Oct 182012
 
Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa and Cory Schneider of the Vancouver Canucks prior to the Bieksa's Buddies Charity Game

Photo credit: The Globe and Mail

Kevin Bieksa proved that you can’t lock out the heart of a Canuck. Knowing that charities like Canuck Place, Canucks Autism Network and Canucks Family Education Centre were probably also suffering thanks to the NHL lockout, he organized Bieksa’s Buddies – a charity hockey game between NHL players and special guests and the UBC Thunderbirds.

I was lucky enough to snag a ticket in the 20 minutes before it sold out. Here’s my recap.

The Pre-Game

As I got out of the car and made my way to Thunderbird arena, I was swimming in a sea of blue and green. Oh how I missed it! Contrary to talk in social media circles that fans were hesitant to wear Canucks colors, many came out wearing them anyway. I’m okay with that. Regardless of which side you support, that is, if you support either side, during this NHL lockout, the charities benefiting from the evening’s events all have the word “Canucks” in their name so it felt right.

The pre-game festivities included an introduction for each player. Besides current Canucks and ex-Canucks, there were some other exciting additions like Marty Bieksa and Martin Nash. Michael Buble and Willie Mitchell, listed as players on the program, turned out to be  “game-time decisions” and the decision was they would coach alongside Ryan Kesler and Alex Edler. Buble later admitted he “chickened out” of playing. As for Willie, my guess is his Stanley Cup ring was too heavy and throwing off his balance when he skated. Lucky guy.

The Game

The first period started off with a lot of back and forth action. UBC scored, then Bieksa’s Buddies scored, then UBC scored again, then Bieksa’s Buddies again.

The second period turned into a bit… okay a lot… of a runaway for the Thunderbirds. With 4 unanswered goals, it made it feel even more like I was at an NHL game. I mean, it wouldn’t be a Canucks game if there wasn’t a coma nap in the middle, am I right? By the end of the second period, the score was 7-3 for UBC. Still, the mood was upbeat. I, myself, was giddy because it meant I could use my favorite hashtag – #windaturd!

And win da turd they did!

Bieksa’s Buddies came back strong in the third period. It started with a Bieksa goal – a Marty Bieksa goal! Then Chris Higgins started taking shots. Like shots as hard as his abs shots. Like shots so hard I could hear the slap of the puck against the Thunderbirds goalie’s pads from my seat in the very last row of the arena. And when he finally scored, it was a zinger and I was surprised it didn’t slice through the net. After Manny Malhotra tied the game came some Sedin magic mojo – a beauty of a cross-ice pass from Daniel to Henrik, who then passed the puck back to Daniel for a pretty much open net goal as the UBC goalie tried to get over his motion sickness. Canucks fans sighed a giant sigh of relied – the twins still got it!

Bieksa’s Buddies eventually won by a final score of 8-7.

Some other highlights:

Max Lapierre’s tenacity. Lappy was intense from the get go. He dug in the corners, he was hard on the puck and did everything but scored a goal.

Penalties. Most notably, the first penalty of the game for elbowing. I mean, who elbows in a charity game? Tanner Glass, that’s who! It got a lot of chuckles from the crowd. Almost as many laughs as the penalty called by Daniel Sedin. He got slashed, referee Al Bieksa didn’t see it, but after Daniel did some pointing and explaining, it was called. If only NHL refs would listen to Danny like that.

Marty Bieksa. He played incredibly well which left me wondering if we could trade Mason Raymond for him once the season starts.

Cory Schneider’s charitable acts. Buble may have donated $100,000, but Cory was definitely in a giving mood as well. Not only did he give up 7 goals, but when UBC pulled their goalie for the extra attacker, with UBC down by a goal and a minute left to play, Schnoo skated off the ice (to Darth Vader’s theme song) and watched from the bench and gave UBC a free shot at the open net.

From the game itself, Bieksa’s Buddies raised $100,000, after which Buble matched it with a $100,000 donation of his own, bringing the total raised to a whopping $200,000 going to Canuck Place, Canucks Autism Network and Canucks Family Education Centre. In spite of the bickering and pettiness and greed we’ve seen from the NHL lockout in the last 6 weeks, we were reminded last night of the good hearts of many of these guys, and in the process, fans got a chance to watch their hockey heroes again and deserving charities were blessed with much-needed funds – a win-win for all.

