Jun 062011
 

[About the game from two viewpoints. Chris and Caylie watch the game and exchange their thoughts via email.]

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Sat, 04 Jun 2011 17:07

Hey Caylie,

So here we have Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Apparently a must win. I’m not exactly sure why winning the first game at home in the final makes Game 2 a must win, but apparently that’s what people allegedly wiser than I seem to think.

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Wed, 01 Jun 2011 17:21

Hi Chris,

I’m not sure if it is a must win, but it can’t hurt if we head back to beantown up 2-0.

I am not sure where you are tonight, but the Browns in PoMo just erupted when Manny came on the screen!

Win it WITH Manny! Go Canucks Go!

Caylie

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Sat, 04 Jun 2011 17:42

Hey Caylie,

The crowd here at Moose’s Down Under did the same – Manny coming back to play in the final is a huge boost. Hell, I’d even say that he’s the force that may galvanize the fans for an epic string – him just getting on the ice will whip ‘em into a frenzy.

I do worry that he’s not entirely healthy – no player would ever admit to being hurt if they thought they were close. Hopefully the docs had a solid baseline on him.

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Wed, 01 Jun 2011 17:50

Hi Chris,

You’re right, what a huge boost to team and city morale. I think 4th line minutes for him is perfect to ease him in, but yes… I’m not sure if he’s 100%.

I’m a true believer that championship teams need a great bottom-six. Raffi and company have come out with a plan. A plan to attack and hit everything that’s moving. That 4th line shift by Oreo and Tamby also really set the tone.

I expect great things from our bottom-six. Possibly another game winner?

Caylie

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Sat, 04 Jun 2011 18:27

Hey Caylie,

You’re looking for a goal from the bottom-six? I’m calling for Ballard to score the winner. Oh wait.

I can’t really knock AV as the team is obviously clicking, but I feel that Alberts has looked slow and that worries me. It’s been the Canucks speed that has given the Bruins trouble and Alberts has none of that.

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Wed, 01 Jun 2011 18:37

Hi Chris,

Who is Ballard?

Really, I think Alberts has been pretty decent. I noticed a few big hits from him, and to be honest, besides that I haven’t really noticed him. Which is a good thing.

Boston just scored a powerplay goal. Is the world ending?!

Caylie

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Sat, 04 Jun 2011 18:44

Hey Caylie,

Alberts has been decent? I want what you’re drinking.

He’s thrown a few hits, but how is that more than Ballard (yes, he still plays for the Canucks) provides? And the first Bruins goal, Alberts lack of mobility kept the team penned in deep – again, Ballard likely had the speed to avoid that.

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Wed, 01 Jun 2011 18:58

Hi Chris,

I said he was decent, never said he was better than Bally. That’s a no brainer, Ballard is a much more mobile defenseman, however we have to work with what we have on the ice. In my opinion, Rome has looked worse with 2 penalties, albeit if that last one was “interference” then there should have been about 10 other calls.

Looks like we really need to step up our game. After that Lucic goal, the Bruins were all over us. Windaturd has been the slogan all season long. Let’s do it again.

My prediction, our next goal will be a big play from our back end that ties the game up.

Caylie

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Sat, 04 Jun 2011 19:25

Hey Caylie,

You are right, Rome has looked far worse. But I still feel that Ballard should’ve been in before Alberts – even if Ballard scores the OT breakaway winner.

On a different note, I’m beginning to like the traffic and abuse that the Canucks are sending Thomas’ way. He’s solid on most pucks head-on, but has looked as shaky as @mozy19 does after a few drinks when there’s bumping and grinding in front.

C.

Feb 152011
 

To add injury to insult, the Canucks lost another defenseman to injury in last night’s 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues.

Andrew Alberts is out with a broken wrist; the Canucks have placed him on LTIR and called up Yann Sauve to replace him.

If you look at the list of walking wounded, it includes Dan Hamhuis, Alex Edler, Keith Ballard, Lee Sweatt, and now Alberts – that’s a better group of defensemen than some teams have in the lineup. If Sami Salo, who limped off the ice after the game, joins that list I’d dare say it’s one of the best group of defensemen in the league. (edit: According to AV, Salo should be okay.)

I’m not quite sure how to describe this run of injuries on the Canucks’ blueline.

The words ridiculous, comical and cursed come to mind.

If you can think of better words, please feel free to share.

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 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 022011
 

[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

36 GP, 23-8-5, 51 points (1st in Northwest Division, 2nd in Western Conference)

Who’s Hot

Kevin Bieksa has been playing some of his best hockey since his breakout season in 08/09. In his last 3 games he has 4 points (2-2-4) and is an impressive +6. He is playing smart hockey with good pinches, passes and point shots that are getting through the defence.

