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The Stanchies: Canucks take their turn with a heartbreaking loss on home ice to the Predators

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Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
1 month ago
If there is one thing the series between Nashville and Vancouver has let us know, it’s that “deserve” doesn’t have a place at the table.
That’s the only way to explain the Canucks comeback in Game 4 and the Predators 2-1 victory on Tuesday night at Rogers Arena.
Granted, Nashville’s victory wasn’t nearly as egregious as the Ocean’s 11 heist Vancouver pulled off at Bridgestone. But for most of the night, it felt like Vancouver deserved a better fate.
But there’s that word again. “Deserve.” The second you start thinking that about one of these teams, the Hockey Gods gather together in a little group, snickering and pointing, before violently shoving one of the fan bases down the nearest flight of stairs.
The Canucks probably should have been up a couple of goals after the first period. That might have been the best we’ve seen Vancouver play all series, and you could tell they wanted to end this game early.
But as JT Miller flatly stated after the game, Nashville? They’re resilient. And there is irony in that they’re coached by Andrew Brunette, a man who helped lead his own plucky group of resilient Minnesota Wild teammates to overcome a 3-1 series deficit against Vancouver way back in 2003.
There will be a lot of discussion over coaches challenges in this game and everyone’s favourite game of “he turned into the hit.” But the Canucks also played a part in their own fate on the night.
Their powerplay? Dreadful. Disgusting. Deglazed. Whatever word that starts with “D,” toss it in there.
Scoring goals? Once again an issue. At this point, Ilya Mikheyev might never score a goal in the NHL again.
Getting shots on net? At one point, Filip Hronek passed up a shot on net and decided to hammer a 100mph pass across the ice at his own teammate instead. This is a guy who can probably put a hole in the net, and instead of making the Predators pay the sweet, sweet price of pain to block his shot, he’s out here firing piss missiles at his buddies.
It feels like all the little problems the Canucks showcased down the final stretch of the season are peaking their heads around the corner, checking in with you to see how you’re doing, and then asking if they can borrow $100.
And with the way this series is going? It’s hard to imagine it being anything but a Game 7 scenario being settled in Vancouver. That’s just how things seem to work with hockey in Vancouver; nothing can be too easy.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. There is a game six yet to be played in Nashville. And even if it goes to a Game 7 scenario, that doesn’t spell doom for the Canucks.
It just feels like the next two games will be decided by coin-flip scenarios, no matter how well either team is playing.
Best Arty Party continues
Arturs Silovs got the start for Vancouver, and it felt like the right call. Even if Casey DeSmith was 100% healthy, give me the guy with the Hulk Hogan swagger who just got you the latest dub.
Best branding
I won’t lie, I want to try the lemon-lime grapefruit 7-up.
Best never let ’em see you bleed
Quinn could get run from behind and stabbed 47 times, and he would probably credit the other team with really sticking it to him. Anything but let the other guys know they hurt you. I’m honestly surprised he didn’t talk about how much he loves getting hit because it wakes him up and gets him into the game.
Best careful what you wish for
The Canucks first period? It was pretty dope. The Canucks generated 14 scoring chances to the Predators three. They also had seven high-danger chances to Nashville’s zero.
So yes, the Canucks probably should have had a couple of goals heading into the second period. The team came out and played fantastic hockey. It was one of the rare moments as of late when it felt like Vancouver imposed their game plan on the other team.
And a lot of it was generated by simple hustle. Pius Suter? Hustle:
Suter flies in off screen like he’s trying to slide into some DMs and picks the pocket of Roman Josi. Not since Happy Gilmore got run over by a car has someone been so unaware of a tragedy about to befall them, as Josi has no idea he’s about to be the victim of a blatant theft.
Suter, who knows he’s no longer legally allowed to score on high-danger chances, decides to pass it to JT Miller rather than drive to the net, which is clearly the right play. JT Miller enjoys ripping them as much as anyone, but Juuse Saros makes the easy save.
Pew Pew Suter then pays the price for playing good hockey in Vancouver by promptly eating a puck to the face.
This is just how things work here. Your cell phone bill is crazy high, and you get hit with pucks a lot. Once, I got off at Joyce Station, and a puck domed me right in the nose. It’s just life in Vancouver, to be honest.
Best slowly rounding into form
We haven’t seen the 5-on-5 scoring menace version of Nils Hoglander yet, and it could be because his line is cursed.
Elias Pettersson can’t score.
Ilya Mikheyev can’t score.
So why should Nils be allowed to score? Hockey is a gentlemen’s sport, and it has rules for a reason.
