[Every week, Caylie King reviews the Canucks week that was and previews the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@CayKing)]
The Canucks go home for a few games after taking 7 out of a possible 8 points on their recently-concluded 4-game road trip. From the outside, the record is great, but as a fan, I know as well as you do that some things are still not clicking. They put in a solid 60-minute effort against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night, but were otherwise mediocre and reliant on fantastic goaltending in the other 3 games. The Canucks are back at Rogers Arena for a 3-game home stand this week and then head back on the road for a 6-game trip, their last extended road trip of the season.
55 GP, 34-15-6, 74 points (1st in Northwest Division, 2nd in Western Conference)
It’s safe to say that Roberto Luongo was a big – the biggest – reason for the Canucks’ successful road trip.
Perhaps surprisingly, he actually looks more confident in the shootout. His last 4 starts have all gone to the shootout, and although he only won 2 of them, he seems more comfortable in his approach to each shooter.
So far in 2012, Bobby Lou has helped the Canucks gain points in 10 of his 12 starts (6-2-4). This is especially commendable considering the team in front of him has struggled to find its consistency and all-around effort in the last month or so.
Remember Jannik Hansen’s December to remember? Me neither.
After recording 6 goals and 6 assists in December, Hansen’s offense has tailed off. In his last 16 games, he has but 5 points (2G-3A), and he hasn’t scored since January 10.
Now, Hansen normally isn’t known as a scorer so his scoring drought isn’t exactly world-breaking news. However, he hasn’t been consistent either in doing the little things – the tenacious forechecking and tireless work in the corners – that earned him a 3-year contract extension this summer.
Monday, February 13, 2012 vs. Phoenix Coyotes (7:00 PM start, home)
The Coyotes are holding on to 8th spot in the Western Conference and will come into Vancouver riding a season-high, 5-game win streak, which includes wins over the Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks and the suddenly-struggling Chicago Blackhawks.
This will be the second meeting between the two clubs. The Canucks won their earlier meeting on November 25 by a 5-0 score. Ryan Kesler led the way with a goal, an assist and a plus-2 rating. Cory Schneider posted the shutout and Sami Salo recorded the game-winner.
Ray Whitney has been red-hot for the Coyotes. He’s currently on an 8-game point streak and has recorded at least a point in 10 of his last 11 games (2G-13A-15P). He’s also leading the team in assists (35), points (51) and plus-minus rating (+19).
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 vs. Colorado Avalanche (7:00 PM start, home)
With points in 4 of their last 5 games (2-1-2), the Colorado Avalanche have moved back into the playoff race, sitting just 2 points back of the 8th place Coyotes.
The Canucks have won all 3 meetings between the two teams so far this season, including a 3-2 shootout win just 8 days ago.
Gabriel Landeskog is having a solid rookie season in Colorado. He is currently on a 3-game point streak (2G-1A). While only 19 years old, he has made a smooth transition into the NHL and currently sits 6th in rookie scoring with 30 points (13G-17A), while boasting a rookie-best plus-15 rating to date.
Saturday, February 18, 2012 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (4:00 PM start, home)
The Toronto Maple Leafs are among a group of 4-5 teams battling for about 3 playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Currently, they’re holding on to the 8th playoff spot. This is the second and final meeting between the Canucks and the Leafs this season. Alex Burrows potted the game-winning goal back in December when the Canucks won 5-3 in Toronto; in that game, Tyler Bozak lead the Leafs with 3 points (1G-2A).
After a couple of injury-riddled seasons, Joffrey Lupul has recovered and has a found a home with the Leafs. With 58 points (22G-26A), he is already having a career year and is currently tied for 4th in the NHL in scoring. Similarly, linemate Phil Kessel, with 60 points (30G-30A), is on pace to exceed his career-highs.
Sunday, February 19, 2012 vs. Edmonton Oilers (6:00 PM, away)
In a season filled with highs and lows, the Oilers find themselves sitting in 14th place in the Western Conference and 13 points out of a playoff spot. After a great start to the season, they’ve been hit hard by the injury bug and are currently missing rookie-sensation Ryan Nugent Hopkins.
The Canucks and the Oilers have already met 4 times this season with the Canucks winning 3 of the 4 meetings and Roberto Luongo in goal for all 3 wins. In the season series, Alex Burrows leads the Canucks with 5 points (3G-2A) and a plus-4 rating; on the other hand, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle lead the Oilers with 6 points each (2G-4A).
