The Vancouver Canucks iced a bunch of the young guns tonight in a tilt against the Calgary Flames. Most of the Flames main roster was in China, so the Canucks decided to give the rookies a game to try and impress. After two bland periods they finally got going, but by then it was too little too late.
After last night’s game against Edmonton, there was hope some of the younger players like Adam Gaudette, Thatcher Demko, Olli Juolevi, and others would show up and impress tonight against a Flames squad icing a young roster of their own. However, it was a pretty rough start to the game for the young Canucks. We finally got our first bit of action halfway through the period as Calgary forward Matthew Phillips came down the right wing and put a puck past Demko far side.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) September 20, 2018
Later in the period, it’d be the Flames who strike again as the Canucks defense suffers a fairly large defensive miscue. With Edler down low on Chatfield’s side, no one picks up the streaking Spencer Foo, who receives the pass and outwaits Demko to pot home Calgary’s 2nd goal of the hockey game.
Patience pays off! ? pic.twitter.com/HfOTtrBVfj
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) September 20, 2018
That was it, no joke. Saw a couple of good saves by Demko, one notable stop on a cross-ice attempt. Brandon Sutter had a couple of good scoring chances but all in all a tough way to start off at home. Score would remain 2-0 Calgary heading into the intermission.
2nd period kicked off relatively well for Vancouver, with a couple of nice scoring chances. None were bigger than Sutter being awarded a penalty shot after a solid power move got himself a breakaway. However, Sutter got stoned on the backhand attempt by Flames netminder David Rittich. A few minutes later, a one-handed pass by Gaudette back to the point on the powerplay gets intercepted by Dillon Dube of the Flames, who comes in and sauces a beautiful cross-ice feed to Andrew Mangiapane who blasts the shot past an outreached Demko to make it 3-0 Flames…
That shot. pic.twitter.com/EBvwbQjHsV
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) September 20, 2018
The Canucks were oh so close to getting back on the board, but Reid Boucher just missed a snipe top shelf, ringing it off the underside of the bar. The period would then wind up a shooting gallery on Thatcher Demko, who would have to make a couple of stops against a few Flames breakaway chances, stopping both he faced. The period would end in a 3-0 lead for Calgary, and it was looking bleak for fans of the home team.
Part of me believes Travis Green ripped a strip into this team after the second period because the Canucks finally started to show what they could do. The first chance was Palmu coming out from the corner and lifting the puck above the top corner far side on the backhand. A few minutes later DiPietro, who was making his first appearance of the preseason after relieving Demko to start the 3rd period, had to make a great save from the slot with his glove before the Canucks would come back down on the counter-attack. A Boucher shot would be stopped, but rebounded right to Adam Gaudette who’d be robbed on the 2nd effort by Flames goaltender Tyler Parsons (Theme for the period).
Finally though, the Canucks would make something happen. Edler would take the puck in on his off side, wrap around the net and then finds Brendan Leipsic on the near boards. Leipsic would then do this.
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) September 20, 2018
After the great goal by Leipsic, Boucher had a great chance hit the side of the net. Then Gaudette tried to come out of the corner and stuff a shot far side, which after a scramble is followed by Zack MacEwen ringing a shot off the near post. Another couple of minutes go by and Boucher rings yet another attempt off of the iron poles keeping the net up. Boucher kept up the great play in the 3rd, feeding Brendan Leipsic cross-ice, only for Leipsic to be stoned by the glove of Parsons.
In the end, the Canucks couldn’t beat Parsons again and Calgary forward Juuso Valimaki would seal it with an empty-net goal with .5 seconds remaining in the game.
For 2 periods, this game was rough to watch. However, there were a couple of Canuck players tonight who I really thought stepped it up when they needed to.
Olli Juolevi: Lots of concerns with Olli Juolevi heading into training camp and the pre-season, but at least through this first game. He was easily the best defenseman on the ice tonight. When the team was struggling, he was keeping the Flames to the outside, breaking the puck up ice seamlessly, showing off great passing and not showing any signs of being stressed or panicking with the puck. When the Canucks were playing well, he didn’t make any mistakes and helped the attack. This is the type of game Olli plays, and I was extremely impressed. Understanding the competition the Flames presented tonight wasn’t NHL quality, for the most part, it’s still a great sign. Especially considering there was another Canucks blueliner fighting for a job who didn’t have the greatest of nights…
Brendan Leipsic: Someone who needed to have a great game after being ‘average’ as Travis Green put it. He wasn’t great throughout the game, but man oh man did he show up in the 3rd period. With a great goal, and multiple high-quality scoring attempts. He brought himself back into the conversation for the top 6 winger spot against Baertschi and Goldobin. Now, he’s going to have to have a game like this versus NHL caliber players to really put himself back in the conversation, but a game like this helps his cause.
