The Vancouver Canuck who most wanted a pre-season game did his best without one on Thursday, posting a 33-save shutout in the National Hockey League team’s final scrimmage. That and $5 will buy Cory Schneider a grande latte on Saturday.
“It doesn’t mean much,” the Canucks’ new starting goalie said after Team Grey beat Team Blue 3-0 before about 11,000 fans at Rogers Arena. “But for me, personally, my game is in a place where I want it to be. At least in practice. But if I can’t make it happen Saturday night, it won’t much matter.”
Without even one exhibition game, the Canucks open the 48-game lockout season at home against the Anaheim Ducks. The Canucks will feel the schedule’s compression immediately, as they also play Sunday against the visiting Edmonton Oilers.
Schneider, who replaced Roberto Luongo as the team’s No. 1 goalie during the playoffs last spring, expects to start against the Ducks. Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault hinted Thursday morning that he’ll use both goalies this weekend.
Luongo allowed three goals – all by Mason Raymond – on 17 shots in the second of two scrimmages.
After a four-month lockout, the NHL and its Players’ Association agreed there would be no pre-season games, even though there was enough time for each team to play one.
Goaltenders, who rely on timing and rhythm, are most affected by the ban on pre-season games.
“If you look at North American goalies, I’m not sure how many of them played during the lockout,” Schneider, who spent one month in the Swiss League, said of the inactivity. “The exhibition games are the only way you can fine-tune your game. But even back in December, the rumours were it would be a one-week training camp and then straight into games. That was one of the reasons I decided to go to Europe.”
Raymond also went to Europe. For a week. He had only a couple of games in the Swedish second division when the lockout was settled and he returned home to Calgary.
The speedy winger looked in outstanding form on Thursday.
He scored his first goal on a powerful move to the net, ripped a 40-foot slap shot past Luongo’s glove for his second, then completed his hat trick by burying a quick shot from the slot after a nice centring pass by Jordan Schroeder.
Schroeder is the only rookie with a chance to make the Canucks, who must name their 23-man roster by 5 p.m. today.
With long-term injuries to regular second-liners Ryan Kesler and David Booth, Raymond’s offensive contributions could be paramount to the Canucks early in the season. He is coming off a disappointing 10-goal season, which followed a serious neck injury suffered in the 2011 Stanley Cup final.
Thursday was a good launching pad for Raymond.
“I guess it’s better than nothing,” he said. “I feel good. I trained very hard during the lockout and I’ve done what I needed to do to put myself in position to be successful. Like everything in life, there are stages. This was one, coming to training camp and doing whatever I had to do to excel. The next step is the regular season.”