VANCOUVER, B.C – The Vancouver Canucks season opening home-stand continues tonight as they take on the Winnipeg Jets. The 1-0-1 Canucks will be looking to play more of a physical style against the Jets. Coach Travis Green wants to see his team compete with a higher intensity level, more puck possession, and less softness from his players.

“I thought our intensity level was a little bit lower than the game against Edmonton,” admitted Green. “It wasn’t like we played a terrible hockey game. We’ve got three out of four points in these two games. It’s not a terrible start. I thought our play was a little bit softer than the first game. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Inquiring minds jumped on Green’s comments when he spoke following Wednesday’s practice at UBC. Are the Canucks too soft, do they have the players required to play physical hockey?

“I didn’t say that we were soft physically,” Green, said. “I don’t think we have an overbearingly physical team. Anyone that watches hockey, and knows our team, probably knows that.”

Thomas Vanek is in his first season with the Canucks, and the Austrian winger finds himself playing on the top line with Daniel, and Henrik Sedin. Vanek netted his first goal as a Canuck on Tuesday vs Ottawa. He admits that it will take time to form a team bond.

“I’m new, and there’s a lot of new guys,” Vanek said. “We’re still trying to find our identity and what our game is. Obviously it wasn’t our best one, but still got a point out of it.”

Vanek and the Sedins aren’t going to go out and start throwing thunderous body checks anytime soon. That’s not their style of play, and not what they contribute. As a top line, you want them to have possession in the offensive zone, while creating, and scoring goals. Vanek points out that physical hockey isn’t always about one main statistic.

“I think physical is not just going out there and hitting guys,” Vanek said. “I think physical is having a good stick, taking good angles on guys, and playing a frustrating game.”

It doesn’t take much for Canucks fans to get riled up. Vanek’s hustle, hunger, and intensity has already been questioned. Is he too slow, why doesn’t he bring a maximum effort each game. Vanek committed an unnecessary slashing penalty taking the Canucks off the power play in the first period vs Ottawa.

“Yeah, I don’t think the penalty was much,” Vanek said. “I think I tapped his stick, and I guess that’s a penalty now.”

Henrik is enjoying having Vanek as a line-mate, and he expects chemistry to form as they continue to get familiar with each other. Vanek and the Sedins are terrific in the corners, fantastic passers, and they know how to score from all attacking areas.

“He’s strong, he’s really strong on pucks,” revealed Henrik Sedin. “When he gets the puck, he gives us time to move into areas. We might not be the fastest line on the ice, I think we’ve started good so far. We need to get our power play going, but 5 on 5, its felt good.”

The 33 year-old, is with his 7th NHL organization and he’s played with exceptional hockey players at all of his stops. He knows what it takes to get an offence, and power play going. Vanek admits that there is much more that he can do.

“I mean, it’s early,” said Vanek. “Playing with Hank and Danny, I think we’re getting closer. I think we’re starting to read off each other better, but there’s obviously a lot more to give.”

The Canucks are not built to run teams out of Rogers Arena. They have team toughness, but they won’t be among the league leaders in hits. Moving the puck forward, catching teams on transition, and dominating on special teams is how the Canucks can counter not having a physical team. Games won’t be won on paper.

“Right, exactly,” Vanek agreed. “You can’t look at predictions, I mean obviously you have your four or five teams who are probably better than most teams, but then I think there’s a group of twenty to twenty-five teams who are similar. Like I said, we’re searching for our identity. We feel like we can frustrate teams on most nights, and be in the game.”

The Vancouver Canucks are going to have to grind, and claw their way to a win on most nights. They have skilful, exciting players, and that’s what you can expect to see. As long as they play together as a team, and stick up for each other, you can’t say they’re soft.

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