Jun 152013
 

If you believe the internet (and who doesn’t?) then you believe John Tortorella will be the next coach of the Vancouver Canucks. The opinions on this potential move vary from ‘worst decision ever’ to ‘might possibly work’. But I’m yet to find someone who thinks it’s the perfect fit.

There are a lot of reasons for that. Mostly it comes down to the fact that the man who coached the New York Rangers appeared to be a ranting lunatic. He yelled at players, he benched stars and loved to openly hate the media.

Do you honestly see Ryan Kesler taking well to being torn a new one? Or being benched? I definitely don’t. Could tough love work on Roberto Luongo? If he doesn’t start to cry, his overprotective fan base definitely will. (I know, I know he won’t be here, but still.) Most importantly Kevin Bieksa has come out and said “I don’t think we need somebody to come in a crack the whip.” Torts is a notorious, public whip cracker.

So does Gillis and Aquilini you take the risk here and tell the team ‘you don’t know what you really need’ and give them Tortorella anyway? Based on what? His strategy? Let’s take a look at that too.

With the Rangers, Torts relied heavily on Lundqvist. Too heavily. A goalie can’t carry a team on his shoulders. We’ve seen that fail time and time again. And the last thing Vancouver needs is a coach who comes in and lays it all at the feet of the starter goalie. Who is our starter next season anyway? And blocking shots? Vancouver isn’t made up of young bendable players anymore. It’s mostly mid-career, breakable players (I’m looking at you Ryan Kesler) so standing in front of slap shots isn’t the smartest move for this team. And this team has too many strong goal scorers… who aren’t scoring. We need a coach that can fix that problem, not one that gets Henrik Sedin to lay down in front of a shot.

I’ve always thought that the Canucks were an overly emotional team. They need a coach that can harness that and focus that, not one that adds even more unfocused emotion to the room and the bench. Dan Bylsma was able to do that with the Pens when he first got there, although he seems to have lost that magic touch. Torts, in my opinion, can’t do that.. Sure the Canucks seem to do well when they think the hockey world hates them, but I don’t think they’d do well thinking their own coach hates them.

May 022013
 

Photo credit: Jeff Vinnick via NHL.com

After an abbreviated season, the Vancouver Canucks opened up the postseason with a 3-1 loss to the visiting San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night. Looking back at the game and looking ahead to the next one, there are a few Things That Make Me Go Hmmm:

Searching for the Right Line Combinations

The Canucks forwards simply did not create enough shots or scoring opportunities. This continues a trend of low-scoring games as the Canucks have not scored more than 3 goals in a game since their 4-2 win over Nashville on April 15. I must admit that I was a tad befuddled when I learned the line combinations on Monday for last night’s game.

We know that Burrows with the Sedins is pretty much a given (for now) and that the fourth line will consist of any combo of Ebbett, Weise, Sestito, Pinizzotto, and sometimes Lapierre. The Canucks started game one with a second line of Kesler between Higgins and Kassian, and a third line of Roy between Raymond and Hansen. While Roy and Kesler were likely separated to spread the Canucks’ centres over three lines to counter Thornton, Couture, and Pavelski, I was surprised that Higgins was placed on Kesler’s wing and not Roy’s. In the few games that they played together, Higgins and Roy looked like a dangerous combo. Instead, they found themselves on different lines to start the series.

We all know that coach Alain Vigneault has no problem with juggling his lines. I’d like to see Roy between Hansen and Higgins leaving Kesler to centre Raymond and Kassian. Who knows – if AV is confident in Lapierre, we might see Kesler and Roy reunited on a second line to give the Canucks more scoring potential. Moving Lapierre up would likely mean Kassian moving down to the fourth line… a position he found himself in by the end of game one.

Home Ice Disadvantage

With the Canucks loss, they have now lost 5 straight playoff games at home – a stretch dating back to game 7 on June 15, 2011 against the Boston Bruins. Obviously, a lot has to do with the quality of opposition, but for whatever reason Rogers Arena is not a difficult place for opposing teams to win in during the playoffs.

The Canucks’ regular season home record was decent at 15-6-3 while San Jose’s road record was a pathetic 8-14-2. By contrast, San Jose’s regular season home record was a sparkling 17-2-5. Thus, you can see just how important it will be for the Canucks to triumph in game two and tie the series up. If they lose, they won’t be able to beat this strong San Jose team 4 times out of 5 (with 3 of the games in San Jose).

Canucks fans need to get a lot louder and a little more rowdy (much to the chagrin of Rogers Arena employees). After all, isn’t this what we live for?

Every Game is a Pivotal Game

Get ready to hear about how much game two is a “pivotal” game. Captain Obvious here would like to point out that going to San Jose tied one game apiece is a lot better than going in down two games.

Then, game three will become pivotal as it will either create an almost insurmountable deficit at 3 games to 0, or one team will at least take a stronghold in the series. Game one was intuitively pivotal as both teams wanted to get off to a good start.

The point being that every single game in the playoffs is a pivotal game. Now the Canucks need to start playing like it.

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 222013
 

Photo credit: The Vancouver Sun (Jeff Vinnick photo)

The word “rivalry” has been overused so much in the NHL. Just because you’re playing on an NBC “Rivalry Wednesday” broadcast, it doesn’t mean you have a rivalry.

The Canucks and Blackhawks are the epitome of a true rivalry. They have a recent history of having some heated playoff battles. They hit each other, legally and illegally. They hate each other. The fanbases hate each other. Even Chicago’s professional media throw all journalistic integrity and professionalism out the door when these two teams meet.

