Feb 212014
 

Josh Hanner/NY Times

Josh Hanner/NY Times


Every team is going to have a game where they struggle. Every team will have to face a red-hot goalie at some point. We had the fortune of having the shaky game against Norway and the red-hot goalie with Latvia, who had little else to stop us. The USA had the misfortune of having a shaky game and the red-hot goalie in the same game – our game.

  • I just want to say to the USA fans blaming Quick, you’re the reason the world thinks Americans are stupid.  If it wasn’t for Quick you’d have lost that game 5-0. The end.
  • Kunitz is the 2014 reincarnation of the 2012 Mason Raymond. He couldn’t score if the net was empty and the size of a barn.  But damn he just never stops trying.
  • Jonathan Toews is the most amazing puck handler I have ever seen. No he hasn’t scored in this tourney but he is winning face offs and stealing pucks and controlling and setting up plays. He’s been insanely good.
  • Remember that time everyone, including me, thought our weakest link was goaltending? Ha! We must have been drunk. Luongo has a shut out. Price has a shutout – against the United States of America. To quote a certain gold medal goalie with the twitter handle Strombone1;  “Jesus Price!” Now someone please replace Lundqvist’s equipment with his NYR equipment from the beginning of the season (the stuff he couldn’t play in to save his life). I’ll buy you a beer if you do!

Guys… we’re going to the gold medal final! Again. But the end of the day Sunday our Canuck Dan Hamhuis will have an Olympic medal. Roberto Luongo will be a 2-time medalists. The color is the only thing left to fight for. Fight hard boys! We love ya no matter what but fight hard!

Predictions anyone? Tell us!

Feb 192014
 
Jean Levac/PostMedia News

Jean Levac/PostMedia News

I’m still shaking as I write this. Dear Hockey Gods we almost lost to Latvia. LATVIA?!

  • Major props goes to the Latvian goalie Kristers Gudlevskis. Insane play. Insane effort. Insane heart.
  • @MaltbyMVP tweeted “This isn’t Canada sucking. This is Latvia playing their heart out. You’re an idiot if you think otherwise.” And he’s 100% right. 57 shots on goal is Canada playing well. 54 blocked shots and saves is Latvia and their goalie doing everything possible to pull off a miracle. And 1 shot attempt not hitting the net was just Latvia cheating and the Refs missing it. No other way to look at one of their players, not the goalie, swiping the puck out of the crease as it starts to trickle past the line. But that just put Karma in a Team Canada jersey so in the end, it worked in our favor.
  • Hey Luongo Homers, are you finally going to give Carey Price some credit? I am not a Price fan. I am not a Luongo fan. To be honest, I thought that after game 2 Luongo should have been the one to keep getting the starts. But Babcock thought otherwise and Babcock knows what he’s doing. Today proved it. Price kept us in this. If you can’t give him that then you’re truly letting emotion (for Luongo) override hockey smarts and common sense. Now should Price start against America? I guess so if only because the US’s strongest weapon right now might be Phil Kessel and Price has faced him more. But that said, Lu beat the US team once… barely, but it was an important win.  To be honest I don’t have 100% confidence in either Lu or Price in against the USA. Do you? If so, which one and why?
  • Paging the Top Forwards in the World! Please proceed to the net – and put the puck in it!  We absolutely have to start finding a way to score more. Like I said, this almost-loss wasn’t that we weren’t trying. But I personally feel we haven’t scored enough in any of our wins except Austria. We need to see goals from Perry, Toews, St. Louis and Crosby. And more from Getzlaf and Carter. And have Weber and Doughty keep doing what they’re doing. Then and probably only then are we going to be able to beat the USA in regulation. It seems like a lot of “If Onlys” but hello, these are truly the best forwards in the world. If they can’t do it (all at once) who can? And it’s now or never Team Canada. Truly. No exaggeration. It is now or never.

So do you have a prediction for USA-Canada? What do you think the score will be? Tell us!

And where are you watching? This Canadian has taken Friday off work and will be screaming/cheering her lungs out from her West Hollywood apartment. How about you?

Feb 162014
 

Drew Doughty scored 3 goals in his last 28 games for the Los Angeles Kings. He’s had 3 goals in 3 games for Team Canada. Clearly he was conserving his abilities for the Olympics and as a Canadian, I’m okay with that. But I’m pretty sure the popping sound I’m hearing around LA today is Kings’ fans heads exploding.

