Photo credit:© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchies: It’s Elias Pettersson’s world, we’re just living in it
1 month ago
Honestly, I don’t even have a flowery speech prepared for this intro. You would think after an intense 4-3 overtime win by the Canucks, a game in which Elias Pettersson factored in on all four goals (including the win in overtime), that I would have a movie metaphor already picked out for it.
So many choices, so little time.
The thing is, I forgot how mentally exhausting it is watching hockey games that matter.
You see, back in the old days when the Canucks would manage to win a big road game, it had a decidedly different aura about it. It would inevitably be during a season in which nothing really mattered. The Canucks were already rapidly falling down the standings, and their playoff chances had already taken a back seat to wondering how soon before you could discuss the draft lottery implications of a win.
And it doesn’t get more bleak than having week long debates about the merits of “finishing a losing season strong” so the team can carry some magical Jedi-like powers over to the next year. How could they possibly start off poorly next year, not when they have that 5 game winning streak from the previous season in their back pocket!
But when the games matter? Oh my goodness, you forget the impact it has on your mentality.
Suddenly that missed call be the official doesn’t just feel pointed, it feels personal. Like they are going out of their way to try and hurt you.
Sidney Crosby and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins Olympic team diving to draw calls in the third period? That’s an outright act of war. These cities can never be friends again, you must hunt down anyone from Pittsburgh in your life and inform them you will no longer be needing their services.
That despite blowing a two goal lead, the Canucks walked away from a playoff-like atmosphere PPG Paints Arena in overtime with the win on an Elias Pettersson breakaway where even the puck seemed to have a flair for the dramatic, taking its time before peeking its head out to roll across the goal line through Tristan Jarry’s legs?
Not to upset Greg Wyshynski, but how can you not walk away from that game feeling a bit cocky about yourself?
Because that’s the beauty of sports. You live and die through your team. They win? You win. They lose? You lose.
It’s hard to joke around online with other fan bases when they gaze upon you with a mixture of pity and sadness. When their biggest comment on the season is, “I cannot BELIEVE we lost to the Canucks.”
You know the easiest way to an existential crisis? Watching the Canucks win a game and realizing it doesn’t matter. Realizing nothing matters. Wondering why we’re even here on this earth. Sure, you just wrote a killer article, but it was about a 7-1 loss to the Blue Jackets, something tells me nobody is going to fondly remember that killer Douglas Adams reference you used when talking about Jayson Megna’s power play usage.
But now? Games are fun. Hockey is fun. Yelling at people online is fun. You know the team is doing well when other fan bases start going “You know, I used to like Vancouver fans, but they’re really annoying this season.” That’s when you know you’re winning.
People hate Vancouver again. People are lecturing Vancouver on how to hold themselves in public during these wins. To not get too cocky lest it all fall apart.
Well you know what? We know about things falling apart in Vancouver. You don’t stand in line for the 99 B-Line in the pouring rain, doing the mental math of how many people in front of you is going to impact your ability to get a seat, only to watch it go by you with a “Sorry, Bus is Full” sign with no one on board, without learning how to take an unexpected loss in this city.
The Canucks are a wagon. They are a must watch team right now. You can legitimately talk with your co-workers about moves to make at the trade deadline because there is actual proof that hey maybe you roll the dice and go all in on this season.
Could it all fall apart? Could it lead to an uninspiring first round loss?
Of course it can.
But who cares, because hockey is fun again.
Even if after it’s over, you feel like you need a nap.
Let’s make some gif money, shall we?
You know in Mario Kart when you get hit by a red turtle shell, but you’ve got a golden mushroom so you just power back to first place?
That’s kind of what happened here when Jeff Carter thought he had a leg up on Quinn Hughes:
Actually I take it back, Quinn Hughes didn’t even use the golden mushroom, he pocketed it for later because he knows the blue shell could be waiting for him. Jeff Carter in a straight line would have had no chance, let alone Jeff taking a wide angle.
All of which is so I can bring up the best beck check in Canucks history:
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For those of you who muttered, “he’s talking about Jeff Tambellini,” before even seeing the video, I just want you to know I appreciate you.
And yes, I will use any excuse to post this clip. I’m pretty sure the biggest loss of 2011 for me was the fact I can’t promote this clip as part of a Cup winning journey.
Best scratching and winning
The closest parable to the Lotto Line is honestly the West Coast Express, just in terms of how dangerous they are at scoring creatively off of the rush.
The Sedins were the cerebral assassins of the hockey world, whereas the WCE era was pre-Jesus Shawn Michaels, where you never knew what you were going to get, but you knew it would be highlight-worthy either way.
