June 15th, 2011: In the bowels of Rogers Arena, the GM enters a crowded dressing room and promises the players that he will do everything in his power to get them back to the dance this time next year.
A repeat trip to the Cup Final isn’t in the cards for the 2011-12 team. Despite finishing at the top of their Conference, they disappoint with a first-round exit. At the 2012 draft, they fail to grab value with their first-round draft pick, but they find a credible defenceman late in the draft!
The 2012-13 season rolls around, and it’s still the same core group from the 2011 run. The GM trades away a high pick at the deadline for a rental, and the team finishes the regular season top-five in the Conference for the third straight year.
That ultra-competitive core group from 2011 makes it back to the dance. Unfortunately, we’re not talking about the Vancouver Canucks.
The Boston Bruins get back to the Cup Final for the second time in three years, push the Chicago Blackhawks to six games, but ultimately come up short with a game six loss at home.
The Vancouver Canucks finished the 2012-13 season third in the West, only to get swept by the San Jose Sharks in the first round.
In 2013-14, the Vancouver Canucks missed the playoffs for the first time in five years, prompting GM Mike Gillis’ dismissal, John Tortorella’s dismissal, Trevor Linden’s appointment as President of Hockey Operations, and the hiring of Jim Benning as General Manager.
The Bruins won the President’s Trophy in 2013-14, only to lose to the Montreal Canadiens in game seven of the Stanley Cup Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. In 2014-15, the team missed the playoffs for the first time in eight years and fired GM Peter Chiarelli.
Since that fateful day in 2011, the Boston Bruins have traded away twenty-seven draft picks, including nineteen out of the first two rounds. They’ve made the playoffs nine times out of eleven, reaching the Cup Finals in 2012-13 and again in 2018-19, a Game 7 defeat on home ice to the St. Louis Blues. Coming into Sunday’s game, the Bruins sat first in the NHL with the highest goal-differential in the league at plus-27.
Since losing game 7, the Canucks have traded away twenty-eight picks, including ten out of the first two rounds. They’ve made the playoffs four times out of eleven, just once in the last seven years. The Canucks’ entered Sunday’s game 28th in the league, with a negative-10 goal differential and losers of two straight.
Both franchises charted oddly similar paths in the immediate aftermath of their 2011 Cup Final. Both clubs’ front offices stuck by their core leadership groups, fumbled multiple first-round draft picks, overpaid in free agency, and lost plenty of trades while navigating against the cap.
Except the Boston Bruins went 498-253-94 for a 0.645 points percentage while charting their path, and the Vancouver Canucks went 391-352-101 for a 0.523 points percentage while charting theirs.
Both franchises stuck by their ultra-competitive leadership groups to take them through the past decade. Under Bergeron/Chara and the Sedins/Luongo, both locker rooms were long considered the league’s gold standard.
At least, the Canucks’ used to be.
Last week, Kevin Bieksa signed a one-day contract with Vancouver to retire as a Canuck. Addressing the team after their morning skate, Bieksa spoke of his pride, not with his individual successes, but with the culture that he’d helped shape over a ten-year run of success.
On Friday, three other major contributors to the Vancouver Canucks’ highly-regarded culture, Roberto Luongo, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
During a weekend where the sport celebrated three of Vancouver’s most important culture carriers in team history, this Canucks lineup went 0-3-0, outscored thirteen to six while becoming the first team in NHL history to go winless in six games when holding a multi-goal lead, within their first 15 games of a season.
Five months ago, insider Nick Kypreos shared his thoughts on the state of the Vancouver Canucks, more specifically, what he thought was coming from Jim Rutherford.
“He’s gonna make a splash here,” Kypreos said. “He doesn’t like the room, guys. He thinks it’s a country club in there. He’s gonna change it up.”
Something broke in the Canucks’ locker room that took it from being the “gold standard” to a “country club.” No one can be sure what’s changed, but the Boston Bruins just won their fourteenth game of sixteen played, while the Vancouver Canucks dropped their third straight, conceding five or more goals for the seventh time this season.
A wise man once said, “goals win games.”
Unfortunately, head coach Bruce Boudreau did not share that same philosophy when he decided to scratch their third-leading goalscorer.
