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.

Mar 072014
 

This pretty much sums up last night’s 6-1 ass-kicking to the Dallas Stars.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 062014
 
Ryan Kesler remains a Canuck as the trade deadline has come and gone. Time to accept the team we've got and move past the trade rumours.  (Photo Credit vansunsportsblogs.com)

Ryan Kesler remains a Canuck as the trade deadline has come and gone. Time to accept the team we’ve got and move past the trade drama.
(Photo Credit vansunsportsblogs.com)

The NHL trade deadline has come and gone, but you can’t say Canucks fans are clearer about the direction this team is going. Sure trade clouds are no longer looming over the dressing room, and the team you see now is the team you’ll see for the remainder of the season, but can you really see any better what bodes ahead for this group?

Maybe the players can revert their attention back to playing hockey. Maybe they’ll actually string together a few wins and inch back up the standings. Maybe they can start scoring more than a goal a game. Or a goal a game. Or maybe they’ll just slowly fade into the sunset and wait until Canucks brass – whoever they are at that point – to make changes.

It’s Lack’s Team Now

It’s hard to believe that Roberto Luongo now dons the jersey of the Florida Panthers. Only 4 days ago, over 50,000 Canucks fans were chanting “We Want Lu”. But if you think about it, Lu’s last game as a Vancouver Canuck was almost a month ago before the Olympics when the Canucks faced the Leafs in Toronto.

Regardless, this is Eddie Lack’s team now, and Jacob Markstrom will serve as his backup. How long until the inevitable Lack/Markstrom goalie controversy starts?

Every Point Matters

Tonight’s opponents, the Dallas Stars, currently hold the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. But of course with 20 games left in the season, their hold on that spot is anything but final. The Canucks, the Winnipeg Jets and the Phoenix Coyotes are all within 2 points. It’s cliche to say, but every game, every point counts from here on out, especially if the Canucks have any ambition to make the postseason. It won’t help them though that they’ve gone 1-9-1 in the past 11 games. And neither will not having Daniel Sedin, who is out indefinitely with a leg injury, in the lineup and replacing him with Darren Archibald.

The Newbies

The always charming Tim Thomas was traded to the Dallas Stars yesterday, but the Canucks will likely face Kari Lehtonen, who’s started 50+ games so far this season.

The Canucks are welcoming some new faces of their own. Besides Markstrom, 6’4″ center Shawn Matthias will be playing his first game with the team, wearing Sergio Momesso’s old no. 27. If it makes anyone feel any better, Matthias bringing over a point-streak with 5 points in his last 2 games. For those wondering, the Canucks have 5 goals in their last 313 minutes of game time.

The Injured

Besides Dank, Mike Santorelli, Andrew Alberts and Yannick Weber remain out of the lineup.

The Stars had been without Rich Peverley for the last 2 games because of an injury he sustained Monday night, but he may play tonight.

Dec 202013
 
What was Roberto Luongo thinking?

What was Roberto Luongo thinking?

 

Roberto Luongo was pulled from the net early in the third period of last night’s 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars.  It was a tough night for the Canucks’ netminder as he let in the 4 goals on only 19 shots in 42 minutes of work.

Shortly after being pulled, the cameras caught Luongo on the bench making the above face. Was he replaying the goals in his head?  Sucking on a sour candy?  Fighting off a stomach ache?

With the help of the Twittersphere, I was able to discover some possibilities.  In fact, I received the highest number of submissions ever for a CHB Top 10.

Thus, here are the Top 10 Things Roberto Luongo was Thinking While on the Bench:

HM:   “That puck went left and I went right… kinda looked like this.”  – submitted by @WestCoastRidrz

HM:  “I wonder if I can get me one if those turkey legs now.” – submitted by @snacktalker

10:  “In Florida, they don’t play defense either but they at least let me see the puck.” – submitted by @Aviewfromabroad

9a:  “I wonder if I can use how much my twitter account is worth to buy out my contract.” – submitted by @paulalmeida22

9b:  “I sure hope this doesn’t affect my Twitter account value.” – submitted by @codybarendregt

9c:  “My Twitter account’s value increased by $433.20 to $270,838.80.” – submitted by @DustinStadnyk

9d:  “I wonder how this affects my Twitter account’s value.” – submitted by @Shazmodius

These 4 replies are a reference to a couple of tweets that came from Luongo’s account over the past couple days from a website or app that claims to measure your Twitter value.  Luongo has since deleted the tweets.

8:  “I should check my iPad to see how Carey Price did tonight.” – submitted by @PPGoose

7:  “I feel like Rodney Dangerfield: no respect, I tell ya.” – submitted by @watsukoguy

6:  “They told me I’d be seeing stars here in Dallas, but this is ridiculous.” – submitted by @jaybizzones

5a:  “Repeat of Anaheim in 3….2…” – submitted by @Rozzy80

5b:  “I better hit the sandbox!!!” – submitted by @pat_pendergast

5c:  “Oh damn, I hope that wasn’t a shart!” – submitted by @DevrieBeckett

5d:  “Crap. Did I remember to flush?” – submitted by @lyteforce

You can never go wrong with toilet humour.  The tweet from @Rozzy80 is a reference to the famous playoff game of May 2007 when backup Dany Sabourin had to fill in for Luongo in a playoff game – in overtime no less – for a few minutes while Luongo had an untimely case of diarrhea.

4:  “I wonder if Bryz will let me into his humongous, big universe…” – submitted by @RogerWi1co

3:  “Now is as good a time as any to pull off my best Jean Chrétien impression.” – submitted by @Swizzler16

2:  “Milk hot dogs.” – submitted by @JoshuaDykstra12

1:  “Dear Santa: This year I want a new bike, a red wagon, and peace on earth…..” – submitted by @b_cmack

Dec 202013
 

Can we just look ahead to tonight’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks and forget the Canucks’ 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars last night didn’t happen?

