September 24 2011 11:15PM
Jensen shrugs, while Tanev flashes his megawatt smile. Photo credit: Steve Bosch PNG.
The Canucks preseason lineups are getting pretty hilarious. With the exception of Ballard, Sturm, Tanev, Lapierre and Schneider - everyone else the Canucks dressed on Saturday night is fighting for a role on the NHL roster. Whereas the team was able to pull of a victory against a superior squad on Thursday against Edmonton, their "AHL lineup" caught up with the team in a big way Saturday night against Anaheim - as they fell 4-1.
The Ducks top-six dominated the Canucks skaters all game long, controlling possession nearly every time they were on the ice. After scoring two goals off of screened deflections in the first half of the game - the Ducks pulled away in the eighteenth minute of the second period with two quick goals from Corey Perry and Andrew Gordon. Though the Canucks got their chances, Jonas Hiller - in his first game back after an eight month bout with vertigo - was solid, robbing Canucks skaters a number of times on gimme chances, before being spelled by Jeff Deslaurier in the third.
Though the Canucks laid a stinker, they got solid performances from the likes of emerging pest Mike Duco, potential second liner Cody Hodgson and Chris "the future" Tanev. Indications are that the Canucks will ice another line-up lacking entirely in star power and skill for tomorrow's game against the Sharks. Yes, these preseason games are painful to watch, yes, the Canucks are playing fast and loose with the spirit of the CBA, but a bonus week of rest for the players that really matter isn't something to get too worked up about.
I Miss Frankie Corrado:
Seriously, Corrado is solid, and probably better already than guys like Sulzer and Parent. Luckily for the Canucks, Sulzer and Parent are - in some order - the teams ninth and tenth defenseman, because both were brutal this evening. Sulzer was out of position, and providing excellent screens for the Ducks on the first two Ducks goals. Parent for his part is slow, and an effective giveaway machine.
Kevin Connauton is an interesting case. In the offensive zone he handles the puck well, finds shooting lanes and takes smart low shots on the rush. His goal on Deslaurier was an impressive snap-shot from the point that possessed impressive velocity and accuracy. In short he looks like a quality NHL player on offense. In the defensive zone it's a different story entirely, and the pairing of Sulzer and Connauton were tantamount to a fire-drill all game long... MacTavish - who will surely coach Connauton in Chicago this season - did wonders for the career of Marc-Andre Bergeron, so lets hope he has a similar effect on Kevin Connauton.
Keith Ballard had an alright game with some nice hits, and some moments where he stood out. Considering he was baby-sitting Ryan Parent it was a decent performance - but he still strikes me as erratic overall. In particular, his habit of taking poor shots and having them blocked is still very much active, and he makes some questionable passes on the power-play.
Chris Tanev is just a pleasure to watch, and was his usual calm, collected, intelligent self on the back-end. Tanev is like Shane Battier - his boxscore is a string of zeroes - but if you're watching closely, he does all the little things that help a team win. He pinches well, he's always in position and he scrambles possession constantly. In one particular battle against Smith-Pelly, he kept his feet moving, stayed to the inside of the much bigger winger and took a hit going into the corner. Tanev's glove fell off of his hand, but he didn't miss a beat, he replaced his glove and nonetheless intervened, smoothly making the required defensive play. He also looked like a ten year vet directing traffic on the power-play as time wound down in the third period. Lovely stuff.
So You Want to Play on the Canucks Fourth Line:
The competition for a spot on Maxim Lapierre's wing continues to rage. Mark Mancari's versatility and offensive-skill shows through at the moment, but I expect that to change when the Canucks stable of actually talented players begin to get into the lineup next week. Is Mancari physical enough to carve out a niche for himself on the fourth line? I'm not sure.
Mike Duco had another solid outing, fighting Ducks star Ryan Getzlaf, and causing some controversy late in the game following a mugging at the hands of J.F. Jacques. He's not a heavy-weight by any means, but he strikes me as a useful fourth-line pest. Regardless, you have to give it to the guy - he doesn't just piss people off on twitter, he's uniquely good at doing so on the ice as well. His speed and overall play is of a much higher level than the likes of Fedoruk, and he strikes me as more difficult to play against than Oreskovich and Mancari. Imagine all the heaving brutes he'll antagonize on a line with Maxim Lapierre? Wow.
Victor Oreskovich was publicly challenged by Alain Vigneault today and responded with a fight, some big hits and a few blocked shots in just over ten minutes of ice-time. In general, Oreo seemed to be looking to make more of a physical impact on the game. Considered a front-runner for fourth-line duty headed into the preseason - he has to be feeling the pressure from the play of guys like Mancari and Duco. That pressure or desperation showed through tonight - but will it be enough?
Hodgson had another solid game. Through three preseason contests he's yet to find the back of the net, but he had a couple of borderline dominant shifts in the first period. Along with Marco Sturm and Nicklas Jensen, his line was the only threesome that seemed able to consistently keep up with the superior side the Ducks iced. He's getting his chances, he's hard to knock off the puck and he plays reasonable defense. His performance in the face-off dot was less impressive tonight than it was against the Oil on Thursday - but I thought he looked like an NHL player for the most part.
Rough Night for Schneider:
Cory Schneider has been poor in his two preseason appearances so far, having allowed seven goals on thirty-nine shots in 90 minutes of play. In fairness to the blue-chip young tender, the Canucks have iced AHL (or worse) caliber defense-corps in his two games, and certainly tonight he caught some unlucky breaks. The first two goals were screened deflections, the third was a power-play goal by last seasons Maurice Richard Trophy winner, and the fourth goal came off a wicked Andrew Gordon shot (though Schneider would probably want that one back). Schneider hasn't been great, but he hasn't been as bad as the results indicate either, and his play so far this preseason is nothing to be concerned about.