The Stanchies: The Vancouver Canucks are back on the wagon

Photo credit:© David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports
The Stanchion
7 months ago
The loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs stung, but it allowed the Vancouver Canucks to embrace those nauseating motivational statements your overly positive friend always posts on Instagram:
The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it!
Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional!
Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I’ll show you someone who has overcome adversity!
And while reading those statements, every day, accompanied by pictures of your friend showing off their latest Starbucks order can make you question the meaning of life, there is something to be said about watching a team rise to the challenge.
That challenge, you ask? Stop farting around.
Or for the people who enjoy a more philosophically themed tone, I believe it was the great 20th century thinker Chumbawamba who said “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You are never gonna keep me down.”
Because let’s be honest, the Canucks were terrible in that Toronto game. All the talk of PDO, all the talk of Eastern media watching them, it couldn’t have been a worse outcome. The Canucks had just been given official wagon status, and then they went out and played awful hockey.
As a result of this, instead of automatically smashing “like” on my post game article tweet, excited to read about another glorious win, you people sighed and said you’d get me next time. Quadrelli pulled me into his office, screaming at me, demanding to know why my numbers had dropped, threatening to replace me with Harman. “We’re gonna call the new post-game article ‘The Dayalysis’, and people are gonna love it, so you better damn well come through for me next game!” he yelled, punctuating his statement by eating a handful of Grana Padano, never breaking eye contact with me. And as flakes of cheese pelted my face like an early winter storm as he continued to berate me, it got me thinking: Why DID this happen?
Because fans in this city are dying to watch a winner.
It’s that simple.
And who can blame you after all these years of losing.
So you have to give the Canucks full credit for not only beating Montreal 5-2 on Sunday night, but also getting stronger as the game went along. Giving that winning performance the fan base has become addicted to. Letting them laugh at other fan bases instead of picking fights within their own circles.
This wasn’t one of those “get a couple of goals and hold on for dear life” games we’ve seen end in collapse over the years. This was a truly united effort from a team trying to prove to the league that they are for real.
And give Montreal credit as well, because they challenged the Canucks. They did not go gentle into that good night. If the Canucks hadn’t brought the effort they did, this very easily could have been another loss, and instead of us talking about the team getting back on track, we’d all be waiting to see what Dom was going to tweet next.
Instead, the team lifted Canucks Nation up on its shoulder and gave the fans an overall banger of a road trip. The party will still continue for the foreseeable future.
Hockey is still fun in Vancouver.
Let’s make some gif money, shall we?
Best he drinks a whiskey drink
The big news of the day was Teddy Blueger getting his first start as a Vancouver Canuck (at the expense of Nils Höglander), although the secondary news that Noah Juulsen was drawing in for Mark Friedman caught people off-guard.
It’s not that I think Friedman is a vital cog in the machine, but he HAS been playing solid hockey this season. Noah Juulsen, on the other hand, has been shaky at the best of times.
Still, Rick Tocchet has earned our trust, so who are we to question him?
Well, at least until he loses three games in a row. Then all bets are off and we trace the season’s downfall to the time he put Juulsen in the lineup for Friedman.
But until then, it’s all good.
Besides, after that Leafs game, you could have told me Garry Valk was coming out of retirement to help prop up the fourth line and I would have been open to it.
Best he drinks a vodka drink
It’s always a solid debate about whether a team is thinking too much or thinking too little, and I do believe the Canucks were outsmarting themselves at times to start this game.
Like, not to spoil the game or anything, but the way the first period played out was so vastly different from how the rest of the game played out, that you could clearly see the Canucks making adjustments as the game wore on.
So with that said, the Canucks weren’t terrible in the first period but they weren’t great?
A good example of this is right here, where the Canucks overload the right side of the ice, then overload the left, before accepting fate and just trying to cut off the passing lanes on a 2 on 1:
Luckily PDO was back from its vacation so it helped the puck dribble off of Juraj Slafkovsky’s stick, but early on in a game in which the Canucks wanted all the momentum, this was obviously not a great play. If the Canadiens score there, maybe they win 5-2 and The Dayalysis becomes the biggest hockey column in Vancouver.
We might never know.
As for Blueger, if you wondered if he’d look like it was his first game back playing hockey at the highest level, then you would be very much correct:
Teddy gets caught trying to take over coverage of Quinn Hughes’ check, which then leaves Quinn struggling to try and block the shot of Jake Evans all alone in the slot.
