Once again, the Canucks hit the ice, on the long journey back to one more win. After a President's trophy season, hitting heights ( not since 78 has a team been #1 in GF and GA, not since 81 has a team been #1 in PP and PK , which we just missed by a couple penalty kills! ) that have not been attained in a long time by any team.
So, we know we have a great team. But this is a new year, and everyone starts at zero again. The new guys want the old guys jobs.
One thing. Don't sweat the scores, good or bad. Especially with the split squad games. The Flames obviously wanted a win at home tonight, that lineup is almost their NHL one. After the break, let's see who was good, and who was not so good, and what's what with the home and away double header.
In Calgary - At home, you ALWAYS coach to WIN.
You kind of had to give it to Bones and his team. He was not dealt the best of hands, as the Flames dressed almost all their veterans for the home game. That, and lets be honest, a penalty fest, kind of prevented us from getting a fair read. But whatever. It made for an interesting night. The Flames were the better team in their home preseason opener. For whatever that is worth.
The first goal against our lads was a bit of a cheapie, as it looked like icing should have been called. Niemetz took advantage and beat Legace 5 hole for the first goal. He followed it up with a fabulous save on Bourque on the next chance though. But it was a harbinger of things to come.
The Canucks penalty kill got a bunch of work tonight, both home and away, and Begin showed his worth there, making a nice block after his stick broke. Cody Hodgson, maybe the best forward in this game for the Vancouver team, followed the PK with a smart shot that almost got by Kipper.
Bourque got his goal on a Canuck power play, off of a nice pass by Kipper to Tanguay ( the Flames best tonight ), who gave Bourque an empty net to fill, on a goal Legace had no chance on.
Anders Ericcson did not have the best game, and took his second penalty on a hold in his own end. But Legace and the PKers stood tall to deny another.
Hodgson again made a great play, winning a faceoff, and coming from behind the net and forcing one of Kipper's best saves. The Canucks ended the period with a Tanguay goal in which he had all day, and beat Legace's glove. It was kind of obvious which team was playing most of their NHLers, in a dominant period.
The second period was much better for the young visitors. Man Mountain Mancari made a nice play off of a Fedoruk pass, showing great hands in close to beat the poke check and slip it into the open net. The Flames had some chances too, but Legace in the first half was solid, his best on Tanguay to keep the score close. The Canucks were the better team.for a while even! Alberts and Jackman had a bit of a set to, with Jackman taking a cheap shot to the back of his head, and Alberts replying with a short hard shot to the nose that ended that.
Climie went in at the halfway point, and had much less to do, as the visitors pushed back. The Flames got a 4minute power play off of a Corrado high stick, but the PK was solid again. Alberts almost scored jumping up into the play.
Kostopoulous got a goal on a deflection on yet another power play, this one on an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Begin that I missed. Maybe he said a bad word in French, and forgot the ref was bilingual.
The Canucks once again were on the PK, but it was Connauton that almost scored on a nice 3 on 2 rush. Longpre made what looked like a good hit, but it was called a penalty, and the Flames PP got more practice. Hodgson had another SH chance, on a very good PK, and then came back and prevented a goal in front of his own net. After that one was killed off, Longpre again showed his speed. The Canuck kids went to work again, but evidently the ref decided the Canucks needed more PK time, and Sulzer went off for hooking.
That led to a Stempniak goal from the slot, and it was 5-1, as he beat Climie five hole. The Flames got yet another PK on Dimitrakos, and Oreskovich made it worse, dragging down his check and leaving the Flames a 5 on 3 to end the game. ( the 8th straight penalty, and one of 7 in the 3rd..C'MON ref, give us a break! ) Some solid work by Grenier made sure it was not going to result in another goal, and the Flames won 5-1.
Best In Show - Cody Hodgson, Nathan Longpre ( ignore the +/- on him, he showed his potential ) Legace( stopped 19 of 22 shots ). Duco showed his feistiness, Steve Begin showed his game ( hitting and PK ), and Grenier showed some flashes too. Frank Corrado and Sulzer were OK on the blue line(well, relatively, it was a tough game to get a read on with all the penalties,( like Bones said later )especially the blue line, and Anders Ericcson somehow was a +1 on the blue line, even though he took a couple dummy holding calls ( 2nd one was a bit weak though )
All in all though, it was an NHL team against a team of guys trying to get jobs. That ( they were the better team as a result )and the avalanche of penalties made it a Flames victory. Keep em happy at the Saddledome! But let us not get too out of hand. The only guys that finished the season with the Canucks last year were Victor Oreskovich, CoHo, and Andrew Alberts....you know?
