Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

I Watched This Game: Canucks' structure collapses to the Devils' attack

Quinn Hughes and the Canucks couldn't quite complete the comeback against his brothers on the New Jersey Devils.
The Vancouver Canucks fell 6-5 to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

Hughes-a-palooza lived up to the hype.

The New Jersey Devils had a clear advantage over the Vancouver Canucks heading into Tuesday night’s game, boasting two Hughes brothers to just one for the Canucks. That 2-to-1 advantage played out in the game too, as Jack and Luke Hughes combined for four points, while Quinn Hughes, all on his one Hughes-wise, had just two points.

It was the first time all three Hughes brothers were all on the ice together in an NHL game — at any level, really, as they were obviously in different age groups growing up. It was a special experience for all three, though two of them surely enjoyed it a little bit more.

“I’m sure they’re appreciating it more than I am right now,” said Quinn after the loss — his sixth to his brother Jack and first to Luke. “I’m sure looking back in the next couple days — or months — it’ll be cool.”

“For me, it’s just seeing him off ice,” said Luke. “I haven’t seen him for a couple months and just the five of us, our whole family has been here for two days. Going to dinner and hanging out has been great for our family.”

The game was so much bigger than just Hughes-a-palooza. It was a wild and woolly game that featured a whopping 11 goals between the two teams, as the high-flying Devils jumped otu to an early 4-1 lead in the first period, forcing the Canucks to battle from behind.

The Canucks nearly came up with the comeback too, scoring the game-tying 5-5 goal with three-and-a-half minutes left, which seemed certain to send the game to overtime. 

Rogers Arena was riotous, with the crowd louder than it has been in years.

“Since I’ve been here, I would say that’s the loudest that I’ve heard it in this building,” said Dakota Joshua. “It was nice to come back for them but, obviously, it makes it sting a little bit more that we couldn’t finish it off for them.”

That was the issue. After working so hard to tie the game up late, the Canucks had a let down in the final minute. With 34 seconds left, the Devils scored to win 6-5. It was a bad defensive breakdown that left a man wide open in front to finish off a rebound.

“I think maybe you could blame all five guys on the ice for that [goal],” said Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet. “I still don’t understand where guys were going on that play. That’s details, details, details. That’s what we keep hammering with these guys.”

That defensive breakdown was emblematic of how much of the game went for the Canucks, particularly in the first period, where the Devils were able to create odd-man rushes and grade-A chances seemingly at will, much to the consternation of Tocchet.

“We gave them four goals,” said Tocchet. “You can’t have three guys in the corner on that [second] goal and leave the front of the net. That’s not our system. And we’ve been slacking a little bit on that and that’s on us. That’s on my ass.”

My ass, because I know you were wondering, was firmly affixed to a chair in the pressbox while I watched this game. 

