Canucks 4, Panthers 0: Happy days are here again as Vancouver wins fourth-straight game

Canucks 4, Panthers 0: Happy days are here again as Vancouver wins fourth-straight game

Canucks 4, Panthers 0: Happy days are here again as Vancouver wins fourth-straight game

Goalie Thatcher Demko posts a solid shutout for the Canucks’ fourth-straight win, on a night that was also a tribute to Roberto Luongo

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And like that, the Vancouver Canucks are on a four-game win streak.

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The Canucks handily defeated the Florida Panthers 4-0 on Thursday at Rogers Arena, making last season’s Stanley Cup finalist look like Florida raccoons — one of the preferred meals of the Florida panther — rather than ferocious jungle cats.

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There was an element of luck to their game — Florida captain Matthew Tkachuk missing an open net on a relatively easy chance in the second period — but the Canucks did enough overall to best the visitors.

It’s the kind of wins good teams get.

And their goalie, Thatcher Demko, posted a solid shutout on a night that was also a tribute to Roberto Luongo.

The pre-game ceremony honouring the greatest goalie in team history had some nice touches.

And Demko nailing a shutout on the night was the best tribute you could make.

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(Though, in all this, you couldn’t help but think Luongo deserved the full honour of a jersey retirement.)

“It’s poetic, right? Something in the air. A really cool evening,” Demko said about getting a shutout.

He admitted he hadn’t been Luongo fan when he was a kid; growing up in Southern California he was a Los Angeles Kings fan.

“Frustrating for sure,” he said of watching the best goalie in team history knock down his favourite squad.

“But he was the best in that time period,” he went on to acknowledge.

Team record

This is the Canucks’ 20th win of the season. With it being in their 30th game of the year, they’ve set a new team standard, eclipsing the previous mark of 31 games, set in 1992-93.

Patient start

The Panthers are having another strong season and a big part of the reason is their strong starts. They’d out-scored their opponents 29-22 in the first period coming into the game.

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The Canucks came out of the first period of this game leading 2-0. They were solid. They did a lot of things well. Both their goals were down to hard work.

Rick Tocchet said he was really pleased how his team performed over the opening 40 minutes.

This was the 16th time the Canucks have taken a lead into the second intermission and they’ve yet to lose in such a situation, best in the league. Tocchet obviously wasn’t super keen on his team handled the third — they managed just one shot on goal, a statement about their lack of possession — but he also wasn’t upset. When he’s been frustrated about elements of his team’s game, he’s been clear on that.

“The third, we were, I think we were just kind of throwing pucks out just trying to eat the clock,” he said. “I think we can still learn. I think our breakouts in third, we weren’t really connected and we were throwing a lot of pucks away, so those are things we got to just learn. But for the most part, 4-0, you know, you are pretty happy. Like I said, that’s a really good hockey team over there.”

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Depth scoring and hard work

The Canucks had gone two-straight games with goals only from their top lines, so obviously it was time for the bottom six to break out.

The Canucks’ first three goals on Thursday were scored by their bottom two lines — and both were all about pressure.

The first goal, by Andrei Kuzmenko, came off a turnover forced by Conor Garland.

The second goal, scored by Dakota Joshua, came off a relentless forecheck by Garland, Joshua and Teddy Blueger.

The third tally was a gift to Joshua off Sergei Bobrovsky’s stick.

Where ya passing to Bob?

If anyone can explain what Sergei Bobrovsky was trying to do before he put the puck on Joshua’s stick midway through the second period, please email it to the address at the bottom of this story.

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Dakota Joshua played down the chance, handing most of the credit to Garland’s pressure, forcing the netminder to look in an area he might not have originally wanted to.

“Garland was taking away the left side so I knew (Bobrovsky’) options were kind of limited,” the power forward said.

“I saw him turn up ice so I thought maybe he wasn’t going to go to the D I was going to,” he said of the read he made, shifting his angle at just he right moment to calmly intercept Bobrovsky’s clearing attempt.

Unassssitttteeed

On the goal announcement, before saying “unassisted,” PA announcement Al Murdoch paused with obvious irony, since it was a goal that clearly came with an assist that wouldn’t go credited.

Then he held on to the word a little longer than usual, playing up the folly of the moment and draw an appreciative roar from the crowd, who knew he was alluding to Bobrovsky’s gaffe.

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canucks
Florida Panthers’ goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky stops Vancouver Canucks’ Sam Lafferty during the first period of an NHL game in Vancouver on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023. Photo by ETHAN CAIRNS /THE CANADIAN PRESS

Miller hammers himself

“Good thing we didn’t play more, we were giving up grade As left and right,” J.T. Miller said frankly. He played just 15:30 on the night, his second-lowest total of the night; the only game where he played less was the Oct. 31 game versus Nashville, where he was benched for some of the second period.

“Barkov’s line, they outplayed us mightily. So we own that as a line for sure. Especially if we’re considered playing in a matchup role. Didn’t think we were very good. Glad that everyone else seemed to play pretty well and the goalie played awesome.

Sasha Barkov’s line did out-shoot Miller’s line when they were head-to-head but not terribly. But who is to argue with the player, is pretty honest about his play whenever he’s asked about it.

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Spread it around

Miller wasn’t the only one whose ice time was down a little. The Pettersson line didn’t play quite as much as they have.

Nor did the Hughe-Hronek pairing: both defencemen played less than 20 minutes. The only Canucks who played more than 20 minutes on the night were the pair of Nikita Zadorov and Tyler Myers.

Rick Tocchet said he was looking to spread the ice time around a little.

“The last thre,e four games I just think that some guys are playing well,” he said of finding ice time for his depth players.

“I think those guys got to play a little bit more and if that means you got to take a little bit more off your stars, so be it,” he added.

“And we got a four game road trip in six days. There wasn’t a lot of mileage on some of those guys, so that’s gonna really help us.”

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Shooting bullets

The Canucks’ five-on-five shooting percentage has surged upwards again lately — scoring four goals on 17 shots in the first two periods, three of them at full strength — is part of the story.

Some of it is strategy: The Canucks are the best team in the league at scoring off rebounds, Clear Sight Analytics’ data shows.

But, surely, some of this resurgence is about luck.

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The Canucks’ PDO is surging back toward 1050, putting them into historical outlier status.

PDO is a well-proven measure of future performance based on a team’s current even-strength save percentage and shooting percentage, added up. Good teams sit just above 1000 so the Canucks, who are a good team, are still well above where they should be.

And it’s mostly driven by their even-strength shooting percentage

roberto luongo
Roberto Luongo walks onto the ice before an NHL game to celebrate the his entry to the Ring of Honour at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023. Photo by ETHAN CAIRNS /THE CANADIAN PRESS

Florida goes 0-for-PNW

The Panthers were shut out for the second straight game.

They gave up four goals in back-to-back contests.

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NEXT GAME

Saturday

Vancouver Canucks vs. Minnesota Wild

11 a.m., Xcel Energy CenterTV: TSN, Radio: 650AM


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