Subban should be dropped in and Vlasic pulled out. Or Bouwmeester. I am not a PK Subban fan. I wasn’t even sure I wanted him on Team Canada because his attitude and his preference to play a bit dirty and arrogant isn’t an Olympic asset. But he was tight and controlled in his one game and played smart. He was noticeable in a good way unlike Bouwmeester and Vlasic today. Bouwmeester was unnoticeable and Vlasic was noticed for ridiculousness and sloppiness.

So now it’s the Swiss, who we had to beat in a shootout last time so no one better think this is an easy ride. The easier ride would have been if we won in regulation. However maybe we’ll face Latvia. I count no one out because it’s the Olympic and crazy things can happen.

Also, since we’re on the topic of the Swiss, you know who won that shootout in 2010? Sidney Crosby. For those who forgot, he did do more than that very last goal of the games. I feel the need to bring this up because the “Sid sucks’ tweets have already begun. There is no Country in the world that doesn’t know he’s the best in the world so, as Finland did so well, they are all going to make a point of shutting him down. And we should be ok with that because while they’re concentrating on Sid we have Toews, Doughty, Carter, Tavares and every other second and third and fourth best player in the world to score instead of Crosby. Remember that.

I heard on twitter (so it must be true and I’m too lazy to Google it) no undefeated team has ever won gold. Every men’s hockey gold medal has been won by a team that has lost a game along the way. Does that worry you? The way I see it is, That said, if a Country is going to buck a hockey trend, what better Country to do it than Canada?

Who sits the next one? I say it’s got be Vlasic and Kunitz.

Who is in net? I don’t care either way because Price and Luongo are both playing solid but I will say this. I think we need to start solidifying stuff and the goalie is where we should start.

Tell us your thoughts on who gets the net, who gets scratched and what we need to do to be the first team to go undefeated and win gold?

Feb 062014
 

184264657_slide
(Photo Credit: canucks.nhl.com)

Vancouver Canucks (27-22-9) at Montreal Canadiens (30-21-6)

To say that the Vancouver Canucks are struggling is an understatement. For starters, they’ve lost 5 games in a row, and are 4-11-3 in their past 18 games. They can’t score – averaging just 1.88 goals per game over their last 18 games – and they can’t keep the puck out of their net – allowing an average of 3.16 goals against per game over that same span. They’re battered physically – the injury list includes regulars Henrik Sedin, Chris Higgins, Mike Santorelli, Brad Richardson, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev – and I’m sure mentally as well.

Tonight’s opponents, the Montreal Canadiens, are faring a bit better. At least they are now. After losing 5 of 6 games a couple of weeks ago, the Habs have bounced back nicely and are 3-1-1 in their last 5 games. Goaltender Carey Price has had a lot to do with that turnaround, stopping 130 of 134 shots (0.970 save %) and posting 2 shutouts in that span.

This is the second and final meeting between the Canucks and Habs this regular season. The Habs won the first meeting back on October 12th, and of course, Price paid a huge part in that victory, stopping 40 of 41 Canucks shots that night.

Tonight’s game is being billed as the battle for the starting goaltender spot for Team Canada in Sochi in just a week from now. (Poor Mike Smith.) Winner gets first crack at the starter’s spot? Or maybe first pick of beds in the Athletes Village? I’m sure Luongo – and the Canucks – will settle for getting the two points tonight.

Mar 272012
 

As we wind down the 2011-12 NHL season, it’s only fitting to take a moment and pay our respects to the “dearly departed” – those teams we know will be golfing in a couple of weeks.

Here now is a quick look at each of the teams looking ahead to 2012-13 already,  in reverse order of today’s standings.

Columbus Blue Jackets

What went wrong: Pretty much everything. James Wisniewski’s 8-game suspension crippled the team out of the gate. Coach Scott Arniel tried switching his team’s approach from an aggressive to conservative style mid-season, but the results were too poor to save his job. Jeff Carter was injured for much of his time in Columbus, and looked like a pout on skates when he did play.  Oh, and Steve Mason is currently ranked 77th amongst NHL goalies in goals against average (3.43).

What went right: Unlike Jeff Carter, Jack Johnson has embraced being a Blue Jacket, and has 10 points in 15 Columbus games. He still has the potential to turn this difficult trade into a real win for the Blue Jackets. Derick Brassard has quietly led the team in scoring since the All-Star Game (20 pts in 27 games).

Off-Season Gameplan: Address the goaltending issues that have hampered the franchise for most of its existence and make peace with Rick Nash. Trading Nash would kill the franchise. If this means firing GM Scott Howson, so be it.

