Apr 162014
 

NHL_2014_StanleyCupPlayoffs

With the puck ready to drop for the 2014 NHL playoffs, a few of us at CHB make our predictions for the first round.

At least with the Canucks not making it, we can make our picks with our brains, rather than our hearts. Well, mostly our brains. We flipped coins, drew straws and other things too.

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild

Victoria: Avalanche in 5. This prediction is based on the real fear that if Minnesota makes it too far in the playoffs we’ll all fall into a coma. Most boring hockey ever. So come on Avs, knock them out and save us all.

Matt: Avalanche in 5. This isn’t the same team that won the Nathan MacKinnon sweepstakes at this time last year. This is a ferocious, tenacious, deep team that has excelled under the marvelous coaching of Patrick Roy and is stable in goal thanks to the performance of Semyon Varlamov. Minnesota is good enough to perhaps steal a game, but a series? I’m not buying it.

Chris: Avalanche in 5. There is no reason to believe that Patrick Roy will tolerate the team losing to the Wild. Therefore, fear itself will propel the Avs through to the second round.

J.J.: Avalanche in 7. I’ve been waiting for the Avs to crash and burn all year, but they look like the real deal. Wild will give them some pushback, but I don’t think enough of one to take the series.

Clay: Avalanche in 5. Colorado is too young, too fast, and too skilled to lose to the Wild.

St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Victoria: Hawks in 6. As long as Toews and Kane are healthy, I see the Hawks rolling over the Blues fairly easily. They’re young, strong, talented and they’ve been here before and know how to win. Blues, not so much.

Matt: Hawks in 7. A first-round series that should really be worthy of a Conference Final, I’d hedge my bets on the defending champion over a team which – on paper – is built for the playoffs. This looks like it could be a physical series from start to finish, but again I believe the Blackhawks’ top guns will survive this war of attrition. How much they have left after this is another debate in itself.

Chris: Hawks in 7. I’ll be honest, I flipped a coin to determine who wins in 7 games. These two teams will beat the living daylights out of each other.

J.J.: Hawks in 6. The Blues are hurt and slumping; the Hawks are about to get Kane and Toews back. Unless Ryan Miller turns into a money goalie overnight – the eye test says he hasn’t had the impact the Blues had hoped for – Chicago gets this one.

Clay: Hawks in 7.  One of the most intriguing first-round series. It sounds like Chicago is healthy, while St. Louis is everything but.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars

Victoria: Ducks in 5. Teemu wants one last Cup and he’s gonna steamroll Seguin, Benn and the Stars to get there. I’m hoping, because I am not a Ducks fan at all, that eventually they run out of steam, but it won’t be in this round.

Matt: Ducks in 4. The Ducks, who finished first in the West, look like a team that has been in cruise control the last couple weeks. But they appear motivated by what I’d like to call the Teemu Factor. Selanne, who looks like he knows this will be his final season, wants another Stanley Cup ring and I like the Ducks to play hard for the best player the franchise has ever known. Dallas is a team just happy to be here.

Chris: Ducks in 5. May the power Wild Wing compel you. Seriously… is anyone taking Dallas?

J.J.: Ducks in 6. How the Ducks keep winning hockey games with one good line and a (relatively) no-name goalie baffles me.

Clay: Ducks in 5. The Stars might get one, but that’s it. Look for some of Anaheim’s younger players (Bonino, Fowler) to shine.

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Victoria: Kings in 7. Because they can. With the addition of Gaborik to their already stacked scoring line-up – Carter, Kopitar, Doughty, etc. – they’ve got the advantage. Also, history dictates Sharks never win it all. This year will be no different and the Kings will put them out of their misery early.

Matt: Kings in 7. I know we say this almost every year, but the Sharks always look like a team that thrives in the regular season only to come up short in the playoffs. Los Angeles is a team that has struggled to find consistency on offense, but their club has a history of flipping the switch when it matters most. I’ll take SoCal over NorCal, yet again.

Chris: Kings in 6. Another series that will serve as a knock-down, drag-out brawl where only one team will survive. At least until round two.

J.J.: Sharks in 7. Jonathan Quick has been good, but the guys in front of him have had trouble scoring all year. This should be a familiar script for Canucks fans.

Clay: Sharks in 6. In this battle of teams that like to pound the Canucks, I like the Sharks’ firepower up front with Pavelski, Marleau, Thornton, Couture, Burns, and Hertl.