Even Casey DeSmith, who had an absolutely fantastic outing, had his moments, like this dump in that he punts right back into the slot:
This was then followed up with Tanner Pearson getting behind coverage on a line change and hitting the post:
Three Canucks line up along the blue line and let Tanner get in behind them, not even thinking about what might happen if Frank Corrado sees this clip and exposes them to the world with a video breakdown.
What I am trying to say is that it wasn’t the tightest period of hockey I’ve ever seen.
You know when a really nice car parks beside you, and you nudge your buddy so you can both appreciate it?
This was kind of like seeing a 2003 Saturn park near you, where you respect that it’s still on the road but you’re more worried that someone might think it’s yours if you stand too close to it.
Best he drinks a lager drink
Sometimes old memes are the best memes.
After having a very rough go of things last season due to the hand injury issues, it’s nice to see Pearson land on his feet with Montreal, already scoring more points than he did all of last year.
Best he drinks a cider drink
Now despite the fact I just compared the first period of hockey to an old Saturn car, I do have to point out there were plenty of signs that the Canucks were going to figure this game out.
As seems to be the case when gritty statement shifts are needed, the Canucks PB&J line (I hate that name, but I won’t fight the growing support for it) stepped up:
One of the things that has kind of defined the Canucks core players has been Evolution. Am I talking about the WWE stable that gave us some of the best storylines in modern wrestling? Yes, yes I am.
But I am also talking about players re-defining their game and finding new ways to step up.
We’ve seen a giant leap in Quinn Hughes’ game.
We’ve seen a giant leap in Elias Pettersson’s game.
We’ve seen JT Miller adapt, evolve, devolve, then re-evolve again.
And while Brock Boeser might not be the sexiest evolution of the bunch, he has found ways to up his game as well.
Now, Brock has always gotten a lot of flack for not playing the body hard enough, or not digging deep in scrums, but he’s always been very good at getting the puck back. He’d find ways to sneak into piles of bodies and delicately snake the puck back onto his stick. He was also very good at anticipating the pucks future, so often times he would jump up and intercept a pass.
Despite doing this, people still piled up on him, mostly because he people really thought he was a future 30 goal scorer, and when he didn’t turn into that, people didn’t care about the little things. Add in the Loui Eriksson PTSD about hyping someone up for doing all the small things correctly, and it was a perfect scenario for people to not give Brock enough credit.
Well this season, as shown in that clip above, he is engaging the body more and more. He is still winning puck battles in smart ways, but now he has added the “guy who brings baggage to the rink and tries way too hard” beer league energy to his game. I don’t mean to say he is fueling himself off baggage, I am merely saying his playstyle now has the added bonus of trying to out-work everyone on the ice.
The end result has led to Brock Boeser being on gritty son of a bitch. Watch on this clip as he calls for a dangerous pass from Tyler Myers, and when he loses it, guess who the first guy is to get that puck back?
Boeser goes full Duke Nukem on this play, informing the Canadiens he is all out of gum, as he chases down that puck and drops Kaiden Guhle into the boards.
Of course, it’s not always the PB&J line stepping up.
Conor Garland, he of the trade rumours about wanting out of town? Well, it turns out he might be the perfect kind of Rick Tocchet guy:
It’s a small play, but it showcases his willingness to adapt to the North/South type of game that Tocchet craves, nay needs, in his everyday diet. I honestly thought Garland’s spinning ways would lead to him tumbling out of Rick’s heart, but to Conor’s credit, he has adapted his game and fit perfectly into the style of hockey demanded by the Canucks’ head coach.
All of which is to say that this team needs to win a Stanley Cup so JT Miller can have Quinn Hughes hoisted on Elias Pettersson’s shoulders before giving the thumbs down and breaking Evolution up.
Best he sings the songs that remind him of the good times
The first period really did feel like Montreal’s counterattack was going to see them score first, but the Canucks did generate solid chances off of their forecheck.
Here Pew Pew Suter finds himself in the slot shooting the puck high over Jake Allen after a good puck retrieval off a dump in:
But Montreal continued to counter-attack, such as when Josh Anderson fed a nice pass over to Nick Suzuki:
You’ll notice Casey DeSmith was in perfect position, however, because that’s what he does.
All game long.
Every single time.
For a team that wants to ensure Demko is healthy and rested come potential playoff times, Casey sure is making his starts a hell of a lot easier to plan for.
Remember when Luongo started 76 games in 2006? Oh how times have changed.
Best where’s Poochie?
Nobody is quite sure what is ailing Elias Pettersson, but it’s clear he isn’t at the same gear he was at the start of the season.
