September 12 2011 09:29PM
Nathan Longpre - game-breaker? Apparently so. The twenty-three year scored two goals, and added the set-up on the OT winner propelling the Canucks rookies to a 4-3 comeback victory over the Calgary Flames Prospects.
It was a close game, and a solid recovery effort from the Canucks "young-stars" who had suffered a 7-2 pantsing at the hands of Anton Lander, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the Oilers rookies the day previous. Karel St. Laurent stopped 44 of the 47 shots he saw, and provided a stabilizing presence in net.
The Flames didn't lead in the game until Michael Ferland converted a lob-pass from Dustin Sylvester with 3:40 to play in the 3rd period. The Canucks answered as Nathan Longpre - on the ice as the extra attacker - potted a buzzer beater with only fifteen seconds left to play. He struck again thirty-one seconds later, using his speed to turn a neutral zone turnover into an odd man rush, then ably getting a puck past the last Flames defender (TJ Brodie, who may have gotten a piece of it). Antoine Roussel easily tapped in the game-winner.
It was a rebound effort for the Flames as well, especially Finnish goaltending prospect Joni Ortio. Ortio followed up a really uneven performance against the Sharks prospects on Monday with a much better effort tonight against Vancouver's "young-stars." He stopped 36 of 40 shots, before whiffing on the final two shots of the game.
For the Right Reasons:
Sven Baertschi-Max Reinhardt-Patrick Holland.
These three spent most of the evening together, and gave the Canucks defenders fits. They combined for 16 shots, and four points, while maintaining the bulk of possession when they were on the ice together.
Sven Baertschi generated the fewest shots of the three, and was the only one who was held without a point. Still, he managed to demonstrate his solid skating ability, his talent with the puck, and a penchant for physical, agitating play. He absolutely owned Canucks defender Kevin Connauton in the corners on a number of occasions, and earned the ire of the Canucks rookies with a vicious, uncalled slash on Jordan Schroeder in the third. What can I say, I like his the cut of Baertshi's jib.
Patrick Holland converted two garbage goals off of rebounds, and nearly scored a hat-trick with a nice wrister in the third period that troubled St. Laurent. he finished the game 6 shots on goal.
Reinhardt was poised, and competed hard all game. The 19 year old Vancouver born center-man was effective in front of the net, and consistently won puck-battles all over the ice. I was very impressed with how he carried himself, and how he contributed to his lines domination of possession.
In my notes from game 1, Nathan Longpre's name showed up a number of times with a note like "nice touch" or "solid speed," but he wasn't a prospect I figured many people were altogether that interested in, so I left any mention of him out of my notes. Clearly that won't be the case this evening. Longpre is the oldest Canucks prospect at camp, and perhaps that showed this evening, but that doesn't take anything away from an impressive performance. Longpre isn't going to be a scorer in the NHL, but he looks to be a good skater with solid instincts. He spent much of the evening playing with Bill Sweatt on a sort of speed-checking line that was reasonably good, but didn't stand out until the third period.
On his second period goal, Longpre converted a lucky bounce. Sweatt had tried to find a streaking Yann Sauve with a pass, but put the puck on net instead. The puck rebounded off of Ortio's far pad, and went straight to Longpre who made no mistake. His five shots were second only to Kellan Tochkin's seven for the team lead, and his late game heroics may well have earned him an invite to main-camp.
Kellan Tochkin-Stefan Schneider-Antoine Roussel
These three spent most of game skating together (Schneider and Tochkin took one shift I noticed with Steven Janes) and played really well as a unit. Roussel is a really good hitter, and more than his two points, his physical play really stood out tonight. Stefan Schneider - who played with the Moose last season - has NHL size, and is probably a better skater than Darren Archibald. The awareness, and instincts aren't NHL level, but physically, he looks like an NHL athlete on the ice.
