[Every Sunday, Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@CayKing).]
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.
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.
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.
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.
[Every Sunday, Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@CayKing).]
8 GP, 4-3-1, 9 points (2nd in Northwest Division, 6th in Western Conference)
Last week, the Canucks were shut out against the Rangers, the second time they’ve been held off the scoresheet this season. The boys were the better team for most of the game, but were unable to capitalize on their chances against King Lundqvist. The Canucks also pounded the Predators – a lopsided 5-1 win – and won an overtime squeaker against the Wild, thanks to Sami Salo and his balls of steel.
Reigning Art Ross champion and Ted Lindsay award winner, Daniel Sedin, has had a great start to the season. He currently has 12 points (4G-8A) to lead the team in scoring. He and brother Henrik have combined for 22 points (7G-15A) already – to put that into perspective both have generated the same number of points than the next 5 highest scoring players on the Canucks combined!
The defensive pairing of Kevin Bieksa and Keith Ballard is a risk and reward type of relationship. They are both great skaters and willing to join the rush but they have also had trouble getting back and tying up their men. It’s been evident that Keith Ballard is playing some of his best hockey in a Canucks uniform; he is skating well, he gets into the dirty areas and he likes to chirp and get under the skin of opposing players. That being said, KB3 and KB4 have the worst plus/minus ratings on the team. They only have 1 goal and 1 assist between the two of them. Either they need to change their mentality to defensive first, join the rush later or AV needs to mix up the pairings and put a more stay-at-home defenseman with Ballard and maybe reunite the shutdown pair of Hamhuis-Bieksa.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011 vs. Edmonton Oilers (6:30 PM start, away)
In their last meeting just over a week ago, the Canucks witnessed the talent of young star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins when he scored his first career hat-trick. In that contest, the Canucks overcame several one-goal deficits and battled back to win the game 4-3. Since then, the Oilers have points in 3 of 4 games and are sitting just outside the top 8 in the Western Conference.
The Oilers have yet to beat a Northwest Division opponent this season (0-2-2). With a team-leading 5 goal and 7 points, RNH is having the best possible start to his rookie season. The Canucks saw his hockey sense and goal scoring instinct first-hand so perhaps the Canucks would want to pay special attention to number 93.
Thursday October 26, 2011 vs. St. Louis Blues (7:00 PM start, home)
The St. Louis Blues are on a bit of a streak having won both of their weekend games against the Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers.
The Blues had a losing record against the Northwest division last season going 7-10-3, including a 2-2 tie against the Canucks.
Against the Canucks last season, Alex Steen had 5 points (4G-1A). The Blues will look for much of the same as he and new comer Jason Arnott lead the team in scoring with 6 points (3G-3A) and 7 points (3G-4A), respectively.
There seems to be a legitimate battle in net for the Blues as their backup Brian Elliott has gone 3-0 this season with a 2.06 GAA and a .935 save percentage. On the other hand, starter Jaroslav Halak has struggled with a 1-4 record with a 3.47 GAA and .835 save percentage.
Saturday, October 29, 2011 vs. Washington Capitals (7:00 PM start, home)
Alexander the Gr8 and the Washington Capitals have had a dream start to the season, going 7-0-0 so far, including a 7-1 beating of the Detroit Red Wings; at the time, the Caps and the Wings were the only 2 unbeaten teams in the league.
It’s always exciting to see Eastern Conference teams play in Vancouver, it’s especially exciting to see the likes of team scoring leader, Nicklas Backstrom (2G-8A-10P), Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich, and of course, the always entertaining Ovechkin. The Caps addressed a major issue in the off-season, boosting their blueline with the additions of Dennis Wideman, who is second in team scoring with 7 points (2G-5A), and veteran Roman Hamrlik.
With a solid veteran presence on the back end, their always potent firepower up front, and now, a consistent goalie in Tomas Vokoun, the Caps are hoping to finally translate their regular season production to postseason success.
A Shoutout to the 4th Line
Having a good top-six is needed to win games, but having a gritty, hardworking bottom-six who can change the course of game is vital as well. Do we all remember the effect that Shawn Thornton had on the Bruins?
