Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Preseason: Canucks 1 Flames 3

The Vancouver Canucks, er Moose, er Salmon Kings, may have lost their preseason opener 3-1 against the Calgary Flames last night, but unlike a lot of losses last season, it wasn't for a lack of try.

Here's Elliott Pap (Vancouver Sun):

If this first exhibition game Tuesday was all about discovery for new Vancouver Canuck head coach Alain Vigneault, here's what he discovered:

Wade Flaherty can still play goal at age 38;

Brandon Reid can still make things happen after two years digesting European hockey culture;

Teenage blueliner Luc Bourdon will be just fine if he resists the temptation for risky business and self-analysis;

Lightweight Rick Rypien isn't afraid of anybody, even hombres as scary and tough as Flame super sophomore Dion Phaneuf.

Anybody else, coach?

"I loved Kevin Bieksa's game," said Vigneault after the Canucks dropped a 3-1 decision to the Flames in Vancouver's first of eight pre-season outings. "I thought he was really solid, he moved the puck well and had a good shot from the point. It was a good start for him. And, up front, Josh Green caught my attention."

Flaherty was perfect in his 30 minutes of work, turning away 11 shots, and looking very capable of handling a light workload behind all-world starter Roberto Luongo.

"It's early, it's the first exhibition game but I felt good and I felt comfortable," said the Langley resident. "It was a good start."
How often do we hear such glowing comments after a loss? Heck, last season, how often did we hear such glowing comments after a win? If the players that are still here on October 5th compete at the same level as last night, the boys in Orca Bay blue just might have an okay season.

A couple of free agent signees made their debut with the Canucks.

One is Rory Fitzpatrick, who played with the Sabres last season. A couple of weeks ago, I asked Tom Luongo (no relation to Roberto) of Sabre Rattling on what we can expect from the guy they call Fitzie:

Solid #7 guy who can play the right side. Limited mobility, but physical and has a huge heart. Apparently he was really well-liked in the Sabres room and would be more valuable in the pre-lockout NHL than the new one. He's a guy whose effort you'll respect but who just doesn't quite have the tools to be anything more than a warm body in case of injury.
After listening to last night's game, Tom's assessment seems accurate. Fitzpatrick was okay in spurts; caught out of position in others. He had an assist on the lone Canucks goal and finished with a +1 rating. He also logged 22:44 minutes of ice time, second only to Kevin Bieksa on the team.

One area of weakness for the team last season was their faceoffs.

Enter Marc Chouinard. Here is some feedback on Marc courtesy of Roy Malhberg of Wild Puck Banter:

Has big upside, but hasn't shown anything yet. Had a hat trick in game 1 last year and I thought he was becoming the scorer the Wild desperately needed, but only scored 11 more in the remaining 81 games. Disappears for stretches of games and was an occassional healthy scratch. Good face off man...in a new system could become a decent 3rd line center.
Lo and behold, he led the Canucks last night with 10 faceoff wins and a 58% faceoff win%. In fact, the team did well on faceoffs last night outdrawing the Flames 58% to 42%.

(Actually another guy who sounded like he had a good game was Tommi Santala, but I can't seem to find any write-ups about him.)

And while we're still on the topic of last night's game against the Flames, George Johnson (Calgary Herald) made an interesting observation:

We need heroes. But heroes need villains. They can't operate without `em.

In the ongoing Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames' melodrama, one heightened by over-familiarity and that visceral seven-game playoff series three springtimes ago, hockey fans in this city have regrettably lost four men they gleefully cast in the role of black hats.

And, to be honest, with the Canucks in town and doing a pretty fair impression of the Manitoba Moose, it just doesn't seem the same.

Jarkko Ruutu (Boo!) defected to Pittsburgh. Ed Jovanovski (Hiss!) wound up in that sun-soaked hockey boneyard that is the Arizona desert. Coach Marc Crawford (Boo!) walked a short plank, packed up the hair gel (but not in his carry-on) and left for L.A. And Todd Bertuzzi (Hissssssss!) was jettisoned to Florida, away from prying eyes, happily prepared for early retirement.

Canucks that people here loved to hate.

These were the men who, from a Calgary perspective, helped transform Vancouver into a nastier, more absorbing rival than even the Edmonton Oilers. Games to look forward to. A rivalry that helped make the dull nights somehow bearable.

Come back, guys. All is forgiven.
Make sure you read the rest of the piece - it's an entertaining read.

Comments/Questions: Feel free to post in the comments section or email me at gocanucksgo10 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

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posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:35 AM


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