Mar 082012
 

[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.]

I’m in Ottawa this week for work and it’s obvious that I’m still getting used to this time change after going to bed at 3:30 AM EST the first night and 10:30 PM EST last night.  Thus, I’m going to keep this pretty quick… but just as thought-provoking as usual.  So here are a few Things That Make You Go Hmmm:

1.  What’s wrong with the Canucks? Vancouver’s 5-2 loss to Dallas on Tuesday night was their first 3-goal defeat since they lost to the Kings in Los Angeles on December 31st.  And after a great run that saw them take over the Western Conference lead, the Canucks are now in the middle of a slump in which they’ve won just one of their last five games.  So what’s wrong?  There are few things including (but not limited to):  the Sedins not scoring (actually, make that almost everyone not scoring), an ineffective powerplay, ill-timed defensive breakdowns, and the trading of Cody Hodgson.  I’m kidding about that last point, but there is something to be said about the time it will take for Zack Kassian, Sammy Pahlsson and Marc-Andre Gragnani to build chemistry with their new teammates.

There is certainly no need to panic and five games isn’t the end of the world. However, the Canucks have a prime opportunity to accumulate some points with seven straight games at home.  And you obviously want to be playing your best hockey into the playoffs.  They have a month to figure it out.

2.  Are you sure you want to win the West? When looking ahead to playoff positioning, it might actually be advantageous for the Canucks to finish in second place as a second place finish would conceivably give Vancouver an easier post-season route.  Given the way the playoffs work (teams are seeded 1 thru 8 and maintain their ranking for the rest of the playoffs) AND assuming that all four “higher-seeded” teams advance, the second-place team in the Conference would end up facing the winner of the Pacific Division (either Dallas, Phoenix or San Jose) in the second round.  We all know that anything  can happen in the first round, but if the playoffs started today the Canucks (as the second-place team) would face Phoenix in the first round and then the winner of Dallas-Chicago in the second round.  Contrast that to the plight of St. Louis, who would meet San Jose in the first round and then the winner of Detroit-Nashville in the second round.  It’s easy to see which team (Vancouver or St. Louis) seems to have the easier road to the Western Conference Final.

Of course, if you don’t win the Conference, then you can’t win the President’s Trophy, and thus secure home-ice advantage for the entire playoffs.  And there’s still a month of hockey for potential movement in the standings.  But it’s interesting to imagine the potential scenarios.

3.  Saluting the Canucks fan Ontario-east. I was ecstatic once I found a bar showing the Canucks-Stars game on Tuesday night.  Sure, I had to sit through the third period of the Canadiens-Flames game first but what could I do?  I’m just thankful it didn’t go into overtime.  As the game got out of reach in the third period, I looked around the bar and counted the number of other patrons: I was one of a whopping nine people in there including the three staff members.  But I wasn’t surprised as the game ended at 12:30 AM EST… on a Tuesday night (Wednesday morning) no-less.

When you think of Canucks fans watching in the Maritimes, they are waiting up until 1:00 AM or 1:30 AM if they want to watch the game live (thank God for PVRs).  So I salute you the Eastern Canucks fan – I’m sure there’s been a many sick-day or absence from class especially during playoff time.  In fact, I did a Clay’s Canucks Commentary about it a couple of years ago…check it out.

4.  Do I wear my Canucks jersey tonight? I’ll be going to watch the Ottawa Senators host the New York Rangers tonight at Scotiabank Place.  I’m pretty excited to watch a battle between two of the playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference and I’m trying to figure out if I should wear my beloved David Booth Canucks jersey to the game.  Admittedly, I’ve gone back-and-forth over the past couple of days especially as I’ve solicited feedback on Twitter and Facebook and from my colleagues here.

I’m not worried about my safety (I can always pull out some Jackie Chan kung fu magic if I need to…and I’ve also heard that Ottawa fans are quite friendly), but I’m thinking more of form.  If I wear it, will I look like a passionate and loyal Canucks fan?  Or will I look ignorant, clueless or cocky (or some combination of all three)?

So I ask you, the loyal CHB reader, what would you do?  Would you wear a Canucks jersey to a game that they’re not playing in?  Let me know – you could very well help me make my wardrobe choice for tonight!  Post a comment below or send me a tweet at @canuckclay.

