Blame New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick for starting it. His “It is what it is”, which he started whenever the hell he started it, is utilized throughout the sports media and cliche world ad nauseum. So what the heck, to describe the Vancouver Canucks preseason game Friday night in Calgary, let’s go with “it was what it was.” Yes, obviously the club is still paying close attention to the performance of players and situations to make the best decisions possible moving into the regular season, but with the pending arrival of newly re-signed stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, head coach Travis Green can’t help but daydream ahead a wee bit so that he can cease and desist with some of the line-up experimentation. Soon it will be all about getting his A-1 players on the ice and ready to start the season in Edmonton on October 13th.
That’s not to suggest the 4-1 loss to the Flames was without consequence. There was almost a biggie. When feisty, new Vancouver Canucks winger Conor Garland blocked a slapshot from the human monster Nikita Zadorov with about four minutes to play in the game and went down hobbled and in pain, Canucks management was likely holding its collective breath. Garland dragged himself to the bench, shook it off, and stayed in the game. Let’s hope we’re not hearing about a hairline foot or ankle fracture later. Oh sorry, I meant lower body injury. Garland is tough to say the least, famous in Arizona, and in Edmonton where it happened, for scoring a goal with his head for the Coyotes. As in, a shot hit him in the cranium and went into the net. Tallied the G, got knocked silly and picked up a dozen or so stitches.
Green said forward Brock Boeser would miss about a week of action. This was not game related this evening, he left practice very early on Thursday and the nature of his injury or aggravation was not revealed.
The Vancouver Canucks Penalty Kill was solid, essentially holding the Calgary Flames to oh-for-5. They did get one, officially 1-for-6, but the goal came at the end of the game into an empty net. Otherwise, the Canucks summer centre acquisition from Dallas Jason Dickinson was “as advertised” in terms of positioning and anticipation in helping the cause. By the way, Vancouver finished oh-for-4 on their PP.
Did you notice the goalie who replaced Jacob Markstrom for the Flames in the 3rd period Friday night? You may want to take note as he may be the next phenom. Dustin Wolf, outside of his sort of goofy redheaded haircut, is nails. If you’re a Western Hockey League fan you’re probably aware of the fact he put up atrociously good numbers the last four seasons down the road in Everett, Washington for the Silvertips. His cumulative record there was 106-34-4. That’s not a typo. Last season the Californian’s goals against average was 1.80 and his save percentage was .940. Just another fun little something to watch in the NHL or AHL this season.
Take it from a guy who has broadcast dozens and dozens of hockey games on TV in Canada and the United States, as a play-by-play guy and otherwise; you’ve got a dandy in John Shorthouse. Friday night provided a reminder that Vancouver Canucks fans have been spoiled over the decades and the current booth tandem with John Garrett is no exception. The hockey broadcast business borders on pathetic in certain US markets, you’ll notice this like I do if you have the NHL package and bounce around, and in certain cases it’s not much better there at the national network level. In fact, in one or two cases it’s worse. Shorthouse’s cadence, his timely crescendos, and his full-ice awareness, even away from the puck, is top notch. I realize I’m probably telling you something you already know. By the way, NHL radio play-by-play over large swaths of DUHmerica is even worse.
In the “don’t trust your government, especially after a hockey game” category, which is one I just made up, be glad you weren’t along for the ride with me Sunday night. How much does a full-grown male elk weigh? Answer: 700 pounds. I almost hit a couple of those, about thirty deer, a skunk, a baby racoon, rocks, an owl, fallen trees, and the rear end of a bull. Yeah, that’s right, cattle we’re wandering around in the dark on Little Boulder Creek Road, with more on Chesaw Road in northern Washington State. What happened? I had my accommodations in Osoyoos, BC for after the Vancouver Canucks game in Spokane Sunday night, and had planned on making the border at the Cascade Crossing by midnight, the alleged time of closing. But when I arrived at 11:45, the gate was down and there wasn’t a soul in sight. Just the creepy US border guy in the pick-up truck with the lights dimmed in the bushes. Correct: the two sides couldn’t stay open until the time advertised to let me cross, but they could pay a guy to sit there and make sure no one broke through the gate.
Me and my annoyingly dry contact lenses backtracked 20K along cliffs, turned right and had to drive through rain blowing sideways for 90-minutes until I arrived at Oroville, Washington and hit the border. I almost got pulled over in Oroville, and until then I had not passed another vehicle. I never slowed down, ripped around every turn, and narrowly avoided scores of wildlife. I’m unfazed, I’ve literally driven a million kilometres. By the way, the “couple of elk” was actually an entire herd, that rumbled in all directions as I slammed on the breaks and crept past them at 1:15 in the morning. It was surreal, like a really dangerous video game. I was 15 minutes from Osoyoos. The Canadian border guy was a huge Seattle Mariners fan and didn’t even check my damn free Covid test. (To be fair, I do have Nexus and a work exemption). I slept like a baby and leisurely drove to the Canucks game in Abbotsford.
The Canucks practice at noon on Saturday at Rogers Arena.