And as much as Patrick Kane denies it, tonight’s game shouldn’t be any different.

After all, there are still seedings and regular season titles at stake. The Blackhawks are on an historic run, not having lost a game in regulation in a zillion days (okay that might be an exaggeration, but they are 9-0-2 in their last 11 games), and is a win away from clinching the Presidents’ Trophy. Meanwhile, 44 games into a 48-game season, the Canucks are still trying to find their way, though they’re somehow 1 point in 3 games away from winning their 5th straight Northwest Division title anyway.

20-year old Frankie Corrado will make his NHL debut tonight – on a top-4 pairing with Alex Edler, no less – in place of the injured Keith Ballard. What better way to get acquainted to the NHL than playing your first ever NHL game against a heated rival and the best team in the league, eh?

After missing 5 games, Chris Higgins will also make his return to the lineup. He practiced on a line with Derek Roy and Ryan Kesler this morning so here’s hoping his return somehow gets the Canucks offense going (again).

Canucks Record

25-13-7, 57 points (1st in the Northwest Division, 3rd in the Western Conference)

Season Series

This will be the 3rd and final meeting between these two teams this regular season. They split the first 2 meetings; both previous games went to a shootout.

Who’s Hot

Jonathan Toews has had a Hart Trophy caliber season and many believe he deserves to be in the running. He has 14 points (5G-9A) in his last 11 games. He’s also tied with Kane for the team lead in goals (21) and is second on the team in scoring with 46 points.

Overall, he’s 5th in the NHL in goals, 10th in points, and 3rd in plus/minus with an impressive plus-27 rating.

What’s Not

After a stretch of scoring 23 goals in 6 games earlier this month, the Canucks offense has hit a bit of a rough patch. In their last 3 games, they’ve been outshot 108-66 and have just 3 goals in that span. If Henrik Sedin thought last Saturday’s game against the Wings, in which the Wings carried much of the play and outshot the Canucks by a 34-14 margin, was “one of our best games in a few weeks”, then they have a way to go yet to be able to truly contend when the real season begins next week.

Apr 182013
 

Photo by Jeff Vinnick

In an effort to create more offense (or in an effort to maintain his reputation as a chronic line juggler), Canucks’ coach Alain Vigneault made news by putting Ryan Kesler on the wing alongside recently-acquired centreman Derek Roy in practice. While I was looking forward to seeing them play together, many Canucks fans were up in arms at the move, citing Kesler’s preference to play in the middle and the potential of unbalanced forward lines (from a scoring perspective).

By game time, all was right with the world as Kesler took his centre position back while Roy was the one shifting over to the wing.  Kesler supporters were happy and so was I – the two of them were still going to play together.

The result against Nashville was good: both Kesler and Roy had two points apiece in the Canucks 5-2 win.  The duo was tamed in the subsequent game – a 2-1 shootout loss to St. Louis.

So why is playing centre so much better?  Along with the help of some loyal CHB readers, I present to you The Top 10 Reasons Why Playing Centre is Better Than Playing on the Wing:

10.  One word: faceoffs.  Or is that two words: face offs?

9.  The centre is the one who makes the line what it is.  (Submitted by @RyanGuevs)

8.  Centre of attention makes sense.  Wing of attention doesn’t.

7.  Because he won the friggen Selke.  (Submitted by @BrowntoBure)

I think my Twitter-buddy Dave mistook the topic to be “Top 10 Reasons Why Kesler Should Stay at Centre” but I’ll accept it nonetheless.  Then, as a reply to my reply, Dave added:

I actually prefer wing…it’s less work.

6.  The wingman never gets the girl.  (Pat on Facebook)

I hope he’s not speaking from experience.

5.  Centres can be smooth like the centre of a Caramilk.  Wings can be good too…with hot sauce.  (Submitted by @Rozzy80)

I think my buddy Jay mistook the topic to be “Top 10 Ways to Relate This Hockey Blog to Food”.

4.  Who would you rather be?  Ricky Bobby or Cal Naughton Jr.? If you ain’t first, you’re last.  (Submitted by @lyteforce and @mattlee61)

Yes, it takes 2 CHB contributors to come up with one entry:  one of them to suggest it, the other to correct it.

3.  Playing centre, it doesn’t matter if you’re a right-handed shot on the right side, a right-handed shot on the left side, a left-handed shot on the left side, or a left-handed shot on the right side.  Either side will be your strong side because you’re in the middle of the ice.

2.  Both of these guys won the Art Ross.  But only one of them won the Hart.

Photo by Jeff Vinnick

1.  No guy dreams of becoming Goose. You dream of becoming Maverick.  (Submitted by Jason on Facebook)

 

No doubt this will make fellow CHBer @lyteforce proud.  Very proud.

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.

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)
Mar 292013
 

Talk about two teams headed in opposite directions.

After their 4-1 win last night over the Colorado Avalanche, the Canucks have now won 6 games in a row. The loss was the Avs’ 4th in a row and 8th in their last 9 games.

Also, with Alex Burrows reunited with the Sedins, the first line once again looks rejuvenated and accounted for 3 of the team’s 4 goals.

That’s good news for Canucks fans.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Mar 192013
 

Only weeks ago we all assumed the Canucks had the Northwest Division locked up. Sure our power play was horrible back then, the defense was muddled, injuries were taking a toll, and goaltending was simply adequate… but things aren’t that bad are they?

That can’t be good, can it?

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

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