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.

Kings vs Sharks

Photo credit: Sportsnet

Anaheim Ducks

The Good

With newly-acquired Jakob Silfverberg, Kyle Palmieri, Nick Bonino, Emerson Etem, Cam Fowler, Luca Sbisa and Sami Vatanen, the Ducks have a lot of good, young players in their system.

The Bad

These kids will be good, but the Ducks may be expecting them to take on a lot more and much too soon.

The Outlook

After a strong start to the 2012/2013 season, the Ducks faded down the stretch and lost to the no. 7 seed, the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs. If the kids can perform over an 82-game season like they did in the first 30 games of the shortened season, they’ll make the playoffs. But that’s a big if.

*****

Calgary Flames

The Good

After years of confusion – should they go for it or should they go on a rebuild – Brian Burke, the Flames’ new President of Hockey Operations, should now give the organization some sense of direction. And that direction is a rebuild.

The Bad

It’ll be a long year in Calgary. Sven Baertschi, Mikael Backlund, Max Reinhart and Sean Monahan provide some hope up front, but the cupboard is otherwise barren. It’s the same in the back end where they have Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie, but not much else.

The Outlook

By the time this season is all over and done with, the Flames may well be in a position to draft Max’s brother, Sam, who currently sits no. 1 in the 2014 NHL Draft rankings.

*****

Edmonton Oilers

The Good

Aside from the injuries to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner, there’s a lot to like in Edmonton these days. Taylor Hall should make Team Canada in Sochi. Jordan Eberle should return to 30-goal form. Nail Yakupov is, quite simply, a helluva player. Meanwhile, David Perron and Boyd Gordon give the Oil some veteran help up front, and newly-minted captain, Andrew Ference, provides some much needed leadership and grit from the back end.

The Bad

Adding Ference and drafting Darnell Nurse was a start, but overall, the Oilers are still a small bunch. Incredibly skilled and talented, but small.

The Outlook

The Oilers’ speed and skill rank up there with the best in the league. A bit more tinkering and it’s not inconceivable that they make the post-season for the first time in 8 years. They’re that close.

*****

Los Angeles Kings

The Good

Like the Blackhawks, the Kings have enjoyed much post-season success recently and have managed to retain their core. With Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick all at their prime years and signed for a few more seasons, life should be good in La-la-land.

The Bad

Sadly for Canucks fans, I can’t think of any.

The Outlook

Sadly for Canucks fans, the Kings are positioned to remain one of the best in the West.

*****

Phoenix Coyotes

The Good

There’s finally some stability in the Coyotes’ ownership situation – or at least there is until they lose their first $50 million. Goaltender Mike Smith re-upped long-term, and so did defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Signing Mike Ribeiro will help the league’s 25th-ranked PP.

The Bad

Besides Ribeiro, and perhaps an improved Mikkel Boedker, the ‘Yotes don’t have a lot of offensive pop up front.

The Outlook

Smith will keep the Coyotes in most games, but unless they can improve on the NHL’s 21st-ranked offense, they’ll miss the postseason for the second consecutive season.

*****

San Jose Sharks

The Good

Logan Couture may have slowly surpassed Joe Thornton as the Sharks’ no. 1 center. And it’s saying something when Joe Thornton is your no. 2 center. Add Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and promising rookie, Tomas Hertl, and the Sharks have some enviable depth up front.

The Bad

The defense isn’t as deep, and neither is their goaltending. In fact, it’s scary to think what would happen if goaltender Antti Niemi ever suffered an injury.

The Outlook

This could very well be the last kick at the can for Thornton, Marleau and Dan Boyle – long-serving Sharks who are all unrestricted free agents at season’s end.

*****

Vancouver Canucks

The Good

After 7 years of hearing the same message from head coach, Alain Vigneault, the Canucks fired AV and replaced him with the much more abrasive, John Tortorella. Torts vowed to play a more aggressive system and to make the Canucks a harder team to play against, which would be a welcome change to those of us who witnessed the passive and predictable system from the last couple of seasons.

The Bad

Besides the coach, the biggest change was in goal, where Roberto Luongo is, by virtue of Cory Schneider being traded to the New Jersey Devils, once again the Canucks’ no. 1 goaltender. Elsewhere, the Canucks simply tinkered and Torts will have to make lemonade from pretty much the same group of lemons AV had.

The Outlook

Despite the resounding pessimism present in Canucks Nation, the Canucks should be able to compete for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.

