Feb 212013
 

Coming off back-to-back losses, the Canucks travel to Chicago to face their rival Blackhawks.

I hope everyone got off work in time, because this game is not waiting for you. Seriously, they’re not waiting for anyone, not even Eddie Lack.

Of course, we had to invite Mr. Lack to #TGATT fun.

Glad you asked. Read on and check it out.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Feb 192013
 

Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: cbc.ca

As I’m writing this, the Canucks still haven’t announced their starting goaltender for tonight’s match-up against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Perhaps coach Alain Vigneault lost his mythical coin. Or maybe he’s busy throwing darts at a dart board to select his new shootout lineup.

Or maybe, just maybe, the performances by both Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo to-date this season has thrown a wrinkle into his plans.

If we’ve learned anything through the first one-third of the shortened season, the Canucks’ goaltending hierarchy seems less clear. If Schneider – and his agent – expected to start 75% of the Canucks games, that plan hasn’t materialized yet. So far, both Schneider and Luongo have evenly-split the number of starts through the first 14 games of the season.

What is clearer, however, is whose numbers are better.

Luongo has been able to get the Canucks points in every one of his 7 starts. As he’s done throughout his career, he’s performed consistently and has a 4-0-3 record with all 3 losses coming in the shootout. He also has a 0.934 save percentage (6th in the NHL) and a 1.63 GAA (3rd in the NHL). His loss against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday was only the first time this season he’s allowed more than 2 goals in a game.

In the meantime, Schneider has a 4-3-0 record in his 7 starts, and has a 0.912 save percentage and 2.62 GAA. He’s been maddeningly inconsistent – good in wins and not so much in losses. He got shelled for 5 goals against the Anaheim Ducks on opening night before bouncing back against the Calgary Flames. He shut out the Ducks after the win against the Flames, but followed that up by being shelled for 4 goals against the San Jose Sharks. Against the Dallas Stars on Friday night, Schneider allowed 4 goals against in a 4-3 loss, the third time in 7 starts he’s allowed at least 4 goals against in a game. The Canucks gave him the ball early on, but he hasn’t quite run away with it yet.

Schneider has also enjoyed the benefit of receiving more offensive support. With him in net, the Canucks have scored 22 goals (3.14 goals per game). With Luongo in net, the Canucks have only scored 16 goals (2.28 goals per game).

In the shootout, Luongo has actually been decent. He’s been in 4 shootouts, and except for his Oshie-t moment on Sunday, he’s been able to stop about 65% of the shootout attempts against him, which seems to be the league average. And in those 4 shootouts, a grand total of one Canuck scored on their attempt – Jordan Schroeder, who was the 4th shooter in the Canucks’ 2-1 win against tonight’s opponent, the Blackhawks. Only once in those 4 games did Luongo allow more than 1 shootout goal; he allowed 2 on Sunday against the Blues.

This doesn’t, by any stretch, imply that Schneider is not a good goalie because I think he is. I simply think that Luongo is outplaying him right now. And if the Canucks go by merit in selecting tonight’s starter, it should be Lu.

Feb 092013
 

Much has been made about the goaltending situation in Vancouver and rightfully so: right now the Canucks have two high-calibre netminders making up arguably the strongest tandem in the league.  So with both Cory Schneider and Robert Luongo playing extremely well, it’s become a daily guessing game as to who will start in the next Canucks game.

Likely tired of these daily questions, coach Alain Vigneault introduced his now famous coin – the one he flips to determine which goalie will get the start.  It was humourous at the start but I hope he won’t be using the same line a few weeks from now.

Thus, your friends at CHB have come up with 10 alternative ways to determine the Canucks’ starting goalie:

10.  Asking the Magic 8-Ball.  It’s helped adults and kids alike make some difficult decisions since 1950, offering profound answers such as: “Concentrate and ask again”, “Very Doubtful”, and “My Sources Say No”.  Obviously, the question must be asked in a yes/no format.