*****

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings

Victoria: Wings in 7. Because the Wings are like the Goonies, they never say die. And because good should always triumph over evil.

Matt: Wings in 7. My upset special for the first round. Detroit has been ravaged by injuries all season, but their kids (Tatar, Nyquist, etc.) have helped fill in the holes quite admirably. With Henrik Zetterberg practicing and potentially nearing a return, things are looking up on the injury front. The same can’t be said for Boston, who’s already without some key bottom six forwards in Chris Kelly and Dan Paille, not to mention the questionable status of Patrice Bergeron.

Chris: I’m cheering for Motor City and wish them all the best in a long and glorious cup run. Bruins in 6.

J.J.: Wings in 6. I had a late pick in my playoff pool and lost out on all the Bruins who went early in the draft. I hope Datsyuk and Nyquist both have a big series.

Clay: Bruins in 6. They are hungry and right now the class of the East. Can’t believe I used the word class in describing these goofballs.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens

Victoria: Habs in 6. Sure they’ve got Steven Stamkos, but Habs have Pacioretty and most importantly Price. If he can channel his Olympic mojo, Bolts don’t stand a chance.

Matt: Habs in 7. My early nomination for the toughest series to call. The Bolts have been bolstered with the return of Steven Stamkos (11 goals in 20 games since his return), and provided goaltender Ben Bishop and forwards Valtteri Filppula and Ondrej Palat return for Game 1, should make for a tough test. Montreal is always a motivated club in the postseason, and Carey Price should have extra incentive after claiming the gold in Sochi.

Chris: Habs in 7. Il faut battre le fer pendant qu’il est chaud.

J.J.: Habs in 6. Ca-rey, Ca-rey, Ca-rey! PK and the Vanek-Desharnais-Pacioretty line aren’t bad either.

Clay: Habs in 7. The longer Bishop stays out, the better for Montreal of course. Intrigued by the young Palat and Johnson on Tampa Bay, but I think Montreal is deeper throughout the line-up.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Victoria: Penguins in 4. Fleury has learned his lesson and won’t meltdown… at least not this soon. And Crosby, Neal, Kuntiz and Malkin will make quick work of….of…. whoever plays on Lumbus.

Matt: Penguins in 6. Every NHL postseason, there seems to be that one scrappy, annoying team that defies all odds and just doesn’t seem to go down without a big fight. The Blue Jackets reek of a team that is – perhaps foolishly – motivated to show the rest of the NHL that they’re worth being called a playoff team. The franchise hasn’t won a playoff game before, and the feisty Jackets should be able to embarrass Marc-Andre Fleury for at least a game or two.

Chris: Penguins in 4. Have to feel good for the Blue Jackets for givin’ ‘er a good effort. Pens already have the brooms.

J.J.: Penguins in 5. The Blue Jackets couldn’t beat the Penguins in the regular season; unless playoff-mode Fleury makes an appearance, I really don’t think they’ll beat them in the playoffs either.

Clay: Penguins in 5. Too much firepower up front for Pittsburgh. Plus that Crosby guy.

New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Victoria: Flyers in 7. This, kids, will be the series to watch. It will be long and scrappy in my opinion. AV has the ability to guide a team through the playoffs, but the Rangers have the history of failing early. Flyers have something to prove after a really crappy start to the season. If Giroux can stop with the stupid hits he’s got a history of in playoffs, then Philly will scrape through.

Matt: Rangers in 7. Long live the King. Henrik Lundqvist has been sensational down the stretch, scraping together a .949 save percentage in his final five games and looking as good as he’s ever been. The Rangers’ success hinges largely on his shoulders, but something should be said about New York’s 25 road wins, which are best in the Eastern Conference. It’s hard to see the Rangers not stealing a game on the road.

Chris: Rangers in 6. Because you know the darkest timeline has AV leading the Rangers to the Cup, right?

J.J.: Rangers in 7. Only because it would be so Canuck-y for AV’s new team to have some post-season success immediately after being fired by the Canucks.

Clay: Rangers in 7. Better goaltending. ‘Nuff said.

Feb 052014
 

Raphael Diaz scores his first goal as a Vancouver Canuck.

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

Another game, another loss, and a lot more questions left unanswered.

