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The Stanchies: Canucks lose game two in one of the most painful games of hockey ever played

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Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
1 month ago
If game one was a cathartic release of painful, negative hockey energy built up over a decade, then game two felt like a PTSD flashback to times best forgotten. Had Dan Cloutier been in net, I would have sworn this was a vintage 4-1 West Coast Express Era loss to the Minnesota Wild.
It was the kind of night where afterwards, it turns into a giant game of Clue, with everyone lining up to make their accusations about who murdered the Canucks chance at victory.
Was it Professor Pettersson with the rope in the billiard room?
Was it Colonel Casey with the candlestick in the conservatory?
Was it Mr. Juulsen with the lead pipe in the kitchen ballroom?
Or was it, as I suspected all along, Fin with the dagger in the lounge, murdering any and all chances of happiness in the city of Vancouver every chance he gets?
During the regular season, you can laugh this kind of result off. Chalk it up to a game that got away from you, and then drop some sound bytes about “learning from it” and “executing better” next time. Just avoid talking about how this is a hard league to win games in and how that’s a pretty good team they have over there, and you should be fine.
But during the post-season, the small sample size is king. Everything is magnified to a heinous degree, to the point you can go from being a hero the night before to becoming the villain the next.
Questions are going to be asked and answers demanded on a night in which your team has 84 shot attempts to the oppositions 36. Eyebrows will raise over a game that only saw 18 total shots for Vancouver, with 16 for the visitor. And deep sighs will burst forth when you list off Nashville’s 32 blocked shots to Vancouver’s 7.
This might have been one of the most frustrating games of hockey I have watched in a decade. It’s hard to view a game in which a team dominates possession like the Canucks did on Tuesday night, only to walk away with a single goal. The best way I could describe it is it was like watching the DVD screensaver bounce around forever without ever hitting the corner. That feeling of anxiety that what you’re watching in front of you is unnatural and surely the universe will balance itself out eventually. It was like having an itch in the middle of your back that didn’t go away for three hours.
You would find yourself tormented by duelling waves of emotion. On one side, you had the feeling of wanting to give up, and it was clear the hockey gods had decided Vancouver wasn’t going to win this game. Why invest emotionally in something that is clearly trying to hurt you? But like all toxic relationships, you found yourself saying, “But what if it does change for the better…” and you’d end up watching again. Only to repeat the cycle all over again after Vancouver missed a shot on net for the 80th time.
As with any playoff series, you have to wait until it’s over to truly dive into what went wrong; Game three will provide better context into the series than anything I write here tonight.
But there is something to be had about yelling at the clouds after a game like this. It helps to gather everyone together so we can commiserate about life before assigning blame for the loss and trying to find order amongst the chaos of NHL hockey. Maybe if we figure out who wronged us, we can stop it from happening again. That is the futile task ahead of us right now.
If we can prove Elias Pettersson missed those nets on purpose, maybe hockey will finally make sense to us.
If we can prove that music videos about a team hinder their chances of going on a run, maybe we can stop it from happening again.
So sit back, grab a beverage of your choice, and let’s dive deep into the dumbest game of hockey I watched this season.
Best let’s talk about the elephant with a knee injury in the room
Nobody is quite sure of the timeline of how long Thatcher Demko will be out, but there was certainly the feeling in the air that this is not a short-term injury. Like, he didn’t pull his back picking up a cracker like Brent Sopel and will only be out a game or two; this looks like it’s going to be a while before we see Demko tending the nets for Vancouver.
Officially, Rick Tocchet said the injury was “day to day” (later upgraded to “week to week” after the game), but this is the NHL, and it’s the playoffs; a player could turn into a zombie and lose an arm, and he would be listed as “day to day” or “week to week” because the post-season is apparently one giant psyop.
Which means Casey DeSmith and Arturs Silovs now get to enjoy the Colin Delia and Spencer Martin experience, except this time, it’s the playoffs, and everyone will scream at you when you lose a game.