Reid Boucher: Not in competition for a spot out of camp, Boucher flashed the shot that made him a solid prospect years ago. Ringing 2 shots off the inner part of both the crossbar and the post. A great AHL player, Boucher’s time to become a full-time NHL player has probably passed him. A great piece to have in case of an emergency, however, and should help the Canucks at some point this season.
Michael DiPietro: The young netminder isn’t in competition for any job coming out of camp, but he showed well in his only period of work. Making a couple of slick saves with the glove while not allowing a goal in the period. Good to see from the young lad, who I expect will have a fantastic year in the OHL.
You guys thought I was going to put ‘the bad’, well surprise! Really though, there were quite a few players who took their sweet time getting going, but when they got going pushed themselves up to be mentioned.
Adam Gaudette: A real up and down game for Gaudette. A little bit of a defensive miscue with Chatfield and Edler on the second goal of the hockey game. Then his one-handed pass got picked off and turned into the eventual 3-0 goal for Calgary. On the flip side of that, he was strong on the penalty kill, had a lot of quality scoring opportunities all over the ice, and I never felt like he was being dominated at any point. Would like to see him hit the net more with his one-timer on the power play, but overall an average game. As far as helping his chances to make the team, wouldn’t say this game helped him. Definitely didn’t hurt him.
Petrus Palmu: Another case of a player who took time to get going, but was all around the ice in the 3rd. A good number of offensive chances, and really showcasing his speed and skill while being physical. Good chance on the backhand coming out of the corner, and was also a player on the penalty kill. Again, nothing really gained for Palmu but didn’t cost himself anything.
Thatcher Demko: Statistically, Demko had a rough night. Allowing 3 goals on 21 shots against. All in all, if it wasn’t for Demko overplaying the 1st goal of the game, I’d say he was strong in between the pipes. There wasn’t much he could do about the 2nd or 3rd goal, and he made a couple of big stops on a few Flames breakaway opportunities. Now, I don’t think Demko upped his stock with a game like this, however with how bad Nilsson performed last night I’d say Demko is still in the driver seat for the backup job. That, of course, is only if the backup spot is truly up for grabs. Something Iain MacIntyre has put into question.
Now, I don’t want to be too overly negative on the team. With that being said, I feel an obligation as a writer to call out poor play when I see it, and one player, in particular, is going to feel my wrath.
Derrick Pouliot: Goodness gracious, what a truly awful start to the preseason for him. Didn’t look comfortable at all, was a tire fire on defense, and his breakout passes and plays in the offensive zone were an eyesore. With as much competition as there is for those couple of spots on the Canucks blue line, he probably took himself out of the race with one game. He looked brutal against primarily AHL competition, and with Del Zotto, Hutton, Sautner, and Juolevi all competing with him, I’d say he’s dead last in that battle. Now, hopefully, Pouliot shows this game turns out to just be a blip on the radar because if he doesn’t I see him starting the season in the press box.
As for the training camp battles. Olli Juolevi definitely pushed himself up into the forefront for a spot on the blueline out of camp, but we’ll need to see him have this kind of performance against NHL caliber guys before we can give him the lead. Demko however, is ahead in the battle for the backup position on the basis that he didn’t suck, while Leipsic pulls himself back into the picture for a top 6 role.
Top 6 winger alongside Horvat – Boeser: Goldobin, Baertschi, Leipsic, Eriksson (Top 3 are pretty neck and neck right now, however, Leipsic needs to beat out Goldobin/Baertschi performance in order to avoid the waiver wire.)
Left side defense on pairs 2 + 3: Del Zotto, Juolevi, Hutton, Sautner, Pouliot (Juolevi and Hutton are tied, Hutton’s mixed game versus better competition helps him pull even with Juolevi’s strong game versus weaker competition for the time being.)
Backup goaltender: Demko, Nilsson (Demko is firmly ahead right now, but Nilsson’s contract gives him another chance to get himself back in the race.)
Top 6 winger/center spot: Gagner, Granlund, Gaudette, Dahlen (Not much changed here, no one has really separated themselves from the pack. With Gaudette and Dahlen needing to blow away Gagner and Granlund, I’d say right now there’s a 70% chance they’ll both be going down to Utica.)
Thanks for the read everyone, back at it again tomorrow night!