But aside from scoring, we haven’t really seen the aggressive, aggravating side of Hoglander in this series. Game five might have been the closest we’ve come to it, though:
Hoglander chases down Alexandre Carrier and obliterates him near the boards. If that line can’t score a goal, at least beating people up is a nice visual catharsis.
Hell, even Elias Pettersson threw a hit shortly after this, which the crowd gave way too much of a cheer for, because they care so damn much about EP40. They are trying to pick him up mentally and be his support system through these trying times. They were being good fans, basically.
EP40 making a simple pass might get a standing ovation by Game 7 at this rate, which is equal parts god damn heartwarming as well as extremely horrifying that it has come to this.
Best pressure creates pressure creates diamonds?
You know how you know Nashville is panicking? Their stupid five-man unit blocked everything in the middle of the ice, including happiness and the ability to get into Heaven, was a total mess.
Instead of blocking shots, the Predators were scrambling and panicking as the Canucks cycled the puck and generated plenty of good looks on net:
The problem? They either missed the net entirely or when they did get a shot on Saros, he stopped it.
Now, Saros continues to drop his stick in scrambles, which feels like an odd thing to do. But I am sure Kevin Woodley would assure me it was the right play to do 74.3% of the time – if only I had access to his proprietary top-secret goaltender data.
As for Juuse Saros overall? He essentially won this game for the Predators. He didn’t face a ton of shots (17 total) because, well, it’s Nashville, but the fact he faced down 13 high-danger chances and only let in one goal kind of tells the story. When the game was tied late in the third, Brock Boeser, Eater of Worlds, was foiled twice by Saros, a revenge story worthy of a Taylor Swift song.
All of which is to sayJuuse was good at kicking the puck with his leg pad thingies. And occasionally, his hand warmer glove things.
Best no moment is too big
And while Silovs was the losing goalie on the night, and the winning goal wasn’t my favourite thing in the world (it was just barely ahead of cantaloupe), all things considered, he was excellent Tuesday night.
Nashville only ended up with 20 shots on the night and five high-danger chances, but Silovs looks dialled in any time he was tested:
**The guy busts out a poke check, gets run into, tracks the puck while flying through the air and tries to make a glove save on it. Like I said, the kid has swagger. Even after the game, he didn’t seem frazzled; he just calmly answered our dumb media scrum questions and went about his day. You want to ask him if he needs to reset after a loss like that, he’ll politely agree with you, damn it.
Best sad observation
Technically, if they looked like a powerplay, then it should have struggled to enter the zone and would have been a topic of discussion that Rick Tocchet would have sadly talked about in the post-game.
But the beauty of Miller and Hughes, when they’re feeling it in a period, is they tend to generate a lot of looks for whoever is playing with them.
And in this case, Fil Hronek ended up getting the puck in a good spot a couple of times:
You’ll notice Hronek didn’t actually shoot the puck on net. No, why would he? He just has one of the hardest shots on the team.
Instead, he tried to do a couple of back-door plays. Which, hey, that’s a tool in the Canucks arsenal. They sure do love them some back door passes. And when it works, it’s delightful. You calmly tap the puck in behind the goalie, and he gets to feel the shame of not even having a chance to make a save. It brings him back to his childhood when his parents would yell at him no matter what he did and that he could do no right. That 95% he got on the math test in grade 7, why wasn’t it 100%?
It puts him in a dark place. You start winning the mental battle with goals like that.
But when it doesn’t work, and you have now had five games in which you’re no longer flirting with recording the fewest number of shots in a series, and you’re now married and living in a trailer with them, you can’t help but wonder, “Why not just shoot it on net?”
It was something Rick Tocchet spoke of in the post-game presser. He talked about the Canucks failing on the back door play far too many times, and how yeah, maybe just get the puck on net. Shoot at a pad, get a rebound, get greasy with it – especially when it’s a guy like Hronek, who we know can hammer the puck.
Nashville likes to block shots? Okay, have fun blocking Fil’s piss missiles.
Best glovely day
This was my favourite save from Silovs, because it was on a pretty deceptive shot from Ryan McDonagh:
That little delay into a drag, using Vancouver as a screen against themself? Chefs kiss. Absolute glorious. That’s the kind of money shot I look for on adult websites.
Now, Ryan isn’t exactly an elite sniper, so he’s not likely to go bar down here. Not everyone can be Cody Hodgson in a Game 8 scenario.
But it’s still a tricky shot, and one that Silovs tracks perfectly and snags very easily. To the point that he made the save boring. Much in the way Thatcher Demko would have.
