Apr 172010

It’s well known that to get through the Western Conference is a test of endurance. It’s a physical affair and you don’t only have to beat your opponent on the score sheet but you have to physically out play them in order to win a series. For this reason we see the importance of blue-liners and the bottom six alike as the grit factor becomes (in some series, or on some nights) the deciding factor of a game.

The Canucks in game one not only dominated the play of the game but they out hit the Kings en route to an OT victory. The physical part of the game plays such an important role which a lot of people sometimes don’t realize. It affects the pace of the game, it has an impact on the smaller battles within the game and it has a big influence on the psyche of the team not only doing the hitting but the team being hit. In the case of the Canucks in game one, Edler was a derailed train that was hitting anything on skates wearing a crown. Edler’s play not only acts as something that amps up the team but it wears down a Kings team that in the case of game one, had no business being in such a close game. In what was Edler’s best game of the season his impact in the game due to his physical game was more than just his defensive play. When other players see how he’s playing the effect is contagious. The Canucks did a great job of feeding off of each other’s energy and they’re going to need it in game two tonight as well.

One of the Canucks goals as they advance through this playoffs should be to get into each series as fresh as possible. Sweeping ever series is not realistic and sometimes the extra days off aren’t ideal. The Canucks however need to come out of each game as the team that did the hitting, not the team that received the beat down. Later in the playoffs should they face a Chicago, a San Jose, or a Phoenix, they’re going to realize even more so than now that the grit game is a game within the game. If the Canucks can win the physical match-up most nights it’s going to have a long term benefit to them as the playoffs wind on. The loss of Mitchell to the grit game was huge, but should the Canucks go deep and Mitchell return his presence is not only going to fortify our blue line, it’s going to bring in a fresh pair of legs that’s going to play the way Edler did in game one, night in and night out.

Mar 112010

Edler’s had an off year. There’s no hiding it, in the words of one Todd Bertuzzi – “It is what it is”. For the number of people that have thrown him under the bus, I don’t think a lot of people realize just why he’s having the slump this year. Edler can thank all that he was last year, and all that he’s going to be in the future to one player, Mattias Ohlund.

Ohlund’s departure from the team left a huge hole on the blue line that was bigger than just one player as his influence on Edler is clear this season. Edler’s had to make his way through this season on his own. It’s been an adventure for him, and as a fan you can see him go through the ups and downs as he’s developing as a blue liner. Edler went from having someone to look up to, to being thrust into number three defenseman spot where all of a sudden he’s been expected to use what he learned last year and become the Mattias Ohlund to another “Edler” on the team. You still with me?

Edler’s growing pains won’t be here next season. Once he makes it through this year he’s going to be much better off for it, and one thing that’s certainly helped is the injury situation on the blue line (see there is a silver lining to everything!). The fact that Edler hasn’t been benched (a la Bieksa, after poor play) but in fact seen increased minutes (because of the injuries to Bieksa and Mitchell) has forced him to work through the current situation.

Edler misses Ohlund. It’s plain and simple. What Ohlund did for him is what Tampa Bay hopes Ohlund will do for Victor Hedman. There’s a reason we locked up Edler long term. He’s having a down year, but when Bieksa returns the reduction in playing time and return of a top four blue liner is going to take the pressure of him. That extra insurance of defensive experience on the blue line (did I really just refer to Bieksa as having defensive experience?!) should allow him to settle in and play his game. The stretch drive is his tune up, the playoffs his stomping ground.

Dec 272009

The Canucks had 4 players considered potential Olympian members of Team Sweden’s national hockey team when the world comes to Vancouver for in 2010. Henrik and Daniel Sedin were locks for the team, Edler has emerged as a top defenceman in the NHL and was considered to be one of the blue liners for the yellow and blue, and Samuelsson who already has an Olympic Gold medal to his name was the fourth Canuck who was likely to represent Sweden in the Olympics.

After Sweden announced their roster this morning Canuck nation was a little riled up that blonde haired, blue eyed, Alexander Edler wasn’t named to the Swedish roster when names like San Jose’s Douglas Murray (this has to be the least Swedish name ever) and New Jersey’s Johnny Oduya beat Edler out for a roster spot. Samuelsson was also missing from the Swedish roster which looks to have stocked up on veteran players including surprise pick Forsberg who’s returned to the Swedish Elite League playing alongside former Canucks star Markus Naslund as both attempt comebacks to the sport.

As far as Samuelsson’s missing the team, I’m not surprised. It shouldn’t be a surprise. Mr. October has been quiet as of late. He’s certainly cooled since his hot start and his play has been average at best this year. Edler who’s struggled this season was also missing from Sweden’s roster but with curious picks like Murray and Oduya you have to wonder why Edler wasn’t on the team.

But without looking at who should make the team and who shouldn’t, there is a silver lining to all of this. The Canucks had 9 potential Olympians, and those are 9 of the Canucks top players that aren’t going to get a 2 week break before the stretch drive. The fact that two of those nine players are going to get the extra two weeks rest is something I’m okay with. Edler with the shaky season he’s had could use the time off. The Canucks are going to need a lot of help from their supporting cast when the fatigue factor catches up to those Canucks that make the Olympics, down the stretch. The fact that Edler didn’t make the team is a curious one, but in the long run I think it’s going to benefit this team that’s ultimate goal is a long playoff run.

Dec 172009

According to Elliott Pap (Vancouver Sun), there’s good news on the Canucks injury front.

First, on Alex Edler:

“Eddie has gone from week-to-week to day-to-day but obviously not tomorrow,” Vigneault said after preparing his skaters for Friday’s date with the soaring Washington Capitals.

