Dec 112013
 

With the recent emergence of Mike Santorelli as a legitimate piece of the Canuck Puzzle, it’s clear Mike Gillis is the guy you want next to you on “Black Friday”. This guy can find a bargain. And while he’s had the disapointments that every GM has during their tenure, he’s also had an abundance of pleasant surprises. Sure, the “fairweather fan” is quick to point out the Keith Ballard debacle or the Luongo/Schneider escapades but the true fan can see that, despite those controversies, Gillis has put together a pretty successful squad. He has brought in players to complement the core and has developed a cache of depth to account for injuries and ailments.  Not only that but we’ve seen the most successful Canuck team in the history of the franchise and numerous records broken in his era. This list compiles the mark Gillis has made on the Franchise since his induction as president and general manager.

Here are the top 5 Mike Gillis Acquisitions:

5) Manny Malhotra: A faceoff percentage among the league’s top 5 and 30 points. What every coach wants their third line center to do and what Manny Malhotra did. Unfortunately, a freak injury disrupted what could have been a symbiotic relationship between player and team. But for the few years Manny was here he was effective both on the ice as a player and in the dressing room as a leader.

4) Mikael Samuelsson: This trigger happy swede put up 106 points in 155 games for the Canucks before being traded to the Florida Panthers. His game fit in nicely with the Canucks both on second line duties and with his fellow compatriots the Sedins. The Canucks miss his 30 goals to this day.

3) Christian Erhoff: Acquired in a deal with the San Jose Sharks, Erhoff proved to be an offensive force on the blueline. The german had a seeing-eye shot and tremendous puck-moving skills helping the Canucks to a league-best powerplay. Unfortunately his stay was shortlived as his elevated play allowed him to sign for a bigger contract with the Sabres.

2) Chris Higgins: The ultimate utility player, Chris does it all. He plays a hardnosed game with a bit of touch and is the type of player teams covet in the spring. It’s no surprise Mike Gillis resigned him after initially trading for Higgins at the deadline as a rental.

1) Dan Hamhuis: Hamhuis is the type of player who makes those around him better. His arrival instantly brought out the best in Kevin Bieksa’s game and together the two became one of the more dominant shut-down pairs in the league. Hamhuis is a mainstay on the backend for the Canucks and is the only player besides Luongo to get shortlisted for Team Canada at the upcoming Olympic Games.

Honorable mention: Pavol Demitra, Maxim Lapierre, Mats Sundin, Cody Hodgson.

Dec 232011
 

Season’s Greetings, CHB readers!

In honour of the season, we got together and thought we’d give you a lump of coal …err, a festive edition of our Fantasy Hockey Pool update.

How did our rankings shape up as of Wednesday morning? Read on:

Goose is my Wingman (Chris) – 89.5 points (current rank: 1st)

If there is one thing that I’ve learned during my meteoric climb to the top of the standings, it’s definitely humility.  I’ve been called a drunken boater by Lizz, had my strategic draft process mocked by Ed, seen my definition of an A-list actor trashed by Tom, and pretty much been knocked at every corner by all the writers here at CHB.  So you probably would forgive me if I were to take pot-shots from the high ground, but I won’t sink to that level.  Instead, I’ll just bask in the warmth and glow that first place provides to a select few.

And seeing as it’s the holiday season, I want to share with you two holiday videos that not only share the warmth I’m enjoying but correlate to my journey in the pool so far.

Yes, good ol’ Billy Mack (as played by Bill Nighy – definitive A-list actor).  Just like Billy, I was disrespected early on but eventually found my way to the top of the charts.  And seriously, is there any better movie to watch at Christmas?

And while my super strategic draft mechanism has me in the position I am today, I have been accused of drinking a bit too much of the Egg Nog this holiday season.  But who might have spiked it?  Yes… who exactly spiked the Egg Nog?  My guess is Lizz.  I mean… she called me a drunken boater and I sense that she’s bitter I’m on the top of the pool standings.

But I’m beyond all that.  I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Auto Draft… err… New Year!

2 Sedins 0 Cups (Tom) – 85.5 points (current rank: 2nd)

Just like another famous second-place finisher (George W. Bush), I’m demanding a recount. Losing to Chris in this pool would be like like losing a tennis match to a blindfolded Reba McEntire – shocking, yet strangely arousing. Hmm. Perhaps I’ve said too much.

