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.

Apr 252011
 

I’m still scratching my head over Alain Vigneault’s decision to start Cory Schneider in game 6 over Roberto Luongo.

Yes, Luongo got shelled for 10 goals in games 4 and 5, but how do you blame him exclusively for those losses when the entire team in front of him didn’t show up?

Yet, that’s essentially what Vigneault did when he decided to give Cory Schneider his first career playoff start. In the most important game of the Canucks’ season at the Madhouse on Madison.

AV is known to say that he’ll play the players he thinks will give him the best chance to win. By starting Schneider over Luongo, he’s basically said that the Canucks can’t win with their former captain, their Olympic Gold Medal winner, and Vezina and Jennings Trophy winner.

And that’s not right.

Even with their losses in games 4 and 5, the Canucks still held a 3-2 series lead on the Blackhawks, a lead they built with Luongo in net when he won the first 3 games of this series. He was arguably the best player in a Canucks jersey in 2 of those games. He was easily the best Canuck in the first period of game 4 before the team’s collapse in the second period.

The Canucks may have had a tough time against the Blackhawks generally-speaking, but Luongo has actually played well at the Madhouse on Madison recently. Before allowing 6 goals on 28 shots in game 4, he’d won 2 of his last 3 starts there and had made 93 saves on 96 shots; going back to last year’s playoffs, he has a pretty darn good 4-1-1 record and 0.959 save percentage (188 saves on 196 shots) in his last 6 starts in Chicago.

Does this sound like a good reason to lose faith in your starting goaltender? And if you were Luongo, how would you react to the very real thinking that your coach had lost faith in you?

If the Canucks had won game 6 – and their first round series against the Chicago Blackhawks – perhaps AV would’ve looked like a genius for having the balls to start Schneider over Luongo.

Unfortunately, the Canucks did indeed lose, and now, I think I speak for a lot of Canucks fans when I ask, “Now what?

If AV didn’t think Luongo was good enough to beat Chicago just 24 hours ago, then how can he think he’s good enough to beat them tomorrow?

Apr 252011
 

For much of the series, talk has been about how much the Chicago Blackhawks are in the Canucks’ players heads.

How else do you explain the Sedins’ play, who looked good in the first 3 games and then essentially outplayed once Dave Bolland returned? How do you explain getting outscored 16-5 in the last 3 games when a win in any of those games would have sent the Blackhawks home for the summer?

But it’s not just the players.

After watching the series build and piss away a 3-0 series lead, it’s obvious the Blackhawks are in coach Alain Vigneault’s head as well. For the third straight playoff season, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville has outcoached AV.

With a chance to sweep the Hawks in game 4, the Canucks came out with about as much emotion as Freddie Prinze Jr. does in his movies. After building a 3-0 series lead because of their physical play and an aggressive game plan, they suddenly decided to instead sit back and wait for the Hawks to take the play to them. In fact, watching game 4 last Tuesday was eerily reminiscent of watching game 4 against the same Hawks in 2009. So if it ain’t broke, then why did AV fix it?

With control of the series, AV should be forcing Quenneville to change Chicago’s game plan.

Instead, AV panicked and took Keith Ballard out of the lineup and replaced him with Aaron Rome in game 5. And when Rome crapped the bed, he came back and put Andrew Alberts in the lineup before Ballard in game 6.

So far this postseason, we’ve seen Mikael Samuelsson playing the point on the first-unit powerplay when having Alex Edler and Christian Ehrhoff there proved to be so successful in the first four months of the regular season. And of course, there’s the decision to play Cory Schneider over Roberto Luongo (which I’ll address in my next post).

For all the talk this week about sticking to their game plan, the opposite has played out. Certainly, they talked all season long about sticking to the process only to abandon the process with a 3-0 series lead. And if the coach abandons the process, then how does he expect the players to stay with it?

