After months of speculation about how the team’s roster would shake out with a new-look defense and top-six, the Canucks’ season opener against the Edmonton Oilers unfolded in more or less predictable fashion. The top two lines looked stronger than ever, and the defense held steady, but the bottom of the lineup continued to be a problem for the Canucks, as a bad giveaway by their third line late in the game was enough enough to seal the game for the Oilers with a final score of 3-2.
Kassian feeds Draisaitl who beats Markstrom to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead. #Canucks pic.twitter.com/rFrR0n4pHu
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) October 3, 2019
Alex Edler with the first #Canucks goal of the season, a as the Vancouver power play expired. 1-1 game, late 2nd. pic.twitter.com/1YUEE6pKyj
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) October 3, 2019
JT Miller, always seems to make the best possible play with the puck. Does so again before Myers goal. pic.twitter.com/V3jZroNfmp
— Dan Riccio (@DanRiccio650) October 3, 2019
29 + 44 link up for goal number on the night. #LetsGoOilers pic.twitter.com/MaZEGOQr0G
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 3, 2019
Sutter turnover. Loui watching. 97 scores. pic.twitter.com/PxR0TbHakT
— Dan Riccio (@DanRiccio650) October 3, 2019
- All in all, there were a lot of positive takeaways from the Canucks’ performance tonight. Most if all of the new additions looked comfortable and made am impact tonight, including Tyler Myers, the big-ticket Canucks’ free agent signing of the off-season. The Canucks controlled a solid 2/3 of the shot share at 5-on-5 with Myers on the ice, and he picked up the primary assist on Tanner Pearson’s goal.
- Pearson was the Canucks’ best player tonight, generating a whopping 10 shots on goal and controlling 77% of the shot share at evens. Pearson developed some great chemistry with Bo Horvat towards the end of last year, and they don’t appear to have lost a beat. Along with J.T. Miller, they dominated the Oilers tonight and were the best line on either team. If Ferland can develop the same kind of chemistry with Pettersson and Boeser, the Canucks’ top six might turn into quite the force to be reckoned with this season.
- Another player who was great towards the end of last season was Jacob Markstrom, who made a number of excellent saves tonight, particularly on the penalty kill. He’s going to have to be every bit as good as he was in the latter half of the 2018-19 season for the Canucks to have any hope of making the playoffs, and though it was just one night, so far he looks up to the task.
What a wicked set of saves by Jacob Markstrom to shut the door as the #Canucks kill off the penalty. pic.twitter.com/VQ81vBTcJe
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) October 3, 2019
- Leon Draistail set former Canuck Zack Kassian up for an absolutely beautiful goal to tie the game midway through the third period that likely would have held up as the nicest goal of the game if not for some late-game heroics by Connor McDavid. I think I speak for most fans when I say that it’s nice to see him find some success after his struggles with substance abuse, even if it came at the expense of the Canucks. The situation on the wing for the Oilers is looking rather dire, meaning Kassian is actually one of the team’s better options in the top-six. Here’s hoping he puts up some decent totals this season in all but the Oilers remaining three games against Vancouver.
- Quinn Hughes has really breathed life into the Canucks’ defence. His performance tonight was hit-and-miss, potting an assist on the Pearson goal and getting burned a little on McDavid’s game winner, but he was immediately noticeable every time he stepped on the ice. The Canucks’ transition game already looks like it’s taken a step, and he helped generate some chances for a PP2 unit that finally looks like more than just an afterthought.
- The Canucks’ top-six came as advertised tonight, but the bottom-six left a lot to be desired. Both the Sutter and Beagle lines struggled to exit the zone for long stretches of the game, and came out on the wrong side of the shot-share. The third line in particular had a rough night, getting hemmed in their own zone for along stretch late in the third, which eventually resulted in McDavid’s game-winner off a terrible giveaway by Brandon Sutter.
- While Travis Green kept the bottom half of the lineup’s minutes mercifully low at even-strength, there were still a number of odd lineup decisions in tonight’s game. Troy Stecher played just 10:43 over the course of the entire game, Quinn Hughes didn’t get so much as a sniff of playing time with the first unit power play, and Adam Gaudette sat in the press box after the Canucks waived two players who were on last year’s roster to make space for him. I wrote earlier this week that for the Canucks to make the postseason, they’ll need solid goaltending, strong performances from their young players, to stay relatively healthy, and for their lineup to be deployed optimally. The Canucks’ had no trouble with the first three categories tonight, but got burned by failing to do the fourth. With the defense and top-six holding strong so far, it would be a real shame if the Canucks’ bottom-six kept them from being a good team this season, especially with proven offensive contributors playing in the minors. The players that were in the bottom-six tonight are there because of their perceived ability to help prevent goals against. They’ll have to do a better job in the future if the Canucks want to finally take a step forward this season.