In an old-school shellacking...
Let me start by saying that I just love laying a beating on the Canucks. Doesn't matter whether it's preseason, regular season or post...hahahaha; who I am kidding, everyone loves the perennial whomping of VAN in the playoffs...
It's fantastic to be back watching hockey. Far from being less interesting, I find people like me often find this part of the year more interesting than several stages of the regular season due to all the possibility and interesting players that are out there on the ice. You never know who you're going to see that will become a star some day, shoot out of nowhere, flourish for another team, or spiral into the abyss. I can truthfully say I got more entertainment from that game than probably the entire second half of the last season. Let's put that time totally behind us and not address it any further. We are in a new world; and it might be the preseason, but boy does it look bright on the offensive front so far. The group of guys we've got looking like they are ready to step forward all at once have the potential to be very very special.
I missed seeing the Tampa game live of course; but the Honeymoon on Oahu for the last 2 weeks was pretty amazing for all those interested. I ended up watching a replay of it in the Buffalo Wild Wings with my wife. She was mainly playing Buzztime Trivia while I watched the game, so it worked out just fine. Totally random occurrence, as we were just looking for some decent wings that night.
This team we've got here is very interesting to me and it starts with the changes to coaching. I've already noticed a few distinct changes:
- For the first time I can remember, our PK has been told to stand up (usually 3 wide with a D in the middle at the back) at the red line. It was very effective tonight, and looks like it could really work. I love how aggressive it is and if we are able to play some of our more opportunistic players at forward on the PK, should generate some chances as well as slowing up the opposition substantially through using our strength (skilled forwards) to strip the puck.
- Our breakout now looks a lot more like Detroit's. We are set up for a transition game and there are never 3 players lined up across the ice in a straight line. This led to players entering the opposing zone with speed on numerous occasions tonight. This is what good teams do; plain and simple. Glad we seem to be on the trolley. We might not do it at the level they do just yet, but it is just as important to be on the path.
- The PP looks different. I need some more time to put my finger on it, and maybe it was just a case of watching some sublimely gifted offensive players go to town tonight, but it looks like again we're using our strengths (shifty players and solid scorers from down low) to generate reliable chances that can be easily finished (which is the goal of the PP).
All these things are positive and Renney should be commended on his logical approach. I hope he's able to keep the players buying in, as it will only help them in the long run.
Now let's get on to those players, shall we
- I wanted to like this guy; I really did. I love goal scorers and especially goal scorers that dominate with their shot. He clearly scores and clearly has a great shot (he got a couple away that could've gone in tonight). He also happens to be large, which would be a huge bonus. It appears though that what keeps him out of the NHL is terrible skating combined with bad positioning. If one of the attributes were even decent, he'd have value at the pro level, but it really didn't look like he had any of that. Utterly unimpressive and disappointing.
- I didn't know what to expect from him and was pleasantly surprised. I was reminded of a young Pisani in that he has a very balanced overall game, skates well, is decent with the puck and fairly responsible. He covered for irresponsible defencemen on numerous occasions and broke up at least 2 scoring chances. I hope we're able to take the positive progress he's clearly made and develop this guy into a balanced forward who can contribute.
- Don't really remember anything about the way he played to be honest. Very blah type of player. I wasn't expecting him to get much of a shot anyway, but certainly nothing stood out.
- You can see there's a pretty decent player in there. He scored a relatively simple goal that at least showed he can release a puck and beat an NHL goalie (in theory anyway). He seems to skate fairly well and the effort is certainly there. Despite his statistical totals so far I'd say he is certainly not ready for primetime as his game just isn't impactful enough yet, even against a roster as weak as the Nucks tonight.
- What I liked about Teemu (other than having a guy kicking around named Teemu) is that he went into corners and fought for the puck very well. Again, I don't think he's ready yet (though more games could reveal otherwise of course) but it looks like he's a guy with a very good understanding of the fundamentals. I was expecting more of a pest-type; and especially so against VAN, but that didn't really come out tonight. We'll see if he brings that going forward. It could certainly increase his chances.
- He looked leaner, fitter, in much better shape and like he busted his butt working on skating this offseason. Not only was he purely faster (especially the first stride), but he took better lines, turned more sharply, and even glided better. He looked much more like a hocker player and less of a galoot. It's possible that the skilled environment is putting demands on him to be more than just a quasi-goon. He already does an okay job at this but certainly looks like he added an extra gear. The utter shock of everyone in the building when he barged in and around a Canuck defender and nearly scored a beauty was amazing. He looks to have really brought it this year. His fight with Hordichuk also when pretty well too despite the blood. He landed some good shots. Solid in his own zone usually.
- Maybe the way we have to start looking at Penner is not so much that he doesn't look like he works hard, but that he instead just makes it look that easy. He scored two goals tonight that both looked brutally simple, but relied on a combination of smarts, timing, power and positioning. This was early last season Penner when he wanted to be. There was a specific play in the first where he just decided "my puck" and no one in the league could've take it from him. He could really be a force this year because other teams won't be able to key on him.
- Gilbert was the only top six forward who didn't really impress me tonight. His game was very blah and almost looked like a guy who knows he's on the team. I'm not sure he should have that comfort with the company he's currently keeping. It could be that between Penner and Omark there just wasn't a lot of puck left, but he could have gone to the shooting areas more to set up for either man to feed him the puck. To be fair, he was aggressively forechecking and dug some pucks out. I want to see him get a shot on the PK.
