Bart Byl

Jan 252012
 

When I lived in the Lower Mainland, my anger at those 5 PM playoff starts boiled to Tony Gallagher levels of indignation. How dare those Toronto stockbrokers dictate our schedule?

Boy, do things look different when you move to Eastern Canada.

There are many things to love about Fredericton: the cathedral spire across the frozen Saint John river, the famously-friendly Maritimers, the $168,000 average house price. But it ain’t easy being a Canucks fan here.

For one, Fredericton is on Atlantic Time, four hours ahead of Vancouver (and only another four behind London). A home game starting at 7:00 means I’m watching the anthem at 11:00 and staggering to bed at 2:00 am. And watching highlights or tape-delayed games the next day just isn’t the same, is it?

And even the playoffs, I fear, won’t be the same without a community to celebrate with. No cars honking jubilantly at every goal, no street party on Scott Road, no high-fives at work the next morning. It’ll feel like getting a plate of scraps thrown down the basement stairs while the real party thunders on upstairs.

Fredericton offers no home team to cheer for. The Moncton Wildcats and Saint John Sea Dogs may be the last two QMJHL champions, but New Brunswick’s third city hasn’t had a team in any league, not even Junior B since the AHL’s Fredericton Canadiens departed for Quebec City in 1999. The only option is $10 varsity hockey.

I haven’t encountered a single Canucks fan. Fans are equally apportioned among the Leafs, Habs, Bruins and Whalers. (Yes, we’re a little behind in the Maritimes.)

Should I adopt one of the sixteen NHL teams in the Eastern Time Zone? Every team worth cheering for has something offputting, trivial or otherwise: Rangers (1994), Boston (2011), Philadelphia (Pronger), Pittsburgh (Cooke), Washington (Ovechkin), Detroit (rival), Ottawa (yawn), Florida (Florida). Besides, can you ever cheer for any other team than the one you lived and died with as a kid?

That’s why I salute my fellow Canucks fans in exile in Hogtown and Beantown, Amsterdam and Abidjan, in cities hostile or indifferent, who keep the flame burning. When victory comes for you, it’ll be all the sweeter even if the only fan nearby to hug is yourself.

Jun 122011
 

The Situation
We’re four minutes into the third period, and no one has scored yet. It’s yet another goaltending battle, as Thomas and Luongo have both shut the door so far. Both teams have had stymied on glorious scoring opportunities.

Frame 1

Torres plays the puck up to Lapierre, who chips it past a pinching Seidenberg at the point.

Frame 2

Chara is the lone man back as Lucic and Seidenberg sprint back to prevent the 2-on-1. Somehow Malhotra is on the ice instead of Hansen for this shift.

Frame 3

Now it’s only a 3-on-2, but the three Bruins are bunched up in the middle. Instead of taking the trailer, Lucic goes down to block the expected pass to Malhotra. Instead, Lapierre throws it back to Torres coming in late.

Frame 4

Lapierre heads to the side of the net, unguarded, as Torres throws the puck right back at him.

Frame 5

But Thomas easily slides over to block Lapierre’s one-timer. Inexplicably, a member of the crowd is facing in the wrong direction.

Frame 6

Undaunted, Lapierre collects the puck behind the net and presses on. He shakes off Chara’s check and relays the puck to Torres in the corner.

Frame 7

Torres passes up to Bieksa at the point, who has all kinds of time to walk in and make a play.

Frame 8

Bieksa deliberately fires the puck wide of Thomas, bouncing it off the boards behind the net right to Lapierre.

Frame 9

The ever-aggressive Thomas is suddenly way out of position, and no Bruin has picked up the unguarded Lapierre. The net’s wide open, but he has to shoot from a very sharp angle. Can he make it?

Frame 10

He does! Thomas and Seidenberg lunge desperately, but the puck squeezes across the line. Lapierre — and the rest of Vancouver — explode in celebration.

Jun 062011
 

The Situation

Boston is defending a 2-1 lead nearing the mid-point of the third period. They’re back on their heels, but Vancouver’s been unable to score on gaping nets and multiple odd-man rushes. Then the Sedins get to work.