That’s it for today.  While you are all enjoying tonight’s game between the Canucks and Winnipeg Jets, I’ll be in southern Ontario watching two good teams that I don’t really care about.  With or without my Canucks jersey.

Mar 012012
 

[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.]

Did something exciting happen on Monday?  I’m not going to analyze the trades from earlier this week as my esteemed colleagues at CHB have done a great job of that already.  Instead, I’m going to look at a few other Things That Make You Go Hmmm:

Vancouver Canucks

1.  Will you be Seeking Stanley…six weeks early? Yesterday, Chris and I represented CHB at the media launch for Seeking Stanley, the Saturday evening hockey show on CBC hosted by Shane Foxman and Karin Larsen.  We had a great time meeting other media folk and meeting Shane, Karin and other CBC on-air personalities (I really enjoyed chatting with Gloria Macarenko as well…she is both lovely and personable…but I digress).  More importantly, we got to learn a bit about the CBC’s plans and high hopes for Seeking Stanley after a successful debut for the show during last year’s memorable Canucks playoff run.

Seeking Stanley promises to be Canucks-centric and will start airing this Saturday already and will be on for the remainder of the season from 10:30pm – 11:00pm PST.  With the Canucks playing on six consecutive Saturdays until the end of the season, viewers can look forward to a plethora of post-game coverage, analysis and interviews.

We appreciated the opportunity to hang out in the studio over-looking the corner of Hamilton and Georgia.  In fact, some of the most interesting stories were Shane Foxman’s recollections of the riots of June 15, 2011 as they had a perfect (yet dangerous) view of everything happening in front of Canada Post.  Some other highlights:  the free t-shirts, meeting other writers, my argyle sweater getting a bit of play on Twitter, and the delicious sliders.  At the end, your favourite Canucks blog was the only ones left standing as we shut the place down.  Coincidentally, it was about the same time that the food ran out.

Seeking Stanley has a beauty as their first game this Saturday:  it’s the long-awaited (haha) return of Cody Hodgson, Christian Ehrhoff and the underachieving Buffalo Sabres.

2. Showdown for first overall…with the Blues? Last week I wrote about the great anticipation for the Canucks-Red Wings tilt – one that saw the Canucks snap Detroit’s impressive 23-game home winning streak. Since then, the Canucks have leap-frogged the Red Wings in the standings. Meanwhile, another team has caught up to Detroit as well.

Thus, tonight’s game between Vancouver and St. Louis is for first overall in the league. The Blues have quietly put together a remarkable season under coach Ken Hitchcock. They have the second-best home record in the entire NHL (26-4-4, just behind Detroit) and they have the stingiest defence, allowing a mere 1.91 goals per game. They are getting decent offensive production from David Backes, TJ Oshie, and young defencemen Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk. Also, David Perron is having a strong season (with 13 points in his last 13 games) after missing the first two months with post-concussion syndrome. The goaltending has been stellar, with the tandem of Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak rivaling other combos in the league, including the one here. After a few years of being a good but not great team, the Blues have matured into arguably the hardest team to play against in the NHL. They lead the season series with the Canucks two games to one heading into tonight’s game.

3.  A chance at immortality…at least for a few years. When I first joined CHB at the tail end of last season, the tagline on our website was: “We’ll be nice to Kevin Bieksa, we promise”.  Bieksa’s emergence as a top-two d-man coupled with the potential in Cody Hodgson led to the change to: “The Cody Hodgson Era Begins”.

Well, the Hodgson era (here at least) was a short one.  So now, we’re looking for a new tagline. 

Per Chris’ post yesterday, we’re giving you a chance to offer suggestions.  If we end up picking yours, you will win a $25 gift certificate to the Donnelly Group.  More importantly, you will know that your contribution will be viewed by the thousands…or at least hundreds…of CHB visitors every single day.

Think you have what it takes?  Then see all of the details here.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll be at Rogers Arena for both tonight’s game against St. Louis and Saturday’s game against Buffalo.  Send me a tweet if you’re there too and maybe we’ll pass each other in the concourse.  Or at least we can pretend we did.

Feb 242012
 

[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.]