Edler hurt his left shoulder Dec. 8 in Nashville when checked into the sideboards by Shea Weber. The hard-shooting Swede has been skating for five days so his conditioning is not an issue. He’s just concerned about the shoulder’s ability to withstand body contact.

Second, on Michael Grabner:

Meanwhile, rookie Michael Grabner is also close to returning, although he’ll likely start in Manitoba with the Moose. Grabner broke his right ankle Nov. 1 in a bizarre pre-game soccer warmup in the hallways of GM Place. At the time, he was on a call-up to replace the injured Daniel Sedin.

Grabner thinks he is close to 100 per cent. He practised fully with the team on Thursday.

Practices will soon become a lot lonelier for Pavol Demitra.

Also, Jason Botchford (Vancouver Province) is reporting that Aaron Rome may replace Mathieu Schneider in the lineup tomorrow night. (Hat tip to Nucks Misconduct.)

Dec 102009

From Jason Botchford (Vancouver Province):

Alex Edler is expected to miss two weeks because of a left arm injury. Edler hurt his arm Tuesday in Nashville on a highlight-reel hit from Nashville’s Shea Weber. Edler left the game and did not return. To most, it looked like he injured his shoulder. For Thursday’s game against Atlanta, the Canucks will put Mathieu Schneider back into the lineup. Schneider has been a healthy scratch in the past four games.

Just when Edler was starting to play much better too…

Dec 032009

Edler was under fire at the start of the season for lack of production and after going through a slump which I attribute to him missing Ohlund, he’s found his groove again and gone back to playing like we’ve come to expect of the native Swede. Edler who was taking bad shots, missing outlet passes and blowing routine blue line saves struggled to find his game early on and a very negative plus/minus had a lot of people scratching their heads.

Edler’s play was clearly uncharacteristic and his lack of confidence at the time seemed to amplify the problem. Recently Edler’s gone on a tear and is starting to look like the same blue liner that put up career numbers last season. He’s vaulted past Ehrhoff, who was a surprise source of offence for the Canucks this season, in points and he’s on pace for 57 points this season.

With 2 goals and 17 assists this season he’s on pace to finish the year with 51 assists which is just shy of the Canucks record for most assists by a defenceman held currently by Denis Kearns. The record is 55 assists and if Edler gets hot it wouldn’t be unlikely for us to see him get that record.

Edler is the puck mover this team needs and while the worry around his subpar play was understandable, it looks as if he’s turned things around. For a while his problem was made worse by his attempts to force a play out of frustration, but the noticeable change in his play as of late is a sign he’s back in his comfort zone. He’s got that stride back in his step and he’s no longer playing ultra conservatively.

Edler is Salo’s set up man. With Edler getting back in gear you can be sure Salo’s numbers are going to start looking better. He started with a goal against the Devils after being goal-less for over 30 consecutive regular season games. The Canucks blue line has the potential to be the most potent blue line offense in the league. With Salo’s coveted shot (injury not withstanding), Edler’s play making potential and shot, Ehrhoff’s versatility at the point, Bieksa’s offensive mentality and Schneider’s blast there is no reason this can’t be the most feared blue line in the league both offensively and defensively. Edler’s play is going to go a long way towards affecting the rest of the team and now that he’s found his stride again I have a feeling the rest of the defense will fall in sync.

May 022009

As the bandwagon spills over the edges there are several things which were a bit worrisome in game 2, but there was one or two things to take away from the game.

Luongo can now say he’s had his bad game. Get that out of the way, I’m positive he’ll come back stronger and make a statement on the road at the United Center in Chicago. What worries me the most is that with the loss of Salo the defence collapsed quickly. That being said, we’ve seen the Canucks play well during the long stretch he missed during the regular season, and with the veteran play of Mitchell they have the depth to pull together and move on until he returns.

Salo, the Canucks 2nd leading scorer in this year’s playoffs proved how important he is to the power play’s success again tonight and there’s no doubt Khabibulin is hoping he doesn’t have to face that shot in game 3. Lets be realistic though. The Canucks (as much as we’d like and hoped for) were not going to go 16-0 through the playoffs. The Blackhawks weren’t going to take the series lying down, and the Canucks had to lose at some point. I’m glad they lost when they did. There’s never a good time to lose, but losing the first game would have put them in a hole deep. The fact that they’ve split the first two puts them at square one with this now becoming a best of five.

Certain things were inevitable in this series. The Canucks were going to lose at least once. Khabibulin was going to win and finally break his 11 year losing streak versus the Canucks. The Canucks were going to falter.

Now that the reality check has set in, it’s on, it’s a new series. The fact they won game one despite blowing a 3 goal lead didn’t do the trick. They looked flat and the loss of Salo (who is day-to-day with a lower body injury) seemed to hurt. This year though, we’re not as bad off as we would otherwise be. Edler is stepping up nicely, Ossi Vaananen has proved he can be a consistently solid defensive replacement, and this is exactly what Gillis brought him in for.

While it looks like there’s not a lot to take out of this, the fact that we lost is like getting a monkey off our back. It lowers the bar of expectation which was getting a little high, and taking the Canucks a notch down which is never a bad thing. They weren’t getting cocky and overzealous, but they needed to stay down to earth and keep things in check. If nothing, that’s one of the biggest things to take out of this game. While a loss is never something you want, it can be a blessing in disguise. The Canucks don’t want to be Cinderella this year and losing that first game is one of the steps to making sure that doesn’t happen.

The ship’s not sinking, it’s just leaving port. The series is starting fresh, and we should have some great hockey ahead.

Apr 062009
Mar 032009
Nov 192008
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