Aug 082011
 

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:

To recap:

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.

Apr 172011
 

In case you were on hibernation the last few hours, here is a video of Raffi Torres’ hit on Brent Seabrook.

As well, I saw the following screen cap on HF Boards:

Raffi Torres hit on Brent Seabrook

As you can probably imagine, there’s no shortage of opinion on this hit. Most fans and media in this city and around the league pretty much threw the book at Torres as soon as it happened. There are a few – myself included – who doesn’t think the hit was as bad or as dirty as everyone else has made it out to be.

While anyone who’s read me on this blog or on Twitter for a while now will know I’m a big fan of the NHL’s level of officiating, I’ll admit I don’t envy them on making this call.

Personally, I see this as a hockey hit. Look at the point of contact – the puck was in play right, Torres had his elbow in (it’s right by his waist), and didn’t come in from the blindside. In other words, it was everything Brian Campbell’s head shot on Ryan Kesler shortly afterwards wasn’t. Or Justin Abdelkader’s on Seabrook for that matter. (For what it’s worth, Torres’ penalty was officially for interference.)

Again, just my own opinion.

In a series of tweets after the game, Bob McKenzie referenced the 2010-2011 NHL Rules Enforcements video. Specifically, he referenced a Chris Pronger hit on Jody Shelley (2:57 mark of the video) – watch it.

Notice the similarities?

Notice that it fell under the “legal hits”?

I realize there are hypersensitivities regarding the subject of head shots and concussions and injuries, etc. And like everyone else, I hope the league does away with cheap, dirty hits. I just don’t think this is one of them.

[Update]

According to TSN, the league has announced that Raffi Torres will not receive any supplemental discipline.

Apr 052011
 

I’m not going to sit here and defend Raffi Torres’ hit on Jordan Eberle. Although Eberle reached and had his head down, Raffi shouldn’t have hit the Oilers’ prized rookie while he was in a vulnerable position; in today’s NHL, that’s a 5-minute major, a game misconduct, and perhaps, some supplemental discipline as well. If you missed the hit, here it is:

Reaction to the hit was interesting. Almost instantaneously, Twitter was abuzz with Oilers fans making it sound as if Raffi was the dirtiest player this side of Matt Cooke and his hit was the dirtiest hit in the history of hockey. What they seemed to forget was that back during Edmonton’s Cup run in 2006, Raffi, while donning an Oilers jersey, threw a similar hit on the San Jose Sharks’ Milan Michalek.

If you ask me, both hits are similar. The only difference is, back then Oilers fans saw nothing wrong with it.

What do they say about those who live in glass houses?

At the end of the day, I think Colin Campbell will spin his wheel of justice and give Raffi a timeout. And when he does, I don’t think even the most hardcore Canucks fan will argue it’s not deserved.

For what it’s worth, my guess is that Raffi will be suspended for the final two regular season games. I’m sure there will be some who think it’s not enough; but probably, these will be the same people who thought that same hit was a good hit when Raffi played for their team.

Apr 032011
 

[Every Sunday, Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@cayking).]

Canucks Record

79 GP, 52-18-9, 113 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference, 1st in NHL)

Who’s Hot

Remember earlier this season when people were saying that Alex Burrows was having an off season? Well, he now has 25 goals, 47 points and a plus-25 rating in 69 games. Burr scored the only goal against Edmonton and has 4 goals in his last 5 games.

Who’s Not

Raffi Torres has 1 assist in his last 8 games. But although he has not been putting up huge numbers, he’s at least contributed in other ways. Raffi can turn a mediocre shift around with a big hit or an aggressive forecheck. It looks like this will be Raffi’s first full season in 3 years. He may even be a plus-player for the first time in 4 years. Especially in Manny’s absence, the Canucks will be counting on Raffi’s leadership and physical play to be a big part of their playoff run.

Who’s Next

Tuesday, April 5, 2011 vs. Edmonton Oilers (6:00 PM start, away)

Having the worst record in the NHL didn’t stop the Edmonton Oilers from ending the Canucks’ 5-game winning streak on Saturday night, the first of a home-and-away, back-to-back between the two clubs. Before that, the Oilers had lost their last 11 games.

This is the last game of the season between the two teams. The Canucks lead the season series 4-1.

Jordan Eberle had a goal and an assist in the meeting on Saturday. In his rookie year, Eberle has 18 goals and 41 points – only 1 point behind team leaders, Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky who all have 42 points.