Apr 052011
 

With the Canucks putting the finishing touches on their 40th anniversary regular season, there has been much talk about the various awards and trophies the Canucks are going to add to their cabinet. Like his brother did last year, Daniel Sedin is on the verge of locking up the Art Ross and is also a solid candidate for the Hart. (Only two players outside of the top two in NHL scoring have won the Hart in the modern era, his odds are good.) Kesler has made his case for the Selke again this year, Luongo would not be an unreasonable Vezina finalist, and the Canucks have sealed the deal on the Presidents Trophy.

But amidst the trophies and records, there is, in my mind, one man responsible for the Canucks successes this season: coach Alain Vigneault.

It seems like just yesterday that fans were calling for Vigneault’s head with almost as much vehemency as they did Bieksa’s. Now, all seems to be forgotten as the former Jack Adams award winner has lead the Canucks to the top of the Northwest Division, Western Conference and NHL – locking up all three titles before any other team in the Western Conference had even clinched a playoff spot. His work to give the Canucks their fourth Northwest Division championship in five seasons, their first President’s Trophy in their 40-year history, their first 50-win season, a franchise record for points in a season has been impressive.

Some of his off-ice moves have been equally impressive and even more impactful. He had input on Mike Gillis’ decisions to bring in Newell Brown and replace Ian Clark with full-time goalie coach Roland Mellanson. With AV’s coaching, Brown has helped the Canucks’ special teams – both the powerplay and penalty-kill – establish themselves among the league’s best while Mellanson has helped Roberto Luongo to the most consistent season of his career and has trained the Canucks netminders to be the best one-two punch in the NHL.

Significant kudos need to be given to his in-season coaching to get the Canucks to the point they are today. After losing six defenceman in three weeks, Vigneault’s team went 7-2 in that span. Rotating through 14 blueliners this season, Vigneault has fostered a system that boasts the leagues lowest goals against per game and highest goals scored per game. Now, while part of that is due to an improved goalie tandem, there is no doubt his blueline has been responsible as well. Despite a rash of injuries and issues and a rotating cast on the fourth line, he has consistently iced a team that amplifies their strengths and minimizes their weaknesses.

Some of the players we’ve seen Vigneault’s biggest impact on have been guys like Andrew Alberts. After being brought in during last year’s trade deadline, Alberts played like a deer in headlights and Canucks fans were calling for his head. Vigneault’s attention to Alberts has helped him fit the blueline mould. Until his injury, Alberts has been moderately consistent this season and has given the Canucks a physical element in front of Luongo; despite missing 37 games, he still leads all Canucks’ d-men in hits. Vigneault’s created synergy between the players’ styles and transitioned guys like Ballard into a new role with minimal side effect.

There’s no doubt the Canucks successes this year have been in large part to their superb play, but there’s even less doubt in my mind that Vigneault is directly responsible for it.

Apr 032011
 

[Every Sunday, Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@cayking).]

Canucks Record

79 GP, 52-18-9, 113 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference, 1st in NHL)

Who’s Hot

Remember earlier this season when people were saying that Alex Burrows was having an off season? Well, he now has 25 goals, 47 points and a plus-25 rating in 69 games. Burr scored the only goal against Edmonton and has 4 goals in his last 5 games.

Who’s Not

Raffi Torres has 1 assist in his last 8 games. But although he has not been putting up huge numbers, he’s at least contributed in other ways. Raffi can turn a mediocre shift around with a big hit or an aggressive forecheck. It looks like this will be Raffi’s first full season in 3 years. He may even be a plus-player for the first time in 4 years. Especially in Manny’s absence, the Canucks will be counting on Raffi’s leadership and physical play to be a big part of their playoff run.

Who’s Next

Tuesday, April 5, 2011 vs. Edmonton Oilers (6:00 PM start, away)

Having the worst record in the NHL didn’t stop the Edmonton Oilers from ending the Canucks’ 5-game winning streak on Saturday night, the first of a home-and-away, back-to-back between the two clubs. Before that, the Oilers had lost their last 11 games.