Clearly, a long-term injury to Demko hurts the Canucks chance of an extended playoff run. After game one, it felt like Vancouver had a high chance of winning this series. Round two, if Demko went full Bubble Mode, that’s when you could envision maybe an extended run for this team.
But a duo of Silovs and DeSmith? It feels like the high point of the season might just be getting out of the first round now.
Crazier things have happened with backups jumping up in the playoffs, of course, but the vibe of the entire post-season changed with the news of Demko’s injury — I think we can all admit that.
And speaking of crazy things…
Best a new hero emerges
This is one of those situations where you laugh at it, but you also kind of take it seriously?
Like, good one, Eddie. You can be the EBUG, hahah, what a funny video.
But like, CAN you be the EBUG?
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the story of a local high school janitor stepping in to stop four shots in a game as much as the next guy, but if you’re going to EBUG, why not go all out? Pay Eddie for a few weeks, what’s the worst that could happen? He sells a few houses, he eats a few tacos, where’s the harm? Where’s the harm??
Best let’s talk about the Chaotic Giraffe not in the room
I’m not saying Tyler Myers would have been the difference Tuesday night, but I’m not not saying that?
I can’t believe I am saying this, but game one Chaos Giraffe was an absolute monster, and his presence was very much missed on the night. Especially when Noah Juulsen had to be thrust into the lineup and played a part in the third goal against.
As per the coach after the game, Tyler Myers was dealing with the flu and was under the weather. Which during the playoffs, a “flu” could also mean “was kidnapped by Somalian pirates,” and we’d never know.
Best anti-hero
Ryan Kesler’s Apology Tour has come full circle and it was one Taylor Swift lyric away from being perfect:
Some players run off of sunshine and lollipops, like the Sedins.
Some players run off of fuel and fire and that which I desire. Ryan Kesler is one such man.
To know Ryan Kesler is to understand Ryan Kesler, and you don’t get 2011 Nashville conquering Beast-Mode Kesler without that mentality. He is a man who gave his entire body to any team he played for, and it appeared that for him, viewing everyone as his enemy allowed him to dig deep so he could reach those dark places that made his game excel. The run he went on in 2011 is the stuff of legends and was one of the best stretches of hockey anyone has ever played here.
So, while some people might struggle to come to terms with the time Ryan Kesler turned heel on the city and demanded a trade, I welcome him back with open arms. I believe Kesler when he talks about how he’s learned a lot since he retired and how much he loves the city, and the time he spent here. Look at him grinning as he spins that horn! Look at the effort he’s putting into getting it to go as fast as possible, once again giving 110% to anything he does.
All of which is to say I still wouldn’t be surprised if he ran onto the ice at one point and locked Quinn Hughes with a chair, only to rip off his jersey to reveal a Ducks logo.
Best support system
To the Canucks fan’s credit, there was a loud, resounding “Let’s go, Casey” chant to start the game. When Casey DeSmith was announced as the starting goalie earlier in the night, there was a standing ovation. The crowd did everything they could to let him know they had his back.
Which is why the hockey gods began cackling with glee as they planned their next move:
Yes, that is former Canuck Anthony Beauvillier scoring on the Predators first shot of the game. Anthony Beauvillier is a player I watched score goals for the Canucks, but I’m still not convinced that actually happened. Beauvillier would be rejected as a Milford Man for being a little too reserved on the ice.
Yet here he is, tipping a puck past the Canucks for the 1-0 lead. Was it a deft tip? God damn right it was. That’s just how tips work. But it didn’t make it any less of a devastating start for a home team still trying to come to terms with losing their top goalie.
If you wanted to come up with a scenario of “how could this game start out that would feel exactly like getting punched in the genitals,” I would lay it out just like this. Would I have a cameo from BD Wong in my version? Of course I would. But other than that, it plays out pretty much the same.
