Jan 192014
 

Coach John Tortorella of the Vancouver Canucks is upset at coach Bob Hartley of the Calgary Flames.

Photo credit: cbc.ca

Some highlights and some lowlights about last night’s 3-2 shootout win against the Calgary Flames.

  • Before we get into anything else, how good did it feel to see the Canucks snap a 3-game losing streak, in the shootout, and with Roberto Luongo back in net? For all the talk about moral victories all week, it sure was nice to see them notch an actual win.
  • John Tortorella will have an in-person hearing with Colin Campbell tomorrow in New York. He’ll likely be suspended, deservedly so, for trying to get to Flames coach, Bob Hartley, in the Flames’ dressing room during the first intermission. Yes, Hartley was a dick for sending his goon line to start the game, but Torts already let him hear about it at the bench. There’s absolutely no reason for him to confront him again in the dressing room.
  • Hartley said in his post-game presser that he didn’t intend to start a fight when he put Brian McGrattan, Kevin Westgarth and Blair Jones in his starting lineup because, after all, that line got him a goal in their last game against the Winnipeg Jets. So hey, why not ride the hot hand, right? However, including that goal against the Jets, that line has combined for 3 goals all season so pardon me while I call bullshit on Hartley’s intentions.
  • If Westgarth was so intent on not starting a fight, then why didn’t he even bother with the puck while taking the opening faceoff, and instead went straight to fight Kevin Bieksa?
  • Many Canucks haters respected members of the media have pointed out the fact the Canucks had last change so Torts could have averted this whole situation by sending out his more skilled players in response. However, given that opposing teams have taken runs at the Sedins, Luongo and David Booth in recent games, do you blame him for not sending them out?
  • Surely someone has a clip or a gif of Flames captain, Mark Giordano, grabbing Zack Kassian’s stick, holding it against his belly, and then flopping down to the ice like a kid flops down on a slip-and-slide.
  • With Mike Santorelli and Jordan Schroeder already out, and assuming Hank has to sit because of his broken finger and rib injury, is anyone else looking forward to a lineup with Ryan Kesler, Brad Richardson, Zac Dalpe and Kellan Lain down the middle?
Oct 062013
 

Calgary Flames v Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: canucks.com

Lately, the Calgary Flames seem to cure all things that ail the Vancouver Canucks. In the last 3 seasons, the Canucks have a 13-3-2 record against the Flames and have outscored them by a combined scored of 60-35 in those 18 outings. For all their offensive struggles in recent times (last night’s 6-goal explosion against the Oilers aside), they’ve somehow managed to average 3.33 goals per game against these Alberta rivals.

These days, both teams are going through somewhat of a transition period.

The Canucks, of course, are still learning a new system under new head coach, John Tortorella, and are doing so with much of the same roster. However, tonight, they’ll be even thinner up front with Alex Burrows and Jordan Schroeder out for a couple more weeks, Zack Kassian still serving his 8-game suspension for “accidentally” breaking Sam Gagner’s jaw with his stick.

On the other hand, the Flames are completely rebuilding their organization – finally – after missing the playoffs the last 4 seasons. Just before the start of this season, they hired ex-Canuck GM, Brian Burke, as their President of Hockey Operations. Even before that, they jettisoned long-time face of the Flames, Jarome Iginla, and franchise defenseman, Jay Bouwmeester. Long-time goaltender, Mikka Kiprusoff, also retired.

Both the Canucks and the Flames have won a game and lost a game to start the 2013/2014 season.

Last Year’s Meetings

The Canucks won 5 of 6 meetings last season, outscoring the Flames by an 18-10 margin. Burrows and Schroeder scored 5 of those goals, but neither will suit up tonight. Mason Raymond, Derek Roy and Max Lapierre chipped in with 4 goals, but all have moved on and replaced with Brad Richardson, Zac Dalpe and Mike Santorelli in the lineup.

Alex Tanguay and Mike Cammalleri paced the Flames with a couple of goals each, but Tanguay has since been traded back to the Colorado Avalanche and Cammalleri remains out of the lineup (perhaps for good).

Who to watch

Two defensemen: With 3 points each in their first 2 games, Jason Garrison from the Canucks and Mark Giordano from the Flames are off to hot starts. Garrison has 2 goals – one on the powerplay and one shorthanded (a slap shot, trick shot off the glass and into an empty net) – and an assist; Giordano has 3 assists.