Thursday, April 7, 2011 vs. Minnesota Wild (7:00 PM start, home)

The Wild’s season is pretty much over. They’re out of the playoff race, sitting in 11th place in the Western Conference, 10 points back of a playoff spot and only 4 games to go. Like the Oilers, the Wild players might not be playing for playoff position but they are playing for jobs next year. No doubt, they’ll play hard, play loose and would love to beat the number 1 team in the NHL.

This is the last game of the season series that Vancouver leads 3-2; the Canucks won the last meeting 4-2 in Minnesota where Ryan Kesler recorded his second game-winning goal against the Wild.

Andrew Brunette has 3 goals and 1 assist in 5 games played against the Canucks. He has 43 points (17G-26A) this season, which is good for fourth place in team scoring.

Saturday, April 9, 2011 vs. Calgary Flames (7:00 PM start, away)

As of right now, the Flames hopes of making it to the postseason are still alive. It’s a long shot and they’ll need a lot of help from the teams around them in the standings, but with 3 games left and being 3 points out of the 8th and last playoff spot in the Western Conference, it’ll be a small miracle if they manage to make it through. Calgary hasn’t really been helping their own cause with only 3 wins in their last 10 games.

The Canucks lead the season series, having won 4 of their previous 5 meetings. Special teams have been key; the Canucks have scored 7 powerplay goals against the Flames this season and have also killed off 16 of 17 penalties.

Surprisingly, 1000-point man Jarome Iginla has not scored a goal against the Canucks but he does have 4 assists. Even though the Flames haven’t had the best season, Iggy is still having an outstanding campaign with 39 goals and 80 points.

Is this the year?

The Canucks officially wrapped up the President’s Trophy this week, ensuring home ice advantage throughout the entire playoffs. What is more impressive is that when the Canucks got a little “p” beside their name in the standings, no other team in the West had clinched a playoff spot yet.

Not only are the Canucks the number 1 team in the league, but many of their personnel have a legitimate opportunity to win major hardware. Daniel Sedin looks likely to win the Art Ross and has a good chance to win the Hart as well. In my opinion, Ryan Kesler is the front-runner for the Selke. And coach Alain Vigneault should get some consideration for the Jack Adams.

While winning the first President’s Trophy in franchise history is huge accomplishment, we all know that unless Lord Stanley makes an appearance come June the season will be looked at as a failure. Canucks Nation truly believes that this is the best, most complete team we’ve ever seen. Now enough with the talk, let the playoffs begin!

Feb 102011
 

I’ve taken to calling the line of Manny Malhotra, Raffi Torres and Jannik Hansen the “Roberto Duran Line”.

For those too young to remember, Roberto Duran is widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all-time and an inductee in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He was the Manny Pacquiao of an earlier generation of boxing fans. His nickname was “Hands of Stone” and he has a biography with the same name.

Which brings us back to Manny, Raffi and the Great Dane.

After last night’s game, Malhotra is now pointless in 2011, a stretch of 19 games. Torres is goalless in the same stretch, though he does have 4 assists. Hansen has been the most productive of the three with 5 points (2G – 3A) in 19 games.

For what it’s worth, they were probably more noticeable last night than they have been for most of the last 6 weeks. They managed to create their fair share of scoring chances, including a couple of odd-man rushes, but unfortunately were unable to finish them.

Again, hands of stone.

To be fair, we know this trio has been good on the defensive end of the ice this season so it’s not like they’ve been completely useless. Malhotra’s faceoff ability and work on the PK has been well-documented. Hansen, too, has progressed enough as a player that the coach doesn’t hesitate to put him out in any situation. But while the Canucks don’t expect much offense from them, I think they would welcome at least a little contribution here and there.

Jan 302011
 

[Every Sunday, Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@cayking).]

Canucks Record

50 GP, 31-10-9, 71 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st  in Western Conference)

Who’s Hot

Alex Burrows is beginning to show signs of life. After a slow start – understandable considering he missed the first 10 games with a shoulder injury – he has 2 goals, 2 assists and a plus-4 rating in his last 3 games. As much as people like to say the Sedins make him better, Burr adds a lot to the first line. He gets into the dirty areas, fights for the puck along the boards and takes a beating in the front of the net in order to free up space and time for Hank and Dank.

Who’s Not

Raffi Torres has been quiet as of late, recording only 1 assist in his last 8 games and going minus-3 in that same stretch. Baby Beluga hasn’t scored since the Canucks’ December 31st game against the Dallas Stars – a 14-game goalless drought. Raffi recently spent some time on the fourth line; hopefully this kickstarts him and he finds his game soon.

