As the various puck media debate how the Canucks have went about their preseason lineups, we got another chance to see how our young guns are doing against an "NHL ready" lineup. This time it is the Ducks though, with one of the better lines in the league in Getzlaf, Ryan and Perry. Include in that the entire 2nd line from last year. Most of their blue line from last year. And of course Jonas Hiller.
Once again, somehow, the Western Conference Champs would have to survive somehow with a top line that was Hodgson, Sturm and AV's new fave Niklas Jensen. Schroeder, Ebbett, and Lapierre as the other centres, guys like Duco, Dmitrakos, Billy Sweatt and Victor Oreskovich. A blue line that has Ballard, Alberts and Tanev as the "vets", and Sulzer, Conautton and Ryan Parent as the young guns.
But we have the old warrior Todd Fedoruk, and of course, the MANchild himself, Mark Mancari. With Cory Schneider in the nets, who knows? It probably won't be enough ( it was not ), but its Canuck hockey, and at least we can all agree that the Ducks play like A'holes!
The Ducks lineup had to be "loaded for bear" tonight. Their last two preseason games, they were outscore 11-2 ( 5-1 and 6-1 ) Carlyle was yelling and getting on guys like it was the regular season already. So we knew they would come out strong.
They did. While the first shifts for both teams showed some speed, it was the Ducks, with new signing Andrew Cogliano forcing a huge save, and Vishnovsky hitting the post right after. "The Franchise" must have wanted to get his team going watching that, as he came out with a dominant shift that showed all the things that you want to see from our #10 pick from the '09 draft. Strength on the puck cutting to the net. Using strength and puck sense along the boards to beat checkers twice, drawing a penalty and setting up guys for solid looks.
The same on the power play. Mount MANcari, in a preseason regular spot on the point on the man advantage, forced a huge save, and Hodgson an even better one with a smart play on the puck ( knocking it out of the air and settling it on his stick) before forcing a huge save from Hiller. Another example of the preseason being for the refs too happened next, when Beauchemin shoved Sturm into the goalie to somehow get a goalie interference call.
You knew that the blue line might be where the Canucks struggled tonight, and Parent might have been the most obvious of those that struggled back there. He started out OK, making a solid play on Koivu on a 2 on 1, and I guess that not knowing who you're playing with might have something to do with the mistakes back there. For instance, Alberts went back to reset towards the end of the 4 on 4 ( he really should have just iced it ). It led to a bunch of pressure, until Hodgson broke the pressure and cleared.
Overall, the Canucks had an OK start. They seemed to have the most trouble against the Getzlaf line though. Getz' made a couple great moves on CoHo, before Parent recovered for him, but it was indicative of the pressure from the more NHL team. Cory Schneider made a couple nice saves, in particular one on Andrew Gordon where he prevented a rebound with many in front.
Everyone was showing flashes though, as they try to impress. Kevin Conautton showed the skill and speed that made him the Giants top scoring blue liner ever, on a solid rush where he went through almost everyone. Todd Fedoruk ( having maybe his best game of the preseason ) had a chance on the rebound.
But the Getzlaf line was out to show those two previous losses were not what they are about either. After Schneider made a huge save on Vishnovsky, he simply robbed Ryan on an in the slot chance for one of his best saves of the night.
The Cody Hodgson line went to work and drew another penalty, this one on Beauchemin on Sturm. But the power play of the Canucks is pretty disjointed with none of the folks that made it the #1 by far PP last season. The best chance was one in which Cody Godson showed some good hands, catching the puck, setting himself up, and forcing one oh Hiller's best saves.
The scoring started with a nice piece of skill, beating our hapless German blueliner at the line and then having his shot maybe go off Blake ( Saku got credit ) past Ginja Ninja. The canucks kept coming at least, with Jensen showing good work to break up a two on one, and Schroeder showing his speed, beating Brookbank and then almost getting Dmitrakos his first tally. Bill Sweatt did the same to set up Oreskovich with a solid chance. The Canucks were definitely in it in the first, with CoHo showing some of his newfound Gary Roberts strength on a late shift, knocking down two guys, to end a fairly entertaining period.
The second started much the same. Mancar and Lapierre had some solid work result in a chance, before Ebbett and Oreskovich ( feeling the heat, had maybe his best game of the preseason ) had two more. You then got a little taste of the "whine" we will be forced to drink on Saturday nights, when Greg Millen tried to say an absolutely perfect open ice hip check by Ballard on Smith-Pelley was a "little low". Maybe to you munchkin, everything is low. The game's rough edge continued, as Albert obviously thinks that Blake might have tried sleeping with his wife or something, as he belted him hard twice on the same shift.
