Jun 102011
 

[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.]

Less than a week after leaving for Boston, the Vancouver Canucks return to the friendly confines of Rogers Arena tied with their series against the Bruins tied at 2 games apiece.  Just hours away from one of the biggest and most anticipated games in club history, here are three Things That Make You Go Hmmm:

  1. Will Canucks fans really provide a home-ice advantage?  With Boston’s massive wins in games 3 and 4, there have been more than a few Canucks fans breaking their ankles jumping off the bandwagon.  Much has been said about the crowd at Rogers Arena:  they’re too quiet, they’re too corporate, they’re too busy on their iPhones and Blackberries during the game.  As I mentioned in my most recent Clay’s Canucks Commentary, Canucks fans need to lift up the team in game 5.  There’s a reason why it’s called home-ice advantage.  You need to be loud and proud.  Cheer hard if we’re winning, cheer harder if we’re losing.  Sure we’re all nervous, but that doesn’t mean we have to be silent.  Just as we expect the Canuck players to leave it all out there on the ice, so should we fans leave everything in the stands.  The Canucks say that they do indeed feed off the home crowd.  Let’s give them something to chew on.
  2. Do the fans still have confidence in Roberto Luongo?  Robert Luongo let in 12 goals in 5 periods of play in Boston before giving way to Cory Schneider in the 3rd period of game 4.  I was watching game 4 at the Rogers Arena viewing party and was appalled to hear the crowd cheering when Luongo was pulled.  Fans in this town seem to have a short memory when it comes to Luongo; I seem to recall him being the primary reason why the Canucks won games 1 and 2 of this series and I also remember his massive performances against Chicago in game 7 and San Jose in game 5.  Nevertheless, the crowd will be antsy and will likely be merciless if Luongo lets in an early goal or two.  I think Luongo will bounce back with a huge game – he hasn’t played poorly in Rogers Arena in a couple of months.
  3. The similarities between this series and round one vs. Chicago.  There are many similarities between both series.  Both times, the Canucks raced out to an early lead only to have to thwart off a big comeback from their opponent.  Both series had devastating (and series-changing) hits:  Torres on Seabrook vs. Chicago and Rome on Horton vs. Boston.  In both series, Roberto Luongo was the 2nd best goaltender on the ice.  And the Canucks were threatened by both teams, whereas I don’t think they truly felt threatened by Nashville or San Jose.  Much like round one, ultimately I believe the Canucks will be victorious over their Original Six nemesis.

I’m looking forward to an exciting game 5 and I’m looking forward to the Canucks restoring their dominance on home ice.  By the end of Friday night, one team will be one win away, while the other will be faced with the daunting task of staving off elimination twice.  Which team will be which?  That’s a thing that makes me go hmmm.

Jun 072011
 

[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.]

Wow.  That was ugly. 

So now we have a series after the Bruins thumped the Canucks 8-1 in game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals.  And as you would expect from a 7-goal defeat, there are more than a few Things That Make You Go Hmmm…

  1. Does the Bruins pre-game meal consist of Kentucky Fried Chicken? Boston players seemed intent on having their fingers licked by the Canucks players, as both Mark Recchi and Milan Lucic shoved their digits at Canuck mouths in an obvious follow-up to Burrows’ alleged bite in game 1 and Lapierre’s taunting in game 2.  These actions were in spite of Boston coach Claude Julien’s claims that the Bruins wouldn’t stoop to the Canucks’ level.  To his credit, he told his players after the game to cut it out.  Hopefully, this will be the end of the funny fingers as it’s starting to get finger-licking bad.  And over-done.  And a bit creepy.
  2.  

  3. Why play Luongo in the third period?  The Canucks started the third period behind 4-0.  And yet there was Roberto Luongo in the Vancouver net to start the final frame.  Alain Vigneault thought that the Canucks still had a chance to win the game (especially given that they started the 3rd on a power-play), but it just didn’t seem like Vancouver’s night.  I would have preferred that Luongo get a bit of a mental and physical break, and the drop-off to Cory Schneider isn’t that steep.  Apparently, AV asked Luongo if he wanted to call it a night with the score 5-0 and Luongo told him that he wanted to finish the game off.  But Luongo ended up letting in another 3 goals after that and I’m not sure what benefits there were to leaving him in.  Unfortunately, it may have affected (even just a bit) his chances of winning the Conn Smythe, but we will see.
  4.  