DeSmith, for his part, loses track of the puck, so he just lunges his pad in the general direction of where he last saw it headed. It’s like when your phone dies, and you lose your GPS tracking, so you just keep driving and hope it all works out.
This is the kind of shot where you do miss Thatcher Demko, just due to his size in net. He tends to stay pretty centred in his crease and takes up a lot of space, so plays like this can often just end up hitting him in the chest, even if he doesn’t see the deflection.
DeSmith, though, has a bit of that 1980s in him, where sometimes it’s all cardio and vibes in net, and not so much about the positioning.
Best flashback
If you ever wanted to experience high school again, where you failed at multiple opportunities to score, then this was the game for you.
Normally I have one, maybe two, clips of a Canuck player just missing an empty net. Tonight? Tons of them. I have more missed shots than you have thoughts about how your life didn’t turn out the way you thought it would.
All of which is to say, let’s sit back and get the fun started by watching Pius Suter just miss on his attempt to bank in this rebound off the boards:
Saros is a smaller goalie like DeSmith, but his legs are incredible. Like, athletically incredible.
His ability to take away the bottom of the net is very, very good, and he’s smart in how he does it. When he lunges, he stays mostly in place, so he doesn’t tend to float away. You can see the empty net, and before you know it, there’s one of his legs just checking in with you to see how you’re doing. His legs are your nemesis at work, the person who is always getting praise from the boss despite doing half the work you do.
So when you add in Nashville blocking shots like their actual lives depended upon it, that can be a pretty lethal combo, as we saw Tuesday.
Best trends
The Predators scored their first goal, and then it felt like they literally said, “ok, time to defend for the rest of our lives,” and just sat back the rest of the game.
Which felt like they were playing with fire. It felt a bit like the Bubble Run from the Canucks against Vegas, where Vancouver would win a game, but it felt dirty. Like, they won, but at what cost? How do you look your kids in the mirror after winning a game of hockey that way?
But on Tuesday night, it worked. Nashville blocked multiple shots on the first power play:
And Nashville blocked multiple shots on the second power play:
And what happens when a team does their best to take away all of the joy in your life? You tend to panic a little bit. Maybe you start squeezing the stick a little too hard. Maybe you start looking for the perfect shot a little too much.
Maybe you pass on some shots you should take, and maybe you start missing the net on shots you do:
JT Miller missing a shot high is nothing new, nor concerning. That guy could miss a hundred straight shots, and he’d still be just as confident he’d score on shot 101. It’s just how he’s built.
But Elias Pettersson’s play is going to be a giant topic of discussion in your group chat because this was the second game in a row where he just didn’t have it offensively. He had the type of game where you start debating if he’s injured or if he has a case of the yips. He had the type of game that will cause fights between you and your friends as you all come up with theories as to why he can’t score.
And honestly, it did feel like he was going full Hank Sedin on the night. He looked like he wanted to facilitate more than shoot, which can be fine if the pass works. But trying to send in a saucer pass to Garland instead of taking a shot when you have this look at an open net:
It feels like early season Pettersson snipes that home. That swagger and confidence he had to start the season on his shot is nowhere to be seen. Instead of trying to go top shelf where Mom keeps the screenplay she wrote for Shawshank Redemption 2: Shanked Again, starring Jason Statham, he tries to pass the puck down low to Conor Garland.
Which, hey, if it works, yeah, you look pretty badass. Saucing in a pass that Corolla whacks out of the air for a goal, that’s a solid viral moment.
But when it doesn’t work, all you’re left with is a screenshot of half an empty net and a bunch of people wondering if your confidence is shot.
And then, when Quinn Hughes did get on his horse to generate some room in the offensive zone, the passes just weren’t clicking:
It truly felt like nothing could go right for EP40 in this game, which means the discourse surrounding him (and his paycheque) is only going to grow louder, fair or not.