For those have you who’ve been away, here’s a summary of all the NHL-related headlines through the first 2+ months of the season: concussions; concussions; concussions; concussions; concussions; Sidney Crosby; concussions; concussions; concussions; concussions; coach fired; concussions; coach fired; concussions; coach fired; concussions; coaches fired; concussions; concussions; concussions. There, now you’re up-to-date.

One final note – as a true gift to you: The perfect Rum and Egg Nog recipe (must be over legal drinking age to continue reading):

1. Get one clean glass (you’d be surprised at how many people get this wrong by going with a dirty glass or, in some cases, an old boot).

2. Inside the glass, toss in three ice cubes (they should clink in the glass. If they don’t, start over).

3. Put in the glass – 1 part rum (eyeball it. If you go over one part, might as well continue to two parts).

4. Two and a half parts egg nogg (eyeball it. Basically, if you pour egg nogg to the point your cup runneth over, well, first you’ve been watching too many episodes of The Borgias - who says “cup runneth over” anymore? Secondly, you’ve clearly been drinking too much. Call a cab. Even if you’re in your own house. Call a cab).

5. Nutmeg shavings (no, contrary to what your hairy roommate might tell you, shaver shavings are not a suitable substitute).

6. Stir

7. Drink

Welcome to flavour country.

Mr. Haiku (Clay) – 82 points (current rank: 3rd)

The recent rash of concussions has hit this team hard as both Jeff Skinner and Kris Letang have been out for quite a while now.  However, I’ve managed stay in the top 3 thanks to the stellar play of Daniel Sedin, Marian Hossa, and Tim Thomas. 

In the spirit of Christmas, I give full props to Chris “I Don’t Need to Show Up at the Draft” Golden who has taken over first place.  I wonder how the other poolsters feel that his auto-drafted team is way ahead of theirs.  And thanks and congrats to Tom, who is comfortably in second place and for putting these recaps together.  And to the other 5 poolies who continue to make me look good.

And Merry Christmas to all of you loyal CHB readers.  You must be loyal indeed if you’re even reading this hockey pool post! 

Church’s Chiggins (Ed) – 75 points (current rank: 4th)

I’ve got the Washington Capitals of the CHB hockey pool. Wildly inconsistent with subpar goaltending. While my boys might be terrible one week, they could put up 15 points in a day and shoot up 7 points in the standings but one way or another, they’re not living up to expectations. 

 …I guess it was no coincidence I started the year with three actual Washington Capitals on my roster.

But then maybe we’re all just doing this wrong. I mean, Chris doesn’t even have a 4th defenseman and he’s in top spot. Auto-draft to victory!

The Hamhuis Ballards (J.J.) – 73 points (current rank: 5th)

Just like Batman has The Joker and Jenn has Angelina, Santa has the Grinch.

And on my CHBWFHP team, I have a couple of grinches.

Henrik Zetterberg has 23 points in 33 games, which puts him on pace to finish with 57 points – or roughly the same pace Kyle Wellwood is on.

After 34 games, Christian Ehrhoff has 16 points and one less goal than Aaron Rome. He’s also a minus-11 – only seven defensemen in the entire league have a worse plus/minus rating.

Oh the Who-manity.

Burrows Buddy (Liz) – 54 points (current rank: 7th)

Looks like I’m still second to last, which is keeping with my “just finish not last” mantra.

I think part of my problem is that I really need to pay better attention to injuries. When my players get hurt I seem to clue in about a week later that maybe I should bench them, so I should work on that. I also made some changes to my line up for the first time, dropping Brandon Sutter and Michael Grabner, while picking up Alex Steen and Ilya Kovalchuk.

I think my team’s leading in penalty minutes, which means they’re either dirty or scrappy, but I’ll take it either way, since it’s also the only stat I’m leading in. By the way guys, I’m still not sure I understand how scoring works. I’m fairly certain I’d have been better off letting a computer make my picks like Chris did.

Jun 272011
 

Some quick thoughts now that the draft is done, the Moose have moved and free agency being just a few days away.

