Blues 2, Canucks 1: Vancouver flails in tight-checking recreation and Andrei Kuzmenko is scratched once more

The Vancouver Canucks misplaced a detailed contest to a less-talented however laborious working St. Louis Blues squad.

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For the second time in every week, the Vancouver Canucks have been reminded what grinding, tight-checking hockey appears to be like like.

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And for the second time in every week, they’ve failed the check.

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One can’t assist however take into consideration how that is the sort of hockey that goes a good distance within the Stanley Cup Playoffs and that the groups that make the playoffs are lots higher than the St. Louis Blues.

The Canucks misplaced 2-1 Thursday to a hustling Blues squad, which doesn’t have a ton of scoring depth however does have loads of pluck.

The Canucks scored first, received loads of photographs off, many of excellent high quality, however they by no means actually discovered a rhythm and as their head coach has stated greater than as soon as, they’ve received to discover a option to push via tight-checking video games.

“Gotta bury your probabilities,” Tocchet stated post-game in a brief media session.

He didn’t appeared displeased together with his staff’s effort, however nonetheless you need to imagine he believed his staff might have completed higher.

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In video games like this, it’s good to discover methods to be a distinction maker, to rise above the defensive stress.

J.T. Miller’s line had some moments of stress, however they couldn’t bury the puck.

Elias Pettersson had a harder evening, struggling to generate many high quality probabilities. His line began the season flying excessive, with him skating with Ilya Mikheyev and Andrei Kuzemenko on his wings.

However his line has unravelled. Mikheyev has struggled with consistency and hasn’t scored in nearly three weeks. Kuzmenko was a wholesome scratch on Thursday, the fifth time this season Tocchet has opted to take a seat the winger.

Vancouver Canucks’ Nils Hoglander shoots extensive of St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington in the course of the first interval of an NHL recreation Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024, in St. Louis. Photograph by Jeff Roberson /AP

Kuzmenko scratched

Greater than as soon as Tocchet has stated he wants extra power from Kuzmenko.

Earlier than Thursday’s recreation, he wasn’t revealing his playing cards about what he was going to do together with his lineup — he selected to scratch Kuzmenko in the long run, dressing rookie Linus Karlsson as an alternative — however he keyed in on issues he didn’t like from Tuesday’s 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators.

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Even because the Canucks dominated the struggling Senators, he felt his staff had gotten away from their laborious forechecking recreation.

“If you don’t forecheck, and also you’re standing round, they begin blowing the zone they usually begin taking on the sport. Should you’re late, you then gotta get out and ensure you’re above individuals,” he stated.

“I simply want some extra guys that forecheck a bit of tougher and are available out with free pucks. That’s after we’re at our greatest. There’s some jobs open for that typically. We want a constant effort of forechecking proper now.”

He by no means talked about Kuzmenko, however the message was apparent.

And with no impartial reporters in St. Louis for this recreation, solely a staff reporter and a fill-in host from Sportsnet, Tocchet wasn’t queried post-game about this newest Kuzmenko scratch. We’re solely left to extrapolate from what’s been stated earlier than.

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Vancouver Canucks’ Nils Hoglander handles the puck as St. Louis Blues’ Marco Scandella defends in the course of the first interval of an NHL recreation Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024, in St. Louis. Photograph by Jeff Roberson /AP

Extra mysteries

Different questions that have been left unanswered on Thursday:

• What’s Phil Di Giuseppe’s standing? After Tuesday’s recreation Tocchet merely stated he didn’t suppose the gritty winger can be again any time quickly, however didn’t even proffer a lower- or upper-body replace.

• Why was Sam Lafferty the selection to return on to the Pettersson line? He’s a hard-worker quick winger with a nostril for the web, however is so clearly best-suited to a fourth-line power function, not being the man who helps the staff’s most dynamic centre create offence.

The place are…

• FIlip Hronek, who has simply 4 assists within the final month? And that’s taking part in with Quinn Hughes, who had a five-game factors streak snapped by the Blues.

• Nils Höglander, who has only one purpose in his final 11 video games now.

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• Brock Boeser is goalless in 4 video games. He went 5 video games a purpose in November, so it’s not like he hasn’t had dry patches earlier than.

However he’s missed a couple of probabilities over the previous three video games and his photographs on purpose quantity is method down.

Given how effectively he’s performed this season and the energey he confirmed on the forecheck on this recreation, it does appear doubtless he’ll get again on the rating sheet quickly sufficient.

That’s extra prefer it

Thatcher Demko was wonderful and gave his staff an opportunity to win.

He’d given up 14 targets in his earlier 4 video games.

Who else would rating first

Given how effectively the Garland-Blueger-Joshua line has been over the past month, it wasn’t an enormous shock they opened the scoring within the first interval.

Nor was it a shock that it was Conor Garland who scored, selecting up his tenth level in 13 video games.

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It appears a very long time in the past that individuals apprehensive about his manufacturing.


However, Tocchet received’t have been completely happy how St. Louis’ first purpose, by Colton Parayko, unfolded. Blueger’s line misplaced management via the impartial zone and the Blues made some sensible choices on the push.

Robert Thomas was allowed to make a positive cross-ice cross to Parayko, forcing Thatcher Demko to maneuver submit to submit, and Parayko wired an ideal wrist shot in opposition to the grain and simply contained in the submit.

So clean

Tocchet received’t be completely happy concerning the successful purpose both, as Thomas was left uncovered useless within the slot.

A participant this good isn’t going to overlook usually from there.

Good begins

For the twenty fifth time this season, the Canucks scored first.

It was simply the fifth time the Canucks have misplaced after scoring first.

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Shut video games

“We received to be comfy taking part in the 0-0 recreation,” Rick Tocchet declared every week in the past, after his staff dropped a 4-1 resolution to the Philadelphia Flyers. “Simply take what’s given. You possibly can’t get pissed off as a result of individuals are in your method or individuals are hitting you. Can’t get pissed off as a result of it’s gonna get ramped up much more than this recreation.”

His staff definitely performed higher in opposition to St. Louis than they did final week in opposition to the Flyers, however nonetheless, right here was the identical end result.

Murph shall be again

Followers watching the Sportsnet broadcast seen a wrinkle: Sean Reynolds, Sportsnet’s Winnipeg-based reporter and host for Hockey Night time in Canada, was serving the host’s function for Thursday’s broadcast, standing in for Dan Murphy.

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Murphy shall be again on air on Saturday, when the Canucks face the Devils in New Jersey on Hockey Night time in Canada.

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Vancouver Canucks vs. New Jersey Devils

4 p.m., Prudential HeartTV: SN Pacific, Radio: Sportsnet 650

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