Random notes from Anaheim’s OT win over Vancouver

I covered the exhibition opener for the Canucks in Vancouver. It’s good to be back at GM Place for NHL hockey (even of the pre-season variety). My last such experience was Game Seven versus Dallas, prior to heading off to the IIHF World Championship in Moscow. Sure, the atmosphere was just a tad more jacked up for Game Seven, but it’s still hockey, and as they say, it’s all part of the process.


For the Canucks, both Alexander Edler and Alexandre Burrows are listed as “Alex” in the official starting lineups. What is it with this desire to abbreviate? Remember last year when Alexander Ovechkin announced he was switching to “Alex”? Would Alexander the Great have conquered Egypt and the Persian Empire if he’d gone all “Alex” on his troops? Questionable, very questionable.

Just like in the intrasquad game, Vancouver’s Mike Brown continues to get involved, crunching Travis Moen along the boards in the fifth minute of play. But he’s still got at least 34 NHL games to go before he can match the NHL prowess of the last physical-minded Mike Brown in this organization.

George Parros opens the scoring for Anaheim by banging in a rebound on the power play at 5:55. The moustachioed man who racked up 104 PIM last season in just 34 games celebrates by skating past the Canucks bench and yelling: “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!” (Not really.)

Initially, when Brendan Mikkelson is called for holding on Jozef Balej at 7:57, there appears to be a definite element of chintziness on the call. The replay, however, shows that Mikkelson grabbed hold of Balej’s jersey. But in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t on par with Carl Brewer, who used to cut the palms out of his gloves when he played for the Leafs in the 60’s to make it easier to grab guys. (This is the sort of thing color commentators neglect to mention.)

Things are a bit slow midway through the first. Anaheim’s Tyler Bouck takes a run at his old Canucks/Manitoba Moose teammate Kevin Bieksa during a Ducks penalty kill, but Bieksa avoids the hit, and then chirps at Bouck and gives him a little shot with his glove as he skates off.

Alexandre Burrows (I’m sticking with “Alexandre”) runs around furiously trying to forecheck D-men Francois Beauchemin and Joe Callahan. Clearly, the 26-year-old agitator remembers the days of riding buses and eating cheeseburgers in the ECHL as recently as 2004, and has no desire to relive them.

The playing of Van Halen’s “Panama” over the arena PA prompts a discussion among my colleagues about David Lee Roth’s prancing and preening, and how superior his style was, is and will be to today’s lackluster, mumbling frontmen. (Diamond Dave and the reconstituted VH are to hit GM Place on December 5.)

When the period ends, I count that out of 17 reserved media spaces in my press box section, only three are occupied (counting mine). It occurs to me that I could have scalped these spots like the guy who was asking $130 a pair for the Victoria intrasquad game, but I strongly suspect the Canucks brass would frown on that. Come on, fellow media members! Show a little urgency even if it’s pre-season.


In the first minute of the second period, Judas Priest’s anthemic “Living After Midnight” blasts the crowd. This instantly takes me back to the 2003 IIHF World Championship in Finland, where the Finnish national team skated out to that song at every game it played in Helsinki. Will this somehow fire up Anaheim’s Petteri Wirtanen, the lone Finnish prospect on the ice tonight, who captained his blue-and-white squad to a bronze medal at the 2006 World Juniors right here at GM Place?

More solid Burrows thumps on Ryan Getzlaf in the offensive zone and Beauchemin in the Canucks end with Vancouver down two men.

With the young defensive pairing of Alexander Edler and Luc Bourdon struggling to contain Parros in Curtis Sanford’s crease, Petteri Wirtanen taps in a loose puck to put Anaheim up 2-0 at 6:15. Evidently Wirtanen has a large poster of singer Rob Halford, “The Metal God,” on his bedroom wall.

The night’s first potential fight is narrowly averted by the officials after Corey Perry clips Burrows at the Ducks blueline and Brown and Travis Moen look poised to drop the gloves. Only a little chirping ensues; these guys are not, apparently, going to leap out of the box when their roughing minors end and go at it like Tim Hunter and Dave Semenko circa ’85.