Casey DeSmith would have punted that shot in the slot and then done a barrel roll to save the rebound.
Silovs? He just calmly snagged it with his glove thing.
Best killing them softly
JT Miller took the first penalty of the game, one in which I audibly said, “You can’t do that” to Jeff Paterson, a mere second before the officials called him for hooking:
It’s a needless penalty and an obvious one. Even if he doesn’t actually hook Carrier all that hard, the optics make it an easy call. JT Miller has to almost swing his arms around Alex’s body to get the stick tight into his body, which the officials tend to call.
It’s like if you ran out of a house screaming “FIRE FIRE FIRE” and then got mad that someone called the fire department. Sometimes, optics matter more than what’s actually happening.
The good news is that for most of the night, any time a team got a powerplay, their momentum came to a crashing halt. Neither team generated much in the way of zone entries or good looks on net, and in the case of Vancouver, they actually got the best chance at the end of JT Miller’s penalty:
For those scoring at home, that’s a high-danger chance that didn’t result in a shot on net. Because JT Miller stopped skating and decided to pick a corner from far out, instead honouring Mason Raymond by missing the net entirely.
With Rip, you know he can score on those shots, though. It’s hard to get too mad at anything JT Miller does because he can do what he’s trying to do half the time.
JT Miller is a weird guy to watch, you know? He can bust his ass on one play, then lazily float back defensively on the next, then miss the net five times in a row, then go post and in on the next two shots.
At times, he will make the most brilliant pass you’ve ever seen, then the next shift, he does a no-look dribbler of a pass that gives up a two-on-one.
The thing that works for him is that he wins out like 85% of the time in these scenarios. So we just sit back and scream “MILLER” anytime Al Murdoch tells us to.
Best horseshoes and hand grenades all day
Quinn Hughes almost scored a goal off of Pius Suter’s skates, in what I assume was an attempt to get around the high-danger scoring ban on Pew Pew:
If Suter doesn’t actually shoot the puck, maybe he’s actually allowed to score.
Sadly, the ban extends to the puck connecting with any part of Suter’s body.
Best pushback
Nashville’s best period was in the second, but before we get to that, here’s Lindholm showing McDonagh how a fancy delay and drag should look:
That shot is something I would also look for on a hub dedicated to carnal activities.
Best so tight
With John Weisbrod watching with baited breath, Mark Jankowski had a two-on-one scenario in which he chose shot:
Alas, the Batman of the NHL was unable to beat Arturs Silovs.
In fact, Silovs once again made a hard shot look incredibly boring. He didn’t even blink on this shot, despite the fact he was facing the hidden gem from the 2012 NHL draft.
He just stared the shot down, a long-distance look in his eyes, the kind you get when you think about the fact you’ve been stuck in a job you hate for almost a decade, wondering where the time went.
Best Corolla moment
Garland’s line continues to be a puck possession unit, and they almost broke the game open early in the second.
The first chance was when Corolla drove into the zone at a very reasonable 45mph, trying to dangle his way into a shot on net:
He loses the handle, but Elias Lindholm follows up and gets a good look on net, and then even manages to throw the puck back in front to see if Dakota Joshua can get a stick on it.
Then, later in the shift, the deceptive Garland heads behind the net and ponders the reverse wraparound but realizes it won’t work, so he instead shifts to the spinning back pass that worked so well on Luke Schenn in Game 4:
Saros, though, is apparently a good goaltender. So he didn’t fall for too many tricks on the night. He slides over and stops Lindholm pretty easily.
But for a team starving for offence, the Garland line continues to be a unit that produces some chances while also playing really well defensively.
Best beast mode
With Zadorov serving a penalty for touching Filip Forsberg, he came out of the box with revenge on his mind:
This got one of the loudest cheers on the night, and if you haven’t experienced Zadorov Playoff Hockey, I can assure you it’s worth every single penny.
For every bit that Hronek’s stock falls in the post-season, it feels like Zadorov’s has risen in equal measures. Everything from how he handles himself off the ice, to how he dresses, to how he plays, I don’t think people realize the love affair this fan base has going on with Big Z.
The off-season decision to sign Hronek to a big contract or possibly go with Dakota and Zadorov instead is going to be interesting.
Best never going to happen
I don’t know if there is a more maligned line in the NHL playoffs than EP40’s line.
The last time Ilya Mikheyev scored an NHL goal, B4-4 had just released their hit single “Get Down” that took Canada by storm.
And on Tuesday night, that trend continued:
I mean, it’s a decent shot. And at least it got on net, and Saros had to make a save.
