As we waited for this one to start, there was a tremendous amount of invective for a preseason game. Hordichuk running his mouth again ( its going to be a theme with him this year ), Terry Jones whining about the lineup not being "NHL" enough. That it would not be a fair assessment of the inevitable win that was coming their way.
What ended up happening tonight is that the Canucks might have took the talk as a bit of a slap in the face. Breaking it down into periods, there is no doubt that the Canucks owned the 1st period tonight. 13 to 6 in shots, and most of those on pressure, while the Oiler chances, except for an early flurry, seemed to be on turnovers and a couple rushes.
It was nice to see the hallmarks of Canuck hockey, speed and pressure, coming from PTO guys and prospects against the supposed vaunted Oiler kids. Every line had their moments. Cody Hodgson looked good again. Making passes, taking the shot when it was there, and playing a 200' game. Roussell seemed to show his speed and hitting every shift. Schroeder and MANcari's line kicking some ass. Ebbett making Oreskovich look pretty damn good, and Wrecker using his body, like most every one on the team.
They finished checks, and it had a bearing on the game. The fight card may have started as guys just wanting to show that they would do it, like Hordichuk and Fedoruk in bout #2. Volpatti pretty well owning the much bigger Peckham after he responded to a big clean hit with a crosscheck. Pinizzotto showing well against the bigger Plante. Three fights in 10 minutes, you knew it was going to happen from the talk, but it was just as apparent that it was the Canuck team that was imposing their will physically.
It led to power play time, as Hall tripped Hodgson. That led to another call for Gilbert high sticking Nolan, and we had a 2 man power play. It was as good as can be expected for a preseason power play, and Mancari ( having a great period, hell, game! ) made a slick pass in front to Greybeard, who showed his hands in close and buried it.
It was more Canuck pressure on every line. Roussel's line. Ebbett's line, and Schroeder's line with the MANchild himself were showing just as much as the Cody Hodgson line seemed to be doing every shift. The Canucks were just working hard, outskating the supposed Cup Champs of 2015, and out hitting them as well.
So, the refs decided to get involved, I guess. Or maybe they were just bored, it is just preseason. Some calls started to get into the fiction category. I thought Sulzer contained Paarvji (sp?!) well, and I definitely saw the Oiler kid grab the stick, but Sulzer went to the sin bin.
Eddy Lack just smiled and said a couple mantras, and then stoned Smyth on one of his 10 out of 10 saves, and maybe his best. The guy gives a goalie fan like me the happy face every time I see him. No matter he is always smiling.
What followed was something I am still puzzled about, but whatever, its preseason for the refs too. Somehow, when Taylor Hall whining about a perfectly clean hit from Duco, where there was no arm up at all for, and where it looked to all like Taylor wanted to talk tough anyhow... resulted first Smythe and then Peckham jumping Duco. With Duco tackled to the ice, the refs all huddled, and decided that Duco needed a double minor, we can ignore the jumping in from Peckham that usually results in a game and give him a ten, and because Ryan is such a nice guy ( Captain Canada!), lets give him a 2 minute penalty. Quite the interpretation to give the Oil a 2 man advantage to play with.
They did, and had a couple chances. Lack stood tall, Eberle missed, and the period ended.
The second? Well, Cody Hodgson was trusted enough by his coach to get out there 2 men down, and together with Ericcson making some nice plays, they killed it off fairly easily. Pinizzotto then let Hordichuk know that he was not going to just be the bully, laying him out at center with a great hit. MANcari kept skating and hitting, and also showed his hands by being strong on the puck, making plays and getting noticed. CoHo was doing the same, more subtly. Guys like Schroeder, Volpatti, Duco, Roussel were all hustling.
It seemed like the Oilers kids were getting more chances, but seemed to be squeezing the sticks. Hall had a great chance but hit the post. ( Corrado and his partner needed to talk more there )
Each time they were out, it was Cody doing his job and showing flashes, and then Schroeder doing the same. The pressure that the Canuck prospects and vets brought all night caused many mistakes and turnovers in the Oiler end. The Canucks were guilty of the same thing, but definitely not as bad. A power play for the Canucks on a House penalty drawn by Corrado showed that we are talking preseason, as, apart from the 1st period goal, it was fairly inept, though I liked Nolan's play along the boards. Antoine Roussel took a penalty and the Canuck PK ( the better by far of the special teams tonight ) went to work, with Volpatti shining on this one.
Paarvaji (sp ;-) had a couple chances with his speed and hard work, and may have been the best of the Oil tonight, but he missed a couple set up passes at least tonight for great chances. The line of Pinizzoto, Roussel and Duco were the defacto checking line tonight, and honestly, Coach Tommy should show their shifts tot he Oiler kids so they can learn about hard work being better than "skill" sometimes.
Speaking of "skill", I actually saw Mancari try a "Sedin Dump" high in the air, and Schroeder almost got it in the defender's skates. Legace made some big saves when he had to as well, like one on Hall. The Oilers definitely had a better period in the second, but it was the Canucks and their grit, will, and a little skill that were winning battles.
So, it was funny when the referees got involved again. This time, Hordichuk made a clean hit on Baumgartner, and Fedoruk went over to get in his face a little. He backed off almost as fast as the linesman got there, and both looked a little shocked when the referee decided to use the "unsportmanlike conduct" rule in a more traditional manner than he had earlier, sending Todd Fedoruk off for his menacing on the Oiler
douche, slug,mouthpiece, enforcer, and the Oilers young guns had another chance to do something on the power play late in the second.
It did not start out too well for them then, when Duco, after battling along the boards and getting a stick in the yap that was not called, hunted the puck, chipped the defender, rushed down and got off a great shot on Denis that was saved, before hanging in and sweeping home the rebound for a simply awesome shorty that was all work.
