Not Bad, But Can You Play Better?

Luc BourdonComing into prospect camp earlier this month, Vancouver Canucks 2005 first round draft pick, Luc Bourdon, decided to not put as much pressure on himself and just go out and play hockey.

But after a main camp, in which Bourdon was no particular stand out, and after a decent – not spectacular – effort in the teams first exhibition game against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks, questions and doubts about the young defenceman have surfaced again.

In the first exhibition game of the season, he was a minus-2 in just over 33 minutes of playing time in a 3-2 overtime loss. The game-winning-goal went off his stick before finding its way into the net.

But the stats in the first game aren’t enough to paint a picture of how the former World Junior Hockey gold medalist played.

Bourdon started off slow, no question. In several shifts, he looked to be thinking too much on the ice instead of just feeling natural and confident and going to the right places on the ice. The best players on the ice thought the game went very well, but a lot of that was instinctual, and instinct never abandons a player. His instincts looked like they were being held back last night, especially in the first period when he turned the puck over twice, trying to complete two cross-ice passes.

As the rest of the game wore on, however, Bourdon began to show signs of life and development. He started to assert himself physically, something that is a big draw for a defenceman his size. His physicality was also a large catalyst when he was a member of the last two Team Canada World Juniors that won gold. He not only hit players to separate them from the puck, but he hit them so they wouldn’t dare go near the puck again.

We haven’t seen a whole lot of that from Luc yet. Last night he began to illustrate that as the game went along. He also began to show the skills that a defenceman needs to succeed in a faster NHL. He began to take initiative in his own end, forcing turnovers and winning battles along the boards. He showed an urge to join the rush, despite the game being tied 2-2 in the late stages of a Vancouver-dominated third period.

Bourdon has a long way to go before the end of the preseason. It’s a long haul, as cliche as it sounds, and he will have to become comfortable and remember that he must began to take control of the game instead of sitting back and hesitating. Hockey is not a game of ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’ . It is a game of control and seizing the opportunity when it’s there.

The opportunity is even larger now that defenceman Sami Salo and Aaron Miller are both sidelined with injuries and the prospect has been given an opportunity to, not only earn a spot on this team, but show he should be a mainstay within the team’s top six defence corps.

For Bourdon, the opportunity is there. Now it is up to him to forget about thinking too much, and just seize the moment.

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