After a brief one-week hiatus, I’m back to ponder a few things relating to our favourite hockey team.  On the heels of Vancouver’s thrilling 4-3 shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings, here are a few Things That Make You Go Hmmm:

1.  I’ll take seven more games please. Last night’s tilt between the Canucks and Red Wings was the most highly-anticipated Canucks game since they took on Boston in early January.  And why not? It was a match-up between the two top teams in the Western Conference (and arguably the league) and perhaps a preview of the Western Conference Finals.  After fighting from behind all game, Vancouver ultimately ended Detroit’s amazing streak of 23 consecutive home victories.  You’d think the Canucks would have a decent shot as the team with the league’s best road record.  With the Red Wings earning a single point, they are still one point up on the Canucks having played one more game.  Supposedly, the Canucks had been looking forward to last night’s game for a few weeks.  I’m looking forward to the Canucks and Red Wings meeting in the Western Conference Finals.  Granted, there’s a lot of hockey to be played before the, and certainly, anything can happen in the playoffs.  But just think of the awesome hockey that would be played – their matches always seem to be competitive, highly-skilled and fast-paced.

2.  Surprise surprise:  the Canucks are “overrated”. In the NHLPA Player Poll recently-released by Hockey Night in Canada, the disdain towards the Canucks was very apparent as Vancouver was named as the most overrated team in the league.  I went to Twitter to ask hockey fans why they thought the Canucks topped this category, and here are some (unedited) responses:

@SharkCircle:  Because they dont like them. Because its a flawed poll. Unliked Leafs got the same type of thing. Unliked canadian teams is all

@FlyingVHockey:  Envy, “soft” tag, envy, Sedins unique play and European background, most hated easily translates to over-rated.

@Lucmeister:  because of last year, lost in game 7 of the SCF at home + media adding fuel to the fire + people think Sedins are “pansies.”

@geoff_heith:  my opinion is they think we’ve got no grit…aka fighters and hitters. I think we’ve built a team of skill and self control

@oljacko:  Big eastern population who don’t see Canucks regularly and influence polls the most. They vote on negative hearsay.

@SFUteachlearn:  Because we haven’t won a cup yet! :( ^mm

I think it’s ridiculous to call a team overrated when it’s two points out of first place overall and came within one game of winning the Stanley Cup.  This argument would make sense if the Canucks were floundering near the middle of the league, as the definition of overrated implies that the team isn’t as good as some people think they are.   But they are a top three team.  I like what @FlyingVHockey said above:  hated translates to overrated.  I tackled this topic in my latest Clay’s Canucks Commentary…it’s another musical endeavour for your listening enjoyment.

3.  How active will the Canucks be at the trade deadline? After a few minor deals, the NHL had its first major trade Thursday when the Columbus Blue Jackets sent Jeff Carter to the Los Angeles Kings for defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round pick.  The deal reunites Carter with ex-Philly teammate Mike Richards exactly eight months after they were first split up when Richard was traded to the Kings on June 23, 2011.

There has been much speculation as to how active Canucks’ GM Mike Gillis will be in the next few days.  The three most common desires from fans are a top-six forward, a bottom-six forward, and a depth defenseman.  Those advocating for changes in the forwards cite Mason Raymond’s ineffectiveness along with the unreliability of both Byron Bitz and Dale Weise to provide some muscle.  As for the blueline, many fans have been clamoring for another top-4 defenseman given the attrition that happens in the playoffs.  The recent injury to Keith Ballard adds even more uncertainty, although it has resulted in some timely ice-time for Chris Tanev.

Feb 162012
 

This week I’m taking a break from my regular “Things That Make You Go Hmmm” column so I can reflect a bit more on my Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada experience from this past weekend.  The CHB crew had a great time at the Richmond Olympic Oval as we tweeted on-site, snapped pictures, took video and put together a few CHB TV episodes (including interviews with Trevor Linden and Jim Robson).

As we asked many attendees what their favourite hockey memories were, it got me thinking about mine.  I put them into my latest Clay’s Canucks Commentary and I threw in some pics from the event as well.

So I ask you, loyal CHB readers:  what is your favourite hockey memory?

Feb 092012
 

[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.

Feb 022012
 

[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.]

