The Stanchies: The Vancouver Canucks are raising the bar right before our eyes
Photo credit:© Simon Fearn-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
You know what, it’s not often I am at a loss for words when talking Canucks hockey.
I usually have a gif ready to go or a re-written song lyric from GNR in my hand ready to drop at a second’s notice.
But after the Canucks’ complete and utter domination of the St. Louis Blues to the tune of a 5-0 victory, I find myself unable to think up what to say.
It wasn’t just the fact they won 5-0, it was how they won.
In fact, I’m still not quite sure what I just witnessed.
Did the Canucks just do that?
Did the Canucks just fully dominate that game from puck drop to the end of the game?
Are the Canucks a team like that??
After a decade of writing about the Vancouver Canucks, in all their various forms struggle to win games, or hell, even look like they kind of had a plan in mind when the puck dropped, that might have been the cleanest game I have seen this team play in years.
You’d have to try really hard to find any fault with that game, and the best you’ll come up with is the power play didn’t score a goal, and the goal song needs to be changed as soon as humanly possible. It’s like getting into an argument with your partner where you know you’re 100% in the wrong but you still try and bring up the fact they didn’t turn the lights off before leaving as if that matters in any way; Deep down you know this a bad look, but there are simply no real things to complain about.
Even the Chaos Giraffe himself played 17 minutes of hockey and not once did he try jump-kicking an opponent, nor did he throw his stick at someone while screaming out the rules of UNO.
Even more bizarre? Tyler Myers expertly shut down a zone entry and then turned the play back the other way with a perfect Juolevi-esque stretch pass that led to a Phil Di Giuseppe goal.
I am telling you, if you missed this game, you missed an absolute masterpiece. The kind of masterpiece that Frankie Corrado is going to have to break down and give full credit to the elite level gameplay of the Vancouver Canucks.
This might be the first Stanchies ever where I don’t even have to politely point out a couple of small mistakes.
I’m still curious if I am in some sort of Star Trek: Next Generation plot line where I wake up and find that I had been put into a medically induced coma to prevent a Klingon attack on Burnaby or something, but we do have an article to write.
Let’s make some gif money, shall we?
Best Paradise Van-City
Take me down to the Vancouver cityWhere the ice is clean and the goals are pretty Take me home (oh, won’t you please take me home)
Best Slammin’ Sami Salo
It’s been a while (I’ll let Staind run through your head for a moment….ready? Ok let’s resume) since we’ve seen a d-man willing to fire away without mercy from the point like this, but it’s been an absolute delight watching Hronek start to settle in with his new team. Leading to moments like this where he just starts unleashing clap bombs like he’s Aaron Schwartz:
The end result is not just more shots from the back-end, but with Tocchet’s system starting to take shape, the Canucks are finding their way to recovering the puck quicker than in years past. Add this all up, and normally you’d have a stew going, but right now it’s just good clean hockey. Instead of the Canucks running around their own zone like they can’t quite come to terms with the cost of rent in Vancouver, they are now making other teams make the mistakes.
When was the last time you saw a team come into Rogers Arena and look like they just found out that single line tracking was happening on the Expo line? St. Louis looked absolutely dead inside on the night.
Which, I know, the Blues used up a lot of energy beating up Calgary the night before. But that’s kind of the point because even with opponents ripe for the picking, the Canucks of years past would have found a way to make this game look extremely difficult.
That’s why when the Canucks only ended the first period up 1-0, everyone just sort of assumed the Blues would find some sort of blooper goal to tie the game up, and then things would get back to normal where Kyrou would score a hat trick and I would force in a Caillou joke that Quads would question me on.
It was barely a few minutes into the game when the Canucks led with eight shot attempts and five shots on net compared to the Blues’ absolutely none.
If you’re confused and frightened by this, it’s ok. We all are.
This is what a complete effort looks like. We’d just forgotten what that was around here.
Best just for Lafferty
One of the things we’ve talked about this season is the Healing-by-a-thousand-bandaids, the sexy cousin of Death-by-a-thousand-cuts, that the Canucks might be employing this season.
So instead of watching the salary cap get eaten alive by Jay Beagle or not trading away UFAs at the deadline because they simply ran out of time, adding cut after cut to themselves, we’re seeing additions like Lafferty and Mikheyev bringing up the overall general skill of the lineup.
