Podkolzin scores 1st NHL goal in win over Flyers, now on to Detroit
Friday October 15 - Vancouver Canucks 5 - Philadelphia Flyers 4 (S/O)
If the Vancouver Canucks can keep delivering the kind of entertainment that has defined their first two games of the 2021-22 season, they should have no trouble bringing fans back into the seats at Rogers arena when they get back to town after this six-game road trip — the longest in franchise history to start a season.
The Canucks have been far from perfect, but have grabbed three of the first four points that were available to them thanks to a 5-4 shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday.
For the second-straight game, the Canucks started poorly. They were down 1-0 in goals and 8-0 in shots before Carter Hart was tested for the first time by Jack Rathbone at 6:48 of the opening frame. Joel Farabee's game-opening goal counted as 5-on-5, but came three seconds after the end of a tripping penalty to Tyler Myers, so it was fuelled by the man advantage.
By the end of the period, the shots were 14-5 in favour of Philadelphia, which pressured hard on the forecheck. The score could have been much more lopsided if not for Thatcher Demko, who gave his group the opportunity to climb back into the game.
And they did, with a four-goal middle period.
Vasily Podkolzin kicked off the offensive explosion with a snipe from the right faceoff circle that even Elias Pettersson acknowledged reminded him of his first NHL goal.
It was quite a moment for the young Russian, especially when expectations for his offensive production this season are on the conservative side.
After starting Game 1 on the fourth line with Juho Lammikko and Justin Dowling, Podkolzin was moved up to start with Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller on Friday night. But after the Canucks were swarmed so dramatically in the opening frame, Nils Hoglander was moved up with Petey and Miller. Podkolzin was playing his first shift of the night with Dowling and Lammikko when he scored — set up nicely by Tyler Myers.
After the goal, the Canucks quickly drew a penalty and capitalized on the power play. On Podkolzin's next shift, though, Rathbone was whistled for holding James van Riemsdyk. And while Vancouver successfully killed off that shorthanded stretch, the Flyers were dangerous.
Podkolzin saw just one more shift in the middle frame, then was stapled to the bench for the third and overtime. He should be nice and fresh for the back-to-back in Detroit on Saturday!
By period's end, the Canucks were up 4-2. Alex Chiasson did what he was brought in to do, converting net-front on a 5-on-3 power play, then Cam Atkinson replied for the Flyers before J.T. Miller closed out the scoring for the period by poking the puck home from behind Carter Hart's skate after Pettersson cheekily put the puck toward the net along the goal line.
And the Canucks did a good job of defending their lead in the third — until they didn't. The momentum change came when Oliver Ekman-Larsson was whistled for a slash on Travis Konecny with 2:24 left to play in regulation. Once the crowd of more than 19,000 roared to life, a goal seemed all-but-inevitable. It took Konecny just seven seconds to score it.
As rough as last season was for the Flyers, late comebacks were part of their playbook. So I wasn't surprised to see captain Claude Giroux beat Demko on his eighth shot of the game to force overtime.
Like in Edmonton, the Canucks dominated at 3-on-3. They outshot Philadelphia 6-2 and carried the play, but Carter Hart kept his team in it.
It was a different story in the shootout, though. Pettersson and Miller had no trouble beating Hart, while Demko stoned Couturier and Giroux to secure the extra point for the Canucks.
Saturday October 16 - Vancouver Canucks at Detroit Red Wings - 4 p.m. PT
Now, we'll see how the Canucks perform on arguably the toughest game of this road trip, the back-to-back in Detroit.
Not surprisingly, there's no morning skate, so we won't know anything about the lineup until closer to game time.
I imagine we'll see Jaroslav Halak get his first regular-season start in a Vancouver uniform. And I'm curious to see whether Green elects to swap in Luke Schenn and/or Brad Hunt to provide some fresh legs on the blue line — even though Jack Rathbone and Kyle Burroughs have been handling themselves well so far. Burroughs had a team-high six hits on Friday in Philly, and with all three Vancouver penalties on the night assessed to defensemen, he even saw 51 seconds of penalty-killing time.
Of course, a Brock Boeser return would be welcome, too. While he has been skating with his teammates, it's still unclear when he'll be ready to get into the lineup.
And if you think it was bad that the Canucks lost a 4-2 lead on Friday night, let me introduce you to the Red Wings — who squandered a four-goal performance from Tyler Bertuzzi and a 6-3 third-period lead to lose 7-6 in overtime to Tampa Bay in their season opener on Thursday.
The Red Wings will also be without captain Dylan Larkin on Saturday; he's serving a one-game suspension after being assessed a match penalty for going after Mathieu Joseph of the Lightning on Thursday.
And while this will be our first chance to see top rookie prospects Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond go up against the Canucks, we may not get to see Troy Stecher. He was healthy scratched in Game 1 and is appears that he skated on the fourth pairing again at practice on Friday.
After Alex Nedeljkovic faced 48 shots from the Lightning on Thursday, Thomas Greiss is expected to start for Detroit on Saturday. That'll set up a matchup of old teammates, of course — Greiss and Halak were goalie partners on the New York Islanders for three seasons between 2015 and 2018.
Once again, it's an early puck drop, at 4 p.m. PT. But that doesn't have to be your whole hockey night.
The Abbotsford Canucks' season also gets underway on Saturday night, with a 7 p.m. PT puck drop in Bakersfield. On Sunday, they'll play the Ontario Reign at 5 p.m. PT — and both games will be available for free on AHL TV, as part of the league's opening-weekend promotion.
Here's how the opening-night roster has shaken out:
With Mikey DiPietro anchoring the net, this team should have a solid foundation. I'm looking forward to seeing how the group comes together.