[Inspired by Arsenio Hall's "Things That Make You Go Hmmm…", Clayton Imoo talks about Canucks-related things that make him go hmmm… You can follow Clay on Twitter at (@canuckclay) or on his website, Clay's Canucks Commentary.]
Heading into tonight’s game against the Minnesota Wild, the Vancouver Canucks have gone to extra-time in their last 5 games (winning 4 of them) and in 8 of their last 10 (7-1-2 record). Through it all, they’ve amassed 16 out of a possible 20 points, making them the hottest team in the Western Conference despite winning just one game in regulation over that span. That alone is something to make you go hmmm! Alas, I’ve also found a few more:
1. What happened to the forward depth? For those who argue that this year’s Canucks team is better than last year’s, they point to the depth at the forward position as the primary reason. David Booth and Cody Hodgson have bolstered the top 9, giving the Canucks four decent lines when everyone is going (paging Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen). However, the Canucks will be facing a formidable challenge if captain Henrik Sedin is out for any considerable length of time (his status was undetermined at the time of this writing). Add to that the recurring staph infection-related issues of Chris Higgins, and suddenly the Canucks are without two of their top six forwards.
This means a couple of things. Firstly, coach Alain Vigneault will once again have to use his line juggling blender to concoct some new combinations. It likely means more ice-team for rookie Cody Hodgson, which will be music to many people’s ears. And the recently-maligned and aforementioned Raymond and Hansen will have a golden opportunity to dig themselves out of their respective funks.
As of this writing, the Canucks had not called anyone up from the Chicago Wolves. But if they do, don’t expect it to be veteran Steven Reinprecht as he’ll likely get claimed through re-entry waivers. I think the Canucks should give 2009 first-round pick Jordan Schroeder a look. He is third on the Wolves in scoring and he would slot into a top-9 role with his nifty skating. He also had a decent preseason and didn’t look out of place in scoring 3 points. But then again, so did Marco Sturm.
2. Get Booth out for the shootout. With 5 of the last 7 games ending in a shootout (including the last 3) and 7 shootout games already in 2012, it’s obvious how important these points are in the ultra-tight Western Conference. Surprisingly, the Canucks have done well in the 2012 shootouts, winning four of those seven contests. Recently, Roberto Luongo has looked better in the shootout, trading in his belly-flop for a calmer, deeper-in-the-crease approach.
It’s a good thing, because he’s certainly not getting a lot of help from the Vancouver shooters. In the 2012 shootouts, the Canucks have gone 7-for-23 for a percentage of 30%. That’s not particularly good, but it’s not surprising given the career shootout stats of the Canucks. As Daniel Wagner of Pass it to Bulis pointed out earlier this week, Vancouver doesn’t have anyone close to 50% (except for Andrew Ebbett but he’s taken a total of 2 shootout attempts, scoring on one of them). Alex Burrows is at 43.8%, Maxim Lapierre is 42.9% and the rest of the players are 33% or below. In the 2012 shootouts, the 7 Canucks goals have come from Alex Edler (2-for-3), Burrows (2-for-4), Raymond (2-for-6) and Hodgson (1-for-4).
Why not try David Booth in the shootout? His career stats aren’t great (2-for-10) but he hasn’t had a chance yet this season. He’s a very quick skater and thus has the ability to at least have the goalie guessing. He’s put up seasons of 31 goals, 23 goals, and 22 goals in the past proving that he can score. And he’s played well since coming back from his injury. Plus, he can do this:
3. Tim Thomas doesn’t like Barack Obama. The Boston Bruins have won only 2 of the 6 games they’ve played since visiting the White House without goaltender Tim Thomas back on January 23rd. Granted, it’s not the largest sample size, but it certainly qualifies as a mini-slump. At the time, the Bruins tried to downplay the incident but it set off a firestorm in hockey circles. Now, Tim Thomas is at it again, this time posting on his Facebook page, “I Stand with the Catholics in the fight for Religious Freedom” in response to Obama’s move to have all health insurance plans provide birth control to women (a plan that has Catholic hospitals, charities and schools up in arms).
This isn’t the time and place to get into the specifics of Obama’s proposal for health-care reform. However, as both a Catholic and a Canucks fan I find this whole situation quite fascinating. I’ve been a fan of Thomas for a few years now (for his playing style and not necessarily for his personal and political views), even if he was the main obstacle to the Canucks winning the Stanley Cup last June. It will be interesting to see how much his latest statement serves as a distraction to his team at a time where they need to turn their game around.