But part of you can’t help but wonder if Elias needs a finisher on his line. Take away his big contract next season, and ignore the “he shouldn’t need help” stuff running through your head, and just ponder if maybe Elias getting a couple of apples due to a linemate that can actually score might help his confidence out a little bit.
As odd as it is, the finishers in Nikolay Goldobin and Andrei Kuzmenko seemed to bring out the best in Elias Pettersson, even if they didn’t know how to play defence and seemed to really enjoy using Instagram on their vacations.
Best why can’t we be friends
Ah left post, my old friend, how are you today:
You’ll notice that’s on a Canucks powerplay, and that’s because their powerplay was absolute horse shit on the night. No good looks, no good entries, it was absolutely a big part of the loss for the Canucks. JT Miller spoke about it after the game, about how badly it performed.
And watch that clip again, watch JT casually play the puck along the boards. He misses the puck and it turns into that odd man rush.
I don’t know if Nashville has figured them out on the powerplay, or if it’s just late season problems rearing it’s ugly head again, but the Canucks need to figure a way to produce goals with the extra man.
Without having to pull their own goalie.
Best actual shots on net
Like I said, the few shots Saros did see, he was in the zone and stopping all of them:
Best petty games for petty people
The puck went out of play and the period ended, but Nashville, using some gamesmanship, demanded the officials hold the face off and put .6 seconds back on the clock.
This resulted in a two minute delay as enough Canucks players came back from the locker room to hold a faceoff.
It was by far one of the stupidest things I have ever witnessed in a game of playoff hockey, but I can also almost respect it for how petty it was.
Best depressing Jeff stat
Best technical issues
At this point my feed in the arena died, so I could no longer get clips from the game. Instead I was at the mercy of whatever the Canucks Army twitter account published.
So instead here are my quick notes from early in the third period, ones that never got turned into video clips:
17:30 ep mik chance
17:06 chnee
I assume at the 17:30 mark Elias Pettersson made a pass to Mikheyev for a scoring chance. I am sure it was a shot on net that was handled quite easily.
At 17:06, I’m not quite sure what happened. It’s possible I had a stroke and wrote random letters on my keyboard. I truly wish I knew what “chnee” meant.
Best highlight of the game
There was a brief moment where all was right in the world and Vancouver had scored to make it 1-0. The crowd lost it’s absolute shit and the building was as loud as I’ve ever heard it, as the relief of people who spent way too much money on tickets finally got to see a goal being scored:
The legend of Zadorov continues to grow. In a deadlocked game, he simply waltzes down the ice and from an insane angle, goes top cheddar where Mom keeps the story you wrote for her in grade 1, a cherished memory she has held onto forever.
Look, here’s the thing. Zaddy Daddy isn’t a top pairing d-man. And yes, there is a point where he isn’t worth the money if you pay him too much.
But as a fourth d-man, he has been tremendous for the Canucks, and double that in the playoffs.
Physicality, scoring, defending his teammates, willing to attack NHL officials in a sly way after the game, there is nothing this guy can’t do right now.
Again, he has a limit. You can’t ask the world from him.
But there is just something he brings to this team that it feels like this fan base has been waiting for since 2011.
Best text description
Once again I had no clips at this point, so I can tell you about how Tyler Myers had a chance to score in the slot, but Saros stopped him.
Which saddened me, because I could not come up with a more exciting post-game scenario than “Zadorov and Myers lead Canucks to 2-0 victory.”
I half stood out of my chair on the shot because I was so excited about this potential narrative unfolding before me.
“Brothers of Destruction bury Nashville Predators alive in game five,” I had the title and everything!
Best saving away
Here’s Silovs making another hard save look easy:
The kid truly has ice in his veins.
Think about it, Game 1 started and he assumed he’d be helping out in practices and getting to make funny jokes during shooting drills.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and the entire fan base is watching him play in net, putting all their hopes and dreams on him.
Craziness.
Best 50/50 shot
I don’t have the video of it, but it’s a play you’ve seen countless times: Player A goes to hit Player B, Player B ends up hitting the boards face first, player A gets hit with a boarding call.
Then both fan bases argue about whether or not the player turned into the hit.
And honestly, I never know what the NHL is going to call. That “he turned into it!” is the source of 57% of arguments on hockey twitter, I swear.
But in this case, it was deemed Dakota hit Evangelista from behind, so off to the box he went.
If you were at the game, you could tell the Canucks were jacked after that Zadorov goal, and why wouldn’t they be? And it felt like they were feeding off the atmosphere of the crowd. They were clearly trying to finish every check and trying to get that second goal.
