Nov 052011
 

[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.  Clay is also a finalist in the "Replace the KB" blogging competition for the Province and you can see all of his submissions for the contest here.]

With back-to-back victories over the Washington Capitals and Calgary Flames last week, it looked as if the Vancouver Canucks were going to put a mediocre October safely in their rear-view mirror.  Well, the Canucks didn’t get too far before returning to their middling October ways with losses to the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues.  Let’s call a spade a spade and look at 5 things that make me go hmmm…

  1. Who are you?  Booth Booth, Booth Booth. (If you didn’t figure it out, you were supposed to sing that to the tune of The Who’s “Who are You”).  David Booth has 2 points in his first 6 games with the Canucks.  Extrapolated over a full-season, that would amount to about 27 points.  Except that he already had played 6 games with Florida before being traded here, and he only had 1 point in those 6 games.  So extrapolate those three points in 12 games over 82 games (though the maximum he’ll be able to play is 80 games) and you get 20 points.  That’s an unacceptable number for a second-line forward making $4.5 million (cap hit of $4.25 million).  I know it’s still early in his Canucks career, but I’m already wondering who David Booth is.  Is he the dynamic player who scored 60 points and was plus 10 just three seasons ago?  Or is he more like the player who struggled to get to 40 points last year while amassing a dreadful minus 31?  I hope it’s the former, despite early returns indicating the latter.  Case in point:  he’s tied with Dale Weise in team scoring.
  2. You’ve Got the Minus Touch.  Speaking of plus/minus, have you seen some of the alarming numbers just 14 games into the season?  Manny Malhotra is a minus-10, David Booth is a minus-9 and Jannik Hansen is a minus-8.  With the Canucks at only a minus-3 in overall goal differential, it means that they are being badly out-played at even strength.  Add in Chris Higgins’ minus-1 and things don’t look good for the Canucks’ third line.  Especially when the third line isn’t supposed to be scored on.  It’s not much better on defense, with Keith Ballard at minus-9 and Kevin Bieksa at minus-8.  The term “Replace the KB” seems appropriate here for the two struggling defencemen. 
  3. Gaudy Goalie Numbers.  When you look at the top 5 goalies in terms of goals against average, the Canucks have already played against 3 of them:  Nikolai Khabibulin of the Oilers (twice), Josh Harding of the Wild, and Brian Elliott of the Blues (twice).  These same 3 goalies are among the top-5 in save percentage as well.  That means that 5 of the Canucks’ first 14 games have been against 3 of the top goalies in the league (stats-wise).  Looking at the Canucks’ offensive woes, this is a classic chicken and egg example.  Have the Canucks struggled to score because the opposing goalies are so hot right now?  Or has the Canucks’ inability to score helped contribute to the gaudy numbers?  The answer is probably a bit of both.  But one thing’s for certain: the Canucks better find their scoring touch soon before they slip further in the standings.  Remember, this is the same team that led the league in scoring last year.
  4. O Canada.  Who would have thought that one month into the season that the Canucks would be only the 5th-best team in Canada?  Looking at win percentage (as opposed to total points as all the teams have played anywhere from 12 to 14 games), the Canucks are behind the red-hot Oilers and Maple Leafs, and Canadiens and Senators.  Vancouver is ahead of only the Flames and Jets and it’s by less than a percentage point.  So it’s conceivable that after the game against Chicago on Sunday that the Canucks will be the worst team in Canada.  Unfathomable at the start of the season.
  5. 5.  National Anthems.  Lastly, and staying on the Canada theme, just a small thing I noticed last year that bugs the heck out of me.  Why is that all 3 networks (CBC, TSN and SN) only show Canucks during the Canadian national anthem and never during the American national anthem?  Let me explain.  I get the fact that when playing at Rogers Arena against a team from a US city, that the Canucks are obviously the “home team”.  And vice-versa when then Canucks are playing in the States.  And I get the fact that when playing in the States, they are only playing O Canada because it’s the Canucks. But I still find it funny that we as viewers are to presume that all Canucks are Canadians and other opposing players are American.  I first noticed it in the Chicago Blackhawks playoff series last spring.  During the Star Spangled Banner, the camera would focus on crowd shots and the Blackhawks, including Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook (before he got knocked out) – all 3 stalwarts on the Canada’s 2010 Winter Olympic Team.  And then, during O Canada, we got shots of not only Luongo (Canadian) but shots of the Sedins (Sweden) and Kesler and Higgins (American) as well.  Although admittedly unrealistic, I would love it if the cameras focused on American-born players from both teams during the American anthem and Canadian-born players for the Canadian anthem.  Look for this during the next few games on TV.