It’s important to note that after ten minutes, the shots in the game were two for Vancouver and two for Nashville, but for wildly different reasons.
Vancouver because Nashville took away the middle of the ice, and Vancouver politely let them have it because, as Canadian hosts, that’s just what you do.
And Nashville had two shots because they literally looked content to try and win the game 1-0 on two shots.
Best Zaddy Daddy
One of the silver linings for the Canucks through two games has absolutely been the play of Nikita Zadorov. Once again, he was the most physical player on the night from either team:
Down 1-0 and struggling to generate shots, running over Roman Josi seems like a solid back-up plan.
There is going to be a lot of talk about who can thrive in the playoffs and who struggles under the pressure, and through two games, Nikita Zadorov appears to love post-season hockey.
Best withholding
Elias Pettersson’s best chance to score came in the waning seconds of the first period:
Once again, Quinn Hughes is opening up room on the ice and he finds Pettersson with a brilliant pass.
And Elias? He has a lot of net to look at. Unfortunately he heels the puck and puts it into the side of the net.
99 times out of 100, that’s a goal. You can even see JT Miller celebrating because he is so certain that EP40 scored on that shot.
But Pettersson is dropping to his knees in agony and disbelief as if he headed downtown and forgot the Vancouver Sun Run was happening.
This was the moment when it truly felt like Elias Pettersson was never going to score a goal in the NHL ever again.
Too dramatic?
Best bumping away
Nashville didn’t generate a lot of offence, but their powerplay did set up a good look for Ryan O’Reilly:
I have included this as proof that Nashville crossed the red line more than five times the rest of the game.
Best fighting through it
I can only imagine what it would be like to sit through game one, experience that game and what it meant to the city, and then be told morning of that, oh hey, now it’s your turn.
So, I don’t envy the position Casey DeSmith was put in, and I can only imagine the nerves he might have been dealing with. Which is why it wasn’t too surprising to see him look like he was fighting the puck all night:
We’ve talked all season about how Demko is incredibly boring to watch in net because he makes everything look so easy. Well, DeSmith was the opposite of that tonight.
The puck would drop in his feet and he wouldn’t know it. He’d block a shot with his chest and pop the rebound into the slot. He’d clutch behind his back like he just had a Luongo moment in the crease.
It just felt like carrying the entire hopes and dreams of an intense fan base might have been a bit much on this night for Casey.
Best copy cats
It wasn’t quite two goals in twelve seconds, but Nashville did put the game away with two goals in under two minutes:
Noah Juulsen also found himself thrust into the lineup, which meant he had very little time to try and find his timing and rhythm playing a game of hockey at the highest level of intensity. So again, you feel for Noah, but you do have to point out that he didn’t play this sequence very efficiently.
What starts off as indecision leads to a soul decision as Juulsen tracks the puck behind the net but then seems torn between where the puck is going. As a result, he ends up letting Filip Forsberg skate away from him, unopposed towards DeSmith.
Which brings us back to “WWTD”, and Thatcher Demko probably takes up more of the net on this play. But DeSmith’s size is a disadvantage in a position seemingly trending more and more towards 6″3 giants.
You can see DeSmith kick his leg out as he falls for one of the dangles, and by then, it’s much too late; Forsberg has seen everything; he’s seen it all.
Best it only gets worse
Elias Pettersson’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day continued as his miscue played a large part in the Predators’ third goal:
“Not great, Bob!” comes to mind watching Elias spin in place and just turn over the puck at his own blue line. Smart hockey decisions are written in bold Comic Sans font on Pettersson’s resume, but on this play, he just misreads the entire situation. The puck wasn’t flirting with him; it was just being nice.
To make matters worse, Elias tries to get his Jeff Tambellini on to get back into the play, but Colton Sissons outmuscles him in front of DeSmith and pops in the rebound.
