May 182014
 

Round 2 of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs was a barn burner all-round. Every series felt like a legitimate rivalry even though some of these teams, like the Anaheim Ducks and the LA Kings, had never met in the playoffs before. Here’s the best and worst of it.

Brendan Gallagher, Zdeno Chara

Best Series: Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens

Original Six. Longstanding rivals. Good versus evil. These games had everything – the good (Carey Price and PK Subban’s performances), the bad (Thornton spraying Subban with water mid-play), and the ugly (the racist rantings of some Bruins fans). In the end, the intensity elevated the Habs play and seemed to throw the Bruins off their game with their big lines doing much of nothing.

Worst Series: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers

This was bad because for some reason, after being up 3-1 in the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins checked out. For me, the best series are battle right to the end, and this is the only series that wasn’t that. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz and all that undeniable talent were deniable after Game 3. This can’t be laid on their goalie this time. It was disappointing to watch therefore, worst series.

Milan Book

Biggest Loser: Milan Lucic

Lucic wins this award not because his team lost, but because of the way HE lost. His childish, unsportsmanlike antics – spearing guys, being a sore winner taunting the Habs when Bruins won, death threats in the handshake line – make him not just the biggest loser of Round 2 but a life loser in general. Lucic, I’m embarrassed that you’re from Vancouver and even from Canada. You have a lot of growing up to do, punk.

Biggest Hero: PK Subban

I didn’t like this guy until this series. Sure, I never disputed his talent, but I thought he was an overemotional, hot-headed punk. Not anymore. I don’t know exactly when PK Subban became a poised, confident player but the change was noticeable this series again Boston. PK didn’t let the racist taunts, the bully antics of Thornton or the death threats of Lucic throw him off his game. He didn’t escalate it in the media when he honestly had every right to. Instead, he seemed to channel it into improving his already stellar play. His offensive defence was a major factor in the Habs nabbing the series.

beardsR2

Best Beard: Jeff Carter

Blondes aren’t known for thick beards, but Carter grows a Grizzly Adams one in the blink of an eye. And it’s got ginger in it, which is hot. The man is already talented and gorgeous, the thick, full beard just adds to it. Now if only he had more teeth… thanks Duncan Keith.

 Worst Beard – Patrick Kane

Speaking of ginger – Kane’s seems super orange this year. Like he used Sun-In or something. And, yay, it’s fuller than previous years but it’s an unkempt mess. And then there’s the mullet… shudder.

May 182014
 

NHL_2014_StanleyCupPlayoffs

The Bruins have been eliminated. That’s pretty much all we cared about. Now on to the conference finals.

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Victoria: Kings in 7. Because the Kings are the Goonies, they never say die.

Chris: Blackhawks in 7. I will give credit to the Kings at knowing how to clutch up when elimination is in sight. Unfortunately for them, doing it the hard way has likely warn them down and they’ll be facing a ready and rested Blackhawks team. Remember, even Joffrey Baratheon finally met his maker.

J.J.: Blackhawks in 7. Because the penny I found by my window sill said so.

Clay: Blackhawks in 6. Just like me in high school, Chicago is quite fresh (having played 12 games so far compared to the Kings’ 14). This should be an exciting and intriguing series. As long as Corey Crawford can play almost-even to Jonathan Quick, I like the Blackhawks’ firepower and depth on D to prevail.

*****

Eastern Conference

Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers

Victoria: Habs in 5. Lundqvist has a horrible record in Bell Center and Carey Price has a great record against King Henrik (*cough* Olympic gold medal *cough*)

Chris: Rangers in 6. I have faith in the Canadiens and think they have the right stuff. I also thought the same of the TV show “Community” and it just got cancelled? That’s right – THE DARKEST TIMELINE?! THE DARKEST TIMELINE!!

J.J.: Habs in 7. While I love the thought of seeing AV in the Stanley Cup Finals with a different team a mere year after being fired being the Canucks, Price and Subban are playing out of this world hockey right now.

Clay: Habs in 6. Montreal feels like a team of destiny right now and P.K. Subban and Carey Price are playing lights out. Not to mention Dale Weise. Lundqvist’s struggles in Montreal have been well-documented. Look for Montreal to win in 6, and then both teams come together for a flash mob of Aretha Franklin’s “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” during the post-series handshake.

May 012014
 

NHL_2014_StanleyCupPlayoffs

We have to admit, the first round of the 2014 NHL playoffs was pretty darn exciting. Let’s see how the second round stacks up.

