Final score Monday night in Abbotsford in NHL exhibition hockey: Vancouver Canucks 4, Calgary Flames 2.
“I thought it was a good hockey game all the way around,” declared Head Coach Travis Green. “It was a good first period, I thought offensively we got a little loose. When I say that I think we defended well in the 2nd, but I thought we weren’t as direct in the second period with some shots from the outside, no one at the net, and I thought we got back to it in the third.”
While I was pretty impressed with William Lockwood’s speed and his performance in the training camp skirmishes and scrimmages, it’s looking more and more like the 23-year-old Royal Oak, Michigan native could use some repetitions and some consistent ice time at the AHL level. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Darkhorse bids are always exciting to think about, but it’s starting to look like a bigger forward with more experience is the likelier option. Zack MacEwen showed signs of warming up on Monday night. He’s a right-shot, as is Alex Chiasson, who’s five years older, a Stanley Cup winner with Washington, and here on a Professional Try-out (PTO).
“He’s as advertised I guess,” Green said of Chiasson postgame. “Pretty solid player all over the rink. Big body. Both power play goals you could see he was around the net, he understands the power play. I thought that line was good tonight (with Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson), I thought he played well too.”
A bit part of Chiasson’s opportunity with the Canucks stems from his work on the man advantage with the Oilers. He had an assist on JT Miller’s power play goal at 15:33 of the first period to give the Canucks a 3-0 lead. Vancouver finished 2-for-3 on the power play.
“It’s huge,” Chiasson told the media postgame. “I played against those guys a lot the last three years (with Edmonton) and I saw the line-up yesterday, the opportunity to play today with Bo and Pears’, those two guys just play the game the right way. It’s easy to play with them. I think Bo is under-rated, just the way he plays, he’s always in the right position. Obviously playing with those two makes life a lot easier.”
As for depth on the wings, there’s always the alternative of finding the appropriate lefty to play the off-wing. On the left, Phil Di Giuseppe has showed consistency so far in camp and was singled out with positive comments from coach Green after Sunday night’s game in Spokane.
The 3rd pair defence, left-side intrigue continues. Jack Rathbone had been sterling heading into Monday’s game. Olli Juolevi, the Canucks first-rounder, 5th-overall in 2016, has not been as effective. Very high picks tend to get some extra rope for two major reasons. Teams hope the upside seen by scouts when the player was a teenager will eventually emerge, and/or general managers and staffs are often remiss to experience the bad optics of having a top-5 pick not work out. Juolevi was better Monday night, “he was good” Green said in total, while Rathbone remained solid.
Goaltender Mike Dipietro went the distance and stopped 26 of 28 Flames’ shots, including an impressive series of saves near the end of the game with Calgary’s net empty and working with an extra attacker.
High priced defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson had two assists on the evening and was rewarded with the game’s first star honours. Both he and his fellow former Coyote Conor Garland had impressive nights. Garland scored the opening goal of the game just 2:38 into the first.
The Canucks are off completely on Tuesday and will practice Wednesday and Thursday at Rogers Arena. Expect some slimming of the overall roster in the next 36 hours.