If Pettersson was aspiring to be a politician and this video was leaked, this would be a five-alarm PR crisis. Suddenly, you’d have people crafting terms like “unfortunate yielding of resources” and not a “turnover leading to a goal against.”
And as you can see, DeSmith has come far out of his net to cut down the angle, so when the rebound gets away from him, there’s very little chance of recovery. Not everyone can be Sergei Bobrovsky and go full Hasek on a moment’s notice.
Best don’t reinvent the wheel
JT Miller spoke after the game about the Canucks needing to just keep on keeping on, and there is some truth to that. I couldn’t imagine the Canucks playing another game like this and ending up with the same result. There is a potential for overthinking when you run into a game like this, so there is something to be said about just trusting the process that got you to the dance.
But I bet that doesn’t make it any less frustrating when you can’t shoot the puck without hitting a yellow jersey or having your stick explode on shots:
It was a very long night of hockey for the Vancouver Canucks.
Best here comes the Zad guy
Again, the one bright spot for the team?
Nikita Zadorov:
Ian Cole finds him with the pass and on one of the few shots that didn’t get blocked, he manages to beat Saros blocker side.
And that’s something Vancouver needs to do more of. Lift the shots up, and get away from those fast, athletically pleasing legs.
The Canucks once again talked about layering after the game, about getting multiple screens set up in front of the goalie. JT Miller also talked about the slap passes into tip shots being a vital part of their strategy, and how it’s a little too easy to just demand shots.
But sometimes simple shots work, as Zadorov showed on the Canucks lone goal of the night.
Best hey yo
He is the Scott Hall of the Canucks. Zadorov instantly brings a level of swagger to the Canucks they haven’t had in years. He’s the coolest guy in the room, and everyone knows it.
His team is down 3-1, and he just stared down the other team’s bench, and you don’t even question it.
Brock Boeser does that? Someone from Nashville laughs at him and yells back, “Scoreboard!”
Dakota Joshua does that? Someone from Nashville screams at, maybe even tries to run him on the next play.
Nikita Zadorov does that? Nashville just watches quietly and accepts it.
We’re at the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if Zadorov threw a toothpick in an opponent’s face during a scrum.
Best the beatings will continue until morale improves
The Canucks were dominating zone time to such an extent that it truly felt like the Canucks could come back in this game at any point. One little bounce, one piece of luck, and it felt like a 3-2 game was within their reach.
Alas, the Canucks got absolutely no luck on the night whatsoever, which meant we just saw more of this:
Instead of generating a power play goal, a wayward pass by Brock Boeser ends up going the other way for an odd-man rush.
Now to Elias Pettersson’s credit, he was the official winner of the Jeff Tambellini Back Check Hustle and Bustle award of the night. If he doesn’t skate his ass off there, that might have ended up with a far more dangerous shot on net than Nashville ended up getting.
Best it gets worse
The good news is Elias Pettersson isn’t officially cursed!
The bad news is the Canucks hit the post anyways.
Alexandre Carrier’s skate deflected the puck off of a JT Miller shot, but of course, it hit iron:
This is a good example of the slap pass tip shots the Canucks were trying all night. It has worked in the past, and it will work in the future, but for one night, every time the Canucks did a slap pass, you just got overwhelmed with the feeling you had when you knew your parent’s marriage died years ago and they were just staying together until you finished high school.
After two periods of play, the count was 47 shot attempts for Vancouver compared to 23 for Nashville.
Nashville also had 18 blocked shots.
Somehow the Predators found a way to make the LA Kings look like the 1986 Oilers.
Best trusting that process for all its worth
The Canucks started the third period doing what they did best on the night, just missing the net on tip shots:
I honestly couldn’t have come up with a more frustrating game of hockey to watch if I tried.
You didn’t know what was going to fix it, so you just felt like shooting the puck directly on net had to be better than anything they were trying.
