After a remarkably short hockey summer, we’re already just a few sleeps away from the start of the 2011-12 NHL season and the Vancouver Canucks’ home opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins sans Sidney Crosby. As the pre-season comes to an end, here are some Things That Make You Go Hmmm:
1. The first power play unit. I was at the Canucks’ final exhibition game, a 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers this past Saturday night. While I was impressed with many things, I was very unimpressed with our first power play unit. Granted, the full unit only played a couple of games together but on Saturday night their execution was quite sloppy. Alex Edler and Mikael Samuelsson had trouble at the point: they were both unable to get shots off and had trouble keeping the puck inside the zone on numerous occasions. With Samuelsson’s defensive shortcomings (mostly because he’s not a defenceman), I think it’s quite risky that he’s manning the point. I would much rather see Sami Salo and his wicked slap shot at the point, although I’m not sure who would want to stand in front of the net to screen the goalie and look for deflections. Speaking of which, it’s obvious that the Canucks are going to miss Ryan Kesler’s effective net presence on the power play… it’s simply not a strength of Alex Burrows’ game.
2. Getting off to a good start. October has traditionally been quite unfriendly to the Canucks. Over the past five seasons, the Canucks have a 29-27-3 record in October, amassing only 61 of a possible 118 points. Part and parcel to the club’s performance is the play of goaltender Roberto Luongo, who is traditionally a slow-starter. Luongo, like all of the veterans, only played in a few pre-season games but he looked extremely sharp on Saturday night. As mentioned above, the Canucks employed a strategy of playing the veterans in only a couple pre-season games after last year’s long playoff run. The purpose was two-fold: to give the players a bit more rest and to make them hungrier coming out of the gate. We’ll see if it translates into a strong October performance. And we’ll see if other teams follow suit if the Canucks do well right off the bat.
3. Lamenting my hockey pool choice. On Sunday, I hosted an annual hockey pool for my buddies and wound up picking 4th overall. Not surprisingly, Steve Stamkos went first, Daniel Sedin went second, and Alex Ovechkin went third. I spent my 90 seconds agonizing between picking Henrik Sedin (and his guaranteed 90-100 points) and the ultimate wild-card Sidney Crosby. You’d think it would be an easy choice for an avid Canucks blogger, a no-brainer. But, for whatever reason, I decided to take a chance on the guy who will NOT be playing at Rogers Arena this Thursday night. As the rest of the guys in the room started to murmur, I immediately regretted my decision, especially after the next poolster took Hank within 0.7 seconds of me taking Crosby. Oh well… I hope the winner of the pool will do something nice with my 35 bucks!
Will the Canucks be able to leave their slow October starts in their rear-view mirror? We’ll get our first indication this Thursday night.