Canucks this week: No brakes on wagon, not cocky and a smackdown

The eastern media gives the Canucks their due, a warning shot is fired at fans from afar and the team takes some strays with WWE in town

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Your weekly roundup of what the pundits, players and prognosticators are saying about the Vancouver Canucks around the hockey world:

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All gas, no brakes

There are no brakes on this bandwagon.

Not when the Canucks are playing their best hockey in the Big Apple and beyond.

The eastern media, long accused of nodding off the second the puck drops in the pacific, had front row seats to witness the wagon — and they couldn’t turn away.

The reviews started streaming in as the Canucks took the mighty New York Rangers to the woodshed on Monday at Madison Square Garden.

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Over at the MSG Network, the broadcasters couldn’t contain themselves as Elias Pettersson and Nils Hoglander scored back-to-back beauties to put the game to bed.

“Do you want to see talent!? Wow, what a goal that was,” said play-by-play veteran Sam Rosen, after Pettersson deked his way to pay dirt.

“Oh man! Look at that goal. He went behind the back and through the legs!” Rosen exclaimed, after Hoglander went ham for the second time on the night.

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After it was over, it was all accolades for the visitors.

“You can’t fall asleep against the number one goalscoring team in the league, and the Rangers did,” said former NHL goaltender Steve Valiquette, in studio.

By the time the wagon rolled into Long Island to crush the Islanders for the franchise’s first-ever New York Triple Crown, former Canucks’ goaltender and MSG commentator Cory Schneider knew what was coming.

“The Canucks made quick work of the Rangers and the Devils recently … they’re coming in on a roll and I think it’s going to be a great test for (the Islanders).”

You can say that again.

Come Columbus on Monday — with Pittsburg and Buffalo in between — this could be an all-time trip for the local team and one that truly puts them on the map.

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Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) stops a shot by New York Rangers' Jacob Trouba (8) during the second period in New York.
Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) stops a shot by New York Rangers’ Jacob Trouba (8) during the second period on Monday night. Photo by Frank Franklin II /AP

Demko deconstructed

Following the Rangers tilt, Valiquette broke down Thatcher Demko’s game in a way only a former NHL goalie could.

“When you close the book on this game, Thatcher Demko was better than Igor Shesterkin,” he began.

“The way I would have approached him is different than the way the Rangers … approached him — he’s very good on the short game — and that’s where he dominated the game. He’s got one of the highest save percentages on screens, deflections and broken plays. That’s where he’s best. He’s not as good at mid-range shots. Now, that is tough though, because it’s tough to coach into the (Rangers) players and I wonder where this lies with them.”

“Had the Rangers been playing against Elvis Merzlikins and Columbus, they would’ve scored five goals tonight, net-front. This just happens to be (Demko’s) strength.”

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Valiquette thinks Demko’s had a Vezina Trophy-worthy season so far.

“Right now I’d say he’s the favourite to win the Vezina, so you got a great performance out of him.”

Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck is right there as well. The Jets goalie pitched another shutout on Tuesday for the first-overall team in what was their seventh straight win.

They hate us: Part 1

The Canucks are getting their due from the biggest media figures in the game.

Canucks fans, on the other hand, are certainly not.

ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, who categorized the Canucks as a Tier 2 ‘Playoff Lock’ in his latest piece, went on Sportsnet 650’s Halford and Brough show on Tuesday morning and sent a warning shot to the city.

“Just don’t get cocky,” he said. “Let’s not do this whole dunking on the rest of the league thing because the Canucks are finally good and relevant again.

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“This is the kind of behaviour that got the whole sports world rooting for a team from Boston in the (2011) Stanley Cup Final. Do you know how hard that is to get people rooting for a team from Boston in the Stanley Cup Final? It was because of Vancouver hubris. I don’t want to see it happen again. I find this team to be pretty delightful — outside of J.T. Miller — but, like, on the whole, I want the whole hockey world to embrace this team.”

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Wyshynski was called out online, but shot back, conjuring up images of a still-smouldering downtown core on the morning of June 16, 2011.

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Thing is, Wyshynski has merely adopted the dark; Canucks fans were born in it, molded by it after 50-plus years of Stanley Cup failure.

The shadows will betray him, because they belong to us.

This Wysh war will be won in the trenches.

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They hate us: Part 2

We need a total and complete shut down of Alabamans entering Vancouver until we can figure out what the heck is going on.

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Tier 3B slander

It’s evident to everyone now that the good folks at The Athletic were clearly wrong in their assessment that Hughes was a Tier 3B defenceman to start the season.