  • I tried to do a write-up on each of the Canucks draft picks this weekend, but had to abandon for daddy duties. The rest of the Canucks selections were: LW Ludwig Blomstrand (4th round, 120th overall), D Frankie Corrado, (5th round, 150th overall), C Pathrik Westerholm (6th round, 180th overall) and D Henrik Tommernes (7th round, 210th overall). If Mike Gillis had one theme for the weekend, it was to add some size to the organization. All of the draft picks are over 6′ tall.
  • The Canucks made it official today: their new AHL affiliate is the Chicago Wolves.
  • Contrary to reports over the weekend, Kirk Muller will not coach the Wolves. He has been hired as the assistant coach for the Milwaukee Admirals, the Nashville Predators’ AHL affiliate.
  • Don’t be quick to predict a hostile reception for the Canucks prospects in the Windy City. For years, the Wolves have marketed themselves as an alternative to the Blackhawks. In the words of one Chicago website, the Wolves are “a family-friendly franchise that wins consistently and televises all its games.” Of course, this was before the Blackhawks won the Cup and during the time Bill Wirtz refused to show games on local TV. If anything, this exhibits the Wolves and Blackhawks are in reality more in competition against each other.
  • I’ll leave the last word on this subject to Ted Gruber, a blogger for The Instigator, a Chicago Wolves blog: “If the Vancouver Canucks and the Chicago Wolves team up, it would be a great opportunity for all parties involved, and that includes another Calder Cup Championship run. Over the past few years the Canucks have done an incredible job of drafting and picking up prospects. I’m sure the hate for the Canucks franchise would diminish when the Wolves go for another Calder Cup and capture their 3rd Championship. With Don Levin still in charge of the team, he does what’s best for his business, and what the fans want to see and that is winning. Many have doubted the moves of upper management in the past and those moves were positives and helped the franchise grow.”
  • Via Jim Jamieson, Asst. GM Lorne Henning confirmed that Jannik Hansen, Maxim Lapierre and Victor Oreskovich were all given their qualifying offers. No word on whether or not Lee Sweatt and Sergei Shirokov were qualified as well.
  • For what it’s worth, I would have loved to see the Canucks land Troy Brouwer. Delta kid, tough as nails and versatile. The Capitals paid a steep price to get him; to be honest, I’m not sure the Canucks would have been willing to give up more than a second round pick to get him.
  • There are a lot of rumors flying around about the status of UFAs-to-be, Kevin Bieksa and Christian Ehrhoff. Unless something catastrophic happens during the negotiation process, there’s little doubt that Bieksa will get re-signed (at close to Hamhuis’ cap hit). On the other hand, Ehrhoff’s status is fuzzier; a proven offensive defenseman, he will arguably be the top defenseman in a weak free agent market and there will be teams ready to offer double the value of his expiring contract. It used to be a question of whether Ehrhoff would be willing to take a hometown discount for a chance to win with the Canucks. But with the cap being increased by an additional $3.9 million to $63.3 million, some contending teams will have cap space to offer him a contract closer to his market value than the Canucks can.
  • (Update: TSN’s Bob McKenzie just tweeted that Kevin Bieksa has agreed to terms on a new contract. More to come later.)

May 232011
 

[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.]

I watched the Canucks’ 4-2 victory over the Sharks with a couple hundred of my closest Canucks friends at the Vancouver Canucks Tweet-Up at Guildford’s Boston Pizza. CHB’s JJ Guerrero and Chris Golden were representing, and everyone had a great time (due in large part to the Canucks’ win). I was able to bring my wife and kids out with me and they had a great time soaking in the sights and sounds. In fact, with the big screens, yummy food, and loud audio, it was a bit of sensory over-load…in a good way!

So as I reflect on game 4 and look ahead to game 5 on Tuesday night at Rogers Arena, here are a few Things That Make You Go Hmmm…:

  1. Does Keith Ballard give hip check lessons? I was happy to see Keith Ballard in the line-up, although it was due to injuries to Ehrhoff and Rome. Nevertheless, I was hopeful that Ballard would have a strong game and regain some of his confidence. Ballard’s stats weren’t overly impressive: 1 shot, minus 1 in 10:34 of ice-time. However, he had the best hit of the night as he sent Sharks forward (and Canuck d-killer) Jamie McGinn head-over-heels with a devastating hip check. I immediately flashbacked to some of Ballard’s other big hip checks from the season and again wondered why he doesn’t play more. I then wanted to find out if Ballard threw out these types of checks in Florida and Phoenix. YouTube provides more than enough evidence; he has always been a hip checking machine. Check out these bone-crunchers on Evgeni Malkin, Scott Hartnell, and the immortal Jack Skille.
  2. The Chris Tanev effect. It came as quite a surprise when defenseman Chris Tanev played in game 4 ahead of veteran Andrew Alberts, especially when coach AV initially said that Tanev would be in San Jose just for “insurance.” Well, the Canucks cashed in their insurance policy and inserted Tanev into the line-up as Ballard’s partner on the blue line. Similar to Ballard, Tanev’s stats were rather pedestrian (a bunch of zeroes in all categories in 9:13 TOI).  But more importantly, he essentially played error-free hockey and played well beyond his years, considering that this was his only the 30th professional game of his young career. With Bieksa, Ehrhoff and Salo all becoming free agents this summer, the Canucks might feel okay letting at least one of them go with players like Chris Tanev, Kevin Connauton, and Yann Sauve looking to crack the line-up.
  3. Where is Alex Edler? Since a monster performance against the Blackhawks and a decent series against Nashville, Edler has been very unnoticeable in this series against the Sharks. He has one point in the 4 games, and hasn’t laid out any of the Sharks forwards yet with hits like he dished out in the 2 previous series. Perhaps he is still feeling the effects of his mid-season back surgery, or maybe AV’s penchant of riding his top 4 D with heavy ice-time is starting to affect him. Regardless, the Canucks will need him to ramp up his play a bit if they do as expected and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Game 5 Tuesday night at Rogers Arena should be a good one, with the Canucks looking to improve their dismal 2W-4L record in elimination games in this 2011 post-season. Meanwhile, the Sharks will look to stave off elimination.

