The Sun(Mon)day Crease: China, Slashing and Video Games

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Editor’s Note: Obviously, the Sunday Crease is meant to go up on Sunday, but due my busy school/work schedule this week I didn’t have time to finish it until today. Please enjoy the After Hours edition of The Sunday Monday Crease. – Lach

It’s been a busy week for the Canucks. Four preseason games in four nights isn’t something most NHL teams have dealt with in the past.

Okay, technically there were two different Canucks teams, but the first way makes it sound so much more impressive.

The veteran Canucks flew across the world to take on the LA Kings in the 2017 NHL China Games, while Vancouver’s prospects stayed behind to play the Flames and Oilers. While it hasn’t given us a full sense about what to expect from this year’s Vancouver Canucks, the one consistency I found throughout the week was entertainment.

Even while watching an exhibition game at 4:30 in the morning, I had no issue staying awake. The Canucks in China and Canada were playing with energy and speed, and seemed more alive than they did at any point last year. While winning is certainly fun, I don’t care what the end result looks like as long as I’m entertained by the team in front of me, and that’s what we got this week.

Canucks in China

Did you wake up at 4:30 am on Thursday and/or stay up until 3:30 am on Saturday? If you did watch both of the Canucks’ games against the Kings in Shanghai and Beijing live, kudos to you. I was only able to fit the Thursday game into my schedule, thanks to my regular job scheduling me at 6:45 on Saturday morning. Getting just a couple hours of sleep for a preseason game? Thanks, but I’ll have to pass.

From a hockey standpoint, there was one Canuck playing on a whole other level, and that was Sven Baertschi. Baertschi potted a goal in both games across the pond and looked like a serious top-six forward throughout the series.

The Canucks biggest loss had nothing to do with the score. Instead it was an injury to Bo Horvat, who’s listed as day-to-day after a collision during the first game in Shanghai. Thanks to Canucks Army writer Vanessa Jang, we have an idea as to where exactly this injury came from.

Again, this is a day-to-day injury and shouldn’t keep him from playing the home opener next week. Let’s hope he takes his time recovering and doesn’t aggravate it.

Jacob Markstrom had another solid game, this time against a Kings squad playing almost their entire opening night roster. The four goals might not show the proof of Markstrom’s play, but that’s largely due to Vancouver’s defense struggling to adapt to China’s pseudo-International ice rinks. A good example of this was Tanner Pearson’s second goal in Game One.

Meanwhile in Canada…

After that embarrassing blowout at the hands of the Golden Knights, Canucks #2 rebounded for two pretty decent games in Calgary and Edmonton. Once again Brock Boeser and Jake Virtanen were the difference makers in the win over Calgary, but the game in Edmonton belonged to Jalen Chatfield.

Chatfield potted a goal and an assist against the Oilers, and has totalled three points in two preseason outings. He probably won’t dislodge any of Vancouver’s top seven this season, but the Canucks definitely have something special in this guy. If I’m Travis Green, he’s my first call-up when a defender gets hurt this season.

Defense was still a big issue for both games in Alberta, giving up a combined eight goals. The most notable offense was Jordan Subban’s giveaway in Calgary, although he rebounded with an assist on Jake Virtanen’s goal later on.

Thatcher Demko had a rough start against the Flames, but turned it around and had a phenomenal final 40 minutes. Those two periods showed exactly how much potential Demko has, and if he can get his consistency right, he’ll be a force in the NHL someday.

Offseason Rule Changes

As we talked about last week, the referees of the NHL have been taking the whole “crackdown on slashing” plan a little too literally. But there’ve been so many complaints from fans about the abundance of slashing penalties in the preseason have been made that the NHL is actually asking the referees to hold back on the calls.

I’m personally fine with a few extra slashing calls a game if it’ll prevent mishaps like Marc Methot’s busted finger last season. But the biggest issue has come in the new face-off violation penalty, which is called after a team’s centre is thrown out of the face-off circle twice. This new call doesn’t do much except slow down the game, and fans hate it so much that they’ve been booing practically anytime someone gets thrown out, regardless of which team it is.

I understand what they’re trying to accomplish with these new rules, but easing back on them is probably the best choice. Teams have been racking up quite a lot of infractions throughout the preseason, and it’s adding a lot of extra time onto games. While I’m all for more hockey, slowing them down with penalties galore doesn’t improve the game quality.

NHL 18 Launches

EA Sports launched NHL 18 last week, signalling the unofficial start to the NHL season. Highlights of the new game include the awesome new NHL Threes, an Expansion Draft mode to coincide with the Vegas Golden Knights inaugural campaign and a bunch of new ways to deke out your opponents.

I’ll be doing a full review on the game soon, like I did with Old Time Hockey, but that means I need to squeeze some more playing time in. Excuse me for the next couple days…

Hockey Thoughts

  • New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle was diagnosed with leukemia last week, a form of bone cancer. As someone who has family and friends that have been touched by cancer, I’ve seen what a huge toll chemotherapy can take on a person. If he’s able to play at all this season, it would be a testament to his courage and toughness; but if he takes his time to rest up and get back to normal, no one would judge him for it. Best of luck to you, Brian.
  • The Predators named Roman Josi the eighth captain in franchise history, taking over from the recently retired Mike Fisher. Josi has quickly become one of the NHL’s premier defenders, and a leader in the dressing room of one of the NHL’s best teams.
  • The Athletic Detroit’s Craig Custance put together an oral history of the Detroit Vipers, who played in the now-defunct International Hockey League. It’s a really interesting article featuring first-hand accounts from former players and management. If you have a subscription (or if it’s available for free preview), I highly recommend taking a look.
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