In Vancouver - The Kids Are Alright
Again, the Canucks did not have any of the top line vets playing tonight. No Luongo, Sedins, Edler, amongst others. Still, this lineup was more NHL than the Calgary game. We did have our first rounders from '09 and '11 in Schroeder and Jensen. Some solid veterans Lapierre, Ballard and Sturm. Nolan on his tryout. Pinnizotto looking to impress. This was a better lineup for the Canucks, but then again, conversely, the Flames vets were Hagman ( a guy they were looking to dump at one time), J'Bo and Glenncross. Preseason, what are you going to do?
When we got to join this one in progress so Rogers could get in the thrilling conclusion to a baseball game that was ripe for cutting away from, Niklas Hagman was starting on his Sutter Redemption Plan, scoring on the power play brought about by young Clackson (who?) supposedly interfering with someone, or something. It was a nice shot off the rush, but Schneider might have had it if it was the regular season. We'll give him a pass.
Young Mr Clackson then decided to redeem himself in AV's eyes ( the kid had a good game, actually ) by reminding one of Ryp' ( RIP) with a simply awesome fight against Leblond. I mean, the guy is 6'0 and 190. Leblond towered over him. But he hung in, came back, and I would say won the fight in the end. (Or at least made the judges sweat it on the scorecards! ) He just would not give in and clench.
Owen Nolan had the assist on one recap I saw, but not on the Canuck one, where it was only Aaron Rome on a nice shot. Whichever, Marco Sturm showed his mittens with a quick shot on the rebound to tie it up again. Schneids stood in for Adam Polasek on a turnover to prevent a Flames response, and then followed it up with a fantastic save on the penalty kill, with the Czech youngster off for hooking. Ebbetts and Sturm almost connected on a solid chance, and then Pinnizotto almost got one on an open net off a fine Aaron Rome pass ( was one of the best defenseman on the ice Stanchion, so there! ). Volpatti was too much man again, and the PK got a chance to be what they could be, and with some solid play, particularly from the Ballard/Tanev pairing, it turned out to be even better than expected when Marco Sturm made a fantastic pass, Chris Tanev filled the space like a champ, and it was 2-1 on a beautiful shorty.
Ryan Parent got everyone's fave penalty by lifting one into the crowd late, and the Flames would end the period on the power play.
That power play got in early, and the Canuck PKers ( Adam Polasek had a pretty good game, but he was beaten badly on the pass here ), and Backland beat Schneids for the tying goal early in the 2nd. Polasek was then victimized a bit by his one time savior when he was beaten again, but this one was a weak goal for the Jennings backup. Nice shot by Hagman though, over the shoulder. I think Sutter actually smirked a little.
Schroeder then took one of his few misteps when his attempted deflection of the puck became a souvenir, but after a couple half chances, Hagman took a stupid run at Rome up high ( I think Sutter giggled at the attempted thuggery of Nik'), to give us some 4 on 4 action. Nothing much happened there though, and the power play struggled ( nolan fighting the puck a bit on it ). That would spell the end of the night for Cory Schneider, as Happy Eddy Lack got his turn. He was forced to make a save right away, and was fantasitc, stoning Glencross in alone. Polasek then began his redemption with AV by making a nice play on Bartschi, before Lack decided it was time for Hagman to begin to think about renting again with a solid save.
The second was definitely Calgary's best, as it seemed like the Canucks only had a couple shots ( a very weak slashing call on Lapierre halfway through gave the Flames more PP practice ). Lapierre was also involved in the dirtiest play of the evening, when Debiens tried to hand a leg on him. It was not Canuck hockey though, and if they would have cut to AV, even under the tan, I bet their might have been a vein throbbing.
Nolan had a couple flashes, including a nice rush where he just shot high, and Schroeder and Volpatti were both showing their game as well, but you just knew that their might have been a reminder in the dressing room that this IS the Flames.
The message definitely was received, by the way the third started. First, Ballard bailed out his partner when Tanev was caught in the corner by simple positioning. Tanev put it off the boards, Ballard had the other guy along the boards, and away they went. Even when Smith got away with grabbing a Jensen shot and actually spinning around with it before dropping it, it was the Canucks that had the momentum.