Apr 282013
 

The Canucks lost their regular season finale to the Edmonton Oilers by a 7-2 score. It’s disappointing when you think the score was tied at 2 in the third period. But maybe not so surprising when you realize the Canucks played without their whole top line and their 3 of their top-4 defensemen. Heck, Derek Joslin, Cam Barker and Frankie Corrado all played about 19-20 minutes each. Those stats alone probably say it all.

He probably should have.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Apr 272013
 

Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks scores against the Edmonton Oilers.

Photo credit: CBC.ca

In their last regular season game, which Canucks team will we see?

Your guess is as good as mine. Going into the playoffs, I know we’d all love to see a complete effort like they put together against the Chicago Blackhawks a couple of games ago. Certainly, we’d like to forget the uninspired performance against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. But tonight, against the golf course-bound Edmonton Oilers in a game that means nothing, the Canucks simply want to get out of the regular season (mostly) intact and healthy, and are resting some key players.

Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows, Jason Garrison, Alex Edler and Dan Hamhuis will all be munching on some popcorn watching from the press box. Henrik Sedin will be in the lineup, but only to keep his ironman streak alive, and will start between Dale Weise and Steve Pinizzotto. Kevin Bieksa will make his return to the lineup after suffering from a mysterious “lower-body” injury. Roberto Luongo gets the call between the pipes as Cory Schneider sits out his second game with the dreaded “body injury”.

After a promising start, the Oilers will miss the playoffs for a 7th straight season. With a team full of all sorts of young stars and firepower, they should be a force to be reckoned with. Instead, tonight will cap yet another disappointing finish to the season, one that’s already lead to GM Steve Tambellini being fired and replaced with Craig Mactavish.

Canucks Record

26-14-7, 59 points (1st in the Northwest Division, 3rd in the Western Conference)

Season Series

The Canucks and Oilers have met 4 times this season already with each team winning 2 games each.

Taylor Hall torched the Canucks for a hat trick just 7:53 into the Oilers’ 4-0 win on March 30th, but the Canucks showed some pride and fought back with a 4-0 decision of their own in the two teams’ most recent meeting on April 4th.

Who’s Hot

Taylor Hall is coming off a 3-point game (1G-2A) against the Minnesota Wild last night. He’s had a solid campaign this year, sitting 9th in the NHL in overall scoring (48 points) and 10th in assists (32).

Who’s Not

Chris Higgins has gone pointless in his last 4 games, which, because of injury, is a stretch that dates back to the Canucks’ last game against the Oilers on April 4th.

Apr 052013
 

The Canucks really couldn’t start a game than they did against the Edmonton Oilers last Saturday. I mean, they gave up 3 goals on 3 shots in the first 3 minutes. Would love for that not to happen again.

It really was an entertaining game. A 4-0 win against a streaking divisional rival, some big plays, big goals… and a return visit by the most exciting player to ever put on a Canucks jersey, Pavel Bure.

Here’s the game in your tweets.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Apr 042013
 

Taylor Hall scores a hat trick against the Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: The Globe and Mail

After last night’s 8-2 whooping of the Calgary Flames, the Edmonton Oilers woke up this morning to find themselves in a playoff spot – in 8th place in the Western Conference. After falling out of the playoff picture with a 3-6-3 stretch in the beginning of March, the Oilers have clawed their way back and are now one of several teams fighting for the last couple of playoff spots in the West. With most teams having only 11-14 games left in their schedule, the difference between 8th and 13th place in the West is just 4 points and the difference between 3rd and 10th place is just 6 points.

While the Oilers are on the second game of a back-to-back, the Canucks have had two days of rest, or for some, two days to think about their long weekend no-shows against these same Oilers (a 4-0 loss on Saturday) and the San Jose Sharks (a 3-2 loss on Monday). Not that the Canucks should need any more motivation, but I hope atoning for giving Taylor Hall a hat trick just 8 minutes into the game on Saturday and allowing the Sharks to score 3 goals in under 3 minutes on Monday would be on their agenda tonight.

The addition of Derek Roy should help. Cory Schneider is getting the start tonight – on Roberto Luongo’s birthday.

Canucks Record

19-11-6, 44 points (2nd in the Northwest Division, 4th in the Western Conference)

Season Series

Offensively, the Canucks and Oilers are going in opposite directions. The Canucks have lost 2 straight games, and dating back to the Vancouver Millionaires night against the Detroit Red Wings, have only scored 15 goals (plus 2 empty-net goals) in 10 games. The Oilers, on the other hand, have won 5 straight games and have outscored their opponents 25-7 in that span.

