by Joel Smart (Sports Editor)
The Vancouver Canucks welcomed in season 40 with a celebration to their past. The culmination was the naming of Henrik Sedin as captain of the squad. Though the Canucks lost the game 2-1 to the Los Angeles Kings in the Shootout, there are plenty of things worth taking away from the night.
Perhaps the most important thing about the Canucks performance in the first game of the season was the fact that the new lines seemed to be doing a good job together. There weren’t an egregious amount of odd man rushes or communication errors to fault the Canucks on. Hey, until the shootout, the squad only allowed on goal all night.
The Canucks really let themselves down with undisciplined penalties taken by team leaders. A fair case could be made that Ryan Kesler single-handedly gave away a point in the standings by taking a dumb penalty at the benches with the puck nowhere in sight. With Kesler in the penalty box, and under four minutes in the game, the Kings inevitably found the back of the net. Kevin Beiksa also needs to be named as a team leader who let his team down. His elbowing penalty came immediately after he allowed a different Kings player to sneak past him with the puck. A little more discipline could have gone a long way.
Counteracting this downside is the incredible penalty kill the Canucks were able to put up. One can only hope that this a trend we can expect to see built upon over the rest of the season. The kills were huge all game long, but none was as thrilling as the full 2:00 penalty kill in the Canuck’s zone in the 4-on-3. It was an incredibly tense moment, and shining brighter than all the rest was the Canuck’s star goaltender, Luongo.
One thing a lot of people were complaining about after the game was the record of Luongo in the shootout. He is able to make amazing saves all game long, but it is undeniable that he hasn’t been the most impressive goaltender during the shootout. It’s just a fact. However, if you blame the results of the game on the shootout alone, you fail to account for the fact that the same person was responsible for keeping everyone in the game even longer up to that point. One highlight reel save that really stuck out to me was one in which he lept across the crease with his legs to catch the puck underneath him. Another time he was nearly pushed right into his net while trying to hold the puck out, but held the line until the whistle blew. I will say that I hope Luongo works on his shootouts though because they don’t inspire much hope when the overtime draws to a close.
Truth be told, despite being impressed and hoping the negative things from the game improve, and the positive things stay the same, the results of the game can’t be applied to the rest of the season. This team will evolve over the season a lot more than Canuck’s teams in recent years.
While I am disappointed with the dumb penalties we took, the game was also super exciting. There was a seemingly endless supply of bone-crunching hits; you could tell there was some real emotion in the game after the Kings were eliminated by the Canucks in the playoffs last year. It’s sure going to be fun to play them again next time.