen, which is amazing when you consider how Noah was playing at the start of the season. Instead of cringing when he jumps onto the ice, you find yourself making some lunch because you know he’s not going to get scored on. He’s become the snack break defenceman on the team.
If you want to give the credit to the coaching staff or the player himself, or some mix of the two, the fact remains he provides safe, reliable, controlled hockey for the Canucks right now:
He’s not a gifted skater, so he knows he can’t be caught out of position. He can’t skate his way out of mistakes like a young Bret Hedican.
Instead, he is very smart with blocking shooting lanes, minimizing his movement, ensuring he has an active stick, and, I cannot stress this enough, he makes sure when he tries to block shots or passes, he drops to a knee and gets back into the play quickly.
He’s not diving to block a shot. He’s not slip-and-sliding on odd-man rushes. He’s instead keeping in control and making the smart, efficient play, to the point where he’s shimmying away from a forechecker before making a smart efficient pass to an open teammate to aid in a zone exit.
He’s not going to blow you away with top-end plays, but he’s also very rarely appearing in a “wtf did I just watch” moment either.
Now add in a player that is big and can hit the other team without putting himself out of position?
Yeah, I’d say that Juulsen is well on his way to graduating from the Luke Schenn school of hard knocks.
Best top six sitch
When your top third line is out, you know your top six has to step up, which is what JT Miller and friends did on the night.
Early in the game, Pew Pew Suter provided the forecheck that led to a JT Miller pass right to Boeser for a dangerous shot:
Was JT Miller grinning because Brock didn’t score? I’m not saying he did, but his addiction to watching Boeser not score has reached worrying levels this season.
The good news for this line is that Jimothy Timothy was gifted the ultimate pizza mere moments later:
Now let’s be clear here, Jeff Petry made an awful pass on this play.
But, we have to give Pius Suter credit for pursuing Petry and making that pass more difficult than it needed to be. This isn’t Jeff Tambellini’s level of hustle where Suter is all up in Jeff’s grill, screaming about how he’s the fastest kid alive. But it is a player actively tracking his check and getting his stick in the passing lane, and not just giving Petry a clear line of sight to make any pass he wants.
Which again, that’s not a super high bar from Suter. But it is something the Canucks are often doing, which is something we didn’t see for a decade under the Green/Boudreau years. The Canucks’ lack of active sticks was absolutely brutal to watch in years past, and as much as Loui Eriksson made “little things” a kind of joke, there is something to be said about doing all the goddamn little things right in a hockey game. Even if it wins you one puck battle or forces the other team to make a bad pass, that’s one more mistake the other team made than you did.
So yeah, Suter won’t exactly be mailing this clip in to try and prove he deserves the Selke, but when you have a player that can help force a bad pass when his linemate is the elite sniper JT Miller?
That’s how goals are born.
Best knowing when you’re beat
 
The Canucks’ other top line, the Tre kronor line, would promptly score the second goal of the game off an Elias Lindholm shot:
When you have opposing fans marvelling at your team’s fit rather than being sad about a goal against you, that’s just another sign that the team needs to free the skate full-time.
As for the goal itself, it’s North/South Rick Tocchet hockey at its best.
  • Force the other team to turn the puck over with pressure
  • Spend as little time in the neutral zone as possible
  • Make passes that make sense and have a purpose
  • get the puck on net as efficiently as possible
  • repeat steps one through four
That’s Rick hockey right there. If this was the 80s, maybe there’d be a fight or two mixed in there and a few more mullets and moustaches thrown in the mix, but essentially that’s the game plan for Vancouver.
Best run the Juuls
If you’re a fan of Noah Juulsen content, strap in and get ready because we are far from done on the night.
Remember how we talked about his economy of movement? Here it is once again on full display:
Juulsen had three blocked shots in the first period, and what impressed me the most was, again, his ability to stay on his feet and not put himself in a risky position by diving or lunging for the block. Much like his big hits, he no longer chases the play. He instead lets it come to him.
