Apr 062014
 

Yup, the Canucks are still alive.

Something happened during the second intermission. Trailing 1-0 to the Los Angeles Kings going into the final frame, it’s as if the Canucks decided that, hey, they should be playing up-tempo hockey. And the result was probably their best third period of hockey in a long, long time, and a 2-1 win.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Apr 042014
 
injury

It is truly hard to pinpoint one reason why the Canucks will be on the outside looking in this spring. It would be unfair to blame their failures on one key thing. So I’m going to go ahead and name five.

It’s been an abysmal year for the Canucks and unless some youth is injected into the lineup next season, we may be in store for a few more. The core which seemed so indestructible just two short years ago is imploding and many of the veterans seem nonchalant and indifferent to the failures of this season. Injuries took their toll and the team’s plethora of “experience” is just starting to look like old age. Here’s hoping that management looks at this objectively and realizes that their window has closed and a new one in a different room needs to be opened. Tacky clichés aside, virtually everything that could go wrong did, so this should be pretty straight-forward.

5) Power Play Troubles: The power play struggles go back almost two years now. A huge reason why the Canucks have become one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league - the man advantage, serves as more of a momentum swing for the opposing team’s PK. Here’s a nice Hamhuis own goal I’m sure you all remember well.

4) Goaltending Fiasco: Whether it was the Schneider trade at the draft or the Luongo trade at the deadline, this year has been a mess when it comes to  goaltending. The trades weren’t necessarily bad, but the distractions were too much for an already weakened squad.

3) Injuries, Injuries, Injuries: Coaches always say injuries are not an excuse but if that was the case we wouldn’t pay certain guys millions of dollars more than others. Simply put, when your best players are injured your team sucks more.

2) Coaching Decisions: John Torterella has had a rough year. Between over-playing players and storming opposing teams’ dressing rooms he’s certainly left his mark on this season. His future with the organization remains unclear.

1) SLUMPS: Scoreless droughts for a number of key-players making millions plagued the team. This culminated in an epic 35 game drought for Alex Burrows, a one-time 35 goal scorer.

Apr 012014
 
With the Canucks outside looking in on the playoff race, there has been plenty of speculation around the Tortorella coaching regime, to add more fuel to the fire, former Canucks' coach Alain Vigneault returns tonight with his post-season bounce New York Rangers. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

While the Canucks are outside looking in on the playoff race, there has been plenty of scrutiny around the Tortorella coaching regime, to add more controversy, former Canucks’ coach Alain Vigneault returns tonight with his post-season bound New York Rangers.
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

With only 6 games left in the regular season, the likelihood of our Vancouver Canucks making the post-season sits at 0.3%.

If you’re the most optimistic of fans, then yes, absolutely, there’s still a chance at a miracle finish here. But the reality is, the injuries, the inefficiencies on the power play, the inability to protect leads, especially in the third period, everything that has plagued them this year, have caught up, and we’re left to grind about the many questions facing this team the rest of the season, and in all likelihood, the off-season.

With the New York Rangers in town tonight, and coach Alain Vigneault returning to Rogers Arena behind the visitors bench, perhaps one of the most prominent questions is, was AV really the problem?

In Av’s time here, he led the Canucks – with the same core of players as John Tortorella has – to six Division titles, two Presidents Trophies, a Stanley Cup Final appearance, and a 313-170-57 record. Obviously, they struggled in the post-season in his last two seasons – the Los Angeles Kings, who barely clinch the 8th and final playoff berth in the West, beat them in 5 games in 2012, and the San Jose Sharks swept them last season – but hey, at least they made it. I don’t think this was entirely his fault, and in fact, you can argue he got the best of whatever Canucks roster he had – even made them Stanley Cup contenders – and he’s doing the same now with the Rangers, who have much of the same players that Torts had. On the other hand, the Canucks, under Torts, have done worse, much worse, this season. Regardless, the consensus last year was that the Canucks had gone stale and that they needed a new voice.

Was the coaching change the right call? Maybe. Did they hire the right replacement? I don’t know, and maybe, that’s the better question.

Mar 302014
 

Just when you thought the Canucks were kinda, sorta looking like they at least gave two shits about the rest of the season, they pulled off another stinker last night. With their 5-1 loss to the Ducks – combined with the Wild and the Stars’ wins – the Canucks are now 5 points back of the final wild card playoff spot, with only 6 games to go.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 292014
 

lack-131022-620
(Photo credit: cbc.ca)

Talk about different circumstances.

While the Vancouver Canucks are fighting to keep their diminishing playoff dreams alive, the Anaheim Ducks are fighting for first place in the Pacific Division.

With a win tonight, the Ducks can match a franchise record for victories. With a win tonight, the Canucks’ chances of making the playoffs will still be at around 3%.

Ass-Kicking in Anaheim

Without a doubt, the Ducks will not be an easy team to beat. Heck, the Canucks have yet to beat them this season. Remember that brutal 9-1 loss in Anaheim in January? Remember the Ducks’ 7-minute, 5-on-3 power play in the third period while already leading by 6 goals?

Good times.

Duck Domination

The Ducks have outscored the Canucks 16-5 in their first 3 games this season.

Not Lacking Goaltending

Rookie goaltender, Eddie Lack, has started 14 games in a row. Sure, he’s had his ups and downs, but for the most part, he’s given the Canucks some solid goaltending. He’s 3-0-1 with one shutout (against the Nashville Predators) and a 0.929 save percentage in his last 4 games.

Top Sixtito

If you want a reason for the Canucks’ lack of success against the Ducks this season, consider that Tom Sestito is the only Canuck to score two goals against them this season. (Zack Kassian, Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa have the other goals.) However, in their last matchup, Sestito finished with a game-high 22 penalty minutes. Incidentally, Sestito leads the NHL with 201 penalty minutes. Less fighting, more goals, please?

Corrado Called Up

The Canucks today recalled Frankie Corrado from the Utica Comets in case Kevin Bieksa, who suffered some sort of injury last game, can’t play. For what it’s worth, Bieksa’s on the ice for the morning skate.

Mar 282014
 

And we were so optimistic after last night’s game, eh?

But now, after the Canucks’ 3-2 OT loss to the Colorado Avalanche, and the Phoenix Coyotes’ win over the New Jersey Devils, those slim playoff hopes we’re all clinging to are getting even slimmer. The Coyotes need 9 points in their last 8 games, the Minnesota Wild need 8 points in their last 8 games, and the Canucks’ season will come to a merciful end.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 272014
 
Jeff Vinnick , NHLI via Getty Images

Jeff Vinnick , NHLI via Getty Images

 

Crazy Coach-Off

Forget who will score first or who will get the first penalty – the big moment here is which coach will spaz out first? Both Avs coach Patrick Roy and our John Tortorella are fiery and animated, to say the least. Both could go off like firecrackers if this game gets chippy or a team gets one too many bad calls. So keep your eyes on the bench, people. This could be fun!

In Booth We Trust

I have no idea how it came to this, but apparently David Booth is the Canucks’ best player right now. Followed closely by the man who gave up his looks for us, Zack Kassian. Booth has scored 3 goals in his last two games which leaves me wondering if the other teams have written him off like Canucks fans have so they just don’t bother to pay attention to him much on the ice. Let’s hope the Avs haven’t been reviewing the game tapes from the last couple of Canucks wins and they still think he can only hit the back of a deer and not the back of the net. And since the above picture shows he’s got a bit of a history with the Avs, I predict a Gordie Howe Hat trick for Boothie tonight!

Who Cares?

The Canucks. The Canucks should care about this win very much. A win here – and a Phoenix Coyotes loss to Cory Schneider and the New Jersey Devils – inches them that much closer to almost getting a playoff spot.

With only two wins in their last six games, the Avs are kind of slumping right now too so, yeah they’d love to stop that slide on us, but if they lose one more (this one) it’s not going to toss them right out of playoffs. They still have enough games to secure their spot (and their subsequent first round exit). So really, Avs, you shouldn’t try too hard tonight. Take it easy and give us just a little more hope to be dashed later on. Thanking you in advance.

Mar 272014
 

Nino Niederreiter elbows Alex Burrows in the head.

If you want to get your blood boiling early on a Thursday morning, watch the Minnesota feed of Nino Niederreiter’s elbow to the head of Alex Burrows.

