Feb 022012
 

[Inspired by Arsenio Hall's "Things That Make You Go Hmmm…", Clayton Imoo talks about Canucks-related things that make him go hmmm… You can follow Clay on Twitter at (@canuckclay) or on his website, Clay's Canucks Commentary.]

The Vancouver Canucks came out of the All-Star break the same way they headed in: with a 3-2 victory.  They beat the Edmonton Oilers in a shootout in the last game before the break.  On Tuesday, they beat the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime. I was at Rogers Arena to watch the game and upon reflecting on it and the rivalry between the two teams, there are a few Things That Make Me Go Hmmm:

1.  Craziness in overtime. You might remember the last time the Canucks and Blackhawks went to overtime.  Game 7 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on April 26, 2011 is considered one of the most exciting games in Canucks history.

Tuesday night, the stakes were nowhere near as high, yet the entire extra frame had the crowd buzzing, screaming, jeering and ultimately cheering.  And sandwiched between a mesmerizing Sedin shift and their game-winning goal came 30 seconds of madness.

The craziness started when all-star Jonathan Toews put a sweet outside-inside move on all-star Alex Edler, leaving the big Swede on the ice.  The play started innocently enough, with the crafty Toews luring Edler to the outside boards before darting between Edler and a barely-backchecking Kevin Bieksa.  Thankfully for the Canucks, Cory Schneider made a good save.

Just 15 seconds later, after a brief foray in the Blackhawks zone, Viktor Stalberg used the EXACT SAME outside-inside move, this time on Dan Hamhuis, albeit with way more speed than Toews.  Again, it was Bieksa who was slow getting back to help, and again Schneider was forced to make a big save. Perhaps Stalberg would have scored if he wasn’t impeded by a Bieksa hook and a Hamhuis slash.  Both went uncalled.

The lesson learned:  dart down the right wing before cutting inside on Canuck defenders.  And make sure Bieksa is the other d-man.

Then, after another 15 seconds had elapsed, Brent Seabrook absolutely plastered Ryan Kesler from behind into the boards, leaving the crowd grasping for its collective breath for the third time in 30 seconds.

The Sedins’ skillful give-and-go play to win the game just 30 seconds later seemed anti-climactic by contrast.

2.  Comparing rivalries. Soon after the conclusion of Tuesday night’s game, I saw a few tweets from people favourably comparing the Vancouver-Chicago rivalry to the Vancouver-Boston rivalry.  The latter is obviously a more recent one that is still fresh in our memories, while the former goes back three consecutive playoffs.  The two are tough to compare.  The Canucks-Bruins game in early January was a complete gong show with penalties and shenanigans galore.  I remember the actual game was just okay but the atmosphere was unbelievable.  Contrast that to Tuesday night’s tilt:  the Canucks-Blackhawks game wasn’t particularly intense (until the third period and overtime) but it was actually better hockey.  Thus, both games were very entertaining in their own right.  And in the end…who really cares about which is the more heated rivalry…it’s just good to know that we have at least one strong rival in each Conference.

On the topic of good hockey…the best game I’ve seen this season start-to-finish was the Canucks’ 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings back on December 21, 2011.  The game was memorable not only because of the CHB get-together prior and the fact that I missed my daughter’s 4th birthday for the game, but because of its frenetic pace for the entire 60 minutes.  There were only four penalties the entire game (all to the Canucks) and the Red Wings outshot Vancouver 40 – 25.  For my money, Vancouver-Detroit may not be the best rivalry per se, but it produces the best hockey.