The Vancouver Canucks came out of the All-Star break the same way they headed in: with a 3-2 victory.  They beat the Edmonton Oilers in a shootout in the last game before the break.  On Tuesday, they beat the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime. I was at Rogers Arena to watch the game and upon reflecting on it and the rivalry between the two teams, there are a few Things That Make Me Go Hmmm:

1.  Craziness in overtime. You might remember the last time the Canucks and Blackhawks went to overtime.  Game 7 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on April 26, 2011 is considered one of the most exciting games in Canucks history.

Tuesday night, the stakes were nowhere near as high, yet the entire extra frame had the crowd buzzing, screaming, jeering and ultimately cheering.  And sandwiched between a mesmerizing Sedin shift and their game-winning goal came 30 seconds of madness.

The craziness started when all-star Jonathan Toews put a sweet outside-inside move on all-star Alex Edler, leaving the big Swede on the ice.  The play started innocently enough, with the crafty Toews luring Edler to the outside boards before darting between Edler and a barely-backchecking Kevin Bieksa.  Thankfully for the Canucks, Cory Schneider made a good save.

Just 15 seconds later, after a brief foray in the Blackhawks zone, Viktor Stalberg used the EXACT SAME outside-inside move, this time on Dan Hamhuis, albeit with way more speed than Toews.  Again, it was Bieksa who was slow getting back to help, and again Schneider was forced to make a big save. Perhaps Stalberg would have scored if he wasn’t impeded by a Bieksa hook and a Hamhuis slash.  Both went uncalled.

The lesson learned:  dart down the right wing before cutting inside on Canuck defenders.  And make sure Bieksa is the other d-man.

Then, after another 15 seconds had elapsed, Brent Seabrook absolutely plastered Ryan Kesler from behind into the boards, leaving the crowd grasping for its collective breath for the third time in 30 seconds.

The Sedins’ skillful give-and-go play to win the game just 30 seconds later seemed anti-climactic by contrast.

2.  Comparing rivalries. Soon after the conclusion of Tuesday night’s game, I saw a few tweets from people favourably comparing the Vancouver-Chicago rivalry to the Vancouver-Boston rivalry.  The latter is obviously a more recent one that is still fresh in our memories, while the former goes back three consecutive playoffs.  The two are tough to compare.  The Canucks-Bruins game in early January was a complete gong show with penalties and shenanigans galore.  I remember the actual game was just okay but the atmosphere was unbelievable.  Contrast that to Tuesday night’s tilt:  the Canucks-Blackhawks game wasn’t particularly intense (until the third period and overtime) but it was actually better hockey.  Thus, both games were very entertaining in their own right.  And in the end…who really cares about which is the more heated rivalry…it’s just good to know that we have at least one strong rival in each Conference.

On the topic of good hockey…the best game I’ve seen this season start-to-finish was the Canucks’ 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings back on December 21, 2011.  The game was memorable not only because of the CHB get-together prior and the fact that I missed my daughter’s 4th birthday for the game, but because of its frenetic pace for the entire 60 minutes.  There were only four penalties the entire game (all to the Canucks) and the Red Wings outshot Vancouver 40 – 25.  For my money, Vancouver-Detroit may not be the best rivalry per se, but it produces the best hockey.

3.  Navigating through Rogers Arena. One other thing I noticed Tuesday night was just how hard it is to get from point A to point B, especially during a 17-minute intermission.  I had grand plans to meet Bruce (@transcendwebs) for the very first time after a few months of friendly Twitter exchanges.  My first mistake was suggesting we meet outside of section 104 (which I didn’t know was in the River Rock Club Section and thus inaccessible).  My second mistake was using the stairwell at gate 8 (by section 329) instead of the stairwell outside of section 304.  By the time I met Bruce outside of section 101 (after a quick change of plans over the phone), we had a grand total of 3 minutes to meet, chat, affirm each other’s good looks and blogging skills, and find a solution for world peace before we headed back to our respective seats (his in section 110, mine in section 303). I made it back to my seat just as they were dropping the puck to start the second period…and that was without a bathroom or concession stop.

So I ask you, loyal CHB readers:  what are some of your tips for quick and easy navigation through the Rogers Arena concourses?

Jan 262012
 

[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.]

The Vancouver Canucks head into the All-Star break sitting in second place in the Western Conference after an exciting 3-2 shootout win over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.  While the majority of the NHL may be taking a break, I’m certainly not as I proudly present to you the latest Things That Make You Go Hmmm.