[Every week, Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@CayKing).]
Since the epic win against the Bruins, the Canucks are 2-2-0 and haven’t looked like the team that rolled through much of November and December. You can even say they were lucky to win against the Lightning and Blues. In their most recent loss, against the 14th place Anaheim Ducks, the Canucks looked out of synch and were outshot and outhustled most of the night. That said, the great thing about an 82-game season is that the Canucks have every opportunity to right their wrongs and move on from these recent lackluster performances.
46 GP, 28-15-3, 59 points (1st in Northwest Division, 2nd in Western Conference)
Cody Hodgson has made quite the impression by being one of the better and more consistent Canucks on the ice. Since December 11, CoHo has not gone more than 1 game without recording a point. Despite logging an average of 12:44 minutes of ice-time per game, he has 11 points (5G-6A) in his last 14 games (0.79 points/game).
Hodgson is currently tied for 4th in rookie scoring with 26 points (11G-15A) and has a plus-10 rating. Last week, he was selected to participate in the rookie All-Star weekend festivities.
Chris Higgins has been plagued with a mysterious infection twice already this season. In late December, he missed a few games due to a swollen hand, but ever since his return at the beginning of January, Higgins has struggled to find the scoresheet. In his last 7 games, Higgy has just 1 assist; prior to that, he had 6 points (2G-4A) in his previous 7 games.
Despite this setback, Higgins has recorded 10 goals and 14 assists already this season, and is on pace to exceed the 28 points he recorded all of last season. With David Booth also back in the lineup, the American Express line is back together, and hopefully, they can find the same chemistry they had before Higgy’s and Booth’s injuries, and start producing more consistently again.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012 vs. Los Angles Kings (7:00 PM start, home)
Only 6 points separate the Canucks and the Kings as they meet for the third time this season. So far, both teams have won one game each in this series. In their last meeting, on New Year’s Eve, the Canucks lost 4-1 to the Kings at Staples Center.
The Kings are 3-4-2 against Northwest opponents so far this season. Both teams have a good penalty-kill; the Kings’ PK is ranked 3rd in the NHL (87.6%) and the Canucks’ PK is ranked 4th in the NHL (86.7%).
Anze Kopitar leads the Kings in goals (14), points (42) and has been their best player against the Canucks. He has 3 points (1G-2A) and a plus-2 rating in their first two meetings. He is currently on a 4-game point streak (3G-3A-6P).
Saturday January 21, 2012 vs. San Jose Sharks (1:00 PM start, home)
With another early afternoon game this Saturday, it’s the perfect time to head down to the Hog Shack for the Canucks Hockey Blog tweetup as the boys take on the dangerous San Jose Sharks.
The Sharks have had a great start to the month of January going 6-1-1 in their first 8 games. They currently lead the Pacific Division; they also sit in 3rd place in the Western Conference, just 4 points back of the Canucks, with 4 games in hand.
The Sharks have played great against the Northwest Division this season. They’ve taken points in 8 of 10 games – a 5-2-3 record – against Northwest Division opponents. This will be the last regular season meeting between the two teams this season.
In three games against the Canucks this season, Patrick Marleau leads the Sharks with 3 points (2G-1A) and about 23 minutes of ice time.
He is also tied with Joe Thornton for the team lead in scoring with 36 points (17G-19A), and is tied for the team lead with 4 powerplay goals with 3 other Sharks (Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns and Ryan Clowe).
[Inspired by Arsenio Hall's "Things That Make You Go Hmmm…", Clayton Imoo talks about Canucks-related things that make him go hmmm. You can follow Clay on Twitter at (@canuckclay) or on his website, Clay's Canucks Commentary.]
Photo credit: Yahoo Sports
I’m taking a break from planning my Saturday morning “Ruin the Bruins” party to offer up a few quick thoughts as the Canucks have reached the midway point of the season. It feels so strange to type the word “morning” when blogging about a hockey game, but I digress.