Apr 182012
 

Because it’s do-or-die time, because it’s time to leave everything on the ice and give it 110%, here are some of today’s links around the Smylosphere:

Apr 042012
 
Higgins flips Shirts

Higgins flips shirts not cars.

I know it surprises quite a few people that Chris Higgins is as productive as he is considering how terrible his time spent in Calgary, Florida and New York was, but to be fair, those teams were all awful to begin with. Florida is only now on the verge of the playoffs. The Rangers are an Eastern powerhouse now but they were once a group of overpaid, over-aged and underachieving veterans. The Flames…well, the Flames haven’t changed, I guess.

But anyone who watched Higgins in his first three seasons in Montreal could tell you how much of an impact player he was. There was talk amongst Habs fans that he could be their future captain and it wasn’t hard to see why, putting up 38-points in his first two years and 52 in his third. Combine those Cody Hodgson or Mason Raymond (quite similar to MayRay actually…since his 4th year was terrible) numbers with his physical play and never quit work ethic and you have a pretty complete player. Not top end talent but a guy with character you could use on your team. The Canucks have given Higgins the opportunity to win and he’s run with it. We’re getting the guy New York thought they were getting in the Scott Gomez trade.

Want an example of that work ethic? You don’t get a washboard like that sitting on your ass.

Apr 032012
 

[Inspired by Arsenio Hall's "Things That Make You Go Hmmm…", Clayton Imoo talks about Canucks-related things that make him go hmmm… You can follow Clay on Twitter at (@canuckclay) or on his website, Clay's Canucks Commentary.]

As the Vancouver Canucks embark on the last week of the regular season, it’s quite remarkable that they are in the running for the Presidents’ Trophy after their rocky start to March.  While they stare down the New York Rangers, I look at a few Things That Make Me Go Hmmm:

1.  The Canucks could possibly play the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks in the playoffs again. Even with only five days left in the NHL regular season, the final placing of all eight Western Conference playoff teams is still uncertain.  The Canucks and St. Louis Blues are still battling for the top spot in the conference; the Detroit Red Wings, Predators and Blackhawks are sorting out fourth through sixth; and there are still four teams, the Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars, Phoenix Coyotes and San Jose Sharks, trying to win the Pacific Division (and hence the attractive third seed) and final two playoff spots. 

Depending on how things shake out, there’s a chance (albeit small) that the Canucks could face the same three teams in the playoffs that they did in 2011 – the Blackhawks, Predators and Sharks – but in reverse order!  Obviously, the stars have to align just right for this to happen, but it’s not inconceivable.  The Canucks could meet the Sharks in the first round.  Then, a match-up with the Predators is plausible (especially if the Canucks finish first and the Preds win their first-round series as the fourth or fifth seed).  Given this scenario, however, if the Blackhawks (likely to finish sixth) beat the third-seed Pacific Division winner, then the Canucks would face them in the second round (if the Canucks finish first).  There are so many possible permutations and combinations that it’s almost fruitless to try and predict the first-round match-ups right now.  But it sure would be something if the Canucks had to face the same three teams they eliminated last year on the way to the Finals.  And then there’s the possibility of a Stanley Cup rematch.  But let’s get out of the first round to start.

2.  Chris Higgins has played himself onto the third line in a good way. Despite showing some great chemistry with fellow Americans Ryan Kesler and David Booth back in November, Chris Higgins seems destined to start the playoffs on the third line with Samme Pahlsson and Jannik Hansen.  This so-called “checking line” has been playing very well and has Alain Vigneault’s utmost confidence right now.   As one of the Canucks hardest-working and most effective forwards, Higgins usually moves up and down the line-up as AV sees fit.  With Daniel Sedin out with a concussion, Max Lapierre has played the last couple of games with Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows, with Mason Raymond playing with the two Americans on the second line.  With all signs pointing to Daniel returning for the playoffs, don’t expect Higgins anywhere else but the third line.  With Higgins there, the line has potential to score – something the third line of last year’s playoff run did a bit but not too much of.

