Oct 022009

It’s funny, no matter how much I tell myself that it’s just one game, and that it’s only the first game of the season, but no matter what happens, every time Calgary and Vancouver face-off it gets personal. After the first game of the season got started it was nothing less than I would have expected from the two teams who manage to put on a great game no matter what. After the two pre-season games between the two teams were exciting the expectation for entertainment was understandable and the two teams didn’t disappoint. I’ve left it in my mind that it was the first game of the season. It’s a long schedule, it’s an 82 game race to the division crown before you start the rat race to the cup but there are some things to take away from last night’s game.

Samuelsson impressed me the most last night. Why? He was dirty. The Canucks as a team come off as passive aggressive at best on most nights but last night Mikael was getting fiesty and that’s something the Canucks need. Since Burrows moved up to the first line with the Sedins he’s had to stop playing class clown and has had to change his play from that of a Jarkko Ruutu to that of the third Sedin. At one point he tackled Phaneuf which will always get him points, but after scoring his goal he threw in a slash just to let the Calgary player know he was there. I’m glad he got on the board early in the season. I have above average expectations for him and after Detroit fans wrote him off I want nothing more for him than to be a offensive hit here in Vancouver to not only spark this offense, but to prove the nay sayers who got down on him. Knowing how the Vancouver media cracks down on new faces who fall behind the eight-ball offensively it was nice to see him get that monkey off his back early.

The Canucks defense was firing on all cylinders last night. While they weren’t particularly up front and center after letting in 3 goals on the first 7 shots of the game from the Flames, when in the offensive zone they were blasting from all angles and ranges on the point. I was impressed at the number of shots they were taking and how the forechecking was tight. After the first period melt down the Canucks pressure was non-stop and it was impressive to watch them hem the Flames in their own end for minutes at a time and completely dominate the play.

Luongo had a rough first, but after getting over the opening game jitters he shut it down and started making the saves which get him the LUUUUUs. The first was a bad period for the team overall. They looked like a bunch of ungelled players that had never ever played together before. Granted in the pre-season the team that dressed didnt get a lot of ice time together, but after the first period Burrows looked to click with the Sedins again getting on the board for his first of the year and the rest of the team started playing as a unit after getting over the bumpy start.

The comeback isn’t dead. And this is one of the most important things the Canucks could have taken away from the pre-season. The Canucks after going down 3-0 so early in the first could have given up, and yet uncharacteristically, or rather characteristically of the new look Canucks they clawed back. And while the comeback was never completed I think as we go into the season we’re in for a Canucks team that isn’t going to sit back anymore. We have the speed to be that team in the NHL which erases 3 goal deficits. The new NHL was built on the premise that no lead is safe. For a while the Canucks were victims to that as other teams would come back repeatedly but this season we are in for a treat as these Canucks have adopted that never say die attitude and it showed in the first game of the season and that’s where it needs to start.

Sep 262009

Cody Hodgson and Michael Grabner get another chance to impress the Canucks’ brass. Sergei Shirokov returns to the lineup. Which one of them will still be with the team come October 1st?

Apr 242009

Canucks fans are sitting twiddling their thumbs because of their early ousting of the St. Louis Blues, but it’s time to figure out who the Canucks want to face in the second round and hop on someone else’s bandwagon in the down time. That or we need to convince Gary Bettman to have a mini series with the Bruins while we kill time till the second round.

When you look at the potential matchups out there for the Canucks in the second round, assuming the Ducks upset the reigning President Trophy winning Sharks, the Canucks are going to be facing the winner of the Chicago/Calgary series. Now I know everyone’s immediate instinct is to hop right to supporting the Blackhawks because it’s been clear in recent years there’s not many teams that hate each other like the Canucks hate the Flames, and the same goes for the fans of those teams. But, we should honestly be cheering for the Flames in this series and hope they pull it off. Now you want to know why don’t you?

The Flames had one of the worst road records for teams that made the playoffs. The Canucks have one of the better home records for teams that made the playoffs. The Canucks are 17-1-1 in their last 19 starts at GM Place and if the Chicago/Calgary season is any indication, the Flames road woes continue as they dropped the first two games at the United Center.