So, I do think some exuberance from Joshua led to him finishing that check no matter what.
But all that matters is he was penalized and the Predators tied the game up on this play:
The big debate about this goal was whether Silovs was interfered with or not. And honestly, it’s a jumbled mess. This is the kind of play that will become the Zapruder film of the season.
Does Silovs get pushed in by Gus Nyquist? Does Zadorov shove Nyquist into his own goalie? Does Josi run the goalie on the initial shot?
There is just a ton going on there, and with the NHL being the NHL, you could see why Rick Tocchet didn’t challenge it. After the game he said it felt like a 50/50 shot at best, so it wasn’t worth it. And at the risk of taking a penalty if they were wrong, he played it safe.
And honestly, I like it. He bet on his team to win the game, even after they let in a goal. And as you’ll see, Brock Boeser came within inches of winning this one for Vancouver. If Boeser scores there, nobody remembers this goal.
So to me, it’s Tocchet betting on his team that they can bounce back from this.
But I also respect people who would have wanted to see Tocchet roll the dice on it.
I just think we can all agree that the NHL doesn’t make sense at the best of times, so who knows if he wins that or not.
As for Zadorov, he walked the line perfectly of calling out the officials after the game in a way that should probably let him avoid any fines:
“I feel like it’s the NHL playoffs, every person on the ice should be sharp, not just the players. I don’t know what Dakota is supposed to do, he’s back checking, finishing the guy. The kid’s been dodging hits for five games straight…Trying to find the words that aren’t going to fine me $25,000, but everybody saw that.”
Best it was that close
If the Canucks score here, it’s game over, I’m convinced of it:
Miller and Boeser have been the biggest story for the Canucks this post-season, in terms of forwards, so it’s no surprise that once again they generated the best looks on net.
It’s just Saros and those damn legs of his. You have to give Juuse credit for stepping up huge for Nashville on the net, giving his team a chance to win.
Best role reversal
Once again, no video, but minutes after the Predators goal, Elias Lindholm cut off a zone exit pass, and sent a cross ice pass over to Conor Garland for a one timer.
Saros made the save, and the puck popped in the air, leaving Dakota Joshua trying to bunt the puck in out of the air.
You reverse those positions, and that’s a goal. Conor Garland was made for a moment in which you have to pull up short on your stick and bat a puck into a net.
Best EP40 sighting
Elias’ best chance in the game was on a two on one in which Saros again made a big save:
It’s a good save but also another situation in which Pettersson failed to come through in a big moment for his club.
We are quickly running out of games for EP40 to avoid the first wave of “is he built for the playoffs” because baby, that is coming, and it is coming hard.
Especially if the team ends up blowing the 3-1 series lead.
Best speaking of luck
Ryan McDonagh should have ended this game earlier than Carrier ended up finishing it:
That was one of the rare “urrrg” moments from Silovs, who kicked out an awful rebound right to the Predators defenceman.
Best let’s finish this
And just like that, the dream was over:
Silovs would say after the game he didn’t see the shot, and Josi would joke about the power of Carrier’s “69 miles per hour” shot, but a goal is a goal.
You could kind of sense the Canucks were playing with fire, and we have all seen countless games end on a shot like this. Some non-descript play that ends with a team wondering what went wrong.
Just watching the clip over and over again and you keep expecting Silovs to stop it. It’s just such a harmless wet fart of a shot that eludes Silovs just enough to go in.
Best please make it stop
 
I don’t have the clip, but at this point that’s doing you a favour.
Hronek walking in, the team needing a goal, and he absolutely rips a pass across the ice to a teammate instead of shooting on the net.
I can’t think of a worse high-risk, low-reward scenario than this.
What’s the best thing that can happen? His teammate manages to corral the puck somehow, and now they’re still on the outside, cycling the puck?
I don’t get it. I truly don’t.
Best last gasp
The only thing weird about this was that Brock Boeser didn’t score?
Sir, I am used to last minute hat trick goals, what is this “missing the net” business.
And that was it. Game six is needed. Back to Nashville we go.
The Zadorov goal was one of the most exciting moments of the season, and it felt like the perfect way to cement the legendary status of the fashionable Russian.
But instead we’re going to be arguing about coaches challenges and turning into hits.
The good news is at least we still have hockey to scream about.
See you Friday.
Best advice
For a few, brief moments, Graham got to experience one of the best parts of playoff hockey: Nikita Zadorov scoring from an insane angle.
You’re welcome.
Best jersey Botch
 

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