Jun 012011

[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 Vancouver Canucks host the Boston Bruins tonight in game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.  It’s been a full week since the Canucks last played, so there has been ample time to dissect and discuss numerous storylines heading into the finals.  Here are a few things to ponder: Things That Make You Go Hmmm…:

  1. Who will win the goaltending duel? Their styles are quite the opposite:  Boston’s Tim Thomas is very unorthodox, while Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo plays more conservatively, efficiently, and deliberately.  Both are Vezina Trophy Finalists, and both are on my fantasy roster (I won the pool this year…in large part to them).  Luongo has had the more consistent post-season, especially since giving way to Cory Schneider in game 6 of the first round (since then Luongo has gone 9-3 with one shutout).  In his last 12 games, Thomas also has 9 wins and 3 losses (with 2 shutouts).  Obviously, there isn’t much to pick between the 2 netminders.  It will be interesting to see if one of them steals the series, as opposed to just playing well enough for their team to win.
  2. Man, oh Manny.  Canuck fans have been taken on an emotional roller coaster this past week, as Manny Malhotra took giant steps towards suiting up for the final, or so it seemed.  However, just yesterday Malhotra missed the team’s practice and did not meet the media.  This came just a couple of days after coach AV declared Manny “officially cleared to play”, raising the hopes and expectations of all Canucks fans who have been witnessing his remarkable recovery.   While the Canucks are now tight-lipped as to whether or not Malhotra will play in this series, I have a sneaky feeling that we’ll see him sooner than later.  However, it needs to be the right decision, both for the sake of the team (who are winning without him) and more importantly, for the sake of his own health.  I just can’t wait to hear the roar of the crowd when he finally does get on the ice again.
  3. Canada’s Team?  Who Cares? Much has been made as to whether or not Canada should adopt and support the Canucks as Canada’s team.  The general thinking is that by being the first Canadian team in the finals since the 2007 Ottawa Senators, that Canadians across the country should support the team (despite Boston actually having more Canadians on its roster than the Canucks).  However, there seems to be an anti-Canucks sentiment in certain parts of the country and it’s hard to determine exactly why.  Some say that our team is over rated, others say the players are cocky, and still others claim that our fans are annoying.  I chalk it up to jealousy and pride.  It’s a lot easier to say something negative about someone or something than it is to pay a compliment.  Of course I’m biased living here (and as a follower of the team since the late 70s), but it just seems right.  We all know that Montreal and Calgary won the Cup after hosting the Olympics the year previous.  This is indeed our time.  And we’re going to do it, regardless of whether or not we have the rest of the country’s support! (Editor’s note: Maybe Canadians are warming up to the Canucks after all. An Ipsos-Reid poll conducted in the last couple of days show most Canadians to be cheering for the Canucks.)

Well, that’s enough chat for now…it’s officially game day.  The first few minutes of the game will be fascinating to watch, as we’ll see if either team is suffering from nerves or the long lay-off.  Who will prevail in game one?  That’s a thing that makes me go hmmm….

May 312011

For Part 1 of my thoughts on the Final, click here.

So here we are, at the end of the rainbow. Vancouver versus Boston. Canada versus America. Green Men versus Green Monster. West Coast versus East Coast. Orca versus Bear. Winner gets the Stanley Cup.

So which of these teams has the edge?

First, let’s look back at where I had each team rated at the beginning of the season:

100-115 (1st in Conference, Stanley Cup Winner)Predicted Points/Season100-115 (1st in Conference, Loss to Detroit)

And now?

Goaltending: Boston and Vancouver’s goaltending both played above expectations this season, with Tim Thomas putting together an A+ season in net. Despite some poor outings, in general both Roberto Luongo and Thomas have sustained their play in the post-season. Boston: A+. Vancouver: A.

Defense: Boston’s defense wasn’t as dynamic as expected, slipping at least a half, if not a full-grade until the arrival of Tomas Kaberle solved this problem (at least on paper). Kaberle though has struggled, and often finds himself playing 6th defenseman minutes. Boston: B.

