Apr 162014
 

NHL_2014_StanleyCupPlayoffs

With the puck ready to drop for the 2014 NHL playoffs, a few of us at CHB make our predictions for the first round.

At least with the Canucks not making it, we can make our picks with our brains, rather than our hearts. Well, mostly our brains. We flipped coins, drew straws and other things too.

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild

Victoria: Avalanche in 5. This prediction is based on the real fear that if Minnesota makes it too far in the playoffs we’ll all fall into a coma. Most boring hockey ever. So come on Avs, knock them out and save us all.

Matt: Avalanche in 5. This isn’t the same team that won the Nathan MacKinnon sweepstakes at this time last year. This is a ferocious, tenacious, deep team that has excelled under the marvelous coaching of Patrick Roy and is stable in goal thanks to the performance of Semyon Varlamov. Minnesota is good enough to perhaps steal a game, but a series? I’m not buying it.

Chris: Avalanche in 5. There is no reason to believe that Patrick Roy will tolerate the team losing to the Wild. Therefore, fear itself will propel the Avs through to the second round.

J.J.: Avalanche in 7. I’ve been waiting for the Avs to crash and burn all year, but they look like the real deal. Wild will give them some pushback, but I don’t think enough of one to take the series.

St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Victoria: Hawks in 6. As long as Toews and Kane are healthy, I see the Hawks rolling over the Blues fairly easily. They’re young, strong, talented and they’ve been here before and know how to win. Blues, not so much.

Matt: Hawks in 7. A first-round series that should really be worthy of a Conference Final, I’d hedge my bets on the defending champion over a team which – on paper – is built for the playoffs. This looks like it could be a physical series from start to finish, but again I believe the Blackhawks’ top guns will survive this war of attrition. How much they have left after this is another debate in itself.

Chris: Hawks in 7. I’ll be honest, I flipped a coin to determine who wins in 7 games. These two teams will beat the living daylights out of each other.

J.J.: Hawks in 6. The Blues are hurt and slumping; the Hawks are about to get Kane and Toews back. Unless Ryan Miller turns into a money goalie overnight – the eye test says he hasn’t had the impact the Blues had hoped for – Chicago gets this one.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars

Victoria: Ducks in 5. Teemu wants one last Cup and he’s gonna steamroll Seguin, Benn and the Stars to get there. I’m hoping, because I am not a Ducks fan at all, that eventually they run out of steam, but it won’t be in this round.

Matt: Ducks in 4. The Ducks, who finished first in the West, look like a team that has been in cruise control the last couple weeks. But they appear motivated by what I’d like to call the Teemu Factor. Selanne, who looks like he knows this will be his final season, wants another Stanley Cup ring and I like the Ducks to play hard for the best player the franchise has ever known. Dallas is a team just happy to be here.

Chris: Ducks in 5. May the power Wild Wing compel you. Seriously… is anyone taking Dallas?

J.J.: Ducks in 6. How the Ducks keep winning hockey games with one good line and a (relatively) no-name goalie baffles me.

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Victoria: Kings in 7. Because they can. With the addition of Gaborik to their already stacked scoring line-up – Carter, Kopitar, Doughty, etc. – they’ve got the advantage. Also, history dictates Sharks never win it all. This year will be no different and the Kings will put them out of their misery early.

Matt: Kings in 7. I know we say this almost every year, but the Sharks always look like a team that thrives in the regular season only to come up short in the playoffs. Los Angeles is a team that has struggled to find consistency on offense, but their club has a history of flipping the switch when it matters most. I’ll take SoCal over NorCal, yet again.

Chris: Kings in 6. Another series that will serve as a knock-down, drag-out brawl where only one team will survive. At least until round two.

J.J.: Sharks in 7. Jonathan Quick has been good, but the guys in front of him have had trouble scoring all year. This should be a familiar script for Canucks fans.

*****

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings

Victoria: Wings in 7. Because the Wings are like the Goonies, they never say die. And because good should always triumph over evil.

Matt: Wings in 7. My upset special for the first round. Detroit has been ravaged by injuries all season, but their kids (Tatar, Nyquist, etc.) have helped fill in the holes quite admirably. With Henrik Zetterberg practicing and potentially nearing a return, things are looking up on the injury front. The same can’t be said for Boston, who’s already without some key bottom six forwards in Chris Kelly and Dan Paille, not to mention the questionable status of Patrice Bergeron.