- This guy is just a beauty. You can tell he's a pro, and knows he's good. I say that not to imply arrogance but to say that when he has the puck, he dictates the terms. The most obvious examples of this were on the PP. When Omark gets the puck at the top of the circle, he essentially dares someone to come take it from him. He will go to the net (and did), make great passes forward or backward (and did) or just deke you out of your shorts and skate to a new spot (did this too). He's so calm then explosive. I've never really seen a guy like that. While his goal came later on and might not have meant much, it sure was pretty. He went through at least 3 Canucks and slid the puck around the goalie so quickly I think he's still looking for it. A brilliant pass from the boards to a Dman generated another goal and he was in on Penner's late tip-in. The guy is something to behold. I really think he could surprise a ton of people. He needs to be used correctly, though I didn't see anything truly horrendous in the defensive zone, but when this guy gets the puck, it's just magic. The move he tried in the second (burned the D, then tried to go straight up and missed NEAR post instead of far) was something only a truly gifted sniper would have attempted. He'll score on that play soon...and often if he gets the chance. I was thinking he'd have a little flash but not really be able to be consistent with it if anything...nope. Signs so far point to REAL DEAL. Showed some real effort chasing Mason Raymond and making a dive when the score was 8-2. Just doesn't quit.
- It's kind of an odd thing to say, but I think Hall almost has the least amount of pressure of all the rookies. He doesn't really need to make the team (though I'm sure he's driven) and if they're busy putting on a show (they all seem capable), he can round out his game and make a Stamkos-esque finish to the season. I say this because if he was eligible and based on tonight's performance, I'd likely send Taylor Hall down. It is true he made some excellent passes (including some from incredibly awkward spots that seemed impossible), worked really hard in the corners (never ever quits on a puck) and certainly can handle himself physically, but he does seem out of place at this point. He doesn't have the positioning of an Eberle, the wheels and size of Magnus, or the crazy hands of Omark. You can tell he'll be very good, but I was expecting a little more wow out of his game tonight. It should be noted that he had a couple excellent scoring chances and took subpar shots. One habit he will have to break from junior is the idea that a shot through three guys from the blue line will (a) get through; and (b) be a positive. That doesn't work in this league. I know he'll get it, you can see the pedigree, but we will have to be patient with him. Luckily, we have a bunch of shiny distractions (that appear to have substance as well) for now. I look forward to continuing to observe him.
- The kid is magic and he will be something very special. I'll say that right now. For those of you who didn't get to watch the game or highlights, both his goals came on wrist shots; the first an absolutely sick roofjob from the left and the second from the right off the rush. Both were so textbook goalscorer it was sick; right down to the mini pause (which allows all the morons to yell SHOOT and reveal how bad a choice an early shot would have been) they all use to move a goalie followed by lethal finish. You were wowed by the first; and knew the second was money before it had even reached his stick. This man will score goals in the NHL. His assist may actually have been better than his goal as well; coming in with speed he schooled Keith Ballard with an outside in move that most NHL vets can only make work on plugs, then drove the net and got tripped, setting up a trailing Horcoff. It was absolutely stunning. After these plays everything cooled down a bit, likely due to the coaches having seen enough. He was truly superb. The only area where the line struggled was down low in its own end sometimes, but if you combine 2 rookie offensive wingers with 2 iffy defenders and the occasional offensive mismatch, this is bound to happen really.
- I saved him for last because he was excellent tonight and I did want to make a point of it. He does have the extra step some people have described (you must understand how a shoulder injury can impact skating, he's clearly more healthy) and he used it for excellent results. His goals were right-place-right-time, but credit to him for being smart enough to be there and finishing. That's really what matters and he did it. The play he made to Eberle, with a pass through a defender at high speed right on the tape, was sublime. It doesn't really get any better. I wish they'd take him off the PK because I still don't like his overpursuits, but offensively, 5-on-5 and PP, probably the best I've seen him play. Gotta love the early motivation from a vet too.
- Decidedly Meh would be my verdict. It's understandable that he'd be rusty and he didn't really face much effort from a listless Canuck squad (this puzzled me), but he should still stop at least that second goal, and the first went in because he lacked focus (and Taylor Hall loves scoring so much he even puts pucks in his own net I guess). I wanted to see Gerber for the second half. If this is the low end for #35 though; he may play his way back into some people's hearts.
- Loved that he came back from that puck in the eye to finish a preseason game. The guy is all business. He could've been more physical and I thought he played a decidedly average game, but that doesn't worry me from a vet in a blowout.
- I didn't notice many positives about him. He can move, but I didn't see a lot of outstanding puck movement (one really solid stretch pass though) and he got caught and was bailed out by forwards a couple times. He's certainly got some positioning work ahead of him. Not ready just yet, but that's perfectly okay.
- Uh oh...do we really have to watch this guy all year? He's Strudwick 2.0 with a higher penchant for penalties for stickwork and a bigger salary. I didn't come away impressed by him at all and really hoped he show me something. Was behind the play and chasing all night. Heard a couple "he won't make the team" comments...sadly he will.
- Unfortunately Theo still doesn't seem to be up to where he was 2 years ago. I liked the physicality he brought, but he was nervous with the puck, didn't get any real shots away, and made tentative passes. He needs to be better than this to be on the opening day roster. I'm really not sure why it's taking so long to click with him.
- Classic Strudwick...kinda frightening at times. He made a great diving catch on a puck and fell into the Canuck bench which was great for a quick laugh. Also attempted a rush in on the goalie. Didn't work out.
- Really don't get why people are holding out much for him. Nothing impressive in terms of positioning or defensive skill for me. Maybe I'm missing something.
Well, I hope everyone had as much fun with that game as I did. I'm really happy to be starting fresh and able to enjoy these games and cheer hard for my team. Here's to a Stanley Cup! (a toast every season should start with)