9.  A Game of Laser Tag.  Imagine Luongo and Schneider darting behind walls and jumping over barrels amidst a bunch of screaming 8 year-old kids.  After getting shot at all their lives, they would finally have a chance to do the shooting.  Winner gets the start.

8.  Any Wrestling Gimmick Match.  This would be great way to attract new fans – have Luongo and Schneider participate in any of the following wrestling matches during the warm-up:  Hell in a Cell, Ladder Match, or Last Man Standing.  They should be good with it…they both participated in the Legion of Blog’s NHL Royal Rumble last month.  If that’s too violent or too risky, any game like Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Settlers of Catan, or Twister will do.

7. Suiting Up.  Whoever gets fully dressed into their equipment and jersey first prior to warm-up gets the start. No questions asked.

6. Heads Up Poker.  Each goalie will receive 50 big blinds and Kesler and Bieksa can provide commentary.  Luongo is the all-in favourite in this competition…but look for Schneider to call AV’s bluff and surprise Luongo with some aggressive pre-flop (or make that no-flop) play.

5. Impressions Contest.  If the poker favours Luongo, then Schneider will definitely have the advantage in an impressions contest.  Remember his Hansen, AV and Burrows on CBC’s After Hours?

 

4. Rock, Paper, Scissors.  Nothing wrong with going to an old standard to determine who’s starting. Two main rules: no adding lizard and/or spock, and it must be best-of-7 to avoid flukes or cheating.

3. Canada Vs. USA (Round 1):  Luongo picks 4 Canadian players while Schnedier picks 4 Americans.  Tug of war at centre ice…winning country has their goalie start.

2. Canada Vs. USA (Round 2):  This doesn’t include an injury risk and is solely based on the economy.  Whichever dollar is stronger on game day means that country’s goalie will be the Canucks’ money in the bank for the game.

1. Walk-Off (Zoolander Style).  This is simple: both Luongo and Schneider need to remove their underwear without taking off any of their goalie equipment.  Given the extreme difficulty of this challenge, AV has the option of granting the winner 3 consecutive starts regardless of performance in the games.  David Bowie optional.

 

Feb 072013
 

You Wanna Go?

This season has had more than it’s fair share of fights. As of February 5, the Vancouver Canucks have had 7 fights. Same with the Habs, but I preface the date because as I’m writing this, they’re about to play the Boston Bruins. Their fight count could be 20 by the end of that game.

A fight gets a crowd going, gets a team going, and fuels a good rivalry, but no one wants a player to sustain serious injury.  Two fights in the last couple of weeks have me going hmmm… because they involve the same team and show the right and wrong sides of fighting in the NHL.

First, we have the right: During a fight between the Philadelphia Flyers’ Max Talbot and the New York Rangers’ Ryan Callahan, all the shirt-tugging, pushing and pulling injured Callahan’s shoulder. Sensing that something was wrong, Talbot stopped and waved over a training, calling for medical help.

Now, the wrong: On Tuesday, the Flyers’ Zack Rinaldo fought the Tampa Bay Lightning’s BJ Crombeen. After Crombeen slipped to the ice, Rinaldo continued to pound him.

Rinaldo is a notorious fighter in the league, but that doesn’t mean he has to be a jerkoff. Would Kevin Bieksa keep throwing punches once a guy is down? I don’t think so.

To me, fighting is part of the game, but what makes it tolerable is the code – the etiquette – and Rinaldo broke it just days after his teammate, Talbot, was a poster child for it. Hmmm… I never thought I would say this but Rinaldo needs to take a lesson from Talbot.

Freaky Friday

Disney came out with a movie in the 1970s called Freaky Friday in a mom and daughter switch bodies. Every time I watch a Vancouver Canucks game this season, I can’t help but wonder if this has happened to Henrik Sedin and Zach Kassian.

First, Zack started scoring goals, and at one point, he was among the league leaders in goals scored. Then, Zack’s leading the Canucks in scoring, and as of today, he’s still tied for 3rd with Henrik in team scoring.

