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CANUCKS HOCKEY BLOG

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Preseason: Sharks 2 Canucks 0

There were good news and bad news in the Vancouver Canucks' 2-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks last night.

The good news was that Roberto Luongo, who played all 60 minutes, played his best game in the Free Willy jersey (Jason Botchford, Vancouver Province).

It took three games, a couple worrisome goals and just a tablespoon of public consternation, but Roberto Luongo got his groove back.

And he knows exactly when it happened.

During Tuesday's second period, with the Sharks pressing, Luongo lost his stick in the midst of making one of his desperate, acrobatic plays. He never lost his composure, stopping a tipped shot and sliding across the crease to save another one with his elbow at the side of the net.

It was a play that made Luongo stand out like a beacon of hope on a team still labouring this preseason to find its identity.

It was a play that gave him confidence and left him feeling more comfortable than he's ever been in a Canucks uniform.

"Making those two big saves in a row really changed the momentum for me overall," Luongo said. "I was really solid after that and it led to my best game so far.

"The way I played after that is really where I want to be to start the season. It was a nice feeling to have. I really felt comfortable out there."

Luongo has long been billed as a guy who will give the Canucks, on almost every night, a chance to win. On Tuesday, on a team that didn't score, he lived up to his billing.

"That's what you want from your goaltender," coach Alain Vigneault said. "In the third period he had three huge saves to make and he made them. He gave us a chance to be in that game. He did his part."
27 saves on 28 shots? Yup, Luongo did his part.

Unfortunately, the offense didn't. They threw 25 shots at Vesa Toskala - nine of those shots from Brendan Morrison, Daniel Sedin and Markus Naslund - but couldn't get a single one past him.

The Sedin-Sedin-Naslund combination was again the Canucks' best line (Iain McIntyre, Vancouver Sun), though that's really more an indictment on how the rest of the team played.

Playing with Daniel and Henrik Sedin would be good for Markus Naslund. You could plant a cactus in the slot and the succulent would score 15 this season with the twins. The question: Is playing Naslund with the twins good for the Vancouver Canucks?

The Swedish three owned the puck on many shifts Tuesday but did not score against the San Jose Sharks. The Canucks, therefore, lost because nobody else scored either. Nobody else looked even in danger of scoring while Vancouver's best three forwards were pooled in one unit.
Alain Vigneault has three more preseason games to sort out his line combinations.

The coach, Alain Vigneault, said he'll audition Jan Bulis with the twins sometime during the Canucks' last three pre-season games, and also give Brendan Morrison and Naslund another chance to play together.

But he made it clear he does not believe playing Naslund with the twins necessarily makes the Canuck attack one-dimensional.

"I expect us to get better," Vigneault said. "I talk about us getting balanced scoring; I don't want us to be a one-line team. We should be able to generate chances throughout our forward lineup."
At least one guy who has been generating chances is Brendan Morrison. In three preseason games, Morrison has two points (both assists) and nine shots on goal (2nd to Daniel Sedin for the team lead). With Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi on his wing before, his job was to give the puck to either winger and be the defensive conscience on that line; this preseason, with Naslund playing on another line and Bertuzzi playing on another team, he seems to be more willing to take on a greater offensive role.

Grant Kerr (Globe and Mail) asks:

Morrison, Bertuzzi and Naslund once formed Vancouver's most dangerous offensive line, nicknamed the West Coast Express. That changed somewhat last season, when the Sedins and Carter emerged as genuine threats.

Now, with a new coaching staff and a remake of half the roster, no one's sure of the line combos before the NHL regular season begins Oct. 5.

The only certainty is the Sedins will play together.

Vigneault has gone so far as to experiment with Naslund alongside the twins, leaving Morrison the odd man out at times.
So far, it hasn't mattered and Morrison has been productive anyway. But as eight goals in five games indicate, the Canucks need the Cookes, Keslers, Pyatts and Bulis of the team to step up and be likewise.

*****

Tonight's game against the Edmonton Oilers starts at 6 PM. Canucks radio broadcast on TEAM 1040.

Wade Flaherty is expected to play the full game; another round of roster cuts is expected after.

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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, 6:57 AM

3 Comments:

At September 27, 2006 8:25 AM, Blogger Jeremy said...

I realize it's still just the pre-season, but I'm really hoping this one doesn't foreshadow the prototypical Canucks game this year: Luongo standing on his head and the team losing because they can't score.

 
At September 28, 2006 7:04 AM, Blogger fauxrumors said...

It will be a different type of Canucks team than the run and gun up-tempo of years past. This version will be a slower, trapping, defensive minded,(boring) vancouver squad. Will this sit well with fans? We guess if they win it won't matter.

 
At September 29, 2006 7:04 AM, Blogger hoopsjunky said...

I could care less if they win 7-6 or 2-1. As long as they win. And the parade goes along Georgia St. ;)

 

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