Photo credit: Dale MacMillan/Getty
A Canucks team featuring a grand-total of nine players who played even a single NHL game last season – managed to defeat an Oilers squad featuring at least thirteen projected regulars by a score of 2-1. Though it’s the preseason, and the game doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, it’s always fun to see the guys at the fringes of the Canucks main roster defeat most of a divisional foe’s actual team.
Old man Nolan – opened the scoring with a power-play goal that occurred a couple of seconds after a two-man advantage had expired. Nolan had a good game overall, and on his tally demonstrated that he still has soft hand by converting on a pretty passing play between himself, Mark Mancari and Andrew Ebbett.
The game winner was a short-handed effort by Mike Duco, who took advantage of a puck that bounced on Oilers Dman Jeff Petry to create a two-on-one, Duco kept the puck, and wristed it on net. Yann Danis bobbled the shot, and Duco left his feet to poke the rebound home under the goaltender. It was a soft goal, to be sure, but a really good second effort by Mike Duco whose play impressed me enormously tonight. Here’s the goal courtesy @CanucksHD
The Oilers made it interesting with a beautiful Jordan Eberle goal on the power-play, but it was ultimately insufficient as the Canucks collection of scrubs, rookies and PTO guys out-shot the Oilers and successfully closed out the win. Edmonton had their chances late – especially with a couple of late power-plays – but they whiffed on three prime chances at chances in the slot (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins whiffed once, Ryan Smyth whiffed twice) and Manny Legace made a nice save on a Paajarvi partial breakaway with ninety seconds to play to preserve the preseason victory.
Vigneault Trusts Hodgson:
Cody Hodgson had a strong game, though it looked to me like he faded somewhat in the final stanza, overall Hodgson was really excellent. It’s clear he’s not the fastest guy, but he’s really strong on the puck and seemed to be driving play throughout the contest.
Much has been made this week about Hodgson’s relationship with Alain Vigneault, and his ice-time in the preseason opener, but after tonight it’s crystal clear: Hodgson has the trust of his head-coach. Sure, if you go through the ice-time you’ll see that Ebbett played more at both even-strength, and on the power-play – but with the game winding down, who was Vigneault deploying to take the defensive zone face-off? It was Hodgson nearly every time. Though Ebbett played more minutes, he took ten total face-offs in the game to Hodgson’s twenty-four. I think we can safely put the Hodgson-Vigneault controversy to rest, and stop wondering if Vigneault "noticed" that Hodgson was solid tonight. He did, and he rewarded him with his trust in a close game on the road.
Competition for a fourth line wing spot is only starting to heat up, and it will be interesting to watch the likes of Mike Duco, Mark Mancari, Victor Oreskovich, Steve Pinizotto and Owen Nolan duke it out for an October 6th roster spot. All of them played well tonight. Mancari led all forwards in ice-time and added a sweet power-play assist, but his TOI is inflated by his power-play totals – i.e. he spent a lot of time in a role, he would never occupy in the regular season. I thought Nolan was excellent tonight, and most of his offensive instincts appear to be intact. He’s also a tough customer and scored his goal right on the heels of a very painful looking high-stick to the noggin. Pinizotto strikes me as a deceptively good passer – something he demonstrated on Tuesday night as well – and he competed hard all evening.
Mike Duco, however, was the guy who impressed me the most – and it wasn’t just the goal he scored, or the way he agitated the Oilers with a big, clean hit on Taylor Hall. He looks like an NHL fourth liner who can handle some tough minutes if necessary – he hits, he’s got good wheels, is good on the forecheck and seemed to have reasonably solid defensive instincts.
Victor Oreskovich was somewhat invisible this evening, though he did make a really nice inside-outside deke at one point in the first period. Whenever Oreskovich pulls something like that, my floor gets dented from the force of my jaw smacking into it. One good thing about Oreskovich that I’d forgotten over the summer, when he messes up – like he did when he bobbled a gimme clearance while the Canucks were short-handed with four minutes to play in the third – I can yell at my TV "awwwreskovich!" I like when I can seamlessly transition from frustration to blame.
Frankie Corrado is the man – and I’m beginning to get legitimately excited about him as a prospect. The Canucks were a disaster in the first three minutes of the third period, and seemed totally unable to clear the puck – the lone Canucks defender who demonstrated any poise during this sequence? The 18 year old. Corrado seems to read the flow of play in his own end exceptionally well, and he has the speed and intelligence to intervene at the proper moment. He stuffed a Jordan Eberle wrap-around attempt during this "fire-drill" stretch of play, which, is really impressive considering the quality of competition and the chaos on the ice. Corrado looked good on the power-play (as he has since Penticton) and played over twenty minutes tonight, second only to Nolan Bamgartner among Canucks defenseman.
Yann Sauve is a mystery to me, his positioning is solid and he makes some really nice outlet passes – but then he’ll bobble the puck on an easy play, turn the puck over and look like Murray Baron. But at least he doesn’t make the game look as difficult as Ryan Parent does. Parent wasn’t awful all game, but he took a really dumb roughing penalty with four minutes to play, and generally looks like he’s skating on mud.
Lack-ing in Quality Puns:
Though he’s yet to appear in a full game this preseason, Eddie Lack has pitched the equivalent of a shutout this week. He’s made twenty two saves on twenty two shots against in over sixty minutes of play (if you combine Tuesday’s game, and tonight’s game) and he’s looked smooth and calm doing it. The kid is massive, moves well and has gorgeous blue-eyes that will guarantee him "fan-favorite status" among the ladies when he finally arrives in Vancouver at some point in the next few years. Can’t believe he was an undrafted free-agent – what a massive steal.