Apr 222011
 

Unless there are other factors at play that we’re not aware of, I don’t see the logic of making Keith Ballard a healthy scratch in last night’s game and replacing with Aaron Rome.

No, Ballard hasn’t been great. Certainly, he hasn’t played or produced as should be expected from a $4.2 million defenseman. But then again, he hasn’t called on to play much – or do much – considering that Dan Hamhuis, Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff and Sami Salo are all ahead of him on the Canucks’ depth chart.

That said, I thought Ballard had been decent in his 13 minutes of average ice-time in the first 4 games of this series. In game 4, he was the only Canucks defenseman to not be on the ice for any of the Hawks’ 7 goals. In fact, he’s the only Canucks defenseman who hasn’t been on the ice for any of the Hawks’ goals this series.

Compare that with Rome, who, in his first 7 shifts and 3:38 minutes of ice-time last night, was already on the ice for 2 Chicago goals. Not only that, but he was also responsible for the giveaway that led to Duncan Keith’s first goal.

After GM Mike Gillis’ and Laurence Gilman’s cap juggling all season, I find it hard to believe that Ballard has been relegated to the press box for the playoffs. IMHO, his play hasn’t warranted being taken out of the lineup. Or in other words, I don’t think Rome’s play has been good enough to take over Ballard’s spot in the lineup.

So what gives? Was Ballard really a healthy scratch or are the Canucks hiding some sort of ailment? If it’s the former, does he draw back in for game 6? Because if you believe AV when he says he’ll always dress the players who give him the best chance to win, there’s no reason his lineup should include Rome over Ballard.

Mar 072011
 

[Every Monday, Katie Maximick takes your questions and gives her take on the Canucks in her own cantankerous style. If you have any questions about the Canucks, send it to her via Twitter (@KMaximick)]

Aaron Rome, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

For the first time since February 7th, the Canucks have won two consecutive games. The Canucks swept the California weekend with a 3-1 win over LA and a 3-0 shutout against Anaheim.

Also, welcome back Manny Malhotra!

In other news, Aaron Rome’s 20+ minutes of ice time last night is causing a maelstrom of speculation to brew across Vancouver’s fan base.

Mac (@Meonfire11) asks: What’s up with AV and Rome?

Katie: One word: Bromance, a strong one similar to that between three particular writers on Canucks Hockey Blog… I can see a very special Pyatt-Vigneault relationship sprouting here. In last night’s game in Anaheim, Rome saw a whopping 22 minutes of ice time, the second highest of D-men, while good ole Rubber-Knee Ballard struggled (possibly with a groin injury) just to make it through the game with 14:20 of ice time.

(By the way, Rome is a minus-3 and Ballard is a plus-5.)

Does Rome deserve this ice time? Fans were arguing over this all last night. Whether it’s because he’s earned it, because AV loves him or because the Canucks are resting their blue line for the playoffs, I don’t think we’ll ever know. However, true to Canucks Nation standards, it will be analyzed ridiculously in the meantime.

Jared (@JThompsondesign) asks: When Bieksa returns, do we keep Rome or Tanev in the top 6?

Katie: Rome. If Rome’s ice time and praise speak for anything, it’s that he’s doing a good job and Tanev will be sent back to the Moose. I like Tanev on the team and think he’s done a decent job of filling in, but that’s all it is: filling in.

Sean (@holmes156) asks: What line do you want/expect Higgins to play on?

Katie: I’d like to see him with Kesler and Samuelsson on the second line, replacing Mason Raymond, who hasn’t had a great season for what he’s paid and injured his shoulder last night. For those who don’t know, Higgins already has 23 points in 48 GP this season with FLA and is a plus-5. Raymond has similar stats with 32 points in 55 GP and is a plus-7.

The difference? Raymond makes about $1 million more per year than Chris Higgins.

If Higgins can come back sooner than later, the Canucks won’t have to put Bieksa on LTIR to call up a forward from Manitoba. Let’s hope Raymond’s injury proves to be a help rather than a hindrance.

Adrian (@PatrickTussie) asks: Did you learn any lessons during trade deadline day?

Katie: Me? Personally? Uh, sure. Trust in Mike Gillis. He’s been getting us players for nothing since 2008.

Fiann asks: Now that they’ve won two in a row again, is that the end of their supposed ‘slump’?

Katie: I don’t really think it was a slump to begin with for those fans calling it that. Why? Because even though they didn’t win two in a row for almost a month, they didn’t lose two in a row either. They’re also still sitting at the top of the league with a six-point cushion. The Canucks’ next three games are road games against Phoenix, San Jose and Calgary. Can we win the majority of those? Yes, although the big Sharks might bruise the team up a bit. Our away record is pretty good at 19-9-4 and I think the team is ready to go on a hot streak (see Manny Malhotra).