  • Last night’s game was probably the most uneventful Canucks vs. Bruins game in a long time. But I suppose when one team is not only mired in a deep slump, but also missing a good chunk of their regular roster due to injury, and the ones who did dress seemed unwilling to engage, the temperature cooled down considerably.
  • Henrik Sedin is hurt. That much is obvious. He can’t take face-offs and he can’t take a hit. And after every shift, when he skates back to the bench, he has that pained look on his face, kinda like those poor puppies in the SPCA commercials. I know Hank is tough – you can’t play 679 consecutive games in this league without being tough. I understand he’s the captain, and he wants to lead his team, which is severely undermanned right now. This is all admirable, but at this juncture of the season, why the hell are the Canucks risking a longer-term injury?
  • The Canucks’ injury list includes Chris Higgins, Brad Richardson, Mike Santorelli, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev. If you include Hank, which, really, the Canucks should, that’s four top-9 forwards and three top-6 d-men (even arguably top-4 d-men) – or half of the top part of the lineup – out of the lineup. As good friend of the blog, Gina from Canucks Corner tweeted last night, injuries aren’t an excuse, but they are a factor. In this age of parity, there aren’t many teams in the league that can withstand that many injuries.
  • Which leads me to today’s $64,000 question – what should be considered as realistic expectations for this Canucks team right now?
  • When I worked the Vancouver Grizzlies games at then GM Place a while ago, I used to remark how Bryant “Big Country” Reeves almost always played better after he was hit early in the game. It was as if a Shaq or Greg Ostertag elbow to the face served as some sort of wake-up call for the big fella. Last night, I thought David Booth was one of the better Canucks. (Giveaway that led to the Daniel Paille breakaway goal aside.) After Johnny Boychuk nailed him with a nice hit along the boards, he was noticeably more physical and had a little something-something going with Boychuk the rest of the game. Maybe, like Big Country, Booth just needed a wake-up call.
  • Raphael Diaz had a pretty solid Canucks debut. He led all Canucks skaters with 25:26 minutes of ice-time and he scored the team’s lone goal to boot. According to Extra Skater, he finished with a 65.0 CF%, which, in layman’s terms mean that, generally, good things happened for the Canucks when Diaz was on the ice.
  • Considering their depleted lineup, the Canucks were okay for the most part last night. But after their loss in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, getting up for the normally heated and emotional games against the Bruins was never a problem for them. Their problem was getting up for the games that followed.
Feb 052014
 

The Canucks lost again. And they couldn’t score on the power play again. And they lost again.

But at least the new guy scored – Raphael Diaz’s first goal of the season – and played a relatively uneventful and team-high 25:26 minutes.

Silver linings?

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Feb 042014
 

456606403_slide
(Photo Credit: canucks.nhl.com)

Vancouver Canucks (27-21-9) at Boston Bruins (35-16-3)

Remember when the Canucks met the Boston Bruins last time in December? Remember how good they looked in beating them 6-2 at Rogers Arena?

Neither do I.

As good as the Canucks were that night, they’ve been far from outstanding since then. Since scoring 6 goals that night, they’ve scored just 42 goals in 22 games – for those counting at home, that’s a 1.91 goals per game average over an entire quarter of a season. They were shut out by the Detroit Red Wings last night – the third time they’ve been shut out in the last 11 games – and they’ve now lost 4 games in a row. Or more importantly, they’ve only won 4 games since the calendar turned to 2014.

On the other hand, the Bruins seem to be doing okay. They’ve won 3 of their last 4 games, and don’t seem to have a problem finding the back of the net; their 3 wins were by scores of 6-3, 6-2 and 4-0.

#silverlinings

If there are any silver linings in the Canucks’ recent play, it’s that Eddie Lack and Roberto Luongo have consistently shown up and given their team at least a chance to stay in games.

Eddie Lack has been great. Last night against the Red Wings, he made 28 saves on 29 shots, many of them of the sensational variety. In his last 6 starts, he’s allowed just 1 goal in 4 of them; but in perhaps what typifies the Canucks’ offensive woes right now, they somehow managed to win just 1 of those 4 games.

After Lack started the last two games, Roberto Luongo will be back in net tonight. His save percentage (0.920) and GAA (2.30) this season are still among the top of the league. He stopped 41 of 43 shots against the Bruins in December; however, he hasn’t played in Boston since the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. For those of you who have repressed those memories already, Lu gave up 15 goals on 66 shots and was pulled twice in 3 starts.

Dun dun dun.

The objects in your rear view mirror are closer than they appear.

