The Vancouver Canucks looked to resolve two issues as they traveled south from Edmonton to Calgary in their two-game road trip to open the 2019-20 season.
Don’t start poorly and don’t let the other side’s superstars win the game.
Vancouver was guilty of both offenses Wednesday in a season-opening, 3-2 defeat to the Edmonton Oilers. The Canucks will look for their first win on Saturday in southern Alberta against the Calgary Flames.
For starters, the Canucks didn’t start well against the Oilers.
Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl, a 50-goal scorer last season, netted the game’s first tally less than six minutes into the contest to start his three-point night.
“I don’t like the end result, but I thought the first eight to 10 minutes of the game was probably our worst, and then we got our feet under us,” Canucks coach Travis Green said.
Of course, then there was Oilers star Connor McDavid, a 116-point producer last season, who used his trademark speed to snap a tie by scoring the decisive goal with 5:23 remaining.
The Canucks lost a season opener for the first time in six years.
Vancouver will have to do a better job containing Calgary’s elite scorers such as Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk, all of whom eclipsed the 30-goal plateau last season.
When Green’s club returns to British Columbia for the home-opening tilt against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, a new captain will be named for the 50th anniversary season.
Vancouver chose not to have anyone wearing the uppercase C last season. The last time the organization named a captain was in 2017-18, with Henrik Sedin receiving the honor.
The overwhelming speculation is the Canucks will name Bo Horvat, 24, as the next captain. The center is well respected among his peers, has a strong relationship with the media and cites the Sedin twins as mentors.
Like Vancouver, Calgary had the same problem in its opener against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Thursday night — a slow start and an inability to stop the opponents’ offensive stars.
Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen didn’t agree to a contract deal until last Saturday and finally arrived in the United States on Sunday after missing camp, but he potted two goals as if he hadn’t missed a beat after a career-best 87-point output last season.
The Finnish winger’s pair, including a quick wrister from a Nathan MacKinnon cross-ice pass through traffic on the power play, led to Colorado to a 5-3 victory over Calgary.
Flames defenseman Mark Giordano said opening in Denver was a tough task and added that Rantanen, MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog fed off the home crowd’s energy.
“That’s a pretty good unit over there,” said Giordano, who scored a goal on his 36th birthday. “They got a lot of momentum. Their top players got a lot of touches early.”
Gaudreau and Monahan also netted goals, and goalie David Rittich made a number of sensational stops in a 27-save effort for the Flames, who lost their 10th consecutive season opener (0-9-1). Their last victory to start a season came against Vancouver on Oct. 1, 2009.
Just hours before Thursday’s game, Calgary announced a multiyear contract extension for general manager Brad Treliving, who is starting his sixth year with the club.
–Field Level Media