This photo rules because it looks like Burrows and Getzlaf are combining to hold one super long stick.
Photo Credit: Mike Blake REUTERS
The Canucks fell behind early to the Ducks in preseason action this evening, eventually losing by a score of 3-2. It was the first game of the preseason in which the Canucks dressed a majority of legitimate NHL skaters, and the "core of the team" looked rusty in spots, but were still generally effective – out-shooting the Ducks by a wide margin.
Jonas Hiller made thirty one saves in the win, several of the larcenous variety, while Luongo looked particularly rusty allowing two weak goals and three goals on twenty-two shots in the loss. The Canucks got goals from Henrik Sedin, Sami Salo on the two man-advantage, and Mark Mancari (who tipped a dangerous cross-crease feed from Cam Fowler into his own team’s net). In the last couple of minutes in the game, the Canucks failed to capitalize on a 6-on-3 advantage with Luongo on the bench and two Ducks skater in the penalty-box.
It was a frustrating loss from the perspective of Vancouver fans – or at least for those Vancouver fans who pay Shaw to provide them with cable. But it was refreshing to see the Sedins and Burrows skate together again, and they looked pretty damn good. Result be damned, fans of the team should also be pleased that players like Hamhuis, Edler and Samuelsson – all of whom spent most of the summer hobbled by nagging injuries left-over from last season – looked healthy and up to speed. Hamhuis in particular was back to his old tricks, and I have no doubt that he’ll be going about his business and quietly being as good a defensive defenseman as exists in the league by this time next week.
Stars and Goats:
Star – Cam Fowler had a very good game against the Canucks. On the Ducks first goal, he intelligently drew Mike Duco to the point before pulling a spin move and cutting down the side boards towards the net. Edler and Bieksa got their signals crossed and Fowler was basically able to create a two on one situation with Mancari in between himself and Bobby Ryan. Schroeder, Bieksa and Edler all blew assignments on this play – probably a sign of rust – and Mancari, used to tapping in goals from the slot in the AHL, deflected Fowler’s pass attempt past Luongo. Fowler would also add a power-play assist on Lubomir Visnovsky’s power-play winner. Production aside, all night Fowler had one extra move up his sleeve for every situation and impressed me greatly.
Goat – Nate Guenin had a pretty good evening playing limited minutes at even-strength, but then he took a dumb penalty with his team already short-handed and just over ninety seconds left in the game. Inexcusable stuff from a fringe defenseman who otherwise was pretty good this evening, I’ll bet Carlyle doesn’t soon forget that.
Star – Henrik Sedin had a two point evening for the Canucks and looked like his usual, cerebral, dominant self. His goal was a bit of a flukey tip, he deflected a Bieksa point shot high up into the air and over Jonas Hiller. His assist came on the two-man advantage, Henrik handled the puck just long enough for Salo to collapse into the high-slot. All Hank had to do was feed the Finnish "5-on-3 specialist" for the gimme. Henrik drew a couple of penalties and set up his teammates for a number of choice opportunities that they failed to capitalize on, and he was one of only three Canucks to finish in the black in terms of plus/minus.
Goat – Roberto Luongo, who else? Yeah he didn’t have a good first outing of the regular season and was chewed up by fans on twitter who are still emotional about his performance in games six and seven of the Stanley Cup Final – same old, same old. It’s going to be a long season if every time Luongo lets in an early goal we all start to argue about whether he’s "trust-worthy" or not – so let’s just let it ride and try to be supportive of the Canucks Vezina nominee starting goaltender, okay? Alternatively we can all bring up game six, and every playoff loss the team has ever dealt with during the Luongo era after every bad goal. Whatever.
Here’s my take on why it’s not a big deal that Luongo posted a sub .900 save percentage in his first NHL action in three months – it was his first game back in three months! Luongo is a rhythm goaltender and a notorious slow-starter, and this game didn’t mean anything. He was out-classed by Jonas Hiller sure, but Jonas Hiller has had some warm-up appearances this preseason, and is one hell of a goalie!
Luongo got caught out of position, and was screened by Andrew Alberts who gave Bobby Ryan about 800 square feet worth of space, which Ryan used to pick a corner in the first period. Then a Visnovsky slapper on the power-play squeaked through Luongo in the third period. So yeah – it wasn’t a great outing – but it also wasn’t worth chewing the guy up over. Trust him, or not – Luongo is a really good goalie. But he’s a goaltender, which mean’s he’ll basically do two things: make saves, and allow goals. It’s the nature of the position -he’ll have some great games but it’s a long season and he’ll let in some softies too. That said, he’s still tonight’s goat.
Though it’s impossible to say the power-play looked "good" when the first unit failed to score with nearly a minute of 6-on-3, but I thought it was a promising start for a group of players that hadn’t played together in months. The first unit has lost main-stay Christian Ehrhoff, and usual net presence Ryan Kesler, so an adjustment period is to be expected – but I doubt it will take very long. With a playmaker like Hank quarterbacking the umbrella, I suspect Vancouver’s power-play effectiveness will continue to drive their success this season.
I was especially impressed by Burrows’ work in front of the net. The second coming of Claude Lemieux has never been provided much power-play time during Vigneault’s tenure – but he looked solid in the net presence role and set a particularly nasty screen on Salo’s game-tying goal in the second period. In general I thought the power-play’s puck movement was solid, they looked very dangerous and they generated some quality chances. The goals will come.
Minor, minor quibble – it happened at the end of tonight’s game and it has happened a few times – Cody Hodgson and Alex Burrows on the ice on the power-play at the same time, Cody playing a net presence role, while Burrows plays rover. I don’t get it – it’s so flipping obvious which one of these guys is a talented puck-handler, and which one of them has an artful nose for the net. Hodgson should be dishing the puck, not battling in front of the net – and Burrows – as good as he is – shouldn’t be handling the puck on the power-play. Newell Brown and Alain Vigneault are smart guys – why haven’t they figured this one out?
That minor quibble aside, Hodgson had a solid game and looks to have that second line center spot all but wrapped up. His line with Samuelsson and Sturm had a number of really nice shifts throughout the game – though I was surprised to see that Hodgson didn’t register a single shot. I see Hodgson making intelligent decisions ever time he has the puck. Though we’ll know more as we get into the regular season, I really like what Hodgson has shown, and he continued to impress tonight.
In general I thought the Canucks defense looked really good the entire game (with the exception of the Fowler goal). Bieksa and Hamhuis were physical and effective, Tanev and Alberts were generally reliable and Salo and Edler moved the puck well and were particularly good in the offensive zone with the Sedins. Tanev stood out again with his composure, constant winning of puck-battles and overall intelligence. Hamhuis is just the best Canucks defender, he makes scrambling possession and turning pucks the other way look easy sometimes. Andrew Alberts had a partial breakaway in the third, and though he looked brutal on the Bobby Ryan goal, he looked quicker than he ever has in a Canucks uniform.
Victor Oreskovich would have probably had the fourth line winger position all but lined up regardless of how well he played tonight (especially after Volpatti’s bad hit on Cogliano, and Mancari’s own-goal this evening). But he played really well anyways – demonstrating some heretofore unseen skill with the puck and putting in a couple of borderline dominant shifts in the game. Good to see him earn it.