As the Canucks continue to struggle, their grasp on the final wild card playoff spot in the Western Conference is also weakening. After last night’s game, they’re a single point ahead of the 9th place Phoenix Coyotes, who, by the way, hold two games in hand over the Canucks. They’re also only 4 points up on the Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets, who are all tied with 59 points and currently hold 10th, 11th and 12th place, respectively, in the Western Conference.

Jan 222014
 

Kellan Lain takes on Kevin Westgarth of the Calgary Flames

Photo credit: canada.com

Love em’ or hate em’ no one can deny the pure entertainment value of a good old-fashioned dust-up. Young and old, alike, left their seats on Saturday to take in a few minutes of rock em’- sock em’ hockey as the Canucks and Flames unexpectedly erupted into a brawl seconds after the opening faceoff. Was it neccesary? Probably not. Did it make the league and the teams look bad? Probably. But we all know this league isn’t a morality convention – it’s a business. And until something can usurp the popularity of fighting, we’re sure to see a few more of these situations in the future.

The Canucks have struggled all year to find an identity that works for them and as of late, the identity seems to be that of the tough guy. Players like Tom Sestito and Zack Kassian have climbed to the top of the penalty minute leader rankings and the Nucks’ penalty killing has been put through the ringer. Only time will tell if this identity sticks but it isn’t the first time we’ve seen the boys frustrations boil over into chaos.

As I’m sure all of you have seen clips of Saturday’s brawl replayed ten times over, I chose to exclude that moment from the list, but here are 5 other memorable brawls from the Canucks past:

5) Vancouver vs Edmonton: A regular season game with no real meaning, this brawl erupted in the closing minutes out of Oiler frustration. Highlighted by a Gagner-Kesler tilt, this one involved some unexpected combatants.

4) Vancouver vs New York: A classic and tense conflict that foreshadowed a heated Stanley Cup Finals. Mike Keenan and Pat Quinn may have been the most heated people in the rink.

3) Vancouver vs Colorado: Forever a black mark on the Canuck franchise, this night infamously ended the career of Steve Moore. Todd Bertuzzi seeks retribution for his fallen comrade Markus Naslund, through a brutal sucker-punch and an ensuing pile-on.

2) Vancouver vs Boston: The follow-up to the heated series a year prior, this game had been marked on both teams’ calendar for months. An entertaining and spirited brawl that reignited this rivalry and helped keep it burning to this day. On a sidenote, I loathe these Boston commentators – note their undying bias.

1) Vancouver vs Chicago: The moment that started one of Vancouver`s great modern rivalries. This one had it all: the Burrows hair pull, Ben Eager fighting Kevin Bieksa, Dustin Byfuglien punching Luongo in the face- just classic.

Jan 082014
 
scrum

There’s just something about the Vancouver Canucks. Everyone seems to want a piece of them. Sure they are a consistently solid team with (somewhat) mouthy players like Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa and Alex Burrows, but does that merit, what seems to be, a league-wide hatred? If you ask the players they’d tell you they like being hated – it means they are doing their job. But there are certain players which go above beyond the casual disdain. Players that seem to thrive on making the Canucks miserable whenever they get a chance.

These players are sprinkled throughout the league and may only visit Rogers Arena once or twice a year but Canucks Nation does not forget. We proudly and stubbornly maintain our air of loathing for years if we have to. For these are the players Facebook groups are made of. Players that cause Canucks fans everywhere to put down their beers and join in a very heated and very unanimous bashing.

This list could probably become a graduate thesis, but I’ve managed to narrow it down to the five most disliked players by Canucks fans in the league today. Hate away:

5) Dave Bolland- This one dates back a few years to Bolland’s antagonizing of the Sedin twins. A central part of the on ice rivalry, Bolland took it too far when he publicly insulted the veteran brothers  on Chicago radio.

4) Dustin Brown- A player who doesn’t seem to respect the “code” involving star players, Brown always seems to gravitate towards the Sedins often plastering them with high hits and vicious checks.

3) Tim Thomas- Just uttering the alliteration of this goalie’s name can get you glares among Canuck fans. Stemming back to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, there is no love lost for the Bruins’ former goaltender. Here he forgets about the puck and absolutely nails Henrik Sedin (no call of course).

2) Joe Thornton- A thorn in the Canucks side, Joe has had some legendary battles with our boys. With the San Jose sharks being somewhat of a foil to the Vancouver Canucks, there’s no wonder Jumbo Joe is a big part of this rivalry. Whether it’s scoring a big goal, or putting his hand in Henrik Sedin’s face during a meeting with the ref, Joey knows how to get under the Canucks skin.