What does this mean? Well, it doesn’t guarantee a deep Stanley Cup run. But what it does do is raise the bar of skill from the bottom of the ground where it has generally resided in years past, to now floating somewhere at kneecap level.
The end result is we get to see more games like the one we witnessed Friday night, where they have the horses to make a tired Blues team look like a beer league team that got promoted one tier too high.
So now we see plays like this one shown below, where Hronek dumps the puck over to Hughes and he makes a crisp outlet pass to Höglander, who has the skill to feather the puck to Lafferty, who has the speed to zoom zoom towards the net and almost out-wait Binnington into a goal:
A couple of years ago, we would have seen Quinn Hughes push this puck up to Matty Highmore, who would have tried shovelling a puck to Jake Virtanen, who would then skate into the offensive zone before taking a wide angle shot that rang around the boards and out, while people half-heartedly tweeted about almost having to shotgun a beer.
Instead of having to watch Anthony Beauvillier being forced into a second line role he is clearly not suited for, you now get to watch Kuzmenko try and make Mikheyev proud by saucing in nice passes towards him, and Elias Pettersson taking advantage of the room Ilya creates by backing defenceman up with his pace.
And it’s not just speed, mind you. Tyler Motte was a delightful journey in this town, but Mikheyev having the skill to understand and utilize the game of Kuzmenko and EP40 is a huge advancement for this team over season’s past.
Best it kept on going and going and going
See? Everyone just assumed the Blues would somehow score despite the fact the Canucks were kicking the Blues down the stairs by Costco:
Those astute observers out there will have noticed once again: Quinn Hughes is going full Pirlo and using the entire field to his advantage. He finds a way to get the puck to Phil Di Giuseppe, who is another guy that has elevated the skill level of the grinders normally seen on this team, as he feathers in a perfect pass to Brock Boeser, who just shoots wide.
Brock is of course forgetting that the easiest way to beat Jordan Binnington is to shoot the puck in his general direction, but we’ve all been there.
The end point is that it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Canucks use the entire ice to move the puck down at this pace with this support, creating these types of high danger chances.
In years past it felt like the neutral zone was where dreams went to die, as the Canucks game would implode as the defence was left stranded and the offence couldn’t generate any sort of threatening shots.
This is an entirely different style of team we’re seeing so far this season.
Best plugging along
Quinn Hughes might be okay at hockey. I think. Maybe. Possibly.
We’ll have to see what Dom’s updated model suggests after he talks to the scouts, of course:
At this point in the game, the Canucks had an extended shift in the Blues zone, and may I say what a delight it is that any extended time in the offensive zone from a Canucks team is always labelled a “Sedins vs Edmonton” shift? Glorious part of their legacy, if we’re being honest.
That and being the best humans in Canucks history.
But The Shift as well.
Regardless, the Canucks scored first and held a 19 shot attempts to 0 advantage. If this were tennis, the Canucks would only be up a tiny small amount in offence, but in hockey, 19-0 in shot attempts is far more damning, I promise you.
Mike Liu will break this sort of stuff down in The Statsies better than I can.
Best flash and dash
Last year it felt like Kuzmenko and Boeser were battling it out in a net front role to see who would get a spot on the vaunted first unit power play.
This season, the entire power play feels so much more dynamic. Instead of trying to force-feed Bo Horvat for the bumper shot (which was effective, don’t get me wrong), they now have so much more movement with the man advantage. It felt like teams were able to game plan the “Everything through Bo” method the Canucks relied upon so heavily whereas now teams find themselves scrambling to keep up with a jacked-out Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson.
So now, instead of seeing countless shifts of Kuzmenko or Boeser locked up in front of the net waiting for tap-ins, we now see them both moving all over the zone and even hooking up for chances like this:
I feel like a pro-scout for the Canucks slammed down a report on Binnington on a bar napkin that simply read “wait it out,” as there were multiple instances of the Canucks moving in on Jordan and simply skating around him once he locked in his save animation.
In this case, Kuzmenko almost set up Boeser for the easy tap in were it not for the fact Brock’s right handed, and for the fact Kasperi Kapanen showcased the reflexes of a young Pat Jablonski with that toe save.
This is why the one critique you could have about this game (didn’t score on the power play) doesn’t feel that heavy because they were a Brock Boeser hair flip away from scoring with the man advantage.
Best keep on trucking along
This is some prime 2011 Canucks stuff right here:
JT Miller flicking a backhand pass along the blue line to Hughes who walks in and throws it back for the tip shot to JT Miller?
