Something to build on
The Canucks suffer their first exhibition loss but are pleased with overall pre-season play
Leave it to a player barely out of a Canucks jersey to score the overtime game-winner against his former club.|
That was the scene Sunday night at GM Place as defenceman Nathan McIver lifted the Anaheim Ducks to a 4-3 win over the Canucks with a breakaway beauty in overtime.
McIver, who had just finished serving a holding penalty, was hit by a perfect pass from Samuel Pahlsson as soon as he jumped out of the box, he took the puck in untouched and snapped with past Roberto Luongo.
With one flick of the stick former Canucks prospect McIver became the hero of his new team and an enemy of his former squad as the loss snapped Vancouver's six game winning streak and dashed their hopes for a 7-0 start.
"We did shootouts everyday in camp and I don't think I scored [on Luongo] once, so I saved it for the right time," said McIver.
Perfection would have been nice as the Canucks have won six pre-season games before, most recently in 1988 when the team when 6-1-1 in exhibition play, but in hindsight, a loss was probably for the best. If nothing else, it reminds everyone that the Canucks are still human, a realization that will surely come in handy with the start of the regular season only four days away.
"It would have been great to go 7-0, but at the same time maybe our confidence won't be through the roof, we're going to go back the drawing board a little bit and get ready for Calgary," said Darcy Hordicuk, who dropped the mitts with Anaheim's George Parros in the second period.
"Up until today we were 6-0, so how can you not feel good about yourself. It was still only pre-season though and once the regular season comes, that's when it's going to count."
Despite the loss, there are heaps of strengths to be drawn from Vancouver's pre-season play: they won six of seven games, each line demonstrated great chemistry, some young players stepped up in a big way and no one is injured heading into the regular season. Coach Alain Vigneault and his staff couldn't have planned it out better if they had tried.
"I think in the short amount of time that all NHL teams are given now, we did get a fair amount done as far as trying to find different combinations that we were able to work on our power play on a few occasions during camp, so I think we're closing in on regular season readiness," said Vigneault. "We've got three good practices here coming up and we'll be ready starting Thursday."
The Canucks are working as a solid unit heading into their season opener against the Calgary Flames and the vibe in the locker room is exactly where the team wants it to be, said Willie Mitchell.
"Everyone feels great. We added some new guys who add a lot of things to our team, number one they're adding excitment on the ice and there's excitement in the room with that and the optimism of a new season, more than that we're seeing some lines evolve and players evolve and hopefully they continue to do that.
"Pre-season is one thing, the regular season is another level and we're all going to have to continue to build and continue to get better and we're feeling good.
"Last year we didn't have the results we wanted and we're going to come in this year with a fresh start and a fresh set of mind and just kind of go about it and let our playing do the talking."
For the third straight game Vancouver was lethal on the power play, they went 3-for-8 against Anaheim, pushing them to 6-for-17 in October.
Luongo once again played well in net for the Canucks as he finished with 24 saves on a night when he sported his newly revamped mask for the first time.
Louie added a C to the chin portion of his mask and although the new team captain felt that that game wasn't his best performance of the pre-season, he too is happy with where the team is after a well fought game against the Ducks.
"Both teams had pretty much their full line-ups, with the exception of a couple guys, it was a physical battle and it was a good atmosphere in the building, definitely it was like a regular season game.
"We've won six out of seven games and that's something we can build on heading into the season."
Sunday night's loss proves Vancouver has some adjustments to make heading into the start of the 2008-09 season, just like every other NHL team.
The good news for the Canucks is that there isn't much tinkering to do.
4-2-2 – Vancouver's 2007-08 pre-season record
6-0-1 – Vancouver's final 2008-09 pre-season record
17– Goals allowed by Vancouver in 7 exhibition games
26 – Goals scored by the Canucks in pre-season action
82 – Regular season games awaiting the Canucks
Vancouver's attack was relentless to start the game, just :30 seconds in Steve Bernier nerely opened the scoring.
The Canucks outshot the Ducks 30-28 and had a handful of quality scoring chances each period.
The overtime breakaway goal aside, Vancouver's blueline was tough and physical, especially Mattias Ohlund and Alex Edler. Edler finished with three checks, while Ohlund delivered the hit of the pre-season when he layed out Corey Perry in the first period.
The Canucks scored all three of their goals on the power play, finishing 3-for-8 on the night. They moved the puck well and generated a lot of chances.
Vancouver stopped Anaheim on 7-0f-8 opportunities with the man advantage, they broke up a lot of passes and kept the front of Luongo's crease clear for the most part.