As if that wasn’t weird enough, our demure Swedish Captain is turning into a goon taking roughing penalties and throwing checks like he’s… well, Zack Kassian. The Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is actually sidelined – missing the Oilers’ game last night against the Dallas Stars – due to an injury resulting from a Henrik Sedin hit. It’s a total head scratcher. If Henrik drops his gloves next, I may just lose my mind.

The Mysterious Coin

The Canucks announced that Cory Schneider will get the start against the Minnesota Wild. Sure, Roberto Luongo is on a hot streak, but this isn’t about what makes sense. This is about what the coin says. Coach Alain Vigneault once again flipped his coin, and this time it came up Cory.

I am honestly starting to believe that AV soaks his chewing gum in vodka. He’s enjoying this too much, especially considering the media, the fans, and Schneider’s agent are all taking the goalie controversy very seriously.

I want to see this coin. Is it a loonie? A twoonie? A quarter? Does it have pictures of Cory and Bobby Lu on either side? Where does AV keep this coin? Is it always in his pocket? Does he lock it away somewhere with his crystal ball, voodoo dolls and a pack of vodka-infused chewing gun? If the media doesn’t insist on filming a coin toss before the end of the season, they’re not doing their job.

Jan 312013
 

Adrian and his bowl cut

Although I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting @AY604 in person yet, we have a connection that extends beyond Twitter.  It turns out that one of Adrian’s good friends played hockey with my cousin Dusty in Japan back in the day.  And thanks to the generosity of both his friend and my cousin, Adrian is the proud owner of some bright red Vaughn goalie pads.  They look pretty darn sweet.

In his words:

Adrian (@AY604) was born on a tiny island in the South Pacific known for its high end, square shaped bottled water or what the locals call ‘tap’. Immigrating to Vancouver and eventually settling in Burnaby at the tender age of 4, Adrian spent his formative years as the only Asian kid in his neighbourhood crying daily over his $5 Chinatown bowl cut. In his spare time, Adrian is a trophy husband and father. His main goal in life is to teach his daughters that a bathroom is not a photo booth. His other interests include gossip, yelling at bad drivers, judging people and Schadenfreude. He sounds like a terrible person. Adrian began supporting the Canucks in 1982 after a chance meeting with Thomas Gradin. That’s 31 years of punches to the gut yet he still bleeds black, yellow, orange, blue, green and sometimes salmon red.

1.       Are you concerned by the Canucks’ poor start to this shortened season?  

I wouldn’t say this is a poor start. It’s not ideal but fortunately the Canucks play in a Division that’s weaker than vending machine coffee. The other four teams in the Northwest aren’t terrible per se but I don’t believe they have the goaltending to win this division. In less than two weeks this team should be 6-3-2 and we can go back to planning the parade. For a team with two key players out with injuries and whose best players haven’t played meaningful hockey for 9 months, a .500 start is to be expected. What concerns me the most is their inability to finish out games and protect a lead. When you’re up 2-0, the mentality should be to bury your opponent not to park the bus.

2.       Do you think Alain Vigneault’s job is in jeopardy?  

If AV’s job is to be witty and self-deprecating during interviews then he should be fine. However, if his job is to find a way to get The Kassassin on the ice in OT or figure out why the power play is staler than riot jokes then I think his gum chewing days could be over.

As former Canuck’s coach Harry Neale once said, “Coaching is about keeping the half of the team that hates you away from the half that’s undecided.” I don’t think the players hate AV but I do think they’ve tuned him out to some extent. All coaches have a best before date and I fear that his is approaching BC Place processed cheese status.

I think he needs a long playoff run to save his job but with that said, the Canucks only last 5 games last year and he was given a contract extension. So what do I know.

