John Tortorella started his fourth line Tuesday.
Shocking? No. Smart? Yes.
We’ve seen this movie before, but on this occasion it was to dictate the early tempo of play with a heavy forecheck instead dropping the gloves and landing heavy blows.
In that respect, the Philadelphia Flyers’ bench boss quickly got his message across because it took less than two minutes for the rebuilding club to respond with the opening goal by a raw rookie.
After all, when you don’t name a captain, you’re looking for players to lead by example in the home-opener and you can’t have anybody playing on their heels. That wasn’t a hard sell for the former Canucks coach, who never treats a confrontation with Vancouver as just another game.
The Canucks made it easy by waking up way too late and falling 2-0.
They didn’t win board battles, they didn’t seamlessly exit their zone, they took penalties by being late to the chase, committed turnovers in their own zone and surrendered odd-man rushes. It looked a lot like the start to last season. Frightening.
It’s the kind of stuff that drives Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet crazy, especially when he needs his starting goaltender to give his club a chance to finds its game. Embracing the call for competitiveness means doing it consistently and not occasionally. That’s the hard lesson.
The Canucks even reunited the Lotto Line in the third period, but Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser would combine for just five shots. The penalty kill went 4-for-4 but the power play was 0-for-3.
The Canucks appeared to claw one back early in the third period on an effort by Conor Garland, who got to the crease to jam home a loose puck.
However, the Flyers challenged that Boeser, who had his skates in the blue paint after being struck by Carson Soucy’s shot, impeded Carter Hart’s ability to get across the crease. But it didn’t look like there was contact.
Odd call on an odd night.
Here’s what we learned as the Canucks were outshot 42-25 as Egor Zamula and Sean Couturier on a penalty shot scored for the Flyers as the Canucks fell to 2-1-0:
Demko sparks more Vezina talk
Yes, it’s early. Way too early.
Linking Demko with Vezina Trophy consideration is not new. And judging by his remarkable performance Tuesday to keep his club in a game it had no business winning, the plaudits will keep piling up if this becomes the norm.
And especially if Demko can stay healthy.
Demko was dehydrated in the season opener and gave way to Casey DeSmith to mop up the last 12 minutes. On Tuesday, he probably could have used an I.V. (intravenous) injection after the second period in which the Flyers had total control but couldn’t beat the starter.
It’s Demko’s athleticism, patience and poise that have elevated his game to another level. The mismatch could have easily been put away in the second period but Demko denied Owen Tippett off a turnover, quickly flashed his left pad to thwart Bobby Brink, got a shoulder on a deflection and stopped odd-man rushes.
He saved his best with 4:13 left in the third period. After the Canucks threatened on the power play, he sprawled on a 2-on-1 rush to deny Scott Laughton’s backhand effort.
Early gaffes should tick off Tocchet
Two players behind their own net often adds up to trouble.
When defencemen Tyler Myers and Ian Cole were caught behind the cage, and then lost a puck battle, it led to an untouched Tippett on Demko’s doorstep. It forced the starter to make a sharp shift across the crease to deny an early scoring opportunity. It would be a precursor to what became Fright Night.
Myers would finish with a pair of penalties and two turnovers.
And when the Flyers opened scoring, it was an aggressive forecheck and gaining possession off a puck battle. It allowed Travis Konecny to throw a pass into the slot, and a shot whiff allowed Zamula to get his point shot through a double screen by Garland and Noah Juulsen to find the short side.
Creativity becoming new calling card
What’s next in the creativity closet?
On Monday, it was Evgeny Kuznetsov who scored the lone shootout goal for the Washington Capitals as they rallied from a two-goal deficit to claim a 3-2 decision over the Calgary Flames. On his attempt, the winger slowly skated toward the net like an old man shuffling along in a soup line.
Kuznetsov kept stickhandling as he approached the top of the slot and then snapped the winner home stick side for what was easily the slowest shootout goal in NHL history.
On Tuesday, it was Couturier who looked like a figure skater executing a turn when he scored on his first-period penalty shot opportunity. He came in skating backward, spun and shifted to his forehand before going stick side to make it 2-0.
OVERTIME — Tocchet said injured defenceman Guillaume Brisebois still has to get his heart rate up to pass protocols, which likely means he suffered a concussion after absorbing a heavy late-game hit from Seattle winger Brandon Tanev on Oct. 4 in Abbotsford. Tanev left his feet to deliver the blow and Tocchet took a penalty to show his disgust at the non-call.
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