The Oilers, on the ensuing rush up ice, will point to the RNH pass that Eberle took and made a move on Legace to score the prettiest goal of the night, as something to hang their hats on. But honestly, I thought CoHo outplayed the young first pick overall tonight, and while he did show some flashes, it was the '09 1st rounder that was a dominant center tonight.
About the only time I saw something that troubled me a little on Mancari tonight was when he was casual as hell in his own end under pressure, having a couple chances to clear and not doing it during a third period that was the home team's best. It does not excuse the fact that Hordichuk is just a goon though, as he took about the dumbest real penalty of the night, sticking Fedoruk in the stomach coming off the bench to get a fight going. This time, in the 4th bout of the night, Fedoruk avenged his earlier loss with a fight that may have been a draw, or even a win on the cards of the judges. ( did get a bloody nose though )
It gave the Canucks a power play that was, again, pretty average without any real cohesion. To be expected I guesss. You can see that both Hodgson and Schroeder, as well as Ebbett, think the game well, but really, it was pretty scrambley and passes did not get to their intended spot much. Meh, Preseason power plays are the least of our concerns.
Nolan and CoHo made a couple plays that resulted in chances in the third, and Nolan had a rush where he really should have shot, but the "best players" for the Nucks played like it. The hit count was a bit debateable, as I thought our guys finished checks solidly all night, but the ESPN guys said the Oilers 22 to 15. We won the shot count 27 to 22. AV called it a "hard" game tonight afterwards, and he was not talking about the opponent. They took the talk of the Oilers and shoved it right back.
How They Did - Up Front
Cody Hodgson - Damn. He looks pretty fast, compared to last year. He played another solid two way game. He made many passes that were on the mark to create offense, or end pressure. He won 15 of 24 draws.
Owen Nolan - Faster than he showed the first game. He is never going to be the fastest on a team of burners, but he kept up fine. Scored a nice goal. Made some nice plays. I look forward to seeing him with some roster guys next.
Jordan Schroeder - It seems Schredder wants to make the coaches look his way for some of that time up for grabs. He was all over the ice, his speed and two way game was very noticeable. 2 shots, a block, 3 of 6 draws.
Mark Mancari - the observation of him being casual in his own end was a, mainly, one shift thing. He was solid all over the ice. Saw some point time on the power play, taking advantage of that big shot. An assist, 2 shots, won 2 of 3 draws. A MANchild amongst boys.
Mike Duco - Dude had himself a game. Played physical all night. His goal was all will and more than a little skill. Taylor Hall thought he was a big meanie, which works for me.
Steve Pinizzotto - After showing his hands last game, he showed the other side of his game tonight. Still made some plays, but man, stood in well against a much bigger guy in his fight, as well as being a solid checker tonight.
Todd Fedoruk - Had a couple great chances, and you have to give it to him for not letting Hordichuk do the goon thing. Might not make this team, but showed his stuff well.
Aaron Volpatti - Handled Theo Peckham well. Showed his speed all night. Blocked 2 shots, adn was a beast on the penalty kill as well.
Victor Oreskovich - He is feeling the heat from the other guys gunning for his spot from last year. Had 3 shots, but not the greatest game. He did have a few good moments, but the other 3rd and 4th line potentials may be breathing down his neck.
Antoine Roussel - Sign this kid GMMG. The guy has fantastic speed, he plays physical, and definitely can play the 200' game. Had a PIM, but I thought his line, Duco and Pinizzotto, were wonderful as a checking line, frustrating the supposed NHLers that were going to walk away with it easy...
On the Back End
Frank Corrado - Our 5th rounder form the last draft got high praise from his coach tonight. He played over 21 minutes, was a +1, had a shot on goal, a hit, 2 blocks, and looked to think the game very well. 3:30 ish PK time to lead his team.
Nolan Baumgartner - The probable captain of the Wolves had a solid game as well. Over 22 minutes, I think it was a team high. Solid on the PK. 3 blocks, 2 hits, and a shot on goal.
Ryan Parent - I was surprised that Patterson called him a guy without a "hope" of making the team on the post game, but we do have a solid defense core. He was angling off guys like a champ all night. Had a couple hits, and was second only to Corrado with 2:47 on the PK.
Anders Eriksson - of his 16 ish minutes, almost 3 (2:39 ) was on the PK. He had a couple blocks, a hit, and a shot, in addition to making some solid veteran plays. Again. We are so deep back there, but maybe he can still play after all.
Andrew Ebbett - Showed his speed, and some good hockey sense. So many good young centres to choose from...
In the Crease
Eddie Lack - Damn. He looks like the example goalie for a Rollie Melanson training video. Dude is as cool as a cucumber, as happy as a clam, and as skilled as a surgeon. 10 shots, 10 saves. Many smiles and making a name for himself.
For me, I thoroughly enjoyed this one, because it showed the mouthpieces in the Edmonton puck media that they should not question the heart of any hockey player and not expect a response. The arrogance of the question that without any "stars" we were going to crumble annoyed me, and obviously annoyed the entire visitors locker room. Guys were dropping in front of shots and finishing checks all night.
Yet Renney tries to give an excuse to his young guys that it was just thuggery in his post game comments, saying that "it might be easier to play against the "real" Canucks, as they are more organized, and this was more a free for all..."
Um, no Tommy. Whomever is in the lineup is going to play hard against you guys. You hired a couple guys that talk about roughing up our stars, and how you are going to be too tough to play against. Well then, show it. You got beat by a better team tonight, not just a team of thugs that are "hard to play against". ) Last time I checked, that is part of the game too. Playing hard and physical against you is yet one of the ways this talented, yet immature team of Oilers is going to lose this season.