1) Brad Marchand- Was there ever any doubt? Public enemy number one has to go to Brad Marchand. Cheap hits, sarcastic gestures and an overall rat-likeness has garnered Marchand the position of most-loathed in the city of Vancouver. Here he cleanly hits tough-guy Sami Salo. Notice my use of italics….

Dec 152013
 

As far as rivalry matches go, you couldn’t ask for much more. Roberto Luongo was great. Tuukka Rask wasn’t. Ryan Kesler, Chris Higgins and Mike Santorelli were in beast mode. Milan Lucic wasn’t. The Sedins didn’t back down. Brad Marchand was being a dick. As usual. David Booth scored on a helluva snipe of a shot. Chris Tanev scored. Shorthanded, no less. But most importantly, in the Boston Bruins’ first visit to Rogers Arena since Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, the Canucks won. And won in convincing fashion.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Dec 142013
 
Luongo recorded his 65th career shutout last night against Edmonton. That was merely a warm up for the game tonight against Boston.

Luongo recorded his 65th career shutout last night against Edmonton. That was merely a warm up for the game tonight against Boston.

Canucks fans will never forget the 2010/2011 season. I mean, it was one of the most successful years in franchise history. And who could forget the dominance and ecstasy that season was or the heartbreak in the way it ended as tonight’s visitors, the Boston Bruins, won the Stanley Cup in Game 7 on our home ice? That Stanley Cup run brought out a gritty rivalry between the Canucks and the Bruins. It brought out a different level of hatred that’s extended even to fans and media from both cities.

Because of the NHL’s unbalanced schedule at the time and the lockout-shortened season last season, these two teams have only met once since the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals – a Vancouver visit to Boston on January 7, 2012, or as Mike Gillis called it, the day the Canucks’ 2011/2012 season started to go downhill. Cory Schneider was in net that game, a 4-3 Canucks win, and Cody Hodgson scored the winning goal, but the Canucks’ play sagged after that game. Despite having the league’s best record in the regular season, they were dispatched promptly in the playoffs by the Los Angeles Kings.

Tonight’s tilt is the first of two meetings between the Canucks and Bruins this season; they meet again in Boston in February. This is the last game of the Canucks’ 5-game home stand. They’ve won the first 4 games so far, and wouldn’t it be something if they could cap off a perfect home stand with a win against one of their most hated rivals tonight? It won’t be easy though. While the Canucks have been playing well, the Bruins have been equally good. The Bruins have won 4 games in a row, including 3 consecutive wins in Canada (Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton).

Who’s Hot

Roberto Luongo was NHL.com’s second star last night after his shutout performance against the Oilers. More importantly, he’s won his last 4 starts. In that span, he’s only allowed 4 goals while stopping 114 of 118 shots (0.966 save percentage).

Jason Garrison continued his torrid scoring pace with 3 assists last night. He now has 13 points in his last 10 games, and his 22 points for the season ties him for 4th in scoring among all NHL defensemen.

With goaltender Tuukka Rask battling the flu, backup goaltender Chad Johnson started in goal in the Bruins’ last game against the Oilers on Thursday. He’s has made the most of his starts this season and has won 6 of the 7 games he’s played.

Jarome Iginla (yes I forgot he played for Boston as well) has 3 goals in his last 3 games. He currently sits in 4th in team scoring.

Who’s Out

The flu has made its way through the Bruins locker room with Tuukka Rask being one on of the latest victims. If you believe head coach Claude Julien, he may or may not play tonight, “We just have to play through it… so Rask may play through it tonight.”

The Bruins will also be without Chris Kelly, Loui Eriksson, Daniel Paille, Adam McQuaid and Dougie Hamilton, all out with injuries. Shawn Thornton is still sitting out his suspension, the full length of it to be announced later today.

The Canucks are still without Alex Edler, Alex Burrows and Jordan Schroeder.

Keep Calm

Nervousness is a perfectly normal feeling when the Canucks are playing the Bruins so here’s something to calm you.

You're welcome.

You’re welcome.

Sep 302013
 

On the eve of the start of the 2013/2014 NHL regular season, I preview the 30 teams, one division at a time.