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild

Victoria: Blackhawks in 4. Hawks have had some rest. Wild fought tooth and nail for 7 games. Wild will be tired and aren’t as strong a force as the Hawks to begin with.

Matt: Blackhawks in 5. The Wild are simply outmatched and outclassed by the defending champions at every position. Ryan Suter will likely be matched against some combination of Jonathan Toews and/or Patrick Kane, but Chicago’s immense depth up front will allow them to break through the Minnesota defense.

Chris: Blackhawks in 4. While I got a few of the series wrong in the first round, there was no way on this green Earth that I thought the Wild would beat the Avs. Their luck will run out against a fired up Blackhawks squad.

J.J.: Blackhawks in 6. The Wild were a lot scrappier than expected in their first round series against the Avs. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will put an end to that.

Clay: Blackhawks in 5. They look unbeatable right now. But I’ll give the Wild one of their home games. Chicago is too talented top to bottom.

Delia: Blackhawks in 5. The Blackhawks have too much talent to fall to the Wild. They’ll definitely finish them off early.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Victoria: Kings in 6. Because once you reverse sweep, you can do anything.

Matt: Ducks in 7. The Kings are the hottest team in the league right now based off their four straight victories against the Sharks, but the Ducks are want to prove their the toast of California. I may be going out on a limb here, but I like the Anaheim forward unit better than the Los Angeles defence and goaltending.

Chris: Ducks in 6. Because Victoria says Kings in 6. On a more serious note, the Ducks showed what they needed to do to get the job done against a spunky Stars team. And while the Kings themselves faced adversity and beat the daylights out of it, it took some serious energy to do that.

J.J.: Kings in 7. I hate picking the Kings, but after starting the playoffs about a week later than everyone else (and spotting the Sharks a 3-0 series lead), they’re clicking right now.

Clay: Kings in 7. The Kings are just as hot as the Blackhawks and have certainly been there before. The layoff likely helped Getzlaf heal a bit but it won’t be enough.

Delia: Ducks in 6. The Ducks finished the regular season with a 4-0-1 record against the Kings, and I’m sure they can keep their winning ways going during the playoffs.

*****

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens

Victoria: Habs in 7. Because I have to believe that hard work and skilled players can trump bully tactics and cheap antics. I have to believe it.

Matt: Bruins in 6. Ah, rivalries renewed. There may not be a winner when the smoke clears in this one because the two teams are likely to kill each other, but the Canadiens have a little motivation and extra animosity working in their favour, enough to give the Bruins a bumpy ride at least.

Chris: Habs in 6. I picked Boston last round and there ain’t no way I’ll do it this time around. Some advice for Montreal though – Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué.

J.J.: Habs in 7. Buck Foston.

Clay: Bruins in 7.  Montreal is slowly gaining the country’s affection, and they can certainly win if 2 things happen: Price outplays Rask, and the Canadien forwards are able to escape pounding from the Bruins. Not sure if both of those things can happen over a 7-game series.

Delia: Bruins in 7. The Bruins are a strong and dangerous team. Sure the Canadiens have Price, but the Bruins have Rask, and in my opinion, Rask is by far the better goaltender.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers

Victoria: Penguins in 7. Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz and Neal are a lot of fire power. Rangers have don’t have that depth of scoring. The only reason this will probably go 7 is because Marc Andre Fleury will screw up.

Matt: Penguins in 6. Once again, the Penguins chances hinge on the shaky shoulders of Marc-Andre Fleury, which will lead to their downfall in at least one game against the Rangers. But I don’t like New York’s chances of containing the Crosby-Malkin duo, which is on the verge of breaking out of their long funk.

Chris: Rangers in 6. The darkest timeline. THE DARKEST TIMELINE! And MAF. ’nuff said.

J.J.: Penguins in 7. One team has a lot of firepower up front, but has a goalie who seems to be having problems stopping the puck in the playoffs. The other team has a good goalie, but can’t score. It goes against conventional thinking, but I’m picking the team that can score.

Clay: Penguins in 6. I have a gut feeling that Fleury will have a strong series in trying to match the goalie at the other end. He’ll do enough to help the Penguins get through.

Delia: Rangers in 7. In my opinion, the Penguins are overrated. The Rangers are the more well-rounded team.

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.

Jan 302014
 

Man, these losses seem to be getting more depressing by the day.