This is the last game of the season between the two teams. The Canucks lead the season series 4-1.

Jordan Eberle had a goal and an assist in the meeting on Saturday. In his rookie year, Eberle has 18 goals and 41 points – only 1 point behind team leaders, Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky who all have 42 points.

Thursday, April 7, 2011 vs. Minnesota Wild (7:00 PM start, home)

The Wild’s season is pretty much over. They’re out of the playoff race, sitting in 11th place in the Western Conference, 10 points back of a playoff spot and only 4 games to go. Like the Oilers, the Wild players might not be playing for playoff position but they are playing for jobs next year. No doubt, they’ll play hard, play loose and would love to beat the number 1 team in the NHL.

This is the last game of the season series that Vancouver leads 3-2; the Canucks won the last meeting 4-2 in Minnesota where Ryan Kesler recorded his second game-winning goal against the Wild.

Andrew Brunette has 3 goals and 1 assist in 5 games played against the Canucks. He has 43 points (17G-26A) this season, which is good for fourth place in team scoring.

Saturday, April 9, 2011 vs. Calgary Flames (7:00 PM start, away)

As of right now, the Flames hopes of making it to the postseason are still alive. It’s a long shot and they’ll need a lot of help from the teams around them in the standings, but with 3 games left and being 3 points out of the 8th and last playoff spot in the Western Conference, it’ll be a small miracle if they manage to make it through. Calgary hasn’t really been helping their own cause with only 3 wins in their last 10 games.

The Canucks lead the season series, having won 4 of their previous 5 meetings. Special teams have been key; the Canucks have scored 7 powerplay goals against the Flames this season and have also killed off 16 of 17 penalties.

Surprisingly, 1000-point man Jarome Iginla has not scored a goal against the Canucks but he does have 4 assists. Even though the Flames haven’t had the best season, Iggy is still having an outstanding campaign with 39 goals and 80 points.

Is this the year?

The Canucks officially wrapped up the President’s Trophy this week, ensuring home ice advantage throughout the entire playoffs. What is more impressive is that when the Canucks got a little “p” beside their name in the standings, no other team in the West had clinched a playoff spot yet.

Not only are the Canucks the number 1 team in the league, but many of their personnel have a legitimate opportunity to win major hardware. Daniel Sedin looks likely to win the Art Ross and has a good chance to win the Hart as well. In my opinion, Ryan Kesler is the front-runner for the Selke. And coach Alain Vigneault should get some consideration for the Jack Adams.

While winning the first President’s Trophy in franchise history is huge accomplishment, we all know that unless Lord Stanley makes an appearance come June the season will be looked at as a failure. Canucks Nation truly believes that this is the best, most complete team we’ve ever seen. Now enough with the talk, let the playoffs begin!

Feb 142011
 

[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 Volpatti, Vancouver Canucks

After a successful weekend working with Five Hole for Food’s hockey event on Granville in the pouring rain, my cold is worse than ever, and as result, perhaps I’m even a bit more cantankerous than usual.  However, I’ll try not to let this affect my answers to your Canucks-related questions.

Andrew asks: What do you think of the rookies that have been called up and put on our 4th line? Is it a good idea to keep changing them up? Is MG or AV giving them enough opportunity? Who has stood out the most for you?

Katie: Holy four questions at once! Remember I’ve taken quite a few cold meds today, Andrew. I’ll try to tackle some of these.

So far Guillaume Desbiens, Raffi Torres, Cody Hodgson, Aaron Volpatti, Jannik Hansen, Tanner Glass, Mason Raymond, Jeff Tambellini, Mario Bliznak, Alex Bolduc, Victor Oreskovich and Rick Rypien have all played on the Canucks’ fourth line this season. That’s quite a lot of juggling, even for AV’s standards.