3.  Navigating through Rogers Arena. One other thing I noticed Tuesday night was just how hard it is to get from point A to point B, especially during a 17-minute intermission.  I had grand plans to meet Bruce (@transcendwebs) for the very first time after a few months of friendly Twitter exchanges.  My first mistake was suggesting we meet outside of section 104 (which I didn’t know was in the River Rock Club Section and thus inaccessible).  My second mistake was using the stairwell at gate 8 (by section 329) instead of the stairwell outside of section 304.  By the time I met Bruce outside of section 101 (after a quick change of plans over the phone), we had a grand total of 3 minutes to meet, chat, affirm each other’s good looks and blogging skills, and find a solution for world peace before we headed back to our respective seats (his in section 110, mine in section 303). I made it back to my seat just as they were dropping the puck to start the second period…and that was without a bathroom or concession stop.

So I ask you, loyal CHB readers:  what are some of your tips for quick and easy navigation through the Rogers Arena concourses?

Jan 062012
 

[Inspired by Arsenio Hall's "Things That Make You Go Hmmm…", Clayton Imoo talks about Canucks-related things that make him go hmmm.  You can follow Clay on Twitter at (@canuckclay) or on his website, Clay's Canucks Commentary.]

Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: Yahoo Sports

I’m taking a break from planning my Saturday morning “Ruin the Bruins” party to offer up a few quick thoughts as the Canucks have reached the midway point of the season.  It feels so strange to type the word “morning” when blogging about a hockey game, but I digress.

On this eve of the Stanley Cup Finals rematch, here are a few Things That Make Me Go Hmmm:

1.  The need for perspective. There are so many intriguing storylines heading into Saturday’s game against the Boston Bruins, notwithstanding the fact that it’s the only regular season meeting between the two Stanley Cup Finalists.  Luongo or Schneider.  Mason Raymond’s return to the rink where he nearly had his career ended.  Daniel Sedin vs. Brad Marchand.  Burrows, Bergeron, and biting.

Thursday afternoon, I tweeted: “48 hours from now we’ll either be celebrating a bit of revenge for the Canucks or wondering what it will take to beat the Bruins in Boston.”  I received a couple of replies, with both of them intimating that a Canuck win had limited upside (as opposed to a Canuck loss having a larger downside) and that true revenge would be winning the Stanley Cup.  While I didn’t disagree with these sentiments, I pointed out that a win is a win and we can’t do much about the Stanley Cup until June.  It’s important to remember that this is game #42 of an 82 game regular season and that we shouldn’t read too much into the result of the game, whatever it may be.  I don’t buy the argument that a Canuck loss will have a long-term effect on the team’s psyche… the same way I won’t get too excited if the Canucks walk out of Boston with a win.  Enjoy it for what it will be: a hotly-contested battle of two of the top teams in the league.

2. Biggest surprises and disappointments. There have been numerous “midseason evaluation” posts including an excellent one by CHB writer Matt Lee already, but I thought I would chime in with a few of my observations.  For me, the biggest surprises up front have been Jannik Hansen, Cody Hodgson and Chris Higgins.  The collective Triple H has combined for 31 goals and 37 assists for 68 points, a welcome wave of secondary scoring behind the big four of the Sedins and Kesler and Burrows.  On the flip side, Manny Malhotra is still struggling to regain his pre-injury form of last year and the jury is still out on David Booth, who was picking up his game before his knee injury.

On the back end, the play of the top four d-men (Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis and Sami Salo) have helped some Canuck faithful forget about Christian Ehrhoff.  In particular, Hamhuis is quietly piling up the points and is on pace to match his career high of 38 points (2005-2006 season).  Hamhuis and partner Bieksa (who has overcome a shaky start) have become one of the league’s premier shutdown pairs, while Edler and Salo continue to contribute at both ends of the rink.  Conversely, Keith Ballard is still not playing like a $4 million defenseman, and he is still prone to making risky plays in his own end.  I really like him and I want to see him succeed, but 6 points and -1 just doesn’t cut it.

