For all the moaning and complaining from Harrison today about how pre-season hockey doesn’t matter, the Canucks actually iced over half of their expected opening day lineup against the Sharks to open the pre-season. While some teams trot out a mish-mash of prospects, AHL veterans, and free agent tryouts early in the pre-season, the Canucks actually looked vaguely Canuck-like.
The Canucks iced their expected second and third lines, their first and third defence pairings, and their backup goaltender. Just like last season when Willie Desjardins put Radim Vrbata with the Sedins right from the beginning of training camp and stuck with them, the Canucks appear to be using the pre-season as an opportunity to develop chemistry rather than experiment with line combinations.
Unfortunately, the end result of this strategy is that there’s a bit more emphasis on, well, the end result. When a bastardized Frankenstein’s monster of a lineup loses in the pre-season, you shrug and move on. When half a Canucks team loses to a collection of Lil’ Sport Brats wearing Sharks jerseys, you start to get a bit concerned.
Right or wrong, I cared who won when I watched this game.
Canucks 1 - 0 Sharks (OT)
- You’ll notice that the Canucks did not lose to the San Jose Lil’ Sports Brats, so panic can be averted, pools can remain unflipped, and there’s no need to fire everyone, starting with the assistant equipment manager. Phew.
- Luca Sbisa took a groan-inducing boarding penalty midway through the first period, which was bad. Making it worse, going for the hit took him completely out of position, leading to a flurry of chances that Jacob Markstrom had to be sharp to stop. Actually, being sharp would not have helped him make those saves; goaltending is predicated on being a large, blunt object in net. A thin, sharp goaltender would be far too easy to beat.
- Apart from that penalty, Sbisa looked surprisingly competent. He was skating the puck out of trouble, making tape-to-tape passes, and springing Nicklas Jensen for a breakaway. Did we just see Sbisa turn blue?
- Hahaha, no. It was just one pre-season game. No jumping to conclusions until after one regular season game.
- Back to Markstrom: he was very good, stopping every shot he faced, including some tough ones in tight. But the best part of his game came off the ice, as this photo of him holding an adorable pug made the rounds on the old Twitter machine. Yes, another charming, quirky, and talented Swedish backup; just what Ryan Miller had on his Pinterest wish list.
- Some quick analysis: Brendan Gaunce was pretty good and created some chances for himself. Bo Horvat was really good and created chances for himself and others. The idea of Brandon Sutter as the Canucks’ second-line centre concerns me greatly. Alex Edler and Chris Tanev are still MFEO. Nicklas Jensen played well, but is going to be ripped for the chances he didn’t bury. So it goes.
- Biggest concern for the Canucks has to be Chris Higgins, who blocked a shot off his ankle and left the game. With Higgins out for who knows how long, the coaching staff decided to try out a replacement on the penalty kill: Radim Vrbata. Yes, let’s put last season’s leading goalscorer on the penalty kill in the pre-season. Sure. Why not.
- The game ended in a thrilling 0-0 tie, giving us our first chance to see 3-on-3 overtime. Fittingly, Adam Cracknell, who played his minor hockey in Victoria, which is which is on the same land mass as where this game was played, scored the game winner, sniping the puck top corner past Sharks goaltender Aaron Dell on a delayed penalty. As the puck rang off the post and in, Cracknell thought to himself, “Dude, you’re beating a Dell!”
- The best moment came after the game, when the Canucks were supposed to give jerseys to kids. Jannik Hansen misunderstood:
Players were given jerseys to give to the kids. Hansen thought that meant throw them in the crowd. Everyone followed. Then kids came on ice.— Rob Williams (@RobTheHockeyGuy) September 22, 2015