Frame 1

Milan Lucic (17) successfully fends off Daniel Sedin (to his left) and Alex Burrows, feeding the puck into the corner for Zdeno Chara.

Frame 2

Chara has an easy out: propel the puck behind his net to his partner Dennis Seidenberg. But the big man has trouble finding it in his skates.

Frame 3

Daniel moves in, digs out the puck, and puts his soccer skills to work kicking the puck to his brother.

Frame 4

Chara spins around, confused, as Henrik slips past him and throws the puck back up to the point. Burrows goes to the net.

Frame 5

Alex Edler has the puck at the blueline. Sami Salo gets ready for the one-timer, but Edler decides to shoot the puck himself.  Notice Daniel coming off the boards.

Frame 6

Burrows and Seidenberg are battling in front of the net. Edler’s shot never reaches Tim Thomas; it’s on Burrows stick as Daniel cuts through the slot unguarded.

Frame 7

Notice where Thomas is looking as Daniel receives the puck: at the tangle of bodies in front of him.

Frame 8

Too late, Thomas sees Daniel and throws his body in desperation. But Daniel’s not about to bungle this one, and he roofs it over Thomas’s outstretched pads.

May 242011
 

The Situation

It’s the third period, and Vancouver’s up 3-0 on the three straight 5-on-3 goals in the second period. So why are we spending time on this goal if the game was already wrapped up? Because it’s a thing of beauty.

Frame 1

Henrik Sedin wins the faceoff, and Dan Hamhuis takes the puck behind the net. Henrik and Alex Burrows charge up ice.

Frame 2

Meanwhile, Daniel Sedin has moved to the left boards to receive the pass from Hamhuis.

Frame 3

It’s a set play. Daniel takes the pass, turns around, and throws it up ice for his brother.

Frame 4

Dan Boyle is the lone man back as Henrik and Burrows go in 2-on-1. They’ve got all the time in world; Joe Pavelski has no hope of catching them.

Frame 5

Why is Antti Niemi facing Sedin instead of Burrows? This is Henrik. He’ll pass even if he has a wide-open net, and he’s looking pass all the way.

Frame 6

Boyle goes down to block the pass, freeing Niemi to challenge the shooter.

Frame 7

Henrik slides Burrows a backhand pass through Niemi’s five-hole. Read that sentence again. Yes. A pass through Niemi’s five-hole.

Frame 8

All Burrows has to do is tap it in. How many of those has he had playing with the twins?

May 182011
 

The Situation

Kevin Bieksa has finally scored to tie the game at 2-2 at 7:02 of the third period. The ice has tilted in Vancouver’s favour. 30 seconds later, Dany Heatley elbows Raffi Torres and gets sent to the box. Vancouver’s powerplay unit, frustrated all night, begins cycling the puck.

Frame 1

Let’s begin with a familiar sight for Canucks fans: the Sedins working the puck back and forth behind the net.

Frame 2

Daniel plays the puck into the corner for Ryan Kesler, as Marc-Edouard Vlasic comes in to pressure him.

Frame 3

Notice how quickly San Jose’s four men get back into their box formation. Vlasic is right on Kesler as he takes it up the boards. Because Kesler’s a right-handed shot, he’s able to shield the puck with his body.

Frame 4

Christian Ehrhoff is open at the point, and Kesler makes a quick cross-ice pass just as Patrick Marleau comes down to challenge him.

Frame 5

San Jose is aggressive. Joe Thornton is right on Ehrhoff, who quickly spots Henrik down low. Antti Niemi’s challenging the shot aggressively, leaving lots of net for Henrik to shoot at.

Frame 6

But Henrik’s in too deep. By the time the pass reaches him, Niemi’s slidden over, leaving nothing to shoot at.

Frame 7

Daniel’s tied up, so Henrik simply walks around Niemi.

Frame 8

Henrik backhands the puck into the unguarded net, and within 1:19, Vancouver goes from trailing 2-1 to being up 3-2.