Kuzmenko’s underlying analytics
versus the Maple Leafs saw his worst possession numbers of the season. Kuzmenko finished the game with the lowest 5v5 ice time at 9:19. According to NaturalStatTrick, the Canucks were out-attempted eleven to four in those paltry minutes.
The Kuzmenko scratch came at a strange time. Heading into Boston, Kuzmenko was riding a three-game scoreless drought. Despite the scoring drought, he sits fifth on the team scoring, three points above Ilya Mikheyev.
Nils Aman has one assist through his last ten, Tanner Pearson has one goal and two assists through his previous ten, and Dakota Joshua has two goals and one assist through his last ten.
Was the Kuzmenko scratch warranted?
This scratch is a bit baffling if we’re talking about accountability.
The Canucks have outscored competition 11-9 with Kuzmenko on the ice at 5v5.
With Tanner Pearson on the ice at 5v5, opponents have outscored the Canucks 13-6. With JT Miller, 11-6.
Kevin Bieksa spoke to this group about the importance of a locker room culture that emphasizes accountability.
What message does a scratch to the third-leading scorer on the schneid have? Because the healthy scratches message has clearly not landed on its intended targets.
Thatcher Demko’s season has been rough. The Canucks’ penalty kill has also been rough.
Naturally, it made sense to combine these two facts to put the Canucks at a two-man disadvantage!
Fortunately, Mr. Accountability himself, Luke Schenn, came up huge for the team with two timely blocks.
Best “we’re not helping!”
The opening period featured nearly eight minutes straight of sustained offensive zone pressure by the Bruins, leading to the game’s opening goal.
It was an ugly sequence for the Garland, Horvat, Miller line as each Bruin skater took a turn breaking the ankles of the Canucks’ defenders.
The sustained zone time from the Bruins paid off, with a one-timer from Connor Clifton.
The 5v5 goal against was not good news for JT Miller, who fell even further down the 5v5 goal-differential chart.
For those keeping score at home, the Canucks have been outscored twelve to six with Miller on the ice at 5v5.
Thank goodness for that power play!
Best “You know he’ll [scrap]!”
Kyle Burroughs missed the last six games as a healthy scratch. After giving up another first-period goal, Burroughs did what he does best.
Throw hits and chuck mitts.
The brouhaha-ery drew an instigator penalty against Boston’s Tomas Nosek and gave the Canucks their first power play of the game.
Burroughs finished the night leading the pack with a team-high DAWG/60 of 96.21.
I don’t know what’s in the rating, but I’m guessing that’s good after a game like this!
Best special teams roller coaster
Not to beat a dead horse, but JT Miller has struggled mightily at 5v5. Fortunately, those struggles have not extended to his play while on the power play.
Forty seconds onto the power play, Quinn Hughes hit Miller with a Juolevi-like stretch pass to send him behind the Bruins’ defence for his seventh goal of the season.
Driving on goal off the wing, Miller threw a slick fakey stutter-step on Linus Ullmark before going half-Forsberg past the right skate of the sprawling netminder.
It was pretty slick!
Not long after, the Canucks found themselves in more penalty trouble, with Tyler Myers taking a tripping penalty minutes later off a d-zone faceoff.
The shorthanded opportunity allowed Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat to flex their PK muscles, generating two shot attempts and eating thirty seconds off Myers’ infraction.
Best have I mentioned accountability yet?
I’m going to use the word “accountability” so much in this Stanchies debut that, hopefully, by the end of it, the word will have lost all meaning.
Elias Pettersson began another shift on the PK by leading a zone entry alongside Horvat to generate two shot attempts.
On the backcheck, he seems to lift his hands in disbelief at Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s refusal to push for a loose puck in the neutral zone.
Undeterred, Pettersson got on his horse to post up in the d-zone as the F1. But it was a clear sign of frustration and disbelief from the team’s hardest-working player.
Incredibly, for the second time in a row, the Canucks’ killed off a penalty.
They weren’t so lucky on the third!
Returning home to the team that drafted him, Jack Studnicka made his presence known with a tripping penalty against David Pastrnak.
To be fair! The Canucks were seven seconds away from killing their third straight penalty! But they don’t call them the perfection line because they’re “just okay at doing the hockey.”
Death, taxes, Pastrnak to Bergeron, and a Canucks power play goal allowed.