I don’t know fully where the Lotto Line falls within those lines, but there aren’t many lines in the league right now producing goals like this:
The puck just floats across the line as each member touches the puck, before EP40 slows things down just long enough to find a trailing Brock Boeser, whose ability to slide into open space still isn’t talked about enough, despite me screaming about it every other day.
You watch Elias Pettersson play right now and you quickly realize the importance of having skilled players on the same line. I know we’ve talked in the past about how some people believe EP40 should be able to grab Jeff Paterson and Patrick Johnston and make a solid line out of them, but having smart players play with smart players can have such a huge benefit.
One of which is seeing Elias trust his linemates. He isn’t out there babysitting them or trying to simplify his game. No, he’s out there cooking, knowing his linemates can read what he’s doing and get in positions to help him on the ice.
This is how we see games like this from Elias, he knows he can slow things down and feather a pass to a dangerous area knowing Brock will most likely be there, fabulous hair and all.
He also knows there is a greater than likely chance that Brock will create a goal out of a shot like that, because that’s what Brock does, he’s a god damn finisher.
The dominance the Lotto Line has shown since reuniting has been to such a high degree that if you’re any kind of normal, sane, human being, you have to be asking yourself right now, “why didn’t this happen sooner?”
Will there be games where the Lotto Line is shut down? You bet!
But will there more often than not be games that the Lotto Line obliterates its opponents? Damn skippy.
Does that present a trade deadline issue of having to find a second line centre? Well, now we’re talking.
Best scratching that itch
The Canucks would then cash in their second goal of the night mere moments later on, and say it with me now, a DEFT tip from Brock Boeser:
Can it really be a tipped shot if it wasn’t deft? Of course not, and this might have been the deftest tip I have seen in a while.
Remember that 99 point season from JT Miller, where he piled up a bunch of secondary assists, and people began screaming about how good of a player was he, really?
Well it turns out JT Miller is a really good playmaker. That’s a planned shot-pass from JT Miller that you get the feeling he practices all the time with Brock Boeser. They probably giggle and high five each other when they pull it off in practice, and then reenact Garland jumping up into Tyler Myers’ arms.
It’s a smart play that once again is fueled by line mates believing in each other, knowing that they can handle the skilled play being made in front of them. It’s not like in Warzone when your friend repeatedly wanders away silently to take people on 1 v 4, somehow assuming you’ll know how to help them, before rage quitting when it fails.
No, this is a fully functioning line that knows how to be in the right places at the right time, without putting the team at a disadvantage.
Best getting away with one
I know it’s a slippery slope of whataboutisms when you go over penalties and the such, and oh boy does that come into factor later, but I will say that the Canucks got away with one here when Zadorov ran Reilly Smith right in the numbers into the glass:
That’s a penalty all day long, as Zadorov had plenty of time to think about landing that hit.
The end result was it knocked Reilly Smith out of the game, who seemed to be favoring his left arm skating away from the hit.
I’m no doctor, but I’ve watched enough House to try and guess it’s some sort of AC injury, not and not lupus, because it looked like Smith tried to get his hand up to protect himself from being squished, and it bore the brunt of the impact.
Now, I don’t want to say it’s a benefit of having tall defenseman, because you don’t actively wish injuries upon anyone, but one of the things that helps a team in the playoffs is big bodies on the back end, either through handing out punishment, or by being able to absorb it.
And in a long, grinding playoff series, it does feel like the Canucks are poised to handle the rigors of the playoffs a bit better than the days of having a Nolan Baumgartner on the back end.
I don’t want to get into a giant size debate, because god knows Luca Sbisa and Erik Gudbranson showcase how this logic can fall apart very quickly, BUT, if the Canucks can get relatively stable defending from it’s big boys on the back end, that’s a huge boost for their playoff chances.
Best push back
Sometimes goals get scored and honestly, you can’t find a lot to get angry about:
Like, I enjoy that defending from the Canucks. That goal starts after Quinn Hughes tried going end to end, and to the Canucks credit, they skate back hard to make sure they aren’t burnt on an odd man rush.
Pius Suter in particular, he for sure taps that golden mushroom and goes full Tambellini as he tracks down the puck, causing the Penguins to pull up at the blueline.
Pew Pew then backs off and then lunges forward again to steal the puck, but the Penguins force a turnover, and than at that point the Canucks find themselves a little too deep in their own end, and chasing the play just a little too much.
