I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I was really looking forward to Monday night’s preseason game. I know, I know. Exhibition games aren’t something one generally looks forward to (unless you have tickets and they were cheap), what with their absence of things like meaning, effort, or good hockey players. But after the shenanigans that spilled out of Saturday’s game versus the Oilers and filled the last two days with bickering and suspensions — after 48 hours of hearing from Edmonton fans with nauseating regularity — I was glad to see the puck drop on a new game.
As it turns out, my optimism was warranted. For the first time this preseason, the Canucks showed up, scoring six goals, and looking like a team that, at the very least, can beat up on a mixed roster of Phoenix Coyotes and non-NHLers wearing Phoenix Coyotes uniforms. And I watched this game.
Canucks 6 – 1 Coyotes
- Yesterday in my travels, I came across a tweet from a Canucks fan asking if anyone else was as concerned as he was that the Canucks had lost the last 9 games, including the preseason, the playoffs, and the end of last year’s regular season. This struck me as insanely, hilariously disingenuous, since the circumstances surrounding all these losses are so completely different. That said, as nice as it was for me to watch the Canucks finally win a preseason game, I sort of envied this guy’s relief, since it must have been more severe.
- Despite Zack Kassian’s suspension, John Tortorella resisted the urge to put Alex Burrows back on the top line, instead keeping his planned trio of Burrows, Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins intact and sending Jannik Hansen to the Sedins’ wing instead. The choice paid off 16:29 into the first, when the Kesler line connected on a goal off a faceoff. All three forwards played a role, with Kesler winning the draw, and Burrows tying up his man to allow Higgins to be the first one on the puck. Higgins chopped the loose puck past Thomas Greiss with a chop that would make Axecop (or even Phil Kessel) proud.
- Two minutes and four seconds later, Jannik Hansen doubled the lead on a powerplay, diving to be the first one to a Kevin Bieksa rebound and tucking it in. It was the most aggressive tuck-in since Samuel L. Jackson read Go the F*** to Sleep.
- It’s weird watching the Canucks scramble around in their own end right now, because it’s clear they’re in the process of trying to unlearn the old man-to-man coverage system Alain Vigneault preferred and adapt to John Tortorella’s zone system. Thank goodness there’s a week of practice time before the season begins, because they’re pretty clearly not there yet.
- Part of me wonders if it was system confusion that led to the Coyotes’ lone goal, but another part of me thinks it might just have been Andrew Alberts getting way, way out of position. They both seem so plausible. Most of the Canucks had a strong night tonight, but I thought Alberts was the least of the bunch. Granted, he may have just stood out because he’s so big. He’s basically the Polkaroo on skates.
- On the other end of the docket, Yannik Weber, basically the President’s Choice brand of Webers, had a very strong game, with a goal, an assist, and 3 shots on goal. A word on Weber’s goal: it was a nice blast, but I was far more enamoured with the way Burrows and Higgins set him up for it, with Burrows making a sweet feed after Higgins charged to the side of the net and basically plowed the defender out of the passing lane. Either that or he was just going for an aggressive hug. They call him Kiss Huggins for a reason, after all.
- Jason Garrison scored on a slapshot tonight too, which is the sort of thing that will happen from time to time when you take a billion shots per game. (He took 8 tonight, 4 of which hit the net, the other 4 of which hit unfortunate Coyotes.) The man is a master blaster.
- Bo Horvat had a pretty excellent game. He won 8 of 10 faceoffs, and in just 12:56 of icetime, he registered two assists. This is especially incredible when you consider that his second assist on the night came by setting up Tom Sestito for a goal. Tom Sestito. That’s practically a miracle. Do you know how many centres have picked up assists on Tom Sestito goals in his five-year career? Two. Brayden Schenn and Kyle Wilson. Horvat was just as likely to assist on a Tom Sestito goal as he was to ride a flying space horse to Mercury.
- Sestito scored by accident too. It was a crisp pass and he bungled it. The puck jumped at him, and when he swatted at it in desperation, trying to take proper possession of it, it trickled between Thomas Greiss’s legs. But when he tells it to his friends, it’ll be a Mike Legg-esque lacrosse shot.
- I’d feel bad, picking on Sestito on the night he scored a rare goal, but John Tortorella chose tonight of all nights to call out his subpar fitness. One gets the sense scoring that goal only served to draw attention to how lousy he is, which is, on its own, sort of a testament to the same thing.
- Horvat’s other assist came courtesy a much likelier goal-scorer: Mike Santorelli, who scored in his second straight preseason game and looked fabulous all night. Seriously, fabulous. He was wearing a handmade alpaca wool scarf and it really tied his outfit together.
, I Watched This Game