Who’s Not

With the Canucks on a 4-game win streak it’s hard to call out one individual. But if I had to pick one player, it would have to be Andrew Alberts and only because he is sporting a huge shiner courtesy of a Jody Shelley sucker punch. Classy hockey at it’s finest.

Who’s Next

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011 vs. Colorado Avalanche (5:00 PM start, road)

The Avalanche lost to the Calgary Flames on New Years Eve and won in the shootout (after blowing a first period, 3-goal lead) against the Edmonton Oilers on December 30th. The Canucks have gained points in their last 11 games and have won all 3 games versus the Avs this season.

Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny lead the Avalanche in scoring with 38 and 35 points, respectively, in 38 games, but both have combined for 2 points – both goals, both by Duchene – in 3 games against the Canucks.

Monday, January 3rd, 2011 vs. San Jose Sharks (7:30 PM start, road)

The Sharks host the Canucks with an impressive 6-3-1 record in their last 10 games. In their last meeting the Canucks won in a dominating 6-1 performance. The Sharks are a big physical team with scoring talent. Joe Thornton has 7 points in his last 6 games and is tied with Dany Heatley for the team lead for the season with 35 points.

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011 vs. Calgary Flames (7:00 PM start, home)

The Flames beat the Oilers last night and are now riding a 4-game win streak. After lighting up Miikka Kiprusoff for 7 goals in their last meeting, the Canucks look to take advantage of a team that is floundering, with the Oilers, at the bottom of the Western Conference. Jarome Iginla has started to find his game with 10 points (4-6) in his last 10 games, which should make for a good, heated battle between Iggy and Kes.

Friday, January 7th, 2011 vs. Edmonton Oilers (7:00 PM start, home)

The Canucks have had the Oilers’ number this season going 3-0 against the young squad so far. In their last meeting, the Canucks came back from a 2-0 deficit to win the game in the last minute with a tally from Bieksa. The Oilers are struggling with a record of 2-6-2 in their last 10 games.

Their best player at the moment is Dustin Penner, who has recorded 5 points in his last 4 games and is second in team scoring with 25 points (11-14). It should be noted that the Oilers are missing Captain Shawn Horcoff, top scorer Ryan Whitney, and may have lost rookie Jordan Eberle to an ankle injury after Saturday night’s Battle of Alberta.

Saturday, January 8th, 2011 vs. Detroit Red Wings (7:00 PM start, home)

The Canucks host Detroit on a second back-to-back situation in 7 days. The Red Wings are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games, the season series is tied 1-1, which included a thrilling OT loss for the good guys in Detroit. Zetterberg has 7 points in his last 5 games and was named the NHL’s 2nd star last week. This game will likely be a battle for top spot in the Western Conference.

Positive Trend: The Penalty Kill

The Canucks are tied for 5th in the NHL on the penalty kill. In their last three games, the Canucks killed 10 of their last 12 penalties – a PK rate of 83%. On top of that, the Canucks main PKers – Kesler, Burrows and Malholtra – have been able to generate shorthanded opportunities on a nightly basis.

2011 brings with it a lot of optimism and potential. Here’s to more wins, a division title, and the hope that Lord Stanley will be making a pit stop in Vancouver.

Dec 292010
 

Only two weeks after serving a two-game suspension for hitting Boston Bruin, Adam McQuaid, from behind, Jody Shelley was given another two-game suspension, this time for his sucker-punch on Andrew Alberts last night.

For what it’s worth, Alberts was back skating with the Canucks today.

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.
Dec 122010
 

[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.]

So I don’t think the Tampa Bay Lightning realize they were supposed to treat this game like a ceremonial faceoff: show up, smile for a photo, then stand back while Henrik Sedin picks up the puck and hands it to the Queen. It should have been fairly simple. Instead, the Lightning came out trying to win, and did, which I found completely classless. Somebody needs to delicately tell them they ruined a fabulous night. I watched this game:

  • A lot of people are going to want to pin this loss on Cory Schneider. Let them.] Ignore the pundits eager to criticize his infrequent usage, eager to pin this on coaching and continue to innocently plant the seeds of a goaltending controversy. The Canucks outplayed the Lightning and needed a few stops to make sure the final score reflected that. If Luongo never gets a pass (and he never does), then let it be so for all Canuck goaltenders. Schneider didn’t look so good on a few of these goals; he needs and has the capability to be better. So what if it had been nine games since his last start? He was slotted, at the season’s outset, to start every fourth or fifth game. With a nine-game break, he actually only missed one start. Players miss starts. They’re still expected to be good when they get back in. Schneider did make a couple of very impressive saves, including a brilliant toe kick early in the first period that made me think, maybe, he was going to have Stamkos’s number. It was not meant to be.
  • Steven Stamkos is pretty good at hockey, don’t you think? If I was picking teams, and he was one of the guys waiting to be picked for some reason, I’d pick him pretty early on. Stamkos had 3 points last night, including the game-winner on an incredible one-timer. The last time I saw a shot that unstoppable, I ignored the desperate pleadings of everyone at my intervention and I drank it.
  • How to explain this loss? I’ll tell you what happened: The Lightning saw Brian Burke in attendance, and assumed this was a winnable game. Zing.
  • How badly did the Canucks miss Christian Ehrhoff? Ehrhoff facilitates more breakouts than the grill at McDonald’s, and Vancouver could have used him on more than a few clunky-looking rushes. Realizing the importance of his contributions for the first time, I spent the whole night humming Big Yellow Taxi. The Hoff was especially missed on the powerplay, where the five-man unit was sorely lacking in a guy who does what he does. Dan Hamhuis, his replacement, did different things, and unfortunately, those things were counterproductive.
  • Alain Vigneault would be forgiven for bumping Kevin Bieksa to that top special teams unit. Bieksa is a good puckhandler, and nobody on the Canucks pinches along the boards better. But I wouldn’t recommend it. Bieksa’s shot isn’t overly threatening; his presence would allow defenders to shade off of him and attack the open passing lanes this unit exploits so well. Rather, this might be Keith Ballard’s best opportunity to show what he can do. His end-to-end rush that resulted in the game-tying goal was, while a bit of a softie, an impressive display of offense and skating from a defenseman who has yet to fully convince his coach of his skill level. Ignore the terrifying fact that Cory Schneider has as many points as he does; Ballard’s been exploding out from behind the net for a few games now in a way that only Christian Ehrhoff could emulate. What other Ehrhoffian traits does he possess?
  • Andrew Alberts’ return to the lineup coincided with a suspicious upstick in team hittiness. The Canucks had 23 hits to Tampa’s 13. My theory: Alberts is an instigator of violence, akin to Mookie from Do the Right Thing. Keep him away from Brooklyn, trash cans, and Italian restaurant windows.
  • The Markus Naslund retirement ceremony was a thing of beauty, and done with penultimate class, but who expected Nazzy to talk for that long? We’ve come to expect brevity from him. Instead, we discovered that Markus Naslund is, like any other retired father, prone to rambling. That said, his reunion with the Vancouver fans still seemed much too short. We needed a left winger last night. He should have just played.
  • Best tie of the night goes to former Canuck goaltender Dan Cloutier. Daniel suggested Alain Vigneault was sporting some pretty spiffy neckwear as well, but my wife insisted, “Cloutier never won anything; let him have this one.”
  • Mason Raymond’s absence was felt yet again. Even when he’s not scoring, he’s a threat to do so, and it gives Ryan Kesler a bit more space to work with. Kes was going full tilt in the opening frame, but once the Lightning realized he was doing it alone, they smothered him like an only child. Related: Kesler never gets through with those bullish sprints up the middle, but I hope he never stops.
  • The Canucks won 64% of faceoffs, led by Manny Malhotra winning 14 of 19, including 9 of 10 in the neutral zone. Henrik went 11-for-19 and Kesler 11-for-16. The dirty underbelly of this stat? The Canucks only won 5 of 12 in the defensive zone, thereby failing to take advantage of their faceoff superiority by giving up possession on their defensive zone starts too often. Alex Bolduc lost all three faceoffs he took, by the way.
  • Food for thought: Manny Malhotra finished minus-1 and only won 1 defensive zone faceoff. As the Canucks’ defensive center, you’d have to call this a bad game for him. Despite scoring a goal, he didn’t do the things he’s in the lineup to do.
  • Spend a shift or two watching Raffi Torres. He makes some bizarre decisions with and without the puck. He makes cross-ice passes that suddenly end promising odd-man rushes. He puts himself out of position to make needless (albeit sweet) hits. In one instance, he tried to one-time a puck that was bouncing like Li’l Bow Wow on roller skates. My favourite Torres moment: when he sat down in the box after a first period penalty, the camera caught a nearby lady in a Bertuzzi jersey (with a Degrassi haircut) give him an amorous eyebrow raise. You know what they say about a guy with big eyes.
  • Ron Maclean still thinks it’s Mardi Gras. During the first intermission, he talked about how Guy Bocuher doesn’t focus enough on threesomes. Not everyone is into your kink, Maclean.
  • I actually really enjoyed the broadcast team last night. Mark Lee’s vocabulary was incredibly entertaining, and Weekes is steadily improving as a commentator. My wife: didn’t Kevin Weekes used to play goalie for the Canucks? Us: Kind of.
  • Before you lament the lost point, consider that the Canucks made an impressive comeback to get one. Furthermore, consider that comeback was led by two distinct instances of Wizardous Sedinerie. As the broadcast team showed Henrik’s goal (above) is scored on a shot so accurate it bent the space-time continuum.
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