With the Ducks being a favourite to win the Stanley Cup this year, it wouldn’t be wrong to think of Monday’s game as an early-season measuring stick.
The Canucks won 2-1 in the shootout, so fans should be happy. In terms of measuring up… well Ryan Miller did, anyway.
The rest of the team?
Corsi stats went 55-37 Anaheim’s way, which is bad. Worse, Vancouver had two players over zero in even-strength corsi. Anaheim had no players below zero. None.
After the first 10 minutes of the game, the Ducks took over. They looked stronger for most of the night – not Blackhawks vs Oilers stronger, but yes, noticably stronger.
But hey, if Miller plays like this consistently, it won’t matter how the skaters in front of him play.
1. Miller earned that W
The Miller camp, including Jim Benning, loved going back to his total in the wins column when making their argument last season. Problem was many of those wins were more due to the Canucks outscoring their opponents than Miller’s performance.
In the first two games of this season, Miller was solid. In game 3, he pretty much won the game.
Here’s a save on a Shawn Horcoff partial breakaway.
On the pre-game show, TSN 1040’s Jon Abbott says he thinks Miller will get the second half of the back-to-back in L.A. Tuesday. After that performance, and knowing coach Willie’s love of riding his starter, it’s almost a guarantee.
Miller will play well tomorrow. How he’ll do after being ridden a couple of months is the mystery. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
2. They call him KB… 2?
For many Canucks fans, the main story in this game was always going to be the guy who spent 10 seasons patrolling the blue line in Vancouver. He was a fan favourite for the way he played but also because he had one of the best personalities of anyone on the team. (And we know how much Canucks fans love players with personality).
Bieksa reminded us of it as he walked by Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy before the game.
Bieksa would’ve stayed longer too had the team wanted him, but after last season, they decided to go in another direction.
Bieksa: “At the end of the day, you want to be somewhere you’re wanted. If I wasn’t in their (#Canucks‘) plans, I was going to move on.”
— Ben Kuzma (@benkuzma) October 12, 2015
Sad as it must’ve been for him to have to leave the city he would’ve played his entire career in, given his choice, he must be happy that his new team is showing some belief in him. So far this season, Bieksa is second in ice time on the Ducks behind only Hampus Lindholm.
Bieksa talked about it earlier in the day.
Bieksa on his 20:24 in #Ducks opener: “I feel like I’m in great shape. I came in a bit lighter and whatever they need me to do, I’ll do.”
— Ben Kuzma (@benkuzma) October 12, 2015
He finished the night with a plus-8 even-strength Corsi rating and playing 24 minutes – second-highest in both amongst Ducks skaters.
3. Coach loves him some Prust
When Jim Benning traded for Brandon Prust this summer, he said Prust was a guy who brought a physical side, was willing to fight, was good at getting in on the forecheck, and was great in the room. Benning loves guys who are good in the room more than anything.
But one thing no one ever said was that Prust would be a top-six forward… or get a sniff on the power play.
Yet somehow, Prust played on the second unit power play during the first period, and he found himself replacing Sven Baertschi on the second line at the end of the second.
Weird thing is this is the kind of speed fans have noticed from Prust so far. Here he is attempting to forecheck in the second.
Here are some tweets from the second period.
@omarcanuck only difference is Fielder would eventually make it. Prust is being lapped out there.
— Brutus Ritz (@brutusritz) October 13, 2015
@SatiarShah I hope your right! Need him to get in the 4th line is slow with two guys Prust and crack
— General Adm. Aladeen (@Nabatron) October 13, 2015
Prust is so slow. #freeVirtanen
— VanNucks (@sydney_a17) October 13, 2015
Prust is sooooooooooooo slow @VanCanucks
— Kevin Smillie (@smeez38) October 13, 2015
Someone tweeted this, which was funny.
Willie adapts as fast as Prust skates #canucks
— RD (@BuckFoston_) October 13, 2015
But before slagging Willie too much, he did adjust in the third period, putting Jannik Hansen and Sven Baertschi on Jared McCann’s wings, and Alex Burrows and Radim Vrbata alongside Bo Horvat.
More importantly, he put McCann out for a “show us what you got, son” defensive faceoff in the third period against none other than Ryan Getzlaf, and McCann won it.
That win didn’t earn McCann a second of play in overtime – it takes a long long time for young guys to earn playing time with Willie (just ask Horvat) – but he did get to shoot first in the shootout.
Despite that, many are speculating McCann will be pulled from the lineup so Jake Virtanen can have a chance to play Tuesday.
4. Cracknell’s making friends
One guy who may start to receive a lot more attention if he sticks around is Adam Cracknell.
Two things going in his favour: first, he’s a local boy – his family moved to Victoria from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, when he was 15, and he played three years of junior hockey for the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook.
Second, he’s playing on Vancouver’s version of the “bash brothers” line, centering Derek Dorsett and Brandon Prust.
Despite not putting up points, fourth liners and fighters tend to gain strong followings – just ask Gino Odjick and Rick Rypien.
Cracknell was on TSN 1040 radio Friday night, and he was asked how it felt to play in the Kraft Hockeyville game on Vancouver Island and scoring the overtime winner.
“It was huge for everyone there. I think I had about 30 people at that game. Anyone who knows my game knows I don’t score too many goals too often, especially in overtime.”
And just in case you’re wondering how much it means to him to play for the Canucks, he added:
“Dreams do come true I guess you can say when you get to wear the jersey of the team you grew up watching.”
Against the Ducks, he scored his first regular season goal since the 2012-13 season.
Like I said, he’ll be a fan favourite soon.
5. Hammer got hammered
Dan Hamhuis was visible from beginning to end. Here he is early in the game getting friendly with an old buddy.
And by friendly, I mean Kesler was using a move he learned watching WWE.
By the end of the night Sportsnet named him the second star of the game with the stats “6 hits, 3 blocked shots” below his name.
Their reaching as far as blocked shots to talk about how well he played was a red flag to me, so I looked closer.
Turned out Hamhuis was at the very bottom of the advanced stats sheet for the Canucks, meaning he spent most of the game in his own end, with the Ducks attampting shots on his net.
6. Victory celly
With the aim of leaving you on a positive note as we try to do, here’s a shot of the Canucks coming into the dressing room after winning.
It’s mostly a bunch of boring fist bumps and high fives, but Sbisa’s zombie fist bump is pretty special.
Note: thanks to Ryan Biech (@RyanBiech) for the gifs in this post