Feb 202011

[Every Sunday, Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@cayking).]

Canucks Record

60 GP, 38-13-9, 85 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference)

Who’s Hot

After going 7 games without recording a point, Raffi Torres has 2 goals and 1 assist in his last 4 games. Baby Beluga hasn’t been consistent this year, but he is showing signs of life in his last few games. Although he doesn’t put up huge numbers, he works hard every shift and gets the team going, when needed, with bruising hits on the opposition. Raffi’s two big goals on Saturday night helped the Canucks get the W against the Stars.

Who’s Not

After being recalled from the Manitoba Moose, late last year, Jeff Tambellini had a lot of offensive success. Unfortunately Jeff has been struggling as of late. He has just 2 assists in his last 23 games played and he hasn’t played more than 8 minutes per game in his last 4 games. AV has noticeably been benching Tamby in the 3rd period these last few games, stating that he wanted more “defensive” players on the ice. This is definitely not what any player wants to hear, especially someone who has not been playing well and is low in confidence.

Who’s Next

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 vs. Montreal Canadiens (7:00 PM start, home)

Carey Price and Les Habs shutout the Canucks 2-0 in their first meeting of the season in Montreal.

Despite winning only 1 of their last 7 games, the Canadiens are still in the thick of the playoff race and currently sit 6th in the Eastern Conference.

Tomas Plekanec has 14 points (7G-7A) in his last 17 games. He’s been one of the most consistent forwards this season for the Habs and leads the team with 19 goals and 46 points, He is also a plus-10 for the season, which is tops on the team.

The Canucks’ top-ranked powerplay (25.0% PP) will get tested by Montreal’s penalty kill, which is ranked 3rd on the road (85.3% road PK rate) and 6th overall (84.8% PK rate).

Thursday, February 24, 2011 vs. St. Louis (7:00 PM start, home)

Although the Canucks and Blues met just five nights ago, they are a completely different team. The Blues were busy on Friday, trading away captain Eric Brewer, franchise defenseman Erik Johnson and forward Jay McClement. In return, Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk came over from the Avalanche. The changes didn’t seem to effect the Blues considering they won decisively, 9-3 against the Ducks on Saturday night, and are now on a 3-game win streak.

Alex Pietrangelo is on fire; he has 7 assists in his last 5 games, including 2 against the Canucks last week. So far, in his first full NHL season, he has 6 goals, 25 assists and is a plus-14.

Saturday, February 26, 2011 vs Boston Bruins (7:00 PM start, home)

The Boston Bruins roll into Rogers Arena for their first and only meeting with the Canucks, this season. The Bruins are 6-4-0 in their last 10 games and sit 3rd in the Eastern Conference.

Boston was also busy on Friday, acquiring Tomas Kaberle from the Leafs, as well as Rich Peverly and Boris Valabik from the Atlanta Thrashers.

Milan Lucic, who played junior hockey for the Vancouver Giants, is having a productive season. Not only can he drop the mitts, provide a game changing hit he can also put up big points. He has 8 points (5G-3A) in his last 10 games. He is 4th in team scoring (40 points) and his 24 goals is already a career-high. He is also an impressive plus-16 this season.

Most Deserving of a Shoutout: Manitoba Moose

It’s no secret that the Canucks have suffered major injuries on the defensive end. With that being said, I can only commend the Moose coaching staff, for the work they are doing down in Manitoba. Chris Tanev, Yann Sauve and Evan Oberg have come up to the big club and fit in seamlessly. That is no coincidence. These 3 young defensemen have shown how important a farm team is to a NHL club. Although we would all love to see #2, #3, #4 and #23 back in blue, for now #18, #47 and #64 are doing a good job of fitting in and not being noticed in a negative light.

Jan 252011

It’s amazing what difference one game makes.

At this time yesterday, all the talk was about the Canucks’ 4 losses in a row, their 6 losses in 8 games, and the double-digit scoring slumps some of their forwards were in.

Despite the rain, this morning already seems brighter. With their 7-1 win, the Canucks became the first team in the Western Conference to hit the 30-win mark this season. They also increased their Western Conference lead on the Detroit Red Wings to 5 points, and are once again tied with the Philadelphia Flyers with the most points in the NHL (the Flyer have a game-in-hand).

