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Something's brewing

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Where's all the offence going to come from?

That's the burning question hockey prognosticators have been asking all summer regarding the Vancouver Canucks.

In Vancouver's 6-1 drubbing of the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night at GM Place, they answered that question loud and clear. With five different players recording goals and 10 of Vancouver's 18 skaters recording at least a point, it seems apparent that the offence is going to come from everywhere.

Rookie Jannik Hansen scored twice, while Pavol Demitra, Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler each scooped up three points apiece as the Canucks improved to 5-0 in pre-season play by skating laps around the Flames.

Most people are of the opinion that this is still only pre-season play, Vancouver may look impressive now, and I mean impressive, but it doesn't count towards the regular season, that's a completely different ball game.

It's true, Vancouver's five exhibition wins haven't vaulted them up the standings, they mean bupkis towards a run at the Cup, yet there is something brewing on the ice for Vancouver, especially on offense.

This was the second straight game that Demitra has been paired with speedster Mason Raymond and tough guy Taylor Pyatt and wow, are they ever coming together nicely.

The DRP-line finished with five points (2-3-5) with both Raymond and Demitra finding the back of the net. They were buzzing around Calgary netminder Miikka Kiprusoff every shift they played together, their nifty passing and knowing-where-to-be-where-when positioning made it seem as if the trio has been alongside one another for years.

"I don't know if I'm surprised how fast we're coming together, obviously it's been fun," said Raymond, who was a plus-2 in just over 16 minutes of ice time. "Taylor's a big guy, a big presence out front there and he pulls guys to the net and Pavol seems to see the ice very well and he's a smooth passer, so it's so far so good.

"I think everyday we're getting to read each other a bit better and figure out how everybody works. My linemates have been great so far but it's early and hopefully we can carry that on."

Raymond's improbable third period goal - he streaked down the left wing alone and somehow squeezed the puck between Kipper and the post to put the Canucks up 6-1- was well deserved as the Calgary native had plenty of earlier opportunities to score, but just couldn't pull the trigger.

Coach Vigneault was pleased with the line's energy and production regardless of a few missed opportunities, he credits veteran Demtira for stepping up and elevating the play of Raymond and Pyatt.

"I think right now Pavol is doing a good job of trying to establish an identity for that line," said Vigneault. "Obviously he wants to form some chemistry there, he's taking charge of those two players without a doubt, Pyatt can be that big power forward and Mase can use his speed to go to the net the way Pavol dishes the puck. It might be a pretty effective line for us."

Vigneault acknowledged that it's early and Vancouver's forwards might not be currently facing the oppositions best defenders, but that shouldn't take anything away from this blowout of a win.

In addition to Vancouver's top-line playing like a top-line, the threesome of Burrows, Kesler and Hansen was something to observe.

Burrows and Kesler are accustomed to each other's style of play having spent most of last season as a dynamic duo, throw in Hansen and an explosive offensive combination is formed, at least against Calgary it was.

Vancouver's second goal of the game, which came just 4:37 into the opening period, was the result of some smooth playmaking, Burrows carried the puck over the blueline and fed it to Kesler who was barreling down the left side of the ice, he took the pass and with a Calgary defender on him, sent a no-look backhand pass to the stick of Hansen who was positioned in front for the easy goal.

Tick, tack, toe, it was that simple. They too were playing like they've been together for years.

"It's amazing playing with those two, you can't play with two more aggressive players," said Hansen, adding that he has a nose for driving to the net. "It's more the style of play I started out with in Manitoba, playing that type of hockey on that type of line so it's not unfamiliar to me."

Not to be forgotten in Vancouver's 6-1 win was the play of new Canucks captain Roberto Luongo as he had his mojo working with 35 saves against the Flames.

This highlight reel saves began in the first period with a stoning of Calgary forward David Moss in front of the goal, continued in the second when he stopped Jarome Iginla on a partial breakaway and ended in the third when he denied defenceman Dion Phaneuf in close not once, not twice, but three times.

"Our goalie was obviously on top of his game and their goaltender, for whatever reason, was obviously off a little bit," said Vigeanult. "We took advantage of that and our goaltender, when we had a couple of breakdowns, made some big saves for us."

"I've been feeling really well in there," Luongo said, "the team's playing really well, so we're kind of antsy to get going here and we just have to make sure we go through these next two games and do a good job like we've been doing."

The still undefeated Canucks will host the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night at GM Place, the same team they outworked to a 3-2 win in San Jose last Saturday.

1 – Goal allowed by new captain Roberto Luongo, that makes 2 goals against all pre-season

3 – Points each for Pavol Demitra, Ryan Kesler and
Alex Burrows

10 – Different Canucks who registered at least a point

18 – Goals scored by Vancouver this pre-season

2003 – The last time the Canucks won 5 pre-season games (they were 5-5)

What more can be said about the Vancouver's offence right now? They were explosive against the Flames, each line did it's part to generate scoring chances. It was refreshing to see.

The last line of defence, Roberto Luongo, was all the Canucks needed tonight, he was spectacular.

Louie finished with 35 saves on the night and has only allowed 2 goals this pre-season.

Vancouver killed off all 7 of Calgary's power play chances and went 1-for-4 with their power play chances.

Demitra's power play goal in the second period not only put the home team up 3-1, but it was the first PP goal Calgary has allowed this pre-season as the Flames were 28-for-28 while down a man coming into the game.
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