  5. Which defenceman will draw into the line-up for game 4?  Presuming that Aaron Rome gets suspended for his first-period hit on Nathan Horton, either Keith Ballard or Chris Tanev will be inserted into the line-up to take Rome’s place.  It’s ironic that it will take a suspension to AV’s apparent favourite to have AV’s apparent least-favourite to draw in.  I believe that Ballard will play ahead of Tanev.  Ballard is certainly more of a high-risk, high-reward player (in contrast to the conservative, straight-forward play of Tanev) but I think his upside right now is greater.  He has the ability to be physical and to rush the puck up out of the zone.  Both of these elements are crucial to the Canucks’ success.
  6.  

I’ll be heading to the game 4 Viewing Party at Rogers Arena with my family on Wednesday night, and I’m interested to experience the atmosphere in the arena.  I’ll be watching with 18,000 other people downtown as opposed to going home and watching the game for free (along with eating my own food and drinking my own drinks with no line-ups for the washroom).

Why pay $10 ($50 if you count the whole family) when I could watch for free?  Will the atmosphere and experience be worth it?  We’ll soon see – it’s yet another thing that makes me go hmmm.

Jun 042011
 

[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.]

Game 1 was quite entertaining on Wednesday night, especially in the third period after the penalty parade of the first two periods had ended.  It was a marvelous display of outstanding goaltending, as I predicted in my last blog.

For this blog, I’ll take a quick look back at game 1, I’ll take a quick look ahead at game 2, and I’ll pose a more general question… all things that make you ho hmmm…

  1. Where was the power in our powerplay? The Bruins’ futility on the powerplay was hardly a surprise given their pedestrian 8% success rate coming into the Finals.  However, the Canucks went 0-for-6 (as did the Bruins) with the man-advantage, relatively surprising given they were coming in at a clip of over 25%.  Daniel Sedin mentioned that the Canucks were admittedly a bit nervous to start the game, rendering their early powerplays ineffective.  And it didn’t help that Alex Burrows took 2 minor penalties while the Canucks were on the power-play.  Still, look for the Canucks to capitalize as the series progresses, especially as the Sedins find a way to navigate around Chara.  And speaking of Chara, I actually don’t mind him behind in front of Luongo with the Bruins have the man-advantage – he actually blocks a lot of the shooting lane.
  2. The Manny-watch:  who’s in and who’s out?Dan Hamhuis is listed as day-to-day after his crushing check on Milan Lucic.  If Hamhuis can’t go, the feeling as I write this (Friday night) is that Andrew Alberts will draw into the line-up ahead of Keith Ballard and Chris Tanev.  Readers of my blogs know that I’m a big Ballard fan…but once again Alain Vigneault is a Jack Adams winner and I’m not.  But the bigger story is the possible return of Manny Malhotra.  After taking giant steps towards returning, the talk of the town was that he would suit up for game 1.  Then, he was held back and Canucks fans started looking at the glass (proverbial, not Tanner) as if it was half-empty as opposed to half-full.  Well, Malhotra practiced on Friday and is apparently once again “cleared to play.”  My sense is that he will indeed play in Saturday’s game 2, giving the home team an extra emotional boost.  I will be especially interested in how well he responds to contact and how many minutes he’ll end up playing.  I’m guessing he plays 6 to 8 minutes – a bit more than the usual 4th-line ice-time, but certainly not close to the 15 minutes he was playing in the regular season.
  3. The tribe has spoken… and it doesn’t like us. I must admit that I’m quite fascinated by the way the Canucks and their fans seem to be vilified across the league.  JJ did a nice post yesterday talking about comments from players like Dave Bolland and Ryan Whitney, both dissing our team.  It’s one thing for fans to spout off about opposing teams and players – just look at how much we chirp about the Blackhawks here – but it’s another thing when players get into it.  There are so many different factors and emotions at play, but I think it comes down to jealousy, envy, and pride.  It’s exactly like on the reality TV-show Survivor. When the “jury” (the players voted out prior to the final 3) gets to ask the 3 finalists anything they want.  Some of the jury members come across as classy, often congratulating the finalists for in essence outplaying them.  But more often than not, the jury members start whining, complaining and moaning about how they should still be in the running for the million dollars.  They resort to name-calling and cheap insults while refusing to admit they were outplayed and outwitted.  Sound familiar?  Except there aren’t many similarities between the Canucks and Richard Hatch.

