Oct 062009

Someone should tell the Canucks that the game starts before the third period. Someone should also remind Roberto Luongo that the season starts in October.

After being bounced by Steve Mason and the Columbus Blue Jackets last night, the Canucks are 0-3 and a regulation loss to the Habs away from setting a franchise low.

Needless to say, I’m not happy with the way the season has started. That said, I’m not ready to jump off the bandwagon just yet.

There were plenty of things to like about the Canucks’ performance last night. For starters, the game was exciting despite the loss. The Canucks threw 43 shots at Steve Mason – plus another 41 where they missed the net or the shot was blocked – and often had sustained offensive pressure on the Blue Jackets. Once again, the defense was active on offense and scored 2 of the Canucks’ 3 goals. (Incidentally, the defense has now scored exactly half of the Canucks’ goals this season.) Simply, fans that love firewagon hockey would have loved last night’s game.

The flip side of this is that fast, exciting hockey seems to have come at the expense of the defensive responsibility. At least in the first 3 games of the regular season, firewagon hockey has equalled Chinese fire drill on defense. Surely, this is one area the Canucks need to work on if they hope to break into the win column eventually.

Oct 052009

Game 3, home opener, Columbus Blue Jackets – same result. If you didnt look at the score, a game that should have been boring was exciting and eventful. The Canucks looked good from start to finish, they were firing on all cylinders, and for those that watched and those in attendance they saw something that hasn’t happened since Luongo was traded to Vancouver and signed: The team carried Luongo instead of Luongo carrying the team.

I’m not even sure where to start with Luongo. This isn’t the bandwagon flaring up, or me coming down hard on Roberto, but tonight he looked absolutely awful. I try to defend Luongo, it’s a team game and it’s rarely the fault of any individual player that the entire game is lost (unless when Sundin’s taking terrible penalties. It’s a joke. Seriously. Laugh.) Tonight’s loss can be solely blamed on Luongo. 3 straight goals, unanswered and all shouldn’t have gone in. They earned the first goal off a turnover when they had no momentum what so ever, but the whiff by Luongo? I’m scratching my head as to what went wrong. He didn’t look outstanding the first two games, but he looked fine and was still making the saves that garner him many of the Lu chants he gets night in and night out. Luongo lost this 2 points. The Canucks gave him everything he needed for the win. Sad to see, frustrating to see such a good effort fall short.

It’s only 3 games into the season, but the Canucks D looks bigger, badder and better than ever. They were solid in the defensive end last year, and this year the plus minus wouldn’t tell you that, but they’ve been on par with what we would expect. However, in the offensive zone this Canucks blue line looks like it belongs to another team. They are firing on all cylinders and really creating chances. The Canucks had 43 shots tonight, and another 41 opportunities that were either blocked, missed the net, or hit the post. A lot of that was driven by the defense. They look great and none look better than Willie Mitchell. He was amped from the puck drop tonight and you could see it in absolutely everything he did. He really earned the 2nd star he got tonight. Mitchell’s offensive presence (3 points in 3 games) to start the season might see him shatter his points record he set last year. I like the new look Willie a lot. 79 more games of him and if the Canucks can turn things around he’ll be key in a blue line that looks poised to be the best blue line in the NHL this season.

Samuelsson has looked great so far. He picked up another assist tonight and Vigneault was rewarding his play by giving him ice time late in the game. He killed the Canucks comeback by taking the bad penalty which lead to the put away 5th goal by Columbus. That being said, contrary to what his plus/minus would say he’s looked like one of the better Canucks out there. When the Canucks pick up their play and start walking over teams, the pace he’s playing and producing at is going to be key as far as the Canucks secondary scoring goes.

Amidst all of the negative and the stampede of bandwagoners heading over to Calgary, there’s still a lot to take away from tonight’s game. The Canucks may have lost 3 games to start the season, but they have dominated the play in all 3 games. With the exception of the end to the Colorado game where the Canucks frustrations came out, the Canucks have dominated the majority if not all of all three games. They’re not struggling to get shots on net, and haven’t lost any of the games due to flatfootedness or lazy penalties. The Canucks are creating opportunities, they are skating well, and there’s still a lot to look forward to. When things start to go right, they’re going to go very right and it’s going to be fun to be a Canucks fan again. This team is too good to be 0-3-0.

Apr 232009

Before I go praising the Canucks through every high hill and low dale, I have to give credit where credit is due and that’s to the St. Louis Blues. They played a fantastic series, they were young, inexperienced, and they gave us a heck of a run for our money. The 4-0 series sweep was no indication of how close the series was and even in the last game, they were down, they got up, they tied it, and they took us late into OT before they finally fell to their final playoff loss of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

So now the Canucks have up to 10 days off. Should I be worried? Should we start throwing up the red flags? The Canucks of old would certainly have raised question in our minds as to whether they’d benefit from such a long break. Then again, that was the Canucks squad that came out flat against most opponents many nights, that was the Canucks squad that had no secondary scoring, and that was a Canucks squad that’s specialty teams were absolutely brutal. Here’s a Canucks team that defies everything we know and love about this team as fans. They’ve shown us a level of play we never thought was possible from them, and now have me thinking that even after 10 days off they’ll be just fine.

The boys need to use the time wisely and just heal their wounds. The early round advancing was a blessing in disguise. Salo and Sundin who were healthy scratches in game 4 now have a little extra time to fix their respective injuries. Demitra could use the time, as could Luongo and Henrik Sedin who were both a little shaken up at different times in the OT series clincher. I’m sure even Ryan Johnson could use a break and take care of the bruises he’s inevitably amounted after going down for nearly every shot he can.

No matter who we face in the second round I think the break will benefit us. If we face Detroit because San Jose pulls off the comeback in their series, then we’ll face a team that’s equally rested (barring a miracle on ice by the Blue Jackets). If that’s the case then they’ll likely be a little off their game from the lack of game time too. If we play the winner of the Chicago/Calgary series, I get the feeling the winner is going to emerge after 7 games, and with that in mind, they’re going to come out tired, and beat up. So even if we’re off our game a little after the long break, the fact we’ve got rested legs should make up for the temporary out of sync play that should start to dissipate through the first period.

This is a Canucks team that we haven’t ever seen. This is the best team we’ve seen since the West Coast express saw Naslund and Bert finish 2 and 3 in the scoring race during the regular season. While we all could try and predict what might happen, we’re likely shooting in the dark because none of us would have predicted this the way it turned out.

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