Feb 072011
 

Congratulations to the Green Bay Packers for winning Super Bowl XLV. As well, congratulations to Christina Aguilera for joining Bryan Adams in national anthem infamy and looking like a younger Cyndi Lauper in the process.

As we turn our attention back to the Canucks and wait for puck drop in tonight’s game against the Ottawa Senators, here are some reads to help pass the time:

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 162011
 

[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

44 GP, 29-9-6, 64 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference)

Who’s Hot

Alex Edler is starting to cement his place as one of the good, young defensemen in the NHL. He has been a workhorse, averaging over 25 minutes of ice-time per game in the first 3 games of this road trip and over 24 minutes of ice-time per game this season. Despite the extended ice-time, he’s been very reliable and hasn’t had a minus-game since Boxing Day. Edler is on pace for career year in points and his goal against the Capitals moved him to 4th in team scoring behind only the Sedins and Ryan Kesler.

Who’s Not

Since Jeff Tambellini’s recall on November 24, 2010, the Canucks have gone 19-2-3 with him in the line-up. Jeff has already matched his career-high of 15 points; however, he has been on a slump as of late going 9 games without recording a point. He has been splitting his duties between the second and fourth lines in the last few games.

Who’s Next

Tuesday, January 18, 2011 vs. Colorado Avalanche (6:00 PM start, road)

The Avalanche are the Canucks’ only real threat in the Northwest Division and currently sit in 6th place in the Western Conference. They are 4-4-2 in their last 10 games and have won 2 of their last 3 games. However, the Canucks have won all 4 games against the Avs this season.

The Canucks’ 2nd-ranked powerplay can take advantage of the Avalanche’s 3rd-worst penalty-killing in the league.

Chris Stewart is back from injury which boosts the Avalanche’s lineup. He missed 21 games, but has 25 points in 24 games.

Thursday, January 20, 2011 vs. San Jose Sharks (7:00 PM start, home)

The Sharks have been struggling lately going 3-7-0 in their last 10 games. The Canucks have won both meetings against the Sharks this season – a 6-1 thrashing at Rogers Arena and a 4-3 come-from-behind win in San Jose.

The Canucks and the Sharks have the 2nd and 5th-ranked powerplays, respectively, but neither have been prominent in the teams’ season series so far – in two games, the Canucks were 1-for-4 with the powerplay and the Sharks were 1-for-3.

The Sharks big 3 – Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley – have been disappointing this season. They have a combined 115 points (46 G -69 A), but also, a combined plus/minus rating of -36.

Saturday, January 22, 2011 vs. Calgary Flames (7:00 PM start, home)

The Flames have been hot (no pun intended) in their last 10 games going 6-2-2. They are currently on a mini 2-game win streak and have points in their last 4 games.

The Canucks have loved playing the Flames this season, winning both meetings to-date and decisively outscoring them 10-3.

Mason Raymond especially likes playing his hometown team. He has 3 goals and 2 assists in only 2 games against the Flames this season.

Most Deserving of a Shout-out: The Fourth Line

The play of the fourth line recently has been outstanding. They single-handedly set the tone in Washington. They spent a majority of their shifts in the offensive zone, controlled the puck and forced the Caps to chase them around. Glass-Hansen-Bolduc were a combined +5, while Hansen assisted on 2 key goals. (Unfortunately, Bolduc got injured during the Caps game and is out for 3-4 weeks.) In a mediocre game against the Islanders, Tanner Glass saw the opportunity to spark the team with a big fight against Matt Martin. Let’s just say after a 1-2 punch to the dome, Martin was down for the count while wiping the blood from beneath his right eye.

Jan 112011
 

(Contributions from J.J. Guerrero and Katie Maximick.)

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.

Manny Malhotra and Jannik Hansen, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

Manny Malhotra: Malhotra has fewer points than Raffi Torres, which is odd for a lot of people. But he’s the king of the faceoff circle, ranked second in the NHL at 63.4%. With 17 points, he’s on pace to match last season’s 33-point output in San Jose. So has he exceeded expectations? Not really, but he hasn’t exactly underperformed either.