I won’t be able to go to game 2 as I have a work event; instead I’ll be watching the game with about 300 youth and young adults.  Speaking of work, I have a friendly wager going with my “equivalent” in Boston:  if the Canucks win, he will send me some New England clam chowder and Boston baked beans.  If the Bruins win, then I will have to send him some smoked salmon and Canadian bacon. Planning ahead, am I supposed to eat the chowder the beans together?  That’s a thing that makes me go hmmm…

Jun 012011
 

[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 host the Boston Bruins tonight in game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.  It’s been a full week since the Canucks last played, so there has been ample time to dissect and discuss numerous storylines heading into the finals.  Here are a few things to ponder: Things That Make You Go Hmmm…:

  1. Who will win the goaltending duel? Their styles are quite the opposite:  Boston’s Tim Thomas is very unorthodox, while Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo plays more conservatively, efficiently, and deliberately.  Both are Vezina Trophy Finalists, and both are on my fantasy roster (I won the pool this year…in large part to them).  Luongo has had the more consistent post-season, especially since giving way to Cory Schneider in game 6 of the first round (since then Luongo has gone 9-3 with one shutout).  In his last 12 games, Thomas also has 9 wins and 3 losses (with 2 shutouts).  Obviously, there isn’t much to pick between the 2 netminders.  It will be interesting to see if one of them steals the series, as opposed to just playing well enough for their team to win.
  2. Man, oh Manny.  Canuck fans have been taken on an emotional roller coaster this past week, as Manny Malhotra took giant steps towards suiting up for the final, or so it seemed.  However, just yesterday Malhotra missed the team’s practice and did not meet the media.  This came just a couple of days after coach AV declared Manny “officially cleared to play”, raising the hopes and expectations of all Canucks fans who have been witnessing his remarkable recovery.   While the Canucks are now tight-lipped as to whether or not Malhotra will play in this series, I have a sneaky feeling that we’ll see him sooner than later.  However, it needs to be the right decision, both for the sake of the team (who are winning without him) and more importantly, for the sake of his own health.  I just can’t wait to hear the roar of the crowd when he finally does get on the ice again.
  3. Canada’s Team?  Who Cares? Much has been made as to whether or not Canada should adopt and support the Canucks as Canada’s team.  The general thinking is that by being the first Canadian team in the finals since the 2007 Ottawa Senators, that Canadians across the country should support the team (despite Boston actually having more Canadians on its roster than the Canucks).  However, there seems to be an anti-Canucks sentiment in certain parts of the country and it’s hard to determine exactly why.  Some say that our team is over rated, others say the players are cocky, and still others claim that our fans are annoying.  I chalk it up to jealousy and pride.  It’s a lot easier to say something negative about someone or something than it is to pay a compliment.  Of course I’m biased living here (and as a follower of the team since the late 70s), but it just seems right.  We all know that Montreal and Calgary won the Cup after hosting the Olympics the year previous.  This is indeed our time.  And we’re going to do it, regardless of whether or not we have the rest of the country’s support! (Editor’s note: Maybe Canadians are warming up to the Canucks after all. An Ipsos-Reid poll conducted in the last couple of days show most Canadians to be cheering for the Canucks.)

Well, that’s enough chat for now…it’s officially game day.  The first few minutes of the game will be fascinating to watch, as we’ll see if either team is suffering from nerves or the long lay-off.  Who will prevail in game one?  That’s a thing that makes me go hmmm….

May 272011
 

[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 was fortunate to be in Rogers Arena to witness the Canucks’ thrilling 3-2 double overtime victory over the Sharks, clinching the series 4 games to 1.  The euphoria in the arena (and in the streets) was very similar to the feeling after the Canucks beat the Blackhawks in game 7.  The game-winning goal capped off a dominant 41 seconds in the San Jose zone, and I just happened to be filming the play from my seat at the time.  See the live in-person footage in my latest Clay’s Canucks Commentary.

Reflecting back on the historic game and looking ahead to the Stanley Cup Finals, here are a few Things That Make You Go Hmmm…:

1.  Have you ever seen a more bizarre series-clinching goal?  Bieksa’s game-winner has been analyzed and talked about ad nauseam over the last 48 hours, yet I still can’t get enough of it.  I watched it over and over again tonight on my PVR and one thing I noticed is that 4 of the skaters actually tracked the puck to Bieksa’s stick (contrary to exaggerated reports of “no one except Bieksa” knowing where the puck was).  Those who saw the puck were Bieksa and Edler (who initially tried to wrap the puck around the glass) of the Canucks and Marleau and Couture of the Sharks.  In fact, you can see the 2 Sharks forwards yelling at each other to get to Bieksa as he’s about to shoot.  Meanwhile, the Sedins, Burrows, Pavelski, Huskins, White and obviously Niemi were all looking for the puck either behind the net or in the corner.  You also see Henrik adjusting his helmet and Pavelski pointing to the mesh…all while Bieksa is winding up to shoot.  Bizarre indeed.  But I’m certainly not complaining!