1.  The shift. You may recall a powerplay shift in a game between the Canucks and Oilers from October 2007.  On that shift, the Canucks controlled the puck for a full two minutes (at least 1:45 of their powerplay plus another 15 seconds afterward) culminating in a Henrik to Daniel scoring play at even-strength.

Fast forward to Tuesday night’s game where the Sedins were part of another memorable shift that included 30 different touches by Canucks players spanning over 90 seconds.  While the Canucks didn’t score on that shift – actually they only recorded one shot – Daniel Sedin scored on his very next shift just a few minutes later undoubtedly full of confidence.  I present to you, loyal CHB readers, a detailed breakdown of the 32 touches:

  1. Salo retrieves the puck in his own zone with the clock reading 13:02 remaining in the first period
  2. Pass to Edler behind the Canucks net
  3. Edler quick pass to Kesler who starts to skate it out of the zone
  4. Pass up to centre to Higgins
  5. Touch pass to Booth who gains the Oilers blue line
  6. Drop pass to Higgins
  7. Pass back to Booth who carries it around the net
  8. Back pass through the slot misses a diving Edler but winds up on Bieksa’s stick back in the Canucks zone
  9. Bieksa skates behind his own net allowing for the second line to change for the first line, he passes to Henrik at centre
  10. Henrik to Burrows over the Oilers line
  11. Burrows back to Henrik in the corner
  12. Henrik nearly loses it after colliding with the referee but Daniel gets to it
  13. Only to push the puck back to Henrik who continues to battle in the corner
  14. Daniel helps out a second time by again passing it back to Henrik (who at this point might be murmuring to himself “Can’t my brother find someone else to pass to?”)
  15. Henrik is tripped up but Burrows comes to get the puck
  16. Burrows back to Bieksa at the point
  17. Bieksa’s slap shot goes wide and is retrieved by Hamhuis on the opposite boards
  18. Hamhuis slaps it behind the net to Henrik
  19. Henrik leaves for Daniel who skates out to the corner
  20. Daniel drop pass to Henrik (same corner)
  21. Henrik drop pass to Burrows (still in the same corner)
  22. Burrows leaves for Henrik on the right face-off dot
  23. Henrik passes it to Daniel at the side of the net
  24. Daniels centering pass is just out of the reach of Burrows who retrieves the puck on the left face-off dot
  25. Burrows to the corner to Henrik
  26. Henrik behind the net to Daniel
  27. Daniel with a quick feed to Burrows again at the left face-off dot
  28. No shot for Burrows, instead he wheels and sends it behind the net to Henrik
  29. Henrik shovels it to a pinching Hamhuis
  30. Hamhuis back towards the point to Daniel (covering Hamhuis’ spot)
  31. Daniel gives to Henrik on the right boards
  32. Henrik back to Daniel completing the give-and-go…Daniel shoots on net…Dubnyk saves it right his right pad and the Oilers finally get possession of the puck with 11:30 showing on the clock – 92 seconds after Salo first touched it

That’s right:  32 different touches by 10 different Canucks over 92 seconds!  Amazing.  I got tired watching it (and even more tired typing it out); imagine how the Oilers felt!

2.  Revamping the Canucks Superskills Competition. I took my family to the annual Superskills exhibition at Rogers Arena this past weekend and we had a good time.  As a bonus, I was able to see my cousin Dusty play in the Canucks Alumni game prior to the Superskills (even though Dusty has never played for the Canucks and he was playing as a winger instead of his usual goaltender).  I got a kick of seeing the name “IMOO” on the back of an actual player wearing a Canucks jersey.

As I was watching however, I started to think of ways the Canucks could keep this event fresh and I wondered about adding a bunch of new events.  Imagine contests for Hardest Hipcheck, Shot Blocking, Spitting, and Best Hairdo.  I had enough ideas that I was able to do a Clay’s Canucks Commentary about it.

Then I got to thinking about the way they split up the Canucks players into the “Blue” and “White Teams”.  They were certainly even enough, with the Sedins together on one side and Kesler and Booth on the other.  But wouldn’t it be neat if they had themes to their teams?  I think it would add a bit more “umph” to the event and make it a tad bit more competitive…at least for the bragging rights.

