While the veterans were on an extremely comfortable flight to China, the Canucks young’uns gave the Las Vegas (Golden) Knights their introduction to the NHL.
Essentially, the Canucks were the video game tutorial and, since the Knights have all played the previous games in the series (the CHL, NCAA, and European leagues), the tutorial was embarrassingly easy.
“The average NHL goaltender is 6’2”, but you’ll face a 5’10” goaltender to start. We’ve turned off defensive awareness for this shift, so you can try a breakaway. Press ‘X’ to try the power play mini-game again.”
The Knights put up a video game score and, like a member of Generation Z streaming it on Twitch, I watched this game.
- To be fair to the baby Canucks, their two best centre prospects aren’t playing in the preseason. With Elias Pettersson in Sweden and Adam Gaudette in college, the top two lines were centred by Jayson Megna and Michael Chaput. Did anyone else just feel a great disturbance in the Force when I said that? How many Canucks fans just cried out in terror?
- The NHL’s crackdown on slashing continued. The Canucks were called for nine penalties; five of them were for slashing and one of the interference calls should have been slashing instead. There were more slashes in this game than at a Guns N’ Roses-themed Air Guitar contest. It had more slashes than a really long URL. One more slash and all the players would have started making out.
- Olli Juolevi got out to a great start in this game, jumping up for a near breakaway and drawing a penalty, then getting one of the best early chances on the subsequent power play. But as the game progressed, you could see the flaws that need to be ironed out before he’s NHL-ready, including an ugly giveaway on the Knights’ eighth goal. You have to think the best thing for him would be to head to Finland to work with Sami Salo for a season.
- Philip Holm likewise does not look NHL-ready. Despite his two-point night, team-high six shots on goal, and hitting a post on an early power play, his defensive miscues were deeply concerning. On the Knights’ third goal, he made a terrible decision to pinch down off the point on a scrambled faceoff, leading to a breakaway. On the sixth, he gave the puck away to Tyler Wong, who already had two goals. You know what they say: you can’t go Holm again.
- On the other hand, Brock Boeser continued to make his case for making the Canucks. In his case, the case is full of goals. Case closed.
- Boeser tied the game 1-1, getting in behind a flat-footed Nicolas Hague off a neutral zone turnover, and roofing the puck with the quickest release since Jack White recorded and pressed “Lazaretto.” Pour 18-year-old Dylan Ferguson didn’t have a hope of saving it.
- Boeser set up the Canucks’ second goal, spotting a streaking Jordan Subban flying up the wing and sneakily sliding a pass under Griffin Reinhart’s stick while knocking said stick out of his hands. Subban took the pass, drove to the net, and finished on the forehand like Rafael Nadal.
- Subban’s goal was lovely, but my favourite part of the goal was Boeser’s quick little glances to his right and left as he broke out of the defensive zone. He didn’t look again before making his pass, a nice little piece of misdirection. Then, when everyone was watching his pass, he dropped his pants, hooked his knees together, and engaged his grappler.
- Boeser used the art of misdirection on his second goal as well. During a 5-on-3, Boeser got the puck at the left faceoff circle and didn’t once look at the net, looking for all the world like he was going to pass before whipping the puck on net, surprising Ferguson, who was unable to stop the puck on the short side. We’ve seen plenty of no-look passes in Vancouver thanks to the Sedins, but this was a very rare no-look shot.
- It was another strong game for Jake Virtanen, who played a role in in two goals. He created a ruckus in front of the net on Boeser’s second goal and was screening the net on Holm’s goal. When Griffin Reinhart tried to push Virtanen out of the way, he instead accidentally tipped the puck past his own goaltender. Add in four shots on goal of his own and a couple solid hits and Virtanen made a case for maybe getting called up sometime this season. Set that bar low, people, and you won’t be disappointed.
- One of the best players in a Canucks jersey in this game isn’t signed to a Canucks contract. Darren Archibald is only signed to the Utica Comets, but he brought himself back into the consciousness of Canucks fans with a fantastic physical game, steamrolling several Knights (one of which got him tagged with an undeserved interference major), and dropping the gloves with Clayton Stoner after running him hard into the boards. But it wasn’t just his physical game; he also had four shots on goal and saw the Canucks out-shoot the Knights 8-3 when he was on the ice at 5-on-5. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have him than Ryan White.