I saw some people trying to use this shift as a way to demonize Kuzmenko, to prove that he never works hard and that he’s not covering anyone, and I have to say, that feels like selective viewing. He’s back in the play, he’s in the right areas, it’s the entire forward line that kind of loses track of the puck as it bounces back and forth in the puck battles. That’s a hard play to read when both sides are taking turns taking the puck away from each other.
Even with the line playing too deep and not having someone cover the point shot, that’s the kind of shot you let the Penguins have all day versus one down low or in the slot. Normally Demko stops that kind of shot, but on this night, it happened to go in.
End of the day, sometimes the other teams get bounces after working hard on a shift. Other teams are allowed to suckle from the teat of PDO as well, it’s true.
Best Deft Jam records
That sound you just heard? That was J.P. Barry laughing maniacally:
What kind of tip was that from Elias Pettersson?
A deft one.
Thanks to the magic of waving his wand, Elias Pettersson put the Canucks up 3-1 on the night
That other sound you just heard? That was Allan Walsh cackling maniacally.
Filip Hronek had himself a big night with two assists and a big defensive play in overtime, but none was bigger than him finding a way to get in on a Lotto Line scoring play and blocking Boeser out. He skates behind the net and then reverses to buy time, and then banks the pass to JT Miller who sends in what I have to assume is another pass-shot from Jimothy Timothy.
Hronek’s next contract is going to be up for debate, and his impact on the ice will also be heavily scrutinized when that time comes. How much is he an illusion of playing with Quinn Hughes and all that.
But what you can’t argue is how offensively gifted he is, because he has the ability to buy time and space at the NHL level. That’s the kind of thing that separates you from the lower skilled players, leading to the Oscar Fantenberg’s of the world making the safe play of a dump in versus Fil Hronek swashbuckling around behind the net, knowing he can protect the puck and maybe find an open guy.
Or, as Allan Walsh calls it, an 80 million dollars over 8 years pass.
If you’re like me and struggle to visualize anything in your head (I vibe a lot in my brain, instead of picturing. Want me to picture a couch? Sorry, can’t do it. But I can picture how I feel sitting in said couch), here’s as good as anything at showing just how good the Lotto Line has been:
When your production looks like the offensive zone heat map got hit with a shotgun blast to the chest, that’s a very good sign.
When your production looks like the offensive zone had a giant cat that recently stepped in some spaghetti sauce walked over the image, that’s a very good sign.
When your production looks like the offensive zone is showcasing the effects of rising temperatures around the globe, that’s a very good sign, but also a sobering reminder.
The Penguins changed goalies during intermission (I assume after a spirited game of Roshambo), and whether correlation was there or not, it did go hand in hand with giving the Penguins a bit of a spark. Or at the very least, it stopped goals from going in:
Corolla Garland is as reliable as they get, as he quickly generated two scoring chances for his linemates, because that’s just what he does. He’s a reliable POS who is the king of High Danger passes, did you expect him to just sit back and do nothing?
Alas Tristan Jarry acted like he’d never even heard of Gateway Station before, and denied the Canucks on both chances.
Kuzmenko then got two scoring chances off as well, only to be denied by someone who you would think would respect Planet Ice enough to let the struggling Russian get a goal or two:
The night was all about Elias Pettersson, but the other lines did make some offensive contributions. Kuzmenko once again had the best chances for his line offensively, but I don’t know how many games we can go without that line producing actual goals before we start worrying about their role on the team.
What’s their identity? I know the easy joke to make is that Corolla’s line is the true second line, but they do shutdown work. They come in and grind out shifts, and if they get a goal or two along the way, hey, that’s a nice bonus. It’s like getting a banana bread you never ordered in amongst your Starbucks bag.
But if this team wants to go deep on a playoff run, they’re going to need a second line that can produce more than they have so far.
I like Pius Suter.
I like Andrei Kuzmenko.
I would attend a party that Ilya Mikheyev is at.
I am just not sure how much you can lean on them as a unit, however.
Best Sid the Kid, look what he did, it’s time to bid, on your Ebay lid
Filip Hronek lives by the sword and dies by the sword, which is what happens when he makes an aggressive pinch at the blue line, but loses the puck battle:
The Canucks defended this one like Vancouver traffic when it snows a tiny bit, where you don’t know why people are doing what they’re doing, but you’re just happy you’re at home instead of being out there.
I get giving the goalie the shot, although it feels like giving Crosby that shot is playing with fire.
I just don’t know why JT Miller drifted over to help with taking away the pass. It feels like a miscommunication between Hughes and Miller where neither guy knew who was going to take which player. Miller hits his golden mushroom and looks like he guns right for Rickard Rakell, expecting Hughes to slide over to Crosby, but it never happens.