Who’s Hot

2010 1st overall pick, Taylor Hall, has been exceptional. Currently on a 6-game point streak (7G-8A-15P), Hall leads the Oilers in scoring and sits 5th in the NHL in assists (28) and 7th in overall scoring (41).

Who’s Not

Daniel Sedin has just 2 points in his last 7 games.

Quickies

  • Zack Kassian is back with the Canucks after a brief demotion to the Chicago Wolves. (CKNW)
Mar 312013
 

There was a lot of anticipation heading into the Canucks’ matchup against the Edmonton Oilers last night. After all, a win against the high-powered – and suddenly streaking – Oilers would extend their win streak to 7 games and keep the Minnesota Wild at bay in the race for the Northwest Division title.

Good vibes, right?

Ummm… not quite.

The Canucks gave up 3 goals in 3 shots in the first 3 minutes of the game, and Taylor Hall had a hat trick before the first period was 8 minutes old, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now on to the grisly details and your reactions.

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)
Feb 072013
 

As the Canucks rack up a few wins in a row, maybe their slow start wasn’t such a slow start after all. In this episode of CHB TV, Ed, Clay, Chris and Chris Palliser from The Beat 94.5 talk about the team’s best start since 2006, goal cellys celebrations, Chris Tanev’s first career goal (an OT game-winner no less), and more.

Feb 052013
 

After falling 3-2 to the Oilers on home ice, the Canucks head to Rexall Place to seek revenge against the young guns.

Ouch. Now, on to the game.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Feb 042013
 

Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers

I think we’re finally starting to see signs of life from our Vancouver Canucks.

They played this week with some consistency, a lot of physicality, and while they still can’t put the puck in the net as much as they’d like, it’s helped them to a 2-0-1 record.

They started the week with a heartbreaking shootout loss to the LA Kings. The Canucks built a 2-0 lead, but couldn’t convert on the powerplay to put the Kings away, allowing the Kings to come back and steal the game in the shootout.

On Wednesday, the Canucks continued their dominance against the Colorado Avalanche with a tidy, 60-minute effort, Roberto Luongo’s 61st career shutout, and a 3-0 win.

On Friday, they faced the rival Chicago Blackhawks. After an intense lead up, most expected a physical and ugly game, but none of the rough stuff materialized. By the end of it, the Canucks didn’t exact their revenge on Duncan Keith and instead came away with the 2 points. Jordan Schroeder experienced his first big NHL moment as he snuck one past Corey Crawford’s five-hole for the shootout winner in his first shootout attempt.

Record

8 GP, 4-2-2, 10 points (1st in Northwest Division, 3rd in Western Conference)

Who’s Next

Monday, February 4, 2013 at Edmonton Oilers (6:30 PM start)

After being named the NHL’s 3rd Star of the Week, Roberto Luongo will get his 4th consecutive start in goal. Bobby Luo has looked like vintage Luo of late. With great positional play and timing, he seems to be making key saves at key times.

The Oilers, who currently sit in 2nd place in the Northwest Division, won the two teams’ first meeting back in January, so look for the Canucks to come out strong and get some payback.

Sam Gagner (3G-6A) and Taylor Hall (2G-7A) are both tied for the team lead with 9 points. Rookie sensation and the master of cellys, Nail Yakupov, leads the team with 5 goals.

Thursday, February 7, 2013 at Minnesota Wild (5:00 PM)

With the huge off season acquisitions of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, the Minnesota Wild have their sights set on competing for the Northwest division title. Mike Rupp, acquired today from the NY Rangers, will add some veteran savvy and toughness and will join his new team for this game.

Zach Parise leads the team in goals (5) and points (9) in 8 games played.

The Canucks took 10 of a possible 12 points (4-0-2) against the Wild last season. They were led by Daniel Sedin’s 10 points (3G-7A) and plus-2 rating. Kyle Brodziak and Devin Setoguchi led the Wild with 2 goals and 2 assists each.

Saturday, February 9, 2013 vs. Calgary Flames (7:00 PM)

As of this writing, the Flames sit last in the Western Conference, to the surprise of no one, except maybe the Flames.

This will be the second meeting between the two clubs. Two weeks ago at Rogers Arena, the Canucks won in a shootout, paced by Zack Kassian, who scored a goal and the shootout winner.

Alex Tanguay leads the team with 6 points, but it has been the play of Jiri Hudler that has Flames fans excited. Hudler was brought in for top-6 production and he has done exactly that with 5 points (2G-3A) in just 3 games played.

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