Worst Canucks Fight Club revival
Vasily Podkolzin has had a brutal sophomore campaign this season. His assist against the Maple Leafs on Saturday was his first point in his last ten games. Through fourteen games this year, he’s only managed three assists.
That kind of meagre production isn’t likely to keep you in the good graces of Bruce Boudreau. So, not wanting to be the next man up on the healthy scratch list, Podkolzin took a page out of the Book of Burroughs and admirably fought A.J. Greer.
A decision that made his sophomore season even worse.
The Kyle Burroughs/Luke Schenn School for Fighting opens when?
Best “do it for the goalie guild.”
After twenty minutes, Thatcher Demko had made fifteen saves on seventeen shots, facing down a barrage of odd-man rushes from the Bruins.
The team in front of Demko failed to show up once again. On the heels of a back-to-back, the Bruins repeatedly tested the tired Canucks’ legs with quick-up rush plays.
Even on the Canucks’ third power play opportunity, the Bruins threatened Demko with multiple two-on-one rushes.
Even when the Bruins’ skaters weren’t threatening, that pesky Bostonian gravity threatened Demko!
This odd bounce probably goes in any other night. But the bounces were in Demko’s favour.
The shot quality was not.
Best “o captain, my captain”
The dynamic penalty-killing duo of Pettersson and Horvat came up huge for Vancouver midway through the second when a Pettersson stretch-feed sent the Captain crashing down on Ullmark for a shorthanded scoring chance.
Boudreau will likely have some thoughts on this.
After losing possession in the offensive zone, Connor Clifton cuts behind Ullmark’s net to send Pavel Zacha down the right wing, past the Canucks’ bench, and in for a three-on-two.
A quick give-and-go later, and it was a 3-1 game for Boston.
Ethan Bear was mighty-exhausted, but that probably wasn’t the best time to make a cross-ice line change.
Best of course that’s a rule
You just have to laugh at a certain point.
The Canucks finally began to muster some sustained pressure inside the offensive zone, only for Quinn Hughes to play his shot attempt with his broken stick.
Siri, please play the “Price is Right Loser Horn.”
Hughes’ penalty gave Boston their fourth power play opportunity, which was bad.
But it did open the door for Horvat and Pettersson to further develop their talents as a dominant PK duo, which was good!
Pettersson’s dominant shorthanded play was so good against the Bruins that Tyler Myers took his third individual penalty of the game to see Horvat and him work their magic.
It was a pretty stupid play, as it took Brad Marchand thirteen seconds from the ensuing d-zone faceoff to extend the Bruins’ lead and make it 4-1.
[Redacted] around, and find out! As the kids say!
Is that good?
Best my how the turn tables!
Fool me once? Strike one.
Fool me twice? Strike three.
After making history as the first team to surrender six multi-goal leads in losses through their first fifteen games, the Canucks kicked off the third period by doing what so many have done to them: erase a multi-goal lead!
The power play tally from Sheldon Dries still left them down by two. But it was nice to see them battling to erase a multi-goal lead rather than fail to protect one.
For the final twenty minutes, the Bruins mostly held the Canucks to the perimeter or below the goal line for low-percentage scoring chances.
Ilya Mikheyev nearly made it a one-goal game after catching a Hughes rebound at the side of Ullmark’s net. But it wasn’t meant to be.
The Canucks’ perimeter work did yield a delay-of-game penalty against David Pastrnak.
But the Canucks’ would fail to make worth with the two-man advantage, conceding an empty-net goal after pulling Demko for the extra attacker.
The empty-netter sealed it: three straight losses on the weekend of Henrik and Daniel Sedin’s induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Worst news for the “this is a playoff contender” crowd
I’m starting to think that maybe Travis Green wasn’t the entire problem with this team!
Best it could always be worse!
Think back on this game and how much possession time Pettersson had with the puck.
He finished the game with only three recorded shots on goal over twenty-one minutes of ice time.
You have to wonder if something is up with EP40 that’s preventing him from shooting.
Before the season started, Bruce Boudreau and Bo Horvat described missing the playoffs as “disastrous.”
Unfortunately, Horvat’s 71-goal pace, and the good vibes and PR of “Bruce, there it is” cannot stop this runaway freight train.
It’s Bedard season.