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Photo Credit: © Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks vs Edmonton Oilers Preseason Post-Game Recap: Win Some, Hughes Some

The Warmup 

The Vancouver Canucks hit the Rogers Arena ice for the first time in the 2019/20 season on Tuesday evening—and they did so against the Edmonton Oilers, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof.

The Vancouver lineup featured the preseason debut of both Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes—as well as Tyler Myers, Tyler Graovac, Vincent Arseneau, and PTO Landon Ferraro making their debut in Canucks’ colours. Brock “The Bargain” Boeser continued to make his way back to the West Coast.

The Oilers’ lineup, on the other hand, was a “Who’s Who” of “Who’s That?”

Notables on the Edmonton side of the ice included former Canuck Markus Granlund and former Vancouver Giant Tyler Benson.

Thatcher Demko and Shane Starrett got the start in their respective creases.

1st Period

Both teams broke out the scrambly play early—and the game went several minutes without a whistle as the period began. Several players on either side attempted—but whiffed on—big hits, perhaps foreshadowing a physical night.

Micheal Ferland, at the very least, managed to find the mark.

The first powerplay of the game went to the Vancouver Canucks—but it came at a terrible cost to the home team. Cameron Hebig carelessly got his stick up on Quinn Hughes as he entered the zone, forcing Hughes to immediately retreat to the dressing room almost the entirety of the period—though he would return in the dying minutes of the first minus a few teeth, allowing Canuck Nation to breathe a giant-sized sigh of relief.

Jake Virtanen received some powerplay time as a net-front presence, but neither he nor the “second unit” featuring Elias Pettersson and Nikolay Goldobin could get much going. Pettersson did, however, break his first pair of ankles of the season.

The pugilistic Vincent Arsenault evened up the powerplays by taking a holding call, giving the Connor McDavid-less Oilers their first man advantage of the evening. Tyler Myers made a five-on-three 45 seconds later with a puck over the glass—but other than a glancing shot off the post, Edmonton did not generate any genuine pressure. Markus Granlund featured prominently on their powerplay.

Thatcher Demko made his first difficult save of the night on a tip-in attempt by Patrick Russell—making it look easy with midseason positioning. Tanner Pearson returned the favour at the other end of the ice, firing off a slapshot that Shane Starrett managed to get a toe on.

The ice began to tilt a bit in Demko’s direction—with the Oilers putting up 10 shots to the Canucks’ four with five minutes remaining in the period. With Hughes still in the dressing room, however, few were paying attention to the shotclock—and a damper began to fall over the crowd as they collectively fretted.

Brandon Sutter reignited the fans’ fervor with a breakaway attempt that turned into a penalty shot—the most exciting play in preseason hockey. Sutter employed his veteran savvy to outwait Starrett before deftly backhanding it over his extended pad—giving the Canucks a 1-0 lead with their fifth shot of the game.

Edmonton tried to take back momentum on the very next shift, but Demko did well to maintain the lead with a few well-timed saves—including an against-the-grain kick save that greatly impressed John Garrett.

The Oilers led the Canucks to the tune of 14-5 on the shotclock as the teams skated off for the intermission—but the home team stayed ahead on the scoreboard and regained their rookie sensation.

For the time being, at least.

Intermission Highlight

Watching #Canucks twitter go into full-on conspiracy mode over Cameron Hebig’s high-stick on Quinn Hughes. More like Cameron Hebad!

2nd Period

Alex Biega nearly doubled the lead early on in the second period by sneaking a shot through traffic—but Shane Starrett managed to make a somewhat accidental save.

Patrick Russell took a hooking penalty three minutes in, sending the home team to their third powerplay of the game—but the first that managed any serious momentum. A combination of Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, Nikolay Goldobin, and Micheal Ferland set up a veritable shooting gallery—but once again Starrett proved equal to the task.

Shortly after the powerplay ended, Jake Virtanen and Brandon Manning clashed both before and after the whistle in the first real scrum of the year—though nothing came of the brief fracas. Vincent Arsenault and Anthony Peluso kept the terse tenor going with another post-whistle staredown—seeming to set an appointment for future fisticuffs that would never come to fruition.

Adam Gaudette showed off what looked like some offseason muscle gain throughout the period—skating through stiff checking in the neutral zone and battling hard in front of the net.

With a hair under seven minutes remaining in the second, Tomas Jurco made the most of what was either a brilliant bank-pass or a brilliant bit of desperate luck by Cooper Marody to get one past Thatcher Demko and knot the score at 1-1. Demko didn’t have much of a chance to react.

Tanner Pearson made a move that was near-identical to the one Brandon Sutter employed on his penalty shot—albeit from the other side and in the midst of a bunch of other players—but Starrett stymied him with an athletic glove save, maintaining the deadlock. Zack MacEwen set up the opportunity with a nice bit of saucering.

Tyler Myers engineered one last shot on net that gave Starrett some trouble with seconds left, but the second period ended with the score still tied at 1-1—and the Oilers still way ahead in shots with 27 to the Canucks’ 15.

Intermission Highlight

Obviously sumo hockey.

3rd Period 

Contrary to early preseason tradition, both Thatcher Demko and Shane Starrett remained in their respective nets as the third period opened.

Elias Pettersson made his first inordinately clever defensive play of the preseason shortly thereafter—losing his stick but still managing to drop to his knees and kick the puck out of the Canucks’ zone.

After Vancouver bungled an offensive opportunity, Alex Edler was caught pinching as the Oilers carried the puck back up the ice—where Patrick Russell finished off a three-part passing play and beat Demko through a heavy screen. Cooper Marody and Tomas Jurco—who teamed up on Edmonton’s earlier goal—picked up the assists. The goal gave Edmonton its first lead of the game at 2-1.

A few minutes later, Ryan McLeod snuck behind the defense and turned a perfect pass into a perfect deke around Demko—but he could not beat the post. The same shift saw Quinn Hughes leave the ice in obvious pain following a hard slash, though he would remain on the bench.

The culprit? None other than the notorious Cameron Hebig.

Elias Pettersson gained some measure of revenge by tying the game shortly thereafter. Starrett struggled with a long Micheal Ferland shot and gave out a juicy rebound that Pettersson eagerly fired right back into the yawning cage—bringing the patrons of Rogers Arena to their feet.

Their joy turned to trepidation moments later when Hughes headed down the tunnel in obvious distress. His apparent injury may have had something to do with the major scrum that broke out as the game went to its final TV timeout with Zack MacEwen at its center.

Brandon Sutter regained the Vancouver lead with his second of the game when action picked up again—tapping an Edler shot-pass behind Starrett and making it look easy. Just past the halfway point of the period, the Canucks were ahead 3-2—though this time the celebration was a bit more subdued alongside the glaring lack of Quinn Hughes on the bench.

Demko continued to stand tall in the period’s waning minutes to hold the lead and make up for some minor defensive collapses on the part of his teammates. He got run over by Patrick Russell just after Starrett was pulled at the other end of the ice, but even that couldn’t shake the Canucks’ netminder—who posted 34 saves for his first win of the preseason, with a final score of 4-2 after Tanner Pearson fired a long bomb into the Oilers’ empty net.

The Wrap-Up

Without an update on Quinn Hughes’ health, it’s tough for anyone to get too excited about this one. A preseason win is nice, but ultimately meaningless—especially this early in the exhibition schedule. An injury of any significance to the team’s star rookie, however, would put a serious damper on the start of the 2019/20—and so Canuck Nation waits on tenterhooks to hear just how badly tonight’s victory will be tainted.

On a more positive note, news broke near the end of the third period that former Canuck Ben Hutton had finally found another NHL home with the Los Angeles Kings—so at least there’s that.

LATE BREAKING STORY:

Everything’s going to be alright, folks! You can resume enjoying this victory to the fullest.

Fancy Stats At A Glance

Gameflow from Canucks vs Edmonton September 17, 2019 (courtesy of naturalstattrick.com)

Heatmap from Canucks vs Edmonton September 17, 2019 (courtesy of naturalstattrick.com)

Top Performers

Brandon Sutter

Sutter has to know he’s in a battle for a center spot in the top-nine—and tonight, he looked like he deserves it. Two goals is two goals, but Sutter was strong at both ends of the ice.

Thatcher Demko

The Canucks are hoping that Demko can give Jacob Markstrom a little more time off this season, and Demko looks up for the task as far as this limited sample size is concerned. There weren’t a lot of capable shooters in the Edmonton lineup, but Demko still turned away most of what he faced with ease—and shouldn’t shoulder much blame for either goal against.

Elias Pettersson

Pettersson had a fairly lackluster game by his own standards—and yet he still finished the game with a goal and several other highlight-reel plays besides. This is a truly special hockey player, and it looks like he’s ready to at least pick up where he left off last season—and poised to reach even greater heights in the very-near future.

Next Game

The preseason home-and-home between the Canucks and Oilers continues on Thursday, September 19 in Edmonton—broadcast on Sportsnet One with a start-time of 6:00PM PST.