3. The Canucks in the Winter Classic. On the heels of another entertaining Winter Classic and HBO 24/7 series, there’s increased chatter about the possibility of the Canucks appearing in the big game in the near future.  One would think that Montreal and/or Toronto are likely to be considered ahead of our local team, but you never know.  With respect to the 24/7 series, it’s hard to predict what kind of ratings a Canadian team would draw south of the border.  But one thing’s for sure: the Canucks would make for some interesting TV.  I would find it fascinating to get a behind-the-scenes look at the player’s preparation and personal lives.  What is Luongo like away from the cameras?  How are the twins different in how they approach the games?  Who are the locker room leaders?  Does Dale Weise un-follow and block people in real life?  And where does Bieksa come up with his comedy gold?  With respect to opponents, I think it’s a toss-up between Boston and Chicago.  The former for all of the reasons listed above, the latter for the playoff history and animosity between the teams for three years running.  A dark-horse would be Detroit, but their rivalry with the Canucks is one based on respect and similar playing styles as opposed to the dislike that comes with the Bruins and Blackhawks.

Amidst all these questions, it’s good to see that the Canucks have emerged from the first-half of the season at the top of the Western Conference (albeit with the other teams holding games in hand).  Now please excuse me as I continue preparations for my Saturday morning viewing party.  I’m curious as to how many of my friends will be drinking while watching the game.  10 AM seems a tad early, but I’m certainly not here to judge.  Hmmm…

Jan 022012
 

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

The Canucks looked to end 2011 with a California sweep, unfortunately they just fell short due to a poor effort against the Los Angeles Kings.

A new year brings the same expectations. They had a fantastic month of December and we expect much of the same to finish off the season and continue on into the playoffs.

Captain Henrik and his crew head back to Rogers Arena to play two home games and then head to Beantown for a rematch against the defending Stanley Cup Champions.

Canucks Record

39 GP, 24-13-2, 50 points (1st in Northwest Division, 2nd in Western Conference)

Who’s Hot

Henrik Sedin was just named the NHL’s 3rd star in the NHL ffor the month of December after recording 22 points (2G-20A) in 15 games. He currently has 6 points (1G-5A) and plus-3 rating during an active 4-game point streak.

Not only is Captain Henrik leading the Canucks with 36 assists and 46 points, he is also leading the NHL in those two categories. He is player that leads by example – he isn’t the strongest, biggest or fastest on the ice, but he does what he needs to do and can change the game with one slick pass to his brother, Daniel. He has also shown in the last few games that he won’t allow the opposition to push him around; he has been a little bit more feisty. Albeit, his feistiness won’t intimidate other players but at least he is standing up for himself.

Who’s Hotter

Kevin Bieksa had a slow start to the season, struggling with his defensive responsibilites and not finding the score sheet consistently. Since the middle of November, Juice has turned his game around for the better and has become an offensive threat while improving his plus/minus rating. He is currently on a 6-game point streak and has 7 points (1G-6A) during that stretch.

But also, Bieksa – along with defensive partner, Dan Hamhuis – have been the Canucks’ shutdown duo and have done a commendable job. Hamhuis’ calm presence and poise allows Bieksa to be more adventurous offensively. Likewise, Bieksa has been smarter about his pinches so as to not leave Hamhuis in a bad spot.

Who’s Next

Monday January 2, 2012 vs. San Jose Sharks (5:00 PM start, home)

The Canucks and Sharks met up just last week in one of the best – if not the best – games of the season thus far. The intensity and atmosphere at the Shark Tank made it feel like a playoff game. It was a physical battle between two teams who clearly do not like each other. In that last game – a 3-2 OT win for the Canucks – Joe Thornton taunted and stuck his fingers in Henrik’s face while they were talking to the referee. To say that there is animosity between the teams is an understatement, so it should be interesting to see how the Canucks respond.

Patrick Marleau is tied for second on the team with 27 points (13G-14A). Marleau has great speed and when he is on his game can be very effective on the ice for his team. He has been hot with 10 points (3G-7A) and a plus-4 rating in his last 7 games.

