Apr 212013

Cory Schneider played great. So did Alex Burrows, who kept the Wings on their heels all night, and Max Lapierre, who chanelled his inner Patrick Kane in the shootout, and scored the shootout winner. With their 2-1 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings last night, the Canucks clinched their spot in the 2013 NHL playoffs.

But who cares about all that? DJ Tanner and Aunt Becky were at the game.

Have mercy!

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Oct 182012
Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa and Cory Schneider of the Vancouver Canucks prior to the Bieksa's Buddies Charity Game

Photo credit: The Globe and Mail

Kevin Bieksa proved that you can’t lock out the heart of a Canuck. Knowing that charities like Canuck Place, Canucks Autism Network and Canucks Family Education Centre were probably also suffering thanks to the NHL lockout, he organized Bieksa’s Buddies – a charity hockey game between NHL players and special guests and the UBC Thunderbirds.

I was lucky enough to snag a ticket in the 20 minutes before it sold out. Here’s my recap.

The Pre-Game

As I got out of the car and made my way to Thunderbird arena, I was swimming in a sea of blue and green. Oh how I missed it! Contrary to talk in social media circles that fans were hesitant to wear Canucks colors, many came out wearing them anyway. I’m okay with that. Regardless of which side you support, that is, if you support either side, during this NHL lockout, the charities benefiting from the evening’s events all have the word “Canucks” in their name so it felt right.

The pre-game festivities included an introduction for each player. Besides current Canucks and ex-Canucks, there were some other exciting additions like Marty Bieksa and Martin Nash. Michael Buble and Willie Mitchell, listed as players on the program, turned out to be  “game-time decisions” and the decision was they would coach alongside Ryan Kesler and Alex Edler. Buble later admitted he “chickened out” of playing. As for Willie, my guess is his Stanley Cup ring was too heavy and throwing off his balance when he skated. Lucky guy.

The Game

The first period started off with a lot of back and forth action. UBC scored, then Bieksa’s Buddies scored, then UBC scored again, then Bieksa’s Buddies again.

The second period turned into a bit… okay a lot… of a runaway for the Thunderbirds. With 4 unanswered goals, it made it feel even more like I was at an NHL game. I mean, it wouldn’t be a Canucks game if there wasn’t a coma nap in the middle, am I right? By the end of the second period, the score was 7-3 for UBC. Still, the mood was upbeat. I, myself, was giddy because it meant I could use my favorite hashtag – #windaturd!

And win da turd they did!

Bieksa’s Buddies came back strong in the third period. It started with a Bieksa goal – a Marty Bieksa goal! Then Chris Higgins started taking shots. Like shots as hard as his abs shots. Like shots so hard I could hear the slap of the puck against the Thunderbirds goalie’s pads from my seat in the very last row of the arena. And when he finally scored, it was a zinger and I was surprised it didn’t slice through the net. After Manny Malhotra tied the game came some Sedin magic mojo – a beauty of a cross-ice pass from Daniel to Henrik, who then passed the puck back to Daniel for a pretty much open net goal as the UBC goalie tried to get over his motion sickness. Canucks fans sighed a giant sigh of relied – the twins still got it!

Bieksa’s Buddies eventually won by a final score of 8-7.

Some other highlights:

Max Lapierre’s tenacity. Lappy was intense from the get go. He dug in the corners, he was hard on the puck and did everything but scored a goal.

Penalties. Most notably, the first penalty of the game for elbowing. I mean, who elbows in a charity game? Tanner Glass, that’s who! It got a lot of chuckles from the crowd. Almost as many laughs as the penalty called by Daniel Sedin. He got slashed, referee Al Bieksa didn’t see it, but after Daniel did some pointing and explaining, it was called. If only NHL refs would listen to Danny like that.

Marty Bieksa. He played incredibly well which left me wondering if we could trade Mason Raymond for him once the season starts.

Cory Schneider’s charitable acts. Buble may have donated $100,000, but Cory was definitely in a giving mood as well. Not only did he give up 7 goals, but when UBC pulled their goalie for the extra attacker, with UBC down by a goal and a minute left to play, Schnoo skated off the ice (to Darth Vader’s theme song) and watched from the bench and gave UBC a free shot at the open net.

From the game itself, Bieksa’s Buddies raised $100,000, after which Buble matched it with a $100,000 donation of his own, bringing the total raised to a whopping $200,000 going to Canuck Place, Canucks Autism Network and Canucks Family Education Centre. In spite of the bickering and pettiness and greed we’ve seen from the NHL lockout in the last 6 weeks, we were reminded last night of the good hearts of many of these guys, and in the process, fans got a chance to watch their hockey heroes again and deserving charities were blessed with much-needed funds – a win-win for all.