Vancouver’s defensive depth was tested time and again, but they have remained a B+ group surviving, and in some cases thriving, without an elite blueliner. The sight of Canuck defenseman flying past San Jose backcheckers to create odd-man rushes will be in Shark coach Todd McLellan’s dreams all summer. Vancouver: B+.

Forwards: Ryan Kesler effectively carried the secondary scoring burden of the Canucks this season, who get little offense from anything below the second line. Chris Higgins and Max Lapierre have been effective pickups in energy and defensive roles though, and the Sedins are the most talented players in the series. Boston: B+.

Conversely, the Bruins offense really didn’t materialize quite as expected, with the loss of Marc Savard hurting the team’s powerplay. Nonetheless, Boston has out-scored Vancouver in the playoffs. Tyler Seguin had a quiet season but has shown flashes of brilliance when given the opportunity this spring. Mark Recchi has been MIA for most of the playoffs and is expected to retire if the Bruins win the Cup. Vancouver: B+.

Coaching: Both coaches have improved their standing somewhat with a Cup Final appearance. However, there remains skepticism. For Claude Julien, doubters suggest he has a hard time adapting in-game to what the opposition throws at his team. Others suggest Boston’s run-and-gun moments against Tampa Bay and Philadelphia are proof his defensive tactics remain unnecessarily stifling. Boston: B+.

Conversely, Barry Trotz out-coached Alain Vigneault for most of the Nashville series. Coach AV also raises some eyebrows with his handling of Keith Ballard and an apparent love affair with Tanner Glass. Vancouver: B.

Special Teams: Vancouver has the edge based on a more successful powerplay, both in the regular- and post-seasons. However, both teams haven’t exactly lit-it-up on the penalty kill in the playoffs. Manny Malholtra’s return may help here, unless he’s not capable of contributing in his usual fashion. Boston: B-. Vancouver: B+.

As you can see, despite Vancouver’s status as Cup favourite there’s very little difference between these two teams. When you add in the match-up game (Zdeno Chara versus the Sedins; Kesler versus Krecji), it’s easy to see this becoming a long series.

Except a long Cup Final would be a first for the Bruins. They’ve never gone more than six games when playing for the Cup, and have been involved in four sweeps. Lest anyone needs a reminder, the last time they made it this far was against Edmonton in 1990. Rumour has it the word “shellacking” was borne out of Edmonton’s dominance over Boston.

But these aren’t your 1990 Boston Bruins. This is a legitimate Cup team, and one that will give the Canucks a lot of trouble. The outcome of the Final rests on one or more of the following happening:

1) One of the goalies outplays the other
2) Ryan Kesler or one of the Sedins goes down to injury
3) Patrice Bergeron inserts himself into the Conn Smythe discussion
4) Boston’s powerplay shows up
5) Raffi Torres knocks Bergeron or Krecji out of the series
6) Vancouver’s third-line outplays Boston’s third line
7) Vancouver’s defense continues to support the attack and score goals

Expect 1 (Luongo), 4, 5 and 7 to happen, with Vancouver winning the Stanley Cup in seven games.

May 312011

There has been a lot of chatter the last few weeks about the Vancouver Canucks’ status as “Canada’s Team.”

In particular, there seems to be a palpable desire on the part of some Canuck fans to see the hometown team embraced to the loving bosom of the rest of Canada. To no one’s surprise, this love hasn’t exactly been reciprocated.

A friend with roots to a different Canadian province explained this resistance pretty well. To paraphrase:

“The rest of Canada already looks at Vancouver with resentment. It’s Lotus Land – the land of wealth. It’s beautiful. You guys don’t have any winter. You’re a two-hour flight to Vegas. You just had the Olympics. Work/life balance actually matters here. And yet, now you spoiled douchebags get to have the Stanley Cup too? F-that.”

Even in all the talk about “Canada’s Team,” the consensus seems to be the Canucks are roughly 7-14 days away from enjoying their first Stanley Cup victory.

James Mirtle posted an interesting piece comparing Boston and Vancouver in a number of statistical categories.

To add some “sober second thought” to the local Cup hoopla, and in honour of Vancouver’s 17 years between Cup Final appearances, here are 17 reasons why Boston could win the Stanley Cup.

