Canucks Improve Significantly Against Flames

If at first you do not succeed, try, try again.

This has developed as a popular theme among the Vancouver Canucks, who had a slow and disappointing start to the 2013 season and clinched their first win in their third game against Calgary on Wednesday.

Take Zack Kassian for example, a player who is slowly winning over the hearts of Canucks fans after arriving due to a trade involving Cody Hodgson and an unimpressive start with the Canucks in 2012.

“I don’t even think about the trade,” Kassian told The Province. “It’s over with.”

He now has two goals this season, one of which did not come easily. The wraparound on the Calgary Flames’ Miikka Kiprusoff did not work. Neither did the first shot straight on net. But his second, which came off the rebound from his first was successfully buried.

“From management down to the coaches to the players, I definitely feel more comfortable,” Kassian told canucks.com. “As a player, the more comfortable you feel, the better you play.”

Kassian went on the score the shootout winner as well, after playing a few shifts on the top line with the Sedin twins during the game. GM Mike Gillis and head coach Alain Vigneault like Kassian as a prospect because of his ability to score and be a physical presence. However, during his first few months in Vancouver in 2012, he only managed to be an annoying, penalty-taking physical presence. Now, within the first three games of the season, after multiple attempts on the top line and shots on net, Kassian has proved that he has the capability to be the type of player that Gillis and Vigneault need him to be.

If at first you do not succeed, try, try again.

When the information was released that Mason Raymond had a fractured vertebrae after receiving a hit in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, there was the possibility that he may never return to hockey; if he did, he might never be the same. After a dismal season last year with 10 goals and 20 points, it did not look promising either. But with the absence of Ryan Kesler and David Booth, Raymond has been forced to make more of an impact. He had a hat trick in the Canucks’ pre-season scrimmages before the 2013 season – why can’t he do that in a real NHL game?

Against Calgary, Raymond was one of the most impactful players on the ice, scoring a goal to give the Canucks a two-goal lead. He had five shots on net, and used his speed effectively while playing alongside a variety of different players. While his role may diminish slightly when Kesler and Booth return, that does not mean the Raymond should slow down; he needs to play like the 25-goal scorer he has been in the past.

If at first you do not succeed, try, try again.

Alex Burrows was silent in the first two games, and barely noticeable on the ice. In his first shootout attempt of the season against the Edmonton Oilers, his signature move (a forehand fake and shot off his backhand) was poorly done, resulting in no goal. But Vigneault decided to hand out second chances and Burrows was given another one in the shootout against Calgary, in which the execution of his signature move was obviously improved upon and different than the wimpy attempt against Edmonton. Against Calgary, Burrows pulled the puck further across his body, and with a more distinct fake, forced Kiprusoff to make a move; Edmonton’s goalie barely had to move his positioning to stop Burrows.

Burrows played as centre instead of on the wing, made passes in front of the Calgary net that almost resulted in goals and never stopped pressuring the other team. He is second among Canucks in shots on net this season with 10.

If at first you do not succeed, try, try again.

While these three, Kassian, Raymond and Burrows, made the largest improvements and contributions to the Canucks in their third game, there are others, such as goaltender Cory Schneider and rookie Jordan Schroeder, who had their reputation on the line Wednesday night and were given another attempt to try.

Schneider was pulled in the season opener against Anaheim after five goals were scored on him. He looked shaky in the net and his positioning was off. Roberto Luongo, despite the two goals scored on him, seemed more confident and stable in the net, sparking yet another twist in Vancouver’s goalie controversy. However, Schneider’s performance in the shootout win against Calgary looked more like the Schneider who won the Jennings Trophy with Luongo in 2011 than the one who let in five goals on 14 shots against Anaheim.

“It was extremely important (to get the win),” said Schneider told The Province. “I had to have a bounce-back game. I had to show myself and my teammates that first game was a fluke and I felt better as it went on. It didn’t happen right away — but when it counted, it felt good.”

As for Schroeder, he visited the penalty box instead of making it on the scoreboard in his NHL debut game. Even so, the 5’8″ 22-year old, had 14:49 minutes of ice time, in which he used his speed and quick hands which have made him successful during three seasons with the Canucks’ AHL affiliate team.

“I like to say it’s his dream to play in the NHL, but this is far from his goal, just to play one game,” Schroeder’s father, John Schroeder, told the Vancouver Sun. “He wants to show that he belongs in the NHL, with his vision and skill and speed. He wasn’t given the physical attributes of a six-foot-three, 230-pound body. But that’s what made Jordan work that much harder to overcome that issue with all his other attributes.”

Schroeder was originally cut from the team on January 18th, but was recalled a few days later on the 22nd after Jim Vandermeer cleared waivers and was sent to the Chicago Wolves. Schroeder took Andrew Ebbett’s place in the line-up against Calgary.

Of course, it is not going to be all fun and games from now on. Despite the effort and improvements, the Canucks had many negative aspects of their game on Wednesday. It marked the second time they scored first and allowed the other team to tie up the game and was cluttered with penalties and 5-on-3 opportunities for Calgary – which were defended well, but risky. The defense was unreliable at times and the Sedins are not playing to their normal standards; their passes are not tape to tape and the puck is being easily stripped off them.

But of course, when in doubt, if you don’t succeed, try, try again.

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