The Calgary Flames gave the Canucks and their fans a long off-season last April, knocking them out in the first round of the playoffs. They couldn’t resist making the off-season a little bit longer, drawing the pre-game ceremonies out as long as possible like they were Peter Jackson directing Return of the King.
Their in-arena announcer sounded like he stumbled in from a monster truck rally, growling out the player introductions and extending every vowel in their names. Then, after going Chewbacca on the entire roster, he did it again for the starting lineup. To top it off, the national anthem singer drawled out Oh Canada like he was singing in slow-motion.
Eventually, I watched this game.
- Just in case the start of the game hadn’t been delayed enough for you, Derek Dorsett dropped the gloves with Michael Ferland off the opening faceoff and delayed it a bit more. Really, there’s no better way to prove that a player hasn’t gotten to you than a staged fight with him months later.
- Ben Hutton and Jared McCann looked remarkably comfortable for rookies playing their first NHL games, like no one told them the pre-season had ended. In a week they’re finally going to face a team outside the Pacific Division, clue in that they’ve been playing in the regular season all along, and break down into flop sweats and panic attacks.
- It will get overshadowed by the Canucks’ dominant offensive performance, but Ryan Miller was very good in this game after a somewhat shaky pre-season. He tracked the puck remarkably well all night, stopping more shots than Drake’s vocal coach.
- For a brief moment, it looked like the goaltender at the other end of the ice, Karri Ramo, would be the story, when he absolutely robbed Daniel Sedin with a blocker save on a 2-on-1 one-timer. It was a real shame that he made the save, actually, as Daniel’s shot was unreal: Henrik’s saucer pass never actually hit the ice -- Daniel ripped it on net out of mid-air.
- A moment later, the Canucks opened the scoring on a Jannik Hansen rail gun of a slap shot. Hutton picked up his first career point by catching the Flames on a bad chance with an excellent pass to Hansen, who skated down the right wing, wound up, and unleashed hell, hammering the puck into the top right corner on the short side.
- Brandon Sutter is, according to Jim Benning, a good two-way centre and a foundation piece for the future of the Canucks. So now he’s playing on the first line with the Sedins and it weirdly feels like a demotion. “Hey, you were the fifth best centre on the team during the pre-season, so you’re going to have to play with two of the best players in the NHL. I hope this is a wake-up call for you.”
- The Sutter-winger experiment will likely continue a little bit longer because Sutter picked up a goal and an assist on the Sedins’ wing. He put the Canucks up 2-0 by knocking a puck out of mid-air in an impressive feat of hand-eye coordination, and now I’m desperately trying to avoid saying, “rather than an impressive hand of feet-eye coordination.” Dammit, I fooled myself into saying it anyway!
- The Flames’ lone goal came off a turnover by Luca Sbisa, which you wouldn’t know if you only watched the highlights of the game on YouTube, which start the replay of that goal the moment aftter his giveaway. It’s almost as if the Canucks’ YouTube account has a vested interest in avoiding making Canucks players look bad.
- The Daniels teamed up on the Canucks’ third goal: Hamhuis made a great play at the blueline to keep the puck in the offensive zone, then threw it on net. Instead of absorbing the shot and freezing the puck, Ramo tried to deflect it into the corner, same as he attempted to do on Sutter’s goal. It didn’t work any better this time, as he banked the puck off Daniel Sedin’s leg and in. Ramo needs to get better at deflecting; personally, I find humour works well.
- McCann didn’t get an assist on Alex Burrows’ 4-1 goal, because Dennis Wideman tipped into his own net, but his play that led to the goal was, like a Cuba Libre, sublime. While backchecking, McCann picked off a saucer pass out of mid-air, then showed the presence of mind to thread a pass through Johnny Gaudreau’s legs up to Burrows. He followed that up by showing the presence of body to actually make the pass. Most rookies only have one or the other.
- The Sedins capped off the evening with a display of Wizardous Sedinerie. Daniel picked up a loose puck, banked it off the backboards to Henrik at the other side of the net, then Henrik banked the puck off Ramo and into the net from an absurd angle. The goal was cheekier than Kim Kardashian.