Sometimes your truck hits the overpass, you know? Mistakes happen. Apparently many times a week, for reasons you don’t quite understand.
That being said, this team has often said “eff it, let Demko take care of it”, so maybe that’s the thinking here. Force a bit of a bad angled shot and take away the potentially easy tap in, and then fist bump each at the bench for your brilliant game planning later.
Demko, who looks like he overplays this one and makes himself small in net, gets beat by Crosby, and it was suddenly a 3-2 game, despite it feeling like the Canucks had been in total control of things.
The Penguins would then almost immediately hit the post, sending Canucks Nation into intense buttocks clamping mode:
I apologize, that was a clip of Demko getting snow showered and looking like an extra in Scarface.
Here is the actual post from Erik Karlsson:
This was a game where it felt like the Canucks had an easy handle on it, were well on their way to the New York special, and about to dunk six goals on the Penguins.
Alas Sidney Crosby is good at hockey and doesn’t like losing or something? Because it turned into a 3-2 game real quick, coming to within a post of being all tied up.
But as we have seen all year long from this team, they don’t often break, nor lose leads, in the third period.
Biggest major mistake
Hey, this is a good save from Jarry, even if he is spitting in face of one day trips past the Peace Arch for Jack in the Box:
I do take umbrage with Tyler Myers, however.
Fresh off a game in which he unleashed the full power of the Chaos Giraffe in the form of a heavy piss missile, he decides to take a wrist shot? In this economy?
How do you overpower a goalie through the pure might of your shot on Tuesday, only to turn around Thursday and think to yourself, “Maybe I’ll go for a bit of a wrister here.”
This isn’t a bar. We don’t need variety in shots.
Just hammer that home every time and you know why?
People get sad when your wrist shot gets stopped.
Nobody gets mad when you wind up and unload your clap bomb off the rush.
People respect a slapshot.
You don’t win friends with wrist shots or salad.
Best a friend in need is a friend indeed
Nikita Zadorov looked to be in trouble when his stick broke on this play, but you know who was there with the assist?
JT Miller is not only a primary assist connoisseur, he also excels at passing sticks.
Could he pass that exam you didn’t study for because you hoped classes would be cancelled due to snow?
But should he have to?
Best two sides of a coin
Sometimes you defend by hustling and working hard, much like Teddy Blueger does on this penalty kill:
He skates for the puck, grinds hard like it’s 1 am at The Roxy, and kills a decent chunk of time off the clock.
Sometimes you sit on the ground like you just blew out your quads on the way to make a big wrestling decision that will impact the Royal Rumble in a big way, and you direct traffic from there:
Both are viable, although one is more common than the other.
Still, kudos to Letang for protecting the puck using the little known “dryland kayaking” technique.
Best signaling your intentions
The Penguins kept the momentum on their side, starting the third period by beating Demko five hole:
Luckily Demko’s five hole was to the side of the net, but if you thought the Penguins were going to go full Huberdeau and just shut down, you were wrong.
(Isn’t it fun being able to make fun of other teams again?)
Best naming convention
You know what, I am down with IMac’s nickname for this line, it’s unfair for Corolla to shoulder all of its legacy, so the Life Line v 2.0 it is.
The Life Line was the first line to offer up pushback from the Canucks in the third period, as before that they were just kind of taking it from the Penguins. Not a lot of pushback, until Garland got his motor going.
I don’t have a clip of them grinding out 45 seconds in the offensive zone against the Crosby line, because that’s too long, but I do have Garland going full Hank Sedin with the bank pass off the net to himself:
See, just like a Corolla, Garland is swankier than you think. He can get you places in style when he needs to, he just prefers to do it in a reliable fashion whenever possible.
But sometimes a good Corolla can draw the looks when you drive down Robson, I’m telling you. It’s all in how you rev your engine and give knowing looks at people.
Best working stiff
Normally in Penguins games I am checked out, because as we mentioned earlier, they didn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.
But when the points matter, I had forgotten how hard Crosby works to draw calls:
JT Miller is 100% going full Rip Wheeler there, but that won’t be called in the playoffs.
Regular season, though, you touch Crosby, you’re going to get in trouble. Especially when Crosby sells it like an absolute boss.
He doesn’t fall to the ground wailing. He doesn’t look at the officials, imploring them to call something.
Instead he slowly stumbles to the ice, selling the pain, as he tries to fight to get back to his feet.
That’s a master class in how to draw a penalty.
Thatcher Demko then had to step up and make a huge save on the delayed penalty call:
Thatcher Demko once again made a lot of five alarm saves, but my outlook on him is the same as the Rangers game, in that he looks more chaotic in net.