And have you noticed that no one uses the term “stave off” unless they are talking about sports playoffs. I’ve never heard it used in every day conversation… yet another thing that makes me go hmmm.

May 212011
 

[About the game from two viewpoints. Chris and Caylie watch the game and exchange their thoughts via email.]

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Fri, 20 May 2011 18:23

Hey Caylie,

So… how about that first goal?

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Fri, 20 May 2011 18:26

Hi Chris,

That was bad defensive coverage from Ehrhoff on that goal there. But that was an undisciplined penalty from Lapierre there. It’s one thing to be aggressive and another thing to not control a hit. Here we go again, a 4 minute penalty kill coming up. Canucks are 0 for 4 on the PK, hoping we can figure it out here. NOW!

Caylie

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Fri, 20 May 2011 18:30

Hey Caylie,

So… how about that second goal?

And I noticed Sharks fans had a picture of David Hasselhoff against the glass with Ehrhoff in the box. Creative, though not the two we normally see or have seen.

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Fri, 20 May 2011 18:31

Hi Chris,

Did we just go back in time? It’s feeling a lot like Round 1 of last year’s playoffs.

Caylie

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Fri, 20 May 2011 18:36

Hi Caylie,

If this was the series against the Kings, the Sharks would’ve scored two goals on that last PP opportunity.

And I think it’s safe to say the Sharks found their game when they got home. Stuff like that happens to me when I travel all the time.

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Fri, 20 May 2011 18:40

Hi Chris,

The Sharks do seem to have found their game, but the Canucks aren’t helping their own cause. Too many sloppy clearances, being out worked along the boards and in puck battles in general, and sweet baby Jesus… 1 shot in the period so far? Niemi could be napping right now and we wouldn’t know it.

Caylie

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Fri, 20 May 2011 18:49

Hey Caylie,

So are you saying we need shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots?

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Fri, 20 May 2011 19:01

Hi Chris,

I think everyone in that dressing room needs to take a shot of that Cheetah Power Surge. Here’s to hoping they decide to show some heart and want in the second period. I still believe! We need to get back to our game, back to the basics and hopefully we can get a powerplay to get the Sedin’s going.

Caylie

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Fri, 20 May 2011 19:28

Hey Caylie,

I wonder if this loss of effort by the Canucks is a customs thing? It would explain why the Sharks lacked effort in Games 1 & 2 and why the Canucks lack it tonight.

And when did the Canucks become an undisciplined team? Even if it’s not a penalty, we’re playing an undisciplined system – we just saw a 2 on 0 breakaway given up.

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Fri, 20 May 2011 19:33

Hi Chris,

The Canucks are taking penalties because they are making poor decisions. Bad pinches lead to 2-on-1′s, bad clearances lead to dominance along the boards and laziness led to a dumb cross-check from Bieksa. The Canucks are beating themselves. We NEED a powerplay goal here.

Caylie

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Fri, 20 May 2011 19:51

Hey Caylie,

So no powerplay goal. On that 2 man advantage. Or the next one either. Niemi and the Sharks PK looked solid. Or the Canucks PP looked horrible. Something like that. We still have a period to go, but I haven’t seen anything from the Canucks to think we’ll comeback.

And I’m normally positive to the final whistle.

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Fri, 20 May 2011 19:56

Hi Chris,

Bottom line is if we can’t score on TWO 5-on-3′s we cannot expect to get back into the game. I give major props to Niemi who has bounced back from a dreadful game 2. He has been the Sharks best player, hands down. The Canucks looked timid on all their powerplays. One would think if Salo’s one timer didn’t work the first 4 times, you would switch up the game plan.

The only positive I can take out of the 2nd period is that the Sharks didn’t score again. We are in a huge hole, it’ll take a miracle to get back into this game. But hey if the Sharks can score 3 goals in a period, so can the Canucks. Right? RIGHT?! *Sigh*

Caylie

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Fri, 20 May 2011 20:57

Hey Caylie,

I think I’ve finally figured it out. With the nice weather, the Canucks shipped their compete mode down by bike – that’s why it arrived in the 3rd period. I’m still not sold on the the Canucks powerplay (though they did score a couple on the major) and can’t figure out where the penalty kill is. I’ll check under my bed when I get home.

That all said, I’m not completely demoralized and think we’ll see a better squad on Sunday. And let’s be real, who would’ve guessed the Canucks could sweep the Sharks – definitely not me. I’m thinking in 5.

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Fri, 20 May 2011 21:08

Hi Chris,

While I am happy with the effort the Canucks brought in the 3rd period, it still concerns me how they came out so poorly and completely got away from their game. In the end we cannot expect to play 20 mins, give up 10 poewrplays (albeit, some of those penalty calls were atrocious) and not be effective on two 5-on-3′s. That being said we can take a lot of positives out of that 3rd period push. Hopefully the early start on Sunday won’t throw us off.

Now if the NHL does not take disciplinary action on that McGinn hit on Rome I will be outraged. That was a careless and dangerous play. I hope Rome is okay, but he looked very groggy after the hit. Also, I hope Ehrhoff’s injury isn’t too serious, but shoulder injuries are always tricky.

I expect a much better and more complete game from the Canucks in game 4. If we win, I think we will take the series at home.

Caylie

Apr 212011
 

After every Canucks playoff game, we’ll break down one key play, frame-by-frame.

The Situation

The score is knotted at 1-1 early in the second period. Vancouver has just killed off a Chicago powerplay and dumped the puck behind Crawford’s net. CBC’s commentators mention how quiet the crowd is.

Frame 1 (5:12)

Kesler briefly waves his stick at Campbell before heading to the bench. Notice the horrible timing of this line change.

Frame 2 (5:13)

Campbell passes the puck to Kane as the Sedins jump over the boards, already behind the play.

Frame 3 (5:14)

Kane skates over the blueline as linesmen miss Samuelsson pushing Toews offside. (NHL series supervisor Rob Shick admitted after the game, “Yes, it was offside but they did score five more.”)

Frame 4 (5:15)

Because the Sedins are stuck up ice, this is a 4-on-3 for Chicago. Samuelsson takes Toews as Ehrhoff and Edler defend.

Frame 5 (5:15)

But wait! Even though Edler and Ehrhoff are covering Kane, Samuelsson decides they need some help. He abandons Toews and Campbell and lunges towards Kane.

Frame 6 (5:16)

This gives Kane two great options: feed the puck to Toews as he heads to the net, or throw it to Campbell at the top of the circle as everyone falls back.

Frame 7 (5:16)

Kane gives the puck to Campbell. Toews, Ehrhoff, Edler, Kane, Samuelsson and Sharp form a celebratory conga line for Campbell’s shot. Notice Luongo is already down.

Frame 8 (5:17)

Daniel and Henrik glide into the zone. “Hey everyone, did we miss anything?”

Apr 022011
 

There are pretty goals, like Daniel’s between-the-legs shot against Calgary last year in a mean-nothing, final-game-of-the season blowout.

Then there are the clutch goals: the shorthanded breakaway, the rush up ice in the dying minutes, the rebound bashed home from your knees with the goalie pulled and seconds left.

In chronological order, here’s the 10 clutch goals that made you roar in relief and jubliation this season.

Manny Malhotra vs Detroit Red Wings on November 6

Killing a late second-period penalty in a tied game, Malhotra strips Datsyuk at the blue line and goes in alone.

Ryan Kesler vs Anaheim Ducks on December 8

On his knees with 23 seconds left and desperate to tie the game, Kesler bashes at the puck before willing it behind Hiller.

Ryan Kesler vs Columbus Blue Jackets on December 15

Kesler did all the scoring for the Canucks this night, completing his first career hat-trick with the overtime winner on this 2-on-1 feed from Daniel.

Kevin Bieksa vs Edmonton Oilers on December 26

With a minute left in a deadlocked game, the Canucks take over. Bieksa blasts the winner in through a screen with 25 seconds to spare.

