Bruce Boudreau was not happy with the team’s effort on Thursday and he wasn’t shy about sharing his frustrations.
“My biggest thing is that’s two games at home against what I think were inferior lineups and we didn’t do what we were supposed to do,” said Boudreau. “I want to see complete games. Whether you win or lose, it’s not important, they don’t count…Playing the right way in your own zone, playing the right way in the neutral zone, playing the right way in the offensive zone, shorter shifts — these things all count.”
The Vancouver Canucks had a rematch with the Seattle Kraken on Saturday night and a surprising number of veterans made the trip down I-5 to the Emerald City.
Three of the Canucks’ four forward lines were essentially what fans can expect to see on opening night: J.T. Miller flanked by Tanner Pearson and Linus Karlsson, Bo Horvat with Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Höglander, and Jason Dickinson with Dakota Joshua and Curtis Lazar.
The same was true on defence, where two of the three defence pairings are potentially pairings we could see on opening night: Oliver Ekman-Larsson with Tyler Myers and Jack Rathbone with Luke Schenn. Even the third pairing featured Tucker Poolman. In net, they had their number one, Thatcher Demko.
There were some important players not in the lineup, of course. Elias Pettersson, Andrei Kuzmenko, Conor Garland, and the injured Brock Boeser and Ilya Mikheyev were missing among the forwards. On defence, Quinn Hughes, Kyle Burroughs, and the injured Travis Dermott were out.
Yes, they didn't have their two best skaters in Pettersson and Hughes, but still iced a fairly representative lineup considering it was just the fourth game of the preseason and the Canucks have only cut three players that are actually in their system so far.
And they were, to be blunt, godawful.
If dressing so many veterans was meant as a wake-up call after Boudreau was so frustrated with their effort on Thursday, it didn’t work. The Canucks still seemed sound asleep and were soundly outplayed by a Kraken team that was, to be fair, also dressing a largely NHL lineup.
The defence were giving the Kraken a free pass to the middle of the ice, the forwards looked discombobulated in the defensive zone, and the team as a whole made far too many turnovers. It’s easy to dismiss a dreadful game in the preseason because there are no points at stake, but the Canucks are keen on quickly working out the kinks.
“Yeah, it’s just preseason but, at the same time, we definitely need to clean up some areas,” said Schenn. “My personal opinion is that we need to have a little more poise with the puck in the D-zone and I think when we don’t have the puck, we’re just stick-checking — we’re too soft.”
There’s no need to get worried at this point, of course. It’s a lot better to have a bad game and lose in the preseason than it is to have a bad preseason game and win and think that everything’s fine. The former at least forces a team to confront what they’re doing wrong and correct it before the games actually matter.
“We’re going to get better,” said Boudreau. “But it’s just not happening as quick as I’d like it to be.”
The final horn didn’t happen as quickly as I would have liked when I watched this game.
- Thatcher Demko, at least, showed up ready to play. Like a guy who brought Twister to a party, he was on top of his game and also very limber. He had to be sharp in the first period when the Kraken out-shot the Canucks 11-to-4 and he stopped every shot that came his way, including stabbing out his right pad to commit larceny on a Jared McCann power play chance.
- This wasn’t Jack Rathbone’s best game. He had an egregious turnover midway through the first period — he had time to pick up the puck off the boards and start the breakout but instead casually swatted the puck up the boards with his back to the blue line. It was easily picked off and turned into a scoring chance and an extended shift in the defensive zone.
- Horvat’s line with Höglander and Podkolzin got crushed in this game, out-attempted 17-to-7 when they were on the ice 5-on-5, but at least Podkolzin showcased his exceptional forechecking ability. If he can be a menace like that on the forecheck this season, he’ll do just fine.
- The only player who seemed to really be doing anything offensively was Tyler Myers, who was jumping up in the offensive zone like the power forward he always should have been. He had the Canucks’ best chance of the game off a backdoor pass from Horvat in the second period but was robbed by Philipp Grubauer, who got the extra “P” of his first name on Myers’ shot to keep it out.
- It’s often not a good thing when a defenceman leads a team in shots, as Myers did with four. Only one forward had more than one shot on goal in this game and it was Höglander with two.
- The Kraken opened the scoring in the second period when J.T. Miller did the thing he said he was trying not to do in the defensive zone: puck-watch. Demko rung the puck around the boards and Pearson couldn’t handle it cleanly. Poolman moved in to help out, but so did Miller, drifting over without checking to see what was up behind him. Turned out that Matty Beniers, like 4*Town, was what was up — he took the pass from Andre Burakovsky and ripped a wrist-shot past the on-rushing Ekman-Larsson and Demko’s glove.
- Jason Dickinson gets a fair amount of criticism but he was one of the Canucks’ better players on Saturday. He went to the front of the net, battled through traffic, and created a couple of decent chances. His line with Joshua and Lazar was probably the Canucks’ best — physical, aggressive, and mostly in the offensive zone — which is hopefully a sign that they can be a decent fourth line for the Canucks this season.
- Dickinson has to be on his game because Nils Åman is knocking on the door. It’s just the fourth-line centre door, not a very glamorous door at all, probably just plywood with a wood veneer, but he’s still knocking on it.
- Myers may have been noticeable offensively, but he was also noticeable defensively, albeit for the wrong reasons. His giveaway behind the Canucks’ net on Seattle’s second goal was ugly — he blindly backhanded the puck behind his own net directly to Oliver Bjorkstrand, who shook off Miller and centered for Alex Wennberg. Rathbone was caught puck-watching and never even saw Wennberg, giving the Kraken centre all the time he needed to score.
- J.T. Miller’s biggest goal for this season is to be harder to play against in the defensive zone — it’s something he has repeated in multiple interviews and media availabilities. It’s a good goal given his defensive issues in recent seasons, but at some point he’s going to need to actually practice being harder to play against, because the below play against Bjorkstrand is the opposite of that.
- The Kraken’s third goal came off another turnover, this time from Tucker Poolman, though Linus Karlsson didn’t do him any favours. Poolman came off looking the worst, however, as he compounded the turnover by stumbling to the ice when he clipped Yanni Gourde’s skate. That left Gourde to walk in alone on Demko and snap the puck home.
- It’s important to note that Poolman hadn’t played a full game of hockey in eight months before coming to training camp, so it’s understandable that he might be a little rusty. It’s just that right now he looks REALLY rusty. Like, nail-that-gives-you-tetanus rusty. Like, “Don’t swim in that pool, man” rusty.
- The Canucks didn’t put up a fight in the third period. Even though they were trailing, they were credited with just one shot on goal, a wristshot from Poolman. Honestly, they probably had at least one other shot that didn’t get credited but when you’re arguing whether a team that lost 4-0 had one shot or two in the third period, it’s not really an argument worth having.
- Gourde finished off the game with an empty-net goal and, even if it wasn’t a good look that J.T. Miller stopped skating behind him, that’s pretty forgivable. He wasn’t going to catch Gourde, the Canucks were already down 3-0, and it’s just preseason, after all.