1. East vs. West Exhibit #1: The last four Eastern teams to win Game Seven in the Conference Final have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. Overall, Conference Final, Game Seven-winning teams are 7-2 in the Cup Final since the East/West format was introduced in 1994.

2. East vs. West Exhibit #2: Since the East/West Conferences were created in 1994, there have been four Stanley Cup Finals with a distance greater than 3000 kilometres between each team. The Eastern Conference Champion has won every Final:

Carolina over Edmonton in 7 (2006)
Tampa Bay over Calgary in 7 (2004)
New Jersey over Anaheim in 7 (2003)
New York over Vancouver in 7 (1994)

According to Google Maps, it is roughly 4028 kilometres between Vancouver and Boston.

3. Groin injuries, which Ryan Kesler is suspected to have, can be tricky to rehabilitate. An injured Kesler is a big break for Boston. Kesler is Vancouver’s most valuable forward. They need him healthy to neutralize David Krejci’s line. Just as importantly, Kesler is expected to win battles against Zdeno Chara in front of the Bruins net on the powerplay.

4. Tim Thomas. To sum: The likely Vezina Trophy winner just posted the best regular season save percentage of all-time. He also called his shot during the Eastern Conference Final, saying Boston would beat Tampa Bay. He backed this up, posting a shutout in Game 7 against the Lightning. Currently his post-season save percentage is higher than Luongo’s. A hot Tim Thomas could really cause Vancouver nightmares.

5. Small Sample Size Exhibit #1: Tim Thomas hasn’t lost to Roberto Luongo since March 27, 2006, when the latter was a Florida Panther. Thomas made 45 saves in a 4-3 shootout loss that night.

6. Small Sample Size Exhibit #2: It’s only three games but under Alain Vigneault Vancouver has never scored more than two goals against Claude Julien’s Bruins:

February 26, 2001: Boston 3, Vancouver 1 (Thomas over Luongo)
February 6, 2010: Vancouver 2, Boston 2 (Vancouver shoot-out victory, Luongo over Tuukka Rask)
October 28, 2008: Boston 1, Vancouver 0 (Oct 28, 2008: Bos 1-0, Thomas over Luongo)

7. Scoring Depth Exhibit #1 Tyler Seguin: There isn’t a bottom-six player on the Canucks who has anywhere close to the offensive talent Seguin has. He’s a game-changer hiding in the weeds of Boston’s third line.

8. Scoring Depth Exhibit #2: If we go by the lineups posted by Matt, the bottom-six for Boston has scored 17 goals in the playoffs. Vancouver’s bottom-six? Just five goals. Boston might not have the Sedins, but their scoring depth (among forwards) trumps Vancouver’s.

9. Don Cherry always says if your team is winning you don’t mess with the lineup or team chemistry. The Canucks are about to do just that by returning Manny Malholtra to action. The romantic notion of Malholtra coming back to make an impact on the Cup Final should be tempered with the fact that he has two goals (for a total of two points) in 24 career playoff games.

10. Boston was the best team at 5-on-5 in the regular season and is the best team at 5-on-5 in the post-season.

11. If you look at the averages and norms of special team play, it is safe to assume Boston’s powerplay percentage (8.2%) will improve at some point.

12. Ghosts of Playoffs Past Exhibit #1: Given Ryan Clowe’s injury, this becomes the first playoff series in which the Canucks’ defense will have to handle a talented power forward. Actually, it should read power forwards, as both Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton will try and disrupt the crease around Roberto Luongo. Zdeno Chara might also get powerplay time in front of the net as well. Let’s not forget how Dustin Byfuglien’s dominance continues to haunt Vancouver fans.

13. Ghosts of Playoffs Past Exhibit #2: The Bruins feature many of the elements that have challenged the Canucks so far in these playoffs. Boston can lock down defensively as well as the Nashville Predators. Like Chicago, the Bruins have a top defensive pair (Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg) that can play against the Sedins. Like Chicago’s Dave Bolland, Boston’s Brad Marchand is also very skilled at becoming a distraction.

