On Friday, Henrik Sedin passed Markus Naslund as the all-time leader with points as a Canuck, Ryan Kesler returned from injury, and Canucks fans were getting a chance to vote on what they felt the boys in blue should skate out to.
As the Canucks rack up a few wins in a row, maybe their slow start wasn’t such a slow start after all. In this episode of CHB TV, Ed, Clay, Chris and Chris Palliser from The Beat 94.5 talk about the team’s best start since 2006, goal
cellys celebrations, Chris Tanev’s first career goal (an OT game-winner no less), and more.
Photo credit: Vancouver Sun
As I’m writing this, I’ll admit I’m drinking a bit of Mike Gillis’ kool aid.
In an interview on TSN last night, Gillis preached some patience on the Canucks’ 2-2-2 start this season.
I’m inclined to agree.
All things considered, the Canucks’ start was probably as well as could be expected. They’re still missing Ryan Kesler and David Booth, 2/3rd of their second scoring line, and with a shortened training camp and no exhibition games, it’s obvious most of the rest of the lineup are still in preseason mode.
But before we start a “Fallin’ for Drouin” campaign (or is it “Fallin’ for Mackinnon”?), there are some positives to take here.
While most of the vets have struggled, the Canucks have received more than expected contributions from the likes of Mason Raymond, Zack Kassian, Jordan Schroeder and the Dutch Gretzky. Jannik Hansen has also been noticeable and Chris Tanev has probably been their most consistent defenseman. Coincidentally, these are pretty much all the players, give or take Andrew Ebbett, who were playing some hockey either in the AHL or in Europe during the lockout. Maybe something for players to think about in 2020.
May Ray, in particular, looks more like the May Ray from 2009/2010 rather than the May Ray whose career was almost ended by a cheap Johnny Boychuk hit in 2011.
At least through a few games, Kassian looks to be a good fit with the Sedins. Right-handed shot, power forward with good hands, good instincts and a good nose for the net. He’s also shown that he’s not afraid to play bodyguard for the twins – ask Ben Eager.
Schroeder has some obvious speed and skill, and as Gillis points out, he hasn’t really hurt the team on the defensive end. I mean, in his NHL debut against Calgary, he had a particularly memorable sequence in which the Flames bounced him around like a pinball, but if anything, he showed he’s got a hard compete level.
Of course, this isn’t to say there aren’t cause for concerns.
The Sedins look out of synch. For all of their offensive zone starts, they don’t seem to be generating as much offensive pressure as they normally do.
The defense looks out of synch. It probably speaks volumes when the pairing of Tanev and Keith Ballard (!) is the one defensive pairing left untouched. Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler and Jason Garrison have been shuffled around already.
The special teams aren’t so special. The powerplay can’t score and the penalty-kill can’t kill penalties.
And already in 4 of their first 6 games, the Canucks couldn’t hang on to leads like Dustin Diamond couldn’t hang on to his dignity.
So should we worry?
As magnified as things seem in a shortened season with little room for error, I think 6 games is still a small sample size to adequately judge this team. Like Gillis says, let’s wait a few more games before we step off the ledge or jump off the bandwagon. In the meantime, hopefully the kids can keep it up and the vets can pick it up. And hopefully, it’s not too late by then.
- If a picture is worth a thousand words, the above video must be worth, well, a lot more than that.
- With no less than 8 defensemen already on the roster, was Chris Tanev’s call-up yesterday a signal that the Canucks are ready to trade a defenseman? Or does it simply mean that Sami Salo will be out for a longer period of time? Regardless of the reason, I’m sure coaches AV and Bones are happy to have another right-side defenseman in their lineup, rather than having to play every other defenseman other than Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa on their wrong side.
- I won’t go as far as calling Salo a Norris Trophy candidate, but there’s certainly no doubting his value and importance to this team now. Without Salo in the lineup, the Canucks are 3-5-1, but more importantly, the Canucks’ defense look out of synch and overwhelmed.