The Canucks will get a first glimpse at prized Flames rookie, Sean Monahan, the 6th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Monahan, who the Flames picked 3 spots before the Canucks picked Bo Horvat, has 2 points in 2 games, including scoring the team’s first goal of the 2013/2014 season.

Both Sedins have feasted on the Flames. Against the Flames in their careers, Daniel has 73 points (25 goals and 48 assists) in 71 games, and Henrik has 66 points (12 goals and 54 assists) in 73 games.

With the Canucks playing back-to-back games, Eddie Lack will get his first career NHL start.

The Lineup

Tonight’s Lineups

Vancouver

Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Jannik Hansen

David Booth – Ryan Kesler – Chris Higgins

Brad Richardson – Mike Santorelli – Dale Weise

Tom Sestito – Zac Dalpe – Yannick Weber

Dan Hamhuis – Kevin Bieksa

Alex Edler – Jason Garrison

Ryan Stanton – Chris Tanev

Eddie Lack

Roberto Luongo

Calgary Flames

Curtis Glencross – Matt Stajan – Lee Stempniak

Jiri Hudler – Mikael Backlund – TJ Galiardi

Sven Baertschi – Sean Monahan – David Jones

Lance Bouma – Ben Street – Brian McGrattan

Mark Giordano – TJ Brodie

Kris Russell – Dennis Wideman

Chris Butler – Shane O’Brien

Joey Macdonald

Karri Ramo

Apr 042012
 

With 98% of the NHL season behind us, it’s time to fill in an imaginary awards ballot.

But before we get to that, let’s take a moment to consider two more dead teams:

Calgary Flames

What went wrong: No team had an easier stretch drive schedule among teams fighting for the last Western Conference playoff spots than the Flames did. They failed to reach the post season because they couldn’t score. The Flames as a team are currently 25th in shots on goal per game. They’re 3-9 in shootouts, rivalling Montreal (5-11) and Carolina (0-6) for the league’s worst record in the skills competition. Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen and Curtis Glencross will finish the year as the team’s lone 20-goal scorers. None of them are consistent (Iginla’s slow starts have become legendary). Calgary sits last in the league in faceoff performance.

What went right: Mikka Kiprusoff carried the team all season with stellar play between the pipes. When finally healthy for the second-half Mark Giordano played well. He has 16 points after the All-Star break and has helped Calgary reach 11th in the NHL on the powerplay. Mike Cammalleri has struggled to stay healthy with the Flames but when dressed has scored at a 30-goal pace.

Off-Season Gameplan: It’s been said in this space more than once, but this aging Calgary team desperately needs a rebuild. After three years of missing the playoffs there’s clearly not enough talent in the lineup to reach the post-season. There isn’t enough organizational depth right now either to create hope for better days in the future. This may the last chance Calgary gets to shop Jarome Iginla before seeing his value depreciate completely on the marketplace.

Winnipeg Jets

What went wrong: There was lots of talk pre-season about what the travel schedule would do to not only the Jets, but other teams in the Southeast Division. Clearly it was a factor for the Manitoba team, as Winnipeg has put together a terrible road record (13-21-5). The penalty kill is below 80%, which hurts a team that’s short-handed a lot (25th worst). As well as Ondrej Pavelec has been at times this season, he tired down the stretch (3.13 goals against in March) and currently ranks 57th in the league in save percentage (.906). Alex Burmistrov was improved this season, but his offensive progression has been slow (just 28 points in year two). Eric Fehr (3 points, 35 games) was a bust, while Tanner Glass (-12) was asked to do too much.

What went right: Blake Wheeler (61 points) and Evander Kane (29 goals) have taken steps forward as top-six, even top-line players. Dustin Byfuglien has had a strong second-half. Off the scrap-heap, Kyle Wellwood has been an effective offensive player (47 points despite just 14:57 per game in ice-time). The MTS Centre has proven to be one of the few home-ice advantages left in the NHL.

Off-Season Gameplan: Continue to build around a very solid core. Veteran depth, particularly the type that could improve the defensive side of Winnipeg’s game, would be helpful. Mark Scheifele will get the Burmistrov treatment next year. If Scheifele’s ready, he could supply enough offense to bring the playoffs back to Manitoba.

***

Now with that little bit of ugly business out of the way, let’s take a quick look at who deserves award recognition for the 2011-2012 NHL season.

Hart Trophy – Evgeni Malkin

Runners-up: Jason Spezza; Henrik Lundqvist

Malkin has been arguably the league’s best player this year. Lundqvist is probably the most valuable, but goalies rarely win this award. A Hart nomination is the feather-in-the-cap to a marvellous season from Jason Spezza.