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Dec 192013
 

450306861_slide
(source: nhl.com)

Vancouver Canucks (20-10-6)
Dallas Stars (16-12-5)

This is the second of three games between the Vancouver Canucks and Dallas Stars, with the Stars having beat the Canucks 2-1 in their first game on November 17th.

The Canucks’ perfect December and 7-game win streak came to an end on Tuesday night when the Minnesota Wild beat them 3-2 in a shootout. Still, their 7-0-1 record in December has helped them move up to 6th place in the Western Conference. They’re now just 2 points back of the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues, and 4 points back of the Los Angeles Kings, though all of these teams have games in hand over them. The Stars are coming off a 3-2 win over Colorado Avalanche and are looking to post consecutive wins for the first time since a 3-game win streak over a month ago.

Who’s Hot

Despite the shootout loss on Tuesday night against the Wild, Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo has been one of the best players for the Canucks – over his past six starts, Luongo is 5-0-1 with a .958 save percentage.

For the Stars, forward Ray Whitney scored two out of the three goals in the their Tuesday night win over the Avalanche. He has three points in his last three games (2 goals, 1 assist).

Who’s Out

The Vancouver Canucks are without forwards Alexandre Burrows (broken jaw), Jordan Schroeder (sprained ankle) and defensemen Alexander Edler (lower body), as well as Ryan Stanton who left Tuesday nights game against the Wild with a left ankle sprain.

The Dallas Stars are without defensemen Aaron Rome (lower body), Trevor Daley (sprained left ankle), Stephane Robidas (broken leg) and forward Vernon Fiddler (upper body).

Nov 182013
 

There are times when we wonder if the officials hold some sort of bias against the Canucks. Or, like last night in the Canucks’ 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, when a couple of questionable calls changed the complexion of the game, one nullifying a game-tying goal, we wonder if they’re just that incompetent.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Nov 182013
 
So tell us how you really feel, John.

So tell us how you really feel, John.

The most popular topic stemming from last night’s 2-1 Dallas Stars victory over the Vancouver Canucks was the apparent Henrik Sedin power play goal that was called off early in the second period.  The official reason referee Rob Martell waved the goal off was because he felt that Daniel Sedin had made illegal contact with Stars’ goalie Kari Lehtonen just prior to Henrik’s shot.

Obviously, the goal could have been a huge momentum-changer, as it would have evened the score at 1-1 in a game that the Canucks were controlling the play.

Needless to say, Twitter exploded with conspiracy theories and charges of bias against the Canucks.  I was one beneficiary of this Twitter rage as my picture of “Angry Torts” (as above) had me trending atop the Trendsmap rankings for Vancouver for a short while.

CHB represent!

CHB represent!

I can safely say that this was the first time and likely the only time I will ever be trending in ANYTHING.  But I digress.

Thanks once again to you – the awesome people on Twitter – I have compiled yet another top 10 list.

Here are the Top 10 Reasons Why Henrik Sedin’s Goal Was Waved Off.

HM:  “Just to piss us off.” – submitted by @KevinBye1

HM:  “It was an action out of habit, as the refs all assume the Canucks can’t score.” – submitted by @A_L_ai

10:  “Ref made a human mistake but sh!tty rules allow that to happen with no recourse by team.” – submitted by @THECooop

9:  “Refs thought they were UFC judges.” – submitted by @greynotegroup

8:   “Coin came up heads.” – submitted by @skitzo12

7:   “The Henrik goal was waved off because the refs wanted to make the early bird special at the buffet. OT would have made them late.” – submitted by @HabsLions

6:  “Gary Bettman pressed the ‘Screw the Canucks’ button at NHL headquarters and activated the implant in the ref’s head.” – submitted by @b_cmack

5:  “Staches got in the way – too many participants for Movember.” – submitted by @elmeebaterina

4:  “Henrik farted in Lehtonen’s face. Heard that could give a guy pink eye.” – submitted by @cbaldwin74

3:  “One of them went to the Roxy last time they were in town. #herpesareforever” – submitted by @jennafabulous

2:   “The ref got confused that Henrik shot the puck. Thought it was an illegal move for him.” – submitted by @jasonclowers24

1:  “Ref didn’t want Henrik passing Don Lever on the all-time goal scoring list.” – submitted by @Steve_May

 

 

Nov 172013
 

142153805_std
(source: nhl.com)

Vancouver Canucks (11-7-3)
Dallas Stars (10-7-2)

The Vancouver Canucks are looking to end their 3-game winless streak (0-2-1) tonight against the Dallas Stars. The Stars are 2-1-0 in their last 3 games, and also have won their last 5 games away from American Airlines Center.

This is the first of three meetings between the Canucks and Stars. The Stars won their most recent meeting by a 5-1 score back on April 18th, 2013.

Who’s Back

Jannik Hansen is expected to return to the Canucks line up after missing 10 games with a shoulder injury. At practice on Saturday, he skated on the second line with Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins, which pushed Alexandre Burrows up to the first line with the Sedins. Maybe a change to the line-up is the boost the Canucks need to end get back on the win column.

Who’s Hot

Kevin Bieksa has 4 points in the past 4 games, scoring the Canucks’ lone goal against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.

For the Stars, Tyler Seguin scored 4 goals and and added an assist in the Stars last game against the Calgary Flames. Seguin is the first player for the Stars since 2007 to score 4 goals in a game.

Who’s Out

The Vancouver Canucks are still missing fowards Jordan Schroeder (ankle) and Dale Weise (lower body). Both forwards are on injured reserve.

The Dallas Stars will be playing without forward Ray Whitney (lower body), who is also on injured reserve.

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.

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