- Unless Tanev proves he can handle top-4 minutes, I have to think that acquiring another top-4 defenseman would be on top of GM Mike Gillis’ shopping list before the trade deadline. At the start of the season, there was hope that Keith Ballard would be that guy, but between the healthy scratches and high-risk plays, that’s looking less and less likely to happen.
- Don’t look now, but Cody Hodgson has 12 points (5G-7A) in his last 15 games. Quietly, he’s climbed up to 4th in overall rookie scoring (27 points in 47 games), behind just Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (35 points in 38 games), Adam Henrique (34 points in 40 games) and Matt Read (29 points in 41 games). Yes, he’s played more games than those guys, but he also averages about 5-6 minutes of ice-time per game less than them.
[Every Sunday, Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@CayKing).]
5 GP, 2-2-1, 5 point (3nd in Northwest Division, 9th in Western Conference)
The Canucks are back home for the week and are looking for their first win in front of the home crowd.
In last week’s post I pointed out that Cody Hodgson has been given his best opportunity to show himself as a proven NHL player. Messaged received! Cody has undoubtedly been one of the best Canucks players on the ice every game. He has shown confidence and has done a commendable job on the 2nd line. Although he only has 2 points at the moment, if he keeps playing like he has been the goals and points will come. Canucks Nation is excited to see him play to his full potential.
Last year, Chris Tanev came in towards the end of the season and played like a veteran. He fitted into the system like a glove and didn’t show many signs of his young age. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had the best start to this season and has been scratched for 2 of the 5 games. He seems a little lost on the ice at times and has been involved in a fair share of the team’s defensive breakdowns. Hopefully he will start to gain his confidence again and get back to his game.
Tuesday October 18, 2011 vs. New York Rangers (7:00 PM start, home)
The Rangers started their season on the other side of the pond in Sweden with two losses after regulation; they also recently lost to the kids on Long Island.
They did win the Brad Richards sweepstakes this off season, hoping that he could come in an help them this season. When he’s healthy, he’s still a point-a-game guy and he’s not that far removed from his Conn Smythe performance with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
So far, so good – Richards is leading the team with 3 points in 3 games.
In their one and only meeting last season, the Rangers beat the Canucks in a close 1-0 game at Madison Square Garden.
Thursday October 20, 2011 vs. Nashville Predators (7:00 PM start, home)
The Predators didn’t make any huge off-season acquisitions but will still be a strong team in the West with the leadership of Shea Weber and superstar goaltender Pekka Rinne.
David Legwand has had a great start to the season. He already has 8 points (2 goals – 6 assists) in just 4 games played, tying him for the early league lead in points with Phil Kessel and John Tavares.
Nashville went 11-6-3 against the Northwest Division last season. The Canucks and Preds tied 2-2 in their season series.
Saturday, October 22, 2011 vs. Minnesota Wild (1:00 PM start, home)
The Minnesota Wild improved their offense in the off-season with the acquisitions of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi from the San Jose Sharks. Alongside captain Mikko Koivu and veteran goaltender Niklas Backstrom, the Wild will look to make a push in what seems to be a weak Northwest Division this season.
The Wild went an impressive 16-7-1 against the Northwest Division last season. However, the Canucks had the upper hand in the season series, winning 4 of the 6 games they played against each other.
Only 5 games into the season and I am already seeing tweets and comments on how we should trade Roberto Luongo and how the Canucks don’t have what it takes to make it to the Cup Finals again.
Let me reiterate we are ONLY 5 games in.
For all those Luongo haters, you have to realize that he never has a strong October. Sure he has let in some questionable goals, but the team in front of him hasn’t been clicking like they usually do. Signs of a Stanley Cup hangover are evident, but I advise you to wait until a few more games before making snap judgements.
In the first episode of our new video podcast, Matt Lee, Chris Golden and Clay Imoo talk about the first week of the Canucks’ 2011/2012 season. Topics include: Roberto Luongo’s and the defense’s poor play, and Cody Hodgson’s good start.
