Apr 112013
 

Cory Schneider’s got the flu so Roberto Luongo gets a start. And the Canucks had to sign University of Calgary Dino, Dustin Butler, to back him up.

No worries though. Lu’s got this – he made stopped 40 of 41 Flames shots en route to a 4-1 Canucks win.

Yeah, he’s not bad, eh?

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Apr 062013
 

Chris Higgins of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates a goal he scored with teammate Derek Roy.

Photo credit: AP

For GM Jay Feaster and the Calgary Flames, the NHL trade deadline resembled more of a fire sale than anything. In a span of a week, they dealt their long-time captain, Jarome Iginla, to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and their no. 1 defenseman, Jay Bouwmeester, to the St. Louis Blues. In return, the Flames received nothing more than some depth prospects, a couple of first round picks, and perhaps some hockey tape and a used water bottle. But don’t fret, Calgarians, this is all part of the rebuild, right? RIGHT?!

If Flames fans can take comfort in anything, it’s that the team has finally admitted it needs to gut its aging core and move forward. After years of denying it needed to rebuild – even Feaster admitted he should have started this process earlier – it finally made the moves to start stockpiling younger assets. And in today’s NHL, where 19 of the top 25 scorers are under 30 years old, that’s a good thing.

Of course, the Flames will experience some growing pains. Since Iginla was traded on March 27, they’ve lost all 4 games and have been outscored 20-8. Against the Edmonton Oilers on trade deadline day, they blew a 2-0 lead and ended up losing 8-2. Last night against the San Jose Sharks, they took a 1-0 into the second intermission only to let the Sharks score twice in the third period – one a couple of minutes in and the other with a couple of minutes left – en route to a 2-1 loss.

And it doesn’t get any easier for the Flames the rest of the way. 7 of their remaining 12 games are on the road, where they’ve won just 3 times all season (3-12-3). They’re a dismal 0-11-1 in their last 12 games away from the Saddledome, including 10 straight losses.

Canucks Record

20-11-6, 46 points (1st in the Northwest Division, 3rd in the Western Conference)

Season Series

The Canucks are 16 points ahead of the Flames in the standings, but the Flames did win the last meeting between the two teams. In that game, Alain Vigneault took a questionable abuse of official penalty in the third period, and while the Canucks technically killed the penalty, the Flames scored 2 seconds after it expired to break what was a 2-2 tie at that point.

Cory Schneider and company have won 4 straight games at Rogers Arena, outscoring their opponents 11-3. Schneider posted shutouts in 2 of those games.

Who’s Hot

The only things “hot” about Calgary right now are the flames coming out of their logo.

Chris Higgins has a 4-game point streak that includes scoring in 3 of those 4 games. Fresh from signing a 4-year/$10 million contract extension, he had a particularly good game on Thursday against the Oilers, and if that game is any indication, his line with Derek Roy and Jannik Hansen could be the perfect tonic to the Canucks’ scoring woes.

What’s Not

The Canucks finally connected on the powerplay on Thursday – they scored during a lengthy two-man advantage – but they still rank 28th in the NHL in powerplay efficiency (13.1%).

Likewise, their penalty kill has been better (81.7%), but ranked 15th in the league, it’s still quite average.

With just 11 games left in the season, the Canucks may want to start getting their special teams in order, especially if they want to make a deep run in the playoffs.

Quickies

  • After a quick cup of tea with the big boys, Nicklas Jensen is going back to the Chicago Wolves. (Vancouver Province)
  • Mason Raymond and Dale Weise have recovered from their respective injuries and will return to the lineup tonight. (Vancouver Sun)
Mar 042013
 

After dominating the Kings last night, the Canucks play the second of their weekend back-to-back against the Calgary Flames. That is if they ever make it to the arena.

In goal, it’s the Battle of the Backups: Roberto Luongo for the Canucks and Danny Taylor with his first ever home start for the Flames.

As it turns out, it was more fair than we anticipated.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 042013
 

I look at the good, the bad, and the interesting from the Canucks’ 4-2 defeat to the Calgary Flames from Sunday, March 3 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.

Having arrived in snow-laden Calgary just 2 and a half hours before face-off, the Canucks played hard in the first period but wilted as the game wore on.

In the video, I touch on Jannik Hansen, David Booth, early penalties, Roberto Luongo, the Canucks’ lack of discipline, bad weather, Tom Sestito and another benching of Keith Ballard.

Feb 112013
 

The Canucks are back from a short two-game roadtrip where they potted four solid points and are looking to douse the Flames.

And with Chris Golden manning the CHB TGATT desk tonight, you all know what that means:

That’s right. Top Freaking Gun!

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Feb 042013
 

Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers

I think we’re finally starting to see signs of life from our Vancouver Canucks.

They played this week with some consistency, a lot of physicality, and while they still can’t put the puck in the net as much as they’d like, it’s helped them to a 2-0-1 record.

They started the week with a heartbreaking shootout loss to the LA Kings. The Canucks built a 2-0 lead, but couldn’t convert on the powerplay to put the Kings away, allowing the Kings to come back and steal the game in the shootout.

On Wednesday, the Canucks continued their dominance against the Colorado Avalanche with a tidy, 60-minute effort, Roberto Luongo’s 61st career shutout, and a 3-0 win.

On Friday, they faced the rival Chicago Blackhawks. After an intense lead up, most expected a physical and ugly game, but none of the rough stuff materialized. By the end of it, the Canucks didn’t exact their revenge on Duncan Keith and instead came away with the 2 points. Jordan Schroeder experienced his first big NHL moment as he snuck one past Corey Crawford’s five-hole for the shootout winner in his first shootout attempt.

Record

8 GP, 4-2-2, 10 points (1st in Northwest Division, 3rd in Western Conference)

Who’s Next

Monday, February 4, 2013 at Edmonton Oilers (6:30 PM start)

After being named the NHL’s 3rd Star of the Week, Roberto Luongo will get his 4th consecutive start in goal. Bobby Luo has looked like vintage Luo of late. With great positional play and timing, he seems to be making key saves at key times.

The Oilers, who currently sit in 2nd place in the Northwest Division, won the two teams’ first meeting back in January, so look for the Canucks to come out strong and get some payback.

Sam Gagner (3G-6A) and Taylor Hall (2G-7A) are both tied for the team lead with 9 points. Rookie sensation and the master of cellys, Nail Yakupov, leads the team with 5 goals.

Thursday, February 7, 2013 at Minnesota Wild (5:00 PM)

With the huge off season acquisitions of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, the Minnesota Wild have their sights set on competing for the Northwest division title. Mike Rupp, acquired today from the NY Rangers, will add some veteran savvy and toughness and will join his new team for this game.

Zach Parise leads the team in goals (5) and points (9) in 8 games played.

The Canucks took 10 of a possible 12 points (4-0-2) against the Wild last season. They were led by Daniel Sedin’s 10 points (3G-7A) and plus-2 rating. Kyle Brodziak and Devin Setoguchi led the Wild with 2 goals and 2 assists each.

Saturday, February 9, 2013 vs. Calgary Flames (7:00 PM)

As of this writing, the Flames sit last in the Western Conference, to the surprise of no one, except maybe the Flames.

This will be the second meeting between the two clubs. Two weeks ago at Rogers Arena, the Canucks won in a shootout, paced by Zack Kassian, who scored a goal and the shootout winner.

Alex Tanguay leads the team with 6 points, but it has been the play of Jiri Hudler that has Flames fans excited. Hudler was brought in for top-6 production and he has done exactly that with 5 points (2G-3A) in just 3 games played.

Jan 242013
 

One team in tonight’s match up will see their first win of the season. I, for one, can’t stand to see Calgary get a win before us, so let’s hope we take it. Maybe the Shaft theme song will help us here. It can’t hurt.

If that didn’t get you pumped for the game, maybe Gary Valk can.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Jan 182013
 

The Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues could be battling for top spot in the Western Conference this season.