Who’s Next

Tuesday, February 1, 2011 vs. Dallas Stars (5:30 PM start, away)

On Tuesday, the Canucks visit Dallas, a team they met just over a week ago. The Stars are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, but one of those losses was a 7-1 beating from the Canucks. The Canucks have won both meetings this season, outscoring the Stars 11-2.

Loui Eriksson, who is second on the Stars in team scoring and participated in this weekend’s All-Star Game festivities, has 21 points in his last 19 games and 17 goals and 49 points this season.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011 vs. Phoenix Coyotes (6:30 PM start, away)

The Canucks roll into Glendale and take on the Phoenix Coyotes. If you don’t have tickets to the game yet, there’s plenty of goal-line seats left at $36 a pop. While at the game, get a beer, soda or hot dog for a $1.

The Coyotes are 6-4-0 in their last 10 games and are right in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. They have an 8-2-1 record against the Northwest Division teams this season, including a 3-2 win over the Canucks in their only meeting to date. Former Canuck Taylor Pyatt’s 2 goals paced the Coyotes in that win.

The Coyotes are led by one of the best offensive defensemen in the league, Keith Yandle. Yandle tallied 17 points in the month of January; he leads the team with 44 points (8-36) and is a plus-4 for the season.

Friday, February 4, 2011 vs Chicago Blackhawks (7:00 PM start, home)

The Canucks have a Friday night date with their playoff rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks, this week. Despite an average season, they are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games and still hold 7th place in the Western Conference.

Chicago has won 2 of 3 meetings against the Canucks this season, though the Canucks shut out the Hawks 3-0 in their most recent matchup in early December. In that game, Tanner Glass scored the game-winner midway through the second period.

The All-Star trio of Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane lead the Hawks in scoring with 46 points, 40 points and 37 points, respectively; however they are a combined minus 11.

Most Deserving of a Shoutout: Lee Sweatt

When Lee Sweatt led the team out onto the ice, against Nashville, many were wondering whether it was a Canucks player or the young child that gets to skate out with the team. Then in one of the feel-good stories of this season, Sweatt, in his first NHL game, scored the game-winning goal on his first and only shot. If you are keeping score at home, his shooting accuracy is 100% for his NHL career. Although Lee only had 8:49 of ice time, he will get a bigger role in the upcoming games as Alex Edler is out for what is believed to be 8-10 weeks. To say losing Edler is HUGE, would be an understatement. But this is the time that our depth will be tested and young guys like Sweatt and Tanev will be given the opportunity to make a statement. Here’s to hoping that Edler recovers fast and is back in time for the playoffs!

Jan 252011
 

It’s amazing what difference one game makes.

At this time yesterday, all the talk was about the Canucks’ 4 losses in a row, their 6 losses in 8 games, and the double-digit scoring slumps some of their forwards were in.

Despite the rain, this morning already seems brighter. With their 7-1 win, the Canucks became the first team in the Western Conference to hit the 30-win mark this season. They also increased their Western Conference lead on the Detroit Red Wings to 5 points, and are once again tied with the Philadelphia Flyers with the most points in the NHL (the Flyer have a game-in-hand).

More importantly, the Canucks finally got scoring from players other than Sedin, Sedin, Kesler and Edler. Alex Burrows scored his first goal in 7 games, Mason Raymond his first in 12 games and Samuelsson his first in 15 games. While they didn’t score, Raffi Torres and Jeff Tambellini both recorded assists, their first points in 7 and 14 games, respectively. In all, 14 Canucks hit the scoresheet; only Bieksa, Malhotra, Hansen and Glass didn’t.

Consider their slump busted.

Jan 242011
 

[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 (@canucksgirl44)]

Mason Raymond

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

The Canucks are finishing the month of January at a less-than-inspiring L10 record of 4-2-4, a bit of a slump compared to how they began the New Year (7-0-3). Shootout woes, the injury bug and scoring slumps have been plaguing the team for most of the past month. After a month of near perfection and little to complain about, suddenly many fans finally have something (or a lot) to talk about.

Stephanie (@stephnav) asks: What do you think the Canucks need to do to break out of their mini slump?

A lot of Redbull or a swift kick in the ass. You decide.

The Canucks aren’t exactly tanking, as they are managing to at least get a point when they lose in the shootout, but is this type of performance good enough for a Cup contender? Frankly, no. Although Henrik Sedin pointed out that if the team had won in their last two shootouts, that their performance wouldn’t be a big issue, I disagree. They’ve already lost the top spot in the league to the Flyers, and Detroit is hot on their heels to overtake them in the Western Conference if this play continues; the Canucks are lucky that the Red Wings are battling injury problems of their own.

