Oct 152013
 

Vancouver Canucks vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Photo credit: canucks.com

On paper, the Philadelphia Flyers should be one of the league’s better teams. I mean, a team with Claude Giroux, Vinny Lecavalier and Sean Couturier down the middle, and Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell on the wings seems like a pretty damn, deep team. But as we enter week 3 of the 2013/2014 NHL regular season, the Flyers have scored just 8 goals in 6 games (1.33 goals per game) and sit in 15th place in the Easter Conference – their 2 points in 6 games is only 1 point better than the last place Buffalo Sabres.

After losing back-to-back games for the first time this season, restlessness is again building in Canucks Nation. As impressive as the Vancouver Canucks were in 3 come-from-behind wins in the first week of the season, they looked just as lacklustre in back-to-back 4-1 home losses to the San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens. Perhaps most alarmingly, they looked slow and tired against the deeper Sharks and younger Habs. They generated few, quality scoring chances and looked disorganized on defense. Much like how they looked at the end of last season.

What to watch

Tonight’s game marks the start of the Canucks’ 7-game road trip, which will see them play in Philadelphia, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Long Island, New Jersey and St. Louis over the next 11 nights. If they look tired now, I’d hate to think how tired they’ll be in a couple of weeks.

Who to watch

Despite the Flyers’ slow start, goaltender Steve Mason has a 0.935 save percentage (0.942 on even-strength). Surprisingly, he’s been decent – certainly more decent than he was in his last several seasons in Columbus.

Dan Hamhuis is going through what is easily his worst stretch of games in a Canucks jersey. And on Saturday against the Habs, he played possibly his worst game as a Vancouver Canuck, punctuated by his misplay of the puck that led to an Steve Smith-esque own goal – the eventual Habs’ game-winning goal. He’s been the Canucks’ best defenseman since signing with the team 3 seasons ago; it’s hard to imagine that he won’t eventually bounce back.

Who’s out

Alex Edler will be serving game 2 of his 3-game suspension. Alex Burrows and Jordan Schroeder remain injured, though Schroeder is travelling with the team and already took part in the Canucks’ morning skate last Saturday.

For the Flyers, Lecavalier, Hartnell, and defenseman, Andrej Meszaros, are all out with injuries.

Oct 142013
 
Source: a Clay Imoo original (such a nice pic...don't you agree?)

Source: a Clay Imoo original (such a nice pic…don’t you agree?)

I was blessed to be at all three of the Canucks home games this week.  Although the team only picked up two out of a possible six points, I was fortunate to be in the arena to witness three big games:  Cory Schneider’s return with the Devils on Tuesday, our rival San Jose Sharks on Thursday, and the popular Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

Thursday in particular was a very memorable day for me as I was able to accompany friend of the blog Marie Hui as she sang the national anthems.  I hung out with her in the dressing room and tunnel prior to her singing, and then I was able to capture footage from rink side.  Check out the video at the end of the blog…she was awesome.  To top it off, the Aquilini family treated my family and me to complimentary tickets for the game.  Needless to say, I was very thankful for their generosity.

Thus, with it being Thanksgiving Monday here in Canada, I thought it would be an appropriate time to take stock of the things we can thankful for regarding our hockey team.  You know, things like the consistent play of the Sedins.  Jason Garrison on the powerplay.  A healthy Ryan Kesler…for now.

So last night, I went to Twitter (as usual) to ask the question and here are the replies that came back.

Enjoy CHB’s Top 10 Things the Canucks Should Be Thankful For:

10.  Passionate Canucks fans who care enough to say – “ONE Team, ONE Goal, Together as ONE for 2014!” – submitted by @tony_p_power

9.  That it’s October and everyone is going to forget about this as the season goes on. – submitted by @delaguitare

8.  That Luongo has been playing stellar! – submitted by @sprtschick

7.  That their fans are actually willing to pay exorbitant prices for tickets! – submitted by @krissymchua

6.  The Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames. – submitted by @vansport

5.  That Dan Hamhuis has nowhere to go but up from here. – submitted by @justin_fung

4.  Santorelli’s ability to score in OT. – submitted by @kdmurray

3.  That Edmonton is in our division. – submitted by @iSwearImStrait

2.  A season.  – submitted by @ajtuliao

1.  That they’re not the New York Rangers. – submitted by @tpoole00

 

 

Apr 092013
 

Ryan Kesler returns to the lineup and scores the game-winning goal. Cory Schneider gets his 11th straight start and records his 4th shutout in 9 games.

With the win, the Canucks are now 10 points clear of the 9th place Coyotes.

Yes, it was a good night.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 302013
 

Chris Tanev of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates his first career NHL goal - an OT winner against the Edmonton Oilers.

Photo credit: Vancouver Province

A question as the NHL trade deadline approaches: Are the Edmonton Oilers buyers or sellers?

On the one hand, the Oilers, with their big four up front consisting of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov, and prized defenseman signing, Justin Schultz, have slogged their way through just 13 wins in 33 games this season.

On the other hand, after back-to-back wins against the the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets, they’re only 3 points out of a playoff spot heading into tonight’s game against the Vancouver Canucks.