Mar 262012

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

The Vancouver Canucks started off their recently-concluded 4-game road trip by being shutout 2-0 against the Minnesota Wild. Cory Schneider played a solid game in Minnesota but the team in front of him just couldn’t bury the puck.

Then, after trying to find their game for well over a month, the Canucks seemed to turn the corner against rival Chicago Blackhawks. Unfortunately, it was a dirty, cheap Duncan Keith elbow on Daniel Sedin that ignited the fire. Keith, of course, was suspended for 5 regular season games, but at this point in the season, we can only hope and pray that Daniel makes a full recovery.

With Daniel out indefinitely, the Canucks beat the Dallas Stars 2-1 (backstopped by another solid effort by Schneider) and came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the playoff-hungry Colorado Avalanche.

Canucks Record

75 GP, 45-21-9, 99 points (1st in Northwest Division, 2nd in Western Conference)

Who’s Hot

For his lackluster play, Mason Raymond was scratched 4 games ago.

Message received.

Since watching the Wild game from the press box, May Ray has responded positively and has made the most of his opportunity replace Daniel Sedin and playing on the top line with Henrik Sedin.

He’s scored in consecutive games and has been noticeable in his last 3 games. He’s using his speed, he’s shooting the puck, and he’s getting himself to the front of the net.

Who’s Not

Max Lapierre is pointless in his last 15 games and he hasn’t scored in his last 21 games. Maybe it’s because he had a scorching start to the season, but his lack of production recently has been noticeable.

At least, Lappy is still a big part of the 4th line and still gets under the skin of the opposing players. He’s not known for his offensive prowess, but it would be nice for him to chip in the odd offense once in a while.

Who’s Next

Monday, March 26, 2012 vs. Los Angeles Kings (7:00 PM start, home)

The Los Angeles Kings roll into Rogers Arena having won 6 of their last 7 games; their minor speed bump game was a 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins last Saturday. The Kings are one of 5 teams engaged in a heated battle for one of the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference. They are currently holding onto the 8th playoff spot as of today.

The Kings will look to win the season serious against the Canucks as they play for the final time this regular season; the Kings have won 2 of the 3 previous meetings.

Anze Kopitar leads all Kings skaters with 4 points (1G-3A) in the season series. He’s hit the scoresheet in 10 of his last 13 games (7G-7A-14P). He also leads the Kings this season in goals (24), assists (41) and points (65).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 vs. Colorado Avalanche (7:00 PM start, home)

The Canucks and Colorado Avalanche met just three days ago as the Canucks came back from a 2-0 deficit and won 3-2 in overtime. Like the Kings, they are among the 5 teams with a realistic chance of snagging one of the two final playoff spots in the Western Conference. The Avs are currently tied in points for the final spot, but sit in 10th place due to having played more games than the teams above them.

The Canucks will look to sweep the season series; they’ve won all 5 previous meeting between the two teams.

Jannik Hansen, Kevin Bieksa and Henrik Sedin all have 5 points against the Avs. David Jones, Milan Hejduk and Paul Stastny all have 2 points in the season series. Also, newly-acquired Jamie McGinn was quite noticeable for the Avs in Saturday’s match-up. He’s been a huge pickup for the team, and as some analysts say, one of the biggest impact trade deadline impact acquisitions in the league; in his last 11 games in an Avs jersey, he has 12 points (8G-4A).

Friday, March 30, 2012 vs. Dallas Stars (7:00 PM start, home)

By virtue of leading the Pacific Division, the Dallas Stars are currently occupy 3rd place in the tight Western Conference. However, if they falter at all in the next 7 games, they can just as easily find themselves in 7th place – or out of the playoffs altogether – as their division rivals Phoenix Coyotes are only a point behind and the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks are only 2 points back.

The Stars lead the season series 2-1; however, the Canucks won their last meeting on a Kevin Bieksa game-winner. Mike Ribeiro has 5 points (3G-2A) to pace the Stars, while while Chris Higgins has 4 points (1G-3A) to lead the Canucks.

Victoria native, Jamie Benn is having a career year in Dallas despite a few games this season. Already, he’s reached a career-high in goals (24), assists (35) and points (59). He is second in Dallas in team scoring.