Boston Bruins vs Buffalo Sabres

Photo credit: Sportsnet

Boston Bruins

The Good

It’s scary to think, but the Bruins, which made the Stanley Cup Finals last year, may have added some more pop to their offense. Not only is their core is largely intact, with David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron coming off healthy seasons, but the B’s also replaced the injury-prone, Nathan Horton, with 25+ goals winger, Loui Eriksson, and 41-year old Jaromir Jagr with a slightly-younger but extremely-motivated Jarome Iginla.

The Bad

Trading Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to the Dallas Stars – to acquire Eriksson – really cuts into their forward depth.

The Outlook

It’ll be interesting to see how they fare with the Detroit Red Wings now in the Atlantic Division, but expect the Bruins to still be a Stanley Cup favorite.

*****

Buffalo Sabres

The Good

The good news for the Sabres is, this is a contract year for leading scorer, Thomas Vanek, and no. 1 goaltender, Ryan Miller, so both should be motivated to perform well.

The Bad

Even if Vanek and Miller have a good season, it may very well be their last one in Buffalo. Neither seem to want to re-sign with the Sabres, and it was rumored that the Sabres were entertaining trade discussions for both.

The Outlook

Like it or not, the Sabres are rebuilding and will rely more on youngsters like Cody Hodgson, Tyler Ennis, Mikhail Grigorenko, and even 25-year old goaltender, Jhonas Enroth.

*****

Detroit Red Wings

The Good

The Red Wings finally got their wish and got their move to the Eastern Conference. The lesser travel and generally wider open style of play in the East should work well for a skilled, albeit aging, core. Should.

The Bad

The Wings continue to build their lineup around Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, who are 35 and 32 years old, respectively. And this off-season, they surrounded them with a 40-year old Daniel Alfredsson and a 30-year old Stephen Weiss; both Alfredsson and Weiss will combine to make $10.4 million.

The Outlook

Old Central Division teams like the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators loved to suffocate the Wings. The Wings will definitely have a bit more room now, but so will their opponents. As long as the Wings can keep up and stay healthy, they should make the playoffs.

*****

Florida Panthers

The Good

The Panthers have some nice, young players playing key roles – Jonathan Huberdeau, Erik Gudbranson, Dmitry Kulikov and Jakob Markstrom to name a few – and have surrounded them with good vets like Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky, Brad Boyes, Ryan Whitney and Tim Thomas.

The Bad

The Panthers should be a team on the rise, but unfortunately, are in a tough division with the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators favored to come out of the Atlantic.

The Outlook

The Panthers must be hoping the kids are ready to take another step and the vets can take some pressure off them so as not to repeat last season’s last place finish.

*****

Montreal Canadiens

The Good

PK Subban won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman last season and is now entering the final year of the contract that’s paying him just $2.875 million. Alex Galyenchuk and Brendan Gallagher are coming off solid rookie campaigns and look to be much better.

The Bad

George Parros was the only size addition to a pretty undersized lineup.

The Outlook

The Habs are looking up. But that’s only because they’ll likely to regularly ice a lineup including 7 players standing less than 6 feet.

*****

Ottawa Senators

The Good

The Senators lost long-time captain, Daniel Alfredsson, to free agency, but promptly replaced him with power winger, Bobby Ryan. He should mesh nicely with an offense that already includes top-liners, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek, improving Kyle Turris and Mike Zibanejad, and a healthy Erik Karlsson.

The Bad

Operating with an internal salary cap of only around $50 million, there’s little room for improvement in the lineup.

The Outlook

The Sens are a balanced team throughout the lineup. If they stay healthy, they should be considered a contender in the Eastern Conference.

*****

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Good

Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis will continue to pace the offense, while vesatile Teddy Purcell and newcomer Valterri Filpulla will help provide some support.

The Bad

Everything else. Not only does the loss of Vincent Lecavalier (bought out) hurt the league’s 3rd-ranked offense, the Bolts also don’t have much in the back end or in goal. On d, there’s litle depth after Victor Hedman, Matt Carle, and 39-year old, Sami Salo. In goal, neither Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback have played a full NHL season as a starter.

The Outlook

It looks like it’s going to be another long season for Bolts fans.

*****

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Good

The Leafs may be in cap hell right now, but you can’t argue they didn’t at least improve themselves from last season’s team that almost beat the Boston Bruins in the first round of the NHL playoffs. David Clarkson (when he comes off suspension), Dave Bolland (when he gets healthy), Mason Raymond and Paul Ranger will provide some welcome veteran depth and grit to an already potent offense.

