May 112009
May 062009

In the post season so far the Canucks special teams woes have disappeared completely. They boast the third best Power Play in the league (tied for third with Chicago) at 25% and they’ve allowed the third fewest goals against while down a man of the remaining playoff teams.

Of the 11 goals they have scored in this series so far, 5 have been Power Play markers. While it’s nice to see the Canucks powerplay clicking they can’t rely on the Blackhawks sloppy play to win games. On top of having a red hot powerplay, the Canucks penalty kill has been equally hot. They’ve let in only 4 goals, which is tied for the second fewest goals allowed on the penalty kill in the playoffs so far. Boston is first with a perfect powerplay so far. 50% of your goals with the man advantage is impressive, but it’s going to end at some point. I’m looking to Bieksa, Burrows and Sundin to really step up play. Sundin to start setting up some more goals, be the playmaker we brought him in to be and Bieksa just to start pinching in from the point to pick up some points. Burrows knows where to be and when to be there, he’s slowed a bit from when he was hotter than fire but with the way he’s skating he’s due for another, and we all know how he likes to rack up the 5 on 5 points.

Sami Salo skated again today and while his return to game 4 is still tentative, I’d rather he wasn’t rushed. The Canucks banked on this happening and that’s why they picked up insurance players like Vaananen. What’s interesting is that without the shot of Salo on the point, the Canucks have managed to alter their Power Play and play down low instead of relying on the shot from the point and a rebound. Having Salo back can only improve the Power Play and also help bring back some more offense to the blue line. I know, offense from the blue line seems a little paradoxical, but he is the 2nd leading scorer on the team in the playoffs so far tied with Burrows for 2nd with 3 goals. He’s 4th in overal scoring with 6 points in 5 games played.

It’s a nice problem to have, a powerplay that’s too hot, but what worries me is that should we move on to the next round, playing a more disciplined team might hurt us. It’s foresight and foreshadowing, but the Canucks need to keep rolling all four lines and if they can get their legs moving, goals like Raymond’s on Tuesday night will start coming with ease. Looking forward, if the Canucks powerplay continues the way it is, they’re going to want to hope the Ducks win. They have a better chance of burning the Ducks with the PP than the Red Wings. Pronger, Parros and Neidermeyer can all help out the Canucks for the Cup cause by taking turns in the box.

Blog Song: A.M.P. – A.M.P. Army –

May 052009
May 042009

Amidst the chaos and stampede caused by the bandwagon emptying on Saturday, one thing was overlooked. It’s something that has killed the Canucks in the first two games and has subtly been a difference maker in the series so far. Hits.

One of the main reasons that the Blackhawks are coming back from 2 and 3 goal deficits is largely due to their hits, but it starts with their forchecking and playing of the body. The Canucks by no means boast a small roster, Hordichuk, Salo, Mitchell, Bieksa, and Rypien all know how to throw those big bone jarring heavy hits, and yet they’ve been quiet. Where has Shane O’Brien’s body been? On Saturday the biggest hit by a Canucks player was by Mason Raymond. Think about that for a second, then think about how horribly wrong that is.

The Canucks are playing a finesse team that they should be able to take the body to, yet they’re letting the liks of Burrish, Byfuglien and Eager push and throw them around. The Blackhawks are coming back because they’re able to win the battles to the puck (because of their forechecking and hitting) and they’re able to break the Canucks off the puck. The Canucks just aren’t asserting themselves physically at all and it’s hurting them.

Where’s Rypien been? After coming back full of energy and throwing his body into people like a runaway car, he’s been silent. Horidchuck was brought in for the rough stuff, and he’s quieter than the Sedins back when they were regularly referred to as the Sedin Sisters. Burrows who usually also catapults his body into players against the boards has been pretty tame. They have got to start beat Chicago up a little. I’m not talking about going head hunting, or taking lessons from Brashear, Downey, or Mike Brown on how to perfectly line up your elbow with the temple of someone’s head, but I do expect the Canucks to start playing some solid physical hockey. If that means subbing in Davison for Salo instead of Vaananen then so be it. The Canucks need to set the tone in the first period in Game 3 and it’s going to start with some hard hits.

And as pump of for game 3, nothing better than the song which aptly fits the title of this post. Get Amped! –

Side Note: Guts McTavish takes on the Chicago writers.

Apr 222009
Apr 162009
Apr 092009

At tonight’s game against the LA Kings – the Canucks’ last home game in the regular season – the team is handing out their annual end-of-season awards. Here are my personal picks:

Cyclone Taylor Trophy (presented to the Most Valuable Player)

Roberto Luongo

There are a lot of Canucks who have been critical to the team’s success this season. Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler and Willie Mitchell are having career seasons, and the Sedins have seemingly and quietly raised their game in the last couple of months. However, the fact is that the Canucks would not be in the position they are in right now – still challenging for first place in the Northwest Division and home ice advantage in the postseason – if not for Roberto Luongo. With Luongo in the lineup, the Canucks are 31-13-7; without him, they are 12-14-3.

Walter (Babe) Pratt Trophy (presented to the Most Valuable Defenseman)

Willie Mitchell

There’s no doubt that Big-stick Willie has been the Canucks’ most valuable defenseman this year. On a nightly basis, he’s faced the opposing teams’ best players; on a nightly basis, he’s shut them down. His career-high plus-28 rating is 4th best among all defensemen and 9th best in the entire NHL. He’s also set career-highs in assists (19) and points (22).

Most Exciting Player

Alex Burrows

Many of Alex Burrows’ 28 goals were momentum-shifting goals. And they were freakin’ exciting ones too – breakaways, shorthanded breakaways or just the result of some good, old-fashioned mucking and grinding. I’ve always loved his energy and tenacity but he’s taken it to a whole, different level this season.

Fred J. Hume Award (presented to this season’s Unsung Hero)

Ryan Kesler

At the start of the season, I don’t think anyone expected Kesler to be a 25-goal, 60-point guy. Like Burrows, Kesler has taken his game to another level this season and proved he was more than just a checking center. He doesn’t get as much credit for getting Sundin and Demitra going as Burrows has for getting the Sedins going.

Cyrus H. Mclean Trophy (presented to this season’s leading scorer)

Daniel Sedin

Going into tonight’s game, Daniel and Henrik both have 81 points. If they stay tied in points, Daniel wins the tiebreaker with 10 more goals. It’s worth noting though that Henrik has cracked the 20-goal barrier for the 1st time in his career (he has 21). Both lead the team with 7 GWG.

Molson Cup Award (presented to the player with the most Three Stars nominations throughout the season)

I honestly haven’t kept up with these nominations, though I will go out on a limb and say Alex Burrows or one of the Sedins win it.

Apr 092009
Apr 072009
Apr 062009
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