Montreal Canadiens

What went wrong: The front office went insane, firing assistant coaches within hours of game time and throwing Randy Cunneyworth under the bus for his unilingualism. Top veterans Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez and Mike Cammalleri struggled, rendering a pop-gun offense useless for most of the first-half. And while Carey Price played well, even his numbers were slightly off from last season.

What went right: The Canadiens have embraced their youth as the season’s moved on. Max Pacioretty looks like a top NHL power forward. David Desharnais is second in team scoring since the All-Star Game (22 points in 26 games) and will be Montreal’s defacto second line centre next season. The physical Alex Emelin could be an interesting compliment to Andrei Markov in a top pairing. Lars Eller continues to develop and will flirt with 20 goals this year. Of the veterans, Eric Cole reached the 30-goal plateau for the first time in five years.

Off-Season Gameplan: Draft a talented Russian, whether it’s Alex Galchenyuk or Mikhail Grigorenko, with their highest pick since selecting Mike Komisarek seventh overall in 2001. Alex Kovalev flourished in Montreal, where the fans embraced his offensive flair. There’s no reason to believe that magic can’t happen again.

Edmonton Oilers

What went wrong: Nothing really went wrong – this team is probably as bad as they should be, especially given the injuries they’ve accrued. Of those injuries, the one to Ryan Whitney was the most damaging, as it exposed a very shallow blueline group. Nik Khabibulin has played worse as the season’s gone on, and he may be moved in the off-season. Eric Belanger is having his worst season as a pro, but he has partially solved the team’s faceoff problems.

What went right: Jordan Eberle does look like a young Dany Heatley and should be a Lady Byng candidate this season. The other super kids, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall, both look like they have top-20 NHL player potential. Devyn Dubnyk has a .918 save percentage since the All-Star Game. Sam Gagner continues to show flashes of top-six talent, and leads the team with a +8 rating. Ladislav Smid and Jeff Petry have had terrific second halves. The pieces on this team are really starting to come together.

Off-Season Gameplan: Not much needs to be done upfront, but it’s the defense that needs tinkering. Another top-4 defenseman, or a youngster (draft pick) with top-pairing talent should be a priority. Help for Dubnyk would be an asset as well.

Minnesota Wild

What went wrong: Minnesota’s lack of offensive depth was exposed by injuries to Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mikko Koivu. As a result, just like the Habs, a slight weakening of the team’s defensive play was enough to sewer the Wild’s playoff chances. The Wild might not have a 25-goal scorer this season. Josh Harding has had a disappointing second half (2 wins in 10 games, a .904 save percentage).

What went right:  Despite some historically low numbers, Dany Heatley has been a more competitive player with the Wild than he was in San Jose or Ottawa. Jared Spurgeon has played well enough that the Wild could trade Nick Schultz. Nik Backstrom has been his usual solid self.

Off-Season Gameplan: Bring on the kids. Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle could both see top-six roles in the NHL next season, bringing much needed offensive talent to the Wild roster. The Wild should also be in the running for a lottery pick in a draft that is loaded with quality defenseman. Beyond the influx of youth, Zach Parise should be targetted if he hits unrestricted free agency. It’s the type of move that would not only help the team, but would satiate restless Wild fans who feel the franchise has been spinning its wheels.

New York Islanders

What went wrong: For the Islanders to take the next step they need to work on their 5-on-5 play. They’ve ranked near the bottom of this category all year. Michael Grabner suffered from the sophomore slump (16 goals). One has to ask whether his skating talents can continue to flourish in a league where hooking and holding has crept back into play. Heralded rookie Nino Niederreiter has suffered through a lost season on the Island, with just one assist in 49 games. He’s averaged fourth-line minutes to boot.

What went right: John Tavares took another step towards greatness, improving his strength and speed and looking on many nights like a future Art Ross candidate. As Tavares has blossomed he’s lifted his linemates to new heights – Matt Moulson may reach 40 goals this year and P.A. Parenteau will have more than 50 assists. Together they have given the Islanders a dynamic first line, which is usually enough to fight for a playoff spot. New York’s powerplay has also been good all year, and Evgeni Nabokov has given the Islanders good goaltending on a nightly basis.

Off-Season Gameplan: GM Garth Snow should make resigning P.A. Parenteau a priority. Given the misuse of Nino Niederreiter this season, one wonders if the Islanders still see him as a top-six talent. If not, moving him could net a solid return. Continuing to build offensive depth, and acquiring a solid, stay-at-home top-four defenseman, should also be on New York’s shopping list. A few tweaks and this team will fight for a playoff spot next year.

