NHL: Saturday, October 15, 2016 at 10:00 p.m. EST
The Line: OFF. Total: OFF.
The Vancouver Canucks will be playing their first game of the season when they host the Calgary Flames at Rogers Arena on Saturday night. Vancouver is coming off a disappointing 2015-16 campaign in which it went 31-38-13 and missed the playoffs with 75 points. The Flames have already played twice this week; they lost at Edmonton 7-4 on Wednesday before hosting the Oilers on Friday.
Tinkering with the defense
New Flames’ head coach Glen Gulutzan changed up his back lines during the preseason, most notably splitting the pair of Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie that had been on consistent display for the last three years. To say Gulutzan’s tinkering did not play off in Wednesday’s opener against the Oilers would be an understatement. Giordano started with Dennis Wideman alongside him, while Brodie teamed up with Deryk Engelland. Fellow defenseman Nicklas Grossmann was partly at fault for Edmonton’s first two goals before a bad line change by Giordano and Engelland contributed to the next score.
“I think it was to switch things up and to maybe have a different feel or different look,” Giordano said on Thursday. “Obviously me and Brodes have played together a long time. We’ll try and switch it up. We gave them too many chances and whenever you lose games like that, you try to find a way to clean it up really quickly.”
“We had some errors,” Gulutzan admitted. “But we had some guys play some pretty good games, too. But we’re going to get a different match-up at home. We’ll look at some different pairings. Right through training camp, we’ve said the pairings at practice won’t necessarily be how we play.”
Threw them into the fire
Vancouver finished second to last in the Western Conference and fourth to last in the NHL in 2015-16. If there is any good news for the Canucks heading into the 2016-17 campaign, however, it’s that the youngsters got some meaningful playing time in advance of what the franchise hopes will be a more productive season. Center Bo Horvat, still just 21 years old, played in all 82 games last season and contributed 40 points.
“It was a very difficult year and I didn’t enjoy it at all,” head coach Willie Desjardins commented. “One of the keys to coaching is knowing what motivates people. Everybody is different and it’s not like I have the answers. I just believe that accountability is huge and that was a bit of a slippery slope last year.
“If you make young players too accountable, they freeze because they’re so afraid they’re going to make a mistake that they can’t play. At the same time, the only way to player better is making that mistake so they don’t make it again. That’s your tough part. I believe you develop by getting what you deserve and you don’t if people give you things because you take it for granted.”
The Calgary Flames are:
- 16-35 in their last 51 road games
- 3-8 in their last 11 games against the Pacific Division
- 0-4 in their last four games playing on no days of rest
The Vancouver Canucks are:
- 6-2 in their last eight games against teams with winning percentages under .400
- 15-6 in their last 21 home games against Calgary
- 4-0-4 Over in their last eight overall
Calgary will have already played two games by the time it takes the ice for this one, and that may not be a good thing especially considering that the team is playing on no days of rest. The Flames clearly haven’t figured out what they are doing on defense, so this is a good opportunity for Vancouver in its home opener. Although the Canucks are young, they still have twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin on the roster for veteran leadership–and not to mention for plenty of production. The Flames are 16-35 in their last 51 on the road, 3-8 in their last 11 against the Pacific Division, and 0-4 in their last four playing without any days of rest. Vancouver is 6-2 in their last eight against opponents with winning percentages under .400 and 15-6 in their last 21 at home against Calgary. Count on those trends continuing.