After taking a quick 2-0 lead on the Chicago Blackhawks, the Blackhawks scored 4 unanswered goals in a 7-minute span in the second period. The end result? Another loss – the Canucks’ 10th loss in January versus just 3 wins.

But hey, at least Tom Sestito scored again.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Jan 292014
 
Tonight the Canucks play their third game in four nights, and possibly their most difficult. The Chicago Blackhawks are in town for a 7:30 pm/pst puck-drop. (Photo Credit vancouversun.com)

Tonight the Canucks play their third game in four nights, and possibly their most difficult. Rivalries are sure to boil over as the Chicago Blackhawks play the Vancouver Canucks for the third time this season.
(Photo Credit vancouversun.com)

The Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks usually bring the best out of each other. That’s hopefully the case tonight.

The fact is, neither team is playing their best hockey right now. The Canucks’ woes are well-documented, having lost 10 of their last 14 games, including a disheartening 4-2 loss to the last place Edmonton Oilers. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks, after dropping a 5-4 decision in OT to the Calgary Flames last night, have now lost 4 games in a row. They’ve also lost 6 of their last 7 road games (1-1-5), though despite that, the Blackhawks are still a top-3 team in the league and still lead the league in scoring (3.44 goals per game).

If the Canucks want to exploit anything, it’s that the Blackhawks are playing their 3rd game in 4 nights, and their 5th game in 8 nights. I guess that’s something.

Who’s Hot

With Henrik Sedin still out, and Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler snake-bitten, the Canucks have had to rely on everyone else to provide their offence. After returning from a lengthy stay on IR, Jordan Schroeder returned on Monday against the Oilers and scored both Canucks goals that night. Kevin Bieksa has also stepped up with 3 points in his past 2 games, including 2 goals – and the game-winning OT goal – against the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday. Ditto Chris Higgins, who also had 3 points against the Coyotes.

For the Blackhawks, Marian Hossa scored twice last night against the Flames and has 4 goals in his past 5 games. Patrick Kane, who also scored last night, has 4 points in 3 games, and he currently sits 4th in the NHL in scoring (60 points).

Who’s Out

The Blackhawks have a healthy roster except for their backup goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who is out with a shoulder injury that required surgery.

For the Canucks, Hank is still out as are Mike Santorelli and Andrew Alberts. Tonight will be game 5 of John Tortorella’s suspension – he’ll miss 6 games while serving his 15-game suspension – and hopefully he’s relaxing in Hawaii or something.

TortsBeach

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 092014
 

Vancouver Canucks vs Los Angeles Kings

With the Canucks just past the halfway point of the season it seems as good a time as any to try and predict where the team may finish at the end of the season in April. Despite a number of gut-wrenching losses in the last few weeks you should still feel pretty good about the Canucks chances to make the playoffs and I’ll breakdown where I think the team will realistically finish in the standings and whether they have much of a chance to pass teams in their division.

Introduction

The chart below shows team’s Fenwick percentages for all 5-on-5 situations as well as in close score situations which is used to help account for score effects. For the uninitiated, Fenwick is a tally of all shot attempts a team takes at 5-on-5 except for those that are blocked. Stated another way, it is shots that are either on-net or missed. Close score situations are games that are tied at any time or within a goal in the first and second period.

So, why should you care about Fenwick? It has been proven that there is a direct correlation between Fenwick and puck possession. It has also been shown that teams that possess the puck the most will win more often. The biggest thing to take away from this is that teams with the best Fenwick percentage over the entire season will finish near the top of the standings over 82 games.

Finally, I’ve also listed PDO. PDO is a measure of how lucky a team is and is simply a team’s shooting percentage plus save percentage at 5-on-5. For example, the Canucks are shooting at 7.5% and stopping 92.8% of their opponent’s shots for a PDO of 100.3. All you really need to know is that teams that are above 100 are considered to be lucky, either shooting or stopping pucks, at a rate that is probably unstainable. Teams that are under 100 are considered unlucky.

The Stats

*All stats taken from extraskater.com

Fenwick For % All 5v5 Fenwick Close PDO
Canucks 50.9 (13th) 52.4 (9) 100.7 (10)
Ducks 51.3 (10) 51.2 (13) 102.3 (2)
Sharks 53.8 (4) 54.1 (3) 99.7 (19)
Kings 55.7 (1) 56.9 (1) 100.9 (9)
Coyotes 50.1 (17) 49.5 (18) 101.2 (7)
Wild 49.8 (18) 49.6 (16) 99.8 (17)
Stars 51.1 (12) 52.5 (8) 100.4 (12)

 

Analysis

At first glance you’ll probably notice that the Pacific is good. Really good. Despite recently losing 5 games in a row, the Kings are legitimately the best team in the division and probably the best team in the conference even though the standings don’t show it. The Canucks are only two points behind them but you can probably go ahead and forget about passing them.