Lee Sweatt vs Nashville Predators on January 26

“Rudy” comes off the bench, receives a spinorama pass from Daniel, and his first NHL shot finds the back of the net. The feel-good moment of the year.

Daniel Sedin vs Chicago Blackhawks on February 4

Patrick Kane turns the puck over. Burrows heads up ice to Henrik, to Daniel, who flips the puck over a surprised Turco with 4:00 left in the third to beat their hated nemesis.

Daniel Sedin vs Los Angeles Kings on March 5

Half-way through the third, Daniel shoves Doughty into Quick before potting Ehrhoff’s rebound. Doughty screamed in protest, but Daniel’s greasy marker stood up as the winner.

Henrik Sedin vs Colorado Avalanche on March 16

Daniel leaves his brother a blind, between-the-legs drop-pass in the slot, and Henrik drives home the winner.

Alex Burrows vs Nashville Predators on March 29

After tying the game earlier in the third, Burrows gets behind Weber and Suter with 2:30 left in a 1-1 game. There’s no doubt what move he’ll use on Rinne.

Christian Ehrhoff vs Los Angeles Kings on March 31

In a 1-1- game, Doughty turns the puck over deep in the Vancouver zone with under 8 seconds left in the 2nd period. Hansen and Ehrhoff sprint up the ice to beat the clock.

Jan 232011
 

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

Canucks Record

48 GP, 29-10-9, 67 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference)

The All-Star break is coming up and with just two games this week the time off could not come at a better time. The Canucks have been struggling to find their game in their last few contests and have been hit hard by injuries. Hopefully some much deserved rest will help to refocus the team as they make a push into the second half of the season.

Who’s Hot

In a week during the Canucks lost 3 games – 1 in OT and 2 in the SO – it’s hard to pick a player who stood out as having a great week. That said, Alex Elder was “hot” last week and deserves the honour once again. In 3 games, Edler had 3 goals and 1 assist, averaged over 28 minutes of ice time and was a plus-1.

Who’s Not

Christian Ehrhoff had arguably his worst game of the season this past week against the San Jose Sharks. He turned the puck over in the defensive zone, which led directly to Logan Couture’s tying goal. Ehrhoff continued to look shaky for the rest of game making questionable passes and having trouble leaving the zone. Against the Flames, Ehrhoff looked like a player playing with zero confidence. The Canucks have relied upon #5 heavily this season so hopefully he can get out of his funk sooner rather than later.

Who’s Next

Monday, January 24, 2011 vs. Dallas Stars (7:00 PM start, home)

The Dallas Stars are coming off a 7-4 loss to the Calgary Flames, but besides that minor hiccup, they have been great in the month of January. They’re currently one of the hottest teams in the West with a record of 7-1-1 in their last 9 games; they are ranked 3rd in the Western Conference.

The only meeting between the two clubs this season came on New Year’s Eve, where the Canucks took a decisive 4-1 win.

Brad Richards has 14 points (2 G -12 A) in his last 10 games. His 56 points for the season leads the Stars and ranks him 6th overall in the NHL, 2 points behind Henrik Sedin and 3 points behind Daniel Sedin.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 vs. Nashville Predators (7:00 PM start, home)

Equally as hot are the Predators, who have won 9 of their last 11 games. Perhaps surprisingly, they’re currently in 4th in the Western Conference. This is the two teams’ first meeting this season and it comes 50 games into the season.

Their penalty-killing (85.2%) is 6th-best in the league and have only allowed 4 powerplay goals against in their last 38 times shorthanded. This will be a tough challenge for the Canucks; while their powerplay is still ranked 3rd overall, they’ve only scored 3 powerplay goals in their last 7 games (25 PP opportunities).

The Predators are led by their captain – defenseman and 3-time Norris Trophy candidate, Shea Weber, who has 12 points in his last 10 games. He is averaging just under 25 minutes of ice-time per game and is a plus-11 for the season. If that isn’t leadership then I don’t know what is.

Negative Trend: Injuries

The injury bug has officially hit the Canucks, more specifically our defence. The latest casualty came against the Flames as Kevin Bieksa took a solid punch to the face that dropped him. He made a strong effort to try and get his team back into the game, however he left the game in the first period and did not return; Bieksa is listed as day-to-day. Sami Salo is still on the IR and his return is still up in the air. Aaron Rome is on the IR with a sprained MCL and Andrew Alberts is day-to-day with a separated right shoulder. Since we are just past the halfway mark of the season, hopefully our defence will be recovered and ready to go once the playoff push begins.