More importantly, the Canucks finally got scoring from players other than Sedin, Sedin, Kesler and Edler. Alex Burrows scored his first goal in 7 games, Mason Raymond his first in 12 games and Samuelsson his first in 15 games. While they didn’t score, Raffi Torres and Jeff Tambellini both recorded assists, their first points in 7 and 14 games, respectively. In all, 14 Canucks hit the scoresheet; only Bieksa, Malhotra, Hansen and Glass didn’t.

Consider their slump busted.

Jan 242011

[Every Monday, Katie Maximick takes your questions and gives her take on the Canucks in her own cantankerous style. If you have any questions about the Canucks, send it to her via Twitter (@canucksgirl44)]

Mason Raymond

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

The Canucks are finishing the month of January at a less-than-inspiring L10 record of 4-2-4, a bit of a slump compared to how they began the New Year (7-0-3). Shootout woes, the injury bug and scoring slumps have been plaguing the team for most of the past month. After a month of near perfection and little to complain about, suddenly many fans finally have something (or a lot) to talk about.

Stephanie (@stephnav) asks: What do you think the Canucks need to do to break out of their mini slump?

A lot of Redbull or a swift kick in the ass. You decide.

The Canucks aren’t exactly tanking, as they are managing to at least get a point when they lose in the shootout, but is this type of performance good enough for a Cup contender? Frankly, no. Although Henrik Sedin pointed out that if the team had won in their last two shootouts, that their performance wouldn’t be a big issue, I disagree. They’ve already lost the top spot in the league to the Flyers, and Detroit is hot on their heels to overtake them in the Western Conference if this play continues; the Canucks are lucky that the Red Wings are battling injury problems of their own.

Many Vancouver forwards scorers aren’t scoring (to be discussed below) and this is what’s affecting the team the most. Luongo has been playing very well, and despite injuries, the Canucks’ blue line is doing the best that it can and is often producing more goals than the team’s forwards, like Alex Edler against the Flames.

Kayli (@CanuckKayli13) asks: What do you think is the key to breaking those scoring slumps of the few forwards?

There are quite a few scoring slumps on the roster to mention here. Daniel Sedin hasn’t scored in four games but this is nothing compared to five other Canucks forwards who are scoreless in over 10 games. As I mentioned in my post last week, the third line hasn’t scored in almost a month, and to quote The Province’s Ed Willies: “Jeff Tambellini is 0-for-his-last-13 games. Mason Raymond is 0-for-11. Manny Malhotra is not only is goal-less in his last 12, he’s also pointless. The list is actually longer but there are space limitations here.”

So what to do? Is there even anything that can be done aside from demoting or benching some of these forwards (like Samuelsson or Malhotra) until they smarten up? Even I’m at a loss for words about what to do with this problem. And that, my friends, says a lot.

Jan 212011

Kristin Reid just tweeted that some of the snakebitten Canucks – Mason Raymond, Jeff Tambellini, Alex Burrows and Tanner Glass – are working with Skills Coach Glenn Carnegie.

That’s probably good news for you poolies out there.

It’s been a tough stretch of games for what is one of the NHL’s highest-scoring teams. Since a 6-1 pounding of the Edmonton Oilers on January 7th, the Canucks have lost 5 of 7 games, including their last 3 games, and have been shut out twice. The good news is, they’ve managed to earn points loser points along the way and have somehow managed to hang on to 1st place in the Western Conference, but there’s no doubting the scoring slump some – actually most – of the guys are in.

Given the Canucks’ torrid pace through most of December and January, I suppose it was inevitable that the offense would start to dry up. I can’t pinpoint exactly when this started but it’s worth noting that the Canucks scored 44 goals in 11 games between December 8th and December 31st and only 27 goals in 11 games since January 1st.

And of their 27 goals since the calendar turned to 2011, the Sedin line, Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler and Christian Ehrhoff combined to score 23 of them.

As recently as yesterday, coach Alain Vigneault has stood up for the rest of the roster.

The Vancouver Canucks may have a quintet of forwards in deep scoring slumps, but head coach Alain Vigneault isn’t upset because the team is still winning.

“That should be everybody’s focus,” Vigneault said heading into Thursday’s home game against the San Jose Sharks. “Our guys might be having a tough time finishing, but as far as on the ice, they’re doing the right things.”

