The Vancouver Canucks took to the ice for their second pre-season game tonight against the Calgary Flames. The Canucks won 3-1 in a game which they were largely outplayed yet saw a fantastic performance from goaltender Eddie Lack. Standout prospect Hunter Shinkaruk once again stood out as he notched a goal and an assist. Nicklas Jensen and Chris Higgins were the other goal scorers for the Canucks. Tonight was also the debut of new acquisitions Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa, both of whom played very good games tonight.
The Canucks were outshot 31-23 but displayed a very cohesive team system. In an off-season that saw more roster and front office changes than in any other time in Canucks’ history, it seems the change promised by Vancouver Canucks ownership is beginning to take hold.
Stand Out Canucks
One of the biggest stories beginning to emerge is the potential of another goalie controversy. Eddie Lack once again was lights out turning aside all 20 shots he faced before turning over the game to Joackim Erickson in the middle of the second period. Lack once again exhibited spectacular form and has yet to be scored upon this pre-season. The emergence of the 26-year old Lack could cause awkwardness for the Canucks as they just signed 34-year old veteran netminder Ryan Miller to a three year 18 million dollar contract. In a situation eerily reminiscent of their recent Roberto Luongo/Cory Schneider drama, the Canucks could enter the season with two top end goaltenders.
Hunter Shinkaruk once again lit up the score sheet with an assist and a goal. Shinkaruk’s goal was especially impressive as he showed good handeye coordination whacking a rebound into the net out of mid-air. The soon to be 20-year old Shinkaruk was a bit of a question mark entering training camp having not played a hockey game since 2013 due to injury. However Shinkaruk has been the Canucks most prolific scorer through camp and is making noise to be on the opening night roster. Shinkaruk displays more offensive potential than any Canucks’ prospect in recent memory with a very slippery game around the crease. Interestingly the Canucks seem to be positioning Shinkaruk as a cornerstone of their franchise as he’s been receiving more camera time, interview time and attention than any other player in camp.
Nicklas Jensen has had a solid camp notching points in both games he’s appeared and scoring a goal tonight. Jensen rifled the puck from a sharp angle on a nice feed from Nick Bonino. The 21-year old Jensen has been a bit of an enigma in that he’s shown flashes of offensive prowess yet has a habit of taking dumb penalties. The Danish power forward is noticeably one of the biggest Canucks’ players but doesn’t use his size and tends to disappear for long stretches of the game.
Dividends of the Kesler Trade
New acquisition Nick Bonino has been a bit of a question mark among the Canucks’ faithful. Bonino was acquired in the controversial Ryan Kesler trade to be Kesler’s replacement. It was unsure what Bonino would bring to the team. Tonight was Bonino’s debut in a Canucks’ uniform and he impressed with two assists. In tonight’s game Bonino displayed impressive vision and the ability to distribute the puck. It is unsure what Bonino’s destiny with the Canucks is but it’s clear he has offensive talent and a pair of soft hands.
Tonight was the first look at new defenseman Luca Sbisa who was also acquired in the Kesler trade. Sbisa played a fair defensive game and had a noteworthy physical edge while leading all Canucks in ice time playing over 25 minutes.. The 24-year old defenseman showed some serviceable talent but seemed to be a bit of an adventure distributing the puck. Sbisa will likely be the Canucks’ most physical defenseman this season.
Canucks’ Depth Comes Through
In the absence of most of the Canucks’ high end players defenseman Ryan Stanton stood out and played a fantastic game. The 25-year old Stanton was a rock on the ice and had a very consistent physical game while playing on both special teams. Stanton notched an assist and looks poised to begin the season on the Canucks’ blueline.
The Canucks went from goaltending graveyard to goaltending pipeline over the last decade and took major step forward when the organization hired goaltending coach Roland Melanson. This commitment to goaltending development has led to the Canucks having a battery of talented goaltenders. This was exhibited tonight when 24-year old Joacim Erickson came in to relieve Eddie Lack mid-way through the second period. Erickson allowed one goal on 11 shots and looked solid in his time in the crease.