May 082011
 

The Situation

There’s 29.3 seconds left in the third period, and Vancouver’s clinging to a 3-2 lead. A win would earn a 3-1 stranglehold on the series; a loss would allow Nashville to tie up the series. Vigneault calls a timeout to sketch a set play off the faceoff.

Frame 1

Because he’s a left-handed shot, Henrik Sedin will take the draw against Mike Fisher. Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows line up on either side of him.

Frame 2

Henrik wins the puck back into the corner for Kesler. All the Predators move in that direction — but notice Burrows sprinting to the point.

Frame 3

Because Kesler’s a right-handed shot, he’s in perfect position to fire a hard shot around the boards. Erat is unable to stop him.

Frame 4

The puck rings around the boards and towards the point.

Frame 5

A sliding Burrows just beats Weber to the puck, as Henrik leaves the zone in anticipation of the pass.

Frame 6

Somehow the puck squirts past Burrows and Weber and up along the boards.

Frame 7

It’s up to Henrik to ice this now. He takes careful aim from the blue line …

Frame 8

… and hits the empty. Henrik finally has his first goal of the playoffs, and Vancouver finally has their first 2-goal lead of this series. Twenty-one seconds later, the horn sounds and the Canucks head home for a chance to finish off the pesky Predators.

May 052011
 

The Situation

Although Vancouver dominated the first period, the lone goal was a shorthanded marker by Predators’ David Legwand. But in the dying seconds of the period, Luongo suckered the refs into calling a high-sticking penalty on Smithson. The Canucks started the second with the man-advantage, but nearly gave up another shorthanded marker as Ehrhoff turned the puck over twice.

Frame 1

Finally Vancouver gets out of their zone and up the ice. Henrik takes the puck at Nashville’s blue line.

Frame 2

Shane O’Brien’s the lone man back as Henrik and Kesler come in 2-on-1. But instead of passing to Kesler, Henrik drops the puck to his brother.

Frame 3

The Sedins cut to the middle, and Daniel spots the trailer. He quickly throws the puck to Christian Ehrhoff, as Joel Ward spins around figuring out what’s going on.

Frame 4

Ehrhoff glides in. Kesler blocks Rinne, and O’Brien drops to his knees. Everyone’s expecting Ehrhoff to shoot.

Frame 5

Ehrhoff goes by O’Brien as Rinne goes down to stop the shot. Notice how aggressively Rinne is challenging Ehrhoff. Only Kesler anticipates what’s about to happen: he twists around to get his stick ready.

Frame 6

Ehrhoff simply goes around Rinne. Kesler is as wide open as the net is: O’Brien let him go to block Ehrhoff’s shot, and Ward and Klein are standing still, watching.

Frame 7

Finally, Kesler buries one, in his tenth game of the 2011 playoffs. It’s also Vancouver’s first powerplay goal in 5 games.

Apr 302011
 

The Situation

It’s halfway through the second period, and Vancouver is dominating. They’ve blasted shot after shot at Pekka Rinne, but the Vezina finalist’s glove is a black hole. Nothing is getting past him. Kevin Bieksa moves the puck through the neutral zone to try again.

Frame 1

Both teams are changing as Vancouver moves up ice. But Nashville’s bench is further away from their goal, giving Vancouver a brief advantage as Higgins joins the rest of the third line.

Frame 2

Mike Fisher stands up to Bieksa at the blue line. Instead of making a move and risking an offside, Bieksa simply flips the puck through Fisher’s feet to Lapierre.

Frame 3

Lapierre leaves the puck for Bieksa and continues down the boards past Kevin Klein. Fisher’s aggressive check has left him out of the play.

Frame 4

Bieksa has several tempting options: pass to Hansen in the high slot, Higgins coming in from the right point, or take it to the net himself. Instead, he dishes it back to Lapierre.

Frame 5

Now both Klein and Fisher are behind the play, and it’s a three-on-one. Jonathan Blum is in good position covering the slot as Lapierre cuts towards the net.

