A shift-by-shift breakdown of Vitali Kravtsov’s first game with the Vancouver Canucks
Photo credit:© Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
9 months ago
Vitali Kravtsov’s debut as a Vancouver Canuck might seem like a decade ago now, but it was only yesterday that the 23-year-old Russian arrived on the ice after a trade from the New York Rangers last week.
Since January 23, the former ninth overall pick from 2018 had played about 11 minutes for the Rangers against the Seattle Kraken on February 10. Yesterday, Kravtsov played just shy of nine in his Canucks debut, so let’s take a look at how they went.
Kravtsov didn’t have to wait long for his first opportunity on the new-look second line with Jack Studnicka and Brock Boeser.
He was only on the ice for about half a minute but made one smart move in the time he was out there. As he picked up the puck in his own zone under pressure, with two Stars poised to clog up his only skating lanes, Kravtsov quickly doubled back behind the goal line and lobbed an easy pass to an unguarded Christian Wolanin.
After Anthony Beauvillier gave the Canucks the lead, head coach Rick Tocchet immediately sent out the Studnicka line for a longer shift.
Kravtsov showed a willingness to go into the corners when he aided Boeser and Studnicka in a few board battles behind the Stars’ net. Weirdly enough, the defenceman he won the puck away from a few times? Former Rangers teammate Nils Lundkvist, who’d left New York under similarly frosty circumstances.
Kravtsov’s aggressiveness on the puck carrier in the offensive zone was evident quickly, although his puck handling was a little rusty. This mishandled breakout pass luckily landed on Brock Boeser’s stick instead, but it just as easily could’ve been picked off and turned back the other way.
Kravtsov’s speed is going to be one of his most crucial assets to a comparatively slow Canucks lineup. Here he is forcing a Stars defender to make a quick outlet pass under pressure.
Where Kravtsov will need some time to develop is in his own end of the ice. In a few of his early shifts, he was often floating around the slot area. Once the puck begins heading up the other way, Kravtsov makes a beeline to the neutral zone but can’t corral the puck cleanly.
In his last shift of the period, Kravtsov had a bit of trouble trying to clear the zone under pressure as a pair of Stars closed in on him. He ends up losing possession after the puck bounces behind him and turns into a Dallas scoring chance.
Right off the hop in the middle frame, Kravtsov showed off his attacking speed by charging into the offensive zone to tie up Stars defender Jani Hakanpaa near the right faceoff dot. Evgenii Dadonov was unfortunately the only player around to retrieve the loose puck, but Kravtsov’s instinct was in the right place.
On his next step out over the boards, Kravtsov immediately dialled in on Ty Dellandrea retrieving the puck behind his own net. With Dellandrea flat-footed, Kravtsov flattened him moments after the puck left the Dallas winger’s stick.
On shift number three, Kravtsov once again force Roope Hintz to pass the puck off thanks to his quick feet, but he also got caught trailing Hintz as Tyler Myers attempted to clear the zone. The Stars winger was able to scoop up the loose puck with ease for a quick shot on goal.
In his final ice time of the middle frame, Kravtsov provided fresh legs for a gassed third-line unit, working near the top of the circles before a wobbly pass forced Jani Hakanpaa offside.
The third is where Kravtsov’s time took a quick nosedive.
Kravtsov worked his way to the front of the net to provide a screen on his first of four shifts in the final frame. Once he later tracked the puck to the boards, he and defender Christian Wolanin had a miscommunication, and his pass skipped over the blue line to no one.
Kravtsov’s second shift was practically nonexistent, as a Jason Robertson penalty wiped it out. But he would later get a brief shift on the power play, setting up in Bo Horvat’s familiar spot in the slot area.
Midway through the third period, Kravtsov failed to gain full zone entry before the Stars intercepted and grabbed sustained pressure in the zone. That 30-second shift with 12 minutes remaining was his last of the game before the Canucks won the game in overtime.
Overall, Kravtsov’s night was a relatively middling debut, with no real gaffes made but also no particularly major plays made either.
And that’s perfectly fine for a player joining a brand-new organization. Chemistry with teammates will come in due time, and his speed and strong attack on the puck carrier could make him a valuable asset for Rick Tocchet’s bench in the future.
But for now, Vitali Kravtsov still has a ways to go.
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