Grade: B

Raffi Torres: Torres started the season red-hot with 5 goals in 3 games at the beginning of November, but the fiery left wing has cooled off with only 9 points since the end of November. However, he’s still third on the team for goals at 11 and has 8 assists. For a one year, $1 million contract, have the Canucks got what they paid for? I say yes – he has 19 points, throws hard hits and freight-trains his way to the net. I think Vancouver fans have been pleasantly surprised by their Baby Beluga.

Grade: C+

Mikael Samuelsson: Mikael “go eff yourself” Samuelsson is perhaps receiving the most flack of any player on the roster right now. He has the lowest shot percentage of all the Canucks forwards at 7.1%, even lower than Kevin Bieksa. Is it bad luck or are they bad shots? His point production isn’t horrible, with 8 goals and 16 assists, but he is currently pointless in his last 7 games. So, does the media have reason to pick on Samuelsson? Hard to say. Maybe he just needs someone to hurt his feelings and he’ll start putting up points again.

Grade: C+

Alex Bolduc: Bolduc’s been good at times and unnoticeable at others. Against the Sharks last Monday, he won 4 of 6 faceoffs; he followed that up by losing all 8 of his draws against the Flames last Wednesday. The revolving door on the team’s fourth line center position is due in large part to his inconsistency.

Grade: C-

Tanner Glass: No less than 11 Canucks have played on the fourth line all season; of those 11, Tanner Glass has been the most consistent. Coach AV trusts him enough to play a regular shift on even-strength and on the penalty-kill. Halfway through the season, he’s only 1 goal, 2 assists and 3 points short of his career-highs in those categories.

Grade: C

Jannik Hansen: His stat line (41 GP, 5 G – 8 A – 13 P) doesn’t reflect it, but Hansen’s play has improved from previous seasons. He’s a fast skater, excellent forechecker and versatile winger who’s proven through the first half of the season to be able to move up and down the lineup with relative ease.

Grade: B-

Aaron Volpatti: Volpatti was called up a month ago and quickly made his mark. He scored his first goal in his second game and got into his first fights a week after that. For what it’s worth, he’s better suited for the fourth line than Jonas Andersson and the since-departed Peter Schaefer, and has played better than the likes of Joel Perrault, Guillaume Desbiens and Mario Bliznak.

Grade: C-

Jan 102011
 

[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.]

You hate to see a game like this go to a shootout. I did. After 60 minutes of the top two teams in the NHL strutting their excellent puck movement, remarkable defense, and fabulous systems play, suddenly everything that made the game so stellar is taken away and a coin is flipped. Because that’s what the shootout is, really: a coin toss, a crapshoot. So before you go blaming anybody for the loss (i.e. Tambellini, for missing on that breakaway, or Luongo, for getting beat by Hudler), take a deep breath and recognize that this game, like all games decided in a shootout, was a tie with an extra point pulled out of a hat.

Then recognize that, in their sixth games in nine nights, the Canucks still skated away with a point, just as they did in the other five, and just as they did in this season’s other two intense games versus these Red Wings. I tell you, if we’re lucky enough to see these two teams in the playoffs, I’d cancel Christmas to watch every second of it. I’m serious. I’d watch so freaking hard, much like how I watched this game:

