Let’s just start here...
What a difference a game makes. From early on in the first I kept looking at the jerseys. Yup. They were Canucks jerseys. Seemed like they were the same numbers as we saw in the last preseason game. Not the same team. Not the same goaltending. Not the same lack of urgency.
No, this was the Canucks team that even in our wildest drunken summer delusions could play this well against the (on paper) revitalised Flames. Yes, we were happy the debut season roster was younger than feared. But, few in the SPW predicted a convincing Nucks win. Those that did, we salute your unbridled optimism and beginner’s luck.
This was a storybook beginning to the new Twinless era. Only fair. We had a storybook ending for the Sedins for their last Nucks home game ever - beginning of the Sweet Pete era deserves deserves a little magic too.
So let’s throw off our stoic cape for a minute and gape at the opening statement this game made. It rocked the NM gamethread so hard we’re going to need new leaf springs for our coaching couches.
You might have expected the first few minutes of the first game at home to feature the Nucks PK and early deficit. Even might have guessed our burly Guds would take the first penalty of the first game of the season. What you wouldn’t expect, based on last year’s 87th ranked PK, that the Nucks would gain momentum from it. But they did.
The Flames didn’t record a shot on their 1st powerplay (of oh so many). But the Nucks did on their 1st PK.
Guds was delivering what we were promised (2 seasons ago) - a tough hard-hitting guy, not afraid to fight. Guds gave Dube his first taste of NHL sorta-late late hitting. Just after Guds’ penalty, Harmonic challenged Guddy to a match of fisticuffiness. Harmonic lost that match.
Anyhow, the hockey game broke out again, with some more harmless sinbin time for Guds. Finally, the 1st goal of the 1st game of this season of firsts was scored by Petersson (on his 1st or 2nd shot of the game). We’re going with first, because storybook.
What a snipe. Sprung by Eriksson, Pete broke in on a two-on-one with Goldy. And in those few seconds I realised why I’m so relieved that Elias decided to be a pro hockey player rather than a used car salesman in my area.
Pete so totally sold Smith on the pass, that Smith was still looking over the paperwork when the Eliaser zipped over his shoulder.
Sick Twisted Wrister. Wow! Welcome to the NHL, Elias!
Canucks lead 1-0. Yes, that isn’t a typo. For the first time in a really long time, the Nucks have the lead in the first.
I know - you’re thinking, but they can’t possibly hold the lead through the entire 15 or even 20 minutes. Actually they can. Marky, the ‘new man’ was fully dialed-in for the entire period. Stopped all 9 shots he faced. Smith stopped 9 too. Of 10.
Throughout the period, the Canucks appeared to be the hungrier, faster team. Out skating, out hitting, out playing the Snowtown Rapid Oxidisers. The Nucks jumped on the loose pucks first, especially on the PK. And needed to - having 3 jumps on the PK and no jumps on the PP.
And they weren’t finished jumping on loose pucks and frustrating the Flaming powerplay. But first we take a brief intermission to savour this...
How did that standing ovation sound, Elias? pic.twitter.com/WfmH49clsB— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) October 4, 2018
So it’s the second of the first game. Still anyone’s game to win. Except...it seems the ice has been tilted in the home team’s favour. So..the refs have to tilt it back to the NHL approved 7 Calgary powerplays to the 1 Nucks PP.
In that spirit of fake fairness, the Nucks get their token powerplay. Because of inconvenient timing, the 2nd unit for the Nucks started the powerplay. And looked dangerous. More dangerous than the 1st unit. And without further scoring, the Nucks were off the powerplay.
But, still more chances for the PK. Two more weak calls by the refs, gave the freshly Flame retardant powerplay two more chances. Both snuffed out by the Nucks PK and Marky.
The Flames pushed harder in the 2nd for the equaliser that the refs had tried so hard to gift them, but the hard working, dare I say, stifling Nucks PK kept the visitors off the scoreboard and the befuddled Sportynet air crew gasping for winning cliches.
If you looked at the numbers from last year’s stats, it might seem a fair special teams battle. But the past is over. The new Nucks PK has some new kids on the shotblock. Motte was great on the PK. Beagle was noticeable. Didn’t notice him in any preseason game. Tanman was great. So was Granny. Seemed everyone had their stick in every shooting lane. And for the 2nd consecutive period in the 2018-2019 season, Marky kept the doughnut in his blocker.
So far the Nucks have killed off 8 minutes of special ref calls. With the result at the end of the 2nd the Nucks still leading by one. Take that 2nd period collapse conspirators.
We’re leading through 2. Can we really lead through all 3? Let’s find out.
You expect the Red Mileagers to push back and get the tieing goal. But, that is another unmet expectation and we’ll take it.
Instead... what does a guy do that has already scored his first ‘sick’ NHL goal? An artful assist might just be the thing. I think so and so did everyone in the ROG, including Elias’ parents as well as Goldy.
