Jun 062011
 

We’ve heard #WinItForManny, but how about #WinItForDad?

I hate bringing myself into blog posts. But this is the Stanley Cup finals, where the emotion just boils over and rises to its highest peak.

As Canucks fans in 2011, we’ve had a lot to celebrate this season. After all, the team has been the NHL’s best virtually all season long; the league-best offense, defense, and special teams have paved the way to a President’s Trophy and now just two wins away from something never before achieved in the franchise’s 40 years. We’re lucky to live in these times, because there have been some dark days over that span.

I’m only 22 years old, so I only know half of the story that is the Vancouver Canucks’ 40-year history of ups and downs (mostly downs). My dad, however, has been following this team ever since they arrived from the Western League in 1970. Since then, he’s learned to become a bi-polar Canucks fan; high when the team is doing well, low when they’re at the worst. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve bickered about the play of Roberto Luongo or the captaincy of Henrik Sedin.

But it’s funny, because at some point after Alex Burrows did his best Brian Skrudland impression and gave the Canucks a 2-0 series lead just 11 seconds into overtime, I couldn’t help but think about my dad, and the 40 years he’s spent watching this team.

The truth is, on some level, I want the Canucks to win the Stanley Cup for my dad more than for myself. A Stanley Cup win would finally end the 40 years of frustration that’s been building up inside the hearts and minds of eternal Canucks fans.

I’m sure there’s someone you wish could be here to see this moment. Seeing the excitement of a hundred thousand Canucks fans marching down Robson and Granville like it was the 2010 Olympics was overwhelming; for long-time Canucks fans, it’s the kind of sight you’ve always dreamed about, but never thought it could ever happen; yet when it does happen, it still seems a little surreal.

I love the Canucks, but I love my dad more. It would be extra special if the Canucks could win a Stanley Cup for him.

Jun 062011
 

The Situation

Boston is defending a 2-1 lead nearing the mid-point of the third period. They’re back on their heels, but Vancouver’s been unable to score on gaping nets and multiple odd-man rushes. Then the Sedins get to work.

Frame 1

Milan Lucic (17) successfully fends off Daniel Sedin (to his left) and Alex Burrows, feeding the puck into the corner for Zdeno Chara.

Frame 2

Chara has an easy out: propel the puck behind his net to his partner Dennis Seidenberg. But the big man has trouble finding it in his skates.

Frame 3

Daniel moves in, digs out the puck, and puts his soccer skills to work kicking the puck to his brother.

Frame 4

Chara spins around, confused, as Henrik slips past him and throws the puck back up to the point. Burrows goes to the net.

Frame 5

Alex Edler has the puck at the blueline. Sami Salo gets ready for the one-timer, but Edler decides to shoot the puck himself.  Notice Daniel coming off the boards.

Frame 6

Burrows and Seidenberg are battling in front of the net. Edler’s shot never reaches Tim Thomas; it’s on Burrows stick as Daniel cuts through the slot unguarded.

Frame 7

Notice where Thomas is looking as Daniel receives the puck: at the tangle of bodies in front of him.

Frame 8

Too late, Thomas sees Daniel and throws his body in desperation. But Daniel’s not about to bungle this one, and he roofs it over Thomas’s outstretched pads.

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 032011
 

No, this isn’t another post on whether or not the Canucks are Canada’s team. I think everyone agrees that subject has been beaten to death already.

But is anyone else getting a kick reading what some NHL players – yes, NHL players, not fans – are saying about the Canucks?

Yesterday, Dave Bolland bashed Alex Burrows:

“Typical, pulling hair and biting people. Sort of like a little girl,” said Bolland.

It must suck to get knocked out of the playoffs by a bunch of little girls.

The other day, Ryan Whitney dissed the entire team:

“I’d say 90 percent of the guys in the league want nothing to do with seeing them win,” Whitney said a few hours before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. “There’s no doubting their team’s pretty amazing. But who makes up that team makes them so tough to like that it’s frustrating to see them doing this well.”

Obviously, Whitney’s not one of the players who chose the Canucks as the second-most favorite team players want to play on. Or perhaps he’s bitter that, in the same poll, his team was selected the second-least team players would like to play on.

It’s not that this sort of hatred is new. But where players, in the past, would perhaps be more cautious in what they say in the media – I mean, you could be dissing a future teammate, right? – these are two examples who don’t seem to mind speaking their minds. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind that. I do find it mildly entertaining to hear them spout off out of spite and bitterness.

Jun 022011
 

[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: Wed, 01 Jun 2011 17:12

Hey Caylie,

So. Here we are. Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. And it’s IN Vancouver.

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Wed, 01 Jun 2011 17:43

Hi Chris,

This is truly what we have all been waiting for. Special teams will win this series. With an efficiency of about 8% on the PP, the Bruins will have to deal with our great PK and dangerous powerplay.

We just killed a 4-minute high-sticking minor, and here we go to our first PP. We NEED to capitalize!

Caylie

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Wed, 01 Jun 2011 18:28

Hey Caylie,

Considering how effective the Bruins PP has been this post-season, I’m surprised that they don’t decline some of these penalties that are being called – they’re much better 5-on-5.

Speaking of 5-on-5, can we see more of it? I want to see an epic war between these two teams. No regrets.

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Wed, 01 Jun 2011 18:48

Hi Chris,

It seems like when the Canucks were studying tape on the Bruins, during their 8-day lay over, they studied how to be ineffective on the powerplay. We have had so many opportunities but haven’t scored. Burrows has also taken two (although they were questionable) penalties while ON the PP.

Caylie

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Wed, 01 Jun 2011 19:10

Hey Caylie,

Really? True the Canucks need to manufacture a goal on the PP once in a while, but at least we’re getting the chances – this leads me to proclaim we’re winning.

And what’s with the wraparound after wraparound? Did I miss the update on Thomas not having good lateral movement?

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Wed, 01 Jun 2011 19:20

Hi Chris,

I think that “once in a while” is way past due. We have to make them pay for their penalties. That being said, 5-on-5 play has been great, I’m loving the end to end rushes by both teams.

We definitely can’t say that this game has been a boring game. It should be one hell of a 3rd period. What do you think, is overtime looming?

Caylie

From: Christopher Golden
To: Caylie King
Date: Wed, 01 Jun 2011 20:01

Hey Caylie,

I really wanted to reply earlier, but you said overtime and I was worried about messing with the hockey Gods.

Wouldn’t have called that. Ever. And although I’m stoked for the win, it worries me that Thomas looked to be in the zone. Yes Louie got the shutout, but damn did Thomas look freaking good. This bodes well for the Bruins…

C.

From: Caylie King
To: Christopher Golden
Date: Wed, 01 Jun 2011 20:10

Hi Chris,

Who would have thunk that big orange Raffi would pot the winner with less than 20 seconds in the game.

I agree with you, a lot of analysts said that the long layoff would hurt Thomas, get him out of rhythm. But damn, he looked great tonight. That being said, Luongo looked equally as good. It’ll be the battle of the goalies and special teams.

I am still surprised how many penalties were called in the game. I’m hoping it’s not like this all series. It’s better to see 5-on-5 play, while allowing the game to flow.

Game 1 goes to the good guys. We are 3 wins away! Bring it home, boys!!!

Caylie

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 022011
 

Maybe it was the aura of the Stanley Cup Finals and knowing what was at stake at the end of it, but for a game that finished 1-0, game 1 was pretty darn entertaining.

The Vancouver Canucks relied heavily on Roberto Luongo for about 59 minutes and 40 seconds of game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Then, with 19 seconds left, Raffi Torres finished a pretty passing play with Ryan Kesler and Jannik Hansen. He scored the only goal of the game and gave the Canucks an early 1-0 series lead over the Boston Bruins.

Winning game 1 was huge. 77% of teams who’ve won game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. 86% of teams who’ve won game 1 of the Stanley Cup FInals on home ice have gone on to win the Cup. The last 5 teams who shut out their opponents in game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals – the 2008 Red Wings, 2003 Devils, 2001 Avalanche, 1984 Oilers and 1983 Islanders – went on to win the Cup.

But perhaps bigger than the stats, game 1 showed the Canucks were able to withstand some of the best the Bruins have. The Bruins put 36 shots on Luongo and had numerous other scoring chances. They had an early 4-minute powerplay in the first period and a minute-and-a-half long 5-on-3 powerplay early in the second period. The Canucks lost Dan Hamhuis to an undisclosed injury and rolled out 5 defensemen for most of the night. Yet, the Canucks still came out with a victory.

The Hero

Roberto Luongo. Luo made 36 saves for his third shutout of these playoffs – all three coming in game 1′s.

The Goat

Tomas Kaberle. 4:03 minutes of powerplay ice-time and the Bruins’ prized trade acquisition managed a mere 2 shots on goal. He was equally invisible in the other 10 minutes he played.

The Numbers

  • 2:30. Jeff Tambellini led the Canucks’ fourth line with 2:30 minutes of ice-time. Yes, led. Linemates Alex Bolduc and Victor Oreskovich didn’t even crack the 2-minute mark.
  • 28:09. Zdeno Chara led all skaters with 28:09 minutes of ice-time. Defensive partner Dennis Seidenberg wasn’t that far behind with 27:13.
  • 4. Alex Burrows took 4 minor penalties. The Canucks can’t be pleased that they gave Boston 6 powerplay opportunities, including a lengthy 5-on-3.
  • 32. Henrik Sedin had a rough night on the faceoff circle, only winning 32% of his faceoffs (8-for-25).
  • 12. Both teams had 6 powerplays each in the first 2 periods. Neither team had any in the 3rd.
Jun 012011
 

There’s been a lot of reaction to Alex Burrows’ alleged “bite” of Patrice Bergeron’s finger. Looking at the above gif, it looks like Burrows does bite Bergeron. That said, it also looks like Bergeron stuck his glove in Burrows’ mouth prior to that.

There’s precedent in that Jarrko Ruutu received a 2-game suspension for a similar offense a couple of years ago. But then again, precedent has meant squat to this league for a while now.

Consider Ben Eager wasn’t suspended for a dangerous charge from behind on Daniel Sedin in the Canucks’ round 3 series against San Jose. Also consider that Nathan Horton got a free pass for throwing a water bottle at a fan.

Knowing that much more serious actions went unpunished in these playoffs, does Burrows’ bite warrant a suspension? You be the judge.

(gif credit: Canucks and Beyond)

Update: The NHL has just announced that there will be no supplemental discipline for Alex Burrows:

“After reviewing the incident, including speaking with the on-ice officials, I can find no conclusive evidence that Alex Burrows intentionally bit the finger of Patrice Bergeron,” Murphy’s statement read.

Jun 012011
 

In case you missed it, here’s the Vancouver Sun Playoff Panel preview of the Stanley Cup Finals series. Guests include Cam Cole and Matt Black from the Vancouver Sun, Bob Mackin from 24 Hours Vancouver, and Matt Lee, Tom Wakefield and myself from CHB.

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