Canucks fall 3-2 in their season opener in Edmonton
G: Edler (1), Pearson (1)
Jacob Markstrom stopped 19 of 22 Oiler shots
1) The Vancouver Canucks played well enough to win on Wednesday night. Unfortunately for them, the Edmonton Oilers two game-breakers had other plans. Leon Draisaitl scored once and set up the other two goals while Connor McDavid seized one of the few opportunities he had and snapped a 2-2 deadlock with a nifty individual effort with five and a half minutes remaining. On balance over 60 minutes, the Canucks may have been the better team on the night, but the Oilers stars did enough to swing the result in the home team's favour. There will be nights this season when the Canucks best players take control on the scoresheet. This was not one of them.
2) Through much of the summer, Jim Benning has pointed to the fact the Canucks have not scored enough goals from in front of the net in recent years. In fact, he has repeatedly lamented the team's lack of deflections, rebounds and second chance conversions. The trade for JT Miller and the signing of Micheal Ferland were supposed to help address the issue while others were expected to do their part, too. One of the encouraging signs then to emerge from Wednesday's loss was the fact that both goals fit the criteria laid out by the general manager. Alex Edler knotted the game at one seconds after a Canucks power play ended in the second period. The veteran blueliner let a shot go that found its way through a double-screen of Josh Leivo and Brandon Sutter and ultimately past Mike Smith in the Edmonton net. The Canucks second goal came of a high-slot tip by Tanner Pearson of a Tyler Myers blast from the left point midway through the third. Originally it looked like Myers shot had gone through untouched but replays showed that Pearson got his stick blade on the puck -- one of his game-high 11 shots on the night.
3) While he was on the ice for the McDavid game winner, Quinn Hughes actually made a decent defensive effort on the play. He got a piece of the puck but was a little unlucky in that he pushed it right back to the wrong guy and McDavid made no mistake from there. Hughes played a lot and played well for much of the night. He logged a total of 23:07 including a whopping 10:06 of the third period. Only Alex Edler at 25:40 played more for the Canucks. Hughes saw 3:38 of power play time and 19:29 at even-strength. He failed to register a shot on goal, but did have three shot attempts and overall shot attempts were 18-9 in the Canucks favour with Hughes on the ice at evens. Included in his night was a 2:25 shift to finish the game when the Canucks had the goalie pulled for an extra attacker. The young blueliner picked up a second assist on the Tanner Pearson goal as he fed the puck across the blueline to set up the Tyler Myers blast that was deflected. Hughes now has four points in six NHL games and continues to show so many signs that should have the Canucks and their fans excited as he continues his on the job learning. He certainly does not look out of place at this level two weeks before his 20th birthday.
4) The even-strength ice time of the Canucks four centres was worth monitoring on Wednesday as Travis Green played a chess game with new Oilers head coach Dave Tippett. The Oilers started the night and spent much of the first two periods with McDavid and Draisaitl on separate lines. But, as expected, with the game tied 1-1 going to the third period Tippett pulled out the stops and re-united his dynamic duo. The Canucks tried to play the match-up game for much of the night, but not at the expense of ice time for their own top players. Elias Pettersson finished the game with 15:02 at even-strength followed by Bo Horvat at 13:01. Brandon Sutter logged 11:22 at evens while Jay Beagle saw 9:43 of even-strength ice time. That is the way it should be.
5) Despite a solid overall effort from the Canucks, with just two goals -- and only one by a forward -- the door may be open a crack for a line-up change on Saturday in Calgary. After his strong preseason in which he led all Canucks forwards in scoring, Adam Gaudette was a healthy scratch on Wednesday as Loui Eriksson replaced the injured Tyler Motte in the line-up. Eriksson was not prominent but did play more than two minutes on the penalty kill that went two for two on the night. Candidates to come out of the line-up would likely be Jake Virtanen who played a team-low 9:11 or Tim Schaller who managed 10:21 -- neither player recorded a shot on goal and neither was noticeable physically. Virtanen was given credit for three non-descript hits while Schaller had but one. Gaudette has never played wing in the NHL and Travis Green has spoken repeatedly this week about that fact. So Gaudette would likely only get inserted into the line-up if Green was prepared to move Brandon Sutter to the wing. That may happen at some point this season, it just seems unlikely after only one game.