Wow! Pete’s ice-vision is uncanny. Pre-cog passing? Possibly. It’s not exactly Sedinery, more like nothing happening * * poof * * instant happening. Usually in the Sedinery there was a strong sense of inevitability. In the Peterarena only Elias senses what is about to happen.
Whoom! It’s a Goldy goal to make the lead 2-0.
Really that was enough to satisfy us low expectation, high disappointment NM irregulars. If Calgary came back, tied it and won in OT, no big deal. We’d already seen the future and it could be out of a Swedish storybook. Great game. The Nucks have done enough to fully engage and entertain in the first home game. We’re not greedy.
But, the Nucks are. They want more. Especially our Leipsician Stallion. He beats the defenders on the forecheck, sends the puck out to the point, where Guds point-checks the puck on net and the eager Beagle deflects the shot onto Leipsic’s stick and yeah...it’s behind a shell-shocked Smith.
Nucks up 3-0 in the 3rd. Nice ring to it.
Too nice for Marky’s elusive 3rd career shutout. Dammit. Calgary has been pushing back most of the game and manage to shove a flukey shot past Marky. Scored by the unchosen one - NM’s lotto-hangover commemorators fav from the class of 2016. Yeah, Brady’s annoying older brother.
But it’s still a 2 goal lead. But is a 2 goal lead enough? Virt says no. And not enough drama. So he takes a sort of lazy stick thing and the refs embellish it into a proper tripping penalty. Greene isn’t pleased. No PK can withstand a 5th Red Flarmy assault.
Actually they can. And fresh out of the shenanigans box, Virt takes a pass and power moves the puck between Smith’s waiting pads.
Penalty Killed. Shenanigans redeemed. And Virt’s 1st goal of the season.
So nice, let's see it twice! pic.twitter.com/MoDGlT3VUO— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) October 4, 2018
How cool is that? Virt scored 10 goals last season. Only 9 more to go and 81 games to do it. He can get more. And he will if keeps playing power ranger on the rush.
So...yes, wonder no more...the game is over. Except those pesky players, on 18+ year old Sam Bennett’s team - they still want to even the score. In an uneven, close but not quite way. The Johnny Hockey way - the slick move, a pass out front and the shot evades Marky.
Fine. No big deal. It’s still 4-2. Two goal lead. But goals have been dinging the twine in bunches. And just when it seemed that Cowtown was back on the cattle train with bullish momentum, the refs let the steam out and put the Flames on the powerplay. Again.
And again, the most futile powerplay of the nhl night was thwarted. But if you don’t at
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th time succeed, try try again. In vain.
With six minutes to play the great Leip, under pressure in his own end, leipt the puck over the glass. Since they have been making the easy calls on night, the easy mandatory penalty was called.
It was a little tense in the ROG. Was even rumoured that Forty was gripping his Trev jersey equipped stick a little tight in the stands.
But those two minutes ticked away in PK perfection. Seven 100% successful PKs. In one game. Add that up and you’ll see the PKers were giving it the full 700%.
To put some Motte’s special sauce on the night, Tyler scores the empty netter and seals the jar on this game.
Nucks WIN 5-2.
Triviaoid: This the 9th consecutive season opening game the Flames have lost. Haven’t won since 2009 - when they defeated the Canucks. The 7, count ‘em, 7 Flames powerplays were the max they received in a single game last season. Way to start the year, ref.
Here’s the complete video recap of the storybook game.
And that is in the record books. The 1st Nucks win of the season. Those surrealists that feared a Nucks win wouldn’t happen until mid-November can slink back to the NM Shelter of Doom and wait out the looming road trip.
For now let’s just savour this wonderful intro for Elias into the NHL. This wonderful win over an old foe. Who has snow on their streets where we have smiles.
The youth movement has been served - all the Nucks goals were scored by players under 25. And we should be jumping up and down on our $6 million Hallelujah mattress - Loui got 2 assists and a +2. And no own goals.
Yes, the triple B’s were kept off the scoreboard, but won’t be in every game. And Elias will see some proper PP time and not just 10 minutes of ice. But, dang! That was a very productive 9:46.
The PK can’t be expected to maintain the 100% success rate (stupid small sample size), but now we know they play 14 minutes a man down and still win. Impressive. Unexpected. Storybook even.
Now let’s saunter over to the Greene room for the coach’s eye view.
Let’s hear from our new humble hero on his storybook debut.
Heading into the unknown this season, there were some dark clouds, stormy streaks with long periods of disappointment predicted. But we just beat the forecast with a solid storybook start.
We may not get back on the happy hobby horse of Westy Destiny this season, but what a freakin’ great way to start a season.
On Saturday we will meet the same team, but at the Snowbarn in a cold timezone. The first game in a 360 hour marathon of road hockey. The Canucks surprised in this critical first game of the new storybook era. Perhaps they can again in a few more.
Until then, keep your chin up, your smugness in check and rum toddies handy.