Sam Gagner, who had a historic 8-point night a week ago against the Chicago Blackhawks, hasn’t cooled off. He has 14 points (8G-6A) and a plus-7 rating in his last 5 games, and he now sits 4th in team scoring with 36 points (13G-23A). It wasn’t that long ago that Gagner was the frequent subject of trade rumors and it will be interesting to see if his recent play has changed the minds of Oilers management.
RIP Grandma Kesler
After scoring against the Avalanche last week, Ryan Kesler pointed up to the sky. As Dan Murphy explained later, Kesler did that because his grandmother had just passed away. In an emotional interview after, Kesler said that he will dedicate the rest of the season to the memory of his grandmother.
Despite being held off the score sheet against the Calgary Flames on Saturday night, Kes has been one of the more consistent Canucks in the last month. Prior to the Flames game, he was riding a 7-game point streak (6G-1A-7P). Since the calendar turned to 2012, he has points in 10 of 16 games (8G-2A-10P).
[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).]
The Canucks started the week with a shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks and followed it up with a dominating 3-0 win over division rivals, the Minnesota Wild. Then came the most anticipated game of the season – a rematch against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, Boston Bruins. And it didn’t disappoint. Despite being hyped up all week long, it lived up to its expectations and more. It felt like we were right back in the Stanley Cup Finals, and though while the Canucks prevailed, the end result was just another two points in the standings. There were big fights, huge saves and controversial hits. It doesn’t matter what team you cheered for, this was a game for the ages.
42 GP, 26-13-3, 55 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference)
Now in his 5th season with the Canucks, Jannik Hansen has really come into his own. He does the small things and wins the little battles, and his speed, grit and determination is evident in every shift. The Honey Badger is already having a career year with 12 goals and is just 6 points from tying his career-high of 29 points.
Manny Malholtra has seemed to have lost some of his edge this season after overcoming a horrendous eye injury last season. Although he sits 3rd in the NHL in faceoffs (58.0%), other parts of Manny’s game have deteriorated. He doesn’t seem to be as aggressive or has often struggled to win the one-on-one battles. He only has 3 goals and 7 assists in 42 games – a pace of about 20 points, which would be his worse season statistically since the 2002-2003 season. That said, it’s worth noting that Uncle Manny’s faceoff skills and work on the penalty kill are still critical to the Canucks.
Monday, January 9, 2012 vs. Florida Panthers (4:30 PM start, away)
The Canucks recalled Mike Duco on Sunday, and it’s perhaps fitting that he will make his Canucks debut against his former team, the Florida Panthers.
Leading the Southeast Division and sitting in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference, it’s safe to say that the Panthers have been one of the biggest surprises in the first half of the season. Much of their success is due to big off-season acquisitions like Kris Versteeg (38 points in 40 games), Tomas Fleischmann (34 points in 41 games) and Brian Campbell (33 points, 2nd among all NHL defensemen), just to name a few. These are not the same Panthers from previous seasons; they have built a whole new identity and look to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999-2000 season.
In last season’s meeting, the Canucks came out on top with a 2-1 victory. Daniel Sedin scored both goals and Roberto Luongo made 41 saves for the win against his former club.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (4:30 PM start, away)
The Lightning are currently on a 3-game losing skid and have not had the success that most expected after making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. They currently sit in 13th place in the conference.
In last season’s meeting in Vancouver, Steven Stamkos scored 3 points (2G-1A), including the overtime winner.
Despite his teams’ struggles, superstar Steven Stamkos is having another good season, averaging over a point a game. He leads the team in goals (28 – also tops in the NHL) points (45). In his last 6 games, he has 8 goals, including 2 game-winning goals.
Thursday, January 12, 2012 vs. St. Louis Blues (5:00 PM start, away)
If the Panthers are the early surprise in the East, the St. Louis Blues are definitely one of the surprise teams in the Western Conference. Currently, they’re sitting in 4th place in the tough Western Conference. They have won their last 3 games, outscoring their opponents 12-4.
The Blues have won both meetings this season against the Canucks. T.J. Oshie leads the team with 2 goals, 2 assists and a plus-4 rating in those matchups. Brian Elliott recorded both wins for the Blues.
