By: Trent Leith / January 29, 2023
The Canucks made a few different statements this week. They made a commitment to some players and watched others slip away. They took steps to maintain players’ health, while at the same time showing up to play against some of the league’s worst teams.
It was certainly an entertaining week to be a Vancouver Canucks fan, but in terms of the team’s overall direction, it’s hard to say if this week was a particularly productive one.
Game 45: January 24th vs. The Chicago Blackhawks
The Canucks enter the Rick Tocchet Era in a battle of the bottom against the Chicago Blackhawks. Despite the Blackhawks having the worst winning percentage in their franchise’s history, they have won six of their last eight games.
Unfortunately for Rick Tocchet he would not be received positively in the building. When introduced to the fans at Rogers Arena, Tocchet was booed. I think it safe to say it wasn’t booing him as much as booing the lack of Bruce Boudreau. However, it is unfortunate to see fans turning on the coach, it’s not like he ask for things to play out this way. About three minutes and 20 seconds into the game, the first jersey of the Tocchet area was thrown on the ice. Not a great start.
The Canucks would not let the negativity get to them, however, ending the period leading the shots 21-6. Unfortunately, though, the Blackhawks would end the period 1-0. There were only 12 minutes of five-on-five play, and the Canucks controlled over 73% of scoring chances. The Hawks killed off all six minutes of PK time in the first period.
The highlight of the first period was Luke Schenn getting sprung for a breakaway chance as he stepped out of the penalty box. Not only did he get a great shot, but he had a second chance on the rebound. Schenn doesn’t get a lot of clear-cut breakaways, so it was fun to see.
In the second period, the ice would continue to be tilted in the Canucks favour, and Kuzmenko would be the first goalscorer of the night picking up a rebound from Ilya Mikheyev. Kuzmenko would tie the game for a second time in the period with a tap-in goal off of an impressive setup from Pettersson. Kuzmenko has now put up 21 goals in his first season in the NHL. He has 12 of his goals at five-on-five.
Dakota Joshua put up a sequence which is worth noting, he caught up with Patrick Kane on a breakaway with a successful backcheck and followed it up with a huge hit. Max Domi had an issue with the hit and dropped the gloves, while the fight was more of a hugging match, Joshua managed to draw another penalty and put the team on the powerplay. It was a fantastic sequence by Joshua.
The Blackhawks would only register 4 more shots, but despite being outshot by 25 shots, the Blackhawks would keep the game tied at two to end the period. The Canucks would also be 0/5 on the powerplay to this point in the game. Despite not having any success, the group stayed together for all five goes at it.
Kuzmenko continues to be the star of the show in the third period, but this time everyone was holding their breath as he skated off the ice clutching the back of his head. Kuzmenko took a high stick that knocked his helmet off his head. He would only miss one shift and look no worse for wear on his first shift back.
Max Domi would finally get out of the penalty box after taking 17 minutes in penalties after his incident with Joshua in the second and immediately get tied up behind the play with Joshua again. Joshua would not engage and then rush up the ice to tap in the go-ahead goal. Domi would immediately crosscheck Joshua who fell on Petr Mrazek hurting the goaltender. Mrazek would remain in the game but give up a goal 34 seconds later on a between-the-legs goal by Sheldon Dries.
Bo Horvat would tie his career high in goals with an empty-netter to ice the game at 5-2. Horvat still has 37 games on the schedule to build on his goal total to set a new personal record for himself.
The Canucks would win in Tocchet’s debut game. The Canucks dominated all three periods, despite the early goal total. The shots would be 48-14 to end the night. It was an absolutely dominant performance from a basement-dwelling team. This game really goes to show how the Canucks truly are in the mushy middle. Out of the playoff race, but still better than the very bottom of the league.
Game 46: January 25th vs. The Seattle Kraken
Rick Tocchet would get his first taste of the real Canucks on Wednesday evening. It’s funny how different a team can look when they are playing a team near the top of the league vs one near the bottom. And also when they aren’t wearing the flying skate.
The Canucks came into tonight looking to maintain their perfect record against their little brothers south on the I-5. But much like in real life, your little brother can quickly wind up being bigger than you.
The first period would look like the opposite of last night as the shots were 18-6 by the end of it. The Canucks would end the period with an awful 31% Corsi. The Canucks would also give up two goals in the first ten minutes of the game and end the period down 2-0.
The second period was more of the same, but with a little more salt in the wound as Jared McCann would score the third goal of the game. Followed shortly thereafter was a goal by Eli Tolvanen to put the Kraken up by four.
Conor Garland would score in the dying moments of the period to put the Canucks within… Four. The goal was a scramble in front of the net. It wasn’t the prettiest goal, but, it was a goal nonetheless.
There wasn’t much of note beyond Garland’s goal in the second period. However, these three things were kinda neat:
First, the strangest minor penalty Myers may have ever taken. What was the play here?
Then we get a fight from Schenn, that he lost while trying to get a spark going for his team.
And lastly, an absolute robbery of a save by Spencer Martin. However, it’s a shame that it didn’t even matter.
The period would end 5-1. The shots would be 30-13 in favour of Seattle.