Right? Right??

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It’s another example of East Coast media favouring the guys they watch on a regular basis.

For those still languishing on the battlefield, it’s time to stand down.

Hughes appreciators have won this one.

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All-star hijinks

It didn’t have to be this way.

The team sending out pleas on social media. Fans firing off tweets, hitting the vote button online, hoping they can do their star players justice.

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As of Tuesday, Canucks nation has done an admiral job — with all five of the team’s stars making the cut.

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With Hughes already in, Demko is the runaway vote-getter among goaltenders while Pettersson and J.T. Miller appear set to get in.

That leaves 25-goal scorer Brock Boeser just 20,000 votes ahead of the Rangers’ Artemi Panarin and his 26 goals for the final spot.

Meanwhile, Seattle Kraken forward Oliver Bjorkstrand and his 11 goals, respectively, is going to Toronto in early February.

Even he isn’t enthused with the unexpected turn of events.

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You can blame the current format, with one player from each of the 32 teams making it and the remaining 12 players voted in by fans on Jan. 11.

Pro hockey analysts Andy and Rono looked at how the game would shape up had the East-West format still been in place and voila — the whole Lotto Line would make it (just not in their canonical order of 6-40-9).

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Just as it should be, without handing out participation awards to every team.

Deep blue-line

Some more praise for the depth the Canucks have assembled, this time from sunny Palm Springs.

With the Abbotsford Canucks in town on Sunday, the Coachella Valley Firebirds broadcast team had kind words for the wonders that Patrik Allvin and Co. have been able to work on the back end.

“They have a lot of defencemen in their system,” said play-by-play man Evan Pivnick.

“They do — and a lot of good defencemen,” replied colour man and hall-of-famer Grant Fuhr. “And it’s a nice surplus to have, especially when you’re looking with the trade deadline coming up.

“It’s one of those things where you can never have enough. It’s a nice asset to have because everyone wants defencemen. Defencemen and goalies. If you’ve got a surplus of that, you’re way ahead of the game.”

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It’s been a long time since the organization’s blue-line has been deserving of recognition.

The PDO machine

Forget the charts: we needed to see what the PDO machine actually looks like.

Feast your eyes.

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Rush hour

While the PDO machine continues to go brrr, the Canucks rush chance shooting percentage is equally as impressive.

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Smack talk

The WWE came to town for Friday Night Smackdown and the Canucks caught some serious strays.

First, it was social media star and pay-per-view boxer Logan Paul digging into Canadian wrestler Kevin Owens and the hometown hockey team.

“You beating me for the U.S. title is like the Canucks winning the Stanley Cup … it’s never going to happen,” Paul said.

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Owens, naturally, decked Paul before he could finish.

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If the name Kevin Owens rings a bell, it’s because of former Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau — a huge wrestling fan and friend of Owens.

Boudreau even appeared on Monday Night Raw in May 2023 to give Owens and Sami Zayn a little coaching advice following their tag-team match.

No wonder there were some “Bruce, there it is” chants ringing around Rogers Arena with Owens in the squared circle.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

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The Canucks current coach need not worry — though a tag team of Adam Foote and Sergei Gonchar could do some damage under Tocchet’s tutelage.

At least someone repped the Canucks right on Friday night — or so we thought.

Hometown girl and WWE star Chelsea Green caused a stir by sporting a glittery blue-and-green Canucks-themed outfit in her untelevised bout with Bianca Belair.

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The design was by Florida-based Jolene Jilnicki, a self-described WWE seamstress who makes “tiny pants for big men” and costumes for “Murder Gymnastics.”

WWE star and B.C. girl Chelsea Green performs at Friday Night Smackdown at Rogers Arena on January 5, 2024.
WWE star and B.C. girl Chelsea Green performs at Friday Night Smackdown at Rogers Arena on Jan. 5, 2024. (Josh Ruckstuhl Photography/Submitted) Photo by Josh Ruckstuhl Photography /Submitted

Green has a huge following online, with nearly 900,000 on Instagram alone. She’s not quite royalty in these parts — that’s reserved for the likes of Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini and Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger — but the 31-year-old former WWE tag team champion fit into the crew just fine.

For all the hullabaloo and Ferrari tours, Green went rogue with a tirade against the Vancouver faithful.

“I actually left this miserable place,” she said, digging in as a heel. “I did what my buddy Luongo did and I moved to the most magical place on Earth: Florida.”

The way the Canucks are going, Green may want to reconsider.

As Wyshynski said, it could be an absolute riot come playoff time.

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