Jan 272014
 

The Canucks scored 5 goals last night. 8 if you count the ones they scored in their own net. But hey, at least the Canucks won, and in doing so, they extended their lead on the Phoenix Coyotes for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference to 5 points.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Jan 262014
 
Offense-schmoffense when push comes to shove, just eat your opponent.  (Photo Courtesy canucks.nhl.com)

Offense-schmoffense, when push comes to shove there’s no penalty for eating an opponent.
(Photo Courtesy of  canucks.nhl.com)

For the second time in just 10 days, the Canucks take on the Phoenix Coyotes. You may or may not remember their most recent meeting on January 16th. On the one hand hand, it was memorable for the sole reason that Martin Hanzal was a one-man wrecking crew for the Coyotes in the third period, taking out with Henrik Sedin, Mike Santorelli and David Booth with crosschecks. But then again, the game was boring as heck so we’ll forgive you if you stopped watching before Hanzal went all Donatello on the Canucks.

None of the three injured Canucks finished the game, and in fact, Hank and Santorelli remain out of the lineup, which has Dale Weise speculating some sort of response to Hanzal.

“I think we’re trying to build a team identity here that we don’t get pushed around,” Weise continued. “I think we stood up for ourselves good against Calgary. Dustin Brown kind of had to answer the bell there — and he did. I don’t think Dustin Brown had to drop the gloves but he was forced into it. Eventually if you get enough guys challenging you, I think the peer pressure kind of wears on you and you have to answer the bell.

“I’m not sure what’s going to happen tomorrow (with Hanzal). We have a lot of guys who might have a few choice words for him and then we’ll see what happens.”

Like against their games against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks the other week, the Canucks can’t let their emotions get the better of them. The Coyotes are hot on the Canucks’ tail in the Western Conference for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference; the Canucks have a slim 4-point lead on the Desert Dogs, who also has a game-in-hand on Vancouver.

Who’s Hot

If there’s any positives for the Canucks, it’s been their goaltending. They’re not scoring, but they’re staying in games thanks in large part to Roberto Luongo and Eddie Lack, both of whom are in the top 10 in the NHL in GAA and save percentage. The Canucks have the 7th best goals against per game in the league (2.38), and Luongo, specifically, is looking better than ever and has a 0.949 save percentage in his last 4 starts.

Up front, tough guy Dale Weise has 2 assists in his past 2 games, and for the Coyotes, Mike Ribeiro, who leads the Coyotes in scoring, has 4 points (2 goals and 2 assists) in a 3-game point streak.

Who’s Out

Henrik Sedin remains day-to-day with a rib injury and is expected to miss tonight’s game. Mike Santorelli remains out with a shoulder injury and Andrew Alberts remains out with a concussion. Jordan Schroeder, who has missed most of the season with an ankle injury, will not play tonight, but did start his conditioning assignment and played for the Utica Comets on Friday and Saturday against the Abbotsford Heat.

Jan 172014
 

After going 0-fer on this Pacific Division road trip, scoring a grand total of 1 goal in 3 games, and then potentially losing Henrik Sedin, David Booth and Mike Santorelli to injuries, I bet the Canucks can’t wait to get back home.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Jan 162014
 

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Just like their recent play, Daniel Sedin struggles in front of the Coyotes net.
(source: nhl.com)

Vancouver Canucks (24-15-9)
Phoenix Coyotes (21-16-9)

After last night’s embarrassing 9-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, the Canucks are hoping to redeem themselves tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes. You’ve all heard the narrative by now that January hasn’t been kind to the Canucks. And with a single win in January – and a 1-4-3 record in their last 8 games – you wouldn’t hear many Canucks fans arguing against it.

However, despite their struggles, the Canucks still hold one of two wild card spots in the Western Conference. They currently occupy 7th place in the conference, 6 points up on tonight’s opponents, the Coyotes, and with 2 games in hand. Part of the reason the Canucks have managed to stay up on the Coyotes is that the ‘Yotes themselves have struggled recently. Phoenix has lost 4 consecutive games and have a 2-6-3 record in their last 11 games.