That being said, he’s fighting through it all to make some fantastic saves, and hey, he’s finally making me gif money by drawing upon a little Tyler Myers inspiration with his play on the ice.
Best art of the sell
Perhaps inspired by Crosby’s acting job, Kris Letang decided to give it a go himself, but he was unable to convince the officials to make the call:
JT Miller puts his arm in the way of Kris Letang, I think we can all agree on that. But I also hope we can all agree that Letang sells the absolute shit out of that, snapping his head back like he’s playing for the World Cup, and then tumbles to the ice in a pile of meat and flesh with JT Miller.
Players battling with arms as they race down the ice, I don’t need that to be a penalty. To me that’s just a good battle. But if you want to call it, sure, I guess you can have at it. If we’re calling slashes to the stick, I guess you can be pedantic about it and try and scream about impeding progress of humanity or whatever.
I do think you lose the entire benefit of the doubt when you overplay your hand and recreate your favorite Legally Blonde scene on the ice.
You need subtly to draw calls, you can’t overplay your hand.
Due to the non-call, the fans got super amped, though, and it felt like the Penguins players were mad about it as well, because they started hunting down hits the rest of the shift.
Which is where you reliable Garland stepped in because if anyone knows how to survive a crash without being worse for wear, it’s a Corolla:
See, THIS is how you draw a penalty. This is Bret Hart level of selling. You make it look real.
You throw your hit, you flirt with charging by almost leaving your feet, and then you present your back to your opponent as if to say “hit me, please, I beg of you.”
Well bait taken because Garland drew a penalty, and yeah, that Penguins crowd? Just a bit angry about it all.
Best and here we go
The Canucks powerplay would produce nothing of substance, much like your dating life in your 20s, leading to this prime scoring opportunity for Sidney Crosby:
Two things to note:
- That is Demko making an absolute game saving stop on that Crosby chance. That was a great move by Crosby but even bigger save from Demko. And again, he’s not making a boring, technically perfect save. No, buddy is out here drawing upon the power of Johan Hedberg and making a ridiclous pad save.
- Crosby fell down, ergo there must be a penalty. If he has fallen, even if it’s tripping over the back of the net, someone must have visited evils upon his person:
The result was a Penguins powerplay which was denied by, oh yeah, Thatcher Demko
Stops the puck, then tries to clear it himself, no big deal.
The Penguins would get a few more chances on the powerplay, but each time Demko went full Gandalf and politely informed them that they shall not pass:
Demko would end the night with 32 saves on 35 shots, but that doesn’t do justice to how well he played in the third period.
Best Sid the Kid ain’t mid
But with 30 seconds left in the game, wouldn’t you know it, the puck deflected in off the pants of Sidney Crosby:
The Canucks probably sat back a little too much, but you also have to credit the Penguins for feeding off the crowd and really marching their way towards the Canucks net all third period. You make your luck as they say.
Was it a miracle Sidney Crosby didn’t fall to the ground with a broken leg off of a puck hitting him in the pants? Yes, but miracles do happen, I saw it with my own eyes.
Fun fact: Elias Pettersson went for the empty net on the play before this faceoff, but instead iced the puck:
So if anyone felt the burden of winning this game, you knew it was Elias.
This is something that happened. It actually happened.
Best put a bow on it
In what was a back and forth overtime, the Canucks finally ended it when Elias Pettersson finished off the Fil Hronek pass:
A couple of things to note about this goal:
- Filip Hronek made a bad pass that led to the odd man rush against, but he more than made up for it by defending the 3 on 1, and utilized Conor Garland levels of getting low to the ice to block the pass from getting through. He then quickly turned around and found a wide open Elias.
- Never have I been more sure of an overtime goal than I was on this one. Too much on the line for EP40, you knew he needed to make up for that empty net miss. Bro, do your dekes, and did he ever, managing to just squeak the puck past the Surrey hating Jarry.
And with that, another giant win for the Vancouver Canucks.
It feels like they keep having different tests put in front of them and they keep passing all of them.
Should you be scared of the game against Buffalo? Of course! Vancouver loves nothing if not to keep you on your toes with a thrilling loss to the Buffalo Sabres.
But there is also something weird in the air in this city right now, and it kind of smells like confidence.
Not cockiness, don’t worry Greg.
But confidence. Confidence that this team can win any hockey game.
And confidence that even if they lose the game, that they will bounce back and win the next one.
That trade deadline can’t get here soon enough.
Best non butt dialed Rick tweet
Put Alex Mogilny in the Hall of Fame already.
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