  • Jimmy Howard was the game’s deserving first star. He made 32 saves, many of the incredible variety. He flatly robbed Henrik and Daniel once each, controlled rebounds, and swallowed up shots like they were merchant ships floating above the nest of the Krakken. Then he stoned all three shooters in the shootout. He stoned them just like Jelly Roll. Howard was out of this world tonight, not unlike another famous Howard in red.
  • Were it not for Howard’s play, you’d be hearing a lot of talk about the Sedins (or, the Wizards of the Coast, as per @victoriado, brilliantly). They were consistently dangerous tonight, especially on that lob play that they seem to have perfected. I counted about three times that Burrows or Henrik vaulted the puck into the air, only to have Daniel glove it down and start an odd-man rush. There should be a law against lobs that sweet. That’s right. A Lob Law.
  • By the way, we’ve seen that play a lot this year. We take for granted the way the Sedins innovate ways to create offense. They’re always scheming, from their set faceoff plays to the slap-pass to these lobs. I guess that’s what happens when you share a duplex with a perma-linemate.
  • Chris Osgood is nearing forty, but you’d never know it. Not because he plays like a younger man, but because he looks like a younger man. Osgood didn’t play tonight, but the HNIC producer couldn’t stay away from shots of him sulking in the hallway, and he looks about sixteen. He also looks a lot like Ian Walker. Think Bif Naked is the victim of a brilliant switcheroo? Probably. Foxy celebrities marry athletes, not writers. Who does Walker think he is? Arthur Miller?
  • Keith Ballard had a fantastic game tonight. He was named the game’s second star, which was enough to earn him about a whole two extra minutes of icetime. Not too shabby. Though he was only credited with 3 hits, one of the hits looked like this. That’s good for an extra minute right there. Ballard had a solid overall game. He rushed the puck out of his own zone well, played physical, and rang a shot off the post that might have put Vancouver over the top. If we get this kind of play regularly from our fifth defenseman, we’ll probably do all right.
  • Ballard didn’t actually deserve the second star, though–Kevin Bieksa did. Juice played 24 minutes, seemingly all of them engaged in a cross-check fight with Tomas Holmstrom. Despite battling the big jackass all night, Bieksa managed to get off five shots, attempt another five, block three, and collect three takeaways. Apparently, like the marriage of Stanley and Stella Kowalski, Kevin Bieksa is better when he’s fighting.
  • Both teams were clearly exhausted tonight, but I really recognized it in the Canucks. Mason Raymond and Jeff Tambellini, who normally fly, instead did whatever it is turkeys do to get around. The rest of the Canucks, too, seemed to lack jump, especially in the third. After limiting the Red Wings to less than ten shots in both the first and second, they Canucks looked like they just ran out of the steam. This is a team known for their ability to #WinDaTurd, but they couldn’t keep pace with Detroit in the third period tonight. Detroit rattled off seventeen shots and had the Canucks scrambling in the defensive zone for most of the final frame. Were it not for the stellar play of Roberto Luongo, I don’t think this one would have gotten to overtime. Like Kanye West, the Canucks were all over the place, but like Mike Myers, Luongo seemed desperate to salvage the point.
  • Jim Hughson with the Lord of the Rings reference of the night: “Helm couldn’t smeagol by him along the boards.” How does one smeagol, exactly? I’ve never heard this term before in my life. I take this to mean Helm tried to bite Alberts’s finger off.
  • Though the Canucks’ powerplay only scored one time (above) in five opportunities, they looked absolutely awe-inspiring at times. At times the Sedins threw the puck around. At times Kesler tried to muscle the puck through. At times, Christian Ehrhoff showed why he’s the motor of the back end, zipping around the zone like Ben Stiller only wished he could have. It was fun to watch.
  • @GutsMcTavish24 observed that Todd Bertuzzi still has moments of soft perimeter play. Almost immediately upon tweeting that Bertuzzi wasn’t “willing to sacrifice,” DJ Dave threw on Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice.” How he knew to do that is beyond me.
  • I’m interested in Ryan Kesler only taking 12 faceoffs. He won 6, but for a guy who’s top ten in the circle, you’d think he’d take more. Any theories? Here’s mine: Kesler is the best skater on the team, and Vigneault wanted to start him on the fly.
  • Speaking of faceoffs, after narrowly gaining his coach’s trust in the faceoff circle, Alex Bolduc is clearly back to square one. A few games ago, he was taking eight faceoffs. Problem was, he lost all eight. Tonight he took two, and he won them both, but do you know who else took two? Mason Raymond. Bolduc’s got his work cut out for him; it’ll take some time to regain that trust.
  • Manny Malhotra, on the other hand, was a faceoff machine, and in a playoff-atmosphere game like this, it was impossible not to notice. He went 18-for-28, but it seemed like he never lost, especially in the defensive zone, where he was 13-for-18. Red Wing centermen tried everything to combat his technique; they seemed highly irritated with how low he was getting. Nothing worked. Like a guy who wants to be startin’ something, Malhotra was too low to get under.
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.
Jan 032011
 

[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.]