It reminds me of a story I read back in the day about the basketball player Shane Battier. It was before advanced stats were all the rage, and it talked about how Battier was one of those players who would be an advanced stats darling if they were a thing at the time. That the stuff he did well on the court didn’t show up on the scoresheet, but were extremely valuable to the team nonetheless.
And one of the things they talked about was going for the big rejection in basketball. Because hell, who doesn’t love a giant “eff you” rejection, where a guy jumps up and goes full Dikembe and swats that ball into the fourth row. To this day I still Dikembe people when I reject them in any aspect of life. Want to hang out with me? I shake my finger at you nope while I waltz away. It’s extremely effective.
The problem is that that kind of block often just led to the other team getting possession of the ball back. Sure, it looked dope as hell, but it wasn’t super efficient.
You know what was efficient, though? Battier blocking shots without swatting. Grabbing the ball back without making it look bad ass. In fact, it was quite boring most times. But more often than not, it got possession of the ball back for his team more effectively.
And that’s where I view Juulsen’s game. Slipping and sliding to make a big play can look cool as hell. And in some cases, it truly is a last-ditch effort, so you might as well go all in trying to make a defensive play.
But more often than not, if you’re playing smart, efficient hockey, you’re not sliding in and out around the ice.
Instead, you’re calmly reading the play, staying in control, and making sure you can be proactive on defence rather than reactive.
It’s why Thatcher Demko is a top goaltender in the league. He makes everything look so boring because he’s so damn efficient.
It’s also why Dom Hasek is a freaking unicorn because he was the most chaotic looking goalie on the planet, but there was some weird rhyme and reason behind what he did. We will never see another Hasek again, he truly is the GOAT for me.
Where was I again?
Oh right, Noah Juulsen.
The fact his game has calmed down, you can see him gaining confidence in himself as well. Not just on the defensive end but on the offensive side of things, where he’s actively going for slap pass tip in shots:
Noah out here setting up Corolla for tip shots on net, it’s truly a beautiful thing.
And again, here he is with an active stick, making shoot lanes problematic, and eating a shot to the stomach because he’s in the right spot:
Noah Juulsen has deserved every word of praise he’s received in the last couple of months, and we’re at the point where you can legitimately look forward to seeing if he can improve his game even more.
Best we have Corolla at home moment
Look, when you order Garland on Wish, you end up with JT Compher.
His attempt at the mini stick back door play is woefully inadequate.
First off, his position is all wrong. He’s not tight to the post where he can sneak the puck in behind the goalies pad.
Also, JT isn’t even planted properly, the dude looks like he’s ending a Guitar Hero session of Miss Murder on Expert mode with flourish. There is no control here.
Garland could be having a picnic with how calm he is. He’s not bringing any attention to himself, he’s just tying his skates or something, no need to look over here.
Be better JT. Be better.
Best it actually happened
I guess when Dakota is out of the lineup and you eat a high stick to draw a four minute powerplay you earn that shot with the extra man?
He didn’t score a goal BUT he did generate a shot on net, which we will show for posterity’s sake:
I think the problem with Höglander is he likes a challenge. Scoring with a man advantage is beneath him, where’s the challenge in that?
Why score on the power play when instead you can try and toe drag your way to 18 even strength goals:
That’s a solid pass from Zadorov to get that play in motion, but man, Nils is playing with confidence right now. He just looks off JT Miller and decides he might as well toe-drag it to the net instead. I respect it.
Best translation
As we noted earlier, Thatcher Demko is back playing his boring hockey again in which he plays so well and so efficiently that I can’t make any gif money off of him. Guy is trying his best to make sure I never pay off my student debts.
There was one moment, though, where he made a fun save and bobbled the puck like a hot potato:
In hindsight, even that save was really efficient. The puck took a weird bounce, and he got control of it with minimal fumbling. Certainly less fumbling than if he were a Niners player.
Best doing their best
Hey, they were still making plays, they just weren’t as fun as they were with Dakota.
But here’s Blueger and Ily forechecking, ending with a pass to Corolla for the shot on net, which Bluegrer following up with a shot of his own:
They were still playing all the Corolla Line’s biggest hits, they were forechecking well, they were causing some turnovers…it just felt a bit like Gary Cherone was stepping in to play for Dakota.