14. All the pressure is on Vancouver. Hard to believe, but a team from Boston is legitimately the underdog.

15. The all-time series is significantly slanted in Boston’s favour – they’re 66-25-17 against the Canucks.

16. When leading after two periods, Boston has yet to lose a game in these playoffs.

17. The Canucks won’t have played for a week since finishing off the Sharks on May 24th. Long layoffs have a tendency of coming back to haunt the teams that earn them. Just ask the Red Wings’ Mike Babcock, who admitted Detroit was rusty at the start of round two against San Jose.

May 282011

Back in 2008, I did a post about how the infamous Cam Neely trade keeps on haunting the Vancouver Canucks.

Fast-forward three years later to today, and with the Canucks set to face Neely’s Bruins in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, it’s perhaps appropriate to once again re-visit this trade.

To expand on that original post in 2008, the Bruins have since traded Dennis Wideman (along with the 15th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft) to the Florida Panthers for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell. Horton’s 17 points currently leads the Bruins in playoff scoring and Campbell is a good part of their bottom-six.

Also, Milan Lucic is indeed blossoming into one of the better, young power forwards in the league. He led the Bruins in scoring this regular season with 62 points and was the only Bruin to hit the 30-goal mark. He also became just the 10th player in NHL history to record 30 goals, 30 assists and over 100 PIM.

Likewise, Brad Marchand had a breakout season, hitting the 20-goal mark and recording 41 points in 77 regular season games. He’s kept it up in the playoffs too; after 3 rounds, he sits 4th in team playoff scoring – 20th in the league – with 12 points.

It’s been 25 years since the Canucks traded Neely and their 1st round pick (Glen Wesley) for Barry Pederson, but it’s easy to see the Bruins are still reaping the benefits of this trade. (For what it’s worth, Pederson is also back in Boston working for NESN.)

The Canucks may never, ever get full payback for this trade. And a Bruins Cup win – especially with a roster littered with key players acquired due to the Neely trade – will be the ultimate kick in the ass. On the other hand however, a Stanley Cup win against them will do a hell of a lot to soothe the pain.

May 282011
Keith Ballard vs Brad Marchand

Photo credit: nhl.com

When Vancouver and Boston finally drop the puck on the Stanley Cup Finals Wednesday night at Rogers Arena, it will mark the 50th day since the 2011 playoffs began for the Canucks.

It’s been a long road, to be sure. The path has been fraught with highs and lows, and everything in between. Everyone would love to forget the agony of watching Chicago forcing a game seven after Ben Smith’s overtime thriller, but everyone will remember the thrill of seeing Kevin Bieksa’s rolling knuckler trickle past an unsuspecting Antti Niemi in game five versus San Jose.

At the end of the day, however, none of that will have mattered if Vancouver gets this far, only to come up short again. Nothing has changed since the Canucks were forecast to claim professional hockey’s richest prize in September; the team has been favourites since the beginning of the season and the club has given their fans no reason to doubt them. And unlike the underdog teams of 1982 and 1994, this time the Canucks will enter the Stanley Cup Finals as the undisputed favourite.

To get you set for what should be an epic clash of the titans, here’s a look at the projected lineups of both teams come Wednesday night:

Vancouver Canucks

Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Alex Burrows

Mason Raymond – Ryan Kesler – Chris Higgins

Jannik Hansen – Maxim Lapierre – Raffi Torres

Tanner Glass – Cody Hodgson – Victor Oreskovich

Dan Hamhuis – Kevin Bieksa

Christian Ehrhoff – Aaron Rome

Alex Edler – Sami Salo

Roberto Luongo

Boston Bruins

Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Nathan Horton

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Mark Recchi

Michael Ryder – Chris Kelly – Tyler Seguin

Dan Paille – Gregory Campbell – Rich Peverley

Zdeno Chara – Dennis Seidenberg

Andrew Ference – Johnny Boychuk

Tomas Kaberle – Adam McQuaid

Tim Thomas

Last Time They Met: February 26th, 2011, 3-1 Bruins — Look, the old adage goes that you shouldn’t take much stock from the regular season in regards to the playoffs; and that applies here. The Bruins came away with a 3-1 victory, fueled by a huge effort from hometown hero Milan Lucic, who scored the game-winner with 4:38 left in the third while adding an assist on the empty netter by Patrice Bergeron. There’s a couple things to consider first: The game came just days after the NHL trade deadline, where the Canucks added Maxim Lapierre and Chris Higgins and the Bruins added Tomas Kaberle, Chris Kelly, and Rich Peverley. While Lapierre and Higgins have both played integral roles in the team’s postseason success, Kaberle has predominantly been a mediocre addition, failing to spark a Boston powerplay which has been dormant all playoffs. Kelly and Peverley, however, have been good contributors to the B’s. A lot has changed for both teams since this last clash.