Norris Trophy – Zdeno Chara

Runners-up: Alex Pieterangelo; Erik Karlsson

Chara wins because he’s put forth his strongest offensive season while retaining defensive dominance (+33 leads all d-men). Karlsson’s had a magical season but his defensive play remains average. Under Ken Hitchcock, Alex Pieterangelo has arrived, breaking the 50-point barrier but more importantly playing extremely well defensively night in, night out.

Vezina Trophy – Henrik Lundqvist

Runners-up: Jonathan Quick; Mike Smith

The Rangers success gives Lundqvist the nod over Quick, whose Los Angeles Kings team have been in a playoff dogfight all season. Mike Smith’s career rejuvenation in Phoenix gives him a slight edge over the two St. Louis Blues goalies (Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott) who’ve split too much playing time to be considered.

Selke Trophy – Patrice Bergeron

Runners-up: David Backes; Anze Kopitar

Bergeron wins almost 60% of his draws and is one of the league’s premiere penalty killers. Backes has flourished under Ken Hitchcock, leading Blues forwards in goals, points, hits and blocked shots. Kopitar deserves greater recognition, is leading the Kings in points once again but, more importantly to this category, has been Los Angeles best defensive player as well.

Calder Trophy – Gabriel Landeskog

Runners-up: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins; Matt Read

Not only is Landeskog tied for the rookie points lead, but he’s an incredible +23 and has played in all situations for the Avs down the stretch. He’s a future captain. Nugent-Hopkins is the most offensively-gifted rookie, but injuries have prevented him from running away with the freshman scoring crown. Matt Read leads all rookies in goals and has become an important player in the Flyers lineup.

Adams Trophy – Ken Hitchcock

Runners-up: Paul Maclean; John Tortorella

Hitchcock’s turned a middle-of-the-pack team into arguably the best team in the Western Conference. Paul Maclean has done wonders in Ottawa, taking a Sens team destined for a lottery pick into the playoffs. Tortorella’s nomination is a reward for guiding a team that’s out-performed its roster’s talent level all season.

 THOUGHTS ON THE FLY

  • Another take on possible NHL awards, this one from ESPN.
  • Let’s just get this out of the way: Mike Milbury was a joke as a general manager and he’s a joke as a commentator. His take on league affairs is almost always neanderthal and ultra-traditionalist. Attacking Sidney Crosby gets your name in the paper though.
  • This definitely should be on any list of craziest goals of the year. It also epitomizes the difference in heart between the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs.
  • At this point, wouldn’t it be for the best for everyone if the Washington Capitals missed the playoffs, fired their coach, and re-built their approach around Ovechkin’s offense than see the gutsy Sabres (one of the best teams in the NHL since the All-Star Game) come up short?
  • Quietly, Willie Mitchell’s having one of the best defensive defenseman seasons in the NHL this year. Granted, the ultra-conservative Kings gameplay helps in that regard.
  • Still without a contract, you have to expect the Edmonton Oilers are ready to walk away from Tom Renney. The talk is Todd Nelson, coach of Edmonton’s AHL farm team, will get a long look. Hard to believe he’s the guy who can take this young team to the next level.
  • It’s a small sample size, but the Nashville Predators are 4-3 in Alex Radulov’s seven games. The big Russian has 3 goals, 6 points in that span and has fit extremely well into the lineup.
  • For all of those people ready to anoint the Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh, let’s acknowledge the fact that the Penguins are actually 25th in the NHL in team save percentage. Marc-Andre Fleury, not Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby, will have the biggest say in how far the Penguins go in the playoffs.
  • Speaking of which, the Chicago Blackhawks, for what it’s worth, are 27th in the NHL in team save percentage. Numbers-wise, Chicago’s entering the post-season with the worst goaltending amongst remaining teams.
  • Some other interesting Pre/Post-All-Star Game numbers: Winnipeg was 22nd in league scoring during the first half; 3rd so far in the second half. Buffalo was 25th in the first-half; 5th in the second half. Going the other way, Vancouver was 3rd in the first half scoring-wise; 15th in the second half. Washington was 9th in the first half; 26th in the second half.
  • Defensively, the Bruins have gone from 4th in the first half to 22nd in the second half. Minnesota from 8th in the first half to 25th and Pittsburgh from 10th to 23rd. Improving their defensive play in the second half were teams like Buffalo (26th to 7th), Anaheim (23rd to 8th), Colorado (21st to 5th) and Ottawa (27th to 13th).
%d bloggers like this: