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Canucks Takeaways: A deserved but well-timed loss vs. Coyotes

The Vancouver Canucks finally played badly enough to lose, and the Arizona Coyotes fell for it. 

In a race to the bottom of the standings that neither team has been winning because they have, you know, been winning, the Coyotes pulled into a tie on points with the Canucks by beating them 3-2 Thursday in Vancouver’s first visit to Arizona’s mini-sticks rink in Tempe.

For now, the Canucks remain 25th in the National Hockey League standings and eighth in the Connor Bedard draft lottery, while the Coyotes are 26th and seventh. 

With 15 games remaining, the Canucks have played two fewer games, which is why losing Thursday’s big four-pointer was significant.

Nobody on the Canucks actually wants to lose and coach Rick Tocchet, indignant at the idea of tanking, badly needs to continue building culture and winning habits so that the team he inherited isn’t back in garbage time next season.

But if you’re going to have a five-game winning streak end, it couldn’t happen against a better team. Actually, most teams are better than Arizona despite the Coyotes’ own recent surge up the standings, but from a draft-enhancing standpoint the loss was a good one.

It was also deserved, as the Canucks were nowhere near as engaged and sharp as they need to be to win.

Veteran defenceman Tyler Myers gave away the puck in his own zone on the first Arizona goal, and the Canucks’ 32nd-ranked penalty kill surrendered two goals on three chances to the Coyotes’ no-name power play. Canuck goalie Thatcher Demko, outstanding in his first five games back from a serious groin injury, even contributed a clunker when he appeared to be guessing pass when Lawson Crouse flipped the pack past him from a sharp angle at 1:19 of the third period for what turned out to be the winning goal.

Andrei Kuzmenko and Elias Pettersson scored for Vancouver (like, you were expecting anyone else?), which has back-to-back weekend games in Anaheim and Los Angeles to end its three-game, four-night road trip.


Anthony Beauvillier continues to look reinvented as a first-line winger since coming to the Canucks as the only immediate piece in the Bo Horvat trade. And while it certainly helps to have been glued to Pettersson’s hip when the Canucks’ star is having a truly elite season, Beauvillier’s speed, puck-hounding and renewed offensive confidence would be an asset to anyone right now.

And maybe that’s all Beauvillier is – a cashable asset who is driving up his trade value for next season when he will be on an expiring contract. But it’s impressive how he has taken advantage of a bigger role in Vancouver. 

He made nice plays to set up both Canuck goals and has seven goals and 16 points in 18 games with Vancouver. Thirteen of his points have been at even strength, and the 25-year-old has been a positive driver of possession.

Type-cast on the New York Islanders’ third line, Beauvillier had nine goals and 20 points in 49 games before the trade.


After an offensively-inert second period when the Canucks were badly outplayed at even-strength, Tocchet tweaked his lines in the third period. By the end, nobody’s ice time had been cleaved, but it was still noteworthy that Vasily Podkolzin and Conor Garland moved up the lineup, while Kuzmenko and Phil DiGiuseppe moved down slightly.


Arguments that Tocchet has been using his best players too much, to the detriment of the team’s draft position, largely miss the point.  

Less than two months into his tenure, Tocchet is still setting and enforcing guidelines and you don’t have to be Kyle Dubas to see that Pettersson, Hughes, Kuzmenko and J.T. Miller have been excellent-to-outstanding. Failing to reward them with full playing time would undermine the meritocracy Tocchet is eager to build and, more importantly, send a message to players that the whole thing is a con – that losing is actually desirable enough that the coach would keep his best players on the bench to try to achieve it.

But with back-to-back games looming, and the Canucks starting a spell of nine games in 15 nights, it did feel like 28:56 of ice time for Hughes, 23:07 for Pettersson and 22:46 for Miller was too much. These times were all 2-3 minutes more than the players’ average – for a March 16 game in Arizona. Tocchet shouldn’t overtly suppress anyone’s ice times when they’re playing well, but perhaps he could be less generous in his bonus payments.

It’s Tocchet’s team, however, and his job. And nobody who matters is going to reward him for losing.


It seemed like old times the way the Canucks lost this game on special teams, as they did so often when Bruce Boudreau was coaching. But while most of the critical focus has been on the historically-inept penalty killing, which has actually had an uptick recently with an explosion of shorthanded goals generated mainly by Pettersson and Miller, the power play has become the bigger problem.

It went 0-for-5 against the Coyotes and is 4-for-30 the last nine games. 

A power play featuring Pettersson, Kuzmenko, Miller, Hughes and Brock Boeser was blanked. An Arizona power play that included Travis Boyd, Brett Ritchie and Barret Hayton on the first unit scored twice on three chances.


Tocchet: “We were sleepy tonight. It just wasn’t a good effort from our team. We got that goal (from Kuzmenko early) and then maybe we thought it was going to be easy. That’s a hard-working team; they outworked us tonight, plain and simple.

“It’s my job to get them prepared. I guess I didn’t get them prepared. We had a day off yesterday. . . I don’t know. I didn’t like our game at all. A lot of stick checking, maybe a little high on ourselves. I don’t know, we’ve got to get back to our work boots.”


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