Chris: I’m cheering for Motor City and wish them all the best in a long and glorious cup run. Bruins in 6.

J.J.: Wings in 6. I had a late pick in my playoff pool and lost out on all the Bruins who went early in the draft. I hope Datsyuk and Nyquist both have a big series.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens

Victoria: Habs in 6. Sure they’ve got Steven Stamkos, but Habs have Pacioretty and most importantly Price. If he can channel his Olympic mojo, Bolts don’t stand a chance.

Matt: Habs in 7. My early nomination for the toughest series to call. The Bolts have been bolstered with the return of Steven Stamkos (11 goals in 20 games since his return), and provided goaltender Ben Bishop and forwards Valtteri Filppula and Ondrej Palat return for Game 1, should make for a tough test. Montreal is always a motivated club in the postseason, and Carey Price should have extra incentive after claiming the gold in Sochi.

Chris: Habs in 7. Il faut battre le fer pendant qu’il est chaud.

J.J.: Habs in 6. Ca-rey, Ca-rey, Ca-rey! PK and the Vanek-Desharnais-Pacioretty line aren’t bad either.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Victoria: Penguins in 4. Fleury has learned his lesson and won’t meltdown… at least not this soon. And Crosby, Neal, Kuntiz and Malkin will make quick work of….of…. whoever plays on Lumbus.

Matt: Penguins in 6. Every NHL postseason, there seems to be that one scrappy, annoying team that defies all odds and just doesn’t seem to go down without a big fight. The Blue Jackets reek of a team that is – perhaps foolishly – motivated to show the rest of the NHL that they’re worth being called a playoff team. The franchise hasn’t won a playoff game before, and the feisty Jackets should be able to embarrass Marc-Andre Fleury for at least a game or two.

Chris: Penguins in 4. Have to feel good for the Blue Jackets for givin’ ‘er a good effort. Pens already have the brooms.

J.J.: Penguins in 5. The Blue Jackets couldn’t beat the Penguins in the regular season; unless playoff-mode Fleury makes an appearance, I really don’t think they’ll beat them in the playoffs either.

New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Victoria: Flyers in 7. This, kids, will be the series to watch. It will be long and scrappy in my opinion. AV has the ability to guide a team through the playoffs, but the Rangers have the history of failing early. Flyers have something to prove after a really crappy start to the season. If Giroux can stop with the stupid hits he’s got a history of in playoffs, then Philly will scrape through.

Matt: Rangers in 7. Long live the King. Henrik Lundqvist has been sensational down the stretch, scraping together a .949 save percentage in his final five games and looking as good as he’s ever been. The Rangers’ success hinges largely on his shoulders, but something should be said about New York’s 25 road wins, which are best in the Eastern Conference. It’s hard to see the Rangers not stealing a game on the road.

Chris: Rangers in 6. Because you know the darkest timeline has AV leading the Rangers to the Cup, right?

J.J.: Rangers in 7. Only because it would be so Canuck-y for AV’s new team to have some post-season success immediately after being fired by the Canucks.

Apr 062014
 

Yup, the Canucks are still alive.

Something happened during the second intermission. Trailing 1-0 to the Los Angeles Kings going into the final frame, it’s as if the Canucks decided that, hey, they should be playing up-tempo hockey. And the result was probably their best third period of hockey in a long, long time, and a 2-1 win.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Jan 142014
 
TGATT - The Game According to Twitter

To call last night’s 1-0 loss by the Canucks to the Los Angeles Kings a wild affair may be an understatement.

With Dustin Brown’s ninja kick to Roberto Luongo’s head still fresh in their minds, the Canucks went after him. First, Zack Kassian did just 9 seconds into the game. Then, Ryan Kesler dropped the gloves against 6 seconds into the second period.

As usual, Jordan Nolan was being a rat, charging at a Sedin again, like he did the last time these two teams met. On the very next shift, Tom Sestito had enough and took matters into his own hands. Nolan turtled, and the refs threw Testito out of the game.

Dale Weise slewfooted Drew Doughty. Kevin Bieksa tried to make life miserable for Jonathan Quick. Matt Greene tried to make him pay for it. There were scrums at practically every whistle, and by the end of it, the the two teams combined for 109 minutes.