The Canucks barely have any time to lick their wounds as they face their nemesis Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.  This will likely go one of two ways:  either the Canucks pick their game up for one of their biggest rivals or they come out with even less confidence and more discombobulated than they already are.  What will happen?  Hmmm….

Oct 302011
 

[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

11 GP, 5-5-1, 11 points (4th in Northwest Division, 11th in Western Conference)

This past week saw the Canucks suffering two losses, including being shutout for the third time this season. To the delight of Canucks Nation, the boys brought their A-game to Rogers Arena when the Capitals visited on Saturday. Don’t be fooled by the 7-4 score, the Canucks outplayed the Caps, Luongo made big saves when he needed too and most importantly we scored goals and got the win. Vancouver now heads out on a 6-game road trip, which will be a good opportunity for the team to bond.

Who’s Hot

Remember when we picked up Maxim Lapierre at the trade deadline last season and many Canucks fans were hesitant because of his reputation as a player who plays on the edge and has been questioned about his antics many times? Well this week I recognize Lappy for his tireless work ethic, aggressive forecheck and his ability to finish. He has 3 goals and 1 assist so far but after 11 games he has been one of, if not THE best and more consistent Canucks. His intensity is infectious and he undoubtedly gets the bench going. AV has said that on merit alone he could be playing more minutes on the 2nd or 3rd line. Max is the anchor of the 4th line and has been doing an excellent job leading by example. It’s always a bonus to have a shutdown fourth line that can contribute offensively.

Who’s Not

Manny Malhotra’s leadership and presence in the locker room is undeniable. At one stage last year he didn’t even know if he could play hockey again. He had a rough off-season going through a few more procedures to repair his eye but he was deemed fit to start the season. Unfortunately, Uncle Manny hasn’t been as effective as he can be. He is a minus-7 through 11 games and has been splitting his time between the 3rd and 4th line due to overall fitness. He is such an important member of team and is invaluable in the faceoff circle but hopefully he will be able to pick up his game offensively and start finding the back of the net.

Who’s Next

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 vs. Calgary Flames (6:30 PM start, away)

The Flames are last in the Northwest Division but will host the Canucks riding a two-game win streak. It is the first meeting of the season between these two teams and will certainly be an exciting matchup as they renew rivalries.

The Flames, 2-0 against the Northwest this year, are being lead by Alex Tanguay who has 8 points (1G-7A) in 9 games and has recorded a points in 3 of his last 5 games.

The Canucks went 5-0-1 last year against Calgary and hope for much of the same this season.

Thursday, November 3, 2011 vs. Minnesota Wild (5:00 PM start, away)

Sami “Balls of Steel” Salo scored the OT winner against the Wild in their last meeting a few weeks ago. The Wild currently have the same number of points as the Canucks(11P) but hold a game in hand.

Dany Heatley was Minnesota’s big acquisition and he is living up to the hype by leading the team with 7 points (3G-4A). It’s no secret the Wild are a defensive-minded team so don’t be surprised if there isn’t much excitement between the two.

Friday, November 4, 2011 vs. St. Louis Blues (5:00 PM start, away)

The St. Louis Blues handed the Canucks their 3rd shutout of the season just last week, led by none other than Alex Steen who scored 2 goals. It was the battle of the backups at Rogers Arena, so it will be interesting to see who suits up for both clubs. Don’t forget this game is taking place in November, which means that Roberto Luongo should be coming into fine form.

Veteran Jason Arnott was a nice acquisition for the Blues this off-season. He has played in over 1,100 games and uses his size and skill to control the play and set up his teammates. He loves to stand in front of the net and now sits second in team scoring with 3 goals and 5 assists and is a plus-6.

Sunday, November 6, 2011 vs. Chicago Blackhawks (4:00 PM start, away)

It’ll be the first meeting between the two clubs since game 7 of round 1. How can we all forget Burrows’ clutch OT goal to end the Blackhawks’ recent playoff domination against the boys in blue? That being said, Chicago is having a great start to the season and are sitting in second place of the Western Conference.

It won’t take long for the bad blood to boil come Sunday and with the addition of Dan Carcillo and there will sure be a few scrums here and there. The Canucks and Blackhawks split last season 2-2, with Roberto Luongo starting in all 4 games. Here’s hoping that we don’t have to hear Chelsea Dagger over and over and over and over again.