3.  A new way to enjoy the national anthems. As of today, I’ve launched a new Twitter initiative with respect to the national anthems at Canucks games.  I enjoy music and I enjoy hockey (as evidenced in my Clay’s Canucks Commentaries), so I’m going to be rating the national anthems at games that I witness live.  My latest Clay’s Canucks Commentary explains it well so check it out:

Thanks again for reading. It’s going to be an interesting week to say the least. Where will the Canucks finish?  Who will their first-round opponent be?  And will Daniel Sedin and Keith Ballard be ready for the playoffs?  So many Things That Make You Go Hmmm!

Apr 032012
 

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

With a season-high 6-game win streak, including consecutive shutouts against the Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche last week, the Canucks have obviously turned the corner. They also finished last week with a decisive 5-2 win against the Dallas Stars and an OT win against the Calgary Flames, in which Andrew Ebbett returned from injury and scored the game-winning goal in OT, and overtook the St. Louis Blues for first place in the Western Conference.

The Canucks will finish their regular season this week against three teams that are out of the playoff race: Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.

Canucks Record

79 GP, 49-21-9, 107 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference)

Who’s Next

Tuesday, April 2, 2012 vs. Anaheim Ducks (7:00 PM start, home)

Will tonight mark Teemu Selanne’s last time visit to Vancouver? We’re still not sure. At 41, he could very well retire; but as the Ducks’ leading scorer (26G-39A-65P), he has proven that he could still be a force in this league. A well-respected, shoe-in Hall-of-Famer, many Ducks – many hockey fans – are hoping he’d come back and play one more year.

The Ducks have won 2 of the previous 3 meetings against the Canucks. In the season series, Bobby Ryan leads the Ducks with 4 points (2G-2A); Kevin Bieksa leads the Canucks with 4 points as well (1G-3A).

Even with the talent that the Ducks have on their roster, their play this year has been surprisingly inconsistent. They’ve lost 3 of their last 4 games.

Thursday, April 5, 2012 vs. Calgary Flames (6:00 PM start, away)

With their win on Saturday night, the Canucks eliminated the Calgary Flames from playoff contention, and have now won 3 of their 5 meetings this season. They’ve outscored the Flames by a combined score of 16-10 in those 5 games.

Jarome Iginla has 3 assists against the Canucks this season. Meanwhile, Alex Edler leads all Canucks skaters with 6 points (1G-5A) against the Flames.

Olli Jokinen has had a solid season this year. With 23 goals and 28 assists, he is having his best season, statistically, since the 2007-2008 campaign.

Saturday, April 7, 2012 vs. Edmonton Oilers (7:00 PM start, home)

The Oilers have lost 3 of their last 4 games and sit in 14th place in the Western Conference and 29th place in the entire NHL.

The Canucks have won 4 of their 5 previous meetings against the Oilers this season. In their season series, Jordan Eberle leads the Oilers with 6 points (2G-4A) while Alex Burrows leads the Canucks with 7 points (3G-4A).

As bad as this season has gone for Edmonton, Jordan Eberle has had a sensational year. In just his second NHL season, he leads the team in goals (33), assists (42) and points (75).

The Oilers will be without Taylor Hall – he is done for the season due to shoulder surgery.

Who’s Hot

Chris Higgins has been one of the most, if not the most, consistent Canuck this season. With 4 goals in his last 5 games, he now has 42 points for the season (17G-25A), which would mark his best offensive season since his 2007-2008 season in Montreal (27G-25A-56P).

Higgy leads by example on the ice and makes his linemates better. Recently, he’s found some chemistry on the 3rd line with Samme Pahlsson and Jannik Hansen, and that line has proved to be able to make some big plays on both ends of the ice.

Who’s Hotter

With Daniel Sedin out with a concussion, AV decided to give Max Lapierre a shot on the “1st line” with Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows. At first glance, this seemed like a confusing decision, but much like when he originally put Burrows on the Sedins’ line, AV’s logic worked and the move has sparked Lapierre’s play.

After not recording a point in 15 games, Lappy is on a 2-game point streak and has scored 2 goals and 3 assists in his last 4 games. It’s nice to see him take advantage of his opportunity and increase in ice time.

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