It’s no secret the Oilers need to add some sandpaper to complement the skill in their lineup. Earlier this season, they traded for enforcer Mike Brown. More recently, there have been rumors linking them to the Boston Bruins, who may be willing trade partners and may be interested at the likes of Ales Hemsky, Magnus Paajarvi and Ryan Whitney. Presumably, the Oilers would receive a power forward type to replace what they tried to make Ben Eager bring to the first line.

Or maybe the Oilers would want an upgrade in goal where Devan Dubnyk is 29th in the NHL in GAA (2.69) and 16th in save percentage (0.918). Not that Dubnyk has been absolutely horrid, but bringing in a Ryan Miller or even a Miikka Kiprusoff could provide a security blanket of sorts should the team make the postseason.

Or, for better or worse, perhaps they want to simply ride out the season – and maybe the postseason – and get as much future help in return for vets like Hemsky, Whitney, Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger.

Including tonight’s game, the Oilers have two games before Wednesday’s trade deadline. (They play the Calgary Flames on Monday.) Looking at the rest of the Western Conference schedule, it’s not at all inconceivable that they, currently in 12th place, could be in a playoff spot by then, and in which case, GM Steve Tambellini and company have some interesting decisions to make.

Canucks Record

19-9-6, 44 points (1st in Northwest Division, 3rd in Western Conference)

Season Series

The Canucks and the Oilers split their first 2 meetings this season: the Oilers won in a shootout at Rogers Arena in the first week of the season, and the Canucks won in OT at Rexall a couple of weeks after. In the Canucks’ OT win, Chris Tanev played hero, scoring his first career goal in the extra frame.

After tonight, the two teams meet twice more before the end of the regular season.

Who’s Hot

The kid line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins between Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle have been smokin’, combining for 14 points in their last 3 games – RNH (5 assists) and Hall (2 goals, 3 assists) have 5 points each, and Eberle has 4 points (3 goals, 1 assist).

After being separated for a couple of games, the Hank – Dank – Burr line were reunited against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday and combined for 6 points; each had a goal and an assist in the Canucks’ 4-1 win.

Who’s Not

Chris Higgins scored on the empty net on Thursday, but it was only his first goal since he potted one against the Minnesota Wild back on March 10 – a span of 9 games.

Quickies

  • Enemy intel. (Copper & Blue)
  • Having Dan Hamhuis as a defense partner worked wonders for Kevin Bieksa. Now, Hamhuis is working his magic again, this time helping Jason Garrison adjust to playing the right side. (Vancouver Sun)
  • More rumblings about Roberto Luongo and a possible trade to TO. (ESPN)
Mar 082013
 

I look at the good, the bad, and the interesting from the Canucks’ 2-1 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets from Thursday, March 7 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.

The Canucks tied the game in the early stages of the third period, only to have Matt Calvert channel his inner Sidney Crosby in overtime – going around both Henrik Sedin and Alex Edler on the winning goal.

In the video, I touch on Cory Schneider, the defensive pairing of Jason Garrison and Dan Hamhuis, our lack of scoring, the poor effort on the game-winning goal, and the Canucks’ less-than-stellar record through 23 games.

Mar 032013
 

In a grudge match of sorts, the Canucks host the Los Angeles Kings for the first time since the Kings eliminated them in the first round of last year’s playoffs.

Hockey, check. Beer, check. Here we go.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Jan 202013
 

Hello hockey fans. I’m still having a little trouble believing it, but we’re back baby. It’s been a long 8 months, but the contracts are signed, the ice is prepped, and we’re ready to go.

* cue ominous tone *

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Apr 232012
 
Cory Schneider, Vancouver Canucks, Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings shake hands

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

I’m not going to rant. I’m not going to rage. I would probably cry but I don’t want to short-circuit my keyboard so I won’t even do that. Instead I’ll keep this brief. And then I will eat chocolate.

Where We Went Right

Ryan Kesler was incredible on the penalty kill. He may not have scored goals but in this game his shot blocking and clearing was equally if not more important. If it wasn’t for Kesler and Cory Schneider the score would have been 8-1 for the Kings by the end of the third.

And that leads me to the second thing we did right – we had the right goalie in net. Schneider was calm and collected despite slashes by Mike Richards and bodies flailing in his crease. He never fell down and stayed down and he never lost his stick – both traits Luongo is famous for.  Cory did every thing you could ask of a goalie and more. He earned his spot as our number one netminder and I will be shocked and horrified if that’s not exactly what he is next season.

Where We Went Wrong

One goal is not going to win you a series when you are down 3 games to 1. Putting David Booth on a line with the twins is not going to get you goals. Putting Mason Raymond on the ice at all is not going to get you goals. For me, Alain Vigneault’s coaching decisions were almost as epically bad as Alex Edler was on defence. And they of course, are a reflection of what Mike Gillis has given him to work with. The trades this year have no been the glorious additions Max Lapierre and Chris Higgins were last year. Not even close.