To be fair, Raymond, Tambellini and Jannik Hansen still create their fair share of offensive chances. Even Mikael Samuelsson has, albeit only in (very) small spurts. Guys like Manny Malhotra, Raffi Torres and Tanner Glass aren’t counted on for much offense, though it would be nice if they chipped in with the odd goal.

So what now that they’re not winning?

You have to think that they’re bound to bump the slump. At some point, the puck will start going back in the net again. Maybe some time with Carnegie will help. At least hopefully it does.

Jan 192011

[I Watched This Game is a recurring feature at Pass it to Bulis, the hockey blog that knows who needs the puck. It chronicles the insights and observations of two guys who watched a hockey game. To view all the other wonderful stuff PITB does, visit Pass It To Bulis.]

Give the Canucks credit for showing up to play this one. After a horrendous outing in Minnesota exposed their tired road legs, the excuses for a second consecutive poor performance were readymade. Instead, the Canucks vehemently defied the wishes of their bodies in Colorado, and kept up with the speedy Avalanche. They outshot the Avs 43 to 30 and picked up a well-earned point. It could have been two points, even, had the Canucks managed to push through their mental sluggishness the way they did their physical sluggishness.

Unfortunately for them, it was not so, and the mental mistakes came fast and furious. Bad penalties; bad passes; bad reads; lazy backchecks. Against a young, aggressive team like the Avalanche, that crap’s not gonna fly. Although, by getting the regulation tie, I guess it sort of did. Hmm. Okay, it did, but then, in the end, it didn’t (not unlike the Avro Arrow). Whatever. I watched this game:

  • Likely, neither team will be particularly happy with the way they played tonight (the Canucks were slow and sloppy, and the Avalanche let a tired road team take the lead three times) but both teams will be happy to leave the stadium with points. It’s like sports day in grade school. Everybody gets a ribbon!
  • The Canucks’ power play covers all manner of sins sometimes. Both Edler and Ehrhoff blasted PP goals from the point that gave their team the lead, and these goals were vital. Had the Canucks had to open up and play from behind for even one second in this game, their suspect defensive play would have been even more prominent, and it could have gotten out of hand.
  • It’s been a long time since the Canucks have had a sexy callup like Sergei Shirokov, so it was nice to see him play a standout game in his first NHL action this year. He scored his first career goal on a beautiful move (above), and he had a game-high six shots. But, before you get excited, consider he’s played two fewer games this month–and nine fewer NHL games. He had fresh legs. He was like Anne Bancroft on skates, his legs were so fresh. Let’s wait to see whether or not he can be a standout when the rest of his team isn’t playing on fumes, but he was a breath of fresh air tonight. Most importantly, he looked capable of creating his own offense, something Kesler’s wings have to be able to do. A good start for Shirok.
  • The other callup, Chris Tanev, acquitted himself admirably as well. He finished the night a minus-1, but it’s hard to fault him on the Luongo misplay that gave David Jones his first of two on the night. Jones was his man, for sure, but everyone in the building thought Luongo would swallow up that puck as it came off the boards. Other than that, Tanev was solid. He got on the ice for just under thirteen minutes, far more than anyone would have expected. He admirably broke up a 3-on-1 when Keith Ballard heeded Qris’s advice to step it up, pranks-wise and decided to pull the old fall-down-so-the-rookie-has-to-fend-off-a-3-on-1 routine. Funny guy, that Ballard.
  • Don’t tell the Vancouver media I said this, but here’s your proof that the star awards mean nothing: Alex Edler was named the game’s third star. Clearly, someone didn’t watch the game (probably John Garrett, who has made a living watching games, but always seems to be attending his first one). While it’s true that Edler had a standout game offensively with a goal and an assist, he played one of his worst games of the season defensively. He constantly lost his man, he bobbled pucks at the blue line, he looked dreadfully slow. Despite finishing the game even in the plus/minus category, Edler was on the ice for two Colorado goals, both on the penalty kill, and both times he got absolutely embarrassed by David Jones in front of the net. Jones isn’t a small guy, but Edler’s bigger, and the fact that Edler allowed himself to get moved right out of the play twice is unacceptable. Watch the highlight package. Colorado goals one and four are mirror images of one another, as Jones simply shades Edler into the useless area, opening up the exact same cross-ice pass. On the first goal, you can find Edler at the side of the net when the pass comes across. On the fourth goal, that’s him in the middle, lazily dropping down to block nothing, opening up the same pass and rendering himself helpless to prevent Jones from finding the rebound. A terrible game from #23 tonight.
  • Kevin Bieksa, on the other hand, played solidly. Nearly every shift, he was breaking up an odd-man rush or clearing the zone before things got dangerous. He finished with 2 hits, 4 takeaways and 3 blocked shots, and considering these three stats are typically undercounted (especially when you play for the road team), that’s one hell of a stat line.
  • Keith Ballard had a decent game as well, but has anyone noticed how often this guy falls? He’s like an ancient empire on skates. Methinks Keith “Babylon” Ballard needs to heed the words of the prophet Jeremiah.
  • Is Adam Foote a diplomat’s son? He’s clearly got some sort of immunity. Foote’s a handsy guy, but it doesn’t seem to matter who he grabs, punches, or holds–there’s never a call. He could grope the First Lady and someone would call it a smart, veteran play.
  • The referees missed some egregious offenses, but Raffi Torres sure made it easy on them, huh? Both of his penalties tonight were of the are-you-kidding-me variety, especially his second one. Who tugs on a jersey? Not since Theodore Tugboat have I seen such pathetic tugging. Skeeter and I observed that Raffi Torres has three modes: 1) skateskateskateskate 2) get puck, and 3) put puck. Unfortunately, none of the three modes is any more detailed than that, and Raffi often skimps on the details. Torres is playing some dumb hockey right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if he suffers a benching in the near future.
  • Speaking of penalties, Henrik Sedin’s penalty in overtime was fully warranted. Granted, his man went down easy, but everyone knows there are a two situations where you should never stick your arm out. The first is when you’re chasing to break up a two-on-one. The second is when you’re on a school bus. That’s how you lose a limb.
  • A better performance by Roberto Luongo and the Canucks probably leave Denver with a win. He’ll get no pass tonight; he was the freshest Canuck and he should have played like it. When your star goaltender is rested and your team isn’t, you need a star goaltending performance, and the Canucks didn’t get it. The second and third goals are both ones he probably should have had. Know what else he should have had? A Bacon Mushroom Melt. It’s only ever at Wendy’s for a limited time, and it’s delicious. But now it’s gone, and who knows how long he’ll have to wait for them to bring it back? /regret
  • And finally, Jeff Tambellini was the fourth-line center tonight, and while he did a fine job (especially in the faceoff circle, where he was 5-for-6) I’m not sure I like he and Mason Raymond on that line together. They’re too tiny, and tiny on the fourth line is a bad idea, unless it’s an ironic nickname for someone huge, like Tiny, the classic character from SNES’s Clayfighter.
Jan 162011

