The Stanchies: Zadorov’s Gordie Howe Hat Trick, the art of a third period collapse, and more

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Trent Leith
29 days ago
It seems like every time the Canucks play a team firmly in the playoff picture; it’s always “the biggest game of the season,” in the eyes of media and fans. And they might be right. Despite the Canucks sitting firmly in first place in the Pacific Division and three points up in the Western Conference, it still feels like to get a true picture of who the Canucks are, we need to use other good teams as measuring sticks.
Why? Is it because Canucks fans still don’t fully believe that this team is for real? Is it because there have been too many peaks and valleys? Or is it simply emotional damage from over 50 years of heartbreak? Who’s to say?
So when the Avs rolled into town on Wednesday night, sure enough, this was a measuring stick game again. The caveat however is this time, there is no Thatcher Demko to bail out the team. Wednesday’s game felt like an important test for the Canucks.
And that’s why when JT Miller came out of the gate like he was covered in bees, things felt good.
But then the other shoe dropped. But we aren’t there yet. Let’s enjoy ourselves first.
Best Covered In Bees
The game started with JT Miller getting thrown out of the faceoff dot on the opening draw, and JT Miller was clearly antsy to get moving. Within moments, the Canucks were in the Avs’ zone and Ian Cole shot a puck on net that JT Miller tipped in to open the scoring. First shot, first goal, only 24 seconds into the game.
“Oh yeah,” I thought, “This is going to be fun!” I thought.
JT clearly gets up for games where he is hard-matched against the best players in the league. A trait he and Zadorov share, apparently, but more on Zadorov later.
Miller came out in this game like he was shot out of a cannon. And also covered in Bees.
On his next shift, he did the impossible. He got Ilya Mikheyev a goal. Let me repeat that. Ilya Mikheyev scored a goal. Yes, that Ilya Mikheyev
Now, I don’t want to take anything away from Mikheyev here, but this was all Miller. A Controlled entry, puck protection behind the net, and a perfect pass into the slot. Mikheyev just had to put his stick on the ice.
This was Mikheyev’s first goal in 35 games. While he’s looked better in his last few games, it all came to a head Wednesday night when he scored his 11th goal of the year.
As much as he has been deadweight this season, there is upside in his speed and defensive game when he is on his game. His knee injury has held him back for most of this season, but it looks like he is finding his legs again. Mikheyev is a good player when he is at the top of his game, and I hope we are seeing him return to his potential.
After he scored this goal, he seemed 100lbs lighter. He was faster, he was loose, and he had chances.
Oh, this was just Miller’s first two shifts of the game by the way.
Unfortunately, Josh Manson ruined our fun. Near the end of the first period, Manson hit Miller against the boards in such a way that the head was the primary point of contact.
Manson got two minutes for an “illegal check to the head” which seems a little light for such a dirty play. But the real issue is that he knocked off all the bees.
After this hit, Miller was done for the period, the concussion spotters pulled him for evaluations. His game was relatively average the rest of the night after an incredible start.
The hippies were right; we needed to save the bees.
Best Performance
JT Miller’s game tapered off as it went on, but Zadorov played a fantastic game all night.
Earlier in the day, Zadorov named Nathan MacKinnon the best player in the world over Matthews and McDavid. Like Miller, Zadorov seemed to thrive playing against the best players. Zadorov had an assist on Mikheyev’s goal early in the game and followed that up with a goal of his own early in the second period.
This goal marked the first multi-point night for Zadorov in a Canucks uniform. Garland makes a great play here, keeping his head up behind the net to find Zadorov, who shot the puck through traffic for his fourth goal of the year. DeSmith also got an assist on the play.
We all love goalies chipping in on the offence.
But Zadorov’s night didn’t end there. He completed the Gordie Howe Hat Trick with a fight. Standing up for JT Miller, he dropped the gloves with Josh Manson in retribution for the hit to the head.
Lucky for Manson, Zadorov might be the worst fighter (who actually fights) on the team. He didn’t even throw a single punch, let alone land one. But good for Zadorov, he got a goal, an assist and a fight in only 25 minutes of game time.
Zadorov also is credited with five hits on the night, according to NHL.com, and I happened to clip each one.
These weren’t simple “finishing your check” hits. These were all bone crushers.
Zadorov did a great job of not chasing hits, either. Every hit was purposeful and helped kill the play or, at the very least, break it up.
Sometimes, players get a little overexcited chasing big hits, and that can get them in trouble (see Matt Rempe). But that wasn’t Zadorov tonight. Every hit was intentional and a strong defensive play.
Personally, I can’t wait to watch Zadorov in the playoffs.
I know the weather has been nice, but that seems like a lot of ankle for March. But hey, what do I know?
Best Penalty Announcement
In the second period, Quinn Hughes got a two-minute minor for interference. Was it a little soft? Sure. But I am not here to complain, because it turned out really funny, and the best part of hockey is the funny parts.
When the referee went to announce the penalty, his mic was hot and you heard him scolding Hughes for not going to the box fast enough.
The ref sounded like me trying to send my dog to his bed after I spilled food on the floor.
Quinn Hughes truly is the most meme-able player in Canucks history, isn’t he?