Frame 6

Klein and Fisher race to catch up as Lapierre finds himself in good shooting position. Rinne, of course, has to cover Lapierre and leave the others to his teammates. Hansen has gotten behind Blum and might be able to tap it in from the top of the crease.

Frame 7

Lapierre drops it back to the trailer, Higgins. Fisher has made a second mistake: heading straight to the net instead of to the open forward.

Frame 8

Higgins wrist a beauty over Rinne, who nearly robs him as he stacks the pads. But not this time. The puck’s in and out of the net so fast the refs need a video review to believe this is a goal.

Apr 282011
 

The Situation

Jonathan Toews stuns the crowd with a shorthanded marker at 18:04 of the third period to tie the game and force sudden-death overtime. It’s five minutes into overtime, and there’s no margin for error.

Frame 1

Chicago gets the puck out of their zone, but Hamhuis dumps it back in, just as he gets nailed against the boards by Toews. It’s a delayed offside. Raymond must clear the zone before Vancouver touches the puck.

Frame 2

Chris Campoli gathers the puck along the boards, as Burrows straddles the line, watching the linesman for the moment Raymond crosses the blue line and it’s safe to chase the puck. Toews has taken himself out of the play with the sheer momentum of his hit on Hamhuis.

Frame 3

Campoli can’t play the puck up the boards because Toews is blocking the lane. He can’t play it off the glass because he’s left-handed and too close to the boards. He decides to go vertical, and flips the puck over Burrows. It’s a choice he’ll be thinking about all summer. Burrows knocks the puck down with his glove.

Frame 4

Ryan Johnson (17) is seconds away from being the only player to lose the Chicago-Vancouver series three years in a row. Assuming that Campoli’s move worked, he’s already headed up ice, leaving no obstacles in Burrows’ path to the net.

Frame 5

Burrows charges towards the net. Toews and Johnson take a few moments before realizing where the puck is. Campoli makes a heroic effort to correct his horrific mistake.

Frame 6

Perhaps because his move didn’t work in overtime, Burrows just wires the shot, a rolling puck in the high slot. Campoli lunges across, a split second too late to tip the puck.

Frame 7

The shot handcuffs Crawford, who barely had time to get himself set. Burrows’ knuckler sails over his right shoulder.

Frame 8

A hundred thousand Blackhawks fans groan in dismay, while the city of Vancouver roars in jubilation. Enjoy it – you’ll remember this moment for the rest of your life.

Apr 212011
 

After every Canucks playoff game, we’ll break down one key play, frame-by-frame.

The Situation

The score is knotted at 1-1 early in the second period. Vancouver has just killed off a Chicago powerplay and dumped the puck behind Crawford’s net. CBC’s commentators mention how quiet the crowd is.

Frame 1 (5:12)

Kesler briefly waves his stick at Campbell before heading to the bench. Notice the horrible timing of this line change.

Frame 2 (5:13)

Campbell passes the puck to Kane as the Sedins jump over the boards, already behind the play.

Frame 3 (5:14)

Kane skates over the blueline as linesmen miss Samuelsson pushing Toews offside. (NHL series supervisor Rob Shick admitted after the game, “Yes, it was offside but they did score five more.”)

Frame 4 (5:15)

Because the Sedins are stuck up ice, this is a 4-on-3 for Chicago. Samuelsson takes Toews as Ehrhoff and Edler defend.

Frame 5 (5:15)

But wait! Even though Edler and Ehrhoff are covering Kane, Samuelsson decides they need some help. He abandons Toews and Campbell and lunges towards Kane.

Frame 6 (5:16)

This gives Kane two great options: feed the puck to Toews as he heads to the net, or throw it to Campbell at the top of the circle as everyone falls back.

Frame 7 (5:16)

Kane gives the puck to Campbell. Toews, Ehrhoff, Edler, Kane, Samuelsson and Sharp form a celebratory conga line for Campbell’s shot. Notice Luongo is already down.

Frame 8 (5:17)

Daniel and Henrik glide into the zone. “Hey everyone, did we miss anything?”

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