So to answer your question: I hope so.

And on that bombshell, have a great week Canucks fans.

Feb 082011
 

[I Watched This Game is a recurring feature at Pass it to Bulis -- the hockey blog that knows who needs the puck. It chronicles the insights and observations of two guys who watched a hockey game.]

You’d have thought, from the tone of the media coverage leading up to this game, that Ottawa was coming in with a bag over their collective heads, while the Canucks had been spotted a guillotine, a French audience, and a death warrant personally signed by Maximilien Robespierre. From the outset, this one looked like a routine execution, the league’s best team up against, arguably, the league’s worst team. Of course, that’s not how it went. Rather than crush the Senators like the Crushinator might have crushed them, the Canucks jumped out to an early lead, indicating a crushing, then nearly lost it with some sloppy play in the second. As a result, this one was a lot closer than anybody had expected, myself included. My official prediction was a Canuck victory by the score of 50 million billion to 1. I wound up being off by one goal. I watched this game:

  • The big story was the play of the Canucks’ second line of Raymond, Kesler, and Samuelsson, which appears to be coming to life like the denizens of Stephen King’s Pet Sematery. They led the way last night, with 3 goals and 8 points between them. Kesler played the way he usually played, capable of giving straight men pause, and Raymond and Samuelsson finally looked like suitable linemates, using their respective speed and shootiness to great effect. The game-winning goal (above) was an excellent display of their reignited chemistry. Kesler fought the puck through the neutral zone before Raymond gained some room in the offensive zone with his speed. MayRay then fed it back to Kesler, who found Samuelsson in front. It was very cute, like Animaniac sister Dot.
  • Also worth mentioning is that Kesler made that pass with Jannik Hansen’s stick, given to him after his own lumber snapped in the neutral zone. I wondered what Hansen was thinking while Kesler was using it to dazzle. I suspect the following: 1) Why doesn’t it do that when I’m holding it? and 2) Maybe now they’ll finally let me join their study group.
  • Not featured in this clip of the Kesler goal is the post he hit seconds prior. His shot really is something else. Not literally, of course–it’s remains a shot. Kesler has become a remarkable player. I’m downright salivating at the thought of what he could fetch us in a trade. I’m thinking a top-line, two-way, power forward center and a late draft pick.
  • On the heels of being named one of the NHL’s three stars for the week, Mikael Samuelsson potted another two goals tonight. His empty-netter to seal the win was a reassertion that yes, he will shoot from anywhere (joke credit: @MFitz24). Thanks for reminding us, buddy, but next time, gain the red line. Samuelsson is like that member of the sniper team that picks off the bank robber right at the moment the cop on the inside is beginning to get through to the guy, and the audience is beginning to sympathize with him. Then bam! He’s dead. Not in Mikael’s bank!
  • If you’re not sure whether or not you’re the squeamish sort, have a look at Keith Ballard’s knee. Are you vomiting? You’re squeamish. I’ve eaten licorice that wouldn’t bend like that. Anyway, Ballard left the game with an undisclosed injury (early bet: knee) early in the first. The good news: this hardly disrupted Alain Vigneault’s perma-gameplan of giving all Ballard’s minutes to Aaron Rome.
  • Rome then exacerbated the Canucks’ lack of playable defencemen when he took 1140 seconds in penalties for fighting with Chris Neil, and I have to give a ton of credit to Neil on this one. When the Senators went down by two, Neil tried to start something with Rome, and Rome smartly declined. But here’s the thing: the Canucks have been playing with the lead so much this season, they almost always decline, and Neil was the first one to force the issue. The first chance he got, he took a run at Henrik Sedin. For those complaining it was in any way dirty (I’m looking at you, Garry “I only own paisley ties” Valk), it looked nearly identical to every Raffi Torres hit. It was fine. And, it necessitated a response, which was the point. Then, Neil smartly looked off Daniel Sedin, who was first on the scene for some reason (and took a Burrows-esque stab at Neil’s genitals) before pummeling Aaron Rome. That is how you get what you want. The fact that it put the Canucks down to 4 defenseman for much of the entire second period (during which Ottawa scored twice) was a bonus. You may hate Chris Neil, but his was an absolutely perfect piece of agitation.
  • It’s a small beef, but let’s talk about Aaron Rome’s delay of game penalty: really? Rome was lying on his belly when he swept the puck away. Can he really be blamed for the fact that it took off like a hornuss? I say no. If the Bible’s creation story has taught us anything, it’s that, once on its belly, a creature goes from treacherous to harmless pretty quickly. How can the referees not read this situation? In the third period, Roberto Luongo briefly lost his stick. Had it met the puck in the corner, would he have received a delay of game penalty too? The order to call this penalty by the letter of the law has only made the referees look like fools. In a parallel universe, they’re the guys ticketing motorists for turning right at a red light.
  • Andrew Alberts probably wasn’t expecting to play 17:10 (that’s Aaron Rome icetime) tonight, but he was pretty great in his first game back in the lineup. Alberts used his body to great effect (like Willa Ford), finishing with a game-high seven hits, two blocked shots, and a plus-2.
  • When Alex Burrows is playing with confidence, he becomes more than a Sedin linemate–he’s his own weapon. On his goal, he looks off Daniel Sedin to take the puck to the net himself. The power move completely surprises Chris Phillips, who cuts behind the goal, thinking he’s going to shrewdly take the puck away. Instead, Burrows finds himself alone in front, and shows a great bit of patience to put it past Elliott. There was an article in the Province only yesterday about Burrows working with Glenn Carnegie to take that extra second with the puck after missing four open chances versus Chicago. The extra work appears to have paid off instantly.
  • How about that 3-on-0 rush the Senators got? Granted, it doesn’t happen if the puck doesn’t jump over Daniel Sedin’s stick, but the rest of the team picked a poor time to have a tea party at the bench. I was surprised Luongo was even in the net.
  • Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis was the big-minute guy tonight, logging over 30 minutes in the absence of Ballard and Rome. He’s such a good guy he didn’t mind the extra work. He had plenty of energy left over, too. During the intermission, he freed Tibet.
  • I always wonder about the player that serves the bench minors. Is he aware he’s in there because he’s the least important? Coach says I’m the best at breakaways, that’s why I’m in here.
  • And finally, you had to feel bad for the snake-bitten Senators, who hit three posts in about a two-minute span when a goal would have tied the game. Not since the cast of Canada’s Worst Driver has a group hit so many consecutive posts.
Jan 172011
 