  • The first period was an absolute disasterpiece of defending from the Canucks. It was like the sight of Travis Green in the building again, now an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils, made them remember how much they hated playing tightly structured hockey.
  • Demko had already robbed Jesper Bratt once when the Devils winger got another chance on a 2-on-1. This time, Bratt faked the shot to freeze Demko, then slung the puck through his five-hole to open the scoring. That definitely wasn’t Bratt’s worst.
  • I will not apologize for that joke. You cannot make me.
  • The Canucks tied the game up on a power play, taking advantage of Michael McLeod breaking his stick on the faceoff. As he raced to the bench for a new stick, Brock Boeser took advantage of the extra space to set up J.T. Miller on the doorstep. His first attempt was rebuffed by Vitek Vanecek but, like the Loser’s Club, Miller stuck with it, stabbing in the rebound.
  • Dakota Joshua drew the penalty that led to the goal but he wasn’t about to take any credit for creating any sort of spark: “I took a penalty that led to the fifth [Devils] goal so, at the end of the day, it goes both ways and you try not to look at it too much either way.”
  • Tyler Myers had an awful turnover to Jack Hughes on the 2-1 goal. It honestly looked like Hughes read Myers like a book, intentionally avoiding a physical battle on the boards to simply wait for Myers to give him the puck. It would make sense: Jack has watched Myers a lot over the last few years while keeping up with how Quinn is doing.
  • “I watch a lot of the Canucks games,” said Jack, “so I have a pretty good read on how they play.”
  • The goal wasn’t all on Myers, of course. That’s the one where Tocchet complained about three players going into the corner, as Nikita Zadorov and J.T. Miller joined Myers against two Devils players, leaving Erik Haula more alone than Henry Bemis, with time enough at last to beat Demko.
  • Tocchet matched up the defence pairing of Myers and Zadorov and the forward line of Andrei Kuzmenko, J.T. Miller, and Brock Boeser against the Hughes line in the first period. It really didn’t work well, as Myers and Zadorov weren’t able to contain that line’s speed and some of Miller’s old defensive miscues queued up too. Also, Kuzmenko really isn’t a fit on a match-up line — he and Miller were on the ice for three of the Devils’ four first period goals.
  • I’m desperately trying to avoid making a “Hughes line is it anyway” joke every time I say the phrase "Hughes line," so hopefully throwing it away in this bullet point gets it out of my system.
  • The Canucks power play created some glorious chances after the Devils’ second goal but, like a keyboard missing shift and capslock keys, just couldn’t capitalize, with Vanecek making back-to-back toe saves on Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser. 
  • Despite the chances, Miller was critical of the power play: “Honestly, the power play is not at all where we need it to be right now. We’re not sharp. Yeah, we had a couple of breakdown looks maybe, like, scrambles, but in a sense of when we were going good, I don’t think we’re back to that right now…That was a game where the power play could have saved our ass a little bit.”
  • A questionable icing call were Vanecek played the puck after it came off the end boards gave the Devils an offensive zone faceoff and they immediately scored. Teddy Blueger lost the faceoff, then lost his man, letting Jack Hughes get behind him for an easy goal. Unfortunately, Teddy Blueger was more like Teddy blew it on that one.
  • The Miller line got chasing around the defensive zone on the 4-1 goal but a fair share of the blame falls on Quinn Hughes, who let McLeod get position on him in front of the net and couldn’t tie up his stick to prevent him from jamming in a rebound. 
  • The Canucks gave themselves life in the final minute of the first period thanks to the third line. Zadorov jumped up the left side to gain the offensive zone with his skating, then handed the puck off to Blueger. He took advantage of Haula abandoning Conor Garland in front of the net to set him up for a deflection, then Joshua had the presence of mind to pull the puck to his forehand around Vanecek instead of just hacking away like a lumberjack.
  • “I think it just comes down to bounces. Sometimes they go your way and sometimes they don’t,” said Joshua. “You try to be poised with the puck every time you get it but that was a nice one where I could finish it off.”
  • Someone whose poise has seemingly completely abandoned him is Andrei Kuzmenko. He had a golden opportunity to pull the Canucks within one early in the second period when he picked off a breakout pass but he sent his shot a good three feet high and wide. It was a bizarre sight to see given that every puck that touched his stick last season seemed to go in. 
  • Aside for Kuzmenko’s offensive dry spell, Tocchet’s frustrations with Kuzmenko’s play away from the puck continued in this game. By the third period, he was bumped to the fourth line and barely saw the ice, except for his view from the bench, I suppose. 
  • “I’m tired of answering questions about him,” said Tocchet. “Kuzy’s got to, you know, he’s gotta forecheck, let’s start with that.”
  • Demko’s stat line of six goals allowed on 32 shots doesn’t look pretty and neither did his puck-tracking in this game, but let’s be honest: he’s not a miracle worker. With the chances the Canucks gave up, Demko didn’t have much hope of stealing the game. He did his darnedest, including a save with his mask on Jack Hughes that definitely looked like a minor miracle, but he won’t be sending anyone off to storm the castle just yet.
  • After Miller hit the post on a Kuzmenko feed after a Devils turnover on the Canucks power play, the Devils struck on their own power play. Luke Hughes sent a ridiculous snipe into the top corner of the net, while his parents, Jim and Ellen, carefully kept their faces neutral so as to avoid showing any partiality.
  • Quinn got to have one minor highlight against Jack. Early in the third period, Quinn stood still in the defensive zone, baiting in the forechecking Jack, then attacked his heels and left him behind with a burst of speed. Jack, trying to keep up with his older brother, bailed and fell to the ice.
  • Nils Höglander got the promotion to the Miller line in place of Kuzmenko and proved that he deserves the extra ice time. At the tail end of a hardworking shift by Miller, Höglander got in hard on the forecheck to force Jonas Siegenthaler to turnover the puck. Miller took the misplaced pass and fired the puck across to Boeser, who was waiting in front of the net. The NHL’s leading goalscorer took the puck to his backhand and painted the top of the net like it was the Sistine Chapel, but significantly faster.  
  • “I’m just trying to find that soft spot and Millsy’s so good at finding me,” said Boeser, who was overly humble about his finish. “Honestly, it was pretty lucky.”
  • Let’s just remind everyone that Brock Boeser still leads the NHL in goalscoring with 18 goals, matching his entire total from last season and two more than the next-best player this season. He’s on pace for 57 goals. It feels like this very ridiculous fact is being overlooked by the Vancouver market. Boeser is on an absolute tear right now.
  • Quinn Hughes finally got a point on the board on the Canucks’ fourth goal. Under pressure at the left point, he managed to find a shooting lane to fling the puck on net, where Sam Lafferty outbattled John Marino to tip the puck past Vanecek. The best part of the goal was Lafferty’s reaction, which wasn’t captured by the television broadcast: a simple, understated fist pump and a quiet, “Yes.” Nothing more, nothing less. It was hilariously low-key for the stakes, at least to me.
  • Höglander’s reaction to scoring the tying goal was significantly bigger. Quinn Hughes shook free of Timo Meier at the point, then accidentally hit Boeser with his point shot. Hughes regained the puck, jumped up to the left faceoff circle — where a lot of his offence has come from — then shot for a rebound on the very rebound-prone Vanecek. Höglander, who had slipped loose from Dawson Mercer, swept the puck home and then dropped a well-earned “F*** yeah!” in celebration.
  • Hilariously, Boeser got an assist on the goal just for getting hit by Hughes’ shot at the point, giving him a three-point night. You know what, take the point, Boeser. You’ve earned it.
  • The Devils’ game-winning sixth goal was an absolute mess. At one point, the Devils only had four players on the ice but the Canucks still couldn’t win the puck. Bratt disappeared from notice by simply skating behind the net. Joshua was on him before he did so, but maybe one of Filip Hronek or Ian Cole should have picked him up. It’s hard to pin the blame on one player, so it’s understandable why Tocchet pointed at all five players on the ice. Whoever was to blame, Bratt punched in a rebound to end a wildly-entertaining game in a thoroughly underwhelming way.