3.       What do the Canucks need to do to get back to their winning ways?

Everybody knows the Canucks are notoriously slow starters. They just don’t look sharp right now. The Sedins’ cycle looks like it’s missing a gear, Higgins is skating with cement skates and the top four defensemen have been less than stellar. Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa look like Div. 6 beer leaguers and I’m one turnover away from calling Alex Edler, “The Baker”. So it’s going to take time for them to all start clicking but unfortunately time is not a luxury in a 48 game season.

I do think that any turnaround starts with figuring out why their special teams are so poor right now. Pundits will say that it’s still early and both the PK and PP are close to last season’s averages which were top 10 in the NHL. To which I say, facts and rational opinions have no place in discussions about the Canucks. My eyes say the PP and PK look terrible and my eyes don’t lie except for that one time in Grade 9 when I thought I could pull off French rolled jeans.

The PP has become too predictable, cycling on the perimeter, passing it around the horn until they find the perfect shot for their defensemen. Teams know what’s coming and seem to shut it down with an aggressive box (that’s what she said). The Canucks need to start getting bodies and pucks to the net. It’s time to stop looking for the pretty goals and get all Zdeno Chara in there, ugly! It may be an overly simplistic solution but sometimes you have to K.I.S.S.!

4.       Will Roberto Luongo get traded?  If so, what’s fair value coming back?

Honestly, I’m of the mind that the Canucks should keep Lu this year. Having a 1 and 1A in a shorten season could prove to be an Ace up their sleeve. No one knows how Schneider will perform in the playoffs after being a Number 1 and all the pressure and work load that goes with it. Having a Luongo safety net if Schneider ever gets anxious about a Barker/Alberts pairing may pay dividends down the stretch.

If Lu is traded, the Canucks need to get back at the very least goal scoring help for the 2nd line and a proven backup now that Eddie Lack is out for six months. I’m sure both of those things are a dime a dozen.

5.       Who is your favourite Canuck?  Least favourite?

I’ve played the position for 30 years, so my favourite Canucks have all been goalies. So currently, I’m a fanboy for Lu and Schneider and before that Kirk McLean. Hell, I even paid actual dollars for a Dan ‘I make grown men cry in their sleep” Cloutier jersey.

Least favourite Canuck? David Booth with a bullet.

6.       Aside from Vancouver, what is your favourite NHL team and why?

In reality I’m a Canucks fan not a National Hockey League fan. In fact I would say I’m way more of Whitecaps and Major League Soccer fan than the NHL. But if I had to follow another team it would be the Montreal Canadiens, an original 6 team with tonnes of history, tradition and one of the best jerseys in all of sports. Also, the crowd shots, zut alors!

Tasting victory

Jan 262013
 

Almost a week after the Anaheim Ducks ruined the Canucks’ season and home opener, the Canucks get their opportunity for revenge. And boy, did they get it.

The game had everything – pretty goals, big saves, big fights, a penalty shot, and even phallic-shaped light sabers.

Yup, they had that and more.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Jan 252013
 

One week into the new NHL season and some things don’t seem to have changed.

The Canucks are off to another slow start and Roberto Luongo trade talks are still dominating the airwaves.

Clay, Chris, Ed and special guest, Alan from the Hogshack in Steveston, chat about these and more in this latest episode of CHB TV.

Jan 242013
 

One team in tonight’s match up will see their first win of the season. I, for one, can’t stand to see Calgary get a win before us, so let’s hope we take it. Maybe the Shaft theme song will help us here. It can’t hurt.

If that didn’t get you pumped for the game, maybe Gary Valk can.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Jan 232013
 

Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: National Post

With less than a week of games under the NHL’s belt in this shortened 2013 season, I’m shocked at how many things made me go hmmm…

Here are a few of the biggest head scratchers:

Goalie Drama. Again. Sigh.