If we’re being honest.
Best just tap it in
Why work hard and do dangles and toe drags like Höglander when you can simply fire in a goal with a simple shot from the blue line?
Fresh off of his suspension for hitting Lucas Raymond in the head, where Zadorov deployed the odd tactic of accepting responsibility for his actions (crazy, I know), Nikita followed his return to the lineup with the Canucks third goal.
Even better, this wasn’t even close to the best thing he did in this game. We will get to that shortly.
But in that moment, it was nice to see a goal for a defenceman who has stood up for his teammates but also endured that weird two-week period where some people in the media were claiming the team was shopping his rights.
Apparently, it’s all good now, though, for reasons.
Best consistently inconsistent
Detroit got their lone goal of the game on a play in which Quinn Hughes was shoved aside like your feelings about someone owning too many scented candles:
So here’s the thing, I am ok with this kind of play in a vacuum. Come playoff time, the physical play is going to be amped up, and there is going to be a lot of shoving. A lot of it. The NHL loves shoving in the post-season.
But remember that game against Detroit on the 10th? Hughes was penalized for essentially shoving Walman from behind. It was deemed it threw Walman off enough to ruin his breakaway, so the griddy-enducing penalty shot was awarded. Ok, so shoving is bad, got it.
But here, Quinn Hughes gets shoved, and nothing is called. So you’re left to wonder “When is shoving bad?” When is the onus on the player to be strong on his skates versus penalizing a guy shoving too hard.
I am honestly ok with the idea that hey, you have to be strong on your skates. Strong players getting penalized for being strong isn’t my favourite thing in the world.
It’s just when you’re inconsistent in calling the physicality side of the game, it’s incredibly frustrating to get a handle on how the NHL wants to officiate itself.
Which is odd for an organization that is now knee-deep in bed with betting companies. It just all feels very messy.
Best first day?
Sorry Quads, Canucks Nation earned the right to celebrate and mock this moment:
I think it’s very clear Elias didn’t mean to high stick Jake Walman in the face, but part of you kind of secretly thinks he did.
If anyone on this team would be the cerebral assassin, it would be EP40. Admit it, you can picture him spitting water from a bottle into the air as he walks down to the rink with a sledgehammer.
Best here’s where it gets messy
You know I don’t love talking about the officiating, but it was truly awful Thursday night. And this isn’t a Canuck only thing, plenty of teams find themselves on the short end of the stick when the game is officiated the way it is right now.
Remember that shove earlier on Hughes that wasn’t called? OK, sure, fine, you’re letting the players play. You’ve set the precedent on the night, got it.
Except Quinn Hughes was promptly penalized for slashing on this play minutes into the third period:
Quinn Hughes’ stick moves maybe a few inches, apparently harnessing the power of a Bruce Lee punch, as he swats the stick out of Lucas Raymond hands (it’s always Lucas isn’t it).
That’s a bold penalty to call in a game in which you just put the onus on a test of strength on the receiving player. Quinn Hughes was just told a period earlier that he needed to be a stronger player by the officials. Those were the guidelines given to him.
Yet now he lightly taps Raymond’s stick who goes full butter fingers mode and drops it, and the onus is on Quinn Hughes to be not as strong?
It just doesn’t make sense. It’s not consistent.
Ever since Tim Peel proved that NHL officials sometimes feel the need to hand out a penalty just because they feel like doing it, the onus should be on the league to be more transparent about its officiating. It’s kind of incredible how the Tim Peel story is just sort of forgotten about in a league in which the officiating is still just as murky and inconsistent as ever.
Want to see something that wasn’t called a trip?
The reasoning given by some online was “oh the Canucks were already on the powerplay, they didn’t want to hand out a two man advantage.”
Which hey, we all kind of know that’s an unwritten rule. But sometimes? Sometimes the league DOES call a penalty like that to put a team down two men. You truly never know when the league is going to make a call because nothing is consistent. It’s just improv night every day with NHL officials. As much as Ron MacLean wants you to believe that NHL officials are the closest thing to god or whatever, the NHL clearly has a rule book that is more of a guide line than anything.