And one goal. By Dustin Brown, of course, who scored 24 seconds into the third period. The only goal the Kings would need to beat the Canucks for the fourth time in four games this season.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Jan 132014
 

460685415_slide
The Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks fight for third place in the Pacific Division.
(source: nhl.com)

Vancouver Canucks (24-13-9)
Los Angeles Kings (3-6-1)

If the Canucks were hoping for a quick re-do of their horrendous trip to SoCal the other weekend – a weekend in which they lost both games to the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings and outshot by a 98-48 margin – well, they get their wish. This week, the Canucks will embark on a 3 games in 4 nights road trip, starting in Los Angeles tonight and Anaheim tomorrow, before finishing up in the desert in Phoenix on Thursday.

The Kings are 3-0-0 against the Canucks this season. But if there’s a silver lining of sorts here, the Canucks are still within striking distance, and in fact, a win tonight will see them leapfrog the Kings and take over third place in the Pacific Division.

The Canucks are getting healthier too with Alex Edler is back in the lineup tonight. Also, while Eddie Lack is again getting the start, Roberto Luongo is traveling with the team, a sure sign he is close to returning. Up front, Alex Burrows is expected back on Saturday when they play the Calgary Flames back at Rogers Arena.

Who’s Hot

For the Canucks, Henrik Sedin has 5 assists in his last 4 games, Daniel Sedin has 4 assists in his last 4 games, and Chris Higgins has 3 points (1 goal and 2 assists) in his last 4 games.

For the Kings, Mike Richards has points in consecutive games, Anze Kopitar has 3 assists in his last 4 games, and Jeff Carter has 4 points (3 goals and 1 assist) in his last 4 games.

Who’s Not

Ryan Kesler only has 3 points (2 goals and 1 assist) in his last 11 games.

Jan 092014
 

Vancouver Canucks vs Los Angeles Kings

With the Canucks just past the halfway point of the season it seems as good a time as any to try and predict where the team may finish at the end of the season in April. Despite a number of gut-wrenching losses in the last few weeks you should still feel pretty good about the Canucks chances to make the playoffs and I’ll breakdown where I think the team will realistically finish in the standings and whether they have much of a chance to pass teams in their division.

Introduction

The chart below shows team’s Fenwick percentages for all 5-on-5 situations as well as in close score situations which is used to help account for score effects. For the uninitiated, Fenwick is a tally of all shot attempts a team takes at 5-on-5 except for those that are blocked. Stated another way, it is shots that are either on-net or missed. Close score situations are games that are tied at any time or within a goal in the first and second period.

So, why should you care about Fenwick? It has been proven that there is a direct correlation between Fenwick and puck possession. It has also been shown that teams that possess the puck the most will win more often. The biggest thing to take away from this is that teams with the best Fenwick percentage over the entire season will finish near the top of the standings over 82 games.

Finally, I’ve also listed PDO. PDO is a measure of how lucky a team is and is simply a team’s shooting percentage plus save percentage at 5-on-5. For example, the Canucks are shooting at 7.5% and stopping 92.8% of their opponent’s shots for a PDO of 100.3. All you really need to know is that teams that are above 100 are considered to be lucky, either shooting or stopping pucks, at a rate that is probably unstainable. Teams that are under 100 are considered unlucky.

The Stats

*All stats taken from extraskater.com

Fenwick For % All 5v5 Fenwick Close PDO
Canucks 50.9 (13th) 52.4 (9) 100.7 (10)
Ducks 51.3 (10) 51.2 (13) 102.3 (2)
Sharks 53.8 (4) 54.1 (3) 99.7 (19)
Kings 55.7 (1) 56.9 (1) 100.9 (9)
Coyotes 50.1 (17) 49.5 (18) 101.2 (7)
Wild 49.8 (18) 49.6 (16) 99.8 (17)
Stars 51.1 (12) 52.5 (8) 100.4 (12)

 

Analysis

At first glance you’ll probably notice that the Pacific is good. Really good. Despite recently losing 5 games in a row, the Kings are legitimately the best team in the division and probably the best team in the conference even though the standings don’t show it. The Canucks are only two points behind them but you can probably go ahead and forget about passing them.

The Sharks are not far behind the Kings and with a five point lead on Vancouver and a game in hand its hard to see the Canucks reigning in the Sharks too especially with the season series between the two teams already completed.