Imagine Canada (Luongo, Burrows, Hodgson, Bieksa and Hamhuis) vs. The World (Schneider, Sedins, Kesler, Booth and Ballard).  30 years-old and over (Luongo, Sedins, Burrows, Bieksa and Salo) vs. 29 and under (Schneider, Kesler, Booth, Hodgson, Hamhuis and Edler.  Gingers (Schneider, Sedins, and Sulzer) vs. everyone else.

The possibilities are endless.

3.  Daniel Alfredsson’s All-Star Picking Strategy. According to Bruins forward Milan Lucic, fellow Bruin Zdeno Chara will not pick either of the Sedins during today’s All-Star Fantasy Draft.  But that’s easier said than done…and it’s all up to Alfie.

Chara would be forced to take one of the twins if they are the two last players to be picked.  Alfredsson could actually take this into account when drafting his own team if he truly believes that Chara won’t pick either Sedin.  In essence, it gives Alfredsson two free picks that he won’t have to use on the Sedins; then he could take one brother with his penultimate pick and the other with his final pick.  Add Edler into the mix and using the same theory, Alfredsson could have three free picks.  Look for all three Canuck Swedes to wind up on their fellow Swede’s squad and one of the Sedins to go home with a car.

Seems silly and rather petty to me.  The only thing that could be worse is someone skipping out on a visit to the White House to meet the US President.  Oh wait…

Jan 192012
 

[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.]

There are many reasons why you should eagerly anticipate the Canucks Hockey Blog tweetup at the Hog Shack in beautiful Steveston in Richmond taking place this Saturday afternoon:  a good game (hopefully) between the Canucks and the Sharks, good food, contests, and of course, great company.  As I look ahead to Saturday, there are a few tweetup-specific Things That Make Me Go Hmmm:

1.  Do you remember your first time? If this is your first-ever tweetup, we welcome you with open arms!  It promises to be a lot of fun and as they say, you always remember your first time.  My first tweetup was back on May 22, 2011 at Guildford’s Boston Pizza when the Canucks beat the same Sharks 4-2 to take a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Finals.  At this official Vancouver Canucks tweetup, I met JJ and Chris of CHB for the very first time, and they immediately put me to work making me film this.  We had a great time chatting and filming and we even roped the Game Day Guys (Andrew, Chris and Reigan) in for a few thoughts.  Thankfully, the first impressions were decent enough both ways as they are still letting me contribute to the site.  Other highlights of the day included meeting Nicole Van Zanten (Social Media Coordinator of the Canucks) and devouring my Hawaiian pizza.

2.  Putting a face to the handle. A cool thing about tweetups is meeting people in-person who you might only know via their handle or picture on Twitter.  It’s even better when you can actually recall or quote a recent tweet from someone you are meeting (but only quote one or else you’ll look like a stalker).  At a recent tweetup in Richmond, people recognized me from my musical collaboration with Marie Hui.  Actually come to think of it, they complimented Marie for her talent and good looks, whereas the only compliments I got were for having a talented and beautiful friend.  But I digress.

Also, it’s neat to discover just how close someone’s Twitter persona is to their actual personality.  For example, you can find out this Saturday if JJ truly looks like Jon Gosselin or why we call Matt Lee the “Asian James Duthie”. Is Chris Golden as punny as he seems?  Is Lizz Moffat truly bad at math?  Is Caylie King always talking about the future?  And if you’re lucky enough, Katie Maximick might rant all over you.

3.  Are you ready for the Flatline Burger? The menu at the Hog Shack says it all: “Our signature HEART STOPPER, double burger patty between 2 grilled sandwiches.  It’s to die for!”  Well, they mean that figuratively and not literally as we would like to keep our record of no fatalities at CHB tweetups.  However, the next line is the kicker: “FINISH THE WHOLE PLATE IN 5 MINS OR LESS…IT’S FREE!”  Yes, it’s all in CAPS.  I’ve had the (mis)pleasure of seeing CHB contributor Richard Loat conquer the Flatline Burger in an impressive time of 4 minutes and 20 seconds.  So it’s certainly doable, although Richard is built like a truck (in a good way).  Hopefully we’ll see a few successful attempts this Saturday.  Just don’t die trying, despite what the menu says.

Add it all up and it promises to be a memorable afternoon.  The last time the Canucks played early on a Saturday (just 2 weeks ago), they beat the Bruins in an exciting game.  I’ll be arriving late (from work) but staying late so I hope to meet many of you there.  And best of all…it’s only 5 minutes from my house.  Because I’d hate to have to drive home after downing my plethora of pop.  Hmmm…

Jan 122012
 

[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.]

The Canucks have started the second half of the season by picking up four out of a possible six points in their first three games of a four-game road trip, starting with that memorable tilt against the Boston Bruins last Saturday.  As we look ahead to the team’s five remaining games before the all-star break, here are some Things That Make Me Go Hmmm:

1.  Coach Alain Vigneault’s decisions. Technically, this is a “non-hmmm” instead of a “hmmm” as Alain Vigneault once again has the club near the top of the overall standings (albeit with a few more games played than every other contender… more on that below).  Once in a while, AV will do something that gets us talking and scratching our heads such as starting Schneider over Luongo in Boston, limiting Cody Hodgson’s minutes, or juggling his lines before they seemingly have a chance to gel.  But you simply can’t argue with results.  Since his first season with the Canucks in 2006-2007, Vigneault has amassed a regular-season coaching record of 263-147-44 (through Tuesday night’s win over Tampa Bay) – good for a winning percentage of .628.  Throw in a Jack Adams Award in his first season, and you can legitimately argue that he’s been the Canucks most successful coach.  And to think, he likely wouldn’t be here right now if Luongo didn’t stop Patrick Sharp in overtime in game 7 of last year’s first-round playoff series against the Blackhawks.

2.  The type of team that makes a Stanley Cup Champion. I was intrigued by an interview I heard yesterday on the Team 1040 with Canucks’ GM Mike Gillis.  He mentioned that he has tried to build the Canucks based on the Detroit Red Wings, arguably the most consistent team over the last decade: a fast-skating and highly skilled team that’s hard to play against.  He also alluded to wanting to tinker with the “balance” of the line-up (he was quick to deny saying he wanted the team to be “tougher”).  This got me thinking of what kind of teams actually go on to win the Stanley Cup.  The 2007 Anaheim Ducks were big and bruising.  The 2008 Detroit Red Wings and 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins had line-ups littered with highly-skilled players and with just enough “sandpaper” (think Holmstrom, McCarty, Cooke, Talbot and that goon Malkin who had 51 PIM in the 2009 playoffs).  The 2010 Chicago Blackhawks had both skill and toughness (Byfuglien, Bolland, Eager) and we all know about the 2011 Boston Bruins.  So when Mike Gillis says he’s looking for more balance as opposed to toughness, I think it’s safe to say that he’s looking for toughness.  Our collection of top nine forwards is among the most-skilled in club history, but as a group, do they have enough grit and sandpaper?  Kesler and Burrows certainly play hard and are tough to play against but they certainly don’t strike fear into opponents.  Will Lapierre, Malhotra and Weise as our fourth line be enough?  I don’t think so. Look for Gillis to make move before or at the trading deadline.

3.  Stupefying scheduling. Heading into tonight’s game against the St. Louis Blues, the Canucks are tied with four other teams for most games played at 44.  So while it’s nice to see the team atop the Western Conference standings, one quickly realizes that the team would be anywhere from first to fifth if the top five teams had all played the same number of games up until now.  The discrepancy is magnified even more when comparing the Canucks to the Eastern Conference, as the Rangers are one point ahead but with 4 games in hand and Boston is only two points behind with five games in hand.  It’s not a huge deal as things will obviously even out by the end of the season.  And I know that there are many mitigating factors such as arena availability.  I guess I’m just lazy and find myself reluctantly calculating best and worst case scenarios with respect to the teams chasing the Canucks to get a “more accurate” picture of the standings.  Speaking of evening out, after tonight’s game, the Canucks will have played their sixth game in 11 nights (including three in their last four).  Contrast that to the next two weeks, where the Canucks will play only four games in the next 12 days.  Throw in the all-star break and the Canucks only have five games left in the remaining 19 days in January.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading.  I’m still trying to confirm the rumours that Bruins forward Brad Marchand is sporting a new tattoo that says “SUSPENSIAN.”  Hmmm.

Jan 062012
 

[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.]

Vancouver Canucks

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…

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