Greetings, Canucks fans! Sean Larson here, and I'll be handling the game previews for the 2015-16 season. Please don't hesitate to provide feedback either in the comments or via my Twitter (@seanlarsonATQ) or email as I'll be constantly working on improving these as the season goes along.
Today, I woke up looking at the world as a brighter place. And that is because today marks the official return of Canucks hockey. It was another busy summer of roster moves, some exciting, some sad and some just downright head-scratching.
We now enter the second year of the Benning/Linden/Desjardins regime as the Canucks continue to try the "rebuild on the fly" method. Vancouver took a step in the right direction, returning to the playoffs after a disastrous season under John Tortorella the year before. However, the Canucks were bounced in the first round by the Calgary Flames. So it's only fitting that the two teams square off to open the 2015-16 season tonight. Line brawl, anyone?
Expectations for the Canucks game tonight pic.twitter.com/FAAHbVnLw0— Canuck_Pride (@Canuck_Pride) October 7, 2015
Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames
|Time||7:00 PM PT||TV||Sportsnet|
|H2H (2014/15)||6-4 Flames (including playoffs)||Last Meeting||7-4 Flames - 4/25/15|
|The Enemy||Matchsticks and Gasoline||Scoring Leaders (2014/15)||
Van: Daniel Sedin 20-56-76
CGY: Jiri Hudler 31-45-76
The Canucks and Flames face each other to open the season for the second straight season. The last time these two teams faced each other, the Flames erased a three goal deficit to come back and win 7-4, eliminating the Canucks from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can bet Willie Desjardins and his crew haven't forgotten about that series and what could have been. So let's close the book on last season and look ahead to what's on tap tonight.
Youth Movement in Vancouver
There's no doubt about it, the Canucks are getting younger, and management isn't afraid to throw the new kids into the lineup from day one.
In addition to the rookies, there's also Sven Baertschi (23 years old) and Bo Horvat (20 years old), who will start the year on the second line together. Jared McCann centers the third line, while Hutton is paired up with Luca Sbisa on defense. The future is certainly bright for this team, and these could be the guys who become the cornerstones of the franchise in the years to come.
New Year, New Faces
Joining Daniel and Henrik Sedin on the first line this season is Brandon Sutter, who the Canucks acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins, shipping off Nick Bonino, Alex Clendening and a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
Last season with the Penguins, Sutter played in 80 games, scoring 21 goals with 12 assists, tying a career-high for goals in a season. The Canucks hope he can build on that success to provide some offensive firepower on the top line, a line he was not expected to be on.
*Looking over Vancouver's lines, sees Brandon Sutter on the 1st* pic.twitter.com/sKHpGuuw6e— Drew Stukas (@drewstukas) October 6, 2015
Also new to Vancouver is Brandon Prust, acquired in a trade with Montreal for Zack Kassian and a fifth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Prust played in all 82 games last year with the Canadiens, scoring 4 goals with 14 assists. He also had four points in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games with Montreal last season. Prust has one year left on a four-year, $10 million deal he signed with the Canadiens in 2012. The 31-year old left winger appears on the fourth line along with Adam Cracknell and Derek Dorsett, but we know Willie Desjardins likes to give his fourth line some ice time as well to keep everyone fresh.
Cracknell, a late summer signing for the Canucks, had a great camp and beat out Linden Vey for the fourth line center spot. The veteran center has 82 career games under his belt with six goals and 11 assists, plus one goal in 10 career playoff games. Cracknell played for Canucks assistant Glen Gulutzan in the minors.
The Canucks also added defenseman Matt Bartkowski, signing the 27-year old to a one-year $1.75 million deal on July 1. Bartkowski appears on the Canucks lineup paired with Dan Hamhuis. He skates well, but he likely won't be a scoring threat from the blue line as he has yet to score a goal in 131 career games. However, Bartkowski did say he's confident he'll shoot the puck more this year than he has in the past.
Flames At a Glance
The Flames are looking to build on the success of last season as they reached the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. On Monday, Bob Hartley named Karri Ramo the starter for opening night. Last season, Ramo went 15-9-3 with a .912 save percentage and a GAA of 2.60.
Calgary's leading scorer from last season, Jiri Hudler, did not practice yesterday and is questionable for tonight's game after coming down with the flu.
The Flames' biggest move of the offseason was acquiring Dougie Hamilton from Boston in exchange for a pair of draft picks. Last season with the Bruins, Hamilton set career highs with 10 goals and 32 assists.
Last year, the Flames won nine overtime games and 10 games after trailing entering the third period, so getting an early lead against them means practically nothing. The Canucks will need to jump ahead early, and keep the pressure on all 60 minutes if they want to start the season in the win column.