Tochkin intrigued me, he played a solid game, and showed some flashes of being a really craft player. He had 7 shots, and a goal that I'd describe as persistent. Not only did Tochkin create the chance out of thin air, making a difficult deflection off of a weak point shot that was headed wide, but he also demonstrated a real nose for the net when he beat Ortio and the Flames defense to the loose puck in the crease. Tochkin's hand-eye co-ordination was noticeably good on a number of occassions - he knocked a couple pucks out of the air on the forecheck, he was strong in neutral-zone puck battles, and he nearly scored after a missed breakaway by another Canucks forward (I think it was Longpre) with a heads up play from behind the net.
For the wrong reasons:
On any given shift Kevin Connauton will do a couple things I really like, and a couple more that I don't. For the most part, however, he is an epic adventure - and then some - in his own end. He looked particularly weak in the corners, miss-timed a number of body-checks, and had a few bad giveaways. He calmed down a bit after the first period, but he looked miles away from being an NHL player in the first twenty minutes of tonight's game - Sportsnet compiled a particularly ghastly highlight package of his lapses in the period.
At the same time, his positioning without the puck was solid, and he made some smart passing plays in the offensive-end. He has some ability - at least at this level - to skate through traffic, and I was impressed by the way he looks to carry the puck along the blue-line in search of shooting lanes. His puck-movement with Schroeder and Erixon on the power-play made it so that, if you squinted hard enough, the Canucks man-advantage looked like a polished unit in the second period.
Some felt that he was the Flames best defenseman in Monday's loss to San Jose - but he failed to impress this evening. His passing was off, and he failed to hold the line in the offensive end on a number of occasions. He looked slow to me, both in terms of foot-speed and reaction time. He also took two minor penalties, both of the "weak" variety.
Sebastian Erixon continues to impress. in contrast with Kevin Connauton - who seems desperate to make a play - Erixon is calm, unambitious and takes what opportunities the opposition provides. When he needs to turn it on, as in the last thirty seconds of the game, he's able to wheel around in the offensive zone and create space for his teammates. He again showed himself well adept at playing the puck in his own end, and scrambling opposition possession. He made an especially nice play to knock the puck from Sylvester on the rush in the third period.
Jordan Schroeder was much improved in tonight's game, and much more noticeable all over the ice. His defensive positioning has been surprisingly solid, and there were a number of times when he did very well to cover for his defenseman (Connauton especially) when they jumped into the rush. He made a few nice passes, did well quarterbacking the power-play when the Canucks prospects were set up in Calgary's end, and also took three shots on goal, which, is what I want to see more from him this season.
Bill Sweatt has been quiet all tournament, though he managed a flukey assist on Longpre's first tally. Where Bill Sweatt looked impressive was in the second period when the teams were skating four-a-side. It was like a lightbulb went off in his head and he realized "oh yeah, I'm three years older than most of these guys, I can just go through them." With the exception of a couple of shifts, however, Sweatt hasn't made an overwhelmingly positive impression through two games this week.
Yann Sauve does some good things on the ice, but I'm not convinced that he's the "quality puck mover" that I've read he is. Seems to me like he bobbles pucks very regularly - certainly he has in the two games so far this week. He did, however, make a nice play on the power-play that led directly to Longpre's first goal.
Darren Archibald was considerably less noticeable than he was last game, however, his line with Jensen and Schroeder seemed to regularly win their matchup when they skated together at even-strength. Despite his relatively quiet game, Archibald's potential shone through on a couple of occasions - especially on the forecheck. Same goes for Jensen - dude is going to be a monster forechecker when he adds some weight to that lanky frame.
Karel St. Laurent looked really good all evening and has now stopped 57 of 61 shots that he's faced this week. His "calm butterfly" caught Justin Goldman's eye, and he made all the stops he should've made. The goals Calgary's prospects scored were off of the third try after an initial rebound, or in the case of Ferland's goal in the third - batted out of the air. A good night from the invitee. As I've been saying all week, the bureaucratic hold-up with Iilahati's Finnish team may be an opportunity for another keeper to earn an ELC from the Canucks. If he continues to play solid hockey on Wednesday and/or Thursday, St. Laurent has an outside shot to be the guy who earns that contract.