There’s an old idiom in sports, that you should never complain about a win. Well, we’re masters of complaining at Canucks Army, and it’s the preseason so wins are kind of secondary to whether the team looks good. Against a far less skilled Edmonton Oilers squad resting many of their top players, a veteran-heavy Canucks roster eked out a 3-2 victory, despite being heavily outshot. There wasn’t a lot to really like after the first period, but hey, it’s the last preseason game and not getting hurt is probably more of a priority than fight like hell for a win that means literally nothing.
Fortunately, this is the last time we can excuse not giving 200% effort in the name of saving yourself for the games that matter because the games that matter start this week!
Read past the jump for a recap of Vancouver’s last preseason game of 2014.
As we predicted in the pregame, the first period was largely dominated by the Canucks. They outshot the Oilers by an 8-3 margin, and the attempt differential was surely greater than that. The scoring also got started early, as Chris Higgins went backhand shelf on Ben Scrivens on a partial breakaway just 1:19 into the hockey game:
Then just over two minutes later, Daniel Sedin managed to bank a puck in off of Ben Scrivens to give Vancouver a 2-0 lead off of some of the nice passing we missed so dearly at the end of last season:
Down two goals early, it looked like it was going to get really ugly for the young Oilers. Fortunately for Dallas Eakins’ side, some puck luck kept them in the game and allowed them to weather a storm that included grade-A chances from Radim Vrbata, who hit the post, Henrik Sedin, who missed an open net, Alex Burrows, who couldn’t bury a 2-on-1 opportunity, Linden Vey, who couldn’t finish a Jannik Hansen chance, and Ryan Stanton, who fanned on a rebound off a 3-on-1. Vancouver entered the intermission with a 2-0 lead, but it could have been much, much bigger.
The switch seemed to flip off for the Canucks in the second period though, as all the jump they had in the first seemed to evaporate over the intermission. The Oilers would outshoot and outplay Vancouver by a wide margin over the remainder of the game, controlling 72% of the shots from the start of the second period onwards.
Nail Yakupov pulled the Oilers to within 1 goal of Vancouver after a monumentally bad giveaway from Luca Sbisa, who just threw the puck right into his own slot and on to the tape of the Russian sniper. He couldn’t have made a better pass if he actually played for the Oilers. I don’t really want to beat up on Sbisa because it was just one play, everyone makes big mistakes in a hockey season, and I have a feeling that this is a horse we’re going to beat to death quite quickly around these parts, but it was really, really bad.
The Sedin line would get it back though, as Radim Vrbata would squeak a shot through Ben Scrivens after a long sequence of pressure from the Twins, who looked downright dominant at times tonight (as they should have):
Will Acton would cut into the Canucks lead with a goal near the end of the second period, but Ryan Miller was very strong on the night, holding the Oilers off the scoresheet for the rest of the evening and giving the Canucks a 3-2 win in their final game of the preseason.
To be frank, this was a pretty poor effort from Vancouver. They looked fantastic against a far inferior opponent in the first period, but wound up chasing the play as soon as the second began. Edmonton outshot Vancouver 26-10 after the first, and held the Canucks to under 20 shots for the whole night. That’s not nearly good enough to win games most nights.
Still, this is just preseason, and while a poor effort in a preseason game isn’t meaningless, it’s not really that meaningful either. You don’t want poor efforts, and you don’t excuse poor efforts, but you can explain poor preseason efforts like this with a mix of indifference, cautiousness, and score effects. The Canucks weren’t good, but they showed flashes of looking amazing, and as long as they look good on Wednesday when the games finally start to matter, there’s nothing to really worry about.
Radim Vrbata had a strong performance, attempting a team-high 6 shots on goal and just missing a couple of scoring chances, and that goes hand-in-hand with a good night from the Sedins. Ryan Miller was probably the best Canuck though, stopping 26 of 28 shots he faced, and making it look easy for most of the night. Again, a one game sample of goaltending means very little, but it’s still promising. Not that we should expect anything different though – Miller is a good goalie.
Now that all that is out of the way, time to bring on the real games! The regular season starts on Wednesday as Vancouver travels to Calgary to face the Flames at 7:00 PM. The Canucks roster we see then will likely look extremely similar as the one we saw tonight, but hopefully a full 60-minute effort is in order. Vancouver should be capable of more than what they’ve showed tonight, especially against the Flames and Oilers of the world.
The games finally matter next week after an all too long offseason, and hopefully there’s more to cheer about and more good times to enjoy this season than there was in 2013-2014. All of us at Canucks Army are excited to cover the entire season for you guys, and we hope you’ll join us for all of 2014-2015. Only 4 more sleeps until the real hockey season gets underway!