Taking a team that isn’t close to grasping its new system and putting it in front of Roberto Luongo for his first preseason game sure makes for some awkward hockey.
Actually, awkward is being a little too kind to the Vancouver Canucks for their 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.
They spent the first 12 minutes bumbling around the ice like the Cleveland Browns front office on draft day. Then, they spent the rest of the game protecting a three-goal deficit.
Brendan Gaunce scored another garbage goal. That was good. The Sedins killed penalties and if you’re all for that, they didn’t disappoint. They nearly had a couple of shorthanded scoring chances, too.
But, really, the Canucks looked like they didn’t have a clue what they were doing under John Tortorella. Turns out, they don’t.
Not yet anyway.
“We haven’t looked at a lot of changes,” Henrik Sedin said. “We looked at a little bit of the neutral zone and forecheck, and a little bit in our own end. But it’s a process.
“It’s going to take six games, and a lot of practice.”
Well, there’s only four left.
This process could take longer for Luongo.
Consider his history of struggling in October. It’s generally been attributed to the theory it takes him playing games to hone his reads on the ice. There’s no reason to think that will change.
Now consider this year he’ll be doing it in front of players who are tackling a new system, one Luongo didn’t exactly request. Because, under Tortorella, the emphasis will be — now, tomorrow and always — blocking shots.
What does it mean for Luongo?
The team in front of him is going from making blocking shots one of its last options to one of its first. And those reads he’s taken time to get down before may be that much more complicated this year. No one can be sure where a blocked puck is going.
Does he have any words of advice?
“You better block it, because if you don’t, I won’t see it,” Luongo said. “A couple of times guys were trying to block shots but they weren’t sure if they should or not and they didn’t end up blocking them.
“It goes along with the territory. There will be a learning curve. In the past, we’ve worked on trying to box guys out before they get to the front of the net. If ever the other player is in front, I’d front him or stay behind him to try and not create a double screen.
“Sometimes that worked. Sometimes it didn’t.”
Luongo said he’s open to change. Anything that makes the team better. But admitted, given a choice over the years, he’s sided with Marty Brodeur who would seemingly rather chew glass shards than see his teammates try to block shots in front of him.
“That (Brodeur’s way) is what I’ve preferred in the past, especially when the guys are far out, just make sure that they take away sticks,” Luongo said.
“But if you’re a good team at blocking shots, that’s going to cut down on a lot of chances too. If it makes our group better, I’m all for it.”
The goals came early and often for the Oilers, who picked up just where they left off at the end of the regular season when they smoked the Canucks 7-2 in April.
Jordan Eberle opened the scoring, and it was a goal that Luongo had no chance on. Luongo was pinned, and helpless, as the loose puck slowly crossed the goal line. But the second goal, he was screened by one of those wannabe shot blockers.
“I was a little bit deep on that one, I probably should have made the save,” Luongo said. This is going to be an adjustment for everybody. You kind of felt it a little bit tonight.
“Guys were trying to get into lanes, especially the D-men I found. That being said, if you’re going to be there, you have to be committed 100 per cent to blocking the shot. That’s going to come with time.
“That’s not something that’s going to happen from one day to the next. All of a sudden, you’re blocking shots all over the place.”
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