The part the Canucks are struggling with is finding a centre for this line, which Ben Kuzma said this morning may be filled with Zenon Konopka from the Islanders by the trade deadline. Hodgson, despite a decent showing, was sent back to the Moose last week, supposedly because he was only showcased on the roster for some NHL experience.

Out of the fourth-line callups, I like Volpatti the most because he’s tough and hits hard. I also enjoyed seeing him play on the Moose before he was called up. I’d like to say CoHo but I didn’t see enough of him to get a solid opinion.

Jared (@JThompsondesign) asks: Is there any news on Rypien? Would he get in the line-up right now if he was available?

Katie: Still no update released on Rypien, and yes I think he would be played because the fourth line needs a centre (as mentioned above) which Vancouver hasn’t been able to fill since Rypien took his leave of absence in the first place. In my opinion the Canucks could also use his fighting skills, seeing as no one took on Getzlaf after his hit on Hamhuis. No doubt Rypien would have stepped up.

Ollie asks: Hey Katie, I always enjoy your column and I’ve been meaning to ask you. What do you think Alain Vigneault’s favourite word is?

Katie: Does the sound of gum being chewed make a word? What about a smirk? Damnit. Okay, then I’d say “Pyatt.”

Trent asks: With the Canucks leading the league and starting to look like Cup favourites, what would be the impact to the team’s fans if in fact they don’t win the Cup? Worse yet, how would the city react to the team if they were upset in the first round to say, the Flames? Similarly, are the Canucks going to be a powerhouse for years to come or is the window closing and this their chance?

Katie: Another multi-part question! You guys really want to take advantage of this head cold, don’t you?

A lot of long-time fans have recently admitted to me that they’re not getting their hopes up for exactly this reason: they’re used to disappointment, and don’t want to risk feeling the same emotional blow many experienced in ’94, or even in the past 10 years. The hype pelting the loyal fan base from the media seems to be blocked by an invisible force field to keep feet grounded, heads clear and hearts protected. Needless to say Vancouver would be a quiet, sullen city for a month afterward, and the bandwagon would be quite empty for a while.

If Vancouver lost in the first round with THIS roster? I think there could possibly be a riot on Granville if the Canucks got ousted to rivals like the Flames or even the Backhawks that early – joking, but not impossible. But Vigneault would be fired 100 per cent. No way would the Aquilinis keep AV around if Vancouver were ejected from the playoffs in the first round. Not this year. The media would also have a ball with this, as speculation of purging would be high. Personally I’d be very upset and disappointed, but I’d still be cheering for Vancouver next October.

The Canucks will be a good team for a while because they’ve locked in their best players for many years and have a pretty decent roster of call ups available in Manitoba. Gillis has done well for Vancouver and I believe he’ll continue to do so.

Fiann asks: Other than your blatant open lusting for Bertuzzi, what’s YOUR most embarrassing moment specific to reporting/blogging on the Canucks.

Katie: Hey, I don’t find my love for Bertuzzi embarrassing at all. I find it awesome (he scored twice on Sunday, by the way). Shockingly, I haven’t had an embarrassing moment. I’ve had more pleasant surprises than awkward ones. The worst is probably just publishing a typo and getting flamed for it because I didn’t edit before posting. Note to writers: always re-read before you submit, especially when you’re a girl writing about hockey and people assume you don’t know anything about the sport anyway. LOL.

This was a long post, and I can’t believe I sat upright long enough to finish it. Enjoy your week, Canucks fans, while I enjoy more extra-strength Benylin.

Jan 102011
 

[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 (@canucksgirl44)]

Another week passes and the Canucks are still on top of the NHL. With Vancouver playing 5 games in 7 nights, it’s been a busy and exciting week for fans. Now the team is preparing for a five-game road trip beginning Tuesday in New York, and Canucks fans are wondering how their team is going to do.

Taryn (@taryneliza_beth) asks: Predictions for the upcoming road trip? What would an acceptable record be? 4-1? 3-1-1?