After a period of relative stability and good health, it looks like the Canucks are getting bit by the injury bug again.

The Canucks lost Aaron Rome and Alex Bolduc to injuries against the Washington Capitals on Friday night; according to Jason Botchford (Vancouver Province), Rome is expected to be out for 2-3 weeks and Bolduc is expected to be out a bit longer than that.

But also, the Canucks lost Andrew Alberts to a suspected shoulder injury during last night’s loss to the Minnesota Wild. Chris Tanev, who was recalled earlier as a seventh defenseman in Rome’s absence, may in fact draw in the lineup when the Canucks face the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

A couple of thoughts:

While the roster decisions on defense is pretty cut-and-dry – and no, I don’t expect Sami Salo to miraculously be able to play right away – the decisions up front isn’t as clear.

For starters, I doubt the Canucks want to keep rotating Jeff Tambellini and Tanner Glass as their fourth line center. That said, the next few natural centres on the depth chart – Cody Hodgson, Joel Perrault and Stefan Schneider – are all injured, though Hodgson was finally back on skates this week. Jay Grossman tweeted that Sergei Shirokov, Grossman’s client, has been recalled by the Canucks but while Shirokov has played great for the Moose, he isn’t a natural centre.

More from Botch:

The Canucks will temporarily fill his spot and are expected to recall a forward from Manitoba this week. Maybe it will be Sergei Shirokov or Viktor Oreskovich. But Vancouver will look for ways to do better. A name getting some traction locally is Islanders centre Zenon Konopka.

When pressed on it, GM Mike Gillis dropped this:

“Well, Cody (Hodgson) is supposed to play this week, we’ll see how he does.”

Hodgson has missed nearly six weeks of action since being clipped by Lee Sweatt’s stick; I doubt the Canucks would call him so quickly after his return.

Which kinda leads to Konopka.

Konopka is an intriguing possibility. First, his $600,000 cap hit is fairly close to Bolduc’s $500,000 so fitting him under the cap won’t be an issue. (Because they’re not using all of Salo’s LTIR exemption right now, the Canucks actually have enough cap room for Konopka’s even if Bolduc doesn’t go on LTIR.) But also – and more importantly – he can play. With the Isles, Konopka averages about 10 minutes of ice-time per game and is a regular on the penalty-kill. He currently leads the league with 143 PIM, but has only taken 14 minors in 43 games. And the kicker? He’s ranked 5th in the league in faceoff percentage (58.8%).

It’s not clear on Botch’s piece whether Konopka was a player the Canucks are rumored to have interest in or if he’s just a name someone on the beat randomly tossed out as a possible, more permanent replacement on the fourth line. At the very least, it’s good fodder for discussion.