The Sharks are not far behind the Kings and with a five point lead on Vancouver and a game in hand its hard to see the Canucks reigning in the Sharks too especially with the season series between the two teams already completed.

That brings us to Anaheim who are the best team in the NHL points wise. If you are not sold on the Ducks being the best team in the division then you’re not alone. The Ducks are not among the elite in the NHL in puck possession and barely attempt more shots than their opponents. You’ll notice that their PDO is 102.3 which, as I mentioned before, implies that they’ve been extremely lucky. In score close situations, the Ducks are shooting at a ridiculous 10.8% clip. In case you’re wondering, Perry and Getzlaf are not the guys driving up shooting percentage. In the score close situations with Kyle Palmieri, Dustin Penner, and Nick Bonino on the ice, the Ducks are shooting at 15.5%, 13.2% and 12.4% respectively.

The Canucks are 14 points behind the league leaders so there probably isn’t much hope that the Canucks can pass them, but the good news is, the Ducks are looking like a very possible matchup in the playoffs and once the slate is wiped clean I would feel pretty good about Vancouver’s chances in a seven game series. Much better than I would feel then against Los Angeles or San Jose.

As for the Canucks themselves, there was a time when they were not too far off the Kings and Sharks in terms of possession stats but they have slid down into the middle of the pack over the last month or so. You can probably chalk some of that up to injures to guys like Alex Burrows and Alex Edler but every team has issues so I’m not sure if that is much of an excuse. Even during their win steak, the Canucks were being carried due to their goaltending more than their strong play as a team. I’d argue that the team actually played better during their November losing streak then their December winning streak.

As for the rest of the West, I find it hard to see a scenario where two of Phoenix, Minnesota, and Dallas finish ahead of Vancouver for the two Wild Card spots. Of the three teams below the Canucks, Dallas is the most underachieving team mostly due to their goalies being well below average

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the Canucks appear to be a team in a solid playoff position but its hard to see them earning anything more than a Wild Card spot. Even with 37 games to go I think the Canucks are exactly where they’ll end up at the end of the season. The good news is there is plenty of time for Vancouver to get some of their best players back and find a way to hold on to two goal leads with 1:11 left in the game. Plus, they’re lined up to play either the Ducks, a team I think they can beat, or the Chicago Blackhawks, which is always fun.

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 202013
 
To finish off their three-game road-trip that  Canucks play the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center tonight  @ 5:00 pst. (photo credit: cbc.ca)

To finish off their three-game road-trip the Canucks play the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center tonight @ 5:00 pm/pst.
(photo credit: cbc.ca)

Coming off a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars last night, it doesn’t get any easier for the Canucks tonight as they take on the NHL-leading Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago, where they haven’t won since November 2011.

The Blackhawks are hot, having won 5 of their last 6 games. During this span, they’ve outscored their opponents 28-15, and their powerplay clicked at a deadly 39% (10 PPG on 26 PP opportunities).

On the other hand, after winning 7 games in a row, the Canucks have cooled off and have now lost the first 2 games on this 3-game road trip. Tonight will be their their 3rd game in 4 nights, and their 4th set of back-to-backs in the last 4 weeks. Maybe a visit to the Madhouse in Madison can help wake up the Canucks.

What to Watch

Normally, Lu would get the start against a team like the Blackhawks, but he was pulled in favour of Eddie Lack last night against the Stars after letting in 4 goals on just 19 shots. Plus, John Tortorella has tapped Eddie Lack to start the 2nd half of back-to-backs all season. If Lack does start, he should still have some good confidence; he posted a shutout in his last start, a 2-0 Canucks win against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Blackhawks are missing their top two goaltenders, Corey Crawford and Nikolai Khabibulin, but that hasn’t slowed them down. Antti Raanta will likely start. He’s started 7 games since Crawford was injured, and has a 5-1-1 record and 0.921 save percentage in those games.

Who’s Out

The Canucks are without Alex Edler (lower body), Alex Burrows (jaw), Jordan Schroeder (ankle) and Ryan Stanton (ankle). Stanton injured his ankle on Tuesday and is out indefinitely.

Other than the goaltenders, the Blackhawks are healthy.

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