Photo credit: theahl.com
Now that Vancouver Canucks fans have (we hope) managed to begin the healing process from the emotional rollercoaster of the 2011 Playoffs, it’s time to shift the focus to the 2011 Draft, where the building blocks for future success are put in place.
Given that the 2011 crop has, for some time, been viewed as a generally weaker class than previous years, perhaps the Canucks would be best served to once again parlay their first-round selection in order to acquire the talent needed to win right now. But seeing as how the club already forked over their top pick last season along with Michael Grabner and Steve Bernier, perhaps its in the best interests of the organization to keep the 2011 draft choice and not gut an already thin prospect pool.
In the mean time, let’s get a sense of just where exactly the Canucks are at when it comes to their top prospects.
Centres: Unquestionably, this is the Canucks’ biggest strength. With Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler expected to play out the next five years of their career in Vancouver (and likely more), Vancouver doesn’t really have a need for some top flight talent down the middle. Because of the team depth at centre, Tony Gallagher of The Province recently posed the question of top prospect Cody Hodgson’s future with Vancouver, but don’t buy the notion just yet. Despite the fact Manny Malhotra is the team’s unequivocal third-line centre, Mike Gillis also noted that Malhotra also plays wing, which would allow Hodgson to potentially slot in the third line.
Jordan Schroeder, drafted in 2009 in the first round, is another intriguing player that oozes as much talent as he does mystery. On occasion with Manitoba last year Schroeder looked like an elite-level prospect but on others looked completely invisible. It’s clear he’s still a few years away from seizing any chance at getting into NHL action.
Wingers: Anton Rodin and Sergei Shirokov remain atop the Canucks’ winger rankings, with the latter finishing the season as the Manitoba Moose leading scorer (22-36-58). Shirokov’s brief audition with Vancouver this year was much better than the year prior, as he scored his first NHL goal in a two-game callup. However, the small winger still is a little fish in a Canuck pond, where the team needs for elite scoring wingers may be too demanding for him.
As for Rodin, he’s grown both physically and mentally, acclimating himself to the Swedish Elite League since beginning his tenure with Brynas in 2009. It’s argued that the next step for Rodin’s career would be to make the trek to North America, but it’s unknown if he will commit to the move just yet. (Editor’s note: Farhan Devji reported about a month ago that Rodin is indeed North America-bound, but I haven’t seen any official confirmation from the team yet. – J.J.)
The Canucks also recently signed left winger Steven Anthony, who played for the Memorial Cup champion St. John’s Sea Dogs. Anthony, who was once compared to Sidney Crosby not too long ago, only realized this season that success on the ice comes with hard work. The tantalizing prospect has so much skill but needs to up his compete level in order to achieve it.
Bill Sweatt is the other notable winger in the franchise prospect pool, finishing second in Moose scoring. Sweatt is still a few years away from making a major contribution, however.
Defense: Kevin Connauton entered 2010 as Vancouver’s most intriguing defensive prospect, and for stretches of the season carried over some of the offensive flare from his Vancouver Giants days which made him so highly regarded. Unfortunately, Connauton’s mobility has been an issue all season, resulting in a blueline-worst minus-11 rating. He’s still learning the professional game and needs more time.
Connauton was instead overshadowed by the steady play of Chris Tanev, who appeared in a handful of regular season games with Vancouver as well as a few playoff games over Keith Ballard. Tanev never panics in his own end and makes a smart outlet pass nine times out of 10, which is why the Vancouver coaching staff like his future with the big club. Of all defensive prospects, Tanev is the likeliest to earn a spot next year.
Meanwhile, Yann Sauve and Lee Sweatt continue to develop their skills in the AHL; both missed significant time due to injuries this season, which has stunted their professional growth. 2010 draft pick Patrick McNally just finished his first season with Harvard University.
Goalie: Eddie Lack is undoubtedly the prospect who made the biggest noise this season in the AHL. Lack was the team MVP on many nights and the sole reason the Moose made it to the North Division Final. “The Stork” arrived with little hype but all season long was so effective at taking away the bottom half of the net, forcing snipers to try and beat him glove side, which Lack has recently mastered as well. If the Canucks do decide to part ways with Cory Schneider, few would be hesitant to see Lack fill the backup void. He’s been that good.
