Vancouver Canucks: Sep 19 2018 postgame re-cap

By: Ryan Aceman

Result: 4-1 Flames – SOG: Vancouver 39 | Calgary 31

While Wednesday’s Canucks-Flames Pre-Season showdown was fun to watch, I’m already used to seeing #40 in blue, green, and white.

However, the supposed beauty of this Canucks team is that they have “depth.” Since signing Beagle, Roussell, and Schaller this offseason, the most common topic of discussion among Canucks fans has been which 18 skaters wind up on the opening day roster.

So depth is something to consider, because how these players perform in the near future will play a part in shaping what the team looks like this year and beyond. These games represent an opportunity for some of the bubble guys to show out, and veteran players to get their feet under them before the season begins.   

I was excited to see Thatcher Demko in net, D Olli Juolevi, F Adam Gaudette, F Brendan Leipsic, and many others, as we inch towards the regular season.

Goalie Thatcher Demko in action. Photo courtesy of NHL.com

Goalie Thatcher Demko in action. Photo courtesy of NHL.com

Calgary played a prospect-heavy lineup with a good chunk of their roster still in China, as did Vancouver, in classic Pre-Season fashion. But still, plenty of skill was on display last evening, which produced an entertaining game with plenty of scoring chances both ways. So without further adieu, let’s dive right into last night’s 4-1 Flames victory.  


1st Period

Calgary pressured early, possessing the puck for most of the first minute, and preventing a bevy of Canucks clearing attempts. Vancouver re-calibrated quickly and the game became much more back-and-forth in a matter of minutes.

Right off the bat, I noticed Juolevi’s high-end awareness in his own end, displaying great stick positioning, and disrupting plays even when he was beaten wide.

The Leipsic–Gaudatte–Jasek line showed ability on the forecheck, keeping the puck Calgary’s zone for extended periods and cycling effectively too.

Jasek in particular hasn’t been talked about much, but could surprise people with in the AHL and as an injury fill-in if need be. He’s only 21 years old and showed flashes of great things in the AHL last year, posting 7 points in just 6 games played. 

Another note: I really like Leipsic’s skill and skating ability – he may be undersized, but he finds ways to create quality chances and find open teammates. I hope he’s one of the skaters on the Canucks’ opening day roster, especially following his red-hot finish to last year after being acquired from Vegas (nine points in 14 games).

Up to this point, Vancouver is generating decent pressure, but haven’t had a enough great chances to open the scoring yet. 

Derrick Pouliot was clearly not in top form, coughing up a turnover early that resulted in a threatening chance the other way. It’s hard to predict where he fits in with the 8 or 9 defensemen vying for spots.

Will Pouliot’s upside and new contract be enough for him to make the Canucks’ opening day roster? Photo courtesy of Daily Hive.

Will Pouliot’s upside and new contract be enough for him to make the Canucks’ opening day roster? Photo courtesy of Daily Hive.

Soon after, with Calgary feeding off the momentum of a lethargic stretch by the Canucks, Matthews Phillips, a diminutive but mega-talented WHL standout last season, scored from Gilbert Brule and D Jusso Valimaki to open the scoring.

Just moments later, the Canucks surrendered another chance in close, resulting in the Calgary’s 2nd goal. This time, Spencer Foo trickled one past a sliding Demko. Foo is coming off a great AHL season (20 goals in 62 games) and solid 4-year stretch at Union College.

Demko made some good saves as the period went on, while Vancouver continued to relinquish dangerous scoring opportunities in close. In particular, Demko stoned Calgary’s Dillon Dube on the doorstep on a 2-on-1. I have no questions about Demko’s ability to replicate his AHL success this year, and maybe play a few games for the big club if given the chance.

Calgary had plenty of opportunities and Demko kept the Canucks within striking distance. The Canucks are playing pretty well up to this point, and the game remained up for grabs despite the deficit. 2-0 Flames after one.


2nd Period

Calgary jumped on an early powerplay in period 2, as Jalen Chatfield interfered with Foo near the net. Vancouver’s penalty kill, which featured specialist Brandon Sutter, Adam Gaudette, and Erik Gudbranson, was effective, showing good work rates and discipline.  

Sutter picked up a turnover near centre ice and drove to the net, drawing a penalty shot shorthanded. Unfortunately he was unable to convert on the free breakaway, but it was good to see #20 doing what he does well.

Gaudette comes as advertised, playing a sound two-way game, but the high-end offensive ability we saw for years at Northeastern could take some time to materialize at the pro level. 

Erik Gudbranson’s physicality was noteworthy, although his often one-dimensional skillset leaves much to be desired. But he does provide a crucial bruising presence on an otherwise finesse-based blueline.

The Canucks earned a powerplay of their own shortly after, and the tides feel like they might be changing. Unfortunately, an ill-advised pass near the blue line results in a 2-on-1 the other way, with Dillon Dube setting up Andrew Mangiapane to put Calgary up 3-0. These two showed great chemistry all night.