Jan 142011
 

[I Watched This Game is a recurring feature at Pass it to Bulis, the hockey blog that knows who needs the puck. It chronicles the insights and observations of two guys who watched a hockey game. To view all the other wonderful stuff PITB does, visit Pass It To Bulis.]

It is the worst letdown in the world when the Canucks suffer a shutout loss. It’s a worse letdown than Urkel O’s (the cereal that showed so much promise). Not only am I forced to watch the Canucks lose, but I’m forced to watch as they’re held off the scoresheet. Truth is, it’s boring. Plus it means the highlight package will also be boring: Don Taylor: in the second, Mikael Samuelsson streaks into the zone and shoots–it is blocked. It means the post-game breakdown will be boring. Blake Price: Henrik Lundqvist is a good goalie. It means fan conversation will be boring. Fan: I thought the Sedins weren’t that good tonight. Like the pace of the game, everything slows to a crawl until the next one. It’s a torture.

That’s right. Watching bad hockey is literally torture. I, like any good Canadian, would sooner give away national secrets than watch a shutout loss. This is why Canada should never go to war with the United States: we’re too easy to torture (and boy, do they torture). Sigh. I watched this game:

  • Well everyone, the Canucks lost in regulation. Don’t panic, but this can only mean one thing: it’s the end of days. How will it happen? I theorize the following: the human race is about to be overthrown by a coalition of marmots and marmosets. Their combined brainpower will allow them to crack the evolutionary code and evolve at alarming rates. Their combined military power will create an unstoppable marmy. People: it’s marmageddon.
  • I’m exaggerating slightly. Nothing can evolve that quickly, save Canuck fans’ opinions on their team. This loss isn’t the end of the world. It sucks that the Canucks’ point streak and Cory Schneider’s point streak both had to end, but it was going to happen eventually. Hopefully, this loss is just a loss, and not the beginning of a streak going the other way. It’s going to take much more winning to remain atop the NHL, where the Canucks maintain a three-point lead on Detroit and Philadelphia.
  • Let’s get right out in front of any potential navel-gazing and establish that the Rangers played one Hell of a defensive game. The Associated Press called it an all-heart performance, and while it may not have been the hockey equivalent of trying to liberate Scotland, it was certainly commendable. The Rangers swarmed the puck, had 13 different guys combine to block 24 shots (including 5 from Dan Girardi), and forced the Canucks to shoot from the outside all night. Against a team like Vancouver that scores the majority of their goals a foot from the crease, that’s a solid recipe for success.
  • The Canucks lost this game along the boards. Sadly, there’s no statistic to back this up, but when the Canucks are playing well, they win their offensive zone puck battles and sustain offensive pressure. Led by pinching expert Kevin Bieksa (the grandma of the NHL), they keep pucks inside the blue line and break down defensive structures by throwing it around the zone willy-nilly. Last night, the Rangers prevented them from doing this.
  • Also, Henrik Lundqvist stopped all the shots. That helped too.
  • While New York’s 24 blocks came from thirteen guys, Vancouver’s 12 blocks came from only four defensemen, including four apiece from Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis, who quietly played a stellar game. It’s always a bummer when a team loses 1-0 because the strong defensive effort of the losers goes relatively unnoticed. The Ham n’ Juice pairing looks as defensively sound as any Canuck tandem this town’s seen in years, Bryant Reeves and Stromile Swift notwithstanding.
  • Ryan Kesler continued his shootiness, throwing five on net, and attempting another five. However, the shot king last night was Mikael “Shooty McShooterson” Samuelsson. He had five shots as well, with two blocked and four more missing the goal. He’s a funny player. He shoots when he should pass; he holds the puck when he should move it, such as when he dragged the puck back in the neutral zone when any other player would have dumped it in. Sammy’s not unlike Daniel and Henrik in that he plays the game at his own, mechanical pace, and can frustrate by appearing take it easy or playing without urgency. He’s just a measured, intelligent player. Last night he was our best forward. Let’s keep him.
  • Let’s not keep him on the first unit power play. Why, I ask, did the Canucks put him on the point instead of Ehrhoff for the five-on-three? Why did they take Kesler out from the front of the net and put him at the point? If you’re wondering why they did not score, tackle these first two whys and you’ll probably have your answer.
  • Mason Raymond had some jump as well, but he seems to have forgotten how to capitalize on a chance. Even in Monopoly, all he gets are parking fines and poor taxes.
  • Cory Schneider had a fine game, but there’s definitely something to Richard Loat‘s observation that the team plays better defensively in front of him. I agree that they tighten up a bit. Combine that with the run support he’s been getting in his starts (and his own strong play) and you have a recipe for a going this many games without a regulation loss. Last night, however, the run support dried up and Schneider saw the goose egg in his middle column disappear.
  • Speaking of middle columns: perhaps realizing that his team wasn’t about to sneak one past Henrik Lundqvist, Alex Burrows went five-hole on Marc Staal instead. Thanks a lot, Burr. Not only do I have to defend your hair-pulling when I tell people you’re my favourite player, but now I have to defend your groin-spearing? It’s embarrassing loving a man who pulls hair and stabs groins. And yet my love persists. Burrows will probably get a phone call from the league, as nether attacks are never cool–unless you’re making a short film. Here’s hoping he sees some discipline, as it’s fairly warranted, especially after the refs decided instead to instead punish Marc Staal for failing to protect his testicles.
  • Such are the foibles of a young goalie, but this is the third or fourth game in a row where Cory Schneider’s made a pretty egregious error. Last game, it was the slapstick fall that gave Jamal Mayers a freebie. He nearly handed the Rangers another when he coughed the puck up behind the net. The look on Roberto Luongo’s face afterward was priceless.
  • According to the stat sheet, the Rangers had 38 hits to the Canucks 31. No they didn’t. Madison Square Garden employs one of the most liberal stat guys in the country. Note that the Rangers have 573 hits on the road and a league-leading 731 at home. Who is this guy, thinking everything’s a hit? He’s probably the guy that greenlit Kesha. This is a surefire hit. Also, I bet the police answer domestic abuse calls at his house all the time. She hit you again, sir?
  • Daniel and Henrik did have a quiet game, though it probably helped that the Rangers were allowed to latch onto them like brain slugs. I’ve heard some criticism of the Sedins for disappearing, and I think it speaks to their expectations as the offensive leaders of this team. All this talk of Ryan Kesler as a dark horse for the Hart is silly if he’s not even the one held accountable when the Canucks get shut out. That said, when your scoring leaders don’t score, that’s a problem. Score more, Daniel and Henrik.
  • And finally, I realize that playing Aaron Rome semi-regularly is a good way to prevent him from playing like he hasn’t played in months, but when he plays that way in spite of this approach, you have a problem.This is the catch-22: Aaron Rome plays like he shouldn’t be playing, but he’ll only play worse if you don’t play him. Unless you never play him again. Get well soon, Salo.
Jan 112011
 

(Contributions from J.J. Guerrero and Matt Lee.)

Now that the Canucks have reached the official halfway point of the 2010/2011 season, we take a look back and give the players their midseason marks.

Dan Hamhuis, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: canada.com

Dan Hamhuis: The Smithers native has been everything the Canucks wanted in a top defenseman – excellent skater, positionally-sound defensively and good puck-mover. Hamhuis often plays against opposing team’s top lines, but is also on pace to match his career-high point totals.

Grade: A-

Kevin Bieksa: Bieksa is perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the Canucks’ season. Playing injury-free for the first time in three years, he’s dug himself out of a deep doghouse and re-established himself as one of the team’s best defensemen and leaders. He has 8 points (3 G – 5 A) and a +10 rating in his last 8 games.

Grade: B+

Alex Edler: Take a quick look at the NHL leaderboard and you’ll see 24-year old Alex Edler among the top-25 in NHL defensemen in points (25), total ice-time (989:55), average ice-time per game (24:08) and plus-minus (+10). No, the Canucks don’t have a Norris Trophy candidate yet but maybe – just maybe – they’ll have one in Edler soon.

Grade: A

Christian Ehrhoff: Ehrhoff had an outstanding first campaign with the Canucks last year and he’s continued that trend this season. While it doesn’t appear he’ll eclipse his team-best +36 rating from last season (+10 this year), the German is still a safe bet for 45+ points.

Grade: B

Keith Ballard: Some of the hype around trading for Keith Ballard in the summer was diminished when the American was hampered by the lingering effects of hip surgery and further when he sustained a concussion. But since getting back to full health, Ballard has been a solid defensive presence.

Grade: C+

Andrew Alberts: The whipping boy of playoffs past has re-acquitted himself to the fans with some surprisingly strong defensive play. Alberts has been a nice fit on the bottom pairing and if he keeps his game simple, will stay there.

Grade: C

Aaron Rome: Alberts’ improved play has pushed Rome further back down the depth chart. It doesn’t help that Rome’s play has regressed in the last few games he’s played. He’s only appeared in 24 games to date.

Grade: C-

Jan 042011
 

[I Watched This Game is a recurring feature at Pass it to Bulis, the hockey blog that knows who needs the puck. It chronicles the insights and observations of two guys who watched a hockey game. To view all the other wonderful stuff PITB does, visit Pass It To Bulis.]