The third period would be cut from the same fabric as Ryan Denato would score a sixth goal for Seattle. The Canucks would go 0/5 on the powerplay vs Seattle, after going 0/6 against Chicago just a game before. Vancouver would go 0/11 on powerplay chances in those 48 hours. Get used to it Rick, this is the real Canucks.
Andrei Kuzmenko Extended for Two Years
At the beginning of the week, the Canucks were making moves to keep players, at the end of the week… well that’s a different story, but we’ll get to that in a minute or two…
On Thursday the Canucks made the decision to extend Andrei Kuzmenko for another two years. Kuzmenko will come at an AVV of $5.5M during those two years and will put him back on the market following the 2024-25 season.
If anything this moves just further confirms that Horvat and potentially other trade pieces like Boeser are all but gone. Kuzmenko could’ve gotten a massive haul at the trade deadline, he costs under $1M this season and is nearing 50 points before the All-Star break. With that kinda value retained, there is no question that to perform the “major surgery” the Canucks want to perform, they will be parting ways with Horvat and then some.
We wrote a more in-depth piece on this particular deal earlier this week, and you can read about it here.
Game 47: January 27th vs. The Columbus Blue Jackets
This week was a real tour around the standings for the Canucks. They kicked off the week with a tour of the basement in their game against the Chicago Blackhawks. They then fancied themselves a trip to the top of the standings in their contest against the Seattle Kraken. After all that was said and done, they realized that the highfalutin lifestyle isn’t for them, and they came back down to the bottom of the barrel to face the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Horvat and Pettersson joined forces for the first goal of the game off of an odd-man rush, on a shorthanded opportunity. It was entertaining watching the Canucks capitalize on an opportunity that they so often create for the other teams they play.
Later in the period, a long bomb by Boqvist was tipped in by Marchenko, and the Jackets were on the board along with the Canucks. This goal was simply beautiful in nature, a clean tip that couldn’t have been stopped unless the shot was prevented in the first place. It’s hard to be mad at anyone after a goal like that.
Later in the period Quinn Hughes and J.T. Miller had a little back-and-forth action below the Jackets’ blue line that resulted in an eagle-eyed goal from the point by Quinn Hughes.
Quinn’s goal may have been the nicest of the period for the Canucks, but it wouldn’t be the last, as a less majestic bouncing puck off the end boards from an Ilya Mikheyev shot made it 3-1 for the Canucks before the end of 20 minutes
Despite what the frantic play of the first period may have suggested the second period of the contest was inconsequential. No goals were scored and other than a Columbus penalty at the beginning of the period and a Vancouver one at the end, there was little in the way of records that this period even existed. Collin Delia did make a not-too-shabby glove save off of a nice break-in from the Jackets, but other than that one decent show of goaltending abilities, this was a skippable 20 minutes.
The third period brought a bit more action. Although Kuzmenko remained without a goal during this game, his puck control and playmaking looked as good as ever at times. Ultimately though this game was a story of odd-man rushes and weird bounces, as the Canucks first goal since the first period would come in the form of a Dakota Joshua shot deflecting off of an opposing player in front of their own net and finding the back of the net.
Elias Pettersson would go on to add one more goal to the Canucks total and Marchenko would also earn his second of the night for Columbus. This game was a showcase of how bad teams can still make for exciting hockey from time to time. It’s just too bad for draft purposes that the Canucks have to keep being the best of the worst. The game would conclude with a score of 5-2 in the Canucks’ favour.
Ilya Mikheyev Done for the Season
Following the game Friday night against Columbus, GM Patrick Allvin announced Mikheyev would be missing the rest of the season with an ACL injury. It was announced that Mikheyev originally injured himself in the pre-season and played through the season with that injury up to this point, but with his eye on next season, Ilya has decided to seek surgery now. Mikheyev had almost a complete tear of his ACL, and despite that, had 13 goals on the season.
There was much talk around this announcement, largely due to the controversies surrounding the Canucks medical staff lately. Many wondered why he was ever allowed to play, in such a condition. The chatter was so loud that Ilya Mikheyev would took to Twitter to explain the situation.
It’s always a shame to see a top-end player go down for a season, but it is good to see him taking care of an injury that has clearly been bothering him all season. One thing that can’t be denied is that the tank is finally on!
Lane Pederson Claimed
Canucks fans will never get the chance to hear the announcer call an Elias Pettersson goal, assisted by Lane Pederson and Elias Pettersson. Unfortunately, as fans of the Vancouver Canucks you don’t get nice things like that.
I guess Columbus wanted to be more like Vancouver after the Canucks smacked them around in their last game because they took it upon themselves to pick Canucks’ Lane Pederson up off of waivers before Pederson was able to make the trip down the road to Abbotsford.
Pederson played only 11 games in Vancouver this year. The 25-year-old will now move on to his 4th NHL club, having spent last season with San Jose and the season before with Arizona. Pederson’s stay with Vancouver was the shortest out of his other two former clubs, in terms of actual NHL deployment. Having played 15 games in Arizona, and 20 in San Jose.
Lane only managed to contribute three points during his time here in Vancouver, being deployed just over 12 minutes a night on average. Pederson definitely had a decent opportunity to contribute here, but like many things involving the Canucks this season, it just didn’t work out.