Toronto Maple Leafs

What went wrong: The Leafs gambled on James Reimer and it came up snake eyes. As a result, the run-and-gun Leafs have given up goals by the bushel, eventually costing coach Ron Wilson his job. The defensive depth hasn’t materialized, with Mike Komisarek looking AHL-bound, John-Michael Liles frequently swimming out of position in his own zone and Luke Schenn regressing in his fourth season. In a broader sense, GM Brian Burke’s rebuild hasn’t gone well either – compared to the team he inherited, the Leafs are only better in a few areas (top-line wingers; top-two defensemen; more prospects). Otherwise this team looks a lot like the 2008-09 team that was jettisoned out of town. None of the replacements, particularly those acquired through free agency, have been actual upgrades.

What went right: All due respect to Tyler Seguin, but Phil Kessel remains the better player in that trade and will likely finish top-5 in league scoring. He is Mike Gartner 2.0. Healthy for the first time and stronger than ever before, Joffrey Lupul established himself as a top-line winger and compliment to Kessel, playing in the All-Star Game before getting hurt. Jake Gardiner and Carl Gunnarson have emerged as potential top-four defenseman, with Gardiner in particular showing flashes of offensive prowess.

Off-Season Gameplan: It’s a make-or-break off-season for GM Brian Burke. New coach Randy Carlyle demands a conservative style of play this roster wasn’t built for, which means major changes could be afoot. A lottery pick would be beneficial, as the Leafs could use a top-line talent to go with the complimentary-type players drafted in previous seasons. However, the most important move the team could make this summer is to solidify their goaltending position. Whether it’s taking Roberto Luongo off of Vancouver’s hands (I know, NTC), grabbing one of the “elite” young goaltenders (Josh Harding, Corey Schneider, Jonathan Bernier), or making a play for Jaroslav Halak. The Leafs won’t make the playoffs next year without a solution in net.

Anaheim Ducks

What went wrong: The Ducks just dug themselves too deep a hole. Whereas last year the team found its game amidst rumours the players had turned on coach Randy Carlyle, Anaheim couldn’t do the same this season, eventually leading to Carlyle’s firing. In particular, Jonas Hiller struggled early, and captain Ryan Getzlaf has had a nightmare season (one goal since the All Star Game).  Sophomore Cam Fowler has also struggled (-24 on the year).

What went right: The team has responded to coach Bruce Boudreau, and a full season under his direction should see the Ducks return to the post-season. Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan have performed well for coach “Gabby.” Sheldon Brookbank has done a good job as the sixth defenseman, while Toni Lydman remains one of the better defensive defenseman in the league.

Off-Season Gameplan: Signs point to Selanne returning, which means the Ducks core remains as good as any in the NHL. Devante Smith-Pelley will likely have a top-six role to lose in training camp, but the Ducks could really use an upgrade at second-line centre. Impending free agent Saku Koivu can’t adequately fill that role anymore. Some veteran grit to the third and fourth lines would help as well.

Carolina Hurricanes:

What went wrong: Terrible starts to the season from Cam Ward and Eric Staal effectively put the Hurricanes behind the eight-ball. An injury to Joni Pitkanen – the team’s best offensive defenseman – didn’t help either. Carolina’s special teams, particularly the penalty kill, have been among the league’s weakest. No team gives up more shots-per-game than Carolina. Jeff Skinner hasn’t been the same player since returning from injury.

What went right: Surprisingly, Jiri Tlusty has had a strong second-half, placing second in team scoring (18 points in 22 games). Tim Gleason has been a beast defensively and remains one of the most underrated blueliners in the game. Chad LaRose will flirt with 20 goals this year. Staal’s been terrific since about December.

Off-Season Gameplan: With some solid youngsters up-front in the pipeline (Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuk), what Carolina could really use is a veteran defenseman. Rumours that the Hurricanes are interested in Ryan Suter if he becomes a free agent underscore this belief. With the offense essentially living-or-dying on the Eric Staal’s back (shades of the 1990s Toronto Maple Leafs and Mats Sundin), Carolina has to hope Jeff Skinner rebounds next year.   

Tampa Bay Lightning

What went wrong: The clock struck midnight on the pumpkin named Dwayne Roloson, as the veteran netminder has been arguably the NHL’s worst goalie all year. The team’s blueline hasn’t played as well as last season either, with Eric Brewer in particular not living up to his playoff performance. With only four goals and averaging just 11-odd minutes of ice-time, one wonders if Brett Connolly’s development has been hurt playing in the NHL this season. Marc-Andre Bergeron’s injury meant the Lightning went most of the year without a true poweplay threat from the point. The penalty killing has struggled.

