Post-game: Canucks vs Calgary Flames, Oct. 7

The two rivals met in a heated season opener in Calgary six months after the Calgary Flames eliminated the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it did not disappoint.

The game started off with a bang, Derek Dorsett and Michael Ferland dropping the gloves off the opening draw. It seemed the Canucks had not forgotten Ferland over the course of the summer, after he terrorized the Vancouver defence with his ferocious forecheck. The fight was fairly one-sided: Ferland had two inches and 20 pounds on Dorsett and it showed.

The Flames looked to be energized by that fight. They rained down a relentless attack on the Canucks for the first 10 minutes of the game but Vancouver survived and the following 50 minutes of hockey was largely dominated by Vancouver.

In last year’s playoffs, the Flames dominated the Canucks due to their tenacious forecheck, that Vancouver team was slow and got absolutely decimated because of it. This Vancouver team, however, is much quicker and it showed. When Calgary dumped the puck in, the Vancouver defence was quick to pounce on it and transition towards the Flames’ end. Calgary couldn’t catch Vancouver.

This is in no small part due to the new additions to the Vancouver blueline: Ben Hutton and Matt Bartkowski. The two new defenceman brought in an element of speed and have the vision and the ability to be able to quickly move the puck to the forwards. A good example came with the Jannick Hansen goal that opened the scoring. Hutton made a split-second decision, while Calgary was changing, to send a hard pass across the middle of the ice to an open Hansen, who then fired a rocket into the top shelf.

The speed of the 2015-’16 Canucks was prevalent throughout the course of the game, and it brings to mind the juggernaut 2010-’11 team that went to the finals. That teams’ success depended a large part on the mobility of the defence and their ability to move the puck up the ice. It looks like speed will be a focal point of this years’ Vancouver Canucks team.


Bo Horvat: The legend of Horvat continues to grow in Vancouver. Horvat was slated to start the season as the third-line centre, but his remarkable play in the pre-season — he led the team in goals — forced coach Willie Desjardins’ hand and he was granted the second-line spot. His linemates Radim Vrbata and Sven Baertschi and he combined for 13 shots, which was the highest of any line for either teams. Horvat has become noticeably faster since the start of his rookie campaign. He and Vrbata played well off of each other. Horvat is an excellent passer and he was able to find Vrbata open on a few chances this game.
Ben Hutton: Hutton played in his first-ever NHL game and was impressive. He made some mistakes, but every defenceman makes mistakes, especially rookie defenceman. He was fairly solid defensively, but it was in the offensive zone where he shone. He quarterbacked the second unit powerplay and it looked the best it had in years. Hutton moved the puck quickly and decisively, and with his great skating and large frame, was able to create space for himself at the point. Hutton picked up his first-ever NHL point on an assist to a Hansen goal: He caught the Flames on a change and passed the puck across the ice to Hansen who buried the goal on a slapshot. The 22-year-old had an excellent first outing and looks to have solidified his spot on the roster for now.
Jared McCann: Another rookie, this one a 19-year-old. McCann surprised everyone in the pre-season and forced his way onto the roster with excellent play. McCann is one of the fastest players on the team and his speed is definitely an asset on the back check. He was able to cover ground quickly and thwarted many attempts in the Canucks end. The rookie had a quiet night offensively, but rookies usually take about 20 games to get accustomed to NHL speed, so that isn’t worrying. His solid defense will earn him more ice time as the coach will not have to shelter him. McCann started and ended the game on the third line, alongside Alexandre Burrows and Jannick Hansen.

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