That brings us to Anaheim who are the best team in the NHL points wise. If you are not sold on the Ducks being the best team in the division then you’re not alone. The Ducks are not among the elite in the NHL in puck possession and barely attempt more shots than their opponents. You’ll notice that their PDO is 102.3 which, as I mentioned before, implies that they’ve been extremely lucky. In score close situations, the Ducks are shooting at a ridiculous 10.8% clip. In case you’re wondering, Perry and Getzlaf are not the guys driving up shooting percentage. In the score close situations with Kyle Palmieri, Dustin Penner, and Nick Bonino on the ice, the Ducks are shooting at 15.5%, 13.2% and 12.4% respectively.

The Canucks are 14 points behind the league leaders so there probably isn’t much hope that the Canucks can pass them, but the good news is, the Ducks are looking like a very possible matchup in the playoffs and once the slate is wiped clean I would feel pretty good about Vancouver’s chances in a seven game series. Much better than I would feel then against Los Angeles or San Jose.

As for the Canucks themselves, there was a time when they were not too far off the Kings and Sharks in terms of possession stats but they have slid down into the middle of the pack over the last month or so. You can probably chalk some of that up to injures to guys like Alex Burrows and Alex Edler but every team has issues so I’m not sure if that is much of an excuse. Even during their win steak, the Canucks were being carried due to their goaltending more than their strong play as a team. I’d argue that the team actually played better during their November losing streak then their December winning streak.

As for the rest of the West, I find it hard to see a scenario where two of Phoenix, Minnesota, and Dallas finish ahead of Vancouver for the two Wild Card spots. Of the three teams below the Canucks, Dallas is the most underachieving team mostly due to their goalies being well below average

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the Canucks appear to be a team in a solid playoff position but its hard to see them earning anything more than a Wild Card spot. Even with 37 games to go I think the Canucks are exactly where they’ll end up at the end of the season. The good news is there is plenty of time for Vancouver to get some of their best players back and find a way to hold on to two goal leads with 1:11 left in the game. Plus, they’re lined up to play either the Ducks, a team I think they can beat, or the Chicago Blackhawks, which is always fun.

Jan 082014
 
scrum

There’s just something about the Vancouver Canucks. Everyone seems to want a piece of them. Sure they are a consistently solid team with (somewhat) mouthy players like Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa and Alex Burrows, but does that merit, what seems to be, a league-wide hatred? If you ask the players they’d tell you they like being hated – it means they are doing their job. But there are certain players which go above beyond the casual disdain. Players that seem to thrive on making the Canucks miserable whenever they get a chance.

These players are sprinkled throughout the league and may only visit Rogers Arena once or twice a year but Canucks Nation does not forget. We proudly and stubbornly maintain our air of loathing for years if we have to. For these are the players Facebook groups are made of. Players that cause Canucks fans everywhere to put down their beers and join in a very heated and very unanimous bashing.

This list could probably become a graduate thesis, but I’ve managed to narrow it down to the five most disliked players by Canucks fans in the league today. Hate away:

5) Dave Bolland- This one dates back a few years to Bolland’s antagonizing of the Sedin twins. A central part of the on ice rivalry, Bolland took it too far when he publicly insulted the veteran brothers  on Chicago radio.

4) Dustin Brown- A player who doesn’t seem to respect the “code” involving star players, Brown always seems to gravitate towards the Sedins often plastering them with high hits and vicious checks.

3) Tim Thomas- Just uttering the alliteration of this goalie’s name can get you glares among Canuck fans. Stemming back to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, there is no love lost for the Bruins’ former goaltender. Here he forgets about the puck and absolutely nails Henrik Sedin (no call of course).

2) Joe Thornton- A thorn in the Canucks side, Joe has had some legendary battles with our boys. With the San Jose sharks being somewhat of a foil to the Vancouver Canucks, there’s no wonder Jumbo Joe is a big part of this rivalry. Whether it’s scoring a big goal, or putting his hand in Henrik Sedin’s face during a meeting with the ref, Joey knows how to get under the Canucks skin.

1) Brad Marchand- Was there ever any doubt? Public enemy number one has to go to Brad Marchand. Cheap hits, sarcastic gestures and an overall rat-likeness has garnered Marchand the position of most-loathed in the city of Vancouver. Here he cleanly hits tough-guy Sami Salo. Notice my use of italics….

Jan 052014
 

Roberto Luongo came back from injury last night against the Los Angeles Kings.