I believe the line of Volpatti-Lapierre-Weise is the best 4th line that the Canucks have had in a long time. These three gentlemen have been the biggest surprises for me this season. They are not afraid to play physically and get to the dirty areas. They’re able to maintain a strong forecheck, and most importantly, they’re not a liability when they’re on the ice. The 4th line’s energy and enthusiasm can change the atmosphere of the game with one great shift. They have the ability to get the bench going with one bone crushing hit. If they continue to play the way they are as well as chip in offensively every now and then, the issue of the revolving door, that we saw all of last season, will no longer be a problem.
You know we’re still in the dog days of summer when we’re focusing on a guy like Dan Carcillo. In case you missed it, Carcillo, who signed with the Chicago Blackhawks this summer, caused a bit of a stir when he had this to say about playing the Canucks during his presser:
Q: What do you think of the Vancouver Canucks?
Carcillo: Oh geez, I’ve had this question today already. I watched that series. I don’t know. I’m actually pretty excited to play them because there are a few guys there that play a little bit outside of their shoes and I think I can keep most of those guys in check when we play them this year so I’m pretty excited to play them.
Q: Is there anybody specifically from the Canucks?
Carcillo: Lapierre, Glass and Torres.
Q: Why is that?
Carcillo: Just because. Lapierre’s at the top of the list though.
I don’t know. Is it just me or does anyone else think that the fact the original question was even asked by the Chicago media shows their unhealthy obsession about the Canucks? That’s besides the fact Carcillo didn’t even know Glass and Torres now play in Winnipeg and Phoenix, respectively.
At the end of the day, I say all the power to him. The rivalry between these two teams is great. After a couple of years of us obsessing about the Blackhawks, I’m kinda glad the shoes are on the other foot now. (I was even able to watch Vince Vaughn’s “The Dilemma” this weekend without cringing at the scenes inside the Madhouse on Madison and hearing The Fratellis in the background.) Plus, the more he runs around on the ice, the better I like the Canucks’ chances against them.
We’re four minutes into the third period, and no one has scored yet. It’s yet another goaltending battle, as Thomas and Luongo have both shut the door so far. Both teams have had stymied on glorious scoring opportunities.
Torres plays the puck up to Lapierre, who chips it past a pinching Seidenberg at the point.
Chara is the lone man back as Lucic and Seidenberg sprint back to prevent the 2-on-1. Somehow Malhotra is on the ice instead of Hansen for this shift.
Now it’s only a 3-on-2, but the three Bruins are bunched up in the middle. Instead of taking the trailer, Lucic goes down to block the expected pass to Malhotra. Instead, Lapierre throws it back to Torres coming in late.
Lapierre heads to the side of the net, unguarded, as Torres throws the puck right back at him.
But Thomas easily slides over to block Lapierre’s one-timer. Inexplicably, a member of the crowd is facing in the wrong direction.
Undaunted, Lapierre collects the puck behind the net and presses on. He shakes off Chara’s check and relays the puck to Torres in the corner.
Torres passes up to Bieksa at the point, who has all kinds of time to walk in and make a play.
Bieksa deliberately fires the puck wide of Thomas, bouncing it off the boards behind the net right to Lapierre.
The ever-aggressive Thomas is suddenly way out of position, and no Bruin has picked up the unguarded Lapierre. The net’s wide open, but he has to shoot from a very sharp angle. Can he make it?
He does! Thomas and Seidenberg lunge desperately, but the puck squeezes across the line. Lapierre — and the rest of Vancouver — explode in celebration.
[Every Monday, Katie Maximick takes your questions and gives her take on the Canucks in her own cantankerous style. If you have any questions about the Canucks, send it to her via Twitter (@KMaximick)]
After spending the weekend on Bowen Island I realized how close to Vancouver this little getaway spot was – and not a lot of the island is populated, making it easy for elusive creatures to hide there, like a sasquatch or the notorious “wolf dog” running wild on Bowen right now, or even former NHL players who needed somewhere to go and forget their problems.
Which brings me to our first question…
Caylie (@CayKing) asks: What ever happened to Dan Cloutier?
Katie: After his failed attempt to return to the NHL, then even the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs, Clouts made the decision to retire from hockey last August due to reoccurring injuries (however, he did re-emerge in Vancouver for Markus Naslund’s retirement ceremony in December).
He could very well be living on Bowen Island. I did go explore a cave with a flashlight and came across a frog, salamander, a set of chairs and unlit candles. That may or may not have been Cloutier’s living room and pets.
However, as fun as it is to imagine Clouts or the likes of Jan Bulis hiding away on some small island along the west coast, my research suggests that Cloutier is currently in Barrie, Ontario. Why? Well, he’s the goalie coach for the OHL team, the Barrie Colts. He is finishing off a one-year contract with the team. It is not known whether this will be extended or not.
At least he has a home on Bowen if he ever needs a place to hide out. He can befriend all the dolphins I saw on the ferry ride there.
Stephanie (@axeguitar) asks: Did you take photos of the dolphins?!
Herve (@1stLineCenter) asks: What is the news on Malhotra?
Katie: Unless you live under a rock, you’d have heard that Malhotra will not be returning to the roster this season, not even for playoffs.
Dave (@merlynbc) asks: Can the Canucks fill the void caused by Manny Malhotra’s injury?
Katie: This is a big loss for the team, yes, but will his absence prevent the team from going far in the playoffs? I doubt it. Yes he’s our face off guru, an amazing leader and great for penalty killing, but one reason the Canucks are estimated to go so far this season is because of their depth and team cohesion, and it’s this depth and solidarity that’s going to make the difference this post-season. In fact, Kesler told The Province on Monday that Malhotra’s injury will bring the team even closer together because they’re one big family. The Canucks also said that Malhotra’s leadership will not be missed because it will not be gone; Malhotra plans on being an off-ice leader as best he can during his recovery.
No he cannot be replaced, but the recent acquisitions of Lapierre and Higgins is looking like quite the blessing for the team right now. Lapierre joined the third line in Malhotra’s absence against Phoenix and was 64 per cent in face offs. Not bad, and if this arrangement doesn’t work out, Higgins can always take a turn with Torres and Hansen.
The Canucks also have a talented pool of call ups in Manitoba itching to play. Nonetheless this classy player will be missed by fans and players alike. All the best to Manny, and let’s all hope for a speedy (and full) recovery in the off season.
Tony (@smoboy) asks: What is a poor Canucks fan to do with so much time between games?
Katie: Do what Oilers and Sens fans have been doing this season to forget their troubles – drink! That or expand your mind with extensive reading. Your call.
After this semi-long break the Canucks’ next game is a 4:30 start on TSN, Wednesday versus the Detroit Red Wings – and Todd Bertuzzi, of course. Katie like.
When it comes to thoughts on the Canucks’ acquisitions of Maxim Lapierre and Christopher Higgins, it’s hard to say something that hasn’t already been said. With that in mind though, there are a few reasons I think these new players will fit well.
The big take away from the addition of Lapierre is that Burrows can finally worry about doing his job. With Rypien out of the lineup, it looked like Burrows was unsuccessfully trying to play under-your-skin-hockey while simultaneously struggling to play Sedin triggerman. Lapierre allows Burrows to focus on offense as a top liner, a role he played earlier in the season when he was the firestarter in an already fiery Kings-Ducks relationship.
The addition of Higgins alongside Lapierre gives the Canucks a more complete 4th line. After rolling through a carousel of 4th line centers who didn’t seem to make the grade, the Canucks managed to deal away some depth (i.e AHL talent) in return for some final pieces of the puzzle – a great decision by management.
Perhaps what’s best of all this is Higgins has the ability to jump up into a top six role if called upon (as is seen in the video below). At least initially though, he rounds out a 4th line that will have 19 games to build some chemistry and get ready for the postseason.
Higgins is the quintessential Mike Gillis pick up. He has speed and skill. He’s young, and more importantly, multi-dimensional.
Both Lapierre and Higgins also bring PK experience that will not only add to an already excellent Canucks special teams, but the big takeaway will be the impact both have in their role as a shutdown line when the game is on the line.
Gone are the days when the likes of Darcy Hordichuk would roam the Canucks’ 4th line. The Canucks have tried all season to find a trio of bottom-six talent to round out this team, and with the first three lines set, that last piece of the puzzle really was one or two players away.
They’re set for the playoffs now; it’s time to bring back Stanley.