[Every Sunday, Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@cayking).]

Canucks Record

44 GP, 29-9-6, 64 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference)

Who’s Hot

Alex Edler is starting to cement his place as one of the good, young defensemen in the NHL. He has been a workhorse, averaging over 25 minutes of ice-time per game in the first 3 games of this road trip and over 24 minutes of ice-time per game this season. Despite the extended ice-time, he’s been very reliable and hasn’t had a minus-game since Boxing Day. Edler is on pace for career year in points and his goal against the Capitals moved him to 4th in team scoring behind only the Sedins and Ryan Kesler.

Who’s Not

Since Jeff Tambellini’s recall on November 24, 2010, the Canucks have gone 19-2-3 with him in the line-up. Jeff has already matched his career-high of 15 points; however, he has been on a slump as of late going 9 games without recording a point. He has been splitting his duties between the second and fourth lines in the last few games.

Who’s Next

Tuesday, January 18, 2011 vs. Colorado Avalanche (6:00 PM start, road)

The Avalanche are the Canucks’ only real threat in the Northwest Division and currently sit in 6th place in the Western Conference. They are 4-4-2 in their last 10 games and have won 2 of their last 3 games. However, the Canucks have won all 4 games against the Avs this season.

The Canucks’ 2nd-ranked powerplay can take advantage of the Avalanche’s 3rd-worst penalty-killing in the league.

Chris Stewart is back from injury which boosts the Avalanche’s lineup. He missed 21 games, but has 25 points in 24 games.

Thursday, January 20, 2011 vs. San Jose Sharks (7:00 PM start, home)

The Sharks have been struggling lately going 3-7-0 in their last 10 games. The Canucks have won both meetings against the Sharks this season – a 6-1 thrashing at Rogers Arena and a 4-3 come-from-behind win in San Jose.

