I watched the twitterati react with their usual pithy goodness ( we may not have a Cup yet, but we lead the league in pithy goodness ) to the results of the first two games after the Canucks split against San Jose, and the two losses against Calgary.
Of course we want to see wins, they are more fun to watch then losses. But in the preseason, unless the team is winless going into the last two games, it is really those last couple that grab my interest, at least as far as results go. I'll watch a lot of the preseason like everyone else, of course. But, especially in the first 5-6 games, there is so many AHLers in the lineups of both teams, that it becomes unfair to the players to get too worked up about the results. It is all about the "process", right ? A guy like, say Jared McCann, looks good with both vets and AHLers alike. He seems to do the right things. But it is so hard to judge the right things when the mistake level is at an AHL or below level. That is the big difference when it comes to the NHL. In a game that is decided by mistakes, they just make less of them in the best hockey league in the world.
Take the first couple against the Sharks. The Hockeyville game was the usual game of "shinny" the first preseason game is, but the right team won. The next one, well, the Sedins and Hamhuis aside, that lineup was not the same as the one with, amongst other NHLers, featured both Marleau and Couture. The first game against the Flames was more of the same, with the Flames mostly NHL lineup playing against the Canucks mostly Utica one. The Canuck vets dominated the next night at home, with their vets in the lineup. The Arizona / Canucks matchup as I write this seems to have a bit more "NHL" in the lineup for the visitors to Rogers Arena, but, for instance, there is not one forward line for the Canucks that has played together. Parts of each line, sure, but this game might be a perfect example of why the preseason is hard to quantify. ( Though it is sure "Tippet Hockey". The Canucks have 10 shots through forty minutes ! Maybe going 11 of 40 on the draw is not helping that either, but if the young guys want to show their wares, it is going to be a bit more difficult against the defensive zealots from the desert. )
Hockey is a sport that is beautiful to watch, and absolutely mesmerizing when it is played by teammates that have developed chemistry. Asking the prospects and new guys to develop that in a few preseason games makes it all the more impressive when a young guy does shine and grabs some ice time in the NHL. Because it takes until those last couple preseason games before they get the chemistry even started. Let's see if some of the young fellows get the chance to develop that special bond with some teammates in this league, or the one below.
Mid Preseason Snapshots
Jared McCann has certainly looked like he wants to stay in the NHL. He got the chance tonight to play with NHL talent, and did not look out of place. Maybe the second best ( and I hum and haw about this one, going back and forth between him and Jake ) young guy in camp.
Jake Virtanen has certainly looked like a NHL player out there. His size and skating ability make him just look like he is an NHLer. That shot is pretty NHL ready as well. His snipe against Hiller was very nice. I have really liked the way he gets in on the forecheck as well. Here's hoping he makes the team as the 13th forward and he does the "10 game, play at the World Juniors and dominate" thing for his 19th year. The Canucks have shown in the past that they are not averse to burning that first year of the ELC of the player earns the ice time anyhow.
Brendan Gaunce Maybe the best of the prospects along the boards. I have loved his progression as a winger, and that is expecially because how the big man uses his size, while still maintaining his centre ice man smarts. He is deft with the puck in close quarters. I would like to see him get some NHL action, and after he gets a little time with the same linemates and has some chemistry. He is such a smart player, and that is a very good thing. Hopefully he makes it to at least the "last cut" stage.
Alexandre Grenier has been up and down ( and I am trying to accent some of the positive in these quick snapshots, but of course all of these guys have made some mistakes in preseason games. They are expected to make some mistakes, right ? ) in his chances and in his overall game, but has shown a willingness to use that large frame, coupled with those soft hands. Skates pretty well for a man his size. I was hoping he would grab the brass ring in this camp, but Jake and Jared are the young guys I would lay my money on so far. Grenier could still come up on the outside and get there by the end of camp, if he stays that long. He has looked good. Just not "great".
Ben Hutton. It is funny. Folks are not quite syure how excited they are supposed to be about this smooth skating, swift thinking defensemen. Like so Corrado and Bieksa, he is another 5th round pick, so he has that "karma "working for him. More importantly, he is quickly looking like, at least in the preseason, that he may be just what the blue line depth ordered. Has produced offense already, while playing very good for a first timer at this level in his own end. It is no mistake that we have seen him in almost every preseason game so far. The Canucks want to see exactly what they have, but after waiting for the University of Maine grad to finish school, colour me impressed so far. He'll be in the AHL, eating up big minutes, but so far so good for him.
Matt Bartkowski was advertised as a guy that could rush the puck, while being OK in his own end, physical and positionally sound. He has definitely been noticeable at the former, and as for the latter, see above explanation about how it works in the preseason sometimes. Not blowing my mind or anything, but I do want to see him play in the NHL in Blue and Green first. I have a feeling that there will be more offense for our team than the other from those rushes. He consistently backs guys off with his speed on the rush, and I cannot remember a time when he was not able to use that same speed to get back and defend. This is just the preseason, of course, but he is definitely fast.
Taylor Fedun has had some moments, but not enough yet. Andrey Pedan Probably the AHL stud defenseman, but he has shown some flashes that made the ol' eyebrows raise, but after seeing him, I am happy with the trade for a pick. He looks like a solid player, and you cannot teach size, as they say. Alex Biega has shown that you don't need that size to play defense, He'll be in the AHL again, but I like his play. It is powered by his skill with the stick. It is amazing how undersized defensemen use the stick defensively, and he has shown to be very skilled at making the poke check. I've liked what I have seen from Adam Cracknell so far. If Vey falters, I could see him between Prust and Dorsett ( I wonder if we get a preseason look at that line ? ) on what would be a line full of all sorts KABOOM.
As I hit publish, the Canucks are still locked in a scoreless tie in their fifth preseason game. For all the explanation above, I do share the uneasiness that some might have as far as not putting the puck in the net very much this preseason, at least to date. Hopefully, as soon as I hit the button, the third period will turn into a net filling embarrassment of Mike Smith. ( lol ) I do believe a lot of that is the lack of familiarity, but if they lose this one, and then have even a split in the last two against the Connor McDavids, cue that uneasiness turning into a full fledged hysteria.
And we know how to do those in Lotusland.