October 06 2016 10:49PM
It's preseason, and it's important to remember that the Calgary Flames are still playing without Johnny Gaudreau - arguably their best offensively player - in the lineup.
Ah, but really, who cares? Canucks had themselves a game, and it was a lot of fun to watch.
FINAL SCORE: 4-0, VANCOUVER
Sup, guys! It's Cat Silverman, back from maternity leave to drop some preseason takes for you all.
I turned this game on expecting to be disappointed. I watched Vancouver's preseason tilt against the Arizona Coyotes - which, at the time, saw their most experienced lineup iced to that date in the preseason - and didn't love what I saw. I knew the Sedins and Eriksson were making their debuts, but so was Sean Monahan for Calgary; things could have gone south somewhat fast.
Instead, I saw a more composed Canucks roster than I've seen since they made the playoffs over a year ago.
It's still preseason, yes, it's worth repeating that until we're blue in the face. Remember when the 2008 Detroit Lions swept the NFL preseason, then recorded the league's first 0-16 record? Good times.
For a late preseason game, though, I thought the Canucks did exactly what they were supposed to. The players with the most to prove, for the most part, did just that. The veterans returning put up strong showings, despite playing in a game that 'doesn't matter'. The goaltending was effective, and the team looked like... well, a team.
The Sedins and Eriksson
First game back, and they already looked like a midseason-form trio. Could get used to this.
Sven Baertschi and Jake Virtanen
These are two guys who came into the preseason determined to prove that they could live up to expectations - and boy, did they ever.
Baertschi put up the team's best possession numbers with a whopping 61.9 CF%, while Virtanen found the back of the net on the second goal of the game. Both players were incredibly effective, and they looked like they knew how to play together. I won't hate seeing Virtanen maybe get some AHL time this year, particularly if he ends up struggling at any point - but I certainly wouldn't mind seeing him and Baertschi continue to play like that together, either.
Every stats pundit who criticized the Erik Gudbranson trade (including myself) pointed to a subpar possession history for the defenseman as part of the problem with his acquisition this summer - but so far this preseason, he's actually been a reasonably strong possession player on the blue line. Tonight, he finished with a 50 CF% even, putting up the second best numbers on defense behind only golden boy Ben Hutton.
Remind yourself it's only preseason, rinse, repeat. Still. It's certainly promising.
At the moment, it's hard to tell if Gudbranson's improvement in possession is due to being a better fit in Vancouver's system, or if it's just a byproduct of playing preseason hockey instead of regular season action. His actual play was somewhat underwhelming, but that could just be because he lacks the dynamic edge to his game that playmakers like Hutton have. We'll see as the years goes by.
Odds and Ends
- I noticed that the Canucks started off the game particularly strong, but they petered out as the game went on - something they certainly did last year, and got burned by on quite a few occasions. In the final period, the Canucks had a major flatline in their scoring attempts. Yes, they were winning - and by a decent margin - so it could just be the byproduct of score effects. If the Canucks continue to be a weak third period team this year in close games, though, their subpar finish from 2016 may end up being repeated.
- I mentioned how I was somewhat underwhelmed by Gudbranson's play during the game, but I was a good bit more underwhelmed by Philip Larsen. I know he's someone you may be rooting strongly for, but I just felt like he was a step behind a few too many times.
- Ryan Miller's biggest weaknesses to me, when he signed his current deal with Vancouver, were his adaptability and his injury risk. He's older - therefore more likely to get hurt - and hadn't seemed willing to adapt his style to the modern era of the NHL. It's obviously too soon to tell if he'll be injury-prone this year, but as for his game's evolution? It's noticeable - and that's a good thing. He looked great tonight.
- The penalty kill burned Vancouver in their last preseason tilt, but that wasn't the case tonight. The team went 3 for 3 on the PK - unlike against the Coyotes, when they dropped a 4-2 decision almost exclusively due to their defense on Arizona's man advantage.
- Brandon Sutter had a good game *ducks the calculators being thrown at my head*
Stats for the Nerds