Worst Turning of Tides
However, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows in this game. Everything was coming up roses until 18:55 into the second period. Things changed when Georgiev made a diving save on Elias Lindholm to take away an empty net goal that would have put the Canucks up 4-0 to end the second period.
This is where the timeline diverged. If that goes in, we sing the praises of the Canucks. But it didn’t, so we had to witness a collapse. With only 1.8 seconds left in the second period, Mikko Rantanen cracked the door open for the Avs.
And it was all downhill from there.
In the third period, the Canucks let their foot off the gas, and completely abandoned what made them so successful in the first half of the game.
At the start of the game, the Canucks were playing nearly perfect hockey. They were relentless on pucks. The Avs could hardly string two passes together because the Canucks were getting their sticks in the passing lanes and breaking things up. Their forecheck was nearly perfect. No one on the Avs had any space with the puck. Even Nathan MacKinnon was a non-factor because the Canucks wouldn’t let him build up any speed.
And then the third period happened.
MacKinnon appeared on the score sheet with his first goal of the game in the third, and then Ross Colton scored to tie the game not long after.
Casey Desmith made an excellent save at the start of this sequence, but unfortunately, Colton was in the right place at the right time and was able to get just enough of the puck to get it across the line. It was called no goal on the ice, but the video review was clear that it was a good goal.
Take that Marek, I said good goal and I stand by it.
The Avalanche’s best players stepped up to take this game from the jaws of defeat, and will it to a win.
MacKinnon, Makar and Rantanen all had two points each. Outside Miller, Boeser had one point, and there was nothing from Pettersson, Lindholm, Hughes, Hronek, or Höglander on the score sheet.
A few Canucks had moments, but they were sparse and ultimately didn’t change the course of the game at all. Like this chance from Pettersson on the powerplay.
If he scored here, this would have put the Canucks up 4-0 and probably put the game out of reach. Pettersson got everything he could on it, it was just a good position save by Georgiev. Beyond that chance and a couple of hits, Pettersson was mostly unnoticed on the ice, which is not what you want to see from a player set to make $11.6M next season.
Höglander also had a great chance. His came late in the game, and it could have been the goal to break the tie with 8:30 remaining.
Again, it was a good read by Georgiev, so you can’t fault Small Town Nils Höglander for not scoring there.
Best We Might Be Okay
On Saturday night when Demko left the game with a knee injury, it would have been fair to assume that things might go off the rails down the stretch. Demko is as important to this team as Hughes, Miller, and Pettersson are and missing one of your best players in the most important position on the ice is not a recipe for success.
But his injury comes with some silver linings. If you can weather the storm, it is forced game management for Demko. He won’t play too many games down the stretch if he isn’t healthy. When he returns, he will be well-rested and ready for a long playoff run.
We don’t know much about the nature of Demko’s injury timeline. What we do know is it is not his groin or hip, it is a knee injury. If DeSmith can step in and hold the fort while Demko recovers, the Canucks will be in a good place.
Despite four goals against, DeSmith played a pretty solid game and didn’t give fans anything to worry about.
DeSmith did a good job tracking the puck through traffic. Even as pucks pinballed around, DeSmith was able to follow the puck and make some timely saves.
And I have to give credit to the skaters for their help defending the net too.
Ian Cole was channelling his inner Tyler Myers with a chaotic dive that took DeSmith with him outside the crease. But it all worked out because DeSmith managed to glove the puck before being dragged away.
I don’t know much about goaltending but I think DeSmith did a great job.
Also, Quads is editing this, and I know he is a goalie guy, so the more I talk about goalies, the better. #Pandering. Editor’s note: Nicely done.
Here is another scramble play where DeSmith did that funny reverse plank goalies do when they aren’t exactly sure where the puck is.
Okay, just one more DeSmith save for you, here he does a good job tracking the puck and making a leg save. The tricky part about this save is it came at him at an off-speed.
I have heard that professional goalies struggle on amateur shots because they come in so much slower than they are used to, and they mistime their saves.
Here, Duhaime takes a shot from the slot but doesn’t get all of it, making it come to DeSmith at about half the speed you’d expect from a one-timer in that position. DeSmith did a good job adjusting and making sure he kicked it out of harm’s way.
Tocchet did say that the guys on the team like Casey DeSmith and when you like your goalie, you are more likely to block shots for them.
The Canucks must absolutely love DeSmith because they blocked 22 shots for him on Wednesday night.
Also, the Avs must hate Georgiev, because they only blocked two shots.
Worst Ending
The Canucks hung on for dear life and bring this game to overtime to collect at least one point. But their chances of an OT win were greatly diminished when Carson Soucy picked up a delay of game penalty with nine seconds left in regulation.
The Canucks started OT on the penalty kill and it only took the Avs 30 seconds to end the game.
MacKinnon took a shot that Noah Juulsen blocked. Juulsen didn’t get all of it however, and the puck bounced up into Nichushkin’s face, and into the net.
Just like they drew it up, I’m sure.
Best Jersey Botch
Slowly in front of our eyes, we are seeing people start to finally put 2011 in the past because we are finally seeing winning hockey again. The team is the best it has been since 2011 and it is exciting to be able to root for a team with potential again.
When you want to tape over Kesler to make yourself a Hronek jersey, you know things are on the upswing in Vancouver.

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