Here’s the road trip schedule (Caylie has the previews):

Tue, Jan. 11th Canucks @ Islanders (13-21-6)
Thu, Jan. 13th Canucks @ Rangers (25-15-3)
Fri, Jan. 14th Canucks @ Capitals (24-12-6)
Sun, Jan. 16th Canucks @ Wild (21-16-5)
Tue, Jan. 18th Canucks @ Avalanche (21-15-6)

Vancouver’s record is 27-8-6 going into the road trip. Surprisingly the team with the hottest streak that VAN will be playing is the team with the worst overall record – the Islanders, who are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games.  The Avs have the worst with 3-5-2. That being said, I’d expect the 3-1-1 record to be the most realistic. I know Vancouver is the best team in the NHL right now, but they’re going to lose some games and will likely do so on the road. The Canucks’ away record is 12-5-3, so is it really that unrealistic to think they could lose 2 of the 5 games ahead? I don’t think so, but it’d be nice to walk away with 4 (or even 5) wins.

Ozzy (@bher_ga) asks: Who’s the MVP so far this season? And the unsung hero?

MVP? So far, Ryan Kesler. It’s only the beginning of January and Kesler is already only 3 goals away from bettering his career-high of 26 goals. He’s also producing at a nearly point-per-game clip with 40 points in 41 games. He’s a plus-17, the highest on the team, and uses his size to make room in front of the net for scoring chances. Sure, the Sedins have more points than Kesler, but I think it’s Kesler’s drive, grit and passion out on the ice that will really help the Canucks make it far in the playoffs.

Unsung hero is a bit harder. Right now I really like Keith Ballard. He had a really strong game against Detroit on Saturday, and considering the start to his season with limited ice time (perhaps due to AV’s bias, who knows) he’s impressed me lately and has been making really smart plays. Coincidently he finally gets more ice time and starts making his presence known – take a hint, Vigneault. There’s also Kevin Bieksa who has risen from some adversity to become one of the team’s top defensemen. It wasn’t that long ago that he was the goat, and I for one was guilty of loathing every moment he spent on the ice for a couple seasons. I have to admit he’s had a great season, and I hope this isn’t just temporary behaviour in hopes that he gets re-signed with the team.

Kayli (@CanuckKayli13) asks: Do you believe the Canucks have what it takes to get past the second round and win the Cup this season? Why or why not?

Yes I definitely do. They have an amazing and incredibly deep roster of players who want the Cup and have been playing like they want the Cup all season. In my humble opinion, this is the year the Canucks have their best shot at the Stanley Cup since I’ve been watching hockey in 2002/2003 (which I know doesn’t say much, but hey it’s all I’ve got). What I think needs improvement in the playoffs is the coaching – not a big surprise coming from me if you’ve ever talked to me about Vigneault. AV’s been outcoached in the post-season every year and this needs to change, but from recent articles I’ve read, the players have mentioned AV and the Canucks’ coaching staff beginning to listen to the players more and are finally able to read the team’s needs. The coaching staff has apparently admitted to their faults and have been very aggressive in correcting them. If this is true, then maybe I don’t have as much to worry about this year.

Oh, except Luongo letting in 7 goals in a do-or-die game again. Let’s hope that’s all in the past.

On that note, keep your stick on the ice Canucks fans!

Dec 242010
 

[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.]

Less than twenty-four hours after a high-octane skillfest with one of the NHL’s elite teams in one of the NHL’s elite hockey markets, the Canucks were sentenced to an evening in Columbus. There was concern that this game could be something of a trap game, as Vancouver realistically couldn’t have much left to give after yesterday’s tilt, and also because it’s literally impossible to be excited about a trip to Ohio. Yet somehow, the Canucks came out like gangbusters, making crisp passes and scoring seemingly at will; they had this one sewn up before the end of the first period. It was refreshing to see the Vancouver crush an opponent, especially after we saw what they were capable of a day earlier in Detroit–and Columbus ain’t Detroit. The Canucks put on a clinic last night and, much like the Blue Jackets, I watched this game:

