The Canucks may have opened their season on Wednesday night in Calgary, but everyone knows the season doesn't really start until the Canucks play a game at home, and it doesn't really really start until the pregame ceremony is pre-empted so we can watch the Toronto Maple Leafs lose in a shootout.
I guess what I'm saying is, the Canucks' season really really started with tonight's game. And, once the Leafs were done blowing it, as usual, I watched this game.
- This game didn't open with a chintzy, staged fight right off the opening faceoff like Wednesday's did, so I'm gonna say I liked what I saw from the Canucks in this first period better than that first period. That said, they were pretty poor defensively, getting outshot 15-9, surrendering the game's opening goal, and spending most of the period looking like a team in need of an energy boost. I know what you're thinking. No, a staged fight wouldn't have helped.
- Far more thrilling than any fight was watching the Sedins work their magic early. They didn't score, but they kept the Flames hemmed in their own zone for long stretches -- their first three full shifts were all over a minute -- and they did all sorts of Swedish warlockery in the meantime. (Check this move out, for instance.) As Kent Wilson noted after another impressive Sedin shift, the Flames had no answer for the twins early. But that's to be expected -- the Sedins are the answer. The question, of course, is: can you name some twins?
- One thing I love about the Sedins that doesn't get nearly enough play is how well they use stillness. Oftentimes, one of them will back the defenders off not by making little passes in tight, but by simply refusing to move. The twins aren't bruisers, but they're pretty much immoveable and nigh impossible to dispossess of the puck once they decide to plant like Ann Veal. A handful of times, Henrik was engaged in a pretty intense puck battle along the wall, and then he just decided to... stop. Each time, the slightly confused defender backed off, as though Henrik must be planning something huge. Or maybe the Sedins simply become invisible when they're perfectly still, because NHL defenders can only see you when you move. Or is that T. rexes? Hmm. No, it's not.
- The Canucks got back on equal footing in the second period on the powerplay, and here's the surprising part: the goal came from the second unit, before the first unit even had a chance to do anything. The second unit! (Since when do the Canucks have two units? They're like the guy that did that Ask Me Anything.) Bo Horvat was the scorer, as he so often is lately. After a mad scramble in front, Horvat scooped up a loose puck, then roofed it top corner, where spiders live and plan how they're going to rappel down into your open mouth while you sleep.
- Ben Hutton got his second career NHL assist on the Horvat goal. Fittingly, it was a second assist, earned by threading a nice pass from the top of the zone through to Sven Baertschi at the near wall. Hutton probably won't keep up this point-per-game pace, but I don't think the apples will be all that rare for him, since he sees the ice so well, and he moves the puck so smoothly. Granted, it's hard not to see the ice when it covers everything and you knew it was going to be there all along, and it's hard not to move the puck fluidly when it's on ice.
- But enough about Hutton and Horvat, these aged twenty-somethings. They're old news. Let's talk about Jared McCann, who is new, and shiny -- although, at 19, still a year too old to get the Sam Bennett treatment from the CBC. McCann scored his first NHL tonight, beating Karri Ramo with the same deadly wrist shot that helped him make this team in the first place. I thought McCann struggled at times tonight as the Flames turned up the pressure, but all puck bobbles and giveaways are forgiven on first NHL goal night. Plus his parents were in the crowd. That's gotta add a little bit of extra stress. If his relationship with them is anything like my relationship with my parents, well, actually, they probably wouldn't have shown up.
- Desperate to get back into the game in the second, Brandon Bollig and Deryk Engelland tried to rough up the Sedins a little. In the end, Daniel Sedin took them both to the penalty box, as the referees tried to sort out who started it, realized Daniel Sedin was involved, and rightly assumed it was the other guys.
- It's a shame Ryan Miller didn't get the win tonight. He deserved it, making 35 saves on the night and looking pretty darn spiffy throughout. Three goals against or not, he seemed one step ahead of the Flames most of the night, and I'd argue he's the reason the Canucks got even one point. Honestly, I was so enamoured with his play tonight, I briefly thought he was one of his backups.
- The fourth line of Adam Cracknell, Brandon Prust, and Derek Dorsett did nothing tonight and were a liability on the ice. Which is great, because I want to see Jake Virtanen. I didn't mind the decision to stick with the lineup that manhandled the Flames on Wednesday. But they couldn't replicate the feat, so now it's time to go younger. Boyhandle the Flames. Hmm. Actually, I don't like the way that sounds at all.
- The Canucks were without Alex Edler tonight, and it showed all over. For whatever reason, Edler's spot was taken by Yannick Weber, which put Dan "Community Man" Hamhuis with Matt Bartkowski. It didn't work. Hamhuis hardly looked like himself -- which might explain why Paul Romanuk kept calling him "Damn Hamhooze". The defender was an ugly minus-18 in even-strength corsi, and Bartkowski was an only slightly better minus-13. But it's probably no surprise that Hamhuis would rack up so many shots against. If anyone's gonna take a bullet for you, it's Hamhuis.
- Finally, in the three-on-three overtime, which ended crappily so I don't wanna talk about it, Romanuk opined that the extra space would allow players to show their skill. Then, he added: "No one has a bigger set than Sedin." I don't doubt it. Although his identical twin brother would probably argue it's a tie.