This is the third of five meetings between the Canucks and Coyotes. They split their first two meetings of the season, with the Canucks winning the more recent match-up on December 6th.

Who’s Hot

Having scored a grand total of one goal in their last 2 games, I’m not sure if any Canucks qualify as being hot. Though, Zach Kassian did score again last night, his 2nd goal in 4 games, and he now has a career-high 9 goals this season.

Like the Canucks, the Coyotes are struggling on the scoresheet. Coyotes defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson, after going goal-less for 23 games, has scored in back-to-back games – his team’s only goals in their last two games.

Who’s Out

Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo still remains day-to-day. Forwards Alex Burrows (broken jaw) and Jordan Schroeder (ankle), and defenseman Andrew Alberts (concussion) and Ryan Stanton (ankle) are on injured reserve.

Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek (lower body), who hasn’t played since December 17th, is still out and there is no timeline for his return.

Dec 062013
 

Vancouver Canucks vs Phoenix Coyotes

Photo credit: faceoff.com

After a successful 4-game road trip, in which they went 3-1, the Vancouver Canucks are back at Rogers Arena to take on the Phoenix Coyotes. Both teams played a month ago with the Coyotes winning in the shootout and Antoine Vermette getting the shootout winner.

The Canucks, who have won back-to-back games for the first time since the end of October, are looking to maintain some momentum as they start a 5-game home stand. They also hope to not lose any more players to injury as they’ve lost key players the last couple of games. Against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, Alex Burrows was hit by a puck and had to have surgery for a broken jaw; he and is expected to be out for at least a month. And against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, Alex Edler suffered a knee injury and will be out indefinitely. Andrew Alberts will fill. *shudder*

The Coyotes currently occupy the 8th playoff spot in the Western Conference. Thanks to the Edmonton Oilers, their lead on the 9th place Canucks is only a single point. Needless to say, tonight’s game is critical for the Canucks, as a win in regulation would push them back in a playoff position, although the Coyotes do have 2 games in hand.

Who’s Hot

Ryan Kesler is back in beast mode. He has 4 goals in 2 games, and his 14 goals so far this season is good for 8th in the entire league.

Defenseman Jason Garrison also seems to have shaken off his scoring slump. He has 4 assists in 2 games, and has recorded 3 multi-point games in his last 4. He now has 17 points this season, which is 14th among all NHL defensemen.

For the Coyotes, defenseman Keith Yandle has goals in back-to-back games. Captain Shane Doan, who is second with the team in scoring, has 3 points (1 goal and 2 assists) in his last 2 games.

Who’s Out

Remember last week when we only had one player on injured reserve? Ah the good ol’ days. Unfortunately our injured reserve count has tripled. The 2 Alexes – Burrows and Edler – join Jordan Schroeder, who is still weeks from returning.

Phoenix will be without defenseman Zbynek Michalek (lower body) and forward Lauri Korpikoski (upper body).

Nov 072013
 
Photo source: www.canucks.com

Photo source: www.canucks.com

In the Vancouver Canucks’ 3-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night, both Henrik and Daniel were among the Canucks skaters to shoot in the shootout. Daniel’s quick snapshot was stopped by Mike Smith, and Henrik lost the handle of the puck on his attempt, sealing the loss.

It still perplexes me as to how two of the most creative and offensively-gifted players in the entire league can perform so poorly in the shootout.  Perhaps they could spend some of their new $28 million on shootout coaches or lessons.

In the meantime, CHB readers offered up their suggestions on how the Sedins could improve their shootout performances in a “fill in the blank” version of the CHB Top 10.

“To score in the shootout, the Sedins ______________.”

HM:  “…need to spinorama.” – submitted by @harpsama

10:  “…need to practice on each other – Sedin Sync – seeing each other skate towards net.” – submitted by @tony_p_power

9:  “…must befriend Pavel Datsyuk.” – submitted by @manlycc

8:  “…should sit on the bench and watch.” – submitted by @MStoney21

7:  “…need a two pass minimum.” – submitted by @RusteeWatts

6:  “…should be on the bench until they allow twins to cycle in a shootout.” – submitted by @elmeebaterina

5:  “…have to go together.” – submitted by @transcendwebs

4:  “…need an empty net.” – submitted by @krissymchua

3:  “…need a skills session with Marek Malik.” – submitted by @mob1024

2:  “…need a cardboard cutout of a pass-ready Ryan Kesler in the net.” – submitted by @Rozzy80

1:  “…need to get the DeLorean up to 88 mph.” –submitted by @Swizzler16

Nov 052013
 
The Sedins and Kesler get plenty of attention, it's time for Kassian's closeup.  (Credit canucks.nhl.com)

The Sedins and Kesler get plenty of attention, it’s time for Kassian’s closeup.
(Credit canucks.nhl.com)

Another home stand has come and gone for the Vancouver Canucks and now it’s back on the road for a 4-game jaunt against 4 of the best teams in the Western Conference. Starting tonight in Phoenix, Arizona, the Canucks (10-5-1, 21 points) look to overtake the Coyotes (10-3-2, 22 points) in the Pacific Division. The Coyotes look to defend their home ice, where they haven’t lost in regulation yet this season (6-0-1). On the other hand, the Canucks take their newly-found confidence and swagger from their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, and their impressive road record, second-best in the NHL (6-2-1), to a building in which they haven’t lost in regulation in four years.

What to Watch

A Team Canada battle.

Both Roberto Luongo and Mike Smith are candidates to be Team Canada’s goaltender for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Smith has some decent stats: 8-2-2 record, 2.87 GAA (28th in NHL) and a 0.917 save percentage (16th).

Luongo has been equally impressive: 8-4-1 record, 2.28 GAA (11th in NHL) and a 0.915% (19th). He also already has 2 shutouts this season, only 2 shutouts back of Patrick Roy on the NHL’s all-time leaders list.

Who’s Hot

The #beastmodo line – or Ry and Ginger line – of Ryan Kesler, Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin have combined for 14 goals and 18 assists in the 10 games they have played together. Against the Leafs, they played 2 shifts in the first 2 minutes of the game, built some early momentum, and then scored a rare powerplay goal early in the game. A good start is vital against Phoenix as the Coyotes haven’t lost a game yet this season when leading after the first period.

Who’s Out

David Booth is recovering from a lower body injury, and the Canucks announced on Monday that he has been assigned to the Utica Comets for a conditioning assignment. When the lower body injury subsides – and this latest wakeup call kicks in – he will hopefully use this stint in the minors to get his act together. Jordan Schroeder is out with a sprained ankle, as are Jannik Hansen (upper body injury) and Dale Weise (lower body injury).

The Phoenix Coyotes are not expected to have defenseman David Schlemko available this game with a lower body injury, and have a pair on the injured reserve list, Jeff Halpern and Rostislav Klesla.

Sep 302013
 

On the eve of the start of the 2013/2014 NHL regular season, I preview the 30 teams, one division at a time.

Kings vs Sharks

Photo credit: Sportsnet

Anaheim Ducks

The Good

With newly-acquired Jakob Silfverberg, Kyle Palmieri, Nick Bonino, Emerson Etem, Cam Fowler, Luca Sbisa and Sami Vatanen, the Ducks have a lot of good, young players in their system.

The Bad

These kids will be good, but the Ducks may be expecting them to take on a lot more and much too soon.

The Outlook

After a strong start to the 2012/2013 season, the Ducks faded down the stretch and lost to the no. 7 seed, the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs. If the kids can perform over an 82-game season like they did in the first 30 games of the shortened season, they’ll make the playoffs. But that’s a big if.

*****

Calgary Flames

The Good

After years of confusion – should they go for it or should they go on a rebuild – Brian Burke, the Flames’ new President of Hockey Operations, should now give the organization some sense of direction. And that direction is a rebuild.

The Bad

It’ll be a long year in Calgary. Sven Baertschi, Mikael Backlund, Max Reinhart and Sean Monahan provide some hope up front, but the cupboard is otherwise barren. It’s the same in the back end where they have Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie, but not much else.

The Outlook

By the time this season is all over and done with, the Flames may well be in a position to draft Max’s brother, Sam, who currently sits no. 1 in the 2014 NHL Draft rankings.

*****

Edmonton Oilers

The Good

Aside from the injuries to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner, there’s a lot to like in Edmonton these days. Taylor Hall should make Team Canada in Sochi. Jordan Eberle should return to 30-goal form. Nail Yakupov is, quite simply, a helluva player. Meanwhile, David Perron and Boyd Gordon give the Oil some veteran help up front, and newly-minted captain, Andrew Ference, provides some much needed leadership and grit from the back end.

The Bad

Adding Ference and drafting Darnell Nurse was a start, but overall, the Oilers are still a small bunch. Incredibly skilled and talented, but small.

The Outlook

The Oilers’ speed and skill rank up there with the best in the league. A bit more tinkering and it’s not inconceivable that they make the post-season for the first time in 8 years. They’re that close.

*****

Los Angeles Kings

The Good

Like the Blackhawks, the Kings have enjoyed much post-season success recently and have managed to retain their core. With Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick all at their prime years and signed for a few more seasons, life should be good in La-la-land.

The Bad

Sadly for Canucks fans, I can’t think of any.

The Outlook

Sadly for Canucks fans, the Kings are positioned to remain one of the best in the West.

*****

Phoenix Coyotes

The Good

There’s finally some stability in the Coyotes’ ownership situation – or at least there is until they lose their first $50 million. Goaltender Mike Smith re-upped long-term, and so did defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Signing Mike Ribeiro will help the league’s 25th-ranked PP.

The Bad

Besides Ribeiro, and perhaps an improved Mikkel Boedker, the ‘Yotes don’t have a lot of offensive pop up front.

The Outlook

Smith will keep the Coyotes in most games, but unless they can improve on the NHL’s 21st-ranked offense, they’ll miss the postseason for the second consecutive season.

*****

San Jose Sharks

The Good

Logan Couture may have slowly surpassed Joe Thornton as the Sharks’ no. 1 center. And it’s saying something when Joe Thornton is your no. 2 center. Add Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and promising rookie, Tomas Hertl, and the Sharks have some enviable depth up front.

The Bad

The defense isn’t as deep, and neither is their goaltending. In fact, it’s scary to think what would happen if goaltender Antti Niemi ever suffered an injury.

The Outlook

This could very well be the last kick at the can for Thornton, Marleau and Dan Boyle – long-serving Sharks who are all unrestricted free agents at season’s end.

*****

Vancouver Canucks

The Good

After 7 years of hearing the same message from head coach, Alain Vigneault, the Canucks fired AV and replaced him with the much more abrasive, John Tortorella. Torts vowed to play a more aggressive system and to make the Canucks a harder team to play against, which would be a welcome change to those of us who witnessed the passive and predictable system from the last couple of seasons.

The Bad

Besides the coach, the biggest change was in goal, where Roberto Luongo is, by virtue of Cory Schneider being traded to the New Jersey Devils, once again the Canucks’ no. 1 goaltender. Elsewhere, the Canucks simply tinkered and Torts will have to make lemonade from pretty much the same group of lemons AV had.

The Outlook

Despite the resounding pessimism present in Canucks Nation, the Canucks should be able to compete for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.

Apr 092013
 

Ryan Kesler returns to the lineup and scores the game-winning goal. Cory Schneider gets his 11th straight start and records his 4th shutout in 9 games.

With the win, the Canucks are now 10 points clear of the 9th place Coyotes.

Yes, it was a good night.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Apr 092013
 

In my first Clay’s Canucks Commentary since my trip to Rome 3 weeks ago, I look at Vancouver’s 2-0 win over Phoenix at Rogers Arena and in particular the return of Ryan Kesler.

Kesler returned to the line-up after missing 19 games and he made an immediate impact by scoring the game-winning goal just 7 minutes in.

Kesler’s return, coupled with the acquisition of Derek Roy at the trade deadline, bolsters the Canucks down the middle and gives some much needed strength and firepower to the forward group overall.

 

 

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