The Canucks and the Sharks have the 2nd and 5th-ranked powerplays, respectively, but neither have been prominent in the teams’ season series so far – in two games, the Canucks were 1-for-4 with the powerplay and the Sharks were 1-for-3.

The Sharks big 3 – Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley – have been disappointing this season. They have a combined 115 points (46 G -69 A), but also, a combined plus/minus rating of -36.

Saturday, January 22, 2011 vs. Calgary Flames (7:00 PM start, home)

The Flames have been hot (no pun intended) in their last 10 games going 6-2-2. They are currently on a mini 2-game win streak and have points in their last 4 games.

The Canucks have loved playing the Flames this season, winning both meetings to-date and decisively outscoring them 10-3.

Mason Raymond especially likes playing his hometown team. He has 3 goals and 2 assists in only 2 games against the Flames this season.

Most Deserving of a Shout-out: The Fourth Line

The play of the fourth line recently has been outstanding. They single-handedly set the tone in Washington. They spent a majority of their shifts in the offensive zone, controlled the puck and forced the Caps to chase them around. Glass-Hansen-Bolduc were a combined +5, while Hansen assisted on 2 key goals. (Unfortunately, Bolduc got injured during the Caps game and is out for 3-4 weeks.) In a mediocre game against the Islanders, Tanner Glass saw the opportunity to spark the team with a big fight against Matt Martin. Let’s just say after a 1-2 punch to the dome, Martin was down for the count while wiping the blood from beneath his right eye.

Jan 112011

(Contributions from Richard Loat and Matt Lee.)

Now that the Canucks have reached the official halfway point of the 2010/2011 season, we take a look back and give the players their midseason marks.

Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: CBC.ca

Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin: What can be said for one Sedin can be said for the other. They are both on pace for 100-point years. Daniel is on pace for 50 goals and 108 points, which would shatter his career-best of 36 goals and 85 points. Henrik recorded 83 assists last season en route to his Hart and Art Ross trophies; this season, he’s on pace for 90 assists. No one thought they could repeat last year’s level of play, and so far, they’re proving everyone wrong.

Grade: A

Alex Burrows: Burrows was set back by an injury and still looks like he’s getting back in sync. He knows better than anyone where to find the Sedins on the ice and he’s far from lost that magic with them. He’s performed below expectations to start the season but down the stretch is when we need him and he has plenty more games to start clicking at the rate he was last season. At a $2 million cap hit, Burrows is one of the cheapest top-six forwards in the league. As a 35-goal scorer who plays in every situation, he’s also easily the most versatile player on the team.

Grade: B

Mason Raymond: After scoring 25 goals in his third year with the Canucks, Raymond was signed to a two-year pact for a moderate $2.55M yearly stipend, expected to build on his career season. However, mired with hand and thumb injuries, it’s been a sub-par first half for the flashy and speedy one. If he stays healthy, he’ll be better.

Grade: C+

Ryan Kesler: With very little argument, Kesler’s been the Canucks’ MVP. 23 goals to date with the outside chance of getting 50, he’s en route to obliterating his previous career high of 26 while still being one of, if not the best two-way forward in the league.

Grade: A+

Jeff Tambellini: Back on July 1, the hype was around the team signing Dan Hamhuis to the big contract. Few even knew that Tambellini signed a one-year, $500k deal. After being a fringe NHLer until the age of 26, everyone’s favourite Port Moody native is on pace for 22 goals this year.

Grade: B

Jan 102011

[I Watched This Game is a recurring feature at Pass it to Bulis, the hockey blog that knows who needs the puck. It chronicles the insights and observations of two guys who watched a hockey game. To view all the other wonderful stuff PITB does, visit Pass It To Bulis.]

You hate to see a game like this go to a shootout. I did. After 60 minutes of the top two teams in the NHL strutting their excellent puck movement, remarkable defense, and fabulous systems play, suddenly everything that made the game so stellar is taken away and a coin is flipped. Because that’s what the shootout is, really: a coin toss, a crapshoot. So before you go blaming anybody for the loss (i.e. Tambellini, for missing on that breakaway, or Luongo, for getting beat by Hudler), take a deep breath and recognize that this game, like all games decided in a shootout, was a tie with an extra point pulled out of a hat.