The Bad

Dave Nonis, Randy Carlyle and company don’t have a heck of a lot of roster flexibility.

The Outlook

The Leafs will push for a playoff spot. Which, for us Canucks fans, sucks.

Jun 012013
 

Credit: NHL.com

The NHL’s Final Four starts today with the star-laden Penguins taking on the big, bad Bruins in the East.  In the West, it’s the talented Blackhawks against the defending champ Kings.

It’s very possible that many hockey fans – Vancouver Canucks hockey fans that is – are still undecided as to who to cheer for.  Thus, we here at CHB wanted to provide you with some suggestions.

Chicago Blackhawks

Recent History

The Chicago Blackhawks ousted the Vancouver Canucks in the second-round of the playoffs in both 2009 and 2010 before the Canucks got some revenge in the spring of 2011 in a thrilling seven-game first-round series.  Then in March 2012, just a few weeks before the start of the playoffs, Duncan Keith took out Daniel Sedin with a vicious elbow in the neutral zone, effectively leading to the Canucks’ disappointing first-round exit.

What’s to Like

Jonathan Toews, despite the occasional tantrum, is still a great leader and one of the hardest-working players in the league.  Patrick Kane has cleaned off his off-ice shenanigans and is very exciting to watch.  Patrick Sharp is one of the best snipers in the NHL.  Overall, the team plays an exciting brand of hockey led by their creative forwards.  And Brent Seabrook was born in Richmond if that makes a difference to you.

What’s not to Like

Duncan Keith.  Whether it’s concussing a Sedin or getting into it with a female reporter, the guy simply isn’t that likable.   As well, many Canucks fans still can’t get over those back-to-back playoff losses a few years ago.

Likability Score:  2.5/5

 

Los Angeles Kings

Recent History

The Canucks disposed of the Kings in six games in the 2010 playoffs.  Then, we all know what happened last year.  The Kings dominated the Canucks in the 2012 playoffs, much like they dominated every team they faced on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.  The Kings proved to be a very deep and rugged team, and goaltender Jonathan Quick was extremely strong.

What’s to Like

Jonathan Quick for one.  He is extremely athletic and absolutely never gives up on the play.  It’s very possible he could win back to back Conn Smythe awards.  Jeff Carter and Mike Richards are fun to watch (mostly) and are clean players (although David Booth might disagree).  Drew Doughty is an exciting player when he’s on his game.   Darryl Sutter is growing on me albeit very slowly.  And Willie Mitchell is still there.

What’s not to Like

Captain Dustin Brown has developed a reputation of being a diver, so much so that there are numerous YouTube “tribute” videos dedicated to his mastery of the craft.  It’s too bad, because at his best he’s a talented, scrappy player.

Likability Score: 3/5

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

Recent History

There’s hardly any to write of.  The Canucks didn’t play the Penguins in this lockout-shortened season, and prior to that they’ve only played once in a year. The games have ranged from the relatively-forgettable to the extremely-memorable (anyone remember Luongo’s overtime penalty shot save on Crosby at GM Place in December 2007)?  I must admit that I’ve been a Crosby fan ever since he scored the golden goal here in February 2010.

What’s to Like

If you’re a fan of offensive hockey, then Pittsburgh is your team.  Their forward depth is unbelievable with Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Iginla, Dupuis, Kunitz, Morrow, Jokinen, etc and they often need to outscore their goaltending.  Kris Letang is a stud back on the blue line, and you have ex-Canucks Tanner Glass and Matt Cooke (more on him below).

What’s not to Like

Much like some fans vehemently oppose Lebron James and his cast of superfriends on the Miami Heat in the NBA, there could be some who want to see the Penguins fail after loading up at the trade deadline.  As well, Matt Cooke is extremely polarizing, despite being an ex-Canuck.

Likeability Score:  4/5

 

Boston Bruins

Recent History

As if you need me to actually type anything here…haha.  The Bruins beat the Canucks in the Stanley Cup final in 2011 in a spirited and emotional series.  Their January 2012 regular season meeting in Boston (an intense game that Vancouver won 4-3) is regularly cited as the start of the Canucks’ downfall last year.

What’s to Like

My parents taught me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say to not say anything at all.

What’s Not to Like

Marchand.  Lucic.  Paille. Horton. Thornton. Chara. Julien.  And Tim Thomas….oh wait….

Likability Score:  0/5

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