A friend of mine has a favourite phrase that seems to fit this game: “Oh boy, what a mess.”
With most of the Calgary Flames’ veterans in China right now, they iced a lineup heavy with AHL players and young prospects with little chance to make the team. The Canucks followed suit, with only a few players on the ice that could be expected to play on opening night.
The result shouldn’t have been surprising: the game was sloppier than the front row of a Gallagher show. Heck, the vast majority of the Canucks’ lineup in this game are a couple decades too young to get that reference.
There were turnovers galore, confusion on defence, and a Canucks’ power play that gave up the best scoring chances of the game to the Flames’ penalty kill.
Afterwards, Petrus Palmu summed it up: “It was a pretty weird game.” And I watched it.
- In his post-game press conference, Travis Green was careful to moderate his comments, not wanting anything he said to get blown out of proportion. “I’m not going to be too critical or pump anyone’s tires too much,” he said, which I thought was a fair and honourable thing to do. I, however, am definitely going to be critical and pump a few tires. What can I say? I’m a scoundrel.
- Thatcher Demko wanted that first one back. “I overplayed it, for sure,” he said, and while he’s right, it’s not all on him. Ashton Sautner needed to do a better job of identifying the threat and prevent a breakaway. I find it awfully hard to blame a goaltender for a goal on a breakaway, but maybe that comes from years of listening to John Garrett’s colour commentary. It’s never the goaltender’s fault.
- Ashton Sautner was a lot like The Facts of Life, in that you took the good, you took the bad, you take them both and there you have...Ashton Sautner. Travis Green talked about how he added a physical dimension to his game and that was certainly true, as he made some nice, physical plays on defence, but also made some sketchy reads.
- On the second goal, Jalen Chatfield and Adam Gaudette can both share a little blame: Chatfield abandoned the front of the net like Daniel Plainview abandoned his child, while Gaudette got caught on the wrong side of his check, Spencer Foo. Foo took no pity on Demko, patiently waiting him out to tuck it home.
- Large stretches of this game were dull to the point of spherical. I thought I was going to have to fill this article with comments even more inane than usual: Brendan Gaunce went 6-for-13 on faceoffs! Petrus Palmu played on the penalty kill! Lukas Jasek drew a penalty! Thrilling!
- Fortunately, things got a little spicier as the game progressed. The Canucks finally seemed to settle into their skates, with Adam Gaudette showing the most improvement throughout the game. By the end of the game he had hit one post and created some chaos with his net drives. He had eight shot attempts, though six missed the net.
- When it comes to shot attempts, however, no one could compare to Reid Boucher, who had a whopping 12 shot attempts. Seven of those were on net, then he had two more ring off the crossbar. Boucher has an unreal release on his shot, but the issue for him has always been that he doesn’t bring many more dimensions to his game than that spectacular shot. It’s hard to catch anyone’s attention when you’re one dimensional. Literally, you can’t be seen in one dimension, as you have no breadth or height.
- Derrick Pouliot was bad. There’s no getting around it. He struggled with the puck, he struggled without the puck, he struggled to keep the puck onside — he struggled. Derrick Pouliot should probably file this game in a folder marked “Never look at this again ever, ever, ever, ever, ever.”
- Green was more forgiving. “I probably shouldn’t played him on the right to start his first game in the preseason,” he said. “But he’s okay.”
- Everyone was “okay” in Green’s post-game presser. That was his assessment of every player: “okay.” But the game many of the players played was screaming like Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance: “I’m not okay!”
- The Canucks’ power play had a major issue: it gave up better chances to the penalty kill than they created themselves. One of those chances became a Flames’ goal as a sliding Alex Edler couldn’t break up the 2-on-1. Green shrugged it off: “I don’t know how many of those guys are going to be on the power play when our regular season starts.” I mean, Edler will be.
- The one true highlight of the game was delivered by Brendan Leipsic, just a few minutes after he was robbed on a feed from Brendan Gaunce. At 4-on-4, Leipsic dipsy-doodled around defenceman Philip Samuelsson, then stuck with the puck as it was pokechecked off his stick and swiped it in on the backhand as he fell to the ice. It was a spectacular goal in a night that was seriously lacking in spectacle.
Leipsic delivers a GIF-worthy moment. pic.twitter.com/40DbRR5zN4— Dan Riccio (@DanRiccio650) September 20, 2018
- In what is likely to be Michael DiPietro's only appearance in the preseason, he stopped 10 of 10 shots he faced. DiPietro came in for the third period and looked completely comfortable, which had his fellow goalkeeper beaming. "I thought he played awesome," said Demko. "I was super-happy for him. Him and I, this is our second camp together now and we were able to stay in touch last season. He’s a really great kid and I enjoy being around him and seeing him play well tonight was awesome."