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I Watched This Game: Despite Wolanin's best efforts, Canucks fall 7-2 to Oilers

Christian Wolanin made a name for himself as the Vancouver Canucks' brightest spot in a lopsided loss.
The Vancouver Canucks fell 7-2 to the Edmonton Oilers for their fifth-straight loss of the preseason. Graphic: Dan Toulgoet and Freepik

Exactly how concerned should fans be that the Vancouver Canucks have now lost five-straight preseason games?

On the one hand, it’s just the preseason — these games literally don’t count. A five-game losing streak in the preseason doesn’t cost the Canucks any points in the standings. They could lose every single game in the preseason and it’s not like they would start the regular season with negative points.

On the other hand — well, is there another hand? It feels silly to worry about preseason results. Does anyone really care that the Canucks haven’t won any games yet when the games that matter haven’t even started?

Lots of teams have a bad preseason and perform just fine in the regular season. The Colorado Avalanche went 2-4-0 in the preseason last year and they finished first in the Western Conference and went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Heck, some teams literally don’t win any games in the preseason, like the Atlanta Thrashers and Minnesota Wild in 2010. Come to think of it, though, both the Thrashers and the Wild missed the playoffs that year…

Okay, maybe there is another hand. If the Canucks can’t even win one preseason game, that’s probably pretty bad. At the very least, it doesn’t do wonders for a team’s confidence to go into the regular season on that kind of losing streak — losing tends to breed more losing. 

The Canucks will have two more chances to grab at least one win in the preseason. And those games will be watched just like I watched this game.

  • After a couple of games with veteran-heavy lineups, the Canucks sent a largely AHL lineup to Edmonton to face an Oilers team that iced pretty much their entire NHL lineup, including Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Really, it’s not too surprising the Canucks lost 7-2. Of course, one of the excuses for the Canucks losing with their NHL veteran lineups is that the veterans weren’t motivated to try as hard as the AHL players and prospects, so I’m not sure we can have it both ways.
  • “To me, it wasn’t a 7-2 type of game,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau, and he’s not wrong. The Canucks put in a decent effort and it was 4-2 with three minutes left before the game really went off the rails and the Oilers added a field goal, making the game look a lot more lopsided than it really was. That said, 4-2 is also pretty lopsided — it’s just more “might get mildly critical comments on The Great British Bake Off” lopsided compared to “definitely going to topple over and ruin the wedding” lopsided.
  • The biggest positive in this game for the Canucks was the play of Christian Wolanin, which I swear is not a dig at the rest of the team. He was legitimately excellent and made a strong argument for a spot on the roster as a seventh (or eighth) defenceman or, at the very least, the first call-up on defence if/when injuries strike. 
  • Wolanin led the Canucks with 22:12 in ice time, made crisp passes on the breakout, hit a crossbar, had assists on both Canucks goals, and held his own in tough minutes against the McDavid line. If the whole point of dressing depth players for the preseason is to see who rises to the occasion, Wolanin was the yeastiest bread in the proofing drawer.
  • Vasily Podkolzin was another big positive. Podkolzin looks poised to be an absolute menace this season with the way he attacks on the forecheck. While he didn’t find the scoresheet, Podkolzin led the Canucks with seven shot attempts, four of them on goal, 
  • It feels strange to praise the goaltender who gave up 7 goals, but Collin Delia was mostly quite good before everything fell apart, with some really sharp saves on the penalty kill. Giving up a touchdown probably makes it tougher for him to oust Spencer Martin from the backup job in Vancouver but there’s a hint of the goalie that Martin was before Ian Clark got his mitts on him a year ago — he’s big, explosive, and battles hard to make saves.
  • As a right-handed defenceman, Brady Keeper has a strong shot of earning a call-up this season in case of injuries but his performance on Monday was a bit of a mixed bag. He drew two penalties by keeping his feet moving, played a physical game, and had two shots on goal — but he also committed two penalties and was on the ice for three goals against. To be fair, it has to be tough coming back from missing an entire season with a broken leg. I woke up with a bit of neck pain last week and I’m still wrecked.
  • The Oilers opened the scoring when the Canucks got caught chasing in their own end. Danny DeKeyser didn’t trade off his man with forward John Stevens, leading to all sorts of time for Leon Draisaitl to set up a chance. Zach Hyman fanned on the one-timer, but the puck made it through to Darnell Nurse, whose shot was tipped in by Dylan Holloway when Noah Juulsen didn’t tie up his stick.
  • DeKeyser, by the way, is matzah — he’s not rising at all. It’s hard to imagine the veteran defenceman earning an NHL contract from his preseason showing on a PTO.
  • The Canucks tied up the game in the second period off a superb play by Christian “Whole Wheat” Wolanin on the power play. Wolanin looked to be loading up a shot off a pass from Conor Garland, but he instead whipped a no-look pass to Nils Höglander, who made like a peach martini with a smooth finish.
  • After Hyman scored on the power play from McDavid and Holloway beat Delia with a ridiculous shot off the rush, Wolanin set up the Canucks’ second goal to make it 3-2 with a little help from Cody Ceci. Wolanin held the line on a clearing attempt off the boards and sent a shot on goal, where Garland tipped the puck down, where Ceci tried to clear it but instead neatly tapped the puck through Jack Campbell’s legs.
  • Wolanin was so good — or at least good enough compared to the rest of the Canucks lineup — that he inspired memes on social media. 
  • Okay, back to the game — the Oilers caught Keeper pinching to create an opportunity in transition and Tyson Barrie jumped up to make it a 3-on-2. Danila Klimovich backchecked with enthusiasm but needed to pick up Barrie instead of just attacking whoever was closest to him at any given moment, because Barrie was wide open to make like Barry and casually hit his target. 
  • Garland had a strong game and should have had a goal on a fantastic setup by Podkolzin, but he was robbed by an even more fantastic glove save by Campbell. Honestly, the line the Canucks teased at the start of training camp of Garland and Podkolzin with Bo Horvat — there’s something there.
  • The last three minutes were a disaster and it all started with everyone’s favourite, Christian Wolanin. His breakout pass to Höglander was tipped and he cussed louder than J.T. Miller. Then he broke his stick blocking the shot that followed his turnover and bolted for the bench for a new one instead of trying to defend without a stick. It backfired, as Holloway pulled out from behind the net and slide the puck five-hole on Delia for the hat trick.
  • Warren “McLovin” Foegele followed up Holloway’s goal with two of his own in the space of a minute. The two goals were so inconsequential they didn’t even make the NHL’s nine-minute highlight video of the game. That’s how little they mattered.
  • “It’s 4-2, we just kill off a 5-on-3, and we’re about to pull the goalie when they score to make it 5-2. I think the wind just went out of the sails of everybody and they quit for a few minutes,” said Boudreau. 


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