With a gritty, hard-fought win against the Avalanche, the Canucks have won 5 straight, haven’t lost in regulation in 12 games, and have the best goal differential in the NHL. And, oh yeah, they’re first place in the entire NHL right now. Now, there are plenty of spoilsports out there who will complain that being first place in January is meaningless, or that no one cares about the President’s Trophy, just the Stanley Cup. To them I say, “Boo! Boo! Boo!” I, for one, am a Canucks fan and I will take pleasure in the Canucks doing well, whether you like it or not. I take pleasure in watching the Canucks win, and I watched this game:

  • Alexandre Bolduc got his first NHL goal (above), added a particularly savvy assist, and finished a game-high +2, but let’s not lose perspective. He still played only 5:52 in the game and didn’t see a single shift after Paul Stastny narrowed the lead to one. That said, he made the most out of his limited time tonight. His heads up play on the odd bounce that led to Mason Raymond’s goal was very nifty. I suspect he got a brief lecture on knowing where his teammates are on the ice after confessing in a 1st intermission interview that he had no idea where Glass was on the 2-on-1 that led to his goal.
  • The scorekeeper for tonight’s game was apparently feeling generous, as somehow Kevin Bieksa received an assist on Mason Raymond’s goal despite about 5 different players, including a couple from the Avalanche, touching the puck between his last touch and the goal. Unless Bieksa’s giant forehead gives him telekinetic powers, there’s no way he should get an assist, although that would explain the bizarre bounce that puck took off the seamless glass.
  • Unsurprisingly, Mason Raymond got the most ice-time for the fourth line as he saw some penalty killing duty and briefly skated 4-on-4 with Jeff Tambellini. He still played under 10 minutes in his return to the lineup, but it seemed clear that his hand wasn’t impairing his shot, as he fired 3 on net including the snipe from the slot for the gamewinning goal. Welcome back, Raymond, we missed you.
  • While the fourth line did all the scoring, Roberto Luongo did all the saving. He was fantastic in net, making 31 and a half saves. He battled hard through traffic to make saves and didn’t give up many rebounds, unless he clearly meant to, like when he sprung Glass and Bolduc with a great kick-save pass. Seriously, he got credited with an assist on that one. I honestly was not aware that they gave assists for giving up a rebound. That’s like saying the wall in Shaolin Soccer was passing the ball to Mighty Steel Leg Sing.
  • Ehrhoff and Edler were solid as a tandem. The duo played the most minutes for the Canucks and made nice plays at both ends of the rink. Ehrhoff was connecting well with his passes, had 3 shots on net, and was smart with his stickwork in the defensive end, getting credit for 2 takeaways. Edler was the more physical of the two and was credited with 3 hits, including this destruction of T.J. Galiardi. If that video doesn’t work, try this one, it’s a bit of a better angle.
  • In a show of solidarity for the Make it Seven campaign, the Avalanche played the dying moments of the game with 7 skaters on the ice. J.J. Guerrero from Canucks Hockey Blog has the picture to prove it. The refs were getting a fair amount of criticism from Canucks fans during this game and that gaffe won’t help their case.
  • For my part, I think it’s just nice to see the Canucks winning in spite of the difference in powerplay time. The Canucks penalty kill was perfect at 5-for-5 and didn’t even give up a single shot on net for the latter 3 powerplays. Lost in the hubbub of their record and powerplay has been the steady work of the penalty kill which jumped up to third in the league with their performance tonight. They are far better at being shorthanded than Dr. Curt Connors.
  • Despite not recording any points, the top three lines did not play particularly poorly. The Sedins had several shifts where they penned the Avalanche in with strong possession and the second line shifted the momentum several times with their speed. It was a solid shift by the third line that led to the possession on which Mason Raymond scored his goal. Part of the problem was all the penalties that prevented them from icing their normal lines for large chunks of the game. It’s incredibly encouraging, however, to see the team pick up a win without any points from their top offensive contributors: balanced scoring is the key to playoff success.
  • Part of the reason the normal offensive contributors didn’t show up on the scoresheet tonight was faceoffs. Manny Malhotra was the only centre above 50% and even he had a relatively pedestrian 53%. It’s troubling because the Avalanche are a sub-50% team on faceoffs. On the plus side, they were 5-for-8 shorthanded, which aided their killing abilities like a golden gun.
  • During the broadcast, Shorty promoted an interview with Alison Sweeney, host of The Biggest Loser, on Breakfast Television. Garrett: Alison Sweeney is on “Days of Our Lives.” Do you watch that? Shorty: No.
  • Mikael Samuelsson apparently had 5 shots on goal. Did you even notice him tonight? Because I didn’t. Torres, on the other hand, was very noticeable, unfortunately for the wrong reasons. He took two very dumb penalties. You can criticize the officiating if you want, but the 4 minute difference in powerplay time can easily be pinned on Torres.