Todd Fedoruk almost cashed in on a rush with Schredder by going hard to the net., Lapierre, with Duco and Mancari, had a couple solid shifts against the Getzlaf line. Albert almost scored on a nice steal at the blue line, before Sturm and Ebbett almost connected. ( notice how many times I am using the word "almost"!?) The shift continued with Cody's line dominating Getz' line for an entire shift in its own end.
Kevin Conautton made a wonderful rush, and a pinch later, that showed his offensive instincts. Mancari woirked well behind his net, and their work almost gave Lapierre a goal. Jordan Schroeder was doing OK with Dmitrakos and Fedoruk as his wingers, but then made a mistake at the other end, giving Cam Fowler too much room. he beat Schneider with a nice shot, and it was 2-0.
You have to give it to Mike Duco. he finishes EVERY check. That was getting under the skin of the whiners from Anaheim ( more on that in a minute ), but I love it. Maybe the Ducks thought with all their stars on the ice, the Canuck youngsters would be in awe or something. It was him and the entire Lapierre line that used that hard work to draw another penalty.
Unfortunately, the power play looked like, well, crap tonight. Its to be expected, I guess, and I for one am not that worried, but perhaps the Ducks decided that with such an inept PP, they could get away with more. At least we get to see Mancari on the point. He did have a couple problems back there, getting checked off the puck and shooting it into shinpads just a bit too much for me. ( sorry Stanchion. Its hard to critique him, I know...)
Todd Fedoruk, with Lapierre and Oreskovich, almost got his centre one with a nice pass, and while the Ducks were pressing far more now, and starting to exert their will on the game, it took a Dmitrakos delay of game penalty ( knocking a puck out of the air, hate that rule!) The PK started out well, with Tanev making a nice play in close on Selanne, but on an ensuiing faceoff, the top line for the Ducks showed their skill. Getzlaf beat CoHo on the draw, took a nice pass down low, and fed a perfect pass to Perry for a tap in to make it 3-0. Personally, I thought Millen was on drugs when he said that Parent could not do much there. He did not even try to tie the stick up, or move him physically. Not to say it was not a nice play, it was. But Parent has to do better there.
He then exacerbated his woes by making an ill advised pinch, leaving Ballard with little chance to do much to help Cory Schneider. Andrew Gordon made a great shot, but that one was on Parent. It was a late goal that made it 4-0, and probably sealed Ryan Parent's fate ( which was almost a given ) of starting in Chicago.
Hodgson made a nice rush off of the next draw, and had a chance, but it has to be said, against Getzlaf and Koivu, he was schooled tonight ( only 8 of 22 tonight ) The second period was mostly Ducks, for sure, and the score reflected that. There was no quit in the youngsters.
That was apparent at the start of the third too. Perry had a solid chance, beating Sulzer like a German drum, but then Oreskovich put a definite stamp on the game, almost running over Smaby, and then handling the inevitable fight well, especially with a quick short right to the button on the defenseman for the Ducks. The officials must have been getting a little tired of the hijinks, as the hit was clean, and they gave Smaby the extra two minutes.
The PP was a little better, and MANchild actually got his howitzer on net, forcing a Desjardins save ( in to start the 3rd ) and getting another chance late. The Ducks were sitting back quite a bit, absorbing the pressure.
Which led us to the start of the "troubles" this evening. Mancari and Duco both crashed the net again on a chance, and while the argument could be made that the goalie interference penalty that followed was the result of another push in, the Ducks obviously felt it was running the goalie ( I did not ). Getzlaf took it upon himself to fight a guy that he was about 5 inches taller than, and many pounds heavier. Duco was game, and held his own before linesman jumped in. It gave the home team the chance to kill another penalty, and they did. There was not even a big chance on this one.
George Parros then showed Mike Duco exactly what running the goalie is all about, doing an impression of a linebacker on our goaltender to get a goaltender interference penalty that there could be no question of. ( listening to the post game on TEAM, and really, STFU Patterson. Fedoruk was one foot in the bench when it happened. Of course you want a response. But this team did not back down all night. Bitch about something worthy of bitching Jeff!) It was probably expected when its the preseason, and our PP was 0 for 4, and had only 4 shots in all that time. Mancari got more point time, and perhaps learned that guys get on you quicker in this league, getting it into the pads instead of on net.