Wednesday January 4, 2012 Minnesota Wild (7:00 PM start, home)

Before last week, the Wild lead the Northwest Division but they have been struggling as of late. They’re 1-6-3 in their last 10 games, which is a complete turnaround considering that they were, just before that, on a 7-game win streak.

The Canucks have won 2 of the 3 previous meetings against the Wild this season, including a decisive 4-0 shutout before Christmas. In that game, Roberto Luongo was stellar in stopping all 33 Minnesota shots.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who recorded the GWG in the Wild’s lone victory against the Canucks this season, has 3 points (1G-2A) in 3 games against Vancouver (same with Matt Cullen). He currently has points in consecutive games and has 22 points (9G-13A) in 36 games this season.

Saturday January 7, 2012 vs. Boston Bruins (10:00 AM start, away)

It won’t be hard for the Canucks to find motivation against the Bruins on Saturday. This is the first meeting between the two clubs since Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. We all know how that ended, so it will be fun to see the two team renew their rivalry from the finals. Canucks fans will never get over the Cup final loss but many are moving on, but it willl be interesting to see what sort of emotions will arise. Brace yourself, Canucks Nation, for countless reminders of what happened in June and the hostility from Bruins fans.

The Bruins, like the Canucks, are playing very well right now. They had a very successful December going 9-3-0; while the Canucks went 10-4-1. It’s safe to say that both teams are on top of their game which can only mean an entertaining battle come Saturday.

Second overall pick, Tyler Seguin, is far from experiencing the dreaded “Sophomore Slump”. He is currently leading the Bruins in goals (15) and points (32). He has 6 points (2G-4A) and a plus-6 rating in his last 5 games.

Tough Enough

Although the Canucks did not win (or deserve to win for that matter) the game against the Kings, there are a few positives to take out of that game.

The biggest thing that stood out was the fact that players like Andrew Alberts and Keith Ballard stood up for their Captain and their teammates. The topic of team toughness is as prominent in Vancouver as the Kardashians are in Hollywood. They may not have fighter or an enforcer – nor do they necessarily need one – but if they can play together and stand up for one another, there’s no telling how far they can go (again) in the playoffs.

The bottom line, like Henrik said, is that we didn’t lose the Cup Finals because of team toughness we lost because we couldn’t score. So while the assertiveness and physical play of players is a positive, the team needs to stay focused on their game and what makes them successful.

Dec 312011
 

2011 may well shake out to be one of the most memorable calendar year in Canucks history. (At least in my mind it will be until the year the Canucks win the Stanley Cup.) Through the ecstasy of the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals and many team and individual highs and the sadness in the deaths of Rick Rypien and Pavol Demitra, here are 10 Canucks moments from 2011 that I will remember. Feel free to add your own memorable moments in the comments section.

10. The passing away of Rick Rypien (August 15, 2011)

9. Ryan Kesler activates beast mode – 2nd round, game 5 vs. Nashville Predators (May 5, 2011)

8. Lee Sweatt’s first goal in his first game as a Vancouver Canuck (January 26, 2011)

7. Daniel Sedin wins the Art Ross Trophy, Ryan Kesler wins the Selke Trophy, and Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider win the William Jennings Trophy (June 22, 2011)

6. The Canucks win the President’s Trophy for the first time in franchise history (March 31, 2011)

5. Alex Burrows’ OT game-winning goal – Stanley Cup Finals, game 2 vs. Boston Bruins (June 4, 2011)

4. Canucks fans clean up after the post-Stanley Cup riot (June 16, 2011)

3. Max Lapierre’s game-winning goal with 4 1/2 minutes left, the only goal of the game – Stanley Cup Finals, game 5 vs. Boston Bruins (June 10, 2011)

2. Kevin Bieksa’s double OT game-winning goal off the stanchion – 3rd round, game 5 vs. San Jose Sharks (May 24, 2011)

1. Alex Burrows’ OT game-winning goal off a Chris Campoli turnover – 1st round, game 7 vs. Chicago Blackhawks (April 26, 2011)

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