October is over, now the real season starts

The Canucks and Roberto Luongo have been known to be a slow starting team with mediocre records during the month of October. That added with the fact that we had a short off-season and AV deciding not to use the regulars very much during the preseason, and November seems to be the time when the Canucks start getting into their groove.

The hope is that the new month sees the Canucks start to play more consistently in all departments. They need to see more consistent production from the top two lines, the defence needs to sort out their miscommunications, and most importantly, Roberto Luongo needs to be better. I am not blaming our slow start purely on Luongo – the team in front of him haven’t been playing up to their standards either – but Luo needs to start showing why GMMG signed him to the huge contract that will have him here for the next decade. A return to form by the Vezina-nominated Luongo will have nothing but positive ripple effects to the rest of the team.

Aug 092011
 
Manny Malhotra

Photo credit: Globe and Mail

In the 20+ years I’ve been watching NHL hockey, I’ve hardly remembered a time when the balance of power has shifted as often and as sharply as it has in recent years. While there are constants like the Detroit Red Wings who seem to be in contention every year with their roster of ageless superstars and the San Jose Sharks who seem to be in the running every year in the regular season but run into a road block in the playoffs, teams usually don’t stay where they are very long. Look at the predicted powerhouses of next season such as the Los Angeles Kings or the surprisingly improved Buffalo Sabres. Los Angeles improved on a roster of budding young stars with the acquisition of Mike Richards, giving them one of the best 1-2 center combos in the NHL and the Sabres went out and spent a fortune on former Canuck Christian Ehrhoff as well as a bunch of reliable players with star potential in Ville Leino and Brad Boyes. Teams that were in the playoff hunt could fall out the next year. Look no further than the New Jersey Devils or Calgary Flames, who people forget were only 2 points back of the Canucks for the Northwest Division as recent as ’08-’09.

One of the keys to the Canucks season last year was that they finally got themselves a third line center in Manny Malhotra. No offense to our two previous third line centers in Kyle Wellwood or Ryan Johnson but Manny is a serious upgrade. Malhotra is what I like to think of as an “elite” bottom six forward. While he may not score as many points as the Sedins or other Art Ross competitors, Manny is about as good at what he does as anyone in the league. In the role of winning face-offs, playing a hard, physical defensive game and chipping in on offense as necessary, few do it better than Manny in the league today. If the Selke was actually for the NHL’s best defensive forward instead of it’s current implied definition of being awarded to the league’s best two-way player, Manny might be in consideration, not only because he gets more defensive responsibility than 2011 winner Ryan Kesler but because his presence allows Kesler to introduce goalies at the other end of the ice to his wrist shot more often. While Kes is certainly still near the top of the class in terms of defense in the league today, if we’re only considering keeping the puck out of your own net, I’d have to give the edge to the guy the Canucks trust every time to take the draw to start a penalty kill in their own end. Just like the Sedins’ offensive wizardry, Kesler’s never-say-die, all-out effort and Luongo’s cat-like reflexes, Manny’s solid, stalwart play on that third line makes the Canucks the team they are.

The competition will be heating up next year and while the Canucks have arguably gotten slightly weaker with the loss of Ehrhoff and Raffi Torres, if we’re going to make it back to another shot at Lord Stanley, the Canucks need Manny to maintain his high level of play. Yes, that is a lot to ask of a guy that’s coming off a horrific incident with his eye and while we’re all happy Manny has kept his sight, if he’s recovering and ready to play, we need him at his best. That means 60+% in the face-off circle and much of the same as last year. No other Canucks third line center has been able to maintain their performance level since the lockout. Ryan Johnson was a shotblocking beast in his first year with the Canucks and won more face-offs than he lost but injuries decimated him and he was barely noticeable in his second go. Wellwood had a rather decent debut despite the jokes about his weight and questionable work ethic. I still remember his unsuccessful last minute end-to-end rush that had me out of my seat and yelling “WHERE THE $#@* was THAT the whole game?!”. He showed flashes of brilliance and 27 points isn’t bad but his second year left much to be desired.

The fact that he’s got ties to our city along with his amazing play and the tragedy that could’ve cut his career short may have something to do with it but Vancouver has seriously embraced Malhotra as one of them and I don’t know if I’ve seen Canucks fans fall in love in a year since the first year Louie came to town and almost single-handedly took the Canucks to the playoffs. I could certainly understand if people take it easy on him since he’s exceeded expectations, coming back in the Stanley Cup Finals where we came up short by only a single game but we saw what the Canucks were without him. To be fair, by the end we were without a lot of people but a healthy Malhotra at the beginning could’ve made the difference. The same will go for the pre-playoffs as I’ll call the regular season from now on, since those 82 games don’t mean anything anymore. Especially with our entire second line likely to start the season on the sidelines, even more responsibility is going to fall to Malhotra.

No, he will probably not move to the second line and I’d expect Hodgson to be given a shot at some big time minutes but without Ryan Kesler, Manny will be leaned on even more for defense. It goes without saying that the Canucks won’t be very successful without the Sedins up front and Luongo guarding the rear but at this point, I would have to expect guys like that to bring their best to the ice every day but a team can’t just be about superstars and especially in the playoffs, it’s the supporting cast that push a great team into being a championship team.

Jun 062011
 

[About the game from two viewpoints. Chris and Caylie watch the game and exchange their thoughts via email.]

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Sat, 04 Jun 2011 17:07

Hey Caylie,

So here we have Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Apparently a must win. I’m not exactly sure why winning the first game at home in the final makes Game 2 a must win, but apparently that’s what people allegedly wiser than I seem to think.

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Wed, 01 Jun 2011 17:21

Hi Chris,

I’m not sure if it is a must win, but it can’t hurt if we head back to beantown up 2-0.

I am not sure where you are tonight, but the Browns in PoMo just erupted when Manny came on the screen!

Win it WITH Manny! Go Canucks Go!

Caylie

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Sat, 04 Jun 2011 17:42

Hey Caylie,

The crowd here at Moose’s Down Under did the same – Manny coming back to play in the final is a huge boost. Hell, I’d even say that he’s the force that may galvanize the fans for an epic string – him just getting on the ice will whip ‘em into a frenzy.

I do worry that he’s not entirely healthy – no player would ever admit to being hurt if they thought they were close. Hopefully the docs had a solid baseline on him.

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Wed, 01 Jun 2011 17:50

Hi Chris,

You’re right, what a huge boost to team and city morale. I think 4th line minutes for him is perfect to ease him in, but yes… I’m not sure if he’s 100%.

I’m a true believer that championship teams need a great bottom-six. Raffi and company have come out with a plan. A plan to attack and hit everything that’s moving. That 4th line shift by Oreo and Tamby also really set the tone.

I expect great things from our bottom-six. Possibly another game winner?

Caylie

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Sat, 04 Jun 2011 18:27

Hey Caylie,

You’re looking for a goal from the bottom-six? I’m calling for Ballard to score the winner. Oh wait.

I can’t really knock AV as the team is obviously clicking, but I feel that Alberts has looked slow and that worries me. It’s been the Canucks speed that has given the Bruins trouble and Alberts has none of that.

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Wed, 01 Jun 2011 18:37

Hi Chris,

Who is Ballard?

Really, I think Alberts has been pretty decent. I noticed a few big hits from him, and to be honest, besides that I haven’t really noticed him. Which is a good thing.

Boston just scored a powerplay goal. Is the world ending?!

Caylie

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Sat, 04 Jun 2011 18:44

Hey Caylie,

Alberts has been decent? I want what you’re drinking.

He’s thrown a few hits, but how is that more than Ballard (yes, he still plays for the Canucks) provides? And the first Bruins goal, Alberts lack of mobility kept the team penned in deep – again, Ballard likely had the speed to avoid that.

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Wed, 01 Jun 2011 18:58

Hi Chris,

I said he was decent, never said he was better than Bally. That’s a no brainer, Ballard is a much more mobile defenseman, however we have to work with what we have on the ice. In my opinion, Rome has looked worse with 2 penalties, albeit if that last one was “interference” then there should have been about 10 other calls.

Looks like we really need to step up our game. After that Lucic goal, the Bruins were all over us. Windaturd has been the slogan all season long. Let’s do it again.

My prediction, our next goal will be a big play from our back end that ties the game up.

Caylie

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Sat, 04 Jun 2011 19:25

Hey Caylie,

You are right, Rome has looked far worse. But I still feel that Ballard should’ve been in before Alberts – even if Ballard scores the OT breakaway winner.

On a different note, I’m beginning to like the traffic and abuse that the Canucks are sending Thomas’ way. He’s solid on most pucks head-on, but has looked as shaky as @mozy19 does after a few drinks when there’s bumping and grinding in front.

C.

Jun 042011
 

[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.]

Game 1 was quite entertaining on Wednesday night, especially in the third period after the penalty parade of the first two periods had ended.  It was a marvelous display of outstanding goaltending, as I predicted in my last blog.

For this blog, I’ll take a quick look back at game 1, I’ll take a quick look ahead at game 2, and I’ll pose a more general question… all things that make you ho hmmm…

  1. Where was the power in our powerplay? The Bruins’ futility on the powerplay was hardly a surprise given their pedestrian 8% success rate coming into the Finals.  However, the Canucks went 0-for-6 (as did the Bruins) with the man-advantage, relatively surprising given they were coming in at a clip of over 25%.  Daniel Sedin mentioned that the Canucks were admittedly a bit nervous to start the game, rendering their early powerplays ineffective.  And it didn’t help that Alex Burrows took 2 minor penalties while the Canucks were on the power-play.  Still, look for the Canucks to capitalize as the series progresses, especially as the Sedins find a way to navigate around Chara.  And speaking of Chara, I actually don’t mind him behind in front of Luongo with the Bruins have the man-advantage – he actually blocks a lot of the shooting lane.
  2. The Manny-watch:  who’s in and who’s out?Dan Hamhuis is listed as day-to-day after his crushing check on Milan Lucic.  If Hamhuis can’t go, the feeling as I write this (Friday night) is that Andrew Alberts will draw into the line-up ahead of Keith Ballard and Chris Tanev.  Readers of my blogs know that I’m a big Ballard fan…but once again Alain Vigneault is a Jack Adams winner and I’m not.  But the bigger story is the possible return of Manny Malhotra.  After taking giant steps towards returning, the talk of the town was that he would suit up for game 1.  Then, he was held back and Canucks fans started looking at the glass (proverbial, not Tanner) as if it was half-empty as opposed to half-full.  Well, Malhotra practiced on Friday and is apparently once again “cleared to play.”  My sense is that he will indeed play in Saturday’s game 2, giving the home team an extra emotional boost.  I will be especially interested in how well he responds to contact and how many minutes he’ll end up playing.  I’m guessing he plays 6 to 8 minutes – a bit more than the usual 4th-line ice-time, but certainly not close to the 15 minutes he was playing in the regular season.
  3. The tribe has spoken… and it doesn’t like us. I must admit that I’m quite fascinated by the way the Canucks and their fans seem to be vilified across the league.  JJ did a nice post yesterday talking about comments from players like Dave Bolland and Ryan Whitney, both dissing our team.  It’s one thing for fans to spout off about opposing teams and players – just look at how much we chirp about the Blackhawks here – but it’s another thing when players get into it.  There are so many different factors and emotions at play, but I think it comes down to jealousy, envy, and pride.  It’s exactly like on the reality TV-show Survivor. When the “jury” (the players voted out prior to the final 3) gets to ask the 3 finalists anything they want.  Some of the jury members come across as classy, often congratulating the finalists for in essence outplaying them.  But more often than not, the jury members start whining, complaining and moaning about how they should still be in the running for the million dollars.  They resort to name-calling and cheap insults while refusing to admit they were outplayed and outwitted.  Sound familiar?  Except there aren’t many similarities between the Canucks and Richard Hatch.

I won’t be able to go to game 2 as I have a work event; instead I’ll be watching the game with about 300 youth and young adults.  Speaking of work, I have a friendly wager going with my “equivalent” in Boston:  if the Canucks win, he will send me some New England clam chowder and Boston baked beans.  If the Bruins win, then I will have to send him some smoked salmon and Canadian bacon. Planning ahead, am I supposed to eat the chowder the beans together?  That’s a thing that makes me go hmmm…

Jun 022011
 
Manny Malhotra, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: CBC.ca

Canucks fans have been on a rollercoaster lately when it comes to third line center Manny Malhotra. After a devastating freak accident where a puck deflected up into Malhotra’s eye ended his season, Canucks fans breathed a sigh of relief when we heard he would be okay, the surgeries were successful and there was a good chance he would return next season. Manny’s return to practice raised a few eyebrows but none of us realistically expected a man who nearly lost his vision to be back in time for the playoffs. Then we saw him in full gear, skating around like nothing was different apart from his droopy left eyelid and the full face shield attached to his helmet so you will have to forgive us fans for our outburst of happiness. This was not only because we would get our best faceoff man and penalty killer back when we need him the most but also because we could now be sure that Manny was going to be just fine. Actually, probably more so the latter. Yes, while Manny’s return would give the Canucks another weapon against the Boston Bruins in the final, just knowing that one of our own is doing well is a huge boost to the franchise and its fans.

In an era where professional athletes are irresponsible millionaires carrying guns in their sweatpants or climbing in windows, snatching your people up, Manny seems like a genuinely awesome guy. You can’t open a webpage or read the paper these days without someone telling a great story about Malhotra. Whether it’s the team talking about how he was a leader from day one or Torres talking last night about how much Malhotra has meant to his game, it’s quite clear that Manny is one of the good guys. How many other injured players in the NHL did a team insist on having close by for leadership and insight? I can only think of one other guy this post-season. You may have heard of him… he plays in Pittsburgh.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the comments section. I don’t mean our comments since probably everyone here is pulling for Malhotra to make a safe and full recovery. I mean from the message boards of opposing teams or even the comments on Yahoo! Sports, which I’ve long thought to be a cesspool entirely void of human intelligence. Yes, even in the middle of comments about how much the Canucks suck and where Bruins fans have met our mothers, anytime there’s mention of Manny Malhotra, the comments are across the board “Get well soon, Manny.” or “We miss you in New York/Columbus/San Jose.”. Yes, even Sharks fans who have every reason to hate us right now are going out of their way to wish Manny well. The trash talk was abundant in that series but I enjoy the fact that once in awhile, real hockey fans can put all the rivalry and hatred aside when there’s something a bit more important than who can stuff the most black rubber into some twine.

It’s rare that a player is loved even after he leaves a city, especially when he doesn’t spend all that much time there. I have no doubt that someone like Mattias Ohlund would get some love from Vancouver even though he plays in Tampa Bay now but this case is more like Willie Mitchell, who I and I’m sure many Canucks fans still have enormous respect for. It’s not just because these guys are heart and soul players that skate, sweat and bleed for their teams but because they’re just good as people. Guys who you would be proud to have as part of your city.

So with Malhotra not on the ice in game one of the Stanley Cup Finals and doctors recommending he take the day off, Canucks fans everywhere worry that Malhotra has suffered some kind of setback. Personally, I hope he isn’t pushing himself too hard, thinking that he has to get back on the ice as soon as possible. In a town as hockey mad as this one, I wouldn’t be surprised if he feels getting in the Finals, especially when the fourth line is not performing very well, is his duty.

I sincerely hope this isn’t the case as the wave of support for Malhotra is for his health, not his speedy return. If there’s any danger or any doctor telling Manny not to play, he should take their advice. The fact that Manny will require additional surgeries when the playoffs end just scares me. I hope he plays since few things would inspire both the players and fans as hearing Rogers Arena chant “MANNY! MANNY! MANNY!” for five minutes when he hits the ice but at the end of the day, hockey is a game. We all love the entertainment but that’s just what it is. It isn’t worth a man’s long term health, especially something as important as his vision. Winning requires sacrifice but a bruise or a broken bone will heal. An eye, on the other hand, is a whole other matter. If we are all indeed Canucks, we wouldn’t put one of our own in danger for any trophy. If the positions were reversed? Well, I’m sure Manny would put your health first as well.

Jun 012011
 

[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 host the Boston Bruins tonight in game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.  It’s been a full week since the Canucks last played, so there has been ample time to dissect and discuss numerous storylines heading into the finals.  Here are a few things to ponder: Things That Make You Go Hmmm…:

  1. Who will win the goaltending duel? Their styles are quite the opposite:  Boston’s Tim Thomas is very unorthodox, while Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo plays more conservatively, efficiently, and deliberately.  Both are Vezina Trophy Finalists, and both are on my fantasy roster (I won the pool this year…in large part to them).  Luongo has had the more consistent post-season, especially since giving way to Cory Schneider in game 6 of the first round (since then Luongo has gone 9-3 with one shutout).  In his last 12 games, Thomas also has 9 wins and 3 losses (with 2 shutouts).  Obviously, there isn’t much to pick between the 2 netminders.  It will be interesting to see if one of them steals the series, as opposed to just playing well enough for their team to win.
  2. Man, oh Manny.  Canuck fans have been taken on an emotional roller coaster this past week, as Manny Malhotra took giant steps towards suiting up for the final, or so it seemed.  However, just yesterday Malhotra missed the team’s practice and did not meet the media.  This came just a couple of days after coach AV declared Manny “officially cleared to play”, raising the hopes and expectations of all Canucks fans who have been witnessing his remarkable recovery.   While the Canucks are now tight-lipped as to whether or not Malhotra will play in this series, I have a sneaky feeling that we’ll see him sooner than later.  However, it needs to be the right decision, both for the sake of the team (who are winning without him) and more importantly, for the sake of his own health.  I just can’t wait to hear the roar of the crowd when he finally does get on the ice again.
  3. Canada’s Team?  Who Cares? Much has been made as to whether or not Canada should adopt and support the Canucks as Canada’s team.  The general thinking is that by being the first Canadian team in the finals since the 2007 Ottawa Senators, that Canadians across the country should support the team (despite Boston actually having more Canadians on its roster than the Canucks).  However, there seems to be an anti-Canucks sentiment in certain parts of the country and it’s hard to determine exactly why.  Some say that our team is over rated, others say the players are cocky, and still others claim that our fans are annoying.  I chalk it up to jealousy and pride.  It’s a lot easier to say something negative about someone or something than it is to pay a compliment.  Of course I’m biased living here (and as a follower of the team since the late 70s), but it just seems right.  We all know that Montreal and Calgary won the Cup after hosting the Olympics the year previous.  This is indeed our time.  And we’re going to do it, regardless of whether or not we have the rest of the country’s support! (Editor’s note: Maybe Canadians are warming up to the Canucks after all. An Ipsos-Reid poll conducted in the last couple of days show most Canadians to be cheering for the Canucks.)

Well, that’s enough chat for now…it’s officially game day.  The first few minutes of the game will be fascinating to watch, as we’ll see if either team is suffering from nerves or the long lay-off.  Who will prevail in game one?  That’s a thing that makes me go hmmm….

Apr 022011
 

There are pretty goals, like Daniel’s between-the-legs shot against Calgary last year in a mean-nothing, final-game-of-the season blowout.

Then there are the clutch goals: the shorthanded breakaway, the rush up ice in the dying minutes, the rebound bashed home from your knees with the goalie pulled and seconds left.

In chronological order, here’s the 10 clutch goals that made you roar in relief and jubliation this season.

Manny Malhotra vs Detroit Red Wings on November 6

Killing a late second-period penalty in a tied game, Malhotra strips Datsyuk at the blue line and goes in alone.

Ryan Kesler vs Anaheim Ducks on December 8

On his knees with 23 seconds left and desperate to tie the game, Kesler bashes at the puck before willing it behind Hiller.

Ryan Kesler vs Columbus Blue Jackets on December 15

Kesler did all the scoring for the Canucks this night, completing his first career hat-trick with the overtime winner on this 2-on-1 feed from Daniel.

Kevin Bieksa vs Edmonton Oilers on December 26

With a minute left in a deadlocked game, the Canucks take over. Bieksa blasts the winner in through a screen with 25 seconds to spare.

Lee Sweatt vs Nashville Predators on January 26

“Rudy” comes off the bench, receives a spinorama pass from Daniel, and his first NHL shot finds the back of the net. The feel-good moment of the year.

Daniel Sedin vs Chicago Blackhawks on February 4

Patrick Kane turns the puck over. Burrows heads up ice to Henrik, to Daniel, who flips the puck over a surprised Turco with 4:00 left in the third to beat their hated nemesis.

Daniel Sedin vs Los Angeles Kings on March 5

Half-way through the third, Daniel shoves Doughty into Quick before potting Ehrhoff’s rebound. Doughty screamed in protest, but Daniel’s greasy marker stood up as the winner.

Henrik Sedin vs Colorado Avalanche on March 16

Daniel leaves his brother a blind, between-the-legs drop-pass in the slot, and Henrik drives home the winner.

Alex Burrows vs Nashville Predators on March 29

After tying the game earlier in the third, Burrows gets behind Weber and Suter with 2:30 left in a 1-1 game. There’s no doubt what move he’ll use on Rinne.

Christian Ehrhoff vs Los Angeles Kings on March 31

In a 1-1- game, Doughty turns the puck over deep in the Vancouver zone with under 8 seconds left in the 2nd period. Hansen and Ehrhoff sprint up the ice to beat the clock.

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