David Backes is tied for the team lead in goals (13) with T.J. Oshie and Alex Steen. He also leads the team in points (29). Backes has an active 3-game point streak (2G-2A-4P).
Sunday, January 15, 2012 vs. Anaheim Ducks (6:00 PM start, away)
Considering their firepower up front, it’s shocking how badly the Ducks are doing this season. Despite changing their coach, the results haven’t changed much and they currently sit in 14th place in the Western Conference.
The Ducks and Canucks have already played each other twice this season – both in Anaheim – with both teams winning one game each. Bobby Ryan and Andrew Cogliano both have a goal and assist against the Canucks this season; Daniel Sedin leads the Canucks with 2 goals, 2 assists and a plus-5 rating.
Corey Perry, the league’s reigning MVP, is tied with Bobby Ryan for the team lead with 15 goals and is second in scoring with 32 points.
[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).]
I think it’s safe to say that the Stanley Cup hangover has passed. The Canucks are playing the game that they’ve wanted to play and the hockey Canucks Nation has come to expect out of this team. Bobby Luo and company are currently on a 4-game win streak and have won 10 of their last 12 games.
29 GP, 18-10-1, 37 points (2nd in Northwest Division, 6th in Western Conference)
Jannik Hansen has been on fire as of late. He is currently riding a 5-game point streak and has 4 goals and 2 assists in that span. In his last 15 games, Honey Badger hasn’t gone more than 1 game without recording at least a point.
Hansen has really shown his versatility this season. He’s played on all 4 forward lines this season and is a regular on the penalty kill. In only 29 games, he’s already tied his career-high in goals (9).
Aaron Rome started off his season scoring goals in 3 of his first 4 games. The magic’s worn off since and Romer hasn’t scored a goal in his last 8 games; he only has an assist and is a -2 in that stretch. Extremely disappointing considering AV was probably getting excited about the possibility of having a Norris Trophy nominee on his team. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)
Tuesday December 13, 2011 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (4:00 PM start, away)
Looking at the standings, it would be easy to mark a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets as an easy victory. Let’s be honest, Columbus has only 8 wins in 29 games played and is sitting in dead last in the Western Conference. That being said, the Canucks can not take these kinds of games for granted – the Jackets are actually playing .500 hockey (6-5-3 record and 15 points in their last 14 games).
The Blue Jackets and Canucks met at the end of November. The Canucks won 4-1 with Danny, Kesler, Booth and Burrows each scoring a goal and Cory Schneider stopping 47 of 48 shots. Columbus hasn’t had much luck against Northwest division opponents going 2-5-1 so far this season.
Vinny Prospal has recorded a point in 4 of his last 5 games and leads the team with 23 points (7G-16A).
In their two games against each other so far this season, Alex Burrows leads both teams in scoring with 3 points (2G-1A).
Thursday December 15, 2011 vs. Carolina Hurricanes (4:00 PM start, away)
The Canucks head to Carolina for another Eastern Conference matchup. Vancouver has a record of 5-2-1 against Eastern Conference teams so far this season. The Hurricanes have had a horrible start to the season and recently fired head coach, Paul Maurice, and replaced him with Kirk Muller. The ‘Canes sit in last place in the Eastern Conference.
In the two teams’ only meeting last season, the Canucks won 5-1 and Mason Raymond had 2 goals and 1 assist.
Jeff Skinner may look like he is just about to graduate middle school but he is having another great season. He is certainly not feeling the effects of the dreaded sophomore slump and is leading the team in goals (12) and points (24). It’s hard not to like a kid that has so much potential and has that silly smile on his face whenever he scores a goal.
Saturday December 17, 2011 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (4:00 PM start, away)
Every year, I make a bet with my cousin-in-law (@GoodHustle) on the Leafs and Canucks game; usually I win this bet and have the joys of boasting before, during and after the game. This year is a little different, I’m not sure whether the world is ending or whether I’m in the twilight zone but the Maple Leafs are actually playing… well.
No matter how well either team is doing, a Canucks/Leafs game is always exciting to watch and it will be no different come Saturday. The Leafs have had a lot of success against Western Conference teams this season, going 5-1-2 so far.
Phil Kessel leads the NHL with 18 goals and is ranked second with 36 points. He hasn’t gone consecutive games this whole season without recording a point. In his last 3 games, he has 2 goals and 2 assists. He also leads the Buds with 103 shots and 3 game-winning goals.