The Vancouver Canucks were pushed just as hard, if not harder, in Day 2 of training camp than they were in Day 1.
Veteran Chris Higgins, for one, said he was “sucking wind between drills.” If Higgins, who is in as good as shape as anyone on the Canucks, is struggling, you know the players are truly being worked.
“It’s been good, good intensity so far,” Higgins said of the second day of on-ice drills. “It’s always tough the first couple of days, everyone feels like they’re out of shape, but everyone is tired, everyone is working hard, you’ve just to go push through it.”
Higgins, part of Group B, skated from 9 to 11 a.m. before Group A hit the ice from 11:30 to 1 p.m.
Although Higgins’ lungs are getting a work out, mentally the forward is as comfortable as possible returning to a familiar situation, one he thrived in last season after being acquired at the trade deadline.
“You come into an organization that you’ve been with already and after what we went through last year you get to know the guys pretty well and get to know the coaching staff and organization really well and how they do things, so you feel much more prepared for the start of the year.”
Not crazy strong, but strong
Chris Tanev was put in a situation with little room for error last season.
The 21-year-old was in the line-up for two of Vancouver’s Western Conference Final games against the San Jose Sharks before filling in on defence three times during the Stanley Cup Final, including Game 7 when he was one of the Canucks best blueliners.
If you’re expecting a chip to now be on Tanev’s shoulder, you’re wrong.
“I’m just here like any other guy, work hard and try to work my way onto the team,” said Tanev. “It’s been fun for the first couple of days here and I’m excited to get a few games in pre-season.”
It was tough to find a knock against Tanev for his stellar play during the post-season, but he knew exactly what needed to be done this off-season. He accomplished it by working out with Cody Hodgson under Gary Roberts.
“Everyone knows I had to get stronger, shots got to get better, so I tried to work on those things,” said Tanev, who gained 10 pounds of muscle and is up to 190-pounds.
“I think I definitely took it to the next step, I’m still not crazy strong, but I’m stronger than I was in June of last year, so that’s definitely a good sign.”
Tanev has been paired with a familiar defence partner for training camp, Keith Ballard. The two played alongside one-another during the playoffs when both were in the line-up.
Ballard has been a major benefit to Tanev.
“He helped me all year last year, great player and it’s definitely good to play with someone you played with a bit before. He helps me a lot on the ice, he talks, he communicates and I think we compliment each other pretty well.”
In enemy territory
Cory Schneider, a native of Marblehead, Massachusetts, spends his off-seasons in Bruins territory. That made this past summer an interesting one to say the least.
“I missed most of the parade stuff fortunately,” smiled Schneider. “A lot of shirts and hats and banners, the city was definitely excited about it, but it was pretty tame for me, no one really gave me any problems, I don’t think anyone knows who I am back there. Even my friends didn’t give me a hard time, they were pretty disappointed we didn’t win, but everyone was just happy with how well we did.”
Schneider and company are asked on a daily basis what losing in the Stanley Cup Final has done to them individually and as a team. For the Canucks back-up netminder, there’s no time for focusing on what could have been. He’s focused on the present. The Canucks are focused on the present. And the experience they gained will be an x-factor for the team this season.
“Having been there and knowing that feeling, you want to be on the other side of it. I think this group knows pretty well what it was like and hopefully we have the attitude that we’re not going to let that happen again.”
Back with a vengeance
To put Owen Nolan’s age in perspective, when the now 39-year-old was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1st round, 1st overall, in 1990, Chris Tanev was 178 days old.
Nolan has seen and done it all during his career and after a season away from NHL hockey, he’s hungry for another shot at the end prize that has eluded him for 21 years.
“My goal right now is to make the team and once I do, discuss what role the coach wants me to have,” said Nolan.
“I have a lot of experience and can handle a lot of different situations. I can do power play, kill penalties, whatever they need me to do, I’m more than willing to do.”
The forward, who has played for the Nordiques, Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild before suiting up with Zurich in Swiss-A last year, said taking last season easy allowed his body to heal.
No bumps, no bruises, no excuses. He feels great and is ready to get at it no matter where the Canucks skate this pre-season.
“I’m not really looking at that, I come here to show what I have and hopefully impress the people making the calls upstairs and hopefully make the team and that’s all I’m looking at right now.”
Third time’s a charm?
Darren Archibald has been here before.
Well, not exactly here, but in this situation. Archibald, an undrafted forward signed as a free agent by the Canucks last December, has been through two NHL camps. He’s now using what he learned along way to hopefully break through the third time around.
“You’ve got to come to the rink focused and prepared to play every day, you can’t take days off because there’s always someone trying to steal your job so you’ve always got to be focused and you’ve got to work your tail off everyday,” said the 6-foot-3, 209-pound brute, adding that he knows exactly what he has to do this pre-season.
“I have to focus on playing a hardnosed, gritty game. I’m going to get in the dirty areas and play really physical and just be a consistent player out there.”
Archibald is one of 20 prospects who were invited to main camp from the Young Stars Tournament this past week in Penticton, BC. He’s noticed a considerable jump from the talent level there to here.
“It’s a lot different. It’s definitely a faster tempo, there’s not a lot of rest, we know every drill we’re doing before we even get out there and one drill just rolls into the other. You get a quick water break and you’re right back at it, there’s no time for rest out there.”
There’s even less time to rest when one of your camp linemates is Henrik Sedin.
“It’s been fantastic. He does wonders with the puck and when he has the puck, the main thing to do is just get open because you know it’ll be coming to you.”
The tallest player at Canucks main camp is none other than goaltender Eddie Lack.
Lack, who spent this past season with the Manitoba Moose, is listed at 6-foot-5. I’m 6-foot-3 and Lack towers over me. He’s a big boy, even bigger than last year. I’m apparently not alone in wondering if he’s grown.
“A couple of people have said it to me,” he laughed.
Lack’s game grew leaps and bounds as well last year.
In his rookie season with the AHL’s now defunct Manitoba Moose, Lack was beyond stellar backstopping the Moose to a 28-21-4 record with a .926 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average.
In the playoffs Lack was even better statistically winning six of 11 games with a .932 S% and 1.99 GAA.
“I feel much more comfortable with my game right now. When I stay and work in the paint, I’m a big guy and I use my size and I just trust what I can do out there.”
Although goals against aren’t tabulated for training camp, Lack hasn’t been allowing all that many. A lot can change in a year and Lack is just that much more relaxed between the pipes at camp so far and it’s reflected in his play.
“It’s a big difference coming here this year because I feel much more prepared coming here, I know how Rollie wants me to work and I’m just looking forward to getting out there and getting some games.”
Following such a standout performance, is Lack feeling any added pressure?
“I don’t know about pressure, but of course I want to start off the season good and if it’s possible, I’d like to get some action up here and that’s probably my big goal this year is to develop my game a little bit more and hopefully get a game or two up here.”
Canucks Training Camp resumes Monday, check back to Canucks.com early and often for the latest.