Then recognize that, in their sixth games in nine nights, the Canucks still skated away with a point, just as they did in the other five, and just as they did in this season’s other two intense games versus these Red Wings. I tell you, if we’re lucky enough to see these two teams in the playoffs, I’d cancel Christmas to watch every second of it. I’m serious. I’d watch so freaking hard, much like how I watched this game:

  • Jimmy Howard was the game’s deserving first star. He made 32 saves, many of the incredible variety. He flatly robbed Henrik and Daniel once each, controlled rebounds, and swallowed up shots like they were merchant ships floating above the nest of the Krakken. Then he stoned all three shooters in the shootout. He stoned them just like Jelly Roll. Howard was out of this world tonight, not unlike another famous Howard in red.
  • Were it not for Howard’s play, you’d be hearing a lot of talk about the Sedins (or, the Wizards of the Coast, as per @victoriado, brilliantly). They were consistently dangerous tonight, especially on that lob play that they seem to have perfected. I counted about three times that Burrows or Henrik vaulted the puck into the air, only to have Daniel glove it down and start an odd-man rush. There should be a law against lobs that sweet. That’s right. A Lob Law.
  • By the way, we’ve seen that play a lot this year. We take for granted the way the Sedins innovate ways to create offense. They’re always scheming, from their set faceoff plays to the slap-pass to these lobs. I guess that’s what happens when you share a duplex with a perma-linemate.
  • Chris Osgood is nearing forty, but you’d never know it. Not because he plays like a younger man, but because he looks like a younger man. Osgood didn’t play tonight, but the HNIC producer couldn’t stay away from shots of him sulking in the hallway, and he looks about sixteen. He also looks a lot like Ian Walker. Think Bif Naked is the victim of a brilliant switcheroo? Probably. Foxy celebrities marry athletes, not writers. Who does Walker think he is? Arthur Miller?
  • Keith Ballard had a fantastic game tonight. He was named the game’s second star, which was enough to earn him about a whole two extra minutes of icetime. Not too shabby. Though he was only credited with 3 hits, one of the hits looked like this. That’s good for an extra minute right there. Ballard had a solid overall game. He rushed the puck out of his own zone well, played physical, and rang a shot off the post that might have put Vancouver over the top. If we get this kind of play regularly from our fifth defenseman, we’ll probably do all right.
  • Ballard didn’t actually deserve the second star, though–Kevin Bieksa did. Juice played 24 minutes, seemingly all of them engaged in a cross-check fight with Tomas Holmstrom. Despite battling the big jackass all night, Bieksa managed to get off five shots, attempt another five, block three, and collect three takeaways. Apparently, like the marriage of Stanley and Stella Kowalski, Kevin Bieksa is better when he’s fighting.
  • Both teams were clearly exhausted tonight, but I really recognized it in the Canucks. Mason Raymond and Jeff Tambellini, who normally fly, instead did whatever it is turkeys do to get around. The rest of the Canucks, too, seemed to lack jump, especially in the third. After limiting the Red Wings to less than ten shots in both the first and second, they Canucks looked like they just ran out of the steam. This is a team known for their ability to #WinDaTurd, but they couldn’t keep pace with Detroit in the third period tonight. Detroit rattled off seventeen shots and had the Canucks scrambling in the defensive zone for most of the final frame. Were it not for the stellar play of Roberto Luongo, I don’t think this one would have gotten to overtime. Like Kanye West, the Canucks were all over the place, but like Mike Myers, Luongo seemed desperate to salvage the point.
  • Jim Hughson with the Lord of the Rings reference of the night: “Helm couldn’t smeagol by him along the boards.” How does one smeagol, exactly? I’ve never heard this term before in my life. I take this to mean Helm tried to bite Alberts’s finger off.
  • Though the Canucks’ powerplay only scored one time (above) in five opportunities, they looked absolutely awe-inspiring at times. At times the Sedins threw the puck around. At times Kesler tried to muscle the puck through. At times, Christian Ehrhoff showed why he’s the motor of the back end, zipping around the zone like Ben Stiller only wished he could have. It was fun to watch.
  • @GutsMcTavish24 observed that Todd Bertuzzi still has moments of soft perimeter play. Almost immediately upon tweeting that Bertuzzi wasn’t “willing to sacrifice,” DJ Dave threw on Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice.” How he knew to do that is beyond me.
  • I’m interested in Ryan Kesler only taking 12 faceoffs. He won 6, but for a guy who’s top ten in the circle, you’d think he’d take more. Any theories? Here’s mine: Kesler is the best skater on the team, and Vigneault wanted to start him on the fly.
  • Speaking of faceoffs, after narrowly gaining his coach’s trust in the faceoff circle, Alex Bolduc is clearly back to square one. A few games ago, he was taking eight faceoffs. Problem was, he lost all eight. Tonight he took two, and he won them both, but do you know who else took two? Mason Raymond. Bolduc’s got his work cut out for him; it’ll take some time to regain that trust.
  • Manny Malhotra, on the other hand, was a faceoff machine, and in a playoff-atmosphere game like this, it was impossible not to notice. He went 18-for-28, but it seemed like he never lost, especially in the defensive zone, where he was 13-for-18. Red Wing centermen tried everything to combat his technique; they seemed highly irritated with how low he was getting. Nothing worked. Like a guy who wants to be startin’ something, Malhotra was too low to get under.
Jan 042011

[I Watched This Game is a recurring feature at Pass it to Bulis, the hockey blog that knows who needs the puck. It chronicles the insights and observations of two guys who watched a hockey game. To view all the other wonderful stuff PITB does, visit Pass It To Bulis.]

The Canucks came into San Jose to play their third road game in four nights. Unbeaten in five, and expected to be dog-tired, there was a sense among Canuck nation that a loss to San Jose was as inevitable as the extraplanar robots that chase down lawbreakers. The Sharks came into this game fourth in the Western Conference, and with their continued employment of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, and Dan Boyle, looked to be formidable foes.

They were formidable foes. That said, they still got beat, by a Canucks team that has seemingly forgotten how to lose. As a born loser, I’m here if they need the help, but I don’t think they’ll call. In the meantime, I guess Daniel and I will just have to sit around watching them win, like we did tonight when we watched this game:

  • The Second Law of Sedinery: if the Sedins find themselves alone behind the defense, you may as well go line up at center ice. They will score. The opening goal (above), off a turnover by Joe Thornton (and not Jason Demers, as crazy old John Garrett insisted), is a classic case of Wizardous Sedinerie. Antti Niemi made a common mistake and got Daniel confused with Henrik. Had he realized that Henrik had the first touch, he might have realized Daniel was about to get the second. Instead, he anticipated a shot from Henrik Sedin. Rookie mistake. Also a rookie mistake? Letting Gary Busey date your mom.
  • Speaking of Rookie of the Year, let’s talk about casts. The second-line featured a rotating one, as Jannik Hansen, Jeff Tambellini, and Mason Raymond all saw time as Ryan Kesler’s wings. When Tambellini and Raymond were together, they showed the potential to be the fastest duo since Northstar and Aurora. (Other similarities: both duos are Canadian, and spend an inordinate amount of time in dark blue. Differences: Raymond’s not gay, and Tambellini’s not a woman.) Anyway, Raymond and Hansen finished the night on that line, and Hansen may have re-won his spot there with this game-tying goal late in the second period. Early in the second, I grumbled about Hansen spending time on the second line–normally he finishes his checks, but not his scoring chances. That said, like a piece of furniture haunted by the ghost of a carpenter, Hansen has magically developed finish. #WorstAnalogyAward
  • What was going on during the Canucks second goal? Ehrhoff and Edler apparently switched places with Daniel and Henrik, briefly becoming the forwards on the rush. They didn’t do too badly, either. Perhaps Edler felt slighted when Skeeter suggested he didn’t have the stuff to play center, or perhaps the Sedins felt pigeonholed as offensive wizards and wanted a chance to play defense. Third option: the Sedins forgot that the teams switched ends for the second, and were thrilled about being in behind the defense for a second time.
  • Tanner Glass played 8:25 tonight, which is about on par with his usual minutes, except that he spent ten minutes in the box for two fights (a full one-sixth of the game). The fourth line in general was noticeable tonight, spending a lot of time in the offensive zone. Chalk this up to the return of Mason Raymond, which has banished a top-nine player to the bottom three. And, while the line may not have seen an increase in minutes, they saw a definite increase in third period minutes, as Alain Vigneault trusted them with late shifts in a close game.
  • Part of this might have been a desire to play fresh guys on the back-to-back games, but another part might have been that Alex Bolduc was winning faceoffs when Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler weren’t. For the third straight game, the Canucks lost the faceoff battle, although this time by a very narrow margin. Manny Malhotra was his usual stalwart self, winning 14-of-18, including all six in the defensive zone. Just Manny being Manny. The other two big drawmen were kind of crummy. Kind of really crummy. Kesler was 35% in the circle. Henrik was 27%.
