VANCOUVER – When Quinn Hughes returned to the bench on Monday after his probably worst mistake in a rookie season in which he did remarkably few, neither his hockey coach nor his hockey father said anything to him. They didn't have to. Children know.
"He was fine," said Vancouver Canucks defender Chris Tanev on Tuesday morning. "You'll make mistakes. Things happen. He's a great player. But every now and then something happens that doesn't go the way you want. You play 82 games, 20 minutes per game. Things can't happen all the time run to your taste. He did a great job by just leaving it behind and going out to play. "
Without children of his own, 30-year-old Tanev is called "Dad" by several Canucks players, including Hughes, who turned 20 in October.
Tanev has been playing and coaching Hughes since the start of the season. He also cooked for Hughes, hung out with him, and watched over the newcomer who took the NHL All Star break from the actual All Star game, where he scored a goal that even Wayne Gretzky got, " wow "to say
When Hughes was asked on Sunday after his return to Vancouver whether this experience changed his attitude towards himself, he said: "I could have had a bad game or not and I would still think that I was one of the best player. I have a lot of confidence, but I also feel humble and I know where I am. But all year round I feel like I'm there when I play match-up roles and I'm still offensive. "
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And then, three minutes after the Monday game against the St. Louis Blues began, Hughes threw himself, flew a backhand pass under pressure, and handed the puck to David Perron, who provided Zach Sanford for the opening goal.
Canucks coach Travis Green, who continued to play Hughes against Tanev in tough games against Ryan O & # 39; Reilly and Brayden Schenn, said after Vancouver's impressive 3-1 win, the fierce game was a "learning curve" for the rookie defender.
"He was cute a little early," said Green. "This guy, he's a good hockey player and needs to learn what you can and can't do in games like this."
With 34 points in 49 games and an average ice age of 21:35 and more, Hughes is a likely finalist in the Calder Trophy. He is a rare player, almost unique in his ability and willingness to hold the puck and play out of his own zone while under pressure from larger, stronger NHL strikers.
Seriously, watch how often Hughes wins a puck race and not only goes to safety to his opponent, but turns under pressure with the puck, skates to create overtaking angles, and then a game play to a teammate.
This combination of attitude and skill is why the Canucks usually take possession when Hughes is on the ice. If he has the puck, the other team cannot score.
Nobody should want Quinn Hughes to change a game so well.
However, as time and space shrink in proportion to the increasing speed and physicality during the Canucks playoff trip, Hughes has to adapt to the NHL after the last two seasons at the University of Michigan.
"That's how I always played," said Hughes on Tuesday before the Canucks went to San Jose to open a five-game road trip against the Sharks on Wednesday. "Nobody says anything about it when it works. It was just a freak piece for me. It's a tough league and there are good players, but there is a point where I need to know when to play and when not to play. I'm just going to find out more. "
Hughes turned the puck in front of Perron and tried to give Tanev a D-to-D pass when he released it near the Canucks network.
"I hit it twice," said Hughes. "It's just a piece that's one in a million for me. It was just a normal backhand (pass) and I hit it twice. If I went up the wall I would probably have been hit. And I couldn't really see who was on the wall so I just turned around and the guy was right with me. I was just unlucky there. "
Hughes never missed a shift and ended the ice age at 8:26 p.m.
"He always tries to do a piece," said Tanev. "He never wants to get the boys into a tough situation (with a passport). He gets the puck and thinks: OK, I will defeat this guy or should I lead him through this guy? So the guy at the receiving end has half a second more time to play when he gets the puck. That is one of the things that make it so special.
"I think the hardest thing for him is the 82 game board. It's the biggest thing that you have to adapt to to rest and try to eat well and get your energy off the ice, so that you can perform on the ice. "
Tanev often brings Hughes and other young teammates to his Yaletown home for dinner. He is a good father.
"They bring a lot of energy," said Tanev. "Good day or bad day, they always smile and joke with each other. Quinn is an incredible player and a great guy from the ice. We like to hang out. We both want to be against the other team's top boys in these big moments. He will only get better. He learns something in each game and then brings it to the next game. "