And on that critical note, congratulations to the Canucks for moving to the top of the NHL. Continue being awesome, boys.

Dec 292010
 

[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 Flyers and Canucks were a good matchup on paper. Both teams have excellent strength down the middle and strong forward lines overall, a solid defensive corps, and comparable records. Some said, prior to tonight’s contest, that we might be looking at a potential Stanley Cup Finals matchup. Roberto Luongo said it was a big measuring stick game. The Flyers hadn’t lost in Vancouver since 1989. That is to say, nobody expected a retread of the Columbus Blue Jackets game. Mitigating factors: the flyers were playing without Chris Pronger, as well as, seemingly, motivation and heart. This may come as a surprise, but Chris Pronger is a good hockey player, and a team without him is lesser. How much lesser is now a valid question.

But who cares about the Flyers? The Vancouver Canucks dominated this game in every aspect, and, somewhat giddy, we watched:

  • First things first: just today, I sat down and compiled a sweet list of the best 50 goals the Canucks had scored in 2010. Then Alex Burrows went and made a fool of Kimmo Timonen (above). Next time, I would appreciate some notice, Alex. Sour grapes aside, this was one of the prettiest goals we’ve seen this season, and shows why Alex Burrows is not just a glorified tap-in artist. It also shows that he is a legitimate complement to the Sedins. Proof: his unwillingness to shoot the puck.
  • The Canucks riddled the Philadelphia net with shots like it was the last duck in Duck Hunt and they were afraid they’d get mocked by that stupid dog. 49 shots in total, including 22 in the first period alone, and we should note that they weren’t just winging the puck, willy-nilly. They were putting up points like they were holding the NES gun up to the screen like a cheaty cheater who cheats. Brian “The Mighty Boosh” Boucher got pulled after four goals and a stinkeye (check out his glare, post-whiff, on this goal), and he didn’t play too badly. The Flyers simply defense gave up more chances than a Monopoly board.
  • John Buccigross tweeted this evening that Ryan Kesler is currently the best player in the Western Conference. He’s wrong, but the sentiment is touching. Kes is on fire. He scored twice tonight, and was a crossbar away from the second hat trick of his career (and this year). And, as well as he’s playing, you could argue that he hit the crossbar on purpose to set up Jeff Tambellini. You’d be completely full of rubbish, but you could argue it. It’d be a bit of a Chewbacca Defense, but you could argue it. Kesler put up another three points tonight to extend his point streak to eight games, he had seven shots, and he showcased breakaway speed that would make Gob Bluth look like he was never a member of the Hot Cops. These days, Kesler is playing like the Canucks are the United States of America. You could say everything he touches turns to gold right now, except his silver medal.
  • Jeff Tambellini is similarly aflame. No longer aflame? Darryl Sutter.
  • But seriously, Tambellini is quietly riding a six-game point streak of his own, and he’s been a solid linewife for Kesler in the absence of Mason Raymond. Do you think, when Raymond gets back, things will be awkward? I’ve been raising your kids, Mason!
  • Tambellini had a game-high nine shots, by the way. Toss in Jannik Hansen’s 1 shot (which scored, despite clearly being a pass), and the second line combined for 18 shots on goal, 4 of which rippled the mesh. While we’re on the subject, let’s establish that I find “rippled the mesh” kind of a gross thing to say, because I wear nothing under my swim trunks.
  • Forgotten stat: Jannik Hansen continues to lead Canucks forwards in hits. He had 6 tonight, for a total of 70 on the season, just 5 short of Andrew Alberts for the team lead.