On this eve of the Stanley Cup Finals rematch, here are a few Things That Make Me Go Hmmm:
1. The need for perspective. There are so many intriguing storylines heading into Saturday’s game against the Boston Bruins, notwithstanding the fact that it’s the only regular season meeting between the two Stanley Cup Finalists. Luongo or Schneider. Mason Raymond’s return to the rink where he nearly had his career ended. Daniel Sedin vs. Brad Marchand. Burrows, Bergeron, and biting.
Thursday afternoon, I tweeted: “48 hours from now we’ll either be celebrating a bit of revenge for the Canucks or wondering what it will take to beat the Bruins in Boston.” I received a couple of replies, with both of them intimating that a Canuck win had limited upside (as opposed to a Canuck loss having a larger downside) and that true revenge would be winning the Stanley Cup. While I didn’t disagree with these sentiments, I pointed out that a win is a win and we can’t do much about the Stanley Cup until June. It’s important to remember that this is game #42 of an 82 game regular season and that we shouldn’t read too much into the result of the game, whatever it may be. I don’t buy the argument that a Canuck loss will have a long-term effect on the team’s psyche… the same way I won’t get too excited if the Canucks walk out of Boston with a win. Enjoy it for what it will be: a hotly-contested battle of two of the top teams in the league.
2. Biggest surprises and disappointments. There have been numerous “midseason evaluation” posts including an excellent one by CHB writer Matt Lee already, but I thought I would chime in with a few of my observations. For me, the biggest surprises up front have been Jannik Hansen, Cody Hodgson and Chris Higgins. The collective Triple H has combined for 31 goals and 37 assists for 68 points, a welcome wave of secondary scoring behind the big four of the Sedins and Kesler and Burrows. On the flip side, Manny Malhotra is still struggling to regain his pre-injury form of last year and the jury is still out on David Booth, who was picking up his game before his knee injury.
On the back end, the play of the top four d-men (Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis and Sami Salo) have helped some Canuck faithful forget about Christian Ehrhoff. In particular, Hamhuis is quietly piling up the points and is on pace to match his career high of 38 points (2005-2006 season). Hamhuis and partner Bieksa (who has overcome a shaky start) have become one of the league’s premier shutdown pairs, while Edler and Salo continue to contribute at both ends of the rink. Conversely, Keith Ballard is still not playing like a $4 million defenseman, and he is still prone to making risky plays in his own end. I really like him and I want to see him succeed, but 6 points and -1 just doesn’t cut it.
3. The Canucks in the Winter Classic. On the heels of another entertaining Winter Classic and HBO 24/7 series, there’s increased chatter about the possibility of the Canucks appearing in the big game in the near future. One would think that Montreal and/or Toronto are likely to be considered ahead of our local team, but you never know. With respect to the 24/7 series, it’s hard to predict what kind of ratings a Canadian team would draw south of the border. But one thing’s for sure: the Canucks would make for some interesting TV. I would find it fascinating to get a behind-the-scenes look at the player’s preparation and personal lives. What is Luongo like away from the cameras? How are the twins different in how they approach the games? Who are the locker room leaders? Does Dale Weise un-follow and block people in real life? And where does Bieksa come up with his comedy gold? With respect to opponents, I think it’s a toss-up between Boston and Chicago. The former for all of the reasons listed above, the latter for the playoff history and animosity between the teams for three years running. A dark-horse would be Detroit, but their rivalry with the Canucks is one based on respect and similar playing styles as opposed to the dislike that comes with the Bruins and Blackhawks.
Amidst all these questions, it’s good to see that the Canucks have emerged from the first-half of the season at the top of the Western Conference (albeit with the other teams holding games in hand). Now please excuse me as I continue preparations for my Saturday morning viewing party. I’m curious as to how many of my friends will be drinking while watching the game. 10 AM seems a tad early, but I’m certainly not here to judge. Hmmm…
[Every week Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@cayking).]
This past week, the Canucks throw away 3 points against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes, two of the worst teams in their respective conferences. In both games, the Canucks were perhaps guilty of taking their opponents for granted and didn’t play the proverbial full 60 minutes. Then on Saturday, Roberto Luongo and company redeemed themselves in one of the most entertaining games of the season against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Luo was simply amazing and made many highlight reel saves throughout the game. The team also got scoring when they needed it the most and came out on top by a 5-3 score. Vancouver is now back home at Rogers Arena for a four-game home stand.