2.  Will winning the Stanley Cup finally silence Roberto Luongo’s critics?  As the saying goes, you can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.  This seems to apply particularly well to the Canucks’ net-minder.  Luongo dissidents claimed that winning the goal medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics was hardly enough; he needed to win in the Stanley Cup playoffs.  He almost washed his Vezina-nominated season away with a spotty performance in round 1.  But in that epic game 7 overtime, Luongo slid to his right to stop a point-blank Patrick Sharp shot on the power-play, and he’s looked extremely confident ever since.  Sure, he’s let in a few softies (especially from behind the goal line) and he makes the occasional risky play (San Jose’s 2 on 0 goal), but he seems to have a different aura about him this year.  Having said that, there’s still a nervous buzz every time he handles the puck or in the first few minutes after he lets in a questionable goal.  Raising Lord Stanley’s Cup over his head will hopefully silence his detractors once and for all.

3.  Is there anyone in the city who hasn’t been in a Canucks music video in the last month?  I’m being a little facetious here of course, but it seems like there’s a new Canucks fan video popping up every day.  Some are really good, some are a tad embarrassing, and there are a whole bunch in between.  Good, bad, or ugly I think it’s great that there are so many Canucks fan who want to express their passion for the team through creative means.  It’s either a sign that Vancouverites are very talented or that they have too much time on their hands – likely a combo of both.  I’ve made cameo appearances in RKB Productions’ “Blue and Green” and David Blair’s “We are Canucks”; both of these songs and videos are really good (I may be a tad biased though).  I’m contemplating pulling some of my fellow CHB contributors together for a music video…at the risk of setting new records for website traffic here or single-handedly bringing the website down.  :p

With the Stanley Cup Finals schedule being released yesterday, the Canucks have almost a full week to heal their injuries and prepare for their last opponent.  Will it be the Boston Bruins or Tampa Bay Lightning?  That’s certainly something that makes me go hmmm.

May 232011
 

[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 watched the Canucks’ 4-2 victory over the Sharks with a couple hundred of my closest Canucks friends at the Vancouver Canucks Tweet-Up at Guildford’s Boston Pizza. CHB’s JJ Guerrero and Chris Golden were representing, and everyone had a great time (due in large part to the Canucks’ win). I was able to bring my wife and kids out with me and they had a great time soaking in the sights and sounds. In fact, with the big screens, yummy food, and loud audio, it was a bit of sensory over-load…in a good way!

So as I reflect on game 4 and look ahead to game 5 on Tuesday night at Rogers Arena, here are a few Things That Make You Go Hmmm…:

  1. Does Keith Ballard give hip check lessons? I was happy to see Keith Ballard in the line-up, although it was due to injuries to Ehrhoff and Rome. Nevertheless, I was hopeful that Ballard would have a strong game and regain some of his confidence. Ballard’s stats weren’t overly impressive: 1 shot, minus 1 in 10:34 of ice-time. However, he had the best hit of the night as he sent Sharks forward (and Canuck d-killer) Jamie McGinn head-over-heels with a devastating hip check. I immediately flashbacked to some of Ballard’s other big hip checks from the season and again wondered why he doesn’t play more. I then wanted to find out if Ballard threw out these types of checks in Florida and Phoenix. YouTube provides more than enough evidence; he has always been a hip checking machine. Check out these bone-crunchers on Evgeni Malkin, Scott Hartnell, and the immortal Jack Skille.
  2. The Chris Tanev effect. It came as quite a surprise when defenseman Chris Tanev played in game 4 ahead of veteran Andrew Alberts, especially when coach AV initially said that Tanev would be in San Jose just for “insurance.” Well, the Canucks cashed in their insurance policy and inserted Tanev into the line-up as Ballard’s partner on the blue line. Similar to Ballard, Tanev’s stats were rather pedestrian (a bunch of zeroes in all categories in 9:13 TOI).  But more importantly, he essentially played error-free hockey and played well beyond his years, considering that this was his only the 30th professional game of his young career. With Bieksa, Ehrhoff and Salo all becoming free agents this summer, the Canucks might feel okay letting at least one of them go with players like Chris Tanev, Kevin Connauton, and Yann Sauve looking to crack the line-up.
  3. Where is Alex Edler? Since a monster performance against the Blackhawks and a decent series against Nashville, Edler has been very unnoticeable in this series against the Sharks. He has one point in the 4 games, and hasn’t laid out any of the Sharks forwards yet with hits like he dished out in the 2 previous series. Perhaps he is still feeling the effects of his mid-season back surgery, or maybe AV’s penchant of riding his top 4 D with heavy ice-time is starting to affect him. Regardless, the Canucks will need him to ramp up his play a bit if they do as expected and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Game 5 Tuesday night at Rogers Arena should be a good one, with the Canucks looking to improve their dismal 2W-4L record in elimination games in this 2011 post-season. Meanwhile, the Sharks will look to stave off elimination.