“Ridiculous call”, they say. “Good, open ice hit”, they say.

In terms of homer announcers, this one tops the charts.

For all the heightened sensitivity to head shots and concussions and all that, the NHL, of course, agrees with them, and Niederreiter is scot-free and has been cleared to play in the Wild’s game tonight in St. Louis. In other words, the NHL has deemed his 2-minute trip to the box as sufficient penalty for coming at an opposing player from the blindside and lifting his elbow to hit his head.

I guess hits to the head are good hits again. His teammate, Matt Cooke, will be proud.

You be the judge.

Mar 262014
 

457470533_slide
(Photo Credit: nhl.com)

Despite their modest two-game win streak, the Vancouver Canucks have gained no ground in the standings because, well, the teams in front of them are keeping pace. (I mean, how hard is it to win 2 games in a row?? Oh yeah, the Canucks have won back-to-back games only for the first time in two months.) To make the playoffs, the Canucks must still move past the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes, of course, but with only 9 games left in the regular season and still 6 points back of the 8th place Coyotes, they have no margin for error. Consider this: the Canucks can win all of their remaining 9 games, but they must still hope that both the Coyotes and Stars lose almost half of their remaining games in order to pass them.

Henrik Out Again

It seems like ages ago when Henrik Sedin was the league’s ironman. Now, after getting injured on an awkward hit on Sunday, he’s out again for the second time this season. He won’t make the Canucks’ two-game road, which makes their fight for a playoff spot that much tougher.

Lineup Change

With a goal and 2 assists in Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, Shawn Matthias must have impressed the coaching staff enough to earn a spot on the first line with Daniel Sedin and Nicklas Jensen. (Well, that and the Canucks don’t really have a heck of a lot of options these days, eh?)

Predictions

Not sure how many people would agree with me, but as a confident Canucks fan, I think they’ll pull through and win this crucial game. I definitely think it’ll be a close game, but a Canucks win nonetheless. 3-2, maybe?

Mar 262014
 
bert

Step 1: Draft hulking forward with average skating ability but flashes of offensive upside. Step 2: Thrust player into spotlight using unfair comparisons and unrealistic expectations. Step 3: Criticize said player’s slow development despite young age and minimal professional experience. Step 4: After a few years of disappointment, give player chance on second line or better because of a cavalcade of injuries. Step 5: Take credit for supposed 3-year plan when player succeeds.

And so goes the tale of the power forward – a much sought after, but rare commodity in the modern era of the NHL. These types of players often take longer to develop and can be frustrating as hell for management and fans, but with the right professional climate, can ripen into a force to be reckoned with. The Canucks have been searching for this type of player ever since they were bounced in the Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals by a group of nasty SOB’s in black and yellow uniforms.

Some of these guys fight, some of them drive wide, and some of them dole out bone-crunching hits. The bottom-line is they all do what they do with POWER.

The top 5 Canucks power forwards are:

5) Zack Kassian: The best is yet to come for this big-bodied winger, but this season has seen him take a step in the right direction. All but one of Zack’s 23 points have come at even-strength so just imagine what this guy will do when he gets a shot on the power play in the future.

4) Greg Adams: Not the edgiest player, but a big body and terrific balance, Adams lives on in Canucks lore for this famed goal that sent Vancouver to the cup final.

3) Ryan Kesler: He hits, he fights, he’s a big body and a terrific skater. Kesler doesn’t always get credit as a power forward but he does all the things a prototype power forward should. Solid on both sides of the puck, Kes often does battle with opposing teams’ power forwards as well.

2) Trevor Linden: The ultimate Canucks captain, Linden put his body on the line for the team time and time again. He was a major part of the Canuck run in ’94 and at times was dominant along the boards. Linden had excellent balance and what he lacked in skill he made up for in physicality.

1) Todd Bertuzzi: If a player is used as the model for the term “power forward”, you have to assume he was a pretty good one. Bertuzzi was dominant in the early 2000′s including posting a 46 goal, 97 point season on the Westcoast Express line. Despite this, Bertuzzi never really returned to form after being suspended in 2004 for the infamous “Steve Moore Incident”.

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