I Watched This Game is a recurring feature on Pass it to Bulis, chronicling the insights and observations of two guys that watched a hockey game.
Know what I like to see? Antti Niemi losing. I also like to see a near-regular season lineup for the Canucks look so poised and ready for action. It was a solid performance all-around, but all eyes were on the fringe players, the ones doing their best to make the team. Players like Cody Hodgson, Jeff Tambellini, Tanner Glass, and Alexandre Bolduc. Here's what we saw tonight:
- Shorty attempted to nickname Rogers Arena "The Rog" before the game. I'm not sold. Perhaps "The Rog Mahal"?
- Teams should use duos or trios more often for the national anthem. Harmonies help fill out the sound and can cover up the occasional flat note.
- Cory Schneider answered all the questions that were raised after getting shellacked for 8 goals against Edmonton. It's amazing what he can do when he's not facing poorly defended 2-on-1s every single shift. John Garrett, who made his return to the broadcasting booth after Burrows was sent to the minors, pointed out that he has a reputation for bouncing back from weak performances; I don't know about that, but I'm sure he appreciated having an NHL-level defence in front of him. He made most of his saves simply by being sound positionally and controlling rebounds, though he moved well when necessary, especially on the penalty kill.
- Cody Hodgson started off well enough and didn't look out of place with Kesler and Raymond, but he was also nothing special. He managed to draw an early penalty and made a couple decent plays defensively, but he got demoted in the third period to the fourth line, while Torres skated on the second. He'll likely get one more chance with two pre-season games left, but it looks like he'll be starting off the season with the Moose, which is probably better for him. It's tough to lose an entire year of development.
- Jeff Tambellini, on the other hand, really improved his stock, scoring the Canucks third goal with a beautiful snap shot over Niemi's glove. It's his go-to shootout move and he showed that it works just as well on a 2-on-1. Also note, Jannik Hansen freeing up the puck for Tambellini with some strong work on the boards. The guy's got speed to burn and looked good enough on the fourth line that he got bumped up to the third line in the final period. He skated hard on the forecheck and definitely made a good argument for his versatility.
- While Tambellini showed off his great shot, Glass showed why he should never be on the third line, not by missing an open net, but by completely missing the puck with an open net. On the other hand, he did blow up Joe Pavelski with a big open-ice hit and stood up to Douglas Murray with a smile on his face afterwards, so he's plenty suited to the fourth line. Only the fourth line.
- Bolduc? He was merely okay. Nothing particularly stood out from him, which likely means he's Manitoba Moose-bound.
- That's that for the bubble players. The rest of the team was largely fantastic.
- I'm loving the look of the powerplay under new assistant coach Newell Brown. Every player on the ice is in motion, causing plenty of confusion to the penalty killers and opening up numerous shooting lanes. I have the feeling the Sedins will thrive under this system. It only led to one goal, a classic example of wizardous sedinerie, but it seemed to constantly bamboozle the Sharks' penalty killers and the second-unit looked just as good.
- Bieksa had a strong game skating with Dan Hamhuis. The two seem well-suited together, especially on the penalty kill, though it could just be that Hamhuis is so damn good that it doesn't matter who he's paired with. He could be paired with Taylor Ellington and I'd be praising Ellington for having a great game. Actually, that's extremely unlikely. Never mind. In any case, Bieksa hit hard, created offense, and limited his mistakes. That's all I ask of him.
- Mason Raymond's goal, in the video at the top of this post, is all sorts of beautiful, roofing a backhand while making Dan Boyle look extremely silly. Lovely. It was a great shift for the entire line, including some nice work from Bieksa.
- Jannik Hansen has solidified his spot on the third line, in my mind. He was great with Manny Malhotra on the penalty kill, forechecked effectively, and drew an interference call in the third period just by skating hard and keeping his feet moving.
- I'm still not seeing enough from Raffi Torres. He threw a few hits and managed an effective cycle with Kesler and Raymond in the third period, but he was mostly invisible and seemed to stay on the perimeter. He was the only minus player for the Canucks in this game. One of the main criticisms he has faced throughout his career is inconsistency, so I'm hopeful he'll be better in the regular season. Quite frankly, as a third-line winger, he just needs to be competent most nights and chip in some scoring when possible. But if he's asked to fill in on the top-six with Burrows out, he'll need to be better.
- How nice was it to see a hipcheck from Ballard? So nice. He absolutely obliterated Wallin against the boards. Speaking of hitting, it was good to see Edler continuing his physical play from last year's playoffs. He had a nice solid hit on Setoguchi in the first period and wasn't afraid to engage physically in his own end. I'm thinking this could be a big season from the blond wonder.