The Road to the Finals: Both teams have undergone a similar route to get here; the Canucks and Bruins both needed overtime in game seven of round one to vanquish the Hawks and Habs, respectively, before walking all over the Predators and Flyers in round two. However, Vancouver got even better in round three, completely nullifying the San Jose attack while averaging 3.6 goals in the series. Boston took the long route, needing seven to defeat Tampa Bay, averaging 3 goals a contest.

Forwards Comparison: With all due respect to David Krejci and the rest of the Bruins forward corps, none of them are in the realm of Toews, Kane, Marleau, or Thornton; which isn’t necessarily a condemnation of their group. Instead, Boston gets the job done by committee, carrying 12 forwards who have at least one goal; the Canucks have ten forwards with at least one goal. The Bruins top line will give the Canucks defense a lot of problems, while Patrice Bergeron is among the league’s best two-way centres. However, the sandpaper and grit of the Vancouver third and fourth lines gives them a much more complete forward group. Edge: Vancouver

Defense Comparison: The biggest problem, quite literally, will be Zdeno Chara, who has the wingspan the length of a Boeing 747 and will be charged with subduing the Sedin offense. However, if the twins’ cycle game gets the Boston defense scurrying around and caught out of position (as was the case versus San Jose), head coach Claude Julien will have to re-tool. Outside of Chara, the blueline isn’t very mobile and instead focuses largely on playing solid defense in their own end; Boston’s defensive depth is slightly better than that of San Jose’s. Conversely, the Canucks blueline is complete; mobile and defensively sound, everyone from Alex Edler to Aaron Rome contributes a little something. Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa have emerged as the NHL postseason’s best defensive duo. Edge: Vancouver

Goaltending: It’s a battle of Vezina nominees. Tim Thomas has shown flashes of that elite-level netminding, but not on a consistent enough basis. Roberto Luongo’s postseason play is cut from the same cloth as Thomas’. However, this will be the biggest stage Thomas has played on by far, while Luongo has played in an Olympic gold medal game before. It provides a little edge, but otherwise it’s tough to pick a side. Edge: Even

Special Teams: It’s a good thing Boston is a fantastic team 5-on-5, because they’re certainly not going to wow anyone with their sorry excuse for special teams. Vancouver’s powerplay is clicking at 28.3 percent (3rd among all 16 NHL teams), while Boston’s is at a sorry 8.2 per cent (14th among all 16 teams). Most interestingly, Boston defeated Montreal in the first round without getting a single powerplay goal. That has to be a record. It’s a closer battle on the penalty kill, where Vancouver is ranked 8th at 80.6 percent and Boston at 9th with 79.4 percent. Edge: Vancouver

Intangibles: Vancouver could get an extra injection of motivation if injured centre Manny Malhotra returns; imagine the uproar at Rogers Arena if Malhotra comes to centre for the opening faceoff for game one, giving the Canucks even more inspiration to win it all. Conversely, East Vancouver native Milan Lucic should be extra motivated to win a Stanley Cup in the city where he grew up and played his junior career with. Each team has two players with a Stanley Cup ring (Mikael Samuelsson and Aaron Rome for Vancouver, Mark Recchi and Shawn Thornton for Boston). Having home ice advantage could be huge for the Canucks. Edge: Even

We’re loathe to make series predictions, but we’d still love to hear yours. Chime in with your thoughts on what could be the defining moment for the Vancouver Canucks franchise!

May 282011

I knew playoff tickets were going to be expensive here in Vancouver, but I didn’t think that seats for games in the Stanley Cup Finals would be comparable to the men’s hockey games in the 2010 Olympics.

It came to my attention yesterday that tickets for the SC Finals at Rogers Arena are going for $924. Each. A seat.