Jan 142011
 

[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 who watched a hockey game. To view all the other wonderful stuff PITB does, visit Pass It To Bulis.]

It is the worst letdown in the world when the Canucks suffer a shutout loss. It’s a worse letdown than Urkel O’s (the cereal that showed so much promise). Not only am I forced to watch the Canucks lose, but I’m forced to watch as they’re held off the scoresheet. Truth is, it’s boring. Plus it means the highlight package will also be boring: Don Taylor: in the second, Mikael Samuelsson streaks into the zone and shoots–it is blocked. It means the post-game breakdown will be boring. Blake Price: Henrik Lundqvist is a good goalie. It means fan conversation will be boring. Fan: I thought the Sedins weren’t that good tonight. Like the pace of the game, everything slows to a crawl until the next one. It’s a torture.

That’s right. Watching bad hockey is literally torture. I, like any good Canadian, would sooner give away national secrets than watch a shutout loss. This is why Canada should never go to war with the United States: we’re too easy to torture (and boy, do they torture). Sigh. I watched this game:

  • Well everyone, the Canucks lost in regulation. Don’t panic, but this can only mean one thing: it’s the end of days. How will it happen? I theorize the following: the human race is about to be overthrown by a coalition of marmots and marmosets. Their combined brainpower will allow them to crack the evolutionary code and evolve at alarming rates. Their combined military power will create an unstoppable marmy. People: it’s marmageddon.
  • I’m exaggerating slightly. Nothing can evolve that quickly, save Canuck fans’ opinions on their team. This loss isn’t the end of the world. It sucks that the Canucks’ point streak and Cory Schneider’s point streak both had to end, but it was going to happen eventually. Hopefully, this loss is just a loss, and not the beginning of a streak going the other way. It’s going to take much more winning to remain atop the NHL, where the Canucks maintain a three-point lead on Detroit and Philadelphia.
  • Let’s get right out in front of any potential navel-gazing and establish that the Rangers played one Hell of a defensive game. The Associated Press called it an all-heart performance, and while it may not have been the hockey equivalent of trying to liberate Scotland, it was certainly commendable. The Rangers swarmed the puck, had 13 different guys combine to block 24 shots (including 5 from Dan Girardi), and forced the Canucks to shoot from the outside all night. Against a team like Vancouver that scores the majority of their goals a foot from the crease, that’s a solid recipe for success.
  • The Canucks lost this game along the boards. Sadly, there’s no statistic to back this up, but when the Canucks are playing well, they win their offensive zone puck battles and sustain offensive pressure. Led by pinching expert Kevin Bieksa (the grandma of the NHL), they keep pucks inside the blue line and break down defensive structures by throwing it around the zone willy-nilly. Last night, the Rangers prevented them from doing this.
  • Also, Henrik Lundqvist stopped all the shots. That helped too.
  • While New York’s 24 blocks came from thirteen guys, Vancouver’s 12 blocks came from only four defensemen, including four apiece from Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis, who quietly played a stellar game. It’s always a bummer when a team loses 1-0 because the strong defensive effort of the losers goes relatively unnoticed. The Ham n’ Juice pairing looks as defensively sound as any Canuck tandem this town’s seen in years, Bryant Reeves and Stromile Swift notwithstanding.
  • Ryan Kesler continued his shootiness, throwing five on net, and attempting another five. However, the shot king last night was Mikael “Shooty McShooterson” Samuelsson. He had five shots as well, with two blocked and four more missing the goal. He’s a funny player. He shoots when he should pass; he holds the puck when he should move it, such as when he dragged the puck back in the neutral zone when any other player would have dumped it in. Sammy’s not unlike Daniel and Henrik in that he plays the game at his own, mechanical pace, and can frustrate by appearing take it easy or playing without urgency. He’s just a measured, intelligent player. Last night he was our best forward. Let’s keep him.
  • Let’s not keep him on the first unit power play. Why, I ask, did the Canucks put him on the point instead of Ehrhoff for the five-on-three? Why did they take Kesler out from the front of the net and put him at the point? If you’re wondering why they did not score, tackle these first two whys and you’ll probably have your answer.
  • Mason Raymond had some jump as well, but he seems to have forgotten how to capitalize on a chance. Even in Monopoly, all he gets are parking fines and poor taxes.
  • Cory Schneider had a fine game, but there’s definitely something to Richard Loat‘s observation that the team plays better defensively in front of him. I agree that they tighten up a bit. Combine that with the run support he’s been getting in his starts (and his own strong play) and you have a recipe for a going this many games without a regulation loss. Last night, however, the run support dried up and Schneider saw the goose egg in his middle column disappear.
  • Speaking of middle columns: perhaps realizing that his team wasn’t about to sneak one past Henrik Lundqvist, Alex Burrows went five-hole on Marc Staal instead. Thanks a lot, Burr. Not only do I have to defend your hair-pulling when I tell people you’re my favourite player, but now I have to defend your groin-spearing? It’s embarrassing loving a man who pulls hair and stabs groins. And yet my love persists. Burrows will probably get a phone call from the league, as nether attacks are never cool–unless you’re making a short film. Here’s hoping he sees some discipline, as it’s fairly warranted, especially after the refs decided instead to instead punish Marc Staal for failing to protect his testicles.
  • Such are the foibles of a young goalie, but this is the third or fourth game in a row where Cory Schneider’s made a pretty egregious error. Last game, it was the slapstick fall that gave Jamal Mayers a freebie. He nearly handed the Rangers another when he coughed the puck up behind the net. The look on Roberto Luongo’s face afterward was priceless.
  • According to the stat sheet, the Rangers had 38 hits to the Canucks 31. No they didn’t. Madison Square Garden employs one of the most liberal stat guys in the country. Note that the Rangers have 573 hits on the road and a league-leading 731 at home. Who is this guy, thinking everything’s a hit? He’s probably the guy that greenlit Kesha. This is a surefire hit. Also, I bet the police answer domestic abuse calls at his house all the time. She hit you again, sir?
  • Daniel and Henrik did have a quiet game, though it probably helped that the Rangers were allowed to latch onto them like brain slugs. I’ve heard some criticism of the Sedins for disappearing, and I think it speaks to their expectations as the offensive leaders of this team. All this talk of Ryan Kesler as a dark horse for the Hart is silly if he’s not even the one held accountable when the Canucks get shut out. That said, when your scoring leaders don’t score, that’s a problem. Score more, Daniel and Henrik.
  • And finally, I realize that playing Aaron Rome semi-regularly is a good way to prevent him from playing like he hasn’t played in months, but when he plays that way in spite of this approach, you have a problem.This is the catch-22: Aaron Rome plays like he shouldn’t be playing, but he’ll only play worse if you don’t play him. Unless you never play him again. Get well soon, Salo.
Jan 112011
 