The Vancouver Canucks have not traded Roberto Luongo. Despite claiming Cory Schneider is their number one, they pulled Schneider in game 1 and didn’t give him a chance in game 2. Alain Vigneault’s talk doesn’t match his walk. If Schneider is the Canucks’ number 1, he would get the start, even after being pulled. In the last few seasons, Luongo would get the start even after being pulled or a poor showing. Between Vigneault’s refusal to stick with his supposed number 1, and his further refusal to even announce his starter until minutes before a game, the goalie controversy is gaining life instead of losing it. It doesn’t matter how professional an organization is, that kind of extended drama is going to make an impact in a bad way. It has with the fan base. Luongo homers are openly tweeting hopefully for Cory’s failure.

Reality check: Schneider isn’t the only number one to struggle. The New York Rangers pulled Henrik Lundqvist in the second period against the Pittsburgh Penguins after he stopped just 14 of 18 shots. Why aren’t Rangers fans screaming for Marty Biron to take over the number 1 spot? Because Rangers management isn’t wishy-washy on their faith in Lundqvist.

Does a Short Season Mean it’s a Free-For-All?

If you look at the results throughout the league over the first few days of the season, it’s glaringly obvious the favourites aren’t doing so well. A lot of sportscasters tagged the Rangers to be the team most likely to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup this year; they’ve yet to win a game. Same with the Philadelphia Flyers, who the pundits always predict some noise in the playoffs. And as we all know, same with the Canucks.

In fact the only favourite doing really well are the Penguins. The Chicago Blackhawks, much to my personal chagrin, are also starting strong. In a shortened season, getting a fast start out of the gate and winning from the get-go is important. Sure the Canucks (and Rangers and Flyers) have only lost 2 or 3 games, but with less time to catch up, it’s worrisome. I have a feeling we may be even more surprised by this year’s Cup winner than last year’s.

Jersey Off Our Backs Make Me Go Hmmm… and Mmmm

After watching the Jersey Off Our Backs presentation on Saturday, I’m left with a few questions. Bear with me as I have never played hockey.

How come the Canucks don’t all wear the same pads? I assumed they would all wear similar, if not the same pads, but Lapierre is wearing red ones that make him look like he’s still a Hab. Yes I actually looked at his pads, not just his pretty face. It was hard but I did it. Mostly everyone else on the team had white pads, or in David Booth’s case, a really bad checkered shirt. 

And does Higgins not wear anything under his pads just so he can hear the squeals of delight as he pulls his shirt off?  This is the second Jersey off Our Backs that I’ve witnessed live and in-person and once again Higgy wasn’t wearing Under Armour – he’s the only hockey player I’ve seen that goes bare under the pads. Why does he do it? Why doesn’t anyone else? Not that I’m complaining; it does make me go Hmmm… and Mmmm.

 

Jan 232013
 

The sports world was abuzz yesterday with a solid quote from Mike Gillis on the status of the Roberto Luongo deal. For those who may have missed it, here’s what Mike said to Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun:

“We have a potential deal in place with one team that has to do something with another player that they have – and it’s not who anybody thinks it is – and so we have to wait. (But) we’ve been offered packages that don’t fit what our plan is, what we need,” said Gillis. – Vancouver Sun. Jan 22, 2013

So as we all see it, there is a mystery player on a mystery team that is a key component to this mystery deal. Fortunately we at CHB know who to call.

Luongo and the Mystery Machine

Mystery Team? Why not Mystery Machine?


But the quote also got me thinking. What if the conspiracy theorists out there were right and the mystery player or team wasn’t interested in Luongo, but instead Cory Schneider?

No matter how crazy that may sound, it actually is a fair enough question.

Consider that the Canucks have two very capable goaltenders and valuable commodities on the bench, a market for both should exist. And whether there are two games in or twenty games in, it should be their value in making the team better that is the basis of any decision.

So if you were Gillis, what would you do if a SERIOUS offer for Schneider were to come in? Do you even give it a sniff? I asked our CHB faithful this same question on on our Facebook page, but wanted to see what our greater readership had to say.

I mean, isn’t that what you do when you have a mystery on your hands?

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