In the third game of their preseason schedule, the Canucks iced a lineup with little to no resemblance to their actual NHL team. How bad was it? Consider that Victor Oreskovich registered more points in a Canucks’ uniform last season than anyone else Vancouver dressed; he had three assists in 2010-11.
And then consider that the Canucks were still the best team on the ice tonight, which says something about the entertainment value of this game, and should also say something about the Edmonton Oilers, who dressed something akin to their opening night lineup. Still, Edmonton shouldn’t be worried — they’ll never have to face this team again, unless they’re relegated to the AHL (which they might be, because they’re terrible). I watched this game:
The operations staff in Edmonton didn’t get all the lights on until the first stoppage in play, a minute into the game. How does that happen? Look, I understand that these preseason games are all about pocketing a little extra coin for the owners, but between saving money on an extra minute of power and Daryl Katz busking out in the concourse, things may have gone too far.
What happens when you dress a lineup comprised primarily of dudes that fight? You get a lot of fights. In the first period alone, we had Todd Fedoruk taking on Darcy Hordichuk, Alex Plante dancing with Steven Pinizzotto, and Theo Peckham and Aaron Volpatti trading blows. Meanwhile, the puck just sat in the corner and sighed.
A lot’s been written about Cody Hodgson early this preseason, most of it stupid, but if Alain Vigneault is intentionally trying to keep him from succeeding in any meaningful way, it isn’t working. For the second game in a row, Hodgson was one of the best Canuck forwards. He had the puck on his stick for much of the night. On one early standout shift, he stickhandled out of his own corner so suddenly that Taylor Hall tripped him trying to keep up. At this, Alain Vigneault, who hates Hodgson with a fiery passion, threw his hat on the ground and jumped on it like Diddy Kong.
What’s more, for a guy trying to smother his dreams, Alain Vigneault used Hodgson quite a bit. Hodgson had 24 shifts, game-high among forwards on either team, and he took took 24 of the Canucks’ 49 faceoffs on the night, winning 14 of them. Andrew Ebbett, his primary competition for that second line centre spot to start the season, saw similar minutes, but only took 10 draws. That said, it’s obvious that Vigneault’s increased deployment of Hodgson, especially on faceoffs, was just an attempt to reaggravate his back injury.
Hodgson will get his chance with skill guys. People keep accusing Vigneault of playing him with duds to see that he fails, but part of me suspects that Vigneault is getting Hodgson into these early games to ensure he’s up to speed when he gets his chance with higher-calibre players. In short, from where I’m sitting, Vigneault’s setting him up to succeed..
Jordan Schroeder continues to look much improved. He’s a lot shiftier and faster than I remember. Like Hodgson, his chance with more skilful NHL forwards will come, and he looks ready for it. He also looks ready for a growth spurt. He’s teeny-weeny.
Owen Nolan had a strong game as well. He doesn’t have wheels (maybe because he was born before they were invented), but his ability to create turnovers on the forecheck and his nose for the net are clearly still there. He finished the game’s prettiest passing play, too, tapping in a nice, one-touch feed from Mark Mancari at the end of a 5-on-3.
Speaking of Mark Mancari, he showed some skill again tonight, but for a big guy, he seems strangely docile. I doubt he earns a spot in the top six, so it stands to reason that he’ll have to show a little more physicality if he wants to make the bottom six. Like Mattie Ross, Alain Vigneault is looking for a man with true grit.
Mike Duco stood out tonight, not only for scoring the game-winner when he banged home his own rebound on a shorthanded 2-on-1, but for being an effective pest throughout. His best sequence came when he got into it with Taylor Hall, necessitating a blustery response from Ryan Smyth, which necessitated a blustery response from Theo Peckham. Duco picked up a double minor on the play, presumably for necessitating two blustery responses. He was getting so much negative attention during that shift, I wondered if he was going to delete his Twitter account again.
I didn’t like Aaron Volpatti’s game tonight. Granted, he had three hits, but he lost the puck quite a bit and he seemed a step behind the play most of the evening. At the AHL level, Volpatti is an effective grit and energy guy, but he isn’t as effective when the pace picks up. Unless he can improve his footspeed, he likely won’t get regular work in the NHL. On the plus side, playing in the AHL means plenty of trips to Abbotsford, and they have one Hell of an airshow.
I’ve been intrigued by Frankie Corrado’s deployment since the Young Stars tournament. He’s a 5th round draft pick, but clearly, the Canucks think he was a steal, and they’re exceedingly high on him. He was given over 20 minutes of icetime tonight, including 7:11 of special teams time. He needs to get a lot stronger, but you can see flashes of the effective, puck-moving blueliner he could become down the road.
Steven Pinizzotto looked good again tonight. I especially liked his work defensively. It’s early, but I’d say he’s an early frontrunner for one of those fourth line spots out of camp. Right now, I like Pinizotto and Nolan. I’m pulling for the fourth line to get all-new wings, like Clarence Odbody in It’s a Wonderful Life.
Eddie Lack, who has yet to surrender a goal this preseason, played fabulously. He takes away so much net it’s ridiculous, and I especially like the way he drops down to cover the bottom half of the net while clearing his own crease with his blocker hand. It’s basically the same thing my cat does with the heat register.
I wasn’t paying attention when Lack and Manny Legace traded places. The height discrepancy was so glaring, I thought the aspect ratio on my TV had changed.
Were Darcy Hordichuk and Todd Fedoruk aware there was a hockey game going on? They seemed distracted by one another. Their second fight was hilarious, wonderful and sad, especially when Hordichuk’s jersey came half-off, then he charged at Fedoruk with his sleeves dangling and Fedoruk swung at him while diving out of the way. Ladies and gentlemen: enforcers.
And finally, Ryan Parent isn’t going to make this team, especially when I still haven’t gotten a handle on exactly what it is he does. At times, I think he plays defense, but it was clear after Jordan Eberle’s goal — where he voluntarily stepped into the no-man’s land between Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins — that he sort of doesn’t.
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