Best belief in yourself
Filip Hronek has been everything as advertised offensively, but his struggles from last game defensively peeked their head around the corner to ask what’s up in the second period:
That straight line bee-line to the player with the puck is reminiscent of OG Chaos Giraffe days, where his confidence in himself was so rock solid that he would go all out after the puck, assuming he’d retrieve it every single time.
So while I applaud Hronek for having such a high level of confidence in his skills, much like myself when I try Genji in Overwatch, sometimes you have to remind yourself of your limits.
Also, if you’re wondering, yes, Casey DeSmith DOES look bored in net stopping these shots. I haven’t seen this kind of eerie calmness since Kirk McLean tended the nets for Vancouver. You can almost see him looking up from his phone at the last second to bat away the puck.
Best wtf just happened
During one shift, both Myers and Soucy came up limping:
Both plays looked innocuous, and while Tyler Myers returned to the game, Carson Soucy did not.
Soucy looks like he turns and takes a puck to the back of the foot somewhere, and while you would think the damage would be minimal, this is sports, where sometimes you throw your back out picking up a cracker before the game. The human body can be a cruel mistress at the best of times.
The fact he had to leave the game means it’s somewhat serious, and the only word given afterwards was that he would be evaluated in Vancouver.
Best all aboard the Garland hype train
The Canucks would score first when guess who, Conor Garland, would convert a pass from JT Miller into a goal with a deft tip:
That was Quinn Hughes’ lone assist of the night, but it shouldn’t be lost in the glory of Garland, as it was an integral part of this goal.
It’s just a really solid play from Garland, who motors in past three Habs to make himself open for the nice pass from Jimothy.
It’s almost as if he skated very fast in a North/South direction.
I wonder if any coach enjoys that sort of thing.
Garland would continue to be a thorn in the side of the Canadiens by constantly generating chances in the offensive zone.
Here he skates in and cuts across the ice before passing the puck perfectly into a hard-charging giraffe, who just fires wide of the net:
I know Garland has requested a trade, and maybe he still wants a bigger role on a new team.
But as it stands now, you can’t help but wonder if the team, playing like it has, and with Garland fitting in so well with the team’s style of play, that maybe he walks that back a little bit.
Maybe Brock Boeser started a trend of demanding a trade before reinventing yourself and realizing the true journey was the friends you made along the way.
Best attempt at cheating
The Montreal Canadiens had not only thought they scored a goal on this play, but they also thought they had scored a goal that Casey DeSmith would want back:
Not just trying to cheat the game of hockey, Montreal tried to tear down their former goalie and take him down a whole peg. You would think a city would treat a former member of their club, a legend no less, better than this.
Luckily for Vancouver, they recently upgraded to the iPhone 15 Pro Max that has the 5 times optical zoom, so they quickly realized the goal had been scored on an offside play:
Best you dropped something
The Canucks would then take advantage of a messy breakup between Jake Allen and his goal stick, putting the Canucks up 2-0 on a coldly efficient shot from Ilya Mikheyev:
Mikheyev continues to impress, and while Elias Pettersson, dealing with whatever is nagging him, has definitely dropped the output of that line, Ilya continues to have moments in games where he shines. It would have been real easy to just dump that puck in on that play, but instead, Ilya dingles a bit, then dangles, then dingle dangles right past the blue line. He then unleashes a shot on Allen, who, without his stick, feels more awkward than knowing you’re in a relationship that isn’t working but you’re just going to try and ride it out for a bit longer because what else are you doing with your life?
Also please note Elias Pettersson’s accidentally on-purpose pick he set at the blue line to allow Mikheyev the room to make the zone entry unimpeded. EP40 might not be playing at the heights we’re used to, but he’s such a smart player that he still finds ways to contribute to games, even if the score sheet doesn’t reflect it.
Best show me the money
Sometimes, I write long Stanchies because the game feels like such an up-and-down journey that I want you to experience the roller coaster in its entirety.
For example, this gif is just to showcase that even though the Canucks went 0/2 on the powerplay, they actually had a very threatening-looking night with the extra man:
Maybe you missed the game and you just see that the Canucks didn’t get a powerplay goal and you assume the ghost of Bo Horvat returned and the team just ran the bumper play all night long.
Nay, I say. Nay to that.
The Canucks powerplay continues to involve a lot of movement and continues to generate a lot of good looks on net.
