This might have been Vancouver’s worst pre-season in recent memory as far as wins and losses go, but just ask the NFL’s Detroit Lions circa 2008 if that matters.
The Lions went 4-0 in exhibition play before becoming the first and only team in league history to lose all 16 regular season games.
The Canucks finished the pre-season with a respectable 3-5-0 record following a 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks Friday night at the Honda Center in what was easily the team’s best effort of their eight games.
Ryan Kesler had a goal and an assist and Mason Raymond, Henrik Sedin and Alex Edler added scores for the Canucks, who led 1-0 after the first period despite being outshot 9-4.
Saku Koivu and Matt Beleskey had the goals for Anaheim as the Ducks rebounded twice to erase one-goal deficits but couldn’t solve Cory Schneider when it mattered late in the third period after Vancouver had taken a 3-2 lead.
Schneider finished with 23 stops for his second straight win in net in what was supposed to be Roberto Luongo’s game. Vancouver’s starting keeper, who is nursing a sore groin, gave way to Schneider to play it safe with the regular season around the corner.
Two nights ago in a 6-2 loss in San Jose, the Canucks were hung out to dry on the penalty kill allowing four goals on five Sharks power plays, while Vancouver managed just 11 seconds on the man advantage.
The Canucks were better in both areas on this night going 2-for-4 on the power play and holding the Ducks to 1-for-5 showing while up a man and scoring a shorthanded goal; Anaheim’s only special teams goal came on a 4-on-3 power play.
Ryan Kesler had his best showing of the pre-season with an assist on Henrik Sedin’s game-winning goal and a score of his own into an empty Ducks net, he also dropped the gloves with Anaheim’s Corey Perry to complete the Gordie Howe hat trick.
The longtime rivals let their tempers boil over in the second period, the fight was inevitable after Kesler assessed a 5-minute boarding major in the first period for drilling Perry into the boards in front of the Ducks bench.
“Obviously we kind of play the same style where we get under people’s skin and it’s just a good rivalry,” said Kesler, who added that this was Vancouver’s best team game this pre-season.
“Yeah, I think we had a little let down there giving up the lead in the third, but we battled hard and came back, just like we did all last year, which is a good sign. It was definitely one of our better games and that was the theme of this pre-season, to get better every game and don’t worry about the win/loss record.”
Vancouver’s top two lines were close if not bang on to what they’ll be for the team’s home opener against the Los Angeles Kings Oct. 9, while the third and fourth trios had a few players in Jannik Hansen and Tanner Glass that are shoo-ins for the team and others like Peter Schaefer, Cody Hodgson, Alex Bolduc and Guilliaume Desbiens, who are still battling to make the cut.
The fact that the Canucks are still without a solidified line-up speaks wonders to how competitive training camp has been this season.
“We had two solid teams and some guys might get cut that could probably make the NHL with other teams,” said Kesler. “We’ve had a good hard fought battle for some positions on this team and everybody is giving 110 per cent, which is what’s important.”
There’s no award for the best pre-season showing, but if there was, my nominee would be Mason Raymond.
The Speedy Gonzales-like forward finished exhibition play with two goals and an assist in four games; his shining moment was a shorthanded goal against the Ducks in which he took a pass from Peter Schaefer at his own blueline and went in alone against Ducks netminder Jonas Hiller, roofing a backhander past the keeper after a slick fake wrist shot.
If that’s a Raymond pre-season goal, he’s really going to have to outdo himself in the regular season.
“I was a little unsure of how much time I had there, but we made something out of nothing kind of thing and I was able to go in and make a good move on him,” said Raymond of the goal. “Hopefully I can do that in the regular season, I’m looking to get a shortie in the regular season now.”
Believe it or not: Raymond is without a shorthanded goal in the NHL. He’s now got eight days to go before he can start working on one.
Henrik Sedin finished as Vancouver's leading pre-season scorer with two goals and three assists; Alexandre Bolduc played his team-high sixth pre-season game on the night; Daniel Sedin, Mason Raymond and Keith Ballard all wore an A for this contest.