That’s half my pay check, and no doubt it’s some people’s ENTIRE pay check!  With the cost of living in Vancouver being as high as it is, many fans can’t afford to go to any of the games, which really sucks because this would be the time to see them play; to possibly watch the Canucks make history.

Of course, Canucks tickets are already the most expensive in the NHL during the regular season, so I expected things to get pricey, but $924? Seriously?

This just goes to show how elitist hockey is becoming in the Canadian market. Montreal, Calgary and Toronto have very high pricing for games too, so this isn’t an isolated issue. It’s a problem, really, because this means that only those with a decent amount of disposable income can afford to go to hockey games.

Canucks fans notice how the lower bowl of Rogers Arena is being packed with “suits”, clients of big corporations who are season ticket holders and hand out tickets as perks. This usually makes for a lacklustre audience down below while the more rambunctious fans pack the rafters in the upper bowl, where the seats are considerably cheaper.

Corporations own a fair share of season tickets at Rogers Arena, and season ticket holders get priority for tickets to post-season games. Is it surprising then if the majority of lower bowl crowds are uninterested businessmen fiddling with their iPhones?  These people aren’t there to watch hockey. They’re there because someone gave them a free ticket to some hockey game that they should probably check out.

There have been complaints since Round 2 of the playoffs that Rogers Arena has been “too quiet” during games. I agree that some games have seemed pretty dead (most remarkably game 1 against Nashville), but apparently those in the arena say it isn’t so bad, and CBC’s audio doesn’t do justice to the noise level of the crowd.

Either way, is it really any surprise that as ticket prices go up, the crowd gets a bit tamer? I mean, think about the kind of people who can afford tickets – they’re not average fans, that’s for sure. More and more clients, celebrities and high-profile businessmen will be filling Rogers Arena because they can afford it, and I can’t see these people wearing face paint, jerseys and waving their playoff towels around.

It’s unfair, because there are a lot of fantastic, die-hard fans out there who deserve to fill Rogers Arena to the rafters and watch their favourite hockey team go for the Holy Grail of hockey. Instead hundreds of thousands of Canucks fans will be watching from home or a pub because admission’s free there, and beers definitely come cheaper there than their $8 counterparts at Rogers Arena.

There should be some kind of priority seating for die-hard fans at Rogers Arena; the rich, uninterested clients and their partners would be turned away at the door. But that’s not realistic. More and more hockey is becoming all about making money, and the only way to do that is to hike ticket prices, which means slowly but surely, fans at Rogers Arena and around Canada are being replaced by the Suits.

Why? Because the Suits can afford it, not because they really want to watch the Canucks play.

And yes, it’s an absolute shame.

I’m going to end this rant with something Jim Robson told me:

“Sports became a real release or outlet for people in tough times … There was something about sports being an escape, but the people who are suffering financially nowadays couldn’t afford to go to a game.”

And ain’t that the truth.

To every Canucks fan who’ll be watching from home or a pub, I’ll be joining you.

To all the Suits planning to go to Rogers Arena who aren’t really huge Canucks fans – I hope you feel guilty that there are a hundred thousand people who should be there instead of you.

And don’t spill your $8 beer on your $2,000 suit.

May 272011

[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.]

I was fortunate to be in Rogers Arena to witness the Canucks’ thrilling 3-2 double overtime victory over the Sharks, clinching the series 4 games to 1.  The euphoria in the arena (and in the streets) was very similar to the feeling after the Canucks beat the Blackhawks in game 7.  The game-winning goal capped off a dominant 41 seconds in the San Jose zone, and I just happened to be filming the play from my seat at the time.  See the live in-person footage in my latest Clay’s Canucks Commentary.

