Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

I Watched This Game: Miller and Pettersson's perfect shots down the Ducks

Quinn Hughes had two assists in the Canucks win to give him 60 on the season.
It's probably time to take the tank out of the header photo as the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 on Sunday night.

Quinn Hughes’ brilliance is often subtle. He doesn’t typically deke around three players or make thrilling dashes toward the net to score goals. You won’t often see him jumping up in the rush to finish off a passing play.

Hughes isn’t a finisher; he’s a starter. 

With two primary assists on Sunday night against the Anaheim Ducks, Hughes reached 60 points for the second-straight season — the first defenceman to do that since Paul Coffey and Ray Bourque way back in 1994. He’s currently fourth among NHL defencemen in points despite scoring just five goals.

That’s because Hughes is far more adept at starting plays than finishing them. He creates opportunities for everyone else on the ice with the way he breaks out the puck, finds teammates in transition, and opens up lanes in the offensive zone. He’s not often jumping up in the rush because he’s the one making the initial pass to make that rush happen in the first place.

“His breakouts are incredible,” said Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet. “That’s why the Coffeys of the world and Niedermayers and Bourques — they were great breakout guys. He’s climbing that ladder. I don’t want to give it to him yet, but he’s climbing that ladder.”

Hughes was utterly dominant against the Ducks. Shot attempts were 18-to-2 when Hughes was on the ice at 5-on-5 and shots on goal were 13-to-1. That’s about as tilted as the ice gets. 

It was just a more extreme version of what Hughes has done all season. When he’s been on the ice at 5-on-5, the Canucks have out-scored their opponents by 18 goals. When he hasn’t been on the ice, the Canucks have been outscored by 40 goals. 

“His numbers show [that he’s elite],” said Elias Pettersson. “He makes plays all over the ice.”

Consider that he’s doing this on a defence corps that make it harder for Hughes to shine. His most frequent defence partner this season has been Luke Schenn — capable enough within a certain skillset, but a far cry from a top-pairing defenceman. Hughes is currently playing with Noah Juulsen, who is, quite frankly, a replacement-level player.

And yet, Hughes keeps rolling, making whoever he plays with look like a legitimate top-four defenceman with sparkling underlying metrics. That’s not the only way he’s stepping up either.

“I think he’s been a terrific leader,” said Tocchet. “I’ve been here, what, 6-7 weeks? I think he’s probably been one of our best when it comes to [being] vocal and I haven’t really seen a bad game out of him. He’s very consistent.”

I didn’t see a bad game out of Quinn Hughes when I watched this game.

  • The Canucks had 17 total shots on goal on Saturday when they played the Los Angeles Kings. They had 17 shots on goal in the first period alone against the Ducks, then piled up another 17 in the second period for good measure. Obviously, there’s a distinct difference in quality between the Kings and the Ducks, but that’s still impressive from the Canucks in the second half of back-to-backs.
  • It’s almost uncanny how the shots on goal were a near mirror image, really. On the one hand, the Kings out-shot the Canucks 40-to-17; on the other hand, the Canucks out-shot the Ducks 40-to-18. Take both those hands and you have Edward 40hands.  
  • Yes, that’s an extremely dumb joke, but I really just wanted to embrace the chance to link a Mom Jeans. song. 
  • The only trouble with all the shots is that the Canucks couldn't get many of them past John Gibson. I haven't seen so many unsuccessful shots on the Ducks since the last time I played Duck Hunt.
  • J.T. Miller opened the scoring on an obscenely good shot, preceded by something he’s become known for: two blind, behind-the-back passes. On a delayed penalty, Elias Pettersson gained the zone, cut across the blue line, then dropped the puck for Hughes, who drew in a defender to create some space, then dropped the puck for Miller. The puck was put on a tee and Miller stepped into it like Said the Whale stepped into the darkness. The puck rocketed 99 mph off the far post and in — it was about as stoppable as the Juggernaut.
  • Pettersson made it 2-0 with an equally magnificent shot on the power play. Penalty kills haven’t given Pettersson much space this season and he showed exactly why. The Ducks started chasing the puck, taking them out of their penalty-killing shape, so Pettersson had plenty of time for a tip-toe through the tulips before he sent the puck soaring like Tiny Tim’s falsetto off the near post and in. 
  • That goal gave Pettersson a career-high 33 goals even though it was only his fourth goal of the season on the power play. Finding ways to get Pettersson more room on the power play should be a priority for the Canucks coaching staff heading into next season, because it feels like Pettersson could legitimately score 50 goals.
  • There are exactly three goaltenders in all of NHL history who were born in California. The Canucks have two of the three on their current roster and the other, John Blue, has been retired for nearly three decades. The Canucks' Californians are Thatcher Demko and Collin Delia — Demko from San Diego and Delia from just outside of Anaheim in Rancho Cucamonga. It is kind of wild that both ended up on the same team. The two probably looked at each other at training camp and said, "Wh-wh-what are you doing here?"
  • Delia didn’t have to deal with many shots from the Ducks, but still had a strong game in his backyard. He was particularly sharp in the second period. He stopping a brilliant shot from Trevor Zegras on a Ducks power play, as he picked a falling puck out of mid-air with a pretty wicked golf swing. Then he robbed Frank Vatrano as he got in behind Christian Wolanin for a breakaway. 
  • What would have been Delia’s first career NHL shutout, however, was ruined midway through the third period on a bit of a fluke. Tyler Myers coughed up the puck along the boards, then Miller was overly optimistic with his attempt to play the puck and it hopped over his stick like a hobbyhorse rider. Troy Terry nabbed the loose puck but his centring pass was blocked. That attempted pass, however, was enough to pull Delia off his post and Ryan Strome snuck a backhand into the gap.
  • It was a bit of a snakebitten game for Anthony Beauvillier, who had a game-high five shots on goal but couldn’t tally a single point thanks to some excellent goaltending by John Gibson. Beauvillier’s best chance came on a 3-on-1 in the third period, where he had Pettersson on his right and Andrei Kuzmenko on his left, but he looked off the Canucks’ two leading scorers and shot himself in the foot by shooting Gibson in the foot. 
  • Vitali Kravtsov returned to the lineup after one game as a healthy scratch. He and Vasily Podkolzin had quietly solid games flanking Sheldon Dries, with the Ducks unable to muster a single shot on goal when they were on the ice. Sure, you’re like to see the two young wingers putting up some points but there’s something to be said for some solid, low-event hockey.
  • You have to feel for poor Ethan Bear. Just recently, he took a puck to the face that required major dental surgery and a full face shield when he returned after missing several games. Then, in the final minute of a largely meaningless game, Bear got nailed by a Kevin Shattenkirk one-timer in the leg that saw him barely able to struggle to the bench. He doesn’t deserve this. Be nice to Bear.