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.

Apr 112014
 

In the Canucks’ first game in the Trevor Linden as President era, they lost 4-2 to the Colorado Avalanche and slipped to 12th place in the Western Conference, just ahead of the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers. On the bright side, as it stands right now, they look to be on track for another top 9 pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 282014
 

And we were so optimistic after last night’s game, eh?

But now, after the Canucks’ 3-2 OT loss to the Colorado Avalanche, and the Phoenix Coyotes’ win over the New Jersey Devils, those slim playoff hopes we’re all clinging to are getting even slimmer. The Coyotes need 9 points in their last 8 games, the Minnesota Wild need 8 points in their last 8 games, and the Canucks’ season will come to a merciful end.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 272014
 
Jeff Vinnick , NHLI via Getty Images

Jeff Vinnick , NHLI via Getty Images

 

Crazy Coach-Off

Forget who will score first or who will get the first penalty – the big moment here is which coach will spaz out first? Both Avs coach Patrick Roy and our John Tortorella are fiery and animated, to say the least. Both could go off like firecrackers if this game gets chippy or a team gets one too many bad calls. So keep your eyes on the bench, people. This could be fun!

In Booth We Trust

I have no idea how it came to this, but apparently David Booth is the Canucks’ best player right now. Followed closely by the man who gave up his looks for us, Zack Kassian. Booth has scored 3 goals in his last two games which leaves me wondering if the other teams have written him off like Canucks fans have so they just don’t bother to pay attention to him much on the ice. Let’s hope the Avs haven’t been reviewing the game tapes from the last couple of Canucks wins and they still think he can only hit the back of a deer and not the back of the net. And since the above picture shows he’s got a bit of a history with the Avs, I predict a Gordie Howe Hat trick for Boothie tonight!

Who Cares?

The Canucks. The Canucks should care about this win very much. A win here – and a Phoenix Coyotes loss to Cory Schneider and the New Jersey Devils – inches them that much closer to almost getting a playoff spot.

With only two wins in their last six games, the Avs are kind of slumping right now too so, yeah they’d love to stop that slide on us, but if they lose one more (this one) it’s not going to toss them right out of playoffs. They still have enough games to secure their spot (and their subsequent first round exit). So really, Avs, you shouldn’t try too hard tonight. Take it easy and give us just a little more hope to be dashed later on. Thanking you in advance.

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.

Dec 092013
 

Don’t get us wrong, the Canucks’ 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche was nice. But seriously, losing a shutout with 7.1 seconds left, and former Canucks goaltender turned Canucks colour man John Garrett bringing the jinx? Gah!

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Dec 082013
 

Colorado Avalanche v Vancouver Canucks
(source: sports.yahoo.com)

Vancouver Canucks (16-10-5)
Colorado Avalanche (20-7-0)

As the Colorado Avalanche close out their 3-game road trip against the Vancouver Canucks in Vancouver, the Canucks will play game 2 of their 5-game home stand. This is the first of three meetings between the two teams.

With 3 consecutive wins, the Canucks have gained some ground in the Western Conference standings. They beat the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday to tie them with the 8th most points in the conference (though the Coyotes do have 2 games in hand), and are just 2 points back of the Minnesota Wild, the other team on top of the Canucks for a wild card playoff spot.

Meanwhile, the Avalanche have cooled off slightly after their torrid 14-2-0 start. They’re 1-1-1 in their last 3 games, and 6-5-0 in their last 11.

Who’s Hot

Daniel Sedin notched another 2 assists against the Coyotes, and he now has 6 points (2 goals and 4 assists) in his last 5 games, and 11 points (3 goals and 8 assists) in his last 8 games.

Jason Garrison also scored the Canucks’ first goal on Friday night, and he now has 7 points (2 goals and 5 assists) in his last 5 games, and 9 points (2 goals and 7 assists) in his last 7 games since breaking out of his 14-game pointless streak.

For the Avalanche, their captain, Gabriel Landeskog, is on a 4-game point streak. He has 6 points (2 goals and 4 assists) in that span.

Who’s Out

The Canucks will be playing without Alex Burrows, Alex Edler and Jordan Schroeder. Let’s hope no one else gets added to this list.

The Avalanche will be playing without defenseman Jan Hejda, who is out for 10-14 days with a knee strain, defenseman Ryan Wilson, and forward Alex Tanguay.

Sep 302013
 

On the eve of the start of the 2013/2014 NHL regular season, I preview the 30 teams, one division at a time.

Chicago Blackhawks

Photo credit: Grantland

Chicago Blackhawks

The Good

The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2013, and may very well have a chance at a repeat performance. After all, they retained much of their players, with Dave Bolland perhaps the only significant subtraction from the roster. Brandon Saad, Nick Leddy and Marcus Kruger all seem ready to take on more responsibility.