What went right: Steven Stamkos remains the league’s elite sniper, and should pick up the Richard Trophy for his 50+ goal efforts this season. Victor Hedman has had a strong second-half (+4, 10 points in 22 games), as has Teddy Purcell (33 points in 27 games). The latter is noteworthy, since it’s been done in Vincent Lecavalier’s absence.

Off-Season Gameplan: Goaltending. Tampa Bay doesn’t really have any, and needs to find it in the off-season. Beyond that a solid defenseman in the draft would go a long way to shoring up the blueline for the future. Offensive depth would be the third priority, particularly given that Martin St. Louis will be 37 next year.

Jan 312012
 

[Every week, Caylie King reviews the Canucks week that was and previews the Canucks week ahead.  You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@CayKing).]

The Canucks went into the All-Star break with a 3-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers on home ice. While Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Alex Edler and Cody Hodgson were enjoying All-Star weekend in Ottawa, the rest of the Canucks got some time off to recharge their batteries and get ready for the home stretch of the regular season.

Canucks Record

49 GP, 30-15-4, 64 points (1st in Northwest Division, 2nd in Western Conference)

Who’s Next

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 vs. Chicago Blackhawks (7:00 PM start, home)

After a week off, what better way for the Canucks to get started on their post-All-Star Break schedule than to play the rival Chicago Blackhawks.

After losing both games of a home-and-home series against the Nashville Predators, the Hawks currently sit in 6th place in the Western Conference, 3 points back of the Western Conference-leading Detroit Red Wings.

The Canucks and Blackhawks have split their two previous games so far this season. In the season series, Marian Hossa leads the Hawks with 3 assists and Captain Henrik Sedin leads the Canucks with 5 points (1G-4A).

Hossa is also on a 9-game point streak (3G-9A-12P) and leads the Hawks in assists (33), points (53) and plus-minus (+24) for the season.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 vs. Detroit Red Wings (7:00 PM start, home)

The Red Wings head into Rogers Arena on top of the Western Conference with 67 points. Before being pounded in their last game prior to the All-Star break against the Montreal Canadiens, the Red Wings were on a 7-game win streak.

The Red Wings and Canucks have split the first 2 games in the season series so far with Alex Burrows and Justin Abdelkader scoring the game-winning goals for their respective teams.

Ex-Canuck Todd Bertuzzi has 1 goal and 1 assist against the Canucks this season. WIth 25 points (10G-15A) in 43 games, Big Bert is on pace to have one of his best seasons, point-wise, since the 2005/2006 season. More impressively, he is a +22 so far; he has not has not been a plus player since 2007/2008 when he was playing for the Anahiem Ducks.

Saturday February 4, 2012 vs. Colorado Avalanche (12:00PM start, away)

The Avalanche have lost 3 of their last 5 games, but are still very much in the battle for 8th place in the Western Conference. The Canucks have dominated the Avalanche this season, outscoring them 9-0 in two games. Both Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo have a shutout. Daniel Sedin has 3 goals and is a +4 in the two games in the season series.

In just his 3rd season in the NHL, Ryan O’Reilly is leading the Avalanche in goals (14), assists (22) and points (36). O’Reilly has also scored in 5 of his last 7 games.

Best Personalities at the All-Star Game: Superskills Competition edition

The All-Star weekend was the talk of the NHL world this past weekend. It is an event put on for the fans, but it’s hard not to notice what a great time the players have.

One of the best parts about this weekend’s festivities was Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens being all mic’d up. He had some great, funny commentary as he took part in the breakaway challenge, and showed some real personality while trying to stop the shooter while Tebowing and trying to stop a breakaway shot using the reflection of the glass behind him.

Another stand out personality was Patrick Kane. Even as a Canucks fan, you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t find his breakaway move entertaining. With some help from his teammate, Marian Hossa, Kane put on a pair of geeky Clark Kent glasses and donned a Superman cape. He finished his move on his stomach passing the puck from his hand to his stick as he put the puck in the back of the net. This was the standout move and he was voted by the fans as the winner of the breakaway challenge.

Honourable mention goes to Corey Perry. He brought many of us back to our childhood days as he pulled out a mini-hockey stick and proceeded to stick handle and deke out the goalie.

In the middle of the battles during a long 82-game season schedule, it was a treat to see the players’ personalities come out and and watch them interact with one another. The weekend – or the game – might not mean much when it comes to standings, but as a fan, it’s quite enjoyable to watch.

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