What We Saw: Takeaways from the Vancouver Canucks’ first two preseason games

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      The old adage will always hold true: Don’t put too much stock into the preseason. It’s always tempting to overreact to what we see after months of not watching hockey. But it’s just not healthy.

      With that out of our system, let’s completely overreact to everything we saw during the Canucks’ first two preseason games.

      Edmonton 4 Vancouver 2

      • The story of the game going in and out was Elias Pettersson. How would Vancouver’s Swedish wonder play in his first NHL game? We got the answer on one play late in the first.

      Pettersson finished with one assist, though he should have had two after a beautiful between-the-legs pass left Nikolay Goldobin with an empty net until Oilers tender Cam Talbot took it away.

      Of course there were times where Pettersson looked a tad hesitant, but that’s obviously expected in one’s NHL debut. Many fans paid up for a chance to see Pettersson and he looked the part of a potential rookie of the year candidate. 

      • Sam Gagner looked like a player out to prove he belongs. After a rather rough first season in a Canucks uniform, many in the fanbase have called for the veteran forward to be either traded or waived to make room for a younger player. Though he was still frustratingly easy to remove from the puck, he did show some dangles and speed that were only evident occasionally last season.
      • Ben Hutton didn’t have a great game stats wise (was on the ice for three Oiler goals), but he looked the part of an NHL defenceman and has obviously shed some fat and added some muscle.
      • Jake Virtanen will be under the microscope this year and while he didn’t do too much with the puck of note, he was seeking out Oilers players and smacking them against the boards with glee, which was nice to see. 
      • Markus Granlund was around the puck a lot, but couldn’t end up doing much with it. One has to wonder if he’s the victim of a numbers game at some point this year and ends up getting waived. Granlund doesn’t have too many more seasons to prove he belongs as an everyday forward in the league.
      • Is Sven Baertschi in danger of losing his top line spot with Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat? He certainly played like he was trying to earn a place on the team. The Swiss forward was vibrant, making plays and scoring a beautiful goal. For the record, his role on the top unit looks safe.
      • Goldobin looked very slick and appeared capable of logging prime offensive minutes. If he can do that against real NHL competition, it'd be an absolute boon for the club.
      • Overall, the Canucks defence looked a lot like last year (because it’s basically the same personnel). And that’s troubling, as the Canucks didn’t get nearly offence from the blueline last year and it’s hard to see how that will change until Quinn Hughes comes over from Michigan.
      • There were a few regular Canucks who weren’t in the lineup for this one, yes, with Brock Boeser being the most noticeable. But the Edmonton Oilers assembled a skeleton crew around Cam Talbot—Zack Kassian was an alternate captain for Pete’s sake. So was it a bit unnerving that the Canucks weren’t able to put up more of a fight against the Oil? We promised we weren’t going to overreact, but yes it was.
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      Calgary Flames 4 Vancouver Canucks 1

      • No Pettersson in this one meant that the spotlight would be shone squarely on some other intriguing Canucks youngsters. One was obviously Thatcher Demko who’s still likely to start the season in Utica even as Anders Nilsson’s performance against Edmonton a night earlier didn’t inspire much confidence. Demko wasn’t perfect, but it’s hard to fault him too much on any of the goals. He also stopped the Flames on at least three different breakaways and generally looked solid.
      • Another Canucks rookie under the radar was Adam Gaudette, and he didn’t disappoint. The Northwestern University product had a couple nice plays and would have had a goal to show for it if not for a sprawling effort from Flames goaltender Tyler Parsons.
      • It appears that Calgary’s Dillon Dube can play. He was making moves all over the ice, toying with multiple Canucks and victimizing them even while shorthanded. If it turns out he can’t, well, the Canucks are going to be hard to watch this year.
      • Everytime we’ve been able to catch glimpses of Petrus Palmu, he’s impressed. The pint-sized forward looked good again, doing what he does best: mucking it up in battles along the boards and forechecking hard. He also had a nifty backhand that he almost snuck under the crossbar early in the third.
      • Brandon Sutter came out firing with a couple nice plays, including drawing a penalty shot that he couldn’t beat Flames goaltender David Rittich on.
      • The Canucks powerplay had a hard time getting anything going. Obviously their regular season unit will look a lot different from Wednesday’s game, but it’ll be something to watch. For the record, it looked dangerous against Edmonton, even without Boeser.
      • It’s well documented that Brendan Gaunce had a bit of an unlucky year last season as he often seemed to be just missing pucks. The trend of being cursed seemed to continue against the Flames, as he rang one off the post on the powerplay and accidentally got his stick up on a Flames player, taking a two-minute penalty that Travis Green surely didn’t like.
      • For most of the game, the Canucks looked pretty lacklustre, but they clearly got a talking to from Green in the second intermission. Vancouver came out a completely different team in the third.
      • Brendan Leipsic always looks ready to chase down pucks and make plays, and he once again was a willing combatant. He was absolutely robbed by the prospect Parsons a couple times in the third. But he got one back on the youngster, dangling into the middle of the ice and finishing with a backhanded effort through the tender’s legs for Vancouver's only goal of the night. 
      • Reid Boucher always seems to dominate AHL competition, and this game was no different. He hit two crossbars and fed an absolute beauty of a pass to Leipsic that the latter couldn’t sneak by Parsons.
      • Michael DiPietro showed well in his one period of action and didn’t seem intimidated at all, flashing the leather when he was tested (which, granted, wasn't very often). 

      Other notes

      • Hutton can’t draw, that much was clear during a Canucks’ in-game entertainment segment that featured a young fan trying to guess what the defenceman had scribbled out. It was a goalie mask. It didn’t look like one.
      • Another new in-game entertainment feature had a Johnny Canuck Snapchat filter on different fans around the rink. It got some chuckles.
      • The Canucks take on the L.A. Kings tomorrow night and it’ll be interesting to see if prized acquisition Ilya Kovalchuk suits up. He played big minutes in L.A.’s preseason game against Arizona on Tuesday.