The Canucks wrapped up their pre-season against the Arizona Coyotes at Prospera Place in Kelowna, a fantastic venue. The team had to clear out of Rogers Arena because it was being haunted by the ghost of the NBA.
Final cuts are coming, and at least two players will head to Utica before the season starts. That said, if you were hoping to see a close rendition of the final roster, this was it, with all that portends.
The Canucks have shown that they’ll likely struggle mightily in two areas: goal-scoring and defensive coverage. If these woes continue into the season, they’ll need to get creative in order to keep the fanbase’s attention. Maybe they should take a cue from the Flyers and make Fin terrifying?
For former Kelowna Rocket Alex Edler it was a night of nostalgia. He took in the ice, the fans, the penalty box, the penalty box, and then the penalty box again. When asked about it, Edler stared into the middle distance as a single tear rolled down his cheek. A single tear also rolled down my face as I watched this game.
While trying to carry out of the zone, Troy Stecher tried and failed to red rover his way through two Arizona forwards. That led to a 3-on-1 where Derek Stepan swatted the puck through Alex Edler to Christian Fischer for a slick goal. It was a positional mess for Vancouver. Like my teenaged discovery of Axe body spray, the situation went from stinky to stinkier.
Vancouver had energy to start, and the score could’ve been quite different. The first period was like a certain president at 3am: so many posts. Elias Pettersson hit the outside of the right post on a beautiful power play chance. Moments later Jake Virtanen also hit the iron after a gorgeous setup from Nikolay Goldobin.
With no fewer than three “pings” in a row, Vancouver was inches away from a 3-1 lead, but despite an effective-looking 5-on-3 power play, they came up stymied.
Goldobin had an up-and-down first period. He was caught floating on the opening goal, but he later went full Marek Malik with a between-the-legs shot in close against Darcy Kuemper, and later a breakaway around Jordan Oesterle.
The Coyotes bolstered their lead on a power play following an Alex Edler interference penalty. Set up at the right point, Derek Stepan banked a slapshot off Erik Gudbranson’s skate. It was depressing. But Edler waved to a little kid while in the penalty box and that was adorable, so we'll call it a wash.
- The Coyotes started with a 5-on-3, but the trio of Horvat, Ben Hutton and Chris Tanev did a commendable job of controlling their chances to kill both penalties. Expect to see that trio on the PK again, all three are mobile and move the puck well.
- Seconds after Alex Edler stepped out of the box following his third penalty of the game, Niklas Hjalmarsson fired a half-slapshot off a Brad Richardson screen and over Jacob Markstrom for a 3-0 lead. That made 11 goals against since Vancouver’s last tally. Is that good? Well, it depends. Is it pragmatically good? No. But is it Good in a capitalize-the-G, virtuous, philosophical sense, like according to Aristotle, or Spinoza? Also no.
- Darren Archibald had one of the few bright spots of the 2nd period with a late penalty kill breakaway. The big winger isn't exactly quick but he managed to skate right up into Kuemper’s kitchen before the goalie poke-checked the puck away.
- Moments later Jake Virtanen had another break which created a juicy rebound. Apart from that, very little happened offensively for Vancouver. When your best opportunities come on a penalty kill, it's a tad worrying. Maybe Vancouver should change the season slogan from "we are relentless" to "don't panic", preferably in large, friendly letters.
- Growing tired of his burden at defence, Alex Edler decided to give goaltending a try, making a sweet glove save off an Arizona shot. It was amusing, and also somehow not a hand pass.
- After approximately 150 minutes without a goal, Vancouver and Kelowna both breathed a sigh of relief as Nikolay Goldobin finally cracked the egg. Pettersson fed a racing Brock Boeser, who skated deep, drawing defenders before feeding a streaking Goldobin. Goldy had acres of ice and made quick work. Please note: Elias “too skinny for the NHL” Pettersson crashed the net and created room for the goal. Can we put that storyline to rest now?
- The Goldobin marker brought energy back into the arena for the final minutes. However, with Markstrom pulled, Nick Cousins fed former Canuck Michael Grabner for an empty net goal to seal the game at 4-1.
- Fancy Stickwork: Elias Pettersson is known as “Alien” to teammates. But instead of face-huggers and chest-bursters he’s infecting his teammates with the desire to pull slick moves, and I’m here for it.
Bo Horvat and Nikolay Goldobin showcased some serious puck skills; Goldobin with a fancy between-the-legs shot, several breakaways, and a goal, and Horvat with several chances, including a penalty-drawing deke at top speed.
- Goldobin has a reputation for showing both skill and sloth. Against Arizona, he was mostly great. He was one of the few forwards pushing the pace of play, creating room for his linemates and willing to go to the middle ice to spark scoring.
Goldobin is considered a bubble player, but after his strong push tonight I don’t see how the Canucks brass sends him down. It’ll be increasingly hard for Vancouver to deny that kind of skill and speed on a team starved for it, defensive gaffes notwithstanding.
- Pettersson: One thing's clear: Elias Pettersson is an NHL player. He had a handful of dangerous chances and looked excellent alongside Brock Boeser. What he truly lacks is other Petterssons. A third period, Henrik-like cross-crease pass would've led to a highlight reel goal, had anyone been there.
- Boeser: Brock’s inability to score has started to become a mini-storyline. Perhaps it’s the pressure of sophomore season expectations, or maybe there's increased exposure now that the Sedin twins have retired. In either case, Boeser just hasn’t seemed able to get into position to showcase his impressive shot. Still, we got a beautiful look at what could be Vancouver’s first unit power play during the season. With two players that can score from either side (Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson), that pairing could be delightful.