Oct 312013
 

An Original Six team, games against the Detroit Red Wings are usually entertaining and exciting. With the Wings now in the Eastern Conference, they only get to visit Rogers Arena once a year so, needless to say, Canucks fans were looking forward to last night’s affair.

Did it live up to it’s billing?

Oh, come on. It wasn’t that bad, was it?

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Oct 302013
 

Luongo looks to remain calm, cool and collected against the forceful red wings tonight in Vancouver.  (Credit thescore.com)

Luongo looks to remain calm, cool and collected against the forceful red wings tonight in Vancouver.
(Credit thescore.com)

Formerly bonded by the Western Conference, the Canucks look to take on the struggling Detroit Red Wings tonight at 7:30 PM. The Red Wings, having won only 6 of their last 12 games, seem like easy pickings for the Canucks. However, the Red Wings won 2 of 3 games in the season series last season and outscored the Canucks 14-7. Detroit is in for a ride with the always interesting, Tortorella-driven team, the Canucks will get the early lead tonight in Vancouver. (Power of suggestion works right?).

What to watch

The scoreboard. The Canucks have gotten into an anxiety-inducing habit of having to come from behind in the third period. Maybe scoring an early goal or two and maintaining a lead can help lot of premature heart attacks

Also keep an eye on the penalty box. The referees have made a few Canuck-deprecating calls so keeping momentum through those times will be key. The Red Wings’ powerplay ranks 11th in the NHL, clicking at 21.6%.

Who to watch

The Sedins against “brothers from another mother” Bertuzzi and Datsyuk. These first liners will match up their points against one another in the ultimate battle of “No I can do it better!”. Don’t let Bertuzzi and Datsyuk bully you Sedins, your mom has done only admirable things.

The Red Wings have moved their lines quite a bit, but seem to have settled with Datsyuk playing with Bertuzzi and Henrik Zetterberg, while Daniel Alfredsson will start on the second line with Stephen Weiss and Dan Cleary. Alfredsson currently leads the team with 8 assists. Both lines will cause trouble so this would be a good time for Kassian to activate “brick wall” mode and match their physicality.

For the Canucks, Ryan Kesler looks to extend his 5-game point streak. Now 3rd on the team in scoring (8 goals, 5 assists and 13 points) after a slow start, he’s played really well with the Hank and Dank, and their skill and his speed certainly complement each other. Kesler has never failed to impress in random bouts but consistency is what they need most from him.

Who’s out

The Wings have a few players out some with injuries. Johan Franzen is out with an undisclosed injury. Red Wings GM Ken Holland says odds are hopeful Franzen will be good for Friday’s game against Calgary, but the Canucks will not see him tonight. Darren Helm is out with back and groin injuries, Patrick Eaves is out with a leg injury, and their no. 1 goaltender Jimmy Howard won’t be in net because of an upper body injury. The Wings’ healthy scratches include former Canuck Mikael Samuelsson, Brendan Smith and youngster Tomas Tatar.

The Canucks have been plagued with injuries as well. Jordan Schroeder is out 2 more months with an ankle injury, Dale Weise and Jannik Hansen are both out for 3-4 weeks, and David Booth is out for 1-2 more weeks.

Jan 152011
 

[Every weekend, Canucks Hockey Blog goes out of town as Tom Wakefield (@tomwakefield88) posts his thoughts on what's happening around the NHL.]

Doug Wilson, San Jose Sharks

Photo credit: Forbes

As the NHL All-Star Game approaches (yawn), so too does the trade deadline and the final stretch towards the Stanley Cup playoffs.

While there is some significant separation between playoff and non-playoff teams in the Eastern Conference, the Western Conference is a dogfight.

With this in mind, here now are five GMs facing important decisions at this stage of the season.

Doug Wilson, San Jose Sharks

The Challenge: Some questionable moves and a weakened backend has turned the perennially contending San Jose Sharks into a team that might miss the playoffs.

His Choice: Does he make a move now to save the season, or does he ride it out and make major changes in the off-season?

One Opinion: Ride it out. Outside of Danny Boyle, it’s obvious the Sharks defence struggles moving the puck. Granted, Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have been miserable, but together they take up so much salary cap room that it is impossible to make significant roster changes during the year. Expect the Sharks to try and upgrade their defence in a minor way, while hoping their “Big 3” can turn it on in time to make the post-season.

Crazy Thought: If this was the NBA, where sign-and-trades are common, you could almost rationalize a Tomas Kaberle for Patrick Marleau type of move. The Leafs need more top-end forward talent, consider themselves deep on defence, and have some salary cap room. Alas, this isn’t the NBA, and Kaberle is a pending UFA after this year.

Bryan Murray, Ottawa Senators

The Challenge: Starting to rebuild the Ottawa Senators franchise before he is fired.

His Choice: There are a ton of choices, but perhaps the most interesting is to trade Daniel Alfredsson for prospects and draft picks.

One Opinion: Trade Alfie. If he’s open to being dealt, Alfredsson would be a very attractive piece around the NHL. In addition to his on-ice contributions (currently leading the Sens team in points), Alfredsson is a bit of a bargain. During the last two years of his contract, his cap hit is $4.875 per year. However, he’ll be paid just $5.5 million ($4.5 million + $1 million) over the same period. That’s intriguing math to a budget-conscious contending team that could use an experienced, top-six forward. At the same time, dealing Alfredsson to a contender would be a symbolic “turning of the page” for the Senators franchise.