32 GP, 19-11-2, 40 points (2nd in Northwest Division, 6th in Western Conference)
Chris Higgins has had a great start to the season and has found a lot of chemistry with fellow American, Ryan Kesler. Higgy has become a main staple on the second line and has ability to change the game with a great shift that involves speed, good hockey sense and a relentless forecheck.
Higgins has 2 goals and 8 assists in his last 10 games and is a plus-8 in that same stretch. He is currently riding a 3-game point streak.
When the Canucks picked Higgins up last season just minutes before the trade deadline, we probably weren’t sure if the team would get the 20-goal, 50 point guy from earlier in his career or the 20-point guy who played for 5 different teams in 3 years. The move to the Wet Coast has turned out great and Higgy has shown that he can be a reliable contributor night in and night out.
What a difference 12 games makes; it was just 3 weeks ago that I featured Ryan Kesler as the “who’s not hot” player of the week. He seemed to be struggling to find his game coming off hip-surgery and was having a hard time finding the back of the net. Ever since then the RK17 we have come to know and love is back! In his last 12 games, Kes has 5 goals, 10 assists and is a plus-11. It’s safe to say he is fully recovered and back to his Selke-winning ways.
An integral part of the first powerplay unit, Kes’ presence in front of the net wrecks havoc on the opposing team’s goaltender and it opens up a lot of space for the Sedins to work their magic.
Monday December 19, 2011 vs. Minnesota Wild (7:00 PM start, home)
The Northwest Division leaders roll into town on Monday, but will be missing their captain Mikko Koivu and winger Devin Setoguchi, who are both out with injuries. Both teams have already played each other twice this season with each one winning a game each.
The Wild are winless in their last 3 games (0-1-2) and are hoping to get back on track, even while missing their leading scorer in Koivu.
Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard have both recorded 3 points against the Canucks this season; while Daniel Sedin leads the Canucks with 1 goal and 2 assists in the two meetings.
Kyle Brodziak has 6 goals and 2 assists in his last 10 games. He is leading the Wild with 11 goals so far this season and is tied for 4th in team scoring with 18 points in 33 games.
Wednesday December 21, 2011 vs. Detroit Red Wings (7:00 PM start, home)
The Red Wings are just above the Canucks in the Western Conference standings and will look to try and win their second game against Vancouver this season. In their only other meeting so far this season, Jimmy Howard and the Wings shut out the Canucks 2-0. The Canucks have since rebounded from their horrible October when they first played and games against Detroit are always an entertaining affair.
As soon as I dropped Pavel Datsyuk from my hockey pool, he went on a scoring spree. He is currently on a 5-game point streak where he has put up 9 points (2G–7A) and is an impressive plus-8. He leads the Red Wings in assists (23) and points (33).
It will be fun to watch Ryan Kesler and Pavel Datsyuk battle on the ice, both Selke winners and two players that can change the game for their respective teams.
Friday December 23, 2011 vs. Calgary Flames (7:00 PM start, home)
The Flames come into VanCity on the second night of a back-to-back situation. They are currently on a losing skid with a 0-2-2 record in their last 4 games. They currently sit in 11th place in the Western Conference.
The Canucks have owned the Flames this season having won both meetings by a score of 5-1. Roberto Luongo was in net for both victories and the Canucks were led by the American Express line of Chris Higgins-Ryan Kesler-David Booth, all of whom have 4 points each against the Flames. Although Booth is still out with a knee injury, Chiggins and Kes will try to pick up where they left off.
Olli Jokinen is leading the Flames with 27 points (11G-16A). In his last 10 games, he has 13 points (6G-7A).
Roberto Luongo’s performance this past Saturday on HNIC against the Maple Leafs was hands down one of his best performance of the season. Don’t be fooled by the fact that he allowed 3 goals, he was sensational making highlight reel saves like it was no big deal. His positioning was good, he was flashing the leather and he wasn’t afraid to challenge the shooters.
Bobby Lou’s last regulation loss came on December 1st, and since then, he has gone 5-0-1.
I hate to crush all hearts of many Luongo haters but there is certainly no goalie controversy here in Vancouver. Luongo looks like he’s rebounded from his slow start and has returned to form.
In this episode of the CHB TV video podcast, Matt Lee, Clay Imoo and J.J. Guerrero talk about the improved production from the Canucks’ second line and back end. Also, more on the team’s goalie tandem.