I’ve seen this before. It was Christian Ehrhoff playing give-and-go with Ryan Kesler.
It bears repeating, this was the most determined, organized Canucks team I have seen in many a moon.
Anytime you can get me going “Hey that’s kind of something that might have happened in 2011,” you know you’re doing something very good.
At this point, the shot attempts were 34 to 2.
Not once did I mention a lazy back check from JT Miller (who we honestly need to do a deep dive on soon, because his high level play this season is getting lost in the Quinn Hughes hype train).
Not once did I mention Tyler Myers turning into a Chaos Giraffe.
Not once did I mention any Juho Lammikko fun facts.
The Canucks quite simply played fantastic hockey and have had a great start to the season.
Fun fact about Juho Lammikko, he played on the Frontiacs in 2014 with future Canucks legend Evan McEneny.
Best raising the bar
Again, just by having Mikheyev pushing Beauvillier down the line-up, you’re now in a position where he can ride or die with his third line friends:
The Highmores and Lammikkos of the world would have a solid game here or there, sure, but by raising the skill bar, you have players that can maintain a higher level of play over a more consistent period of time.
Remember the Trevor Linden, Matt Cooke and Arvedson line back in the day? They were able to bring a consistent solid brand of hockey to the team before injuries took out Magnus.
A bottom six of Nils Höglander, Sam Lafferty, Anthony Beauvillier, Dakota Joshua, Pius Suter and Conor Garland offers up such a higher level of skill and consistency than in years past.
Höglander, a recent healthy scratch, has absolutely elevated his play and made the Canucks’ bottom six more skillful.
Sam Lafferty’s speed and willingness to drive to the net have absolutely made the Canucks’ bottom six more dangerous.
Dakota Joshua throwing his weight around but not being a defensive liability has absolutely made the Canucks’ bottom six tougher to play against.
Again, there will be days when this team looks lost. Where they’re tired and other teams beat them up. Or other teams get the bounces, or other teams simply out-skill them.
But overall, this team feels like the bar has been raised on the skill level because it absolutely has.
And you know who else deserves an absolute metric ton of credit?
Rick Tocchet for instituting the structure this team is playing with.
Hey, we all loved Bruce Boudreau. He gave us great quotes, loved wrestling, and provided some fun stretches of offensive hockey.
But it felt a bit like a frat house under him at times, both on the ice and off, where you just never fully knew who was leading this team. It felt like chaos reigned supreme at times.
With Rick Tocchet, there is no question who is in charge, or what system the team is playing.
The next step is to see if he can make it last the entire season.
Best visual summary
Without a doubt the best period of hockey of the season from the Canucks.
Best give and go
I feel like this is how the Matrix first fell apart, where everyone had a perfect life and they started questioning it and it broke everything. You need sadness and sorrow for you to assume this is real life. If the Canucks keep winning like this, keep an eye out for any cats walking by you twice.
Watching Elias Pettersson and Andrei Kuzmenko play with linemates in the past often felt like a third-wheel situation. EP40 and AK96 would be wheeling and dealing out on the ice, having the time of their lives, while Beauvillier looked like he’d been left on read all night.
With Mikheyev back from injury, you are starting to see the entire line click as they are generating a lot of strong north/south chances, a personal favorite of the head coach:
Not only does Kuzmenko gain the zone with speed, but he passes it over to Mikheyev, who has the skill to recognize his defenceman has gone for a line change, so he abruptly switches gear and drives hard to the net with a shot instead.
This is what the kids call the good stuff.
Best battle of the sexes
Brad’s wife, who is clearly funnier than Brad, astutely points out that Quinn Hughes sure does love shooting the puck.
We noted last game that he’s averaged 3+ shots a game every game this season except for one of them, and he continued that trend Friday night with another four shot output.
One of which took a friendly bounce into the net:
You’re going to get some bounces to go your way (and against you), so it’s not so much pointing out his goal on this play, but just the overall speed and determination he has shown during every game this season so far.
The captaincy can be too much for some people, but it truly seems to have lit a fire under his behind as Hughes has shown a completely new level to his offensive game this year.
If he continues playing like this it’s not a matter of will he beat last year’s total of 76 points, but by how many?
It also feels like a foregone conclusion that he will top his season high in goals of eight sometime next month? Middle of December?