I Don’t Blame Hamhuis

I honestly don’t. Hammy was about the only defenceman trying in Games 1 and 2. He made 1 mistake at a very inopportune time. If we’re going to crucify individual players here we need to nail Raymond and Booth and Edler. End of story. Their complete and utter uselessness, or in the case of Edler his plethora of mistakes, are what cost us the first two games. We wouldn’t have been in a hole if it wasn’t for those 3 more than anyone else. And Kesler diving instead of taking shots. And Duncan Keith elbowing Daniel to in regular season and taking him out of the first 3 games. There are so many more reasons we lost than simply Dan Hamhuis falling down. We need to take a good hard look at all of those reasons – on the bench and behind it – and make some changes before October.

It’s been an honour and a pleasure writing for the Canucks Hockey Blog. I hope I can do it next season while I cheer on our boys in Blue – no matter who those boys may be. (But it better not be Raymond).

Jan 062012
 

[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.]

Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: Yahoo Sports

I’m taking a break from planning my Saturday morning “Ruin the Bruins” party to offer up a few quick thoughts as the Canucks have reached the midway point of the season.  It feels so strange to type the word “morning” when blogging about a hockey game, but I digress.

On this eve of the Stanley Cup Finals rematch, here are a few Things That Make Me Go Hmmm:

1.  The need for perspective. There are so many intriguing storylines heading into Saturday’s game against the Boston Bruins, notwithstanding the fact that it’s the only regular season meeting between the two Stanley Cup Finalists.  Luongo or Schneider.  Mason Raymond’s return to the rink where he nearly had his career ended.  Daniel Sedin vs. Brad Marchand.  Burrows, Bergeron, and biting.

Thursday afternoon, I tweeted: “48 hours from now we’ll either be celebrating a bit of revenge for the Canucks or wondering what it will take to beat the Bruins in Boston.”  I received a couple of replies, with both of them intimating that a Canuck win had limited upside (as opposed to a Canuck loss having a larger downside) and that true revenge would be winning the Stanley Cup.  While I didn’t disagree with these sentiments, I pointed out that a win is a win and we can’t do much about the Stanley Cup until June.  It’s important to remember that this is game #42 of an 82 game regular season and that we shouldn’t read too much into the result of the game, whatever it may be.  I don’t buy the argument that a Canuck loss will have a long-term effect on the team’s psyche… the same way I won’t get too excited if the Canucks walk out of Boston with a win.  Enjoy it for what it will be: a hotly-contested battle of two of the top teams in the league.

2. Biggest surprises and disappointments. There have been numerous “midseason evaluation” posts including an excellent one by CHB writer Matt Lee already, but I thought I would chime in with a few of my observations.  For me, the biggest surprises up front have been Jannik Hansen, Cody Hodgson and Chris Higgins.  The collective Triple H has combined for 31 goals and 37 assists for 68 points, a welcome wave of secondary scoring behind the big four of the Sedins and Kesler and Burrows.  On the flip side, Manny Malhotra is still struggling to regain his pre-injury form of last year and the jury is still out on David Booth, who was picking up his game before his knee injury.

On the back end, the play of the top four d-men (Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis and Sami Salo) have helped some Canuck faithful forget about Christian Ehrhoff.  In particular, Hamhuis is quietly piling up the points and is on pace to match his career high of 38 points (2005-2006 season).  Hamhuis and partner Bieksa (who has overcome a shaky start) have become one of the league’s premier shutdown pairs, while Edler and Salo continue to contribute at both ends of the rink.  Conversely, Keith Ballard is still not playing like a $4 million defenseman, and he is still prone to making risky plays in his own end.  I really like him and I want to see him succeed, but 6 points and -1 just doesn’t cut it.

3. The Canucks in the Winter Classic. On the heels of another entertaining Winter Classic and HBO 24/7 series, there’s increased chatter about the possibility of the Canucks appearing in the big game in the near future.  One would think that Montreal and/or Toronto are likely to be considered ahead of our local team, but you never know.  With respect to the 24/7 series, it’s hard to predict what kind of ratings a Canadian team would draw south of the border.  But one thing’s for sure: the Canucks would make for some interesting TV.  I would find it fascinating to get a behind-the-scenes look at the player’s preparation and personal lives.  What is Luongo like away from the cameras?  How are the twins different in how they approach the games?  Who are the locker room leaders?  Does Dale Weise un-follow and block people in real life?  And where does Bieksa come up with his comedy gold?  With respect to opponents, I think it’s a toss-up between Boston and Chicago.  The former for all of the reasons listed above, the latter for the playoff history and animosity between the teams for three years running.  A dark-horse would be Detroit, but their rivalry with the Canucks is one based on respect and similar playing styles as opposed to the dislike that comes with the Bruins and Blackhawks.

Amidst all these questions, it’s good to see that the Canucks have emerged from the first-half of the season at the top of the Western Conference (albeit with the other teams holding games in hand).  Now please excuse me as I continue preparations for my Saturday morning viewing party.  I’m curious as to how many of my friends will be drinking while watching the game.  10 AM seems a tad early, but I’m certainly not here to judge.  Hmmm…

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