I’m pretty sure the entire city became the “SHOOOOT” guy in the crowd Tuesday night, pounding any glass in the vicinity, wondering why their team was making it look so hard to get a goal when it’s so incredibly simple; you just shoot the puck and score. Why can’t they see that?
Best shooooooooot
The problem was even when they did shoot, it would just get blocked. Repeatedly. All night long.
If you ever need a game to show your therapist about the damage the game of hockey has done to you, this would be a good start:
Tip shots didn’t work.
Direct shots didn’t work.
Empty nets didn’t work.
Nothing worked.
Even when Quinn Hughes is juking and jiving all over the ice, there were four Predators lined up in a row to block his shot.
Best makes you think
I think with Thatcher Demko, teams overlooking the Canucks were being a bit foolhardy. The Canucks were a team that shouldn’t be looked at as a free pass.
But without Demko, it does get hard to invest in a team where one of their best looks at the net in the third period was on a shot from Ilya Mikheyev:
Saros is set and in position long before Ilya has that puck settled and ready to shoot on net.
And, how do I say this nicely, but even if Mikheyev got the shot off quicker, I tend to look up items on a bakery menu to describe his shooting prowess more than anything.
He’s got a real croissant of a shot, you know?
Best sure, why not
Pius Suter just missed this tap in, and you know what, at this point you didn’t even find yourself blinking at it:
This was probably the main example JT Miller was thinking of when he defended the slap pass tip shots after the game.
It did almost work, and they did almost score on a couple of them. There is merit in saying the Canucks just need to execute better in game three.
It just didn’t make watching game two feel any better, telling yourself, “That’s ok, game three that will go in, life is a journey, you just have to take it one step at a time.”
Best sign of the times
Best NHL Hitz
Hey look, Noah Juulsen threw a nice hit:
Yay.
Best keep it simple, stupid
One of the better chances in the third came off of a Nikita Zadorov rush (best player on the Canucks on the night) in which he once again found a way to get a shot on net, which led to a rebound situation almost being tapped in by Dakota Joshua:
This was what the entire night was like. The Canucks dancing around getting a second goal but not getting an ounce of luck.
Nothing Nashville has done through two games has been very worrying, to be honest.
Best state of the game
Nashville got a power play at the end of the game and didn’t even take a shot until the final seconds of the penalty, that’s how dedicated to the sitting back life style they were. This was a game Jacques Lemaire would be proud of.
Best case of the yips
The Lotto Line made a couple of appearances because if ever there was a “smash in case of emergency,” it would have been this game, but that only ended up highlighting how little Elias Pettersson seemed to want to shoot the puck.
Maybe we’re overanalyzing, but it just felt like he had no confidence with the puck, and hey, fair enough. If you missed that wide-open net in the first and then had a giveaway that led to a goal in the second, you’d probably be a bit down on yourself as well.
And when he did shoot the puck? Easily blocked:
This.
Game.
Was.
Awful.
To.
Watch.
Best last gasp
I have run out of ways to describe another failed attempt to score, so let’s just watch the clip of Brock Boeser being denied by Saros:
So you see, that’s where the trouble began.
Those legs.
Those damned legs.
Best sobering reality
Nashville mercifully ended any hope of a comeback with two minutes left in the game, saving us a couple more clips of blocked shots:
All in all, that was a very bad result for Vancouver.
That being said, they weren’t outplayed. They in fact controlled most of the play themselves.
All of which leads to game three, where we can see if Nashville’s determination to block every shot ever taken will rule the day once more or if Vancouver can go full Ryan Kesler and destroy Smashville from within.
Best jersey Botch
You cannot go wrong with Mike Santorelli. He walked so Corolla Garland could run.
The House always wins.
Johan Hedberg stopping Pavol Demitra on a penalty shot to preserve a shutout is locked into my hockey brain forever.
I don’t know why this exists. But I now know it must exist if the Canucks are to ever have a chance to win the Cup.
This is clearly the reason we witnessed the worst bad luck Canucks game of the season.

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