Unfortunately, he was the only one who showed up.

He made 46 saves – many of them from in-close and as a result of odd-man rushes – but without much support up front, the Canucks dropped a 3-1 decision to the Kings, their third straight loss to their California rivals this season.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Jan 042014
 

Vancouver Canucks vs Los Angeles Kings

(Photo credit: thescore.com)

Vancouver Canucks (23-12-7)

Los Angeles Kings (25-13-4)

Tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Kings could mean more for the Vancouver Canucks than avenging their disappointing loss in their last meeting on November 25th. In that game, the Canucks took a 2-1 lead early in the third period, only to see the Kings tie it up with less than 3 minutes left, and then eventually win it 48 seconds into the overtime period.

That game was the last game of the Canucks’ 6-game homestand, one in which they won just once (1-2-3). By the end of that game, the Canucks were in 5th place in the strong Pacific Division, 6 points back of the Kings, and having played 1 more game than them.

Tonight, in the third of five meetings between the two teams this season, the Canucks sit just 1 point back of the Kings and having played the same number of games. They haven’t beaten the Kings this season, but a win tonight in regulation would move them into 3rd place, past Los Angeles, in the division.

Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo is back tonight, having recovered from his lower body injury.

Who’s Hot

Tom Sestito. Yes, you read that right, Tom Sestito. Sestito is on a two-game point streak (1 goal, 1 assist), his first multi-game point streak since 2010 when he was still a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Defenseman Dan Hamhuis has been doing well on the scoresheet. He played almost 30 minutes against the Tampa Bay Lightning and was on the ice for all 6 goals scored by both teams. He has 4 points – all assists – in his last 5 games.

For the Kings, forward Anze Kopitar has 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists) in his last 6 games.

Who’s Not

After winning his first 8 games, Kings rookie goaltender, Martin Jones, has now lost his last 3 games.

Who’s Out

The Canucks are still without forwards Alexandre Burrows, Jordan Schroeder, and defensemen Alexander Edler, Andrew Alberts and Ryan Stanton. However, Burrows, Schroeder and Edler all skated this week.

Nov 262013
 

After outplaying the Los Angeles Kings for much of the game and carrying a lead late into the third period, the Vancouver Canucks, thanks to a couple of miscues, dropped a 3-2 decision in overtime. It was perhaps one of the best games they’ve played in this homestand but it wasn’t enough. Instead, they ended their 6-game homestand with 5 losses, and since dominating the Toronto Maple Leafs on Pavel Bure night, have now lost 8 of their last 10 games.

Yes it does.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Nov 252013
 

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(source: nhl.com)

Vancouver Canucks (12-9-4)
Los Angeles Kings (15-6-3)

The Los Angeles Kings are in town tonight to take on the Vancouver Canucks. This is the second of five meetings between the two teams. In their first meeting on November 9th at the Staples Centre in LA, the Kings beat the Canucks 5-1.

The Canucks are mired in a bad stretch right now with only 1 win in their last 7 games (1-4-2), including 4 losses in the first 5 games of this current 6-game homestand. Meanwhile, the Kings have lost their last 2 games, but have managed their losses and have earned at least a point in their last 9 games.

The Canucks did end a 5-game winless streak on Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 6-2 win; however, they reverted back to their losing ways on Saturday night with a 2-1 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks. Their offense continues to struggle with their lone goal against the Blackhawks being scored on a 2-man advantage.

If we were looking at the positives though, that powerplay goal snapped a 2-game drought with the man-advantage. It was also scored by Ryan Kesler, who had gone 7 games without scoring a goal, and was assisted by Jason Garrison, who had gone 14 games without a point. Kesler now has 3 points in 4 games (1 goal and 2 assists). Daniel Sedin, who also drew an assist on Kesler’s goal now has 4 points in his last 3 games (1 goal and 3 assists).

Who’s Out

For the Canucks, forward Jordan Schroeder (ankle) is still out.

For the Kings, starting goaltender, Jonathan Quick, is out with a groin injury, though Ben Scrivens, who has been in net the last 7 games, has been doing very well. Scrivens hasn’t allowed more than 2 goals a game in his past 6 starts, and has a .955 save percentage during that span.

Besides Jonathan Quick, the Kings are executed to play without forwards Jeff Carter (broken foot), Trevor Lewis (lower body) and defensemen Matt Greene (upper body)

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