The Canucks came into San Jose to play their third road game in four nights. Unbeaten in five, and expected to be dog-tired, there was a sense among Canuck nation that a loss to San Jose was as inevitable as the extraplanar robots that chase down lawbreakers. The Sharks came into this game fourth in the Western Conference, and with their continued employment of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, and Dan Boyle, looked to be formidable foes.

They were formidable foes. That said, they still got beat, by a Canucks team that has seemingly forgotten how to lose. As a born loser, I’m here if they need the help, but I don’t think they’ll call. In the meantime, I guess Daniel and I will just have to sit around watching them win, like we did tonight when we watched this game:

  • The Second Law of Sedinery: if the Sedins find themselves alone behind the defense, you may as well go line up at center ice. They will score. The opening goal (above), off a turnover by Joe Thornton (and not Jason Demers, as crazy old John Garrett insisted), is a classic case of Wizardous Sedinerie. Antti Niemi made a common mistake and got Daniel confused with Henrik. Had he realized that Henrik had the first touch, he might have realized Daniel was about to get the second. Instead, he anticipated a shot from Henrik Sedin. Rookie mistake. Also a rookie mistake? Letting Gary Busey date your mom.
  • Speaking of Rookie of the Year, let’s talk about casts. The second-line featured a rotating one, as Jannik Hansen, Jeff Tambellini, and Mason Raymond all saw time as Ryan Kesler’s wings. When Tambellini and Raymond were together, they showed the potential to be the fastest duo since Northstar and Aurora. (Other similarities: both duos are Canadian, and spend an inordinate amount of time in dark blue. Differences: Raymond’s not gay, and Tambellini’s not a woman.) Anyway, Raymond and Hansen finished the night on that line, and Hansen may have re-won his spot there with this game-tying goal late in the second period. Early in the second, I grumbled about Hansen spending time on the second line–normally he finishes his checks, but not his scoring chances. That said, like a piece of furniture haunted by the ghost of a carpenter, Hansen has magically developed finish. #WorstAnalogyAward
  • What was going on during the Canucks second goal? Ehrhoff and Edler apparently switched places with Daniel and Henrik, briefly becoming the forwards on the rush. They didn’t do too badly, either. Perhaps Edler felt slighted when Skeeter suggested he didn’t have the stuff to play center, or perhaps the Sedins felt pigeonholed as offensive wizards and wanted a chance to play defense. Third option: the Sedins forgot that the teams switched ends for the second, and were thrilled about being in behind the defense for a second time.
  • Tanner Glass played 8:25 tonight, which is about on par with his usual minutes, except that he spent ten minutes in the box for two fights (a full one-sixth of the game). The fourth line in general was noticeable tonight, spending a lot of time in the offensive zone. Chalk this up to the return of Mason Raymond, which has banished a top-nine player to the bottom three. And, while the line may not have seen an increase in minutes, they saw a definite increase in third period minutes, as Alain Vigneault trusted them with late shifts in a close game.
  • Part of this might have been a desire to play fresh guys on the back-to-back games, but another part might have been that Alex Bolduc was winning faceoffs when Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler weren’t. For the third straight game, the Canucks lost the faceoff battle, although this time by a very narrow margin. Manny Malhotra was his usual stalwart self, winning 14-of-18, including all six in the defensive zone. Just Manny being Manny. The other two big drawmen were kind of crummy. Kind of really crummy. Kesler was 35% in the circle. Henrik was 27%.
  • Continuing the negativity, on San Jose’s first goal, Rome needs to cover Clowe in front of the net, not the random patch of ice to Schneider’s left, which he so ably defended. On San Jose’s second goal, Henrik needs to not be in the box. Captain Hook strikes again. On San Jose’s third goal, Schneider needs to remove all banana peels from his crease prior to the start of the period. Open letter to Rollie Melanson: get on that.
  • Christian Ehrhoff was good tonight. He facilitated breakouts like working at McDonald’s, had 5 shots, blocked 4 shots, and picked up two assists. I’ve heard fans saying that, now that Bieksa’s playing well, we should trade Ehrhoff instead. Tonight, Ehrhoff showed San Jose why they never should have let him go; let’s not wish that same regret upon ourselves.
  • Like Evangeline Lilly in a Live Links commercial, Mason Raymond draws a lot of calls. It’s good to see him buzzing around the offensive zone, falling down like Cory Schneider.
  • Not to rag on Cory Schneider too much. Despite his shaky moments, such as collapsing like a Jenga tower in a rowboat, he made some incredible saves, and also let in less goals than Antti Niemi. These are both positives. The Canucks are now 7-0-2 when Schneider starts.
  • Worst outfit of the night goes to Dan Murphy, who wore an ugly tie that looked like it was made of dried beef broth. Someone needs to get him on What Not to Wear immediately. Seriously, where did he get it? The toilet store?
  • Observation: every time the puck goes over the glass, pro hockey players become children stargazing with their fathers. They point with such enthusiasm it’s embarrassing. Look, Dad, a shooting star! Didja see it? Didja?
  • Word was Kesler might sit this one out after taking a shot to the foot in the game prior, but he wound up playing twenty-three very effective minutes. He put up four shots, as well as attempting another six, one of which hit the crossbar after a beautiful tip.
  • Speaking of shots, the Canucks put up 47 and attempted 70. They peppered Niemi like a flavourless steak. A ton of those shots ended up in Niemi’s glove, which the Canucks apparently hate as much as the shooter in The Jerk hates oil cans. The Canucks won the last game against the Sharks with considerable hittiness, but tonight, shootiness was their primary asset.
  • And finally, let’s give major credit to Alex Burrows, who took it upon himself to win da turd by scoring the game-winner halfway into da turd. The refs reviewed it for something that isn’t reviewable but, since many officials still sort of hate Burr for that thing that happened, it makes sense.
Dec 092010
 

[I Watched This Game is a recurring feature at Pass it to Bulis, the hockey blog that knows who needs the puck. It chronicles the insights and observations of two guys who watched a hockey game. To view this post and other foolishness insightful takes on the Canucks and the NHL, visit Pass It To Bulis.]

My favourite thing about come-from-behind victories is the following day’s media coverage. Despite a Canucks’ victory, articles are still overwhelmingly negative, because the journalists have pre-written pieces about a Canucks loss. When it becomes a win, they hold their tone. They’ll claim it’s because the Canucks shouldn’t be in a position to need a desperate comeback, but I suspect it’s because their workload just doubled with all the late revisions, and they’re pissed. Late comebacks of this sort force them into a corner where they have to majorly overhaul their story and still meet their deadlines. As Iain MacIntyre tweeted, last night’s outcome forced him to hammer out 800 words in about 35 minutes. Good thing he’s a pro.

I’d like to take this moment to welcome our new readers from Canucks Hockey Blog, where PITB’s popular I Watched This Game is now being cross-posted. Here’s how we do it:

  • Putting aside my massive Canuck bias, I do think the universe screwed Curtis McElhinney out of what would have been only his 11th career win in 5 NHL seasons. He played well enough to get it, and I’m pretty sure the rule in the NHL is that the play is blown dead when a goaltender gets hit in the mask, especially when he’s bleeding all over the place. I felt like Daniel Sedin’s goal, which came after Christian Ehrhoff’s high slapshot broke the McElhinney’s face, shouldn’t have counted. That said, and this is in poor taste, it can now be safely said that Daniel Sedin is literally out for blood.
  • Ryan Kesler was the night’s first star, and for the second game in a row, he was clearly the best Canuck forward. His powerplay goal supports my controversial theory that he’s the engine of the Canucks’ top unit. His game-tying goal (above) was ugly, but it exhibited the high level of effort Kesler puts out every night. No wonder he made a baby.
  • Let’s talk about Jeff Tambellini, the plucky, manic, little Port Moody forward. Tamby scored his 5th goal of the season last night, along with the shootout winner on a beautiful, sudden snapshot. It goes without saying that Tamby is a goal-scorer; his goals per game average is 0.42, which puts him third on the Canucks behind Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin. Tambellini contributes defensively, too. He had five hits to lead all Canucks forwards, the fourth game in a row that he’s done that. One of those hits was a brilliant backcheck, an Anaheim rush where Tambellini came all the way from behind the goal line to knock the Duck forward off the puck before he even reached the Canucks’ blue line. I’m with Iain MacIntyre; Tamby’s an NHLer.
  • The Ducks had about six or seven just crazy, blatant offsides, most courtesy of an overeager Bobby Ryan. Seriously, it was like he built a crappy time machine, and was living about three seconds in the future. Not since Bob Saget’s NSFW rendition of the Aristocrats has a man been so consistently offside.
  • The penalties in this game wreaked brief havoc on Canucks units and my fragile psyche in the third, as Tanner Glass took shifts on both the first and second lines. I broke a lamp. I nearly called 911. But, thankfully, he never got on the third line, so it all worked out.
  • I think the Canucks really miss Andrew Alberts. He averages 15:30 of physical, hitty hockey, and without him, the Canucks just aren’t as big. Consider that, after he missed the game against the Blues–the first game he’d missed all year–we suddenly started hearing about the Canucks lack of grit. It might have been an issue last night as well, but thankfully, Anaheim/Vancouver games are always bloodthirsty, physical affairs. These teams hate each other like cats hate dogs. Or other cats. Or humans. You know what? Cats are jerks.
  • Daniel and I often argue about Kevin Bieksa, but there’s no dispute over Bieksa’s fighting ability. He can chuck ‘em. He is the last Canuck I would ever fight. I suspect Aaron Voros now feels similarly.
  • The best Shorty & Garrett banter moment follows. Garrett, dubious of a Christian Ehrhoff penalty call: “Ehrhoff’s saying, ‘who’s holding whom?’” Shorty: “You really think Ehrhoff is saying that?” That’ll teach you to put words in Ehrhoff’s mouth. Whom? English is his second language!