Still not convinced? Looking at Calgary’s lineup I’m not convinced they’re at 100%. They finished the regular season having to dress only 15 forwards against Edmonton, and with the cap trouble they had themselves in at the end of the season it’s clear that Calgary hurt themselves in the last few games and needed more time than they got to get themselves in true playoff shape. Calgary slipped and slid from their perch atop the Northwest division to finish the regular season in 5th and Vancouver did just the opposite. The Flames have been struggling to play a full 60 minutes. Just look at their last game against the Blackhawks when just in little over 9 minutes they managed to blow a 4-1 lead and give up the tying marker with under 20 seconds left in the period.

You still think it would be better to cheer for Chicago don’t you? One of the most important reasons the Canuck want to face the Flames in the second round is all about geography. A trip to Calgary is only across one border, it’s only across one time zone, and let’s face it, there are so many transplanted Vancouverites there it’s as close to a home away from home as the Canucks will ever find. Aside from the absolutely fantastic hockey, passion and energy we could expect from playing them, one of the biggest advantages to us, especially having come of this long 10 day break, is the fact that the Pengrowth Saddledome is just a few hours away. We saw what a toll the series against Dallas took on the Canucks two seasons ago, by playing a series which is quite literally on our back door, we’re setting ourselves up very nicely if we make it to the next round.

If the Canucks draw Calgary, the Redwings draw the Ducks. The winner of that series is going to have flown back and forth across the country and the winner coming out of our series is going to be a lot better off for wear and tear if we play the Flames instead of the Blackhawks.

So while our hate for the Flames runs stronger than the blue that runs through our veins, it’s in the Canucks’ best interest to put on their best fake smile and will the Flames to victory. Against a tired Flames squad with a banged up core and a less than stellar “star” goalie, the Canucks couldn’t ask for a better opponent in round two.

Apr 232009

Before I go praising the Canucks through every high hill and low dale, I have to give credit where credit is due and that’s to the St. Louis Blues. They played a fantastic series, they were young, inexperienced, and they gave us a heck of a run for our money. The 4-0 series sweep was no indication of how close the series was and even in the last game, they were down, they got up, they tied it, and they took us late into OT before they finally fell to their final playoff loss of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

So now the Canucks have up to 10 days off. Should I be worried? Should we start throwing up the red flags? The Canucks of old would certainly have raised question in our minds as to whether they’d benefit from such a long break. Then again, that was the Canucks squad that came out flat against most opponents many nights, that was the Canucks squad that had no secondary scoring, and that was a Canucks squad that’s specialty teams were absolutely brutal. Here’s a Canucks team that defies everything we know and love about this team as fans. They’ve shown us a level of play we never thought was possible from them, and now have me thinking that even after 10 days off they’ll be just fine.

The boys need to use the time wisely and just heal their wounds. The early round advancing was a blessing in disguise. Salo and Sundin who were healthy scratches in game 4 now have a little extra time to fix their respective injuries. Demitra could use the time, as could Luongo and Henrik Sedin who were both a little shaken up at different times in the OT series clincher. I’m sure even Ryan Johnson could use a break and take care of the bruises he’s inevitably amounted after going down for nearly every shot he can.

No matter who we face in the second round I think the break will benefit us. If we face Detroit because San Jose pulls off the comeback in their series, then we’ll face a team that’s equally rested (barring a miracle on ice by the Blue Jackets). If that’s the case then they’ll likely be a little off their game from the lack of game time too. If we play the winner of the Chicago/Calgary series, I get the feeling the winner is going to emerge after 7 games, and with that in mind, they’re going to come out tired, and beat up. So even if we’re off our game a little after the long break, the fact we’ve got rested legs should make up for the temporary out of sync play that should start to dissipate through the first period.

This is a Canucks team that we haven’t ever seen. This is the best team we’ve seen since the West Coast express saw Naslund and Bert finish 2 and 3 in the scoring race during the regular season. While we all could try and predict what might happen, we’re likely shooting in the dark because none of us would have predicted this the way it turned out.

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