The Vancouver Canucks are coming off a dispiriting 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, and are looking for their first win of the season as they take on the Calgary Flames on Saturday night. Both teams are looking for their first points, as Calgary also fell to the Colorado Avalanche 5-3 on their opening night.
Although the Canucks lost to the Oilers, there were many positives to take away from the game, but there were also some negatives which can pose questions.
Forwards Brandon Sutter and Loui Erikson were absolutely atrocious against the oilers, with the former giving up the puck which led to Edmonton’s game-winning goal.
With the abominable performances of those two players, head coach Travis Green has some interesting decisions heading into the second game of the season.
Ahead of the preseason, nobody thought that the waiver exempt Adam Gaudette would be on the roster. However, the young American centre turned heads in the preseason and earned himself an NHL roster spot.
In the game against the Oilers, Gaudette watched from the press box- a place which will not make him a better player. Given the poor play of the two aforementioned veterans, I would expect Erikson to be bumped down to the fourth line, with Gaudette centring the third alongside winger Brandon Sutter. Gaudette offers more offence than Sutter does, and Sutter knows the NHL game. The combination of these two could give the Canucks another mediocre scoring line.
The difference between the Oilers and the Flames is the depth. Edmonton’s offence is carried by two superstars in Connor McDavid and Leon Drasitatel, whereas the Flames have two very strong lines. If the Canucks can shut down the flames top lines, countering them with Gaudette, Beagle and other penalty killers, victory will be in reach. If not, Johnny Gaudreau and Mattew Tkachuk will have their way with the Canucks.
Given that Vancouver has had two days since their opener, expect to see Jacob Markstrom between the pipes once again, as he looks to douse water on the flames offence.
In the Bennys Bits (now to be renamed Benny’s Bites) recap of the Oilers game, I outlined the three most important changes the canucks have to make to improve in their second game. These were as follows.
- Bo Horvat reunited on PP1 with Petey and Boeser
Horvat was part of the unsuccessful powerplay last year but with his faceoff prowess, and quick passing ability he would be a very good option. The dream of Canucks fans was the situation of Brock Boeser and Elias Petterson firing pucks into the net from the faceoff circles. That potential is still there. With powerplay quarterbacks of Tyler Myers and Quinn Hughes, the man advantage is a whole new monster for Vancouver, and having an all-round player like Horvat out there will make it better.
- More defensive awareness and positioning against quick rushes.
All you have to do is look at the third goal from the Oilers on Saturday to find the canucks weak point in this area. It’s pretty simple the defence has to communicate better to be able to shut down clear holes, such as the one Mcdavid exploited on Wednesday night.
- Use the point. Quinn Hughes, Alex Edler and Tyler Myers can shoot.
This one is a lot like the first one. All three of these players are offensive assets and their shots can offer an additional threat when cycling the puck.
The Canucks stayed in Alberta over the two days, rather than flying home to Vancouver. “We have enough travel throughout the year, so we wanted to stay and do some team bonding,” said Green when asked about his decision to keep the Canucks in Alberta. The team travelled to Banff, where they stayed at the iconic Banff Springs Hotel, and practised at the local arena. The team will travel to Calgary on Friday afternoon, before puck drop at 8 pm local time at Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome.