Thursday, October 01, 2009

Nothing But Cup

If preseason has anything to do with it, the Vancouver Canucks are destined for the finals. Undefeated in regular time, the only two exhibition losses came in overtime. As well as this team looks on paper, individually, only Sergei Shirokov shows up anywhere near the top five in league scoring with seven points.

Fast forward to the first regular season game of the 2009-10 season, and the Canucks quickly fall 2-0 behind the Flames in Calgary halfway through the first period -- 3-0 at the 12-minute mark.

This is a team that may have similar challenges as the Flames had towards the end of last season as they are inched right at the edge of the salary cap -- any of that space has to be used before injury allowances kick in. Pavol Demitra and Mathieu Schneider are still nursing off-season shoulder surgeries.

The Flames kept control and went up 4-2 at the end of the second, but you just knew that second goal (Mikael Samuelsson) woke Vancouver up.

Just :41 into the third, a persistent Alex Burrows put the Canucks behind by one. Halfway through the period, the Canucks posted 14 shots to the Flames one.

Vancouver tallied 41 shots when they pulled Roberto Luongo for an extra attacker with one minute to go, but the Flames pocketed an empty netter -- Dion Phaneuf.

The Canucks pushed back but they were able to get a big penalty kill at the end to hold on.

Calgary's Eric Nystrom, who assisted on his linemate Brandon Prust's goal, along with Fredrik Sjostrom, evaluates, "We're still learning. The two guys I play with are fast players and they hound the puck better than anybody. Once we got control of it, the guys were playing strong, making simple plays, getting it out to the point, and shooting at the net. It's such a simple game."

"We didn't try to be too fancy," adds Sjostrom. "We cycled the puck a lot, and it worked.

It wasn't a pretty win, but coach Brent Sutter will take it. As for the Canucks, they can take some solice into the 42 shots generated, 21 in the third period. Just one game with 81 to go. I still like the Canucks' chances of reaching the final.

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