Jimmy Fallon apparently said Roberto Luongo looks like Count Chocula. I guess he may not be completely off…
The Vancouver Canucks are down three games to zero to the San Jose Sharks in their first-round NHL playoff match-up. As they try to stave off elimination in this must-win game, I turned to my kids for their predictions.
Sean and Kayla are optimistic that the Canucks will still make this a competitive series, and they pulled out every sports cliche possible in expressing their optimism.
Meanwhile, Jacob took a more cynical approach as he worked in a few cliches and a bunch of thought-provoking questions regarding the Canucks’ future.
So the Vancouver Canucks have lost the pivotal game two and the must-win game three. Looking ahead to a pivotal must-win game four, there are a few Things That Make Me Go Hmmm.
The Goalie Conundrum
Well, wouldn’t you know it? We’re possibly one game away from the end of the season and the story that became a story at this time last year is still a story. Whether you agree with management’s (GM and coach) handling of the situation or not, you can’t deny that it’s been the number one story with the team this year. So much so that people are talking more about the goaltending then they are about the team’s primary reason for being pushed to the brink of elimination: their inability to create enough good scoring chances.
Facing elimination, the Canucks need to start the goaltender that gives the skaters the most confidence that they can win the game. And without a shadow of a doubt, that goaltender is Roberto Luongo. He was solid in the first two games of the season before Schneider’s shaky return to the line-up. Go back to Luongo and hope that the team plays lights-out in front of them. And who knows, a strong playoff showing (even in defeat) wouldn’t hurt his trade value. That is, if the Canucks are still trying to trade him.
Flipping the Switch
Many people have asked me over the last week, “What’s wrong with the Canucks?” After lamenting the team’s scoring woes and my desire to see Keith Ballard in the line-up, I always say that it’s not as simple as just looking at the Vancouver Canucks. You need to look at the San Jose Sharks as well.
It was ludicrous to think that the Canucks would simply “flip a switch” in the three days between the end of the regular season and the first playoff game and be back to a dominating team that would steamroll the competition. This logic is mostly flawed because it doesn’t account for the team lining up across from the Canucks.
San Jose is a good team. They have strong depth at forward, a solid (if non-descript) defense, and a strong goalie. Also, they are well-coached and have strong special teams. So Canucks fans can talk about flipping a switch all they want. Just remember that San Jose has a switch too – and it seems to be working very well.
Staving Off Elimination
Get ready to hear the word “stave” dozens of times over the next couple of days. While the Canucks look to stave off elimination, I wonder why more people don’t use the word more in every day conversation. I think it’s a cool word…and it shouldn’t be reserved just for sports playoffs. After all, there are so many other ways you might use it:
- I wonder how many ladies I will have to stave off this week. After all, I’m happily married
- Will Christy Clark be able to stave off Adrian Dix in this month’s election?
- How does Keith Ballard manage to stave off thinking of ways to hurt Alain Vigneault?
Looking ahead to game four on Tuesday night in San Jose, I simply wasn’t interested in any of the post-game quotes from AV and the players – especially the clichéd ones. All I care about is the Canucks laying it all out on the ice as they try to stave off elimination. Then perhaps they’ll have a chance to play in another pivotal must-win game on Thursday night.
The Canucks played better in game 2 than they did in game 1, though – and let’s be honest here – that’s not really saying much.
Roberto Luongo played great. And so did Ryan Kesler, who unleashed his beast mode in the third period and damn well near stole the Canucks a win.
— Walter Siu (@waterboy99troop) May 4, 2013
Yup, that sounds about right.
Ahhh… the playoffs. White towels galore, Roberto Luongo in net, and U2′s “Where the Streets Have No Name” blaring as the Canucks skate on the ice.
— Glen Thayer (@glenthayer) May 2, 2013
Lu was great too. It’s just too bad the rest of the team weren’t.
Not exactly sure what happened between Monday and last night, but maybe the switch was flipped – just off? Or was it connected to the SkyTrain, because boy were there issues. Regardless, this tweet sums up the game nicely:
— Walter Siu (@waterboy99troop) April 26, 2013
At least we have TGATT to make things better!
Even after the departure of Ryan Suter, the Nashville Predators stayed true to their identity. They don’t score a lot, but play their defense-first system to a tee, especially because their only true superstars, Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber, are back there, and this has, at least in recent years, allowed them to keep pace with the rest of the West.
But right now, with only a handful of games left in the regular season, here the Preds sit in 13th place in the Western Conference and 9 points out of a playoff spot. They’re decimated by injuries – with the likes of Colin Wilson and Mike Fisher out – and with youngsters like Filip Forsberg and Daniel Bang in the lineup, just getting their feet wet in the National Hockey League.
Strap in, Canucks fans. This game should be a doozy.
With the Canucks playing a set of back-to-back games today and tomorrow, Roberto Luongo will get his 18th start of the season. As we near the homestretch before the playoffs, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last start for “Numero Uno” during the regular season. Or maybe ever.
After a lackluster perfomance against the last place Colorado Avalanche on Saturday – I believe Ryan Kesler eloquently called their performance “shit” – the Canucks are looking for a much better effort.
