Kraken 3, Canucks 1: Vancouver's pre-season lurches forward

If you’re struggling to get a picture of what kind of team the Vancouver Canucks might be this season, you’re not alone.

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Three games into the Vancouver Canucks’ 2023 pre-season and what this team will be remains a fuzzy, unclear picture.

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On Thursday night, the Canucks dropped a 2-1 exhibition contest to the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.

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Fuzzy and unclear was a literal truth to this game, which wasn’t carried locally by Sportsnet and thus out of sight for most local viewers — unless you happened to know your way around the backwoods of the internet.

But fuzzy and unclear is also a metaphorical truth about Rick Tocchet’s squad, who sit at the halfway point in their warm-ups for the 2023-24 regular season.

The Canucks’ season begins in earnest on Oct. 11. There are three more games to be played before then.

The team’s top players — save the recuperating Ilya Mikheyev — have all suited up for a game. They’ll likely get two more chances before the regular season starts.

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By then, you’d hope, they’ll have cleared up their picture.

The Canucks play their first of two home games Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena — their second home game is next Wednesday, but in Abbotsford — and finding more cohesion will surely be on their to-do list.

Pre-season process is more important than results. To date, the Canucks’ process hasn’t impressed.

In this game, Seattle’s Jacob Melanson opened the scoring at 9:25 of the first period. Conor Garland tied the game at 8:08 of the second period, but a pair of goals by Seattle’s Eeli Tolvanen in the third period secured the win for the home team.

Here are a collection of thoughts off Thursday evening’s contest, compiled through, er, research.

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Tilted ice

The Canucks got outshot. Badly. Even in pre-season, that’s a bad trend.

They played all right in Edmonton on Wednesday and did all right.

But in Seattle they were badly outplayed. The Kraken dominated possession. The Canucks generated little.

An image displaying shots taken by the canucks and kraken during their pre-season game on Thursday.
With the game late in the third period, the Canucks had generated few scoring opportunities. Photo by Natural Stat Trick

Indeed, the Canucks had just one shot on goal when Tolvanen scored his second of the period.

They did not finish with much of a flourish either.

Miller’s slow start — as predicted

J.T. Miller was pretty honest earlier this week: his first game of a pre-season is always ugly.

So the fact his line looking like it was stuck in neutral on Thursday shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

You can’t go 100 per cent coming out of the gates. It’s bad for your physical buildup and it’s also a risky thing to do — and you just need to find your timing.

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This is why in soccer and baseball, some of your earliest pre-season games are against much lower-quality opposition.

Anyway, Miller and Brock Boeser (as well as Phil DiGiuseppe) have now played a game in pre-season and they’ll be itching to get in the lineup again.

And, like the rest of the team, they’ll want their next outing to be much, much better.

Even Stevens with Vasily Podkolzin and Dakota Joshua?

Is it possible these two are like the premise of the fifth-season Seinfeld episode, The Opposite? Where Jerry’s friends are either up or down, but never at the same time?

Tocchet put both Podkolzin and Joshua in the AHL group on Tuesday.

He delivered a stern, public message to Joshua.

The winger had a strong game in Seattle. He even bumped up to play with Pius Suter and Conor Garland in the third period, supplanting Anthony Beauvillier.

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That’s good news for Joshua, who Tocchet wants to be his leading bash-and-crash forechecker.

But Podkolzin remains a bit of a mystery.

He had a tough game. He didn’t produce much.

Tocchet keeps talking about how he wants the Russian to just play, to think less, to not get caught up trying to figure out what he should do. To just play on instinct.

He’s looking a long way off.

The Tolvanen tale

Eeli Tolvanen scored twice for the Kraken in the third period.

Scoring goals is a thing he does — and we’re all still scratching our heads about why Nashville put him on waivers last year.

For whatever reason, no one higher than Seattle on the waiver priority list put their name in when he went on waivers in December. He’d have helped a lot of teams — including the Canucks.

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No stream?!

Listen, there was a time when very few pre-season games were broadcast on TV.

And for years, the Canucks have been an outlier for having some, if not all, of their pre-season games available to watch.

Canucks fans have become conditioned to have access to games.

But still, the game not being available on Thursday wasn’t a big surprise. This happens once or twice a pre-season.

The Kraken were producing a broadcast, which was aired in the Seattle market.

Now, the NHL still has very restrictive local-rights rules, which apparently applied in this case.

Sportsnet has digital streaming rights, but for whatever reason didn’t pick up the Seattle feed to make it available on the Sportsnet+ streaming service.

Instead, it fell to the Canucks — but because of how regional broadcast rights work, they had to restrict access to B.C. IP addresses.

For whatever reason, they chose to try to relay the Seattle feed using a stream over X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Except, as Rob Williams at Daily Hive was able to gather from the Canucks, the platform doesn’t allow for this.

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It seems hard to imagine that the Canucks’ own website wouldn’t have been a better way to share a geo-restricted stream.

pjohnston@postmedia.com

twitter.com/risingaction

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