Organization Direction: At this point it becomes simply a “best player available” approach for the Vancouver Canucks. Despite their strength at the centre position, there’s little to suggest the Canucks won’ take a centre in the first round if that’s the best player available. With the team’s “win now” approach, the club could very easily swap Hodgson or Schroeder or even both if it means acquiring the kind of immediate talent to put the team over the top. That said, it’s evident the team would love to draft a winger with scoring ability or a physically mature defenseman who has a quick learning curve.
[Every Sunday, Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@cayking).]
53 GP, 34-10-9, 77 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference)
Daniel Sedin is currently on a 8-game point streak. He has 11 points in that stretch, though surprisingly, he only has 1 goal and seems somewhat content to leave the scoring to his teammates. Daniel has easily been one of the most consistent Canucks this season. He leads the team in scoring with 28 goals and 41 assists. He’s in the top-four in the NHL in goals and assists. He briefly took over the league scoring lead after Friday night’s game and now sits second (to Steven Stamkos) with 69 points.
Although the Canucks rely mostly on Manny Malholtra for faceoff and penalty-kill duties, it’s still worth noting that he hasn’t recorded a single point in 17 games and is a minus-4 in that stretch. Fortunately the Canucks are winning games, and that’s the most important thing, but the team’s depth – specifically, the third line – will be counted on to be a very important factor come playoff time. Hopefully, Manny can also start to contribute more offensively.
Monday, February 7, 2011 vs. Ottawa Senators (7:00 PM start, home)
I think it’s safe to say that Ottawa has been one of the biggest disappointments this season. The Senators have gone 1-10-3 in their last 14 games and have not won a game since January 13, 2011.
The Canucks are 3-1-1 against Northeast Division teams this year and have a winning record of 9-3-2 against Eastern Conference opponents.
Captain Daniel Alfredsson and rookie Erik Karlsson lead the team with 30 points each, but are a dreadful minus-18 and minus-30, respectively, for the season.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011 vs. Anaheim Ducks (7:00 PM start, home)
The Ducks come into town with a 7-3-0 record in their last 10 games. Both the Canucks and the Ducks have won a game apiece in the season series so far, with the Canucks winning their latest meeting on December 8th, 2010.
Corey Perry is on pace to have a career year in points. He has been on a hot streak, as of late; he has 14 points (8 goals – 6 assists) in 14 games since the Ducks lost Ryan Getzlaf to injury. He had a hat-trick in their last game against the Avalanche.
Speaking of Getzlaf, he’s targeted this game as his return from nasal fractures; he’s been out since December 28, 2010.
Saturday, February 12, 2011 vs. Calgary Flames (7:00 PM start, home)
The Flames come to Rogers Arena on the end of back-to-back situation. They have been one of the hottest teams since
they fired Darryl Sutter stepped down as GM. They are currently on an 8-1-2 run and have clawed themselves to within one point out of a playoff position.
The Canucks hold a 2-0-1 edge in the season series against the Flames, though the Flames did win their last meeting on January 22, 2011 in a shootout.
Alex Tanguay has been a big part of the resurging Flames. He is currently on a 3-game point streak (2 goals – 3 assists). His 42 points (14 goals – 28 assists) on the year is second on the Flames to Jarome Iginla’s 49.
Most Deserving of a Shoutout: Christopher Tanev
Since being called up from the Manitoba Moose on January 16th, Chris Tanev has fit nicely into the lineup. Although he has only recorded 1 assist, he has been averaging just over 13 minutes of ice time per game, and is a plus-1. Tanev seems to get better and more confident with each game, his first pass out of the zone has been one of his best qualities. With the injuries on the back end, Tanev has been exactly what the Canucks needed. With Aaron Rome regressing a bit and Sami Salo close to returning, Tanev’s play will force Mike Gillis and Alain Vigneault to make an interesting roster decision.
[I Watched This Game is a recurring feature at Pass it to Bulis--the hockey blog that knows who needs the puck. It chronicles the insights and observations of two guys that watched a hockey game.]
Friends, Romans, countrymen, I ask you, humbly, what is the cure for an offensive slump? Don’t answer; this is a rhetorical question. The solution, as everybody knows, is an opponent with porous goaltending and crap defense. It’s a fairly simple remedy, but the real trick is finding a major league team willing to provide it. Short of scheduling a shinny with the Washington Generals or the South Park Peewee Team, you can only hope that some NHL club is going to fly into town and generously lay an egg. Lucky for Canucks fans, that’s about what happened in tonight’s game which, by the way, I watched:
- What a welcome return to form for the home team. The Canucks played with the energy and pace they’d hinted at during the Calgary game and then some. We also saw a recommitment to limiting shots against (only 26 for a high-scoring Dallas team), and a renewed offensive potency (7 goals, y’all). They played much better than they have in quite awhile, more in keeping with the level we know they’re capable. Still, before we get ahead of ourselves, it wasn’t only a return to form that caused tonight’s result; Dallas also played sloppier than a loose meat sandwich. What we saw was the Canucks’ get better and the Stars come apart at the same time, and this beautiful coincidence resulted in a nasty shellacking.
- A number of slumps were bumped tonight, but none more important than the goals scored by both of Ryan Kesler’s wingers. Mikael Samuelsson’s was an especially nice wrist shot. Word is he broke his goal-scoring slump by imagining a logo in the top corner of the net, then hitting it dead center. Perhaps more impressive than the goal, however, were his game-high five shots, equal to how the number of shots he attempted. None were blocked, and none missed.
- I’m not sure if Mason Raymond’s goal will stay his. The scorekeepers seemed so eager to declare another slump busted that they seemed to give it to him just because he was near it. Looks like Edler blasted it clean through to me; Raymond might be more deserving of a takeaway for stealing credit. But I won’t quibble over whether or not it’s his; I’m not Maury Povich. Let’s just hope it’s the first of many.
- Speaking of blasting pucks, let’s take a moment to celebrate the long-awaited emergence of Alex Edler’s deadly slapper. He had two assists tonight, both on redirected slapshots (the aforementioned, from Raymond, and one from Kesler to take a 2-1 lead). Christian Ehrhoff also had a goal on one that got clean through. Ehrhoff’s been the member of this pairing most willing to shoot this season, which has always seemed silly to me. Edler’s got the hardest shot on the team. Now, they’re both shooting regularly, and it’s made them a lethal tandem on the blue line, with 12 points in the last six games. Letting them fire away seems like a wise move, especially after they broke the power play’s two-game mini slump by these very means.
- Aaron Volpatti had a strong game tonight, and it’s possible that you hardly noticed. First there was a solid hit on Tom Wandell behind the Stars’ net. Then, Krys Barch tried to respond by drawing Volpatti into a fight, but Volpatti was smart enough to realize it wasn’t the right time. Instead, he responded by shouting, “F*** you, Barch!” loud enough for the cameras to clearly pick it up.
- Later, Volpatti assisted on the Henrik Sedin 5-1 backbreaker halfway into the 2nd, skating well and centering a puck that would go in off Steve Ott’s boot after a touch from Henrik. If the assist wasn’t enough, Volpatti then “accidentally” tripped over Ott as he circled the net to celebrate the goal. It was a smart, sneaky play, and don’t be surprised that Volpatti’s a sneak; everybody knows Ivy Leaguers are shifty. I mean, they steal entire social networks from one another.
- If you’re wondering why Henrik Sedin already has a mind-boggling 50 assists on the season, look no further than his puck movement on the power play. Watch him on either power play goal. On Kesler’s goal, he draws three defenders to him with a simply head fake before making a brilliant saucer pass to Edler for a one-timer. On Ehrhoff’s goal, it’s much a simpler feed, but this time Henrik uses a head fake to back his defender off. Opponents are so terrified he’s going to pass, you’d think they were auditioning for American Idol.
- The perennially out for blood Daniel Sedin is now 4 points back of the NHL scoring lead. Earlier today, Elliotte Friedman suggested he might get picked last in the NHL All-Star draft. If that happens, I suspect he’ll coolly walk to the podium and shoot his captain in the chest, like Boomer on Battlestar Galactica.
- Andrew Raycroft’s mask is as sparkly as a preteen girl’s binder. Or a preteen girl’s idea of a vampire.
- How to make a player lose his mind: eye gouge him in a scrum. Just like the Rypien incident, you can clearly see Burish raging, “he was eye gouging me,” after the referees finally pull Burrows and him apart. Not to go all “Ron Maclean” on you guys, but, considering Burr’s reputation, he’s probably guilty here. That’s a finger to the peeper and a stick to the peepee in the last two weeks. He needs to be careful he doesn’t get a reputation as a dirty(er) player.
- If he’s not careful, he’ll undo all the goodwill the Zen Canucks have built up towards officials this season. Seriously, the Canucks successfully argued for a call to be overturned tonight. When the last time that’s ever happened? I think we’re more used to the “On second thought, the Canucks lose” type of calls. Especially recently.
- Dan Hamhuis dropped his gloves tonight. Dan. Hamhuis. What could Mike Ribiero have possibly said or done to make Hammy drop the mitts? Ribieiro: Frankly, I don’t think Haiti deserves our relief. And the children can read to themselves. Hamhuis: I’ll kill you!
- Congratulations to Chris Tanev, who picked up his first career point, an assist on Hamhuis’s goal, the seventh and final goal of the evening. Tanev showed impressive poise tonight, finishing a plus-one with two blocked shots in just over sixteen minutes of icetime. Granted, everyone (in blue) looked good tonight, but Tanev is beginning to look like he might belong in the NHL, which is more than I can say for tonight’s opponent.
- All credit to Tanner Glass, who spent some time tonight as the fourth-line center, and some time as the third-line winger. When he earned third line icetime last season, it was more an indictment of the Canucks’ lack of forward depth. This season, however, he’s been so defensively responsible and so smart with the puck that he’s earned every extra minute he’s been given, and I’m happy to eat crow when it comes to his stints in the top nine. I’m still not sold on his scoring ability, but I think, when your third line hasn’t scored in ten games or more, Tanner Glass certainly can’t make you offensively less potent.
- Kevin Bieksa’s eye doesn’t look too bad… if he’s planning a trip to McDonaldland. His face is so purple he could pass for The Grimace. Speaking of passing, Bieksa did take advantage of the distinguishable mark for some brilliant duplicity. Rather than serve a second period penalty, he traded places with a wax #statueofbieksa (hashtag credit: @RE4713), and nobody noticed because, like the real Bieksa, the replica had a black eye.
- The Canucks dominated the faceoff circle tonight, winning 40 of 65 draws. All four centres finished over 50%, with even Glass winning 4-of-7. He’s won 17 of 31 on the season now, which is pretty impressive, considering he was 3-for-18 last season. He’s developing this skill really quickly.
- This is the second consecutive game versus the Canucks where the Stars have lost their composure, and you have to consider their sources of leadership. First, Marc Crawford’s teams have never been known for being particularly mentally tough (and Crow’s never been good at knowing when to pull his goalie, either). Second, Brendan Morrow’s captaincy might be a good cautionary tale for those who think Kesler should have gotten the “C” in Vancouver. Like Kesler, Morrow plays an intense, gritty game that’s a nice example when he’s focused, but he has a tendency to get overemotional and lose focus. When he does, the team follows him. He’s simply not a calming force.
- Henrik Sedin, on the other hand, knows how to channel his emotions. He digs so deep, you might say he chunnels his emotions. He was solely to blame on Dallas’s only goal, but rather than beat himself up about it, he simply upped his resolve. He looked downright determined to atone for the remainder of the period. Then he did. Not since the award-winning film based on the novel Atonement have I seen such atonement.