(Contributions from J.J. Guerrero and Matt Lee.)

Now that the Canucks have reached the official halfway point of the 2010/2011 season, we take a look back and give the players their midseason marks.

Dan Hamhuis, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: canada.com

Dan Hamhuis: The Smithers native has been everything the Canucks wanted in a top defenseman – excellent skater, positionally-sound defensively and good puck-mover. Hamhuis often plays against opposing team’s top lines, but is also on pace to match his career-high point totals.

Grade: A-

Kevin Bieksa: Bieksa is perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the Canucks’ season. Playing injury-free for the first time in three years, he’s dug himself out of a deep doghouse and re-established himself as one of the team’s best defensemen and leaders. He has 8 points (3 G – 5 A) and a +10 rating in his last 8 games.

Grade: B+

Alex Edler: Take a quick look at the NHL leaderboard and you’ll see 24-year old Alex Edler among the top-25 in NHL defensemen in points (25), total ice-time (989:55), average ice-time per game (24:08) and plus-minus (+10). No, the Canucks don’t have a Norris Trophy candidate yet but maybe – just maybe – they’ll have one in Edler soon.

Grade: A

Christian Ehrhoff: Ehrhoff had an outstanding first campaign with the Canucks last year and he’s continued that trend this season. While it doesn’t appear he’ll eclipse his team-best +36 rating from last season (+10 this year), the German is still a safe bet for 45+ points.

Grade: B

Keith Ballard: Some of the hype around trading for Keith Ballard in the summer was diminished when the American was hampered by the lingering effects of hip surgery and further when he sustained a concussion. But since getting back to full health, Ballard has been a solid defensive presence.

Grade: C+

Andrew Alberts: The whipping boy of playoffs past has re-acquitted himself to the fans with some surprisingly strong defensive play. Alberts has been a nice fit on the bottom pairing and if he keeps his game simple, will stay there.

Grade: C

Aaron Rome: Alberts’ improved play has pushed Rome further back down the depth chart. It doesn’t help that Rome’s play has regressed in the last few games he’s played. He’s only appeared in 24 games to date.

Grade: C-

%d bloggers like this: