Vancouver goaltender Dan Cloutier hopes to begin winning back the confidence of his teammates as the Canucks try to follow up last year’s 45-win season.
Cloutier will be in goal for the Canucks as they open the season against the Calgary Flames.
Cloutier was fantastic during the regular season before breaking down in the playoffs for the third straight year. The 27-year-old goalie won a career-high 33 games to become the only goalie in team history to post back-to-back 30-win seasons.
But Cloutier fell apart in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs as Vancouver blew a 3-1 lead against the Minnesota Wild. Cloutier allowed 15 goals on 60 shots over the final three games of the series, including three goals on six shots in the third period of Game 7.
Vancouver brought in veteran goaltender Johan Hedberg as insurance behind Cloutier. Hedberg, 30, played in 41 games last season, posting a 14-22-4 record with a 3.13 goals-against average for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Having one of the NHL’s most feared scoring lines has helped the Canucks cover up some of their shortcomings.
Naslund set career highs with 48 goals and 56 assists. His 104 points ranked him second in the league’s scoring race behind Peter Forsberg’s 106 points with Colorado.
Bertuzzi has emerged as one of the league’s elite power forwards. The 245-pound winger had 46 goals, 51 assists and 144 penalty minutes last season. He’s had at least 50 points in each of the last four seasons.
The Canucks need to get more offense from their secondary lines. Twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin will be counted on to start living up to high expectations. The 23-year-old forwards combined for just 22 goals on the second line with veteran Trevor Linden.
The Flames are hoping Jerome Iginla bounces back from last year’s disappointing campaign. Iginla broke out for 52 goals and 96 points to win the 2001 scoring title before dropping back to the pack with 35 goals and 67 points last season.
The Flames made Iginla the first black captain in NHL history Wednesday.
“I have been very lucky to have played with many great captains that I have learned from over the course of my career,” Iginla said. “I believe I am better prepared to assume this role as a result of playing with players such as Craig Conroy and Dave Lowry. I’m ready for the next challenge and the responsibilities that go with it.”
Calgary is banking on big things from the 26-year-old Iginla.
“Jarome is a quality young man and a terrific hockey player who people look up to,” Flames head coach and general manager Darryl Sutter said. “His work ethic and commitment to being the best are examples of how all players should prepare and compete.
If Calgary can stay healthy and get better goaltending, it will have a chance to earn a playoff spot. Conroy and Dean McAmmond team with Iginla to give the Flames a competitive top line.
Calgary needs goaltender Roman Turek to turn things around. Turek, traded to the Flames in 2001-02, has been a big disappointment and his $5 million dollar salary has hampered Calgary’s spending. He went 27-29-9 with four shutouts and a 2.57 goals against average last season.
2002-03 STANDINGS: Flames - 75 points, 5th place, 30 PB, Northwest Division. Canucks - 104 points, 2nd place, 1 PB, Northwest Division.
2002-03 SPECIAL TEAMS: Flames - Power play: 11.9 percent (45 for 377), 30th. Penalty killing: 83.2 percent (317 for 381), 15th. Canucks - Power play: 20.7 percent (87 for 420), 3rd. Penalty killing: 84.1 percent (328 for 390), 12th.
GOALTENDERS: Flames - Turek (27-29-9, 4 SO, 2.57 GAA); Jamie McLennan (2-11-4, 2.99). Canucks - Cloutier (33-16-7, 2, 2.42); Hedberg (14-22-4, 1, 3.14).
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Flames, 2-1-1.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 15; tied, 3-3. At Vancouver, Sami Salo’s power play goal in the third period helped the Canucks earn a tie. Conroy had two goals to lead Calgary.
2002-03 ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Flames - 15-20-3-3 on the road; Canucks - 22-13-6-0 at home.