Yesterday, we previewed the Eastern Conference. Today – the Western Conference:

1. St. Louis Blues – 60 points

Status: Contender
Goaltending: A-
Defense: A-
Forwards: B-
Coaching: A

Why: The time is now for the Blues, who are strong in all areas and backstopped by one of the best pairings in the league (Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott). A Conference Finals appearance, at the very least, should be expected. Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pieterangelo are among the best young defensemen in the game and eat up minutes on the back end. The addition of rookie winger Vlad Tarasenko should give the Blues three scoring lines with grit.

2. Los Angeles Kings – 58 points

Status: Contender
Goaltending: A+
Defense: B+
Forwards: B
Coaching: B-

Why: The Kings finally played to their potential in last year’s post season, winning the Stanley Cup after a difficult regular season. There’s no reason to expect similar struggles this time around, especially with the lockout-related layoff recharging some of the players’ batteries. An injury to Willie Mitchell hurts somewhat, but should give more icetime to second-year defenseman Slava Voynov, who was the reason L.A. could part with Jack Johnson at last year’s deadline. The Kings are extremely deep at centre, with Anze Kopitar a dominant two-way force (although he’s starting the season with a knee injury). Jonathan Quick was the NHL’s best goalie in 2012, and is supported by Jonathan Bernier, who could easily start for a number of other teams.

3. Vancouver Canucks – 50 points

Status: Decline
Goaltending: A-
Defense: B+
Forwards: B+
Coaching: B-

Why: The window on the Canucks’ Stanley Cup dream is quickly closing. Injuries have rendered Ryan Kesler a question mark, and without him it’s hard to see where the goals will come from beyond the Sedin line. David Booth’s injury also adds to these offensive woes. The team is deep in net, and really needs to move Roberto Luongo as soon as possible to fill gaps up front. The blueline is very solid but unspectacular, with Jason Garrison likely to struggle to repeat last year’s goal-scoring performance. New starting goalie Cory Schneider was the only significant Canuck to spend time playing during the lockout. Expect this team to be slow out of the gate.

4. Detroit Red Wings – 54 points

Status: Decline
Goaltending: B
Defense: C+
Forwards: B
Coaching: A

Why: The Red Wings blueline looks rather suspect, especially when you consider two former Maple Leafs (Carlo Colaiacovo, Ian White) will be expected to shoulder top-4 minutes. Actually, the Wings will likely go as far as two youngsters take them: If Brendan Smith can step in and fill some of the offensive void left by Lidstrom’s retirement, that will be a major boost to the team’s fortunes. Similarly, if Damien Brunner can find chemistry with Henrik Zetterberg, it will fill the void left by Jiri Hudler’s departure. Pavel Datsyuk remains an elite player, and Jimmy Howard is a proven commodity in goal.

5. Nashville Predators – 52 points

Status: Status Quo
Goaltending: A
Defense: B
Forwards: C-
Coaching: B-

Why: The Predators will be successful as long as Pekka Rinne remains a top-end goaltender in the NHL. Thankfully, Rinne played throughout the lockout, and should be in top-form right out of the gate. Yes, the loss of Ryan Suter has an impact, but not as much as you may expect, as youngsters Jonathan Blum and especially Roman Josi are ready for additional minutes. Up front, the team is filled with strong skating grinders, with Craig Smith the most likely Predator to experience a bump in offensive performance. This team will never win pretty, and the style of play likely to be found during this shortened season may actually be to their benefit. For what it’s worth, reviews of Sergei Kostitsyn’s play overseas during the lockout were extremely positive.

6. Phoenix Coyotes – 52 points

Status: Status Quo
Goaltending: B
Defense: B
Forwards: D+
Coaching: A

Why: Mike Smith came out of nowhere to dominate between the pipes, lifting the Coyotes all the way to the Western Conference Finals. A similar level of performance should get them safely back into the playoffs, although an injury would be devastating (the drop-off in quality to backup Jason LaBarbera is massive). Oliver Ekman-Larsson was a point per game defenseman in the AHL, and looks ready to assume the mantle left by Niklas Lidstrom as the best Swedish defenseman in the NHL. Nobody squeezes more out of marginal NHL talent on the third and fourth lines than coach Dave Tippett. Steve Sullivan is unlikely to replace the performance of Ray Whitney (off to Dallas), which means the time is now for Mikel Boedker and Martin Hanzal to find their offensive game. In all honesty, the Predators and Coyotes are arguably the same team playing in different coloured jerseys.