Not bad for a defenceman that just sort of exists and plods along.
Best new era music
Yes, you’re seeing this correctly:
That was Tyler Myers shutting down a rush and then sending in Philly Delight all alone for the goal.
Tyler Myers did nothing chaotic on this play. He didn’t fall down. He didn’t let the guy beat him. He didn’t take off his skate and attempt to stab anybody.
He simply played smart, reliable hockey.
This is not the droid we are looking for.
Ok I know it’s early in the season and we need to temper our expectations but I feel pretty confident that the Quinn Hughes Era is here to stay.
Sure, some of the moving parts might change or fluctuate, but this is clearly a different era from the Bo Horvat team.
Which means, yes, a new goal song is needed.
I am not here to debate WHICH goal song, because we don’t have the four months to figure that out. Nor is it even up to us.
Someone on the Canucks who has their hand on the button (you know who you are) simply needs to choose a new song and ride with it.
Yes, Simple Minds ‘Don’t you (Forget About Me)’ has been a fine goal ditty since 2019. There was something amusing and ironic about a team that was struggling to become relevant, winning games and blasting lyrics telling people not to forget about them. Watching Bo Horvat tip in a goal to make it a one nothing lead and having Simple Minds blasting out felt like an ironic wink and nod at the camera, a “we know we’re not that great, but maybe we are? But we probably aren’t. Or maybe we are…” sort of vibe.
But things have changed.
Since then the defence has gotten completely revamped.
Since then, Bo Horvat has left town (I can tell you that for free).
Since then Rick Tocchet has entered his second year as head coach, and he is clearly running a tight ship with this roster.
Since then Quinn Hughes has become captain and elevated his game to a whole new level.
And since then the Canucks are winning games with purpose, and are looking good doing so.
The end result is it feels like a new era of hockey and that’s because it is one.
Don’t get me wrong, nobody is proclaiming this team Stanley Cup contenders. Nobody is out here planning the parade permits around Stanley Park and going over various champagne problems aside from Frankie.
But there is 100% a different vibe throughout this team, and throughout the fan base, and it’s time the goal song reflects that.
I know, I know, it’s a new season and anything could happen. The Canucks could have injuries or their play could fall off a cliff, or Chris Faber could end up accidentally running Elias Pettersson over with his scooter on the way to the rink.
But either way, this team has entered a new era. This is no longer the “awww shucks, we’re just happy to win a couple of games” era of years past.
This is the “We might not have a long term plan in place, but damn it, we’re gonna scratch and claw our way into the playoffs because our management team needs proof they’ve made us better” phase, where the team can win games with a purpose, led by their top, elite defenceman in Quinn Hughes.
Whatever goal song that represents this best, it truly doesn’t matter. It just needs to be a new one, and it needs to be used right away.
Because to quote a song I used to hear, ‘this is the dawning of the rest of our lives.’
Best scouting report
Hey remember that hastily scrawled on a bar napkin “wait him out” scouting report?
It worked again:
This time the Canucks were shorthanded and last year’s hottest IT couple (shorthanded pairing EP40 and JT Miller) continued their bad romance with this clinical goal.
Elias Pettersson remains the best defensive forward on the Vancouver Canucks, and a motivated JT Miller remains an absolute killer on offense, out-waiting Binnington and executing a move you’ve done in an EA Sports hockey game your entire life.
Best raising the bar, part deux
Remember that bottom six discussion we had?
Well here it is showcased again when Dakota Joshua makes a slick one-handed push on the puck to bounce around Scandella and get a dangerous shot off on net:
The funny thing is the game felt so incredibly one-sided yet the night ended with only eleven high danger chances for the Canucks, compared to the Blues three.
Which to me is a testament to Rick Tocchet’s system. They didn’t trade chances. They didn’t go out of their way to risk everything to generate offense.
They simply took the moments the Blues gave them and capitalized on them.
Best official sounding support
You know it’s been a fantastic team game when Thatcher Demko, the guy who pitched the shutout, gets his first mention halfway down the article:
How good was Demko on the night? He made everything look so boring and easy that I barely bothered trying to make gif money off of him.
You know who would have made me a millionaire on crazy gifs of action in the crease? Dan Cloutier and Dominik Hasek.
But for very very different reasons.
Demko was so incredibly steady this game and any chances the Blues did manage to create, he shut them down effortlessly.
If this was beer league the Blues would have asked to check his ID to make sure he wasn’t a ringer.