Reflecting back on the historic game and looking ahead to the Stanley Cup Finals, here are a few Things That Make You Go Hmmm…:

1.  Have you ever seen a more bizarre series-clinching goal?  Bieksa’s game-winner has been analyzed and talked about ad nauseam over the last 48 hours, yet I still can’t get enough of it.  I watched it over and over again tonight on my PVR and one thing I noticed is that 4 of the skaters actually tracked the puck to Bieksa’s stick (contrary to exaggerated reports of “no one except Bieksa” knowing where the puck was).  Those who saw the puck were Bieksa and Edler (who initially tried to wrap the puck around the glass) of the Canucks and Marleau and Couture of the Sharks.  In fact, you can see the 2 Sharks forwards yelling at each other to get to Bieksa as he’s about to shoot.  Meanwhile, the Sedins, Burrows, Pavelski, Huskins, White and obviously Niemi were all looking for the puck either behind the net or in the corner.  You also see Henrik adjusting his helmet and Pavelski pointing to the mesh…all while Bieksa is winding up to shoot.  Bizarre indeed.  But I’m certainly not complaining!

2.  Will winning the Stanley Cup finally silence Roberto Luongo’s critics?  As the saying goes, you can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.  This seems to apply particularly well to the Canucks’ net-minder.  Luongo dissidents claimed that winning the goal medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics was hardly enough; he needed to win in the Stanley Cup playoffs.  He almost washed his Vezina-nominated season away with a spotty performance in round 1.  But in that epic game 7 overtime, Luongo slid to his right to stop a point-blank Patrick Sharp shot on the power-play, and he’s looked extremely confident ever since.  Sure, he’s let in a few softies (especially from behind the goal line) and he makes the occasional risky play (San Jose’s 2 on 0 goal), but he seems to have a different aura about him this year.  Having said that, there’s still a nervous buzz every time he handles the puck or in the first few minutes after he lets in a questionable goal.  Raising Lord Stanley’s Cup over his head will hopefully silence his detractors once and for all.

3.  Is there anyone in the city who hasn’t been in a Canucks music video in the last month?  I’m being a little facetious here of course, but it seems like there’s a new Canucks fan video popping up every day.  Some are really good, some are a tad embarrassing, and there are a whole bunch in between.  Good, bad, or ugly I think it’s great that there are so many Canucks fan who want to express their passion for the team through creative means.  It’s either a sign that Vancouverites are very talented or that they have too much time on their hands – likely a combo of both.  I’ve made cameo appearances in RKB Productions’ “Blue and Green” and David Blair’s “We are Canucks”; both of these songs and videos are really good (I may be a tad biased though).  I’m contemplating pulling some of my fellow CHB contributors together for a music video…at the risk of setting new records for website traffic here or single-handedly bringing the website down.  :p

With the Stanley Cup Finals schedule being released yesterday, the Canucks have almost a full week to heal their injuries and prepare for their last opponent.  Will it be the Boston Bruins or Tampa Bay Lightning?  That’s certainly something that makes me go hmmm.

May 272011
2011 Canucks Playoff Beard 3 - Day 41 - Game Face

As many of you know, not only am I a pretty die-hard Canucks fan, I’m one of many who have grown a playoff beard to support the team.

And as both J.J. and I have mentioned previously, I’m also participating in the NHLPA Beard-a-thon, to raise money in support of the Heart & Stroke Foundation in order to put as many defibrillators as possible in arenas across Canada.

I appreciate your support with a pledge, and also, I wanted to draw your attention that I’ll be the featured “playoff beard” of the day today, Friday (May 27th), and was hoping you could spread the word that you “know the guy” on the front page of the Beard-a-thon website. My hope is that with the increased exposure, a relatively decent beard (and one that hasn’t grown this much – ever), and your support that we can work together to raise as much money possible to get those AEDs in rinks across the country.

Thank you for your time and support!

Go Canucks Go!

May 262011

According to NBC, the Stanley Cup Finals will start on Wednesday, June 1st.

Game 1 (at Rogers Arena): Wednesday, June 1st at 5 PM (CBC, NBC)
Game 2 (at Rogers Arena): Saturday, June 4th at 5 PM (CBC, NBC)
Game 3 (Away): Monday, June 6th at 5 PM (CBC, Versus)
Game 4 (Away): Wednesday, June 8th at 5 PM (CBC, Versus)
Game 5* (at Rogers Arena): Friday, June 10th at 5 PM (CBC, NBC)
Game 6* (Away): Monday, June 13th at 5 PM (CBC, NBC)
Game 7* (at Rogers Arena): Wednesday, June 15th at 5 PM (CBC, NBC)

* – if required

All games also on Team 1040 (radio).

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