  • Speaking of Alberts, word is he left Rogers Arena with a bit of a shiner after Jody Shelley sucker-punched him. We at PITB do not endorse the sucker punch, but we do endorse classic ska band Five Iron Frenzy’s catchy ditty, Sucker Punch. We also endorse punching suckas. The jury is still out on Zack Snyder’s upcoming film, Sucker Punch.
  • The Canucks won the faceoff circle yet again, coming out of 66% of draws with the puck. The big three won their draws with typical regularity, but it’s worth noting that Alex Bolduc also won 6 of 11, and wingers Samuelsson, Torres, and Tambellini all won a draw as well. I have a theory that the Canucks are grooming Tanner Glass for the 4th-line center job (evidenced, perhaps, by footage of Manny Malhotra showing him faceoff techniques), but Alex Bolduc is quietly winning his coach’s trust in the circle, and giving the top faceoff team in the NHL (by a wide margin) yet another option. Bolduc had 3 defensive zone faceoffs, and you can expect that number to increase if he gets a reputation for winning them.
  • We haven’t talked about the Sedins yet at all, but they were fantastic tonight. They put up 5 points between them–1 goal and 1 assist for Daniel, and 3 assists for Henrik–and they buzzed around the offensive zone like twin bees. (Sidenote: holy crap do you remember TWIN BEE?!) Henrik now leads the NHL with 39 assists, and he’s on pace for 91. We all know he’s gunning for 100 assists. He hates when he scores, because it’s not an assist. Goals are secondary to him. They’re even more secondary than secondary assists.
  • The Sedins have put together a string of fabulous games, and I can’t help but think that the improvement in Alex Burrows’ play has given their line a cohesion they had previously been playing without. Until recently, they’d been putting up points, but they hadn’t been dictating pace with their typical cycle game and strong possession. They’re doing that now, and when people are claiming a teammate of theirs is the best player in their Conference, you know the Canucks are strong.
  • The Sedins are so good that fans cheer like it’s an odd-man rush when they come across the blue line 2-on-2. Have you noticed? We noticed. It’s funny. Laugh at it.
  • Aaron Volpatti finally had his first NHL fight, and we found it adorable. It was nice of Sean O’Donnell to indulge him, as well as re-engage him after their first attempt ended in minor penalties. He held his own. Whatever.
  • The Canucks’ defense was so good we didn’t notice them whatsoever. Like Abed delivering a baby in the background of Community, they quietly made a major impact on tonight’s episode. We often question the way Alain Vigneault metes out minutes, but when your top four defenders are playing exactly the way you want them to, you don’t keep them from the ice.
  • And finally, a word about Ryan Kesler’s second goal, which looked a little like he and Henrik were playing skee-ball, not hockey. Unfortunately, Brian Boucher did not dispense tickets. Instead, he was dispensed from the game.
Oct 122010
 

Coach Alain Vigneault spoke highly of Alex Bolduc after the 25-year old beat out Canucks fan favorite Brendan Morrison for the team’s fourth line center spot.

“We saw an improvement every day in different things we want to see,” Vigneault said Sunday.

“It means you have a coachable player who can grasp what you’re trying to teach him. He has always had that determination and speed. It was just a matter of processing the game at each level and he showed us he deserves the opportunity to start on this team.”

And start on the Canucks he did. Unfortunately, he didn’t last long.

Bolduc suited up against the Los Angeles Kings in the Canucks’ home opener on Saturday, but was injured after getting hit twice on the same shift. He’s scheduled to have an MRI done today and there is a fear that he might have suffered a high ankle sprain.

