Oct 072009

All that pent up frustration and offensive “almost” that’s been brewing for the first three games came out tonight. The Canucks put up seven goals, Luongo only let in one, the penalty kill after letting one in early in the second denied all other opportunities, and after several highlight reel goals the Canucks gave the fans their first home and season win of the season bringing them to 1-3-0 on the season.

Everything that wasn’t working, all the chances that weren’t being capitalized on on Monday were history tonight as the Canucks jumped on the Canadiens early and never looked back. The Canucks for the fourth consecutive game had no problem getting shots on net, but this time the quality was higher, and they can thank a terrible Montreal defence for helping out a little.

All eyes were on Luongo who was expected to have a comeback game and who when called upon shut the door. He made some key saves late in the game and despite one suspect powerplay goal from the Canadiens which likely deflected off of defenceman Alex Edler, he remained solid and put up a much better performance than the night before.

The Canucks avoided starting 0-4-0 for the first time in franchise history with the win tonight, and Luongo avoided losing his fourth consecutive. Luongo hasn’t lost four starts in row since becoming a member of the Canucks. Ryan Kesler, Steve Bernier, and Mason Raymond all picked up their first goals of the season, Henrik Sedin had two goals, while Burrows and Samuelsson collected their second goals of the season each. The Sedins stepped up to lead this team as we’ve come to expect them to combining for six points on the night in a statement game on home ice. The boos quickly turned to Luus again and Samuelsson had a better game which will help right his plus/minus stats that took a beating against Columbus when he was on ice for the first four Columbus goals and in the penalty box for the fifth.

The Canucks win was an important one as they head into Thanksgiving weekend and a four day break on a positive note. The Canucks next play host to Dallas on Sunday. Marc Crawford will be in town, this time behind the bench of the Dallas Stars and after a huge win like tonight, there’s nothing better than a bit of a break to let the confidence simmer down just below cockiness. The Canucks would have been in tough if they’d had to let another loss fester over four days, and the win must certainly act as a confidence boost, knowing that they can get that offense to click, going into Sunday’s tilt against the Stars.

Oct 052009

Game 3, home opener, Columbus Blue Jackets – same result. If you didnt look at the score, a game that should have been boring was exciting and eventful. The Canucks looked good from start to finish, they were firing on all cylinders, and for those that watched and those in attendance they saw something that hasn’t happened since Luongo was traded to Vancouver and signed: The team carried Luongo instead of Luongo carrying the team.

I’m not even sure where to start with Luongo. This isn’t the bandwagon flaring up, or me coming down hard on Roberto, but tonight he looked absolutely awful. I try to defend Luongo, it’s a team game and it’s rarely the fault of any individual player that the entire game is lost (unless when Sundin’s taking terrible penalties. It’s a joke. Seriously. Laugh.) Tonight’s loss can be solely blamed on Luongo. 3 straight goals, unanswered and all shouldn’t have gone in. They earned the first goal off a turnover when they had no momentum what so ever, but the whiff by Luongo? I’m scratching my head as to what went wrong. He didn’t look outstanding the first two games, but he looked fine and was still making the saves that garner him many of the Lu chants he gets night in and night out. Luongo lost this 2 points. The Canucks gave him everything he needed for the win. Sad to see, frustrating to see such a good effort fall short.

It’s only 3 games into the season, but the Canucks D looks bigger, badder and better than ever. They were solid in the defensive end last year, and this year the plus minus wouldn’t tell you that, but they’ve been on par with what we would expect. However, in the offensive zone this Canucks blue line looks like it belongs to another team. They are firing on all cylinders and really creating chances. The Canucks had 43 shots tonight, and another 41 opportunities that were either blocked, missed the net, or hit the post. A lot of that was driven by the defense. They look great and none look better than Willie Mitchell. He was amped from the puck drop tonight and you could see it in absolutely everything he did. He really earned the 2nd star he got tonight. Mitchell’s offensive presence (3 points in 3 games) to start the season might see him shatter his points record he set last year. I like the new look Willie a lot. 79 more games of him and if the Canucks can turn things around he’ll be key in a blue line that looks poised to be the best blue line in the NHL this season.

Samuelsson has looked great so far. He picked up another assist tonight and Vigneault was rewarding his play by giving him ice time late in the game. He killed the Canucks comeback by taking the bad penalty which lead to the put away 5th goal by Columbus. That being said, contrary to what his plus/minus would say he’s looked like one of the better Canucks out there. When the Canucks pick up their play and start walking over teams, the pace he’s playing and producing at is going to be key as far as the Canucks secondary scoring goes.

Amidst all of the negative and the stampede of bandwagoners heading over to Calgary, there’s still a lot to take away from tonight’s game. The Canucks may have lost 3 games to start the season, but they have dominated the play in all 3 games. With the exception of the end to the Colorado game where the Canucks frustrations came out, the Canucks have dominated the majority if not all of all three games. They’re not struggling to get shots on net, and haven’t lost any of the games due to flatfootedness or lazy penalties. The Canucks are creating opportunities, they are skating well, and there’s still a lot to look forward to. When things start to go right, they’re going to go very right and it’s going to be fun to be a Canucks fan again. This team is too good to be 0-3-0.

Oct 032009

Game 2. Different game, same result. What’s interesting is all the problems of last season don’t really exist. Last year we talked about not being able to win games because we weren’t getting shots, our powerplay wasn’t clicking, we weren’t skating well, we had no possession of the puck. Early signs this season show we’re getting all the shots on net, our once solid penalty kill can’t seem to survive 2 minutes, we’re skating well and fast, and we’re dominating the play. The Canucks didnt have a slow start, in fact they started better than they did against Calgary, however after allowing Colorado to get the first goal they were in the familiar position of playing catch up.

Luongo has yet to look outstanding. The city has come to expect what Roberto comes to expect of himself and that’s perfection. While a none of the goals he’s let in this season can be said to be bad, or completely his fault, there are certainly one or two he would like to have back. It also doesn’t help that whenever a team plays Luongo their goalie inherits Martin Brodeur powers over night for a 24 hour period. Luongo hasn’t looked stellar, but his counterpart Craig Anderson stood on his head to stop the Canucks attack which couldn’t score no matter what angle they were shooting from.

While the Canucks lost the game they came away injury free which is a win in itself. After losing Luongo to a groin injury in the rare and strange noon start, superstition and speculation filled the pre-game as everyone had their fingers crossed. I’m not sure if I’m sold on noon games being a probable cause for injury, but in a system that’s so regulated and monitored, one that’s got the players physically adapted to a certain system, I can’t believe that abruptly changing that routine but still expecting the same stresses on the body and the same outcome is without potential problem.

It’s two games into the season, there’s still a lot to look forward to.What’s frustrating is losing 3-0 in a game where you were peppering the goaltender and moving your feet most of the game. It was clear though after a while the frustrations were showing and the team started trying to make things happen individually rather than as a team. I’d start getting worried if we start breaking that losing streak we managed to set last year, and when Luongo starts setting new records for goals allowed in a game. For the time being they have a chance to swing things around at home on Monday as they play the Blue Jackets in their home opener, and they’ll have the added excitement of raising the 2008-09 NW Championship Division banner not to mention the added incentive and adrenaline rush.

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.

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