23-12-6, 52 points (1st in the Northwest Division, 3rd in the Western Conference)
The Canucks will be looking for the season sweep tonight in Music City. The Canucks won 1-0 back on February 22, and as well, a high-scoring 7-4 affair back on March 14.
The Predators are on the end of their own back-to-back set; the Detroit Red Wings shut them out 3-0 last night. They are currently on a 6-game skid and have gone just 1-7-2 in their last 10 games.
Dan “The Hammer” Hamhuis is currently riding a 5-game point streak (5 GP, 2G-3A-5P). @lyteforce may like to go streaking when Chris Tanev scores; personally, I’m hoping to put on my moon pants and scream “STOP, it’s Hammer time” when Hamhuis does something noteworthy.
- Ryan Kesler will start the game as a right wing, playing along side Derek Roy and Alex Burrows. After the Roy signing, many believed that Kesler moving to the wing would be the next step in order to utilize our top 6 forwards. Let the experiment begin. (Vancouver Sun)
Cory Schneider’s got the flu so Roberto Luongo gets a start. And the Canucks had to sign University of Calgary Dino, Dustin Butler, to back him up.
No worries though. Lu’s got this – he made stopped 40 of 41 Flames shots en route to a 4-1 Canucks win.
Yeah, he’s not bad, eh?
Photo credit: CBC
Sometimes, life gets in the away. So my trade deadline thoughts are a bit belated. Here they are:
- I don’t think Roberto Luongo is “unwanted”. If you believe GM Mike Gillis after yesterday’s trade deadline, it appears 5 teams were interested in Lu’s services. And if you think about it, the fact that Gillis didn’t trade the star netminder says that he’d much rather have him in his lineup – as a backup and a security blanket – than trade him for a second round draft pick. Teams want him. They may not necessarily want the contract, but he’s far from “unwanted”.
- I don’t blame Gillis for not trading Luongo yesterday. Partly, I’ve always thought that he wouldn’t be traded until after the season anyway, most likely at the draft. But also, the expectation has always been that a return for Luongo in any mid-season deal would have to help the team at this year’s playoffs. A second round draft pick doesn’t do that. And if it’s true that the Leafs were only willing to surrender draft picks because the Canucks wouldn’t retain some of Lu’s salary, it does not give the Canucks someone to back-up Cory Schneider for the rest of the season. If the market for Luongo was truly just in draft picks – or even if the Canucks were willing to just give him away for a bag of pucks – why wouldn’t Gillis just keep him for one more postseason run and move him in the summer? Now, if both Luongo and Schneider are both still in the Canucks’ crease when next season starts, well, that’s a different story all together.
- Gillis’ big gamble, of course, is where he gauges the market for Luongo to be in the summer. On the one hand, the cap is going down to $64.3 million, which, as we’ve seen, has made teams hesitant to take on big contracts. On the other hand, teams will also be able to better assess their needs and have the option of using their two compliance buyouts to rid themselves of undesirable contracts and acquire someone who is still one of the top goaltenders in the league. (I’m looking at you, Philly.)
- Much was made of the cap benefit recapture penalty teams could potentially incur should Luongo retire before the end of his contract so I went to CapGeek and played around with their calculator. Assuming Luongo gets traded this offseason, here are the results:
Luongo retires in: Penalty to Canucks Penalty to other team Penalty duration 2018 (age 39) $1,857,500 $1,725,833 4 seasons (2018-19 to 2021-22) 2019 (age 40) $2,476,667 $2,301,111 3 seasons (2019-20 to 2021-22) 2020 (age 41) $3,715,000 $3,451,667 2 seasons (2020-21 to 2021-22)
Luongo’s contract starts diving after the 2017-18 season. If he retires after that (he turns 39 in 2018), the Canucks will incur a cap penalty of $1,857,500 in each of the 4 seasons left in his contract (2018-19 to 2021-22); the team that acquires him will incur a cap penalty of $1,725,833 in each of those same 4 seasons. IMHO, these are fairly insignificant amounts, and even more insignificant when you consider the salary cap may well be in the mid-to-upper $70 million (if not more) by then.
- Count me among those who were hopeful the Canucks would make a bigger splash at the deadline, but ultimately not surprised that they didn’t. The fact is, I don’t believe they’re in a position to go “all-in” this season and try to keep up with the moves the Penguins, Rangers and Bruins made. In other words, I don’t think they’re in a position to give up prospects like Nicklas Jensen, Frankie Corrado and Brendan Gaunce for short-term help.
- But also, how many Western Conference teams got significantly better yesterday? Certainly, the Blues did by adding Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold to their blueline and the Blue Jackets did by adding Marian Gaborik up front, but neither are locks to make the playoffs. (Neither are the Canucks, mind you, but I digress.) Perhaps the Wild improved by acquiring Jason Pomminville, but I’d argue the Canucks acquiring Derek Roy counters that. Other than that, the Blackhawks and Red Wings stood pat, and the Ducks, Kings Sharks and Oilers simply added depth pieces. My point is, even after the trade deadline, I don’t see the Canucks chances of competing to get out of the Western Conference to be any different from they were a couple of days ago.