That only increased when my favorite of the new guys tonight, Steven Pinnizotto took a nice Jensen clear, made a perfect pass into Schroeder's wheelhouse, and then got to go over and hug him after a shot that Leland Irving never had a chance on to tie the game just a minute and a half in.
Polasek was a revelation in the third compared to his earlier game, jumping up into the play smartly several times. He almost got another on a Volpatti pass down low. Antoine Roussell then showed Desbiens that the Canucks never liked him anyway, and he was the new coaches fave ( AV called him a young Burrows, and he did have an energetic game tonight ) by getting in there against an, again, bigger guy and winning it outright when he caught him square and did the Rock em Sock em Robot thing, popping the helmet high in the air.
The fight was not needed to get the Canucks going, as they were clearly the dominant team in the third. Pinnizzotto set up Jensen to force a nice save. Nolan made a nice pass to Ebbett to force another solid rejection. Sturm showed his two way game as it went the other way with a breakup of a 2 on 1 that was a marvel of German efficiency, stopping it cold.
All in all, it was many many chances to a very few the other way. Lack was solid when he had to be, but he maybe had a couple saves that actually were on shots that made it on net, and only a bounce off Hagman's pad going to the net looked half dangerous.
So, you knew it was coming eventually, and it was the current #1 pick Niklas Jensen. It came off a nice rush by Jordan Schroeder, but it was all Jensen, fooling Irving with a hard shot while wheeling around down low for what would turn out to be the winner.
To give you an idea of the kid of period, it was 5-0 in shots for the Nucks at the 8 minute mark, and the only thing I saw Lack have to do was jump on a puck off the boards, which he did like he does most things, smartly.
AV juggled a bit, putting Schoeder out with Pinnizotto and Gandalf ( oops, Owen Nolan ), and Pinnizzotto ( now this guy is screaming for a nickname. Preferably shorter to type, if he is going to keep getting involved in the game so much! ) almost got another one when he was set up all alone.
A turnover by , I want to say Yannick Sauve led to the only chance the Flames really had to tie, but it rang of the post. Roussel showed his speed on the rush the other way, rocketing through the defense and setting up the play. The pressure kept coming, with Tochkin making a great play to Tanev that rang off the post. It was also one of the more headshaking parts of the game, as the Flames seemed to say OK to the pressure, with both Desbiens and Leblond trying to get Ballard and another Canuck involved in a fight. The refs ignored it, and more haevy pressure led to another chance for Sturm that forced Leland Irving into another solid save.
Leblond then decided to show his coach how truculent ( or stupid, you choose ) he is, perhaps wanting to get back at Clackson by jumping into a helpless player along the boards, and going for the head to boot. The fracas led to Roussell getting to shower early as well, but it also gave the home team a power play. Nolan then showed that other side of his game he still has when on the ensuing pressure, when Marco Sturm was dumped late, he backed off two younger guys in Smith and Liang ( YOU SHALL NOT PASS! )
A crappy turnover by Maxim Lapierre almost led to another goal for Hagman ( I kid, but he was the best Flame tonight ), but it trickled wide. Even after Backlnd took a dummy penalty to force his team to play down almost the rest of the way, and Butler a laughable one ( after J'Bo tried to hit Pinnizzotto, who braced himself perfectly, forcing the big Alberta farm boy to fall on his ass, Chris Butler decided that kind of thing needed a crosscheck to a man on the ice, and it was a 5 on 3 the rest of the way. While the power play looked good ( especially with Ballard and Tanev ), there would be no more scoring.
So many guys looked good in different ways. Pinnizzotto ended up with 2 assists, and was involved all night. Jensen had a goal and an assist, as did Schredder and Sturm. Roussell and Clackson showed their games well. Volpatti and Nolan both had good games. Nolan needs a bit more speed, but I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for his first start in the NHL in a while. There were a lot of solid performances. Aaron Rome was his usual awesome self. Ballard and Tanev looked wonderful together. Parent showed me something when he took a puck off the knee and still played his position in front, even in obvious pain. Schroeder showed his skill all over the ice, and a heady defensive game to boot.
And a win is a win right?
That concludes my first and last double dipper of the season. Game recaps are always fun, and while I play around with the format a bit in the preseason, I look forward to whatever feedback our community can offer.