Saturday, March 24, 2012 vs. Calgary Flames (7:00 PM start, home)

Currently 3 points out of the final playoff position in the Western Conference and with only 6 games left, the Calgary Flames’ playoff hopes are slimly alive. They made a similar push last season but ultimately fell short of a playoff spot.

Both teams have won 2 games each in the season series. Alex Tanguay leads all Flames skaters with 2 goals, while David Booth leads the Canucks with 5 poitns (2G-3A).

It’s no surprise that Captain Jarome Iginla is having another solid campaign and is leading the Flames in goals (31) and points (62). Iggy has reached the 30-goal plateau in his last 11 seasons.

Jan 122012

[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 Canucks have started the second half of the season by picking up four out of a possible six points in their first three games of a four-game road trip, starting with that memorable tilt against the Boston Bruins last Saturday.  As we look ahead to the team’s five remaining games before the all-star break, here are some Things That Make Me Go Hmmm:

1.  Coach Alain Vigneault’s decisions. Technically, this is a “non-hmmm” instead of a “hmmm” as Alain Vigneault once again has the club near the top of the overall standings (albeit with a few more games played than every other contender… more on that below).  Once in a while, AV will do something that gets us talking and scratching our heads such as starting Schneider over Luongo in Boston, limiting Cody Hodgson’s minutes, or juggling his lines before they seemingly have a chance to gel.  But you simply can’t argue with results.  Since his first season with the Canucks in 2006-2007, Vigneault has amassed a regular-season coaching record of 263-147-44 (through Tuesday night’s win over Tampa Bay) – good for a winning percentage of .628.  Throw in a Jack Adams Award in his first season, and you can legitimately argue that he’s been the Canucks most successful coach.  And to think, he likely wouldn’t be here right now if Luongo didn’t stop Patrick Sharp in overtime in game 7 of last year’s first-round playoff series against the Blackhawks.

2.  The type of team that makes a Stanley Cup Champion. I was intrigued by an interview I heard yesterday on the Team 1040 with Canucks’ GM Mike Gillis.  He mentioned that he has tried to build the Canucks based on the Detroit Red Wings, arguably the most consistent team over the last decade: a fast-skating and highly skilled team that’s hard to play against.  He also alluded to wanting to tinker with the “balance” of the line-up (he was quick to deny saying he wanted the team to be “tougher”).  This got me thinking of what kind of teams actually go on to win the Stanley Cup.  The 2007 Anaheim Ducks were big and bruising.  The 2008 Detroit Red Wings and 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins had line-ups littered with highly-skilled players and with just enough “sandpaper” (think Holmstrom, McCarty, Cooke, Talbot and that goon Malkin who had 51 PIM in the 2009 playoffs).  The 2010 Chicago Blackhawks had both skill and toughness (Byfuglien, Bolland, Eager) and we all know about the 2011 Boston Bruins.  So when Mike Gillis says he’s looking for more balance as opposed to toughness, I think it’s safe to say that he’s looking for toughness.  Our collection of top nine forwards is among the most-skilled in club history, but as a group, do they have enough grit and sandpaper?  Kesler and Burrows certainly play hard and are tough to play against but they certainly don’t strike fear into opponents.  Will Lapierre, Malhotra and Weise as our fourth line be enough?  I don’t think so. Look for Gillis to make move before or at the trading deadline.

3.  Stupefying scheduling. Heading into tonight’s game against the St. Louis Blues, the Canucks are tied with four other teams for most games played at 44.  So while it’s nice to see the team atop the Western Conference standings, one quickly realizes that the team would be anywhere from first to fifth if the top five teams had all played the same number of games up until now.  The discrepancy is magnified even more when comparing the Canucks to the Eastern Conference, as the Rangers are one point ahead but with 4 games in hand and Boston is only two points behind with five games in hand.  It’s not a huge deal as things will obviously even out by the end of the season.  And I know that there are many mitigating factors such as arena availability.  I guess I’m just lazy and find myself reluctantly calculating best and worst case scenarios with respect to the teams chasing the Canucks to get a “more accurate” picture of the standings.  Speaking of evening out, after tonight’s game, the Canucks will have played their sixth game in 11 nights (including three in their last four).  Contrast that to the next two weeks, where the Canucks will play only four games in the next 12 days.  Throw in the all-star break and the Canucks only have five games left in the remaining 19 days in January.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading.  I’m still trying to confirm the rumours that Bruins forward Brad Marchand is sporting a new tattoo that says “SUSPENSIAN.”  Hmmm.

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