  • We’ve talked about the Sedins’ frustrating ability to put up 4 points between them without controlling the game, so it’s always nice to see them decimate and demoralize an opponent with with their Wizardous Sedinerie. They were unrelenting last night, and the Blue Jackets looked downright hapless defending them. The opening goal was an excellent example, as Henrik Sedin lost the draw, but still managed to poke it to Daniel in front of the net. The Blue Jackets never got organized, and while Daniel’s shot didn’t go in, the line was already onto Plan B. This is something I love about the Sedins: once they have a team on their heels, they just push and push until the puck’s in the net.
  • I love Shorty’s call on the second goal: “Somebody start singing Sweet Georgia Brown, it’s 2-0!” If you’re wondering, Sweet Georgia Brown is the Harlem Globetrotters theme, but it was first recorded in 1925 by bandleader Ben Bernie. Somedays, I wonder how Bernie would feel knowing his tune had been adopted as the theme song of a swarm of emasculating, glory-hogging showboaters. I tell you, if my music ever becomes synonymous with bad sportsmanship, let me die.
  • Raffi Torres is an enigmatic dude. He’s talented enough to score 20 goals in a season, despite being not smart with the puck. Raffi got halfway to 20 on Thursday night with a two-goal performance, both on fabulous tip plays, and I’ve said it before: Torres tips like the waitress is pregnant. He tips like he’s the star of It Could Happen to You with Nic Cage and Bridget Fonda. Raffi’s the best tipper on the team–maybe one of the best in the league–and if you give him a waist-level puck, he’ll prove it in a hurry. Because of his goofy puck decisions, Torres lost his spot on the second unit powerplay to Jeff Tambellini awhile back, but he’ll win it back every time he reminds the coaching staff how good at redirecting pucks he is. I suspect, after Christmas, he’ll be back on the unit.
  • While we’re talking about the second Torres goal, let’s take a moment to realize how little Columbus cares at this point. When it lands in the back of the net, it’s like one of those improv flash mobs that freezes at a train station. Nobody moves, and nobody seems to care. Mason’s a butterfly goaltender and he’s standing straight up like Kirk McLean. Marc Methot looks like he’s still waiting for the referee to drop the puck. Did someone slip these guys a roofie? If someone’s sitting on a stash of Rohypnol, now might be a good time to give one to every fan still in the stadium.
  • Before I forget, the Henrik and Daniel combined for two more goals, (this one and the crazy one above) finishing with 4 and 3 points, respectively. What’s incredible to me is that they only played 15 minutes of the game. Even more interesting, though, is that their icetime wasn’t severely reduced in the third. They played about five minutes of every period, meaning Vigneault was already resting them by the first.
  • If I have one gripe, it’s Shorty and Garret’s broken promise: on the third goal, Garrett begs Shorty to use the Sweet Georgia Brown line again, and Shorty says he’ll use it later. Then, later, the Sedins give him the perfect opportunity with their fourth display of wizardous sedinerie. Instead of doing what he said, Shorty just laughs incredulously. You promised.
  • Even despite the gimme game, Vigneault found a way to make some curious decisions with his icetime. As a result of the game’s lopsidedness, Keith Ballard played eighteen minutes, but before you applaud the extra minutes, realize Andrew Alberts played over twenty. Vineault’s just rubbing his nose in it! Now, some of this had to do with resting his top players, as Christian Ehrhoff and Alex Edler were the game’s low-minute pairing, finishing with eighteen minutes and seventeen minutes, respectively. But nothing makes sense when realize Kevin Bieksa still skated for a team-high 22:05. If somebody can tell me why Vigneault hates Keith Ballard and loves Kevin Bieksa so much, I’d like to know, so I can emulate it. Perhaps it’s a fragrance? We’re often very unaware of the ramifications of our odours. Someone tell Keith Ballard he smells.
  • Maybe Vigneault was just showcasing Bieksa for those people in the crowd who looked identical to him. The one guy looked like he could be Kevin’s twin brother. He must have been a scout.
  • Dan Hamhuis had four shots in the first period, and holy cow, has this guy suddenly come alive. Hammy was flying in the opening frame, pinching like a madman, keeping the puck in the offensive zone, and stepping in off the blueline to wire shots. Every time Columbus thought they were about to alleviate the pressure, Hamhuis sent them wheeling back into their zone. He finished the night with one assist, but if he plays like that, he’s got a pretty good chance to get two assists.
  • Ryan Kesler’s point streak is now at 6 games, and he’s got 10 points in that span, and 15 points in the month of December. He’s scoring like every night is prom night. Kesler had 1 goal, 2 shots, a game-high 5 hits, and 2 takeaways (i.e, an awesome stat line), and if we’re being realistic, he’s the reason this team has the best win percentage in the Western Conference. The Sedins are so good that any opponent’s game plan is to stop them (hence, when the team gives up, the Sedins score a billion points). But if you do stop Daniel and Henrik, you’ve got a point-a-game center coming on the ice afterwards. That’s tough to stop, and it’s a luxury fans should celebrate. Vancouver has two of the best centers in the NHL; the best center in Toronto, on the other hand, is the YMCA.
  • Let’s give credit to Jannik Hansen, who appears to have stolen somebody else’s hands. I saw this episode of Futurama. More than likely, somebody took Daniel’s advice and gave him some lotion for Christmas, which he used it to soften up his hands. Impressive; that’s not what I would have done with it.
  • Cory Schneider played well, but who cares? Chris Levesque could have won this game. Hey, has anybody ever seen that movie The Big Green? Doesn’t Schneider kind of look like the goalie in that?
  • And finally, Bulie @beninvictoria pointed this out: Jeff Tambellini needs 3 more points to break his career season high. it took him 65 games last year, 18 so far this year. Not since the Micro Machines guy have I seen a man burn through points at such an accelerated rate.
Dec 152010
 