And have you noticed that no one uses the term “stave off” unless they are talking about sports playoffs. I’ve never heard it used in every day conversation… yet another thing that makes me go hmmm.

May 212011
 

[Inspired by Arsenio Hall's "Things the 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.]

Hello readers.  My name is Clayton Imoo and I am thrilled to join the talented group of passionate Canucks fans here at the CHB.  I do a regular video-blog called “Clay’s Canucks Commentary” that is featured on Canucks.com and I’m excited to take a different approach for my contributions to this site:  “Things That Make You Go Hmmm…”

If you were at least a teenager in the late 80s and early 90s, then you’ll likely remember The Arsenio Hall Show.  One of Arsenio’s regular features occurred when the host would ponder certain thoughts.  This recurring segment was the inspiration behind C&C Music Factory’s top 10 hit “Things That Make You Go Hmmm…” in 1990.

Similarly, I’ll be taking a regular look at the Canucks and aspects of their games that may make us wonder, whether it be a strange play, puzzling coaching decision, or bizarre call for example.

Looking back at the Canucks’ 4-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks in game 3 of the Western Conference Final, there are certainly a few Things That Make You Go Hmmm…:

  1. If it wasn’t broke, why did you try to fix it?  Canucks Coach Alain Vigneault surprisingly inserted Tanner Glass and Alexandre Bolduc into the line-up for Cody Hodgson and Jeff Tambellini, even after the team’s dominant 7-3 win in game 2.  Perhaps AV anticipated a rougher game and having nightmares about Ben Eager.  Ultimately, Eager didn’t even play and Glass (6:34 TOI) and Bolduc (4:34 TOI) played but not very much.  Granted, the number of Canuck penalties prohibited any type of flow, but Glass and Bolduc didn’t do anything to stand out.  While I don’t agree with AV’s decision to change the lineup, he does have one more Jack Adams award than I have.
  2. Where was the poise and discipline?  Coming into the game, the Sharks were a perfect 3 for 3 on the power play.  In game 3, they scored a couple of quick power play goals in the first period on their way to a 3 for 10 night overall with the man advantage.  These 2 quick goals meant the Canucks were playing a tough game of catch-up just 8 minutes into the game.  It’s clear to me that the tighter a game is called, the worse off the Canucks are.  Whistle-happy referees nullify the Canucks’ aggressive and high-flying style.  So why were the Canucks so undisciplined given both the proficiency of San Jose’s power play and seeing how Ben Eager hurt the Sharks in game 2?
  3. Can you decline a penalty?  The Canucks failed to score on back-to-back 2-man advantages in the second period.  Their futility with 2-man advantages is a great mystery to me, especially given their exceptional talent and that they own the best PP in the league.  This isn’t new. In the regular season, they converted on just 1 of their 9 2-man advantages. Last night, they seemed hesitant to shoot and often took too long to set-up their ideal shot(s).  The Sharks undoubtedly got a lift from killing off the penalties, while the Canucks missed a golden opportunity to get back into the game.  Though before we completely throw the PP under the bus, they at least scored a couple of goals on Jamie McGinn’s 5-minute major in the third period.

It will be interesting to see what the line-up for game 4 will look like given the incomplete marks for Glass and Bolduc and the injuries on the blue line to Ehrhoff and Rome.  It’s looking like Keith Ballard will draw into the line-up for the first time since game 2 of the Nashville series.  I’m not sure why Ballard hasn’t been playing more in the playoffs… yet another thing that makes me go hmmm.

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