The Bad

Especially with the hard salary cap and increased parity, it’s pretty darn tough to repeat in this league. The last team to be able to do so were the 1996/1997 and 1997/1998 Detroit Red Wings.

The Outlook

As much as it hurts to say this, I think the Blackhawks are, once again, the team to beat this season.

*****

Colorado Avalanche

The Good

After a few seasons in the cellar, the Avalanche are slowly assembling a good group of players up front. Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly and Nathan MacKinnon are as good a young forward core as any team can ask for.

The Bad

Their defense is weak and their goaltending is inconsistent.

The Outlook

There may be hope on the horizon for the Avs, but at least for this season, they’ll have to go through some growing pains.

*****

Dallas Stars

The Good

The Stars may have given up first-line winger, Loui Eriksson, to the Boston Bruins, but in Tyler Seguin, they received someone with no. 1 center potential. In the same deal, they also managed to get Rich Peverley, who has potential to produce as a no. 2 center. Jamie Benn, a 6’2″ forward who averaged 0.80 points per game last season, is an emerging star. 23-year old Alex Chiasson and 2013 1st round draft pick Valeri Nichushkin look like they will fill some key roles in the lineup.

The Bad

There’s not a lot of depth in the back end after Alex Goligoski, Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley. 39-year old, UFA signing Sergei Gonchar will help, but other than that will rely on guys like Brendan Dillon, ex-Canuck Kevin Connauton, Jamie Oleksiak and Jordie Benn to improve.

The Outlook

This may be a bridge year for the Stars. The kids will get opportunities to play and gain some much-needed experience.

*****

Minnesota Wild

The Good

By signing Matt Cooke and trading for Nino Niederreiter, the Wild did well to improve their bottom-six.

The Bad

The top-six is top-heavy. After the no. 1 line of Mikko Koivu-Zach Parise-Jason Pomminville, the Wild will have to rely on youngsters, Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund, and hope that Dany Heatley can stay relatively healthy and able to chip in offensively.

The Outlook

After making a big splash and signing Parise and franchise defenseman Ryan Suter last year, there was a lot of optimism in St. Paul to start the 2012/2013 season. Expectations should be more tempered this season.

*****

Nashville Predators

The Good

Goaltending and defense will, of course, once again be the Predators’ strong suit. They had Seth Jones drop into their laps at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, and Roman Josi looks like the real deal.

The Bad

The Preds’ offense finished dead last in the NHL last year; this year won’t be any better.

The Outlook

Sometime in the future, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and Taylor Beck may well provide Nashville with the offense they need. Just not with any regular frequency this season.

*****

St. Louis Blues

The Good

The Blues have incredible depth throughout their lineup and should once again be one of the hardest teams to play against. Already with David Backes, Alex Steen, Chris Stewart, Patrick Berglund and Vladimir Tarasenko, they went ahead and added Magnus Paajarvi from Edmonton and ex-Canucks, Derek Roy and Maxim Lapierre. Their defensive corps consisting of Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Kevin Shattenkirk, Barret Jackman, Roman Polak and Jordan Leopold may be the best in the league.

The Bad

The Blues have only won one playoff round – in 2011/2012 – in the last ten seasons.

The Outlook

The Blues should easily make the post-season in the new Central Division, and certainly, they have the pieces to finally make it out of the second round of the playoffs.

*****

Winnipeg Jets

The Good

The Jets’ top-3 on d – Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian – can produce with the best of them. Up front, they added some depth behind Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little by signing versatile Michael Frolik and 20-goal man, Devin Setoguchi.

The Bad

Their defense isn’t that great defensively, playing in the same division as some very good defensive teams.

The Outlook

The Jets should be able to compete for one of the Western Conference’s wildcard spots.

Apr 142013
 

Ryan Kesler didn’t mince any words after the Canucks blew two, third period leads to the last place Colorado Avalanche yesterday. “We played like shit for 40 minutes,” he said. “We gave them everything they got with turnovers and miscommunication and not getting the puck out. It was shit,” he added.

Just about sums it up perfectly.

Here’s how you, Canucks fans, saw the game.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 292013
 

Talk about two teams headed in opposite directions.

After their 4-1 win last night over the Colorado Avalanche, the Canucks have now won 6 games in a row. The loss was the Avs’ 4th in a row and 8th in their last 9 games.

Also, with Alex Burrows reunited with the Sedins, the first line once again looks rejuvenated and accounted for 3 of the team’s 4 goals.

That’s good news for Canucks fans.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

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