There are several interesting storylines in tonight’s game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Alain Vigneault vs. Scott Arniel

Before Arniel signed a three-year contract with the Jackets, he was frequently mentioned as a possible AV replacement. After all, Arniel coached the Manitoba Moose to some very good seasons (like AV did) and took them to the Calder Cup Final (unlike AV). If GM Mike Gillis ever decided that he’s had enough of Vigneault’s man-crush on Kevin Bieksa, surely Arniel would have been one of the favorites to step in behind the Canucks’ bench. Now, Arniel has taken his act to Columbus, where he has led the Jackets to their best start in franchise history.

Ryan Kesler vs. RJ Umberger

The Canucks drafted both Kesler (2003) and Umberger (2001) out of Ohio State University. Linemates while at OSU, they probably would have renewed acquaintances with the Canucks, that is until their individual contract negotiations caused a rift between them.

Things have been nasty between them since.

This year, Kesler and Umberger are both alternate captains for their respective teams. Their stats are similar: Kesler has 21 points (12G-9A) in 29 games while Umberger has 20 points (8G-12A) in 29 games. Both have a plus-5 rating.

Special teams vs. Not-so-special teams

The Canucks have the best powerplay in the league (25.0%). The Blue Jackets have the second-worst (11.7%).

At Rogers Arena, the Canucks’ PP rank 8th (21.6%). On the road, the Blue Jackets’ PP rank 17th (15.1%).

The Canucks have the 6th-best penalty-kill in the league (85.0%). The Blue Jackets’ PK is ranked 22nd (80.5%).

At Rogers Arena, the Canucks’ PK rank 8th (85.7%). On the road, the Blue Jackets’ PK is the fourth-worst in the league (76.4%).

Dec 132010
 

[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.]

Let’s talk about Daniel and Henrik Sedin, currently sitting 4th and 7th in the NHL with 36 and 35 points, respectively. Henrik has 4 more assists than any other player; Daniel is 5th in the league in goals. They’ve been among the top ten scoring leaders since the season began, but sometimes it’s easy to forget how good the Sedins really are.

It’s easy because the Sedins aren’t always flashy. Sometimes they’re merely opportunistic when we’d prefer they were creating their own opportunities. The Sedins are so good they can have forgettable games and still get two points apiece. But who wants that? It’s a truism, but you want your best players to be your best players, and the Sedins are among the best in hockey. We don’t want to see that reflected on the stat sheet; we want to see it on the ice.

Tonight the Sedins put in a dominant performance from puck drop to buzzer. It might have been their best game of the season. For once, they got two points when they probably should have had more. It was kinda nice. More please.

  • We here at PITB often talk about what we call wizardous sedinerie, defined as an instance when the Sedins do something positively magical and make it look conspicuously easy, like perhaps they’re secretly hockey man-witches. (Not to be confused with hockey man-sandwiches). We saw two instances of this last night. Both goals tonight were wizardous.
  • Henrik Sedin is the only player for whom I get depressed when he scores. I don’t ever want him to score. I want him to get 100 assists. I want him to have more helpers than a secret slave colony.
  • It seemed like Alain Vigneault wasn’t planning to play the Sedins much in this game. They had only 4 minutes of icetime in the first, and only 5 minutes in the second. But by the third, it was apparent that A) they were playing dominant hockey, and B) they were the best bet for a much-needed insurance goal. As a result, they played nine minutes in the third–just under half of the period. He rode the Sedins like they were Marty McFly’s hoverboard.
  • It probably wouldn’t have been necessary, but tonight was a spotty night for Ryan Kesler, the next scoring option, whose Raymondlessness is allowing defenders to focus on shutting him down. For the second night in a row, the Canucks’ leading shooter was held to only one shot. He made things harder on himself by winning only 4 of 13 faceoffs, spending the whole evening chasing the puck. He was good on the defensive end, though, with a game-high 5 hits and solid checking that directly contributed to the Oilers pathetic shot totals.
  • Oh my, were they pathetic. The Canucks held the Oilers to a wimpy 11 shots in the game, including 1 shot in the third period. Unfortunately, the Oilers scored on that shot, spoiling Roberto Luongo’s shutout bid. But 1-for-1 is a dangerous way to live. Revenge merely propagates more violence.
  • Last night, Alain Vigneault tried Dan Hamhuis in Christian Ehrhoff’s place on the top powerplay unit. It was a short-lived experiment. This morning, I suggested Keith Ballard, but it was Mikael Samuelsson manning the other point the first time an Oiler landed in the box. With this configuration in place, the Canucks’ NHL-best powerplay went 0-for-7 against the Oilers’ NHL-worst penalty kill. Even on a lengthy 5-on-3 for which that top unit stayed out nearly the entire time, they couldn’t put the puck past Devan Dubynk. I’m not sure Samuelsson is the answer.
  • While we’re all thinking of him, Keith Ballard finally cracked 20 minutes of icetime. He played 20:29 this evening and finished a plus-1. He continues rush the puck out from behind his own net with confidence.
  • On the Oilers’ side, Ryan Whitney played a game-high 29:58. In that time, he had a game-high six giveaways. Granted, Whitney’s minutes were inflated by Edmonton losing Jim Vandermeer to injury, but six giveaways? Those are spam filter numbers.
  • Kevin Bieksa had 6 blocked shots tonight. In fact, the Canucks had an impressive 20 blocks in total. That’s more blocks than my first Duplo set. Duplo is a sweet idea–it’s Lego you can’t choke on and die. Mind you, that takes away all the suspense.
  • And lastly: Quietly, the Canucks have improved their road record to 7-5-2. It’s a good road record. I mean, it’s not Captain Falcon good, but it’s still good.
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