Canucks 5 Flames 1: A small measure of payback to start the season

 

 
 
 
 
Daniel Sedin #22 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates with the bench after his teammate Brandon Sutter #21 scored against the Calgary Flames in the NHL season opener at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 7, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
 
 

Daniel Sedin #22 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates with the bench after his teammate Brandon Sutter #21 scored against the Calgary Flames in the NHL season opener at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 7, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Photograph by: Derek Leung, Getty Images

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CALGARY — Forgive Jim Benning if his hands are a little chafed today.

He must have spent much of Wednesday night rubbing them with satisfaction.

His deep, and at times unconventional, offseason overhaul left the Canucks faster, smaller, and younger. So much younger.

If you bet that’s how Benning’s Canucks would look in the second year of what is supposed to be the meat-and-potatoes era, you probably have enough to invest in an NHL expansion team.

No one had a feel how these Canucks would work in the regular season.

Say this for the first appearance: it left you wanting more. Unless you tire of the Canucks laying a thorough beatdown on their arch-rivals and 2015 playoff nemesis.

It’s just one game, but it is also the regular season opener, which means everyone is going to read far too much into what happened Wednesday.

And why not? The Canucks just got a small payback for what went down in April. Enjoy it. Not all of it is going to last.

The Canucks are not going to regularly double up teams in shots. Jannik Hansen is not going to score 50. Brandon Sutter is not going to score 35 playing with the Sedins. Ben Hutton is not putting up 45 assists. At least, I don’t think so.

What you can take from this one is Sutter could be a better goal scorer than people realize. His goal was a showcase in eye-hand athleticism as he slammed a puck out of the air and into the net.

You can believe that if Hansen and Alex Burrows play a lot together they have the potential to be part of a special third line.

You can also believe, for now, age is just a number for the Sedins. They weren’t as dominant possession-wise as they were in the playoffs but they put goals on the board. Two of them.

People can continue to belive they are second line players at this point of their careers. Those people can also continue to be wrong.

WHAT THIS MEANS

At the risk of getting ahead of things, the Canucks just may have finally found a second power-play unit.

Promising as Ben Hutton was in the preseason, he was even better in the first shifts of his NHL career.

On the first man advantage, he did the impossible. He dug the Canucks second power-play unit out from under six feet of soil and made it dangerous.

More remarkably, he did this with Chris Tanev playing the other point.

As far as debuts go, Hutton could have hung up the equipment right there and filed away one of the more intriguing performances we’ve seen from a young defenceman in a long time.

He did do more. Going deep into his own zone, he retrieved a puck and spun elegantly with a pass that hit Jannik Hansen at the other end of the rink.

Hansen scored. Hutton got his first primary assist. And everyone stopped worrying about Frankie Corrado.

WHAT WE LEARNED

The Jake Virtanen era will have to wait, but not for long.

Virtanen did sit out the opener and head coach Willie Desjardins said it’s because he didn’t deserve one of the spots.

Fair enough. But how long can they keep Virtanen around without playing him?

Isn’t it important to get him into the lineup sooner than later?

“I think it’s important. If you don’t get to play it’s hard,” Virtanen said. “The more you’re out, the harder it gets.”

It’s not like the Canucks could use him.

A James Mirtle blog pointed out the Canucks had the smallest team in the league and not be a little.

Fast and a big hitter, Virtanen could be what Vancouver needs in California next week.

IN A WORD

FIGHT: Early in the day, Micheal Ferland refused to say who he would be targetting with Kevin Bieksa out of town. Turns out, he was the one with the bullseye. Derek Dorsett fought him off the opening draw.

SICK: The best descriptor for a Daniel Sedin shot in the first. He ripped a knuckling Henrik pass out of the air. Just one problem: the Karri Ramo stick save was even better.

DIRTY: Dougie Hamilton ran Bo Horvat from behind drawing a boarding penalty in the second. Hamilton went high and hard driving Horvat’s head into the boards.

ADVANCED STATS

1.64 This was Brandon Sutter's even strength goals-scored-per-60 minutes played last year. Of the 249 players who logged 1,000 minutes, that ranked 241st. So much for last year.

13 The number of shots on net Bo Horvat's line produced. Maybe his line didn't have spectacular chances. But they were very good. Solid. The Flames didn't generate anything when Vancouver's second line was on the ice.

68% This was the Canucks percentage of shot attempts when Adam Cracknell was on the ice. The Canucks fell in love with him this preseason and he did not disappoint. The fourth line was very, very good.

Minus-7.73 This was Frank Corrado's shot suppression last year. The Canucks saw 7.73 fewer shot attempts against every 60 minutes Corrado played than average. He ranked third on the team, behind only the Sedins.

jbotchford@theprovince.com

twitter.com/@botchford

 
 
 
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Daniel Sedin #22 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates with the bench after his teammate Brandon Sutter #21 scored against the Calgary Flames in the NHL season opener at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 7, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
 

Daniel Sedin #22 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates with the bench after his teammate Brandon Sutter #21 scored against the Calgary Flames in the NHL season opener at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 7, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Photograph by: Derek Leung, Getty Images

 
Daniel Sedin #22 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates with the bench after his teammate Brandon Sutter #21 scored against the Calgary Flames in the NHL season opener at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 7, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Vancouver Canucks' Daniel Sedin, left, from Sweden, tries to get the puck to his brother Henrik Sedin, right, as Calgary Flames goalie Karri Ramo, from Finland, looks on during first period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015.
Vancouver Canucks' Jannik Hansen, centre, from Denmark, celebrates his goal with teammates Alexandre Burrows, left, and Bo Horvat during first period NHL hockey action against the Calgary Flames in Calgary, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015.
Micheal Ferland #79 of the Calgary Flames fights Derek Dorsett #15 of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL season opener at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 7, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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