Best horseshoes and hand grenades
Elias Pettersson didn’t crack the score sheet, but you know what, he could have several times. Look at him pull up like he’s about to order a spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy’s before dishing off a fantastic pass to Sam Lafferty:
Anthony Beauvillier didn’t score on the play, which has kind of been the trend for him this season. I think we all enjoyed him scoring around the same pace as Bo Horvat last year at times, because that’s just funny, but realistically you have to wonder if there is a better allocation of that $4.15 million dollar cap hit from him. It certainly feels like his future after this season lies with another team, regardless.
Best Conor the Conqueror
Which brings us back to Garland.
Want to see Garland circle the ice like a god damn shark before finally putting the puck on net so Dakota Joshua can bang in the rebound?
Garland does an entire lap of the slot, generating a shot, getting a rebound, then generating another shot that leads to the tap in goal from Dakota. Garland does not quit once on this play.
Again, this kid is an East/West kind of guy finding a way to adapt and excel in the North/South world of Rick Tocchet. This is like if Big E and Tupac had found a way to squash their beef and get along, growing old together as people would wistfully talk about how they miss their older stuff as they released their 40th albums.
Best Montreal was there too?
Watching a potential 1-1 tie turn into a 3-0 deficit can kind of take the wind out of your sails, but Montreal did start pushing back. The problem was, Casey “Dexter” DeSmith was unfazed by any of it:
That’s him just casually stopping three shots in a row, not once overcommitting and taking himself out of the net. You could almost hear Ian Clark’s moans of approvals through the TV.
Which brings us back to Teddy Blueger.
You ever have one of those days where you’ve told your friend you’re going to help them move, but when the day rolls around, you’re sick? But you don’t want to let them down, so when you show up looking like you spent the night bartering with Death to continue living, and they ask you “You good, bro?” you assure them it’s all good?
That’s kind of how Teddy Blueger played on Sunday night. You know he wanted to help, you could tell he wanted to try his best, but you could see he wasn’t at full speed yet.
The best summary of how his feel for the ice was just off was on this play:
Teddy Blueger in this game looked like what Bo Horvat would have played like if he wouldn’t have told us things for free. Sends a soft pass through the royal road and it gets picked off easily and turned into a fantastic shot that oh hey guess what, Casey DeSmith looks downright bored about saving.
Have I mentioned how much fun it was to watch Dexter tend the nets in this game? He was absolutely locked in the zone all night long.
Best work smarter, not harder
This is what we in the business call going “Full Mogilny”:
I say that with full due respect to Alex Mogilny, someone whose exclusion from the Hockey Hall of Fame still baffles me to this day.
But the fact remains that I would see games in which Mogilny would be invisible, only for him to look like the best player from either team once an overtime rolled around. He just knew how to hit an extra gear if needed.
So while EP40 isn’t dominating puck possession right now, was running curl routes like Keenan Allen, cutting back against the grain of play and sending in laser perfect passes across the ice to set up players coming in with speed.
That’s hard to defend against.
Speaking of hard to defend, Quinn Hughes elicited a few of those “omg what are we watching” buzzes from the Montreal crowd when he did sprints in the offensive zone before cutting hard to the net to unleash a shot:
The Canucks are slowly but surely becoming a must-watch team this season due purely to their top end talent alone.
Best of Dexter season 9
While Vancouver played a strong game, they still gave up 10 high danger chances in the game.
But to Dexter DeSmith, high danger chances are but an opportunity to learn more about the human experience by dissecting your opponent piece by piece, and you know what, the metaphor got away from me:
He’s not even worried about a teammate scoring on him, as is often the case in Vancouver, he simply makes the save and then has a flashback about his childhood that helps push forth the plotline of the current episode.
He was so dialed in that he was seeing how the play was going to develop even before Montreal did. Here he’s already sliding over and set up for the one timer to his right before the shot is even off:
There are three kinds of stages of backup goalies in hockey.
There is the “oh dear god, this is an automatic loss, so even a close game out of them is kind of a win” goalie. Think Spencer Martin during the losing streak.
There is the “He is clearly playing above his head, but it’s fun to over-celebrate their success and go for a fun emotional journey ride” goalie. Think Colin Delia.
Then there is the “hey this guy is playing so well let’s pretend there’s a goaltender controversy” type of goalie where honestly, if they get tossed in against a good team, you’re downright excited to see how they do.
That is how Casey DeSmith is playing right now.
It’s important to note that backup goalies can move up and down through these stages during a season, as well as sometimes in a game itself.
Best pressure makes the best diamonds or something
Montreal would get an extended 5 on 3, which turns out, might be the only consistent way to beat Casey DeSmith:
Give credit to Montreal for saying “eff this” and pushing the puck right through the Canucks triangle penalty kill formation, and banging away until they scored.