Best get over here!
The best save of the night was without a doubt the scorpion kick save from Demko in the third period:
What I liked about this play the most, aside from the save, was the Canucks hurrying back and putting pressure on the back check the entire time. It would have been easy to have gone full 2021 JT Miller and watched the breakaway play out from afar but all three Canucks tried to get back and make a play, including, yes, Quinn Hughes shoving Hronek with his stick to speed him up.
Best making it look easy
To the Blues (tiny) credit, they did try and score in the third period.
Unfortunately for them they ran into Mark Friedman who made this look ridiculously good looking:
No dive, no tug, no slash. Just skating really hard and getting a stick on the puck.
Mark Friedman is the front runner for the Jeff Tambellini back-check of the year award right now.
Best look at them go
Hey remember how we talked about how Mikheyev’s speed can kill?
You’ve got Elias Pettersson and Andrei Kuzmenko making sweet sweet love in the neutral zone, gaining the zone with speed, and finding Mikheyev getting in behind the St. Louis defence.
That’s a highly skilled goal.
That’s a highly skilled line.
This team might actually be fun.
Next you’re going to tell me there’s a FFAR meta in Warzone again.
Best getting Drance on board
Best no chance, you’ve got no chance in hell
I’m just including this Demko save purely to make gif money at this point:
Once again here’s Demko making a dangerous shot look far too easy to stop.
It’s like this guy doesn’t even think of me when he makes these saves.
Where’s the stacked pads? Where’s the glove being thrown?
You solid, deadly efficient goaltending jerk.
Best earning their black belts
Sometimes I clip something in case it leads to a “so this is why he took out a baseball bat and tried to hit this guy at the end of the game”:
This didn’t lead anywhere.
But it did get me paid.
Best hot dogging it
You know what, I think Hronek and Hughes are figuring each other out:
No look drop pass that cycles into an easy zone exit?
Yeah, I don’t think they’re going to be broken up any time soon.
Best times they are a changing
I don’t try and make too many conclusions on a few games like this, but I will say that this team seems more ready to defend each other this season:
The Bo Horvat regime really felt like a Canuck player would get mobbed and the rest of the team would watch from afar, occasionally writing a letter wishing them good health and fortune. Horvat played the role of Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator, hushing the crowd and urging them to settle down.
This season it feels like the team might be more ready to engage in scrums when the situation calls for it.
Does this win games? Is this needed? Is there a direction correlation to winning behind this?
But from a purely visual level, and from a purely human level of enjoying people defending their friends, this has been a welcome site for many Canucks fans.
Best draft history
Best jersey Botch
The Tryamkin Era will never be forgotten.
That’s a Hall of Fame jersey despite what the Daily Hive will try and tell you.
The C is being used as a handle.
I both respect it and loathe it.
Best starting announcement
Lachlan is on Stanchies tomorrow so make sure you send him and obscure jerseys you spot.
Best fond farewell
I do want to give a hearty goodbye to Chris Faber, who has been an absolute integral part of CanucksArmy and Canucks coverage in general.
While I have some cynicism about anyone succeeding in the corporate Canucks environment with their smile and happiness intact, if there is one guy that can do it, it would be Chris.
If the Canucks let Chris cook, as it were, I cannot think of a person more suited for the job. He has been an absolute joy to work with, and honestly, it’s been inspiring to watch him grind it out and rise through the rankings of the media world, ultimately landing a job with the team he grew up loving.
I know we are going to miss him at CanucksArmy, but that is the beauty of the legacy he left behind. People can see the route you can take to not only get in sports media, but to leverage that into other jobs.
Whenever people reach out to me and ask me if I have any advice on how to “make it in the business,” I have often used Chris as an example of what you need to do to thrive in this business:
- Have a strong voice
- Work hard
- BE CONSISTENT
I cannot stress enough how being consistent with your work is such a key part of anyone wanting to bring you on board. The more reliable you are, the more people are going to lean on you.
Add hard work and consistency to finding your voice in a market? Well that’s the Chris Faber plan of success executed perfectly. While he may have had a bit of guidance and help here and there along the way, he and he alone made this happen by busting his ass to make his mark on the media world.
I can promise you that Botch would be absolutely beaming about this hire, texting me “whaaaaaaaaaaat???” to get all the details.
The only question I have now is what song to sing with him at karaoke as we send him off into the night.
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