Crazy Thought: It’s not really that crazy. Everyone knows the Los Angeles Kings have cap space and are looking for a top-6 scoring forward. They’re a natural fit. It’d be more fun to see Alfie in Colorado though – a young team that loves to run-and-gun and has some cap space as well.

Dale Tallon, Florida Panthers

The Challenge: Tallon was very adamant his plan was to rebuild the Florida Panthers using the same scorched earth approach he used to rebuild the Chicago Blackhawks. And yet there have been enough on-ice positives this year that the playoffs are still a possibility.

His Choice: Stick to the long-term plan or make a post-season run.

One Opinion: Stick to the plan. Under Peter DeBoer and back-stopped by Tomas Vokun, the Panthers have been one of the elite defensive teams in the NHL this year. If they were able to generate any kind of offense, they’d be even closer to the playoffs than they are now (nine points back). However, trading for offense is usually costly, and young offense is rarely dealt around the NHL. Let’s not forget, this is one of the older teams in the NHL. While they’ve kept things interesting, it’s in the team’s best interest to move some pieces at the trade deadline and keep getting younger.

Crazy Thought: Trades between teams in the same division are rarely made. It’s too bad, since Niclas Bergfors is young, can score and is lodged in the Atlanta Thrashers doghouse. It would be interesting to see what he could add to the Panthers offense down the stretch.

Brian Burke, Toronto Maple Leafs

The Challenge: The Toronto Maple Leafs were supposed to be better than 25th in the NHL by this stage of team’s rebuilding plan.

His Choice: Fire Ron Wilson or keep him for another year.

One Opinion: Keep Wilson. Wilson is a decent, detail-oriented coach that insists on having his team play a puck-pursuit, aggressive style of hockey. Sadly, there just isn’t enough talent on the team to execute this style effectively. It’s not his fault either that the team hasn’t had a good goaltender during his entire Leafs coaching career.

Crazy Thought: One rumour out of Toronto is that Brian Burke is set to replace Rich Peddie as President of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Ltd. If that’s the case, Dave Nonis would become the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs. General Manager’s usually want their “own guy” behind the bench, meaning that if Burke moves “up,” Wilson’s probably “out.”

Don Maloney, Phoenix Coyotes

The Challenge: The Phoenix Coyotes are proving last year’s playoff appearance wasn’t a fluke, and impending free agent goalie Ilya Bryzgalov remains the biggest reason for the team’s success.

His Choice: Sign Bryzgalov or lose him to free agency in the off-season.

One Opinion: Sign him. Like all things with the Coyotes, this one’s complicated by their dicey ownership situation. There is no question that the team would like to re-sign Bryzgalov, but first they want an owner in place to sign the cheques. That’s a fine argument, except when you consider that Bryzgalov may be one of, if not the, most valuable player in the NHL. Without him this Coyotes team goes back to looking like a lottery-pick, bottom-dwelling mess. As the current owners of the franchise, the NHL should do what’s necessary to solidify the franchise’s existence, while protecting the team as an investment, and get Bryzgalov signed.

Crazy Thought: Damien Cox already mentioned it, but the Toronto Maple Leafs would have a big interest if Ilya Bryzgalov became a free agent. Remember, Brian Burke is Bryzgalov’s former GM and did him a favour by placing him on waivers three years ago. That being said, there would be a number of teams eager to bid on an elite NHL goalie. Bryzgalov’s return to Phoenix would be doubtful if he became a UFA.

THOUGHTS ON THE FLY

  • While they’re struggling of late, the Los Angeles Kings are still a +16 in the goals for/goals against department. That’s fourth in the Conference, behind Chicago, Detroit and Vancouver.
  • Not sure what exactly it means in the big picture of things, but Pierre LeBrun ranks each NHL Division.
  • James Mirtle looks at the NHL’s best defensive forwards and defensive defencemen at the half-way mark. While not the most foolproof analysis, it serves as another reminder that Tomas Plekanec has become quite the player for Montreal.
  • Statistically, the worst team 5-on-5 but in the playoffs? The Tampa Bay Lightning. Those numbers should really improve if Dwayne Roloson can keep up his play in goal.
  • Statistically, the best team 5-on-5 but outside the playoff picture? Florida. They’re knocking on the door of being a top-10 team in this area.
  • With the success of the Winter Classic, both financially, critically and schmooze-festly, there’s no need for an All-Star Game anymore. NHL should just name a mid-season All-Star team and be done with it.
  • Remember when Simon Gagne was considered the defensive presence on an Olympic line with Joe Sakic and Jarome Iginla? Well he’s a -20 in 26 games this year.
  • NHL ice-time leaders amongst forwards: 1. Ilya Kovalchuk 2. Eric Staal 3. Sidney Crosby 4. Corey Perry 5. Brad Richards. 6. Alex Ovechkin. The most interesting name appears at #25: former Leafs castaway Alex Steen is playing 20 minutes a night in St. Louis.
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