We should also note that JT Miller was the main reason Montreal had to wait until the first powerplay had expired to score, because he killed so much time off the clock on this draw:
He wins the faceoff to himself, then goes and clears the puck, killing valuable time off the lock.
These are the kinds of plays that add up towards winning hockey games.
These are the kinds of plays we didn’t see consistently for almost a decade in this town.
Best weird sequence of events
As SouthVanCanuck from Twitter described it, it looked like Gallagher was trying to make a hot tag when his skate blade fell out:
The only thing missing was him diving to the bench and tagging in Nick Suzuki who would have then jumped on the ice and clotheslined several Canucks players before landing a powerbomb on Ian Cole and going for the pin.
I assume as this was going on the Canadiens equipment managers were sweating up a storm, as it’s not often you see this happen twice in a game.
While this was going on, however, the Canucks almost scored when Mikheyev once again put himself in prime scoring real estate, sold to him by Eddie Lack:
Jake Allen made the save, but the Canadiens took a penalty, all of which led to the Canucks almost scoring on the powerplay:
Once again we find ourselves watching a clip in which Elias Pettersson could have easily had an assist, but was denied by Jake Allen. EP40 wasn’t getting hugs from the PDO overlords, but by god, he was still trying.
And because I used so many gifs, if you missed the game, you now know that an 0/2 performance on the powerplay was not a failure on the Canucks part, as they generated good chances. You can now describe to your friend how Brock Boeser’s hair was fluttering in the wind as he leered down at Jake Allen, mere seconds after making a big save on him.
I’d like to see The Dayalysis try and showcase that as well as I have here tonight.
Best follow up
But you’ll get 30% off your next skate blade purchase!
Best Kirk Mclean impression
Dexter isn’t worried, so why should you be?
So casual. So easy.
Best grinding out the victory
With Montreal putting the pressure on the Canucks near the end of the period, the team came together and played hard, structured hockey to ride out the victory.
Remember how people would joke about the Canucks blowing three goal leads under Green and Boudreau? Like, they were jokes, but you could see the pain in people’s eyes as they said it? The team would go up two, or three or four goals and then people would laugh and go “Worst lead in the game!” before forcing out a chortle or two?
Well Rick Tocchet doesn’t have time for that. And neither does Conor Garland:
That’s off of Hughes turnover, where the puck gets sent to an open point. But Garland isn’t just going to sit there, as unmoving as your mother-in-law, watching as the play unfolds around him.
No, he straight up slithers across the ice like Axl Rose leaning into a metaphor about LA being a jungle, blocking every shooting lane in existence, before finally making a glove save on the shot. The cherry on top? He promptly gets the puck out of the zone afterwards.
That’s just a fantastic, hard-working, never quit play from Garland. If Don Cherry still had VHS tapes he would be crowing openly about what a fantastic player Charlie Garden was.
You know what one of the main things that prevents blowing leads is? Making sure you still push back:
The Canucks with five minutes left to play almost score a goal after they find a way to win a board battle and get the puck towards the middle of the ice.
Guess who barreled in past two checks to almost score?
A very physical looking Brock Boeser.
Best a lot of things just happened
OK, so let’s finish as strong as the Canucks did, because this game had some bang bang bang, Vámonos, Vámonos vibes to it.
First up we had a bank pass off the boards for the ages from Myers who places the puck perfectly on the stick of Joshua, who then feeds it over to the Brushin’ Brocket as his hunt for a 30 goal season could not be off to a better start:
But while everyone was celebrating a job well done, Montreal managed to score with under a minute left off a shot that banked in off the post:
And while part of you wondered if this was going to lead to a historical collapse and you’d wake up tomorrow realizing it was still 2020, and the Canucks were a team like that, Rick Tocchet’s team instead did what it has done most of this season: It ruthlessly ended a game with no emotion:
Montreal didn’t even get a chance to pretend like they were going to make it a close game. Vancouver just straight up went out there and tic-tac-toed themselves another empty net goal.
All in all, this was the exact type of response the Canucks needed to give in order to keep their license as a wagon team.
Best Dom-inant summary
Conor Garland trailing just behind Quinn Hughes?
Yeah, I’d say he had a good game.
So what’s next?
Oh yeah.
Against the Islanders.
Bo Horvat returns to town.
Might be a game worth checking out?
Best random throwback
If that’s Al Iafrate that’s a goal.
Best Happy Birthday ending

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