Jordan Schroeder made a good pass on this PP though, and Kevin Conautton made a great wrist shot that went in cleanly to give the Canucks a goal that was not that big of a deal as far as scores go ( preseason, remember?), but probably meant a lot more to the kid!
Bill Sweatt had a chance to close the score more right away, but his chance went wanting when the puck jumped his stick. It looked like the Canucks were going to compete hard to the end though, when the part of the game that Brendan Shanahan will be most interested in occurred.
Mike Duco was just tipping a pass into the zone. Thats it. Evidently though, the Ducks had something in mind that had nothing to do with hockey, as JF Jacques literally jumped him, throwing punches to a guy on the ice. Duco said afterwards that "if they are gong to be stupid...we got 7 minutes in power play time there", so he knows that he is getting under the skin.
But really, Slapshot was on TV just a couple days ago. Saw it thanks. Same to you, Parros, Blake, and especially Getzlaf for all the yapping afterwards. Telling Duco he has "no class" after that episode is definitely pot calling kettle black.
The PP that followed to end the game did not result in another goal, but it did show better, and Jensen had the best chance, before time ran down to end it.
Cody Hodgson - was good once again, but not AS good. Had some strong shifts on the puck though, and worked hard in both ends all night. 8 for 22 on the faceoffs was a little troubling, but he was facing saome actuall good faceoff men in Getzlaf and Koivu tonight. 3 shots on, 2 just wide, and 2 blocks.
Todd Fedoruk - yeah, I know. I can hear the "what?" from here. But he had a solid game. Hard to the net, hard in the corners, adn showing more footspeed. He was a -2 in only 10 minutes, and was not credited with a shot either ( did have two hits )
Max Lapierre - thats the Mad Max we know and love. Well, the preseason version! Only won 3 of 10 draws, but had 6 shots directed at net ( 2 on ), 3 hits, 1 takeaway, and was a general pain in the ass all night.
Victor Oreskovich - the other member of that line, he had a strong game for someone trying to make the fourth line. Had a chance he really should have buried early, ( 2 shots on net, 3 total ) 2 hits, 2 blocks, and a fight.
Niko Dmitrakos - Zorba had an interesting game. He was involved all over the ice, but was a -2 at the end. An assist on the only goal, 3 shots, led all forwards with 4 hits, won 1 of 2 draws, and generally had a very full 13:58 TOI.
Other forwards to catch the eye - Mike Duco of course. Jordan Schroeder, who had an assist, and played fairly responsibly. Bill Sweatt and Mark Mancari had some moments. Coach's pet Jensen had some moments, and used his size well ( he was out on a line against the #1 line of the Ducks a lot ) Marco Sturm showed his smarts at times, and Andrew Ebbett had a good game ( he was great in the circle, going 5 of 7 ).
Andrew Alberts - his size was used all over the ice tonight. He was the one of two of the defenseman to escape without a minus. 4 hits. 1 shot on, a great chance wide ( stepping up smartly at the line ), and, all things considered, a pretty solid game.
Keith Ballard - good and bad. You could see he needs a guy he knows a bit to think along with him, and that was sometimes lacking with the youthful partner. He saw a ton of time on the PP at 6:41, but lets not hold that against him!
Kevin Connauton - you can see the skill. Sure, he had some tough times in his own end. he also rushes the puck like a champ. makes a great first pass, and that goal was a skill guy's tally. Probably starts in the Windy City, but I like his progress, and thought he had a good game overall.
Chris Tanev - the other to finish an even on the blue line, Iceman looked more veteran than rookie out there. Had two shots, showed his usual poise in his own end, and was even directing traffic on the power play late ( he had 4:51 PP tonight )
Parent and Sulzer will make solid AHL defenders, but showed they still have some warts tonight. Of the two, Parent had more positive moments, but neither one is making our stacked blue line.
Ginja Ninja - tough game for a goalie. He had some goals go in that you know he wants another shot at, but mostly it was a case of "no chance on that one". 4 goals on 23 shots is not up to his usual standards though.
So, another preseason game in the books. This one was entertaining, I guess, but I am making a vow right now. I will be a little behind the times on CBC games this season in game threads, because I will be syncing it up with Shorty, or Baller, or ANYONE but that sap Mark Lee. The rest of the broadcast was the usual "my tax dollars actually pay this guy's salary?", but Lee is a special kind of suck. Sorry sir, I am sure you love your family, give to charity, and always give up your seat to the elderly on the train or bus. But you suck at calling hockey games.