On Monday night, Vancity Buzz sports writers, Jas Kang and Vyas Saran, were invited to Rogers Arena to watch the first preseason home game against the San Jose Sharks, alongside fellow bloggers from other websites. The game ended 3-2 in the Sharks favour, giving Vancouver a sour 0-5 streak in its last five games – all against San Jose.
As the first game in a series of exhibitions, the Canucks iced a roster dotted mostly with players anxious to crack the lineup, alongside a few veterans leading the way.
Four players in particular were high on the radar, so here’s a look at how they did.
Eddie Lack: B+
Despite a close 3-2 score, the ice was tilted against the Canucks and it was Lack that held the team in contention. Twenty shots were stopped by the Swedish netminder after 40 minutes and, despite a few scary rebounds, Lack made a solid pitch to wear the baseball cap on the bench this season.
Hunter Shinkaruk: B+
The 18-year-old winger was already blessed on Monday to have first billing by playing with Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows, and he put some sparkle on his performance by scoring a highlight reel goal.
The perfect wrist shot above Alex Stalock has given Shinkaruk an edge over Gaunce, Horvat and Jensen in the sweepstakes to make the final roster.
Brendan Gaunce: C+
The young winger didn’t get the ice time that Shinkaruk did, but he managed to net the first goal of the exhibition season for the Canucks, making his name impossible to forget for now. Gaunce didn’t impress much otherwise and will need to show a stronger performance in the preseason if he wants to squeeze into the full-time lineup.
Bo Horvat: C+
Also a victim of low ice time, the ninth overall pick from the 2013 NHL Draft played between Tom Sestito and Dale Weise, who together don’t scream “offensive upside” unless the game is played in the Netherlands. If this line stays the same until October, the Canucks coaching staff will clearly expect to throw him back to the OHL and take another year to develop a larger frame. Horvat did look great in the face-off circle, and penalty kills. Mike Sullivan used him twice in 5-on-3 situations, and he was great both times.
More thoughts on the pre-season opener
- The Sharks have the least creative jerseys in the NHL – they look like practice jerseys, as if a local softball team designed them to be cost-effective.
- Vancouver is a great hockey market, shown by the building at being roughly 70 per cent to 75 per cent capacity. Though it was preseason, there was genuine excitement from the Canucks faithful to see the rookies and coaching staff in their Vancouver debut.
- The Canucks had a lot more movement on the power play. The defense was constantly moving and interchanging with the forwards. The downside? Very sloppy puck possession resulted in a lack of quality chances.
- New season, same Andrew Alberts. The big D-man took four minor penalties, mostly as a result of a lack of foot speed. If you recall, he played in all four of the Canucks playoff games last year. He is a good option as a seventh or eighth defenceman, but if he is playing regular minutes in the playoffs, your squad is not going to make it very far.
- 48, 50, 53 – No, they’re not numbers from the B.C. Lions, but the digits on the back of Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce and Bo Horvat. Interesting choices from the Canucks youngsters.