  • Continuing the negativity, on San Jose’s first goal, Rome needs to cover Clowe in front of the net, not the random patch of ice to Schneider’s left, which he so ably defended. On San Jose’s second goal, Henrik needs to not be in the box. Captain Hook strikes again. On San Jose’s third goal, Schneider needs to remove all banana peels from his crease prior to the start of the period. Open letter to Rollie Melanson: get on that.
  • Christian Ehrhoff was good tonight. He facilitated breakouts like working at McDonald’s, had 5 shots, blocked 4 shots, and picked up two assists. I’ve heard fans saying that, now that Bieksa’s playing well, we should trade Ehrhoff instead. Tonight, Ehrhoff showed San Jose why they never should have let him go; let’s not wish that same regret upon ourselves.
  • Like Evangeline Lilly in a Live Links commercial, Mason Raymond draws a lot of calls. It’s good to see him buzzing around the offensive zone, falling down like Cory Schneider.
  • Not to rag on Cory Schneider too much. Despite his shaky moments, such as collapsing like a Jenga tower in a rowboat, he made some incredible saves, and also let in less goals than Antti Niemi. These are both positives. The Canucks are now 7-0-2 when Schneider starts.
  • Worst outfit of the night goes to Dan Murphy, who wore an ugly tie that looked like it was made of dried beef broth. Someone needs to get him on What Not to Wear immediately. Seriously, where did he get it? The toilet store?
  • Observation: every time the puck goes over the glass, pro hockey players become children stargazing with their fathers. They point with such enthusiasm it’s embarrassing. Look, Dad, a shooting star! Didja see it? Didja?
  • Word was Kesler might sit this one out after taking a shot to the foot in the game prior, but he wound up playing twenty-three very effective minutes. He put up four shots, as well as attempting another six, one of which hit the crossbar after a beautiful tip.
  • Speaking of shots, the Canucks put up 47 and attempted 70. They peppered Niemi like a flavourless steak. A ton of those shots ended up in Niemi’s glove, which the Canucks apparently hate as much as the shooter in The Jerk hates oil cans. The Canucks won the last game against the Sharks with considerable hittiness, but tonight, shootiness was their primary asset.
  • And finally, let’s give major credit to Alex Burrows, who took it upon himself to win da turd by scoring the game-winner halfway into da turd. The refs reviewed it for something that isn’t reviewable but, since many officials still sort of hate Burr for that thing that happened, it makes sense.
Dec 292010

Since Jeff Tambellini got called up the numbers have spoken for themselves. After playing 180 career games in the NHL between the Kings and Islanders he started the season on the Canucks farm team. He hadn’t found his fit in Long Island and was looking to make the Canucks roster. Who knew adding a little speed alongside Alberta native was all it took?

With the purest wrist shot this city has seen since Markus Naslund (we can start the Tambellini-Kesler wrist shot debate another day), Tambellini has stepped up to earn a spot on this team that already had good forward depth. That said, forward depth is never a bad problem to have, especially when you realize your team has a damn good third line in Manny Malhotra, Mikael Samuelsson and Raffi Torres.

While Samuelsson has a big shot that saw him explode in the second half of last season, he can’t keep up with the speed of Kesler and Raymond. Skating on a line with Hansen and Kesler, Tambellini’s been able to transfer his speed into offensive chances and points with linemates that can keep up with him. When Raymond returns it will be interesting to see how the lines shuffle. Hansen has proved this season that he doesn’t deserve fourth line relegation. Tambellini has also proven that his success comes from being placed in an offensive role.

With Tambellini’s success on the second line – he’s currently riding a six-game points streak (4 goals, 2 assists) – Samuelsson’s fate on the third line has been sealed. The question then becomes who gets relegated to the fourth line. The Canucks could put Torres on the fourth and keep Hansen on the third; however, in all likelihood Hansen ends up being the one shafted to the fourth line. Canucks management are going to have to play a bit of player Jenga to move things around but one thing is clear, Jeff Tambellini is here to stay.

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