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I Watched This Game: Canucks crush Coyotes to close out preseason

Andrei Kuzmenko tallied a goal and an assist as the Canucks cruised to a 4-0 win over the Coyotes.
The Vancouver Canucks ran roughshod over the Arizona Coyotes in their final preseason game. graphic: Dan Toulgoet and Freepik

The Vancouver Canucks ended the preseason on a high note, easily dispatching the Arizona Coyotes 4-0 on Friday night at Rogers Arena.

It’s hard to know exactly how much stock to put in such a lopsided game. The Coyotes are expected to be one of the worst — if not the absolute worst — teams in the NHL this season, as they’re tanking hard for Connor Bedard.

Not only that, the Coyotes were missing most of their best players on Friday night, while the Canucks dressed a lineup that we could expect to see on opening night, apart from Quinn Hughes taking the night off.

There was no Jacob Chychrun, Shayne Gostisbehere, Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, Lawson Crouse, or Zack Kassian for the Coyotes. In their absence, Troy Stecher played over 23 minutes for Coyotes and somebody named Matias Maccelli led all Coyotes forwards in 5-on-5 ice time. 

With that in mind, is it any surprise that the Canucks out-shot the Coyotes 32-to-7? The Coyotes simply did not ice an NHL-caliber team, even by their own low bar of “NHL caliber.” 

That’s not typically what a team expects or wants from their final preseason game as they ramp up for the regular season. It wasn’t the test that the Canucks may have wanted but head coach Bruce Boudreau was still pleased with the way his team played.

“We checked, checked, checked and that’s what we wanted to do,” said Boudreau. “Taking time and space away from these guys — even though, I mean, some of the players weren’t, you know, totally their team — but we still worked our butts off.”

Whether the Coyotes were a good opponent or not, the game still counted just as much as any other preseason game, which is no points, and may God have mercy on your soul. I watched this game. 

  • To illustrate how this game went, the Coyotes had more than twice as many penalties (15) as they had shots on goal (7). They were streaming to the penalty box in such numbers that the ice crew probably complained that they wore grooves in the ice.
  • The Canucks opened the scoring on the power play, natch, with Bo Horvat providing a nifty tip from his familiar home in the bumper on an Oliver Ekman-Larsson point shot. It came off a smart play by J.T. Miller, who literally pointed to exactly where he wanted Ekman-Larsson to go on the ice before sending him the pass. 
  • "It seemed like no matter where anybody played this preseason, we seem to be clicking, and that's the sign of a good power play," said Horvat. Is it a mild concern that the Canucks haven't really played any games with their entire first power play unit together? It's hard to say — we'll see what happens when the regular season starts. 
  • An ugly turnover by Coyotes goaltender Karel Vejmelka gifted the Canucks a 2-0 lead. Full credit to Curtis Lazar, though, who read the play well and hustled to the endboards to cut off the pass, then moved the puck faster than Oberon sending him to fetch a flower, setting up Dakota Joshua at the top of the crease for a quick five-hole finish. 
  • The hit of the game came from Luke Schenn, who sat down Laurent Dauphin like he was a Toronto Blue Jays batter and Schenn was Luis Castillo.  
  • It may have just been a preseason game against a lesser opponent, but Elias Pettersson, like the keepers of the Centennial Light, can’t turn it off. Even on the penalty kill, Pettersson was at maximum effort and he made an exceptional read to cut off a passing lane at one point that showed exactly why he’s so good at killing penalties.
  • Pettersson gave the Canucks a 3-0 lead in the second period, finishing off a dominant power play. Andrei Kuzmenko’s initial shot was blocked, but Pettersson followed up and blasted a laser past Vejmelka like he was Andy Samberg and Bill Hader in a future where cats developed the ability to shoot lasers out of their mouths.  
  • "I said, 'Petey, no shoot! Pass to me, pass to me!'" said Kuzmenko after the game with a wide grin. "Petey shoot goal — okay, is good goal."
  • With five seconds left in the first period, Kuzmenko delivered the knockout punch like Draymond Green. With Kuzmenko coming out of the penalty box, Nils Åman forced Dauphin into a turnover to Tanner Pearson, who hit Kuzmenko with the breakaway pass. Kuzmenko caught Vejmelka with a quick release through the five-hole.
  • “I like this assist,” said Kuzmenko about Pearson’s pass. “Pearson’s good pass to me is very beautiful.”
  • Kuzmenko was a delight in the post-game interview, cheerfully announcing, "Big stress for me," as he addressed the swarm of microphones. He did his best to translate from English to Russian and back to English in his head and di an admirable job. At one point, he called in his “best translator” in Vasily Podkolzin and asked, “What these people want?” Incredible.
  • Kuzmenko noted that with it being the end of a period, the ice was at its worst, so he definitely wasn’t going to deke on his breakaway but planned to shoot the entire time. Of course, the way he said that was, “Not good ice is only always shoot.” But the intent was clear and kudos to him for tackling interviews in English with only a minimum of help from Podkolzin. 
  • Ekman-Larsson is really quite good at playing the point on the power play, which makes it all the more frustrating that the Canucks acquired him when he’s never going to be their primary power play quarterback. This move on Dauphin — who really got kicked around by the Canucks in this game — was almost cruel.
  • The one major concern for the Canucks is that Conor Garland left the game in the middle of the second period and didn’t return. Boudreau suggested that he didn’t think it was serious but he also said that he hadn’t talked to the team doctors at all, so maybe take that medical opinion with a grain of salt.