For all the talk in the last couple of seasons about the durability of the defense, we may have overlooked that of the fourth line. Ryan Johnson missed more than 40 games in his two seasons with the Canucks due to various foot, finger and head injuries. Since first making the team in the 2005/2006 season, Rick Rypien has missed more than 100 games due to various injuries as well.

Bolduc seems to be headed down the same injury-riddled path. He played 7 games for the Canucks early last season before he missed 13 games due to a shoulder injury and was assigned to the Manitoba Moose. He was recalled in late December and played 8 more games before suffering another shoulder injury and missing the rest of the regular season and the playoffs. Now, he lasted 1 game before possibly being out for another extended period of time.

With Bolduc’s latest injury, the Canucks were forced to play Jeff Tambellini as their fourth line center last night. (Nothing against Jeff but he doesn’t quite fit the grittier profile the team wanted for their fourth line when they picked Bolduc over Morrison. Or at least he doesn’t fit that role in the same way Morrison didn’t fit it.) I’m sure Joel Perrault will eventually get a shot too.

The Canucks may have groomed Bolduc to be their fourth line center and Bolduc proved in the preseason that he deserves the job. What he hasn’t proved yet though is that he can stay healthy long enough to keep it.

Oct 042010
 

[Every Monday, Katie Maximick takes your questions and answers them in her own cantakerous style. If you have any questions about the Canucks, send it to her via Twitter (@canucksgirl44)]

Kevin Bieksa, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: CBC

In this week’s edition of “Ask Katie About the Canucks”, Katie talks about breakouts and busts, cries about B-Mo, picks a new linemate for the Sedins, and picks a drinking buddy.

Lisa asks: “If you could choose any player in the NHL and put him on the Canucks, who would it be and who would you play him with?”

Katie: I bet every body would be jumping for Ovechkin, which might be the smart thing to do, but I have a feeling he wouldn’t exactly get a long with the quiet, humble Sedins on the top line. Crosby’s too obvious. That being said, I would go for someone like Jarome Iginla (I know, a Flame) or Vinnie Lecavalier. Both are classy guys with top-scoring abilities and seem to get along quite well with anyone they play with. The Sedins can make a star out of anyone (see: Carter, Anson) and so I would put Vinnie or Jarome with them and watch the scoring blow our minds.

Tara asks: “How do you think Morrison will do this season?”

Katie: *Bursts into tears and runs away*

Neil (@neilfg) asks: “Who will have the biggest breakout season, and who will have the biggest bust season?”

Katie: I’m hoping that Kesler just goes mental and scores 30-40 goals this year. He definitely has the potential to step up to that level. Really, many of the Canucks’ young guns have the ability to unleash a few beasts and have record-breaking seasons. I could see Samuelsson doing very well on the top line.

As for bust – ehhhh, I don’t want to predict that in case I jinx someone, but I’d be looking at a veteran, maybe Salo (a little predictable?), possibly Malhotra, since the Canucks have the tendency to take on older players who sh*t the bed once they put on a Canucks jersey (see: Messier, Mark and Demitra, Pavol). Although I can see someone like Bolduc being junk; however, I may or may not just have said that because I’m bitter over B-Mo.

Mark (@marktgledhill) asks: “How have you felt about Edler? Has he grown into a role of a top-level D-man or does he still need to grow?”

Katie: I honestly haven’t been Edler’s #1 fan, but he’s definitely improving every season. Last year he was a top-level D-man for the team, but with the additions of Hamhuis and Ballard this year, Edler might slip back in comparison. I hope not though. I hope Edler continues to improve. I will say one thing – I like his slapshot.

Steph (@axeguitar) asks: “Who would you most like to go drinking with, staff or player?”

I think Bieksa would be a riot (although we would eventually fight about his turnovers and dumb penalties). But wouldn’t it be more fun to see a quiet guy get hammered and come out of his shell? Like a Sedin or Salo? Samuelsson would be fun since he’d have my back at the bar, mostly because he’d tell everyone to go — well, you know — go find themselves. ;)

%d bloggers like this: