Senators 6, Canucks 2: Gaudette the story on a night of little glory

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Here’s what we learned as the Canucks built an early 2-0 lead but fell 6-2 to the Senators

Amid some poking and prodding about his opening-night roster, Travis Green offered a little levity Wednesday.

When the Vancouver Canucks coach was pressed about a possible forward pairing when the NHL club starts playing for keeps Oct. 2 in Edmonton, he first acknowledged pre-season spottings of Loui Eriksson and Josh Leivo and then offered whether that meant anything.

“Could be,” said Green. “You’re reading my mind and that’s not hard. It’s a pretty open book. And there’s another guy (on that line) and you can probably guess that.”

Well, yes and no. That would be centre Brandon Sutter, but doesn’t Sven Baertschi make the most sense as the third-line left winger?

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When the Canucks faced the Ottawa Senators in their second-last outing of the pre-season at Rogers Arena, one line looked like a lock to face the Oilers in the regular-season opener.

Aside from Bo Horvat working between Tanner Pearson and J.T. Miller, other formations were the result of the trickle-down effect of off-season acquisitions, the Brock Boeser concussion, an illness and another chance to impress for those on the bubble.

Here’s what we learned as the Canucks built an early 2-0 lead but fell 6-2:

Adam Gaudette (88) scores against Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson (41) as centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) watches during the first period.

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Gaudette writing his own good story

The pre-season book on Adam Gaudette was supposed to be a quick read.

Come to camp with improved quickness and toughness on the puck and then get down to Utica to find some offensive mojo. After needing 20 games to score his first NHL goal last season — and finishing with just five in 57 games — some AHL seasoning makes sense.

Well, hang on.

There was something intriguing about a centre who put in the off-season work to earn his fifth game Wednesday. He responded with opening scoring by snapping a bouncing puck past the glove of Craig Anderson for his fourth pre-season goal that tied him for the league lead. He celebrated with a Superman ripping-the-shirt-open move, not that he needed to draw more attention. His game was doing that.

He then fed Baertschi with a neat drop pass to make it 2-0 and if there are going to be merit-based roster decisions, then Gaudette is at least turning the pre-season into a roster mystery novel. Well, maybe a chapter. Centre is supposed to be set with Elias Pettersson, Horvat, Sutter and Jay Beagle. Sutter could be moved to wing but that would only add to the glut of wingers.

Gaudette doesn’t require waivers to be sent to the Comets and could keep growing his game at the AHL level. 

Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko (35) loses his mask after stopping Ottawa Senators centre Filip Chlapik (78) during the first period.

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Too late for ’too quiet’ Goldobin?

Nikolay Goldobin had one assist in his first three preseason games and, aside from his ongoing challenge to be quicker on pucks and develop a better battle level, Green’s summation that the mercurial Russian winger ‘has a had a quiet camp’ doesn’t bode well.

To his credit, Goldobin looked intent on making something happen Wednesday. In the first period, he raced down the right side and slipped a backhand wide to the far side. He then set up Pearson before putting another scoring chance over the crossbar and sent  Tyler Graovac in for a power-play chance.

Goldobin had three shots on a line with Sutter and Jake Virtanen and also got a second-unit power-play look.

“I need to play my game and score some goals maybe to feel confident to be ready for the real season.” said Goldobin. “I think I’ve been good lately. I’ve become more responsible in the D-zone and those details that I maybe lacked last season, they have been good this season.”

Good enough to keep him around? If the Canucks carry 14 forwards, maybe. Or, maybe not.

Ottawa Senators defenceman Mark Borowiecki (74) and Vancouver Canucks centre Zack MacEwen (71) fight during the first period.

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Size really does matter in the NHL

Miller won’t be happy about Brady Tkachuk gaining second-period position on him in the crease to get his blade on a point shot to make it 2-2, but there’s so much to like about the winger’s game. Miller moves well enough, is an underrated playmaker and gets to the tough areas and is willing to stay there.

Add his 215-pound frame to the alignment of Horvat and Pearson and Green has some heavy horses to deploy in the grind of a long season. It hasn’t always been that way.

Miller finished with seven shots and Horvat had four. 

“They’re just three who play in a straight line,” said Green. “They’re a handful and strong on the puck and a line we could see to start the year. You need bigger bodies who can play to win in this league and all three can.”

Vancouver Canucks forward Tanner Pearson (70) crashes into the net of Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson (41) and defenseman Nikita Zaitsev (22) during the second period.

Anne-Marie Sorvin /

USA TODAY Sports

Is the fourth line set in stone?

Green has repeatedly lauded Tim Schaller, Beagle and Tyler Motte as a fourth-line solution.

Motte was ill and didn’t play Wednesday and was replaced by Graovac but has done the expected to earn a roster spot. But it’s Schaller who could be the comeback story.

He admitted at training camp in Victoria that he was caught off guard with the difficulty of the 2018 camp in Whistler. He was then ineffective on the penalty kill last season, had but 10 points in 47 games and was a frequent scratch.

The early 2019 camp betting line was that he might be put on waivers and the $1.9 million remaining on his contract sent to Utica. Now, we’re not so sure.

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