With Perry getting the extra minor, Ryan Shannon gets to play the power play point versus his old Anaheim mates. Somehow, it seems dubious the diminutive 24-year-old center saw much time in that role with the Ducks last season, what with those Niedermayer and Pronger guys.

Very interesting to see Bourdon and Edler paired together at times tonight. They’re widely acknowledged to be competing for the same seventh defenseman spot, and they’ve been competing hard and glaring at each other during the training camp drills. This forces them to set their egos aside and try to be effective partners. It might not be Starsky and Hutch or Tango and Cash, but it’s got dramatic potential.

In the first of many ridiculously timed stick-snapping incidents we’ll see this season at GM Place, Anaheim winger Matt Beleskey has his blade pop off inside his own blueline. But he shows that, despite hailing from Windsor, Ontario, he’s ready for Euro 2008, booting the puck smartly out of the zone midway through the period.

The Canucks cut the deficit to 2-1 at 11:21. When AHL defense prospect Nathan McIver converts a nice centering feed from Shannon, it equals his entire goal output last season (one goal in 63 games with Manitoba). He’s on fire. Who does he think he is now, Norm Maciver?

Inevitably, the long-awaited fight occurs with 4:41 left to go in the period. (It’s an Anaheim game, duh!) Getzlaf and Burrows mix it up at center ice. In boxing terms, this is a gross mismatch. It’s a heavyweight (Getzlaf, 6-4, 221 lbs.) versus a cruiserweight (Burrows, 6-2, 190 lbs.). Burrows smartly turns this into more of a wrestling match, Hilliard Graves-style, getting Getzlaf in a headlock at one point and dodging a huge, vicious swing from his opponent before the linesmen break it up. Burrows, however, is kicked out with a game misconduct for not having his jersey tied down properly. “It was just a heated thing,” Getzlaf says afterwards. “There was a little bit of frustration going on out there. He punched me in the face and it was time to go. Burrows always kind of plays under the skin a bit. It’s part of the game.”

At 18:26, Parros is called for hauling down Edler in the neutral zone. As he heads to the sin bin, he pulls out his mouthguard. This is shown on the Jumbotron, and let’s just say it looks quite surreal when a guy with a big moustache does this, as if the moustache is reproducing asexually.


The crowd in the upper deck gets a brief “Wave” going, and an similarly brief “Go Canucks Go” chant echoes through the building afterwards. As a fan, if you’ve paid between $46.25 and $197.25 (before Ticketmaster’s service charges) to attend an exhibition game, why not amuse yourself to the full?

Balej, tonight, has played with the Sedins and generated some good chances at even strength and on the power play, but hasn’t scored. This is the equivalent of being handed a winning lottery ticket and not being able to cash it. Someone else will try their luck the next time the Sedins are in the lineup.

Mason Raymond’s speed has put him offside several times tonight.

When I see Getzlaf out there, he really epitomizes Anaheim’s success as a team: big, tough, mean, and skilled. (Unlike Teemu Selanne during last year’s final, I won’t ask Getzlaf to buy me a beer for that compliment.)

During a stoppage, Fin, the Canucks’ whale mascot, scoops up a kid in the crowd and dangles him upside-down for the amusement of all on the Jumbotron. Visions of Michael Jackson, the baby, and the Berlin hotel balcony.

The Canucks tie it up with 4:16 left after Getzlaf somehow loses the puck in his pants and gives it away to Daniel Sedin, who executes a nice give-and-go with his brother Henrik before beating Ilya Bryzgalov high on the glove side. Brendan Mikkelson, a member of the Memorial Cup-winning Vancouver Giants last season, let Daniel get loose.

With seconds left, Edler astutely pinches in down to the goal line a la Kimmo Timonen, and barely fails to tip in the winning goal.


Shannon nearly becomes the hero against his old team, cutting around Ryan Carter for a shot that Bryzgalov saves with his glove.

Edler and the Sedins show off great 4-on-4 chemistry, whether it’s Edler ringing the puck around the boards to Henrik or stepping up for a give-and-go play.

Wirtanen sends Canucks fans home mildly sad after his shot tips off Bourdon’s stick and past Drew MacIntyre at 3:24 for a 3-2 Ducks win. Wirtanen thereby secures the right to play Screaming For Vengeance at top volume on the team flight the whole way back to Anaheim.

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