The Go-To Guy: Zadorov’s aura, the Aman effect, and other takeaways from another strong Canucks win

This was a perfect game for The Sean Agenda.

In case you don’t know, I am not a fan of the Montreal Canadiens… at all. There are few teams that I actively want to see lose since I usually don’t hold grudges against NHL teams, but I have just never liked the Habs at all. Their roster has been boring since I was a kid; even when they had the likes of Carey Price and P.K. Subban in their primes, the rest of those mid-2010’s Habs teams were so uninspiring (thanks, Marc Bergevin).

But how about those Canucks, eh?

Thomas Drance of The Athletic has previously talked about “head tap” games: When a bottom feeder puts up a good fight against a top dog and the top dog isn’t really trying to go all out for the win, just lightly tapping the opponent on the head; essentially saying “nice try”, instead.

That was a textbook “head tap game” from the Canucks. Montreal tried to overwhelm Vancouver with their physical play, but like… do you really think the likes of Nikita Zadorov and J.T. Miller are going to be intimidated by “Michael Pezzetta” and “Arber Xhekaj”?

I don’t care how “tough” those guys are. They can’t play hockey, at least not well.

The Canucks’ tough guys, well, can play hockey, and that’s exactly why they won this game. Let’s get into it.

Aura matters + Hronek on PP1

Nikita Zadorov’s time in Vancouver can be summed up in two words: Perfectly fine. He’s thrown the big hits, scored some big goals, and has AURA. 

Listen, I’m a stats guy and I put a lot of stock into what the numbers suggest. Zadorov hasn’t been great since he arrived at YVR in early December, at least according to the numbers…


Nikita Zadorov opened the scoring with a relatively harmless unscreened wrist shot from the point. It’s the type of goal that you’d like to have back if you’re Sam Montembault. 

Thankfully, I’m not a NHL goalie making millions of dollars, I’m just some college student who’s trying to break into sports media… and also a Canucks fan; so, I don’t want that goal back. I loved it.

And then he scored again!


He may not have completed the hat trick, but a two-goal game is still incredible for a guy who wasn’t acquired to rip the twine… and it was against my least favourite team in the entire league, so, bonus points.

This game practically had zero pace before Daddy Zaddy got the ball rolling, and that’s thanks in large part to the Habs taking penalties and the Canucks failing to generate much of anything on the power play, especially the 5-on-3.

Yup, the Canucks squandered a two-man advantage, and it’s not hard to see why…

Rick, please get Filip Hronek as far away from PP1 as possible.

I once had a debate before the season started with my friend about using two defenceman on a power play unit; a concept which I immediately shot down. He then called me out for this months later when the Canucks were using Filip Hronek on the first power play unit… which kind of worked.

I had no issue with Hronek being there whenever they would have a two-man advantage, but last night was an indicator that J.T. Miller should still be on the left flank even on a 5-on-3. Hronek bobbled passes, took bad shots, and just wasn’t an option (at least not a good one) throughout that entire sequence.

Look, Hronek is a really solid player, and one that I am totally open to keeping if the money is right; but if the reports are, in fact, true about him and his camp wanting north of $8,000,000 per year on his next deal, I’d look for a replacement… like, right now. Get ahead of the game, y’know?

I’ll probably do a Filip Hronek breakdown piece at some point within the next handful of weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Anyways, the Canucks exited the first frame up two thanks to Nikita Zadorov, and only Nikita Zadorov. Do we just go ahead and assume that the game was pretty much done then and there?

Well, yes, but there’s still some stuff to unpack.

Conor Garland is really, really good at hockey

While Kaiden Guhle was continuously diving trying to draw calls, his teammates didn’t resort to such stupid behaviour and actually drew calls! Fortunately for the Canucks, their penalty kill looked pretty sharp throughout the night, but Montreal’s powerplay wasn’t particularly threatening at any point.

You want to know who was threatening for most of the night? Conor Garland.

The 5’8″ (he’s listed as 5’10” but, like, come on) buzzsaw had a killer game on Thursday night and, for my money, was the best player on his line with Elias Pettersson and Nils Höglander. Garland controlled 77% of his individual expected goal share, and his line controlled 90.3% whenever they were on the ice together. Another important bit of context here is that Pettersson and Höglander’s totals were considerably lower (52%, 42%), yet the line were still dominant as a trio.

Maybe this is could be a possible combination come playoff time? I rate Garland pretty high and he can play anywhere in the lineup-

HA. Garland’s goal to make it 3-0 was assisted by Teddy Blueger.

Scratch that!

This goal was a thing of beauty, too. Blueger lays an incredible stretch pass to Garland, who absolutely picks that top right corner. That thing was labelled.

I can’t wait to see Dakota Joshua return to the lineup so we can all watch the no name line cook a-la Marco Pierre White.

The Aman effect

The Canucks have had some struggles in regards to their fourth line; specifically speaking about who they’ve decided to deploy on said fourth line. It has involved a rotating cast of forwards ever since Nils Höglander’s promotion to the top six.

This game featured a combo of Vasily Podkolzin, Teddy Blueger and Nils Aman, and this line seemed to be clicking all game. As a unit, they controlled 98% of their expected goal share at 5v5, and Nils Aman had the highest individual xGF% with a whopping 95.5%.

Oh, and he scored the Canucks’ fourth goal; his first in 23 games.

Podkolzin receives the puck off the faceoff, sends it to Tyler Myers who’s posted up at the blueline, he sends it on net and Aman tips it in while being bumped by a Montreal defender in front. All of that was in a ~5 second span. Not bad.

Besides that one goal, nothing else (of note) happened in the third period. As is routine for this squad, they flipped their switch to auto pilot and came away with an easy 4-1 victory.

Sounds about right.

Let’s go to Sean’s checklist to see if this game was actually worth watching or not:

Zadorov scored twice and they beat Montreal.

That’s all I need. Good game!

While I’m writing akin to how Donald Trump would tweet in his bathroom in 2016(*!*), the Canucks are getting set to face the Calgary Flames; and hey, it’s Andrei Kuzmenko’s return to Vancouver!

In the meantime, I’m going to listen to the new Porter Robinson song on repeat while I wait for the game to start. I’ll see you afterwards.

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