  • Keith Ballard’s minutes finally went up, as he played 17:19, including a tasty 1:45 of powerplay time. Let us congratulate Alain Vigneault for having both Kevin Bieksa and Aaron Rome in the lineup and resisting the temptation to give them a single second of powerplay time. You’ve turned a corner, AV.
  • Correction: Aaron Rome got 15 seconds. I trusted you, AV.
  • Anyway, I thought Keith Ballard had a great game. I especially liked the way he was skating the puck out of his own end. Remembering how sluggish his legs were in the preseason, it was great to see him beating forecheckers with his speed.
  • This one should have been a laugher (the Canucks outshot the Ducks by 40 to 20), but there were two factors that kept this close. First, Anaheim blocking shots (they blocked 21), and second, Luongo not blocking shots. Both trends were unfortunate. But after you rag on Luongo for a few softies, remember to give him credit for his shootout performance. Before last night, he hadn’t stopped a shootout attempt all season, leading to two skills competition losses. Last night, he stopped them all, and we won. Coincidence? No. It’s a causal element.
  • Ryan Getzlaf played just under thirty minutes last night. That’s a ton of ice time, considering he’s a forward. I’ll tell you why Ducks coach Randy Carlyle has to do this: his defense-corps are not very good at starting the rush, and only the Ducks’ star forwards can create offense from their pitiful zone starts. The Canucks did a good job of exploiting this, too. They were turning the puck up ice faster than I’ve ever seen them, even gleefully dumping it in because the Anaheim d-corps was just going to turn the puck over anyway.
  • How do I know the puck spent an inordinate amount of time in Anaheim’s zone? Offensive zone starts. The Canucks took 21 offensive zone faceoffs, and only 13 in the defensive zone. Kesler and Malhotra won 8 of 11 in their own zone, but Henrik Sedin won the night, breaking his brief faceoff funk with a 15-for-24 showing.
  • And finally, a word about Henrik Sedin. His inclination towards passing the puck in traffic has made him fairly predictable, don’t you think? He needs to be a little more surprising. Here’s what you do, Henrik. Next time you’re in a fight along the end boards, lick the defender’s cheek. No one will expect that.

(Editor’s note: We here at CHB would like to thank the Pass It To Bulis boys for sharing this feature with us. There are more posts like this on their site: http://passittobulis.blogspot.com.)

Nov 112010
 

Color me cynical, but there has to be something more to the Keith Ballard/Aaron Rome debate than meets the eye.

When the Canucks face the Ottawa Senators tonight, Rome will again dress and Ballard will again be a healthy scratch. For the second consecutive game, the Canucks will dress their $750,000, no. 7 defenseman and leave their $4.2 million, top-4 defenseman in the press box.

Coming off hip surgery in the offseason and sidelined for a couple of games due to a concussion, it’s true that Ballard hasn’t played like a $4.2 million defenseman. To this end, Rome has stepped in and done exactly what a depth defenseman is expected to do.

Is Ballard still injured? Or has he been that vastly outperformed by Rome? Publicly, Ballard and Vigneault has both denied the former and accepted the latter.

But if Ballard, who is expected to be a key piece to the Canucks’ Stanley Cup puzzle, needs to get back in game shape, he needs to play. If Vigneault wanted to send a message that play dictates their place in the lineup, consider it sent after one healthy scratch. A second consecutive healthy scratch – especially coming a game after Alberts looked like the Alberts from last April and in a game in which Bieksa will play with the flu – and I think the message gets more muddied.

Jun 152010
 

According to the Vancouver Sun, the Canucks have re-signed defenseman Aaron Rome to a new contract:

Rome, 26, played in 49 games with Vancouver this season after being acquired via free agency last summer. He finished his first season with the Canucks registering four points (0-4-4) and 24 penalty minutes.

Rome will earn $750,000 US a season on his new deal. He made $525,000 US last season.

“He definitely wanted to be part of what the Canucks are doing,” Rome’s Vancouver-based agent Kevin Epp said of his client.

“It’s unfortunate the way it ended for him being injured in the playoffs, but the last half of the season he played real well, got a good opportunity and feels like the organization believes in him as a player and is willing to give him a good chance to play and play regularly.”

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