The Flames only had two shots on goal to this point in the period.

Fortunately, the rest of the man advantage was more exciting, catalyzed by Reid Boucher and Kole Lind, which piqued my interest just enough to stay zoned in for the rest of the frame. Unfortunately, no goals were produced.

Boucher had another great chance on the power play late, wiring one off the crossbar with a few minutes remaining. His 7 SOG last night – plus a handful of non-SOG quality chances – were a usual display of his fearlessness to put the puck on net, which I really like.

The rest of the period saw the teams trading lower-danger chances, and the period finished 3-0 Flames. The Canucks had 26 shots on goal at this juncture to the Flames’ 21.


­3rd Period

Michael Dipietro played in goal for period three, and the good guys opened the frame on the powerplay from a last second Calgary infraction from the previous period. No goals were recorded on what turned out to be a pedestrian man-advantage – a familiar theme off the night. The Canucks were 0/4 in this situation after this failure to convert.  

A 4-on-4 midway through the frame opened things up. Dipietro had some great saves in close, showing good poise and positioning, and the Canucks countered well, with both Boucher and Gaudette firing off solid looks from point blank.

Shortly thereafter, Brendan Leipsic scored a beauty of a goal, receiving the puck at the blue line before cutting to the middle and stick handling his way to the net through traffic. Edler made a smart, veteran, play to come around the goal and find Leipsic in space to set up this gorgeous geno.

Now down 3-1, the Canucks have regained some energy, and are playing their best hockey of the night. They’ve fired 36 shots on goal to this point and looked to be making a serious push for victory going into the final minutes. 

Forward Zack Macewen showed off his heavy release, beating flames goalie prospect Tyler Parsons with about eight minutes remaining, only to find the left post.

The Canucks were on the powerplay again in short order, with all the momentum in their favour. But despite a few sold scoring chances from Adam Gaudette and Leipsic again, they walked away 0/5 with the man-advantage, still trailing 3-1.

As the last few minutes ticked off the clock, I was slightly disappointed but not upset at what had transpired. Gaudette had some great scoring chances late and looked like one of the better forwards for the Canucks. The more I see of the former 5th round pick, I can tell he possesses a well-rounded modern game. He can be trusted in all situations, something Coach Green is sure to take advantage of at some point in the near future.  

With half a second left on the clock, the Flames added an empty netter in what seemed like a fitting end to a frustrating game overall. The Canucks played well, but simply could not convert on enough chances to keep it close late.


Takeaways

Pace of play was very high throughout yesterday’s action, a product of how speed and skill dominate the modern game. Leipsic, Gaudette, and Boucher stood out among Vancouver’s forwards, while Juolevi and looked comfortable on the back end. Derrick Pouliot will need to show more before I can definitively say he deserves a spot with the big club. For what it’s worth, Alex Edler was by far out most consistent blueliner and figures to be the Canucks’ powerplay captain and top defenseman yet again in 2018-2019.

Vancouver Giant legend Gilbert Brule was good for the Flames, and it’s great to see him get another chance in North America after spending four years in the KHL. The guy has lots of ability.  

Thacther Demko impressed me in net despite allowing 3 goals on 21 shots. The Flames had plenty of dangerous chances throughout the game. Demko’s solid play kept the Canucks in a contest they should have been winning in the first place, had their execution been better.

Despite starting down big, the Canucks played hard and had plenty of opportunities. Naturally, some ill-advised plays were made, including bad giveaways, weak zone clearances, and unfinished offensive chances; things fans hope can be ironed out in the Pre-Season.

Coach Green won’t be thrilled with the result, but has reason to be encouraged by at least some of what we saw last night.

Olli Juolevi and Adam Gaudette have the looks of full-time pros, whether that’s in Utica or Vancouver. At least both will be in the system contributing in some fashion, and last night they both looked solid. Branden Leipsic looks like a regular NHL player to me, and I’ll reiterate my wish for him to crack the roster and cement himself amongst the top-12 forwards in Vancouver. 

Juolevi showed some encouraging signs of his ability to contribute on the North American-pro level. Photo courtesy of TSN.

Juolevi showed some encouraging signs of his ability to contribute on the North American-pro level. Photo courtesy of TSN.

More than anything, I’m just glad hockey is back for the foreseeable future.

Tonight’s game vs. the Los Angeles Kings is sure to bring even more excitement and promise.

Win or loss, each game is another reminder of the Canucks’ organizational depth, which I take comfort in as a fan. Nothing shocking has happened so far this Pre-Season, but it’s been an appropriate preview for what we all hope to be an exciting 2018-2019.

The Canucks face off at home against L.A. tonight at 7 p.m. PST. Boeser, Pettersson, Goldobin, and others will be in the lineup.

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