7. Chicago Blackhawls – 51 points

Status: Dogfight for a playoff spot
Goaltending: D
Defense: A
Forwards: A-
Coaching: C+

Why: The elite talent to be found on the Blackhawks roster – and there’s a lot of it – is held back by questionable goaltending. Corey Crawford was inconsistent in goal last season for Chicago, and Ray Emery wasn’t much better. The defense unit is largely unchanged and should be strong, although Duncan Keith’s play dipped slightly in 2011-12. Up front, Marian Hossa should be ready after a devastating playoff hit from Raffi Torres, and Patrick Kane played very well overseas during the lockout.

8. Minnesota Wild – 49 points

Status: Dogfight for the playoffs
Goaltending: B-
Defense: C
Forwards: C+
Coaching: D+

Why: Since when has spending a lot of money on unrestricted free agents led to on-ice success? Granted, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are huge improvements to the Wild roster, but this remains a work-in-progress lineup. Mikko Koivu should thrive with Parise on his wing, but the real key to the Minnesota attack this year will be the development of Mikael Granlund. If Granlund is Calder Trophy-worthy offensively, that should push the Wild into playoff contention. The defense behind Suter is thin and relatively young, and who knows how he will respond to greater responsibility than what he had in Nashville. Nik Backstrom is better-than-average in goal, but has been injury prone of late. His backup – Josh Harding – also has injury issues and was diagnosed with MS in October. Raised expectations and a slow start could cost coach Mike Yeo his job.

9. Edmonton Oilers – 49 points

Status: Dogfight for a playoff spot
Goaltending: C-
Defense: C
Forwards: C+
Coaching: C-

Why: Let’s be clear – on paper, right now, it’s hard to see the Oilers as a playoff team. However it’s very likely they will improve upon every grade listed above over the course of the season. That’s what happens when young teams develop and get better. It should also be noted that only the Flyers had more players active during the lockout than the Oilers. Rookie Jeff Schultz has dominated the AHL, and could be the most exciting rookie defenseman to hit the NHL since Sergei Zubov. NHL-calibre play from the rookie Schultz, and injury-free play from Ryan Whitney, will give a significant boost to the Oiler blueline. Meanwhile, the team is loaded with offensive talent up front. Jordan Eberle, in particular, looks like he might be ready to join elite status. Finally, there isn’t a more respected coach internationally than Ralph Krueger. If he lives up to his reputation, it’s just one more reason why the Oilers can make the playoffs.

10. San Jose Sharks – 49 points

Status: Dogfight for a playoff spot
Goaltending: C
Defense: A-
Forwards: C+
Coaching: C

Why: The Sharks nucleus remains formidable, but beyond Logan Couture, it is also aging, with the best days behind Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle and Patrick Marleau. San Jose remains a team with a good top-six and a sketchy bottom six group of forwards. The blueline is the team’s strength. Brent Burns is still recovering from off-season surgery and had a disappointing first season on the West Coast, but has the talent to be a solid #2 defenseman. Brad Stuart and Doug Murray are solid defensively, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic is underrated. In goal, Antti Niemi continues his history of inconsistent play, and may be pushed by backup Thomas Greiss.

11. Dallas Stars – 46 points

Status: Dogfight for a playoff spot
Goaltending: A-
Defense: C
Forwards: C+
Coaching: C-

Why: The Stars have rolled the dice in the off-season, loading up with aged veterans Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr in efforts to get the team back into the playoffs. It’s quite possible this strategy could blow up in the team’s face, as older players will have their energy and bodies taxed during the shortened season. Top-line forward Jaime Benn is also sitting out with a contract dispute, making it even more likely the Stars get off to a poor start. The blueline is thin, although Alex Goligoski has untapped potential as a puck-mover. The key then is how well Kari Lehtonen can play, and how healthy he can remain. Lehtonen was Vezina-calbire last season.

12. Anaheim Ducks – 44 points

Status: Also-rans
Goaltending: C+
Defense: C
Forwards: B
Coaching: C-

Why: Like their state rivals in San Jose, the Anaheim Ducks boast a very solid offensive nucleus in their top two lines (Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne) but little depth beyond that upfront. The hope is rookies Nick Bonino, Kyle Palmieri and Devante Smith-Pelly can fill the talent gap, but that’s asking a lot (especially Smith-Pelly, who hasn’t shown much in the AHL). The addition of Scott Niedermayer as an assistant coach is hoped to help the stalled development of Cam Fowler and Luca Sbisa. They must improve to support what is otherwise a slow-footed, veteran blueline. In net, Jonas Hiller had a poor 2011-12 and must rebound for the Ducks to get into the playoff race. A slow start could see some major changes to the roster, not to mention coach and management.

13. Calgary Flames – 43 points

Status: Also-rans
Goaltending: B+
Defense: C+
Forwards: C-
Coaching: C-

Why: There’s just not enough talent on this roster to win a playoff spot, which means it will take a superhuman season from Miikka Kiprusoff to get the Flames to the post-season. At his age (36) that’s a lot to ask. Meanwhile, the team’s best player, Jarome Iginla, has already suffered a groin injury and has a lot of wear and tear on his 35-year old body. The additions of Jiri Hudler, Roman Cervenka (out with a blood clot) and Dennis Wideman are band-aid solutions to solving some of the offensive issues that have plagued the team recently. You can question each players’ willingness to compete and they’re likely to be found in Bob Hartley’s doghouse at some point. In fact, a poor start to the short Flames season could see both Kiprusoff and Iginla finally dealt, in efforts to better secure the team’s future.

14. Colorado Avalanche – 41 points

Status: Wild Card
Goaltending: B
Defense: D
Forwards: C
Coaching: C-

Why: Whereas the Capitals are the biggest question mark in the Eastern Conference, welcome to the biggest question mark in the West. They could win the division; they could end up in last place. The Avalanche certainly feature talented young forwards up front (Matt Duchesne, Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Statsny), but the contract dispute with Ryan O’Reilly is a significant blow. He’s the team’s best two-way player – Colorado’s version of Ryan Kesler – and without him there’s a significant lack of grit and defensive acumen amongst the forward group. The defense looks like a mess. Erik Johnson is still struggling to find a consistent, top-level NHL game. Rookies Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott may be asked to add speed and puck-movement to a sluggish blueline, but both play a high-risk game. Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere are a goaltending duo with strong potential but prone to streakiness. Keep in mind – only 5 Avs players were active during the lockout.

15. Columbus Blue Jackets – 38 points

Status: Rebuilding
Goaltending: D-
Defense: C
Forwards: D
Coaching: D+

Why: Essentially, the Blue Jackets have blown themselves up by trading Rick Nash, and are starting from scratch in terms of building a winner. They’re going about it the right way this time, with a focus on building from the net out. They could be better than they’re rated here. Sergei Bobrovsky was lights-out during the lockout in the KHL and has high-end potential. A strong season from him would be the first strong goaltending season Columbus has had in years. On defense, Jack Johnson played very well after being dealt from the Kings, as did Nikita Nikitin (from St. Louis). Add James Wisniewski to the equation and suddenly you have a mobile, solid puck-moving top-three. It’s in their own zone where there could be problems. The biggest hole is up front on offense, where youngster Cam Atkinson looks primed to break out. There’s some decent grit and speed in the mix, but goals will be very hard to come by.

Jan 182013
 

The Sedins and Alex Burrows celebrate a goal against the Anaheim Ducks.

Photo credit: CBC.ca

Not many of us hockey fans thought we would see an NHL game this season, but thankfully, the NHL and NHLPA finally came to their senses, agreed on a new CBA, and we can finally get back to talking, complaining and chirping about our teams and rivalries.

Though I’ll be honest and say that I’m not sure what Vancouver fans are more excited about: seeing the boys back in action or being able to buy all the hotdogs, popcorn and pop they want for only a $1 each, at least during the Canucks’ first 3 home games. I’m going to say it’s a pretty close race.

Who’s Next

Saturday, January 19, 2013 vs. Anaheim Ducks (home game, 7:00 PM start time)

The Canucks and the Anaheim Ducks split 4 games last season, each team winning 2 games. Cory Schneider and Jonas Hiller backstopped their respective teams in those wins.

It should be an interesting season for the Ducks. Both Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are entering the final year of their contracts and both will become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan are also in the top-six, but other than that, the Ducks have a lot of young players who will try to earn a spot and stick around in a tough shortened season. The Ducks did get bigger and stronger with the additions of Sheldon Souray, Bryan Allen, Daniel Winnik and Brad Staubitz.

Henrik Sedin led the Canucks with 5 points (1G-4A) and a plus-7 rating in the season series. Bobby Ryan led the Ducks with 7 points (2G-5A), but was a minus-3 in those matchups.

Sunday, January 20, 2013 vs. Edmonton Oilers (home game, 6:00 PM)

It’s clear that the Edmonton Oilers know how to win…. the first overall pick in drafts.

Kidding aside, the Oilers, for the third consecutive year, won the right to draft first overall in the NHL Entry Draft and used it to select Russian phenom, Nail Yakupov. Because of their talented, young core, which also includes Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and prized free agent-signing, Justin Schultz, many feel this is the time they start making a push in the NorthWest Division.

Now, many Canucks fans were disappointed that the BC-born Schultz decided to sign with Edmonton last summer, but hey, the Canucks just signed Jim Vandermeer and Cam Barker – don’t worry guys, we got this.

The Canucks won 5 of the 6 games last season against the Oilers. Alex Burrows led the Canucks with 8 points (3G-5A) while Eberle and Hall both led the Oilers with 6 points each.

Wednesday, January 24, 2013 vs. Calgary Flames (home game, 7:00 PM)

The Calgary Flames boosted their forwards with the additions of Roman Cervenka and Jiri Hudler, both of whom are welcome additions to a team that finished 24th overall in the league in scoring. They also added defenseman Dennis Wideman, who scored 11 goals and 46 points last season, by signing him to a hefty 5-year contract worth $26.5 million.

Turning 36 years old this season, it will be interesting to see how many games Flames workhorse, Miikka Kiprusoff, will get, especially since the schedule of this tough shortened season demands a lot of games in a short amount of time. Personally, because he’s in my hockey pool, I’m hoping he starts all 48 games.

The Canucks were 3-2-1 against the Flames last season. Alex Edler led all Canucks skaters with 6 points (1G-5A) while Mike Cammalleri, who was traded from the Montreal Canadiens back to the Flames in January, scored 4 goals in just 3 games played against the Canucks.

Friday, January 25, 2013 at Anahiem Ducks (away game, 7:00 PM)

Since this will be the second meeting between the two teams, I thought this would be a good time to bring up something that everyone notices, but not many people talk about – can we please address the unfortunate balding of Ryan Getzlaf? Great player, pretty good looking, bad genetics. Poor guy.

Sunday, January 27, 2013 vs. San Jose Sharks (away game, 5:00 PM)

The San Jose Sharks are always one of the top teams in the Western Conference. Well, at least they are during the regular season. With the likes of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Martin Havlat, Logan Couture and Dan Boyle, the Sharks have a solid core group of players. Plus, this summer, they added some grit by signing Adam Burish and some veteran stability on the backend by signing ex-Wing, Brad Stuart.

The Canucks were able to get 7 out of a possible 8 points against the Sharks last season; their lone loss in the series came in the shootout. Kevin Bieksa led the Canucks with 4 assists in 4 games. Couture and Mini Joe each had 4 points for the Sharks.

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