But hey, go place a $20 bet on a game and just ignore the fact that Blueger got a penalty for tripping on this play:
Is it a trip? Maybe? Certainly less of a trip than the one Hughes got hit with.
And the worst part about all of this? The NHL rule book gets thrown out the window when the playoffs roll around. Round one closely mirrors how they called the season, but by round two, you have to almost commit murder to get a call at times.
It’s honestly kind of crazy that we all simply accept “Hey it’s the playoffs” as the reason why they change the way they call every single penalty in the post-season.
Best are they booing me?
No, they’re saying Demkoooooooooooo:
This is about the craziest save animation I could get out of Demko on the night. Dude made a 5 star save and somehow he was back up and in position in like half a second after making it.
How I am going to pay off these loans Thatcher, you’re killing me.
Best revenge is a dish best served cold
This video was the best thing to come out of this game:
It’s a time honored tradition to book hockey games in your head like wrestling games. How many scenarios did Canucks fans come up with for getting revenge on Brad Marchand for speed-bagging Daniel Sedin in the Finals?
And most of the time, they never play out.
So when people were jokingly talking about a Canucks player dropping their own dance to mock Detroit, nobody REALLY believed it would happen. Hockey players don’t tend to be that interesting.
Enter Nikita Zadorov who might be the most interesting man on the team.
Nikita has no problem standing up for teammates.
Nikita has no problem admitting when he deserves to be suspended.
And Nikita has no problem doing a little dance to mock an angry Jake Walman, fresh off of having a temper tantrum after being hit in the head accidentally for the second time.
(Which for the record, Höglander is that guy who would 100% plan to hit someone “by accident”.)
I don’t know how they spell “hero” in Russia, but in Vancouver, for one day, Nikita became the mayor of city after he dropped a little dance to mock Detroit.
As I said when Walman did his dance after his shootout goal, this is good for the league. Look at us, on February 15th, talking about what an intense game we just saw against the Red Wings.
Mocking your opponent just ups the stakes for the next game, and instead of throwing a cross check to the face like Morgan Reilly, the Canucks beat the Wings on the scoreboard, they beat Walman on the ice, and they gave the Red Wings a taste of their own medicine.
It’s the Call of Duty rule: If they teabag you, you teabag them back twice as hard.
And the Canucks? They were keying in on Walman all night, like when Pew Pew Suter got up into his grill and wouldn’t drop it:
I can promise you one thing, Jake Walman will not have a pleasant memory of his time in Vancouver, and he will 100% think twice about pulling off a dance move against Vancouver in the future.
Or maybe he will lean into it again, in which case, Nikita will take care of it.
Such is the joy of pettiness in sports.
Best don’t you forget about me
Lost in all the joy of getting revenge on Walman was the fact Lindholm got his second goal of the game:
  • Force the other team to turn the puck over with pressure
  • Spend as little time in the neutral zone as possible
  • Make passes that make sense and have a purpose
  • get the puck on net as efficiently as possible
  • repeat steps one through four
Best we got you covered
Thatcher Demko went for the empty net goal, he really did:
The best part was after the game when asked about going for the shot, Demko went from actually showing happiness to quickly showing disgust and disdain when asked about if he would have done the Griddy had he scored:
I can tell you that Demko does not appear to enjoy media scrums. He keeps his eyes down, gives as little as possible, and clearly wants to get out of there (and hey, fair enough! I get it!).
So it was shocking to see him happily talking about an empty net shot before the crushing reality of answering questions he doesn’t approve of hits him full in the face.
Which is kind of sad because if anyone on the team can bust out dance moves, it’s Thatcher.
Best do what you love
It’s not a job if you love doing it:
JT Miller didn’t even pretend to hold up at the line, he just busted across that blue line and robbed Boeser of yet another goal on the season.
Best the numbers say it all
That’s pretty good I think.
Best dance for me now
Safe to say Jake Walman had a pretty rough night.
Best jersey Botch
Kellen Lain? THE Kellen Lain? The guy Torts fed to the wolves??
Kudos to that person. A full tip of the hat to them.

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