Many Vancouver forwards scorers aren’t scoring (to be discussed below) and this is what’s affecting the team the most. Luongo has been playing very well, and despite injuries, the Canucks’ blue line is doing the best that it can and is often producing more goals than the team’s forwards, like Alex Edler against the Flames.

Kayli (@CanuckKayli13) asks: What do you think is the key to breaking those scoring slumps of the few forwards?

There are quite a few scoring slumps on the roster to mention here. Daniel Sedin hasn’t scored in four games but this is nothing compared to five other Canucks forwards who are scoreless in over 10 games. As I mentioned in my post last week, the third line hasn’t scored in almost a month, and to quote The Province’s Ed Willies: “Jeff Tambellini is 0-for-his-last-13 games. Mason Raymond is 0-for-11. Manny Malhotra is not only is goal-less in his last 12, he’s also pointless. The list is actually longer but there are space limitations here.”

So what to do? Is there even anything that can be done aside from demoting or benching some of these forwards (like Samuelsson or Malhotra) until they smarten up? Even I’m at a loss for words about what to do with this problem. And that, my friends, says a lot.

Jan 212011
 

Kristin Reid just tweeted that some of the snakebitten Canucks – Mason Raymond, Jeff Tambellini, Alex Burrows and Tanner Glass – are working with Skills Coach Glenn Carnegie.

That’s probably good news for you poolies out there.

It’s been a tough stretch of games for what is one of the NHL’s highest-scoring teams. Since a 6-1 pounding of the Edmonton Oilers on January 7th, the Canucks have lost 5 of 7 games, including their last 3 games, and have been shut out twice. The good news is, they’ve managed to earn points loser points along the way and have somehow managed to hang on to 1st place in the Western Conference, but there’s no doubting the scoring slump some – actually most – of the guys are in.

Given the Canucks’ torrid pace through most of December and January, I suppose it was inevitable that the offense would start to dry up. I can’t pinpoint exactly when this started but it’s worth noting that the Canucks scored 44 goals in 11 games between December 8th and December 31st and only 27 goals in 11 games since January 1st.

And of their 27 goals since the calendar turned to 2011, the Sedin line, Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler and Christian Ehrhoff combined to score 23 of them.

As recently as yesterday, coach Alain Vigneault has stood up for the rest of the roster.

The Vancouver Canucks may have a quintet of forwards in deep scoring slumps, but head coach Alain Vigneault isn’t upset because the team is still winning.

“That should be everybody’s focus,” Vigneault said heading into Thursday’s home game against the San Jose Sharks. “Our guys might be having a tough time finishing, but as far as on the ice, they’re doing the right things.”

To be fair, Raymond, Tambellini and Jannik Hansen still create their fair share of offensive chances. Even Mikael Samuelsson has, albeit only in (very) small spurts. Guys like Manny Malhotra, Raffi Torres and Tanner Glass aren’t counted on for much offense, though it would be nice if they chipped in with the odd goal.

So what now that they’re not winning?

You have to think that they’re bound to bump the slump. At some point, the puck will start going back in the net again. Maybe some time with Carnegie will help. At least hopefully it does.

Jan 192011
 

[I Watched This Game is a recurring feature at Pass it to Bulis, the hockey blog that knows who needs the puck. It chronicles the insights and observations of two guys who watched a hockey game. To view all the other wonderful stuff PITB does, visit Pass It To Bulis.]

Give the Canucks credit for showing up to play this one. After a horrendous outing in Minnesota exposed their tired road legs, the excuses for a second consecutive poor performance were readymade. Instead, the Canucks vehemently defied the wishes of their bodies in Colorado, and kept up with the speedy Avalanche. They outshot the Avs 43 to 30 and picked up a well-earned point. It could have been two points, even, had the Canucks managed to push through their mental sluggishness the way they did their physical sluggishness.

Unfortunately for them, it was not so, and the mental mistakes came fast and furious. Bad penalties; bad passes; bad reads; lazy backchecks. Against a young, aggressive team like the Avalanche, that crap’s not gonna fly. Although, by getting the regulation tie, I guess it sort of did. Hmm. Okay, it did, but then, in the end, it didn’t (not unlike the Avro Arrow). Whatever. I watched this game:

  • Likely, neither team will be particularly happy with the way they played tonight (the Canucks were slow and sloppy, and the Avalanche let a tired road team take the lead three times) but both teams will be happy to leave the stadium with points. It’s like sports day in grade school. Everybody gets a ribbon!
  • The Canucks’ power play covers all manner of sins sometimes. Both Edler and Ehrhoff blasted PP goals from the point that gave their team the lead, and these goals were vital. Had the Canucks had to open up and play from behind for even one second in this game, their suspect defensive play would have been even more prominent, and it could have gotten out of hand.
  • It’s been a long time since the Canucks have had a sexy callup like Sergei Shirokov, so it was nice to see him play a standout game in his first NHL action this year. He scored his first career goal on a beautiful move (above), and he had a game-high six shots. But, before you get excited, consider he’s played two fewer games this month–and nine fewer NHL games. He had fresh legs. He was like Anne Bancroft on skates, his legs were so fresh. Let’s wait to see whether or not he can be a standout when the rest of his team isn’t playing on fumes, but he was a breath of fresh air tonight. Most importantly, he looked capable of creating his own offense, something Kesler’s wings have to be able to do. A good start for Shirok.
  • The other callup, Chris Tanev, acquitted himself admirably as well. He finished the night a minus-1, but it’s hard to fault him on the Luongo misplay that gave David Jones his first of two on the night. Jones was his man, for sure, but everyone in the building thought Luongo would swallow up that puck as it came off the boards. Other than that, Tanev was solid. He got on the ice for just under thirteen minutes, far more than anyone would have expected. He admirably broke up a 3-on-1 when Keith Ballard heeded Qris’s advice to step it up, pranks-wise and decided to pull the old fall-down-so-the-rookie-has-to-fend-off-a-3-on-1 routine. Funny guy, that Ballard.
  • Don’t tell the Vancouver media I said this, but here’s your proof that the star awards mean nothing: Alex Edler was named the game’s third star. Clearly, someone didn’t watch the game (probably John Garrett, who has made a living watching games, but always seems to be attending his first one). While it’s true that Edler had a standout game offensively with a goal and an assist, he played one of his worst games of the season defensively. He constantly lost his man, he bobbled pucks at the blue line, he looked dreadfully slow. Despite finishing the game even in the plus/minus category, Edler was on the ice for two Colorado goals, both on the penalty kill, and both times he got absolutely embarrassed by David Jones in front of the net. Jones isn’t a small guy, but Edler’s bigger, and the fact that Edler allowed himself to get moved right out of the play twice is unacceptable. Watch the highlight package. Colorado goals one and four are mirror images of one another, as Jones simply shades Edler into the useless area, opening up the exact same cross-ice pass. On the first goal, you can find Edler at the side of the net when the pass comes across. On the fourth goal, that’s him in the middle, lazily dropping down to block nothing, opening up the same pass and rendering himself helpless to prevent Jones from finding the rebound. A terrible game from #23 tonight.
  • Kevin Bieksa, on the other hand, played solidly. Nearly every shift, he was breaking up an odd-man rush or clearing the zone before things got dangerous. He finished with 2 hits, 4 takeaways and 3 blocked shots, and considering these three stats are typically undercounted (especially when you play for the road team), that’s one hell of a stat line.
  • Keith Ballard had a decent game as well, but has anyone noticed how often this guy falls? He’s like an ancient empire on skates. Methinks Keith “Babylon” Ballard needs to heed the words of the prophet Jeremiah.
  • Is Adam Foote a diplomat’s son? He’s clearly got some sort of immunity. Foote’s a handsy guy, but it doesn’t seem to matter who he grabs, punches, or holds–there’s never a call. He could grope the First Lady and someone would call it a smart, veteran play.
  • The referees missed some egregious offenses, but Raffi Torres sure made it easy on them, huh? Both of his penalties tonight were of the are-you-kidding-me variety, especially his second one. Who tugs on a jersey? Not since Theodore Tugboat have I seen such pathetic tugging. Skeeter and I observed that Raffi Torres has three modes: 1) skateskateskateskate 2) get puck, and 3) put puck. Unfortunately, none of the three modes is any more detailed than that, and Raffi often skimps on the details. Torres is playing some dumb hockey right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if he suffers a benching in the near future.
  • Speaking of penalties, Henrik Sedin’s penalty in overtime was fully warranted. Granted, his man went down easy, but everyone knows there are a two situations where you should never stick your arm out. The first is when you’re chasing to break up a two-on-one. The second is when you’re on a school bus. That’s how you lose a limb.
  • A better performance by Roberto Luongo and the Canucks probably leave Denver with a win. He’ll get no pass tonight; he was the freshest Canuck and he should have played like it. When your star goaltender is rested and your team isn’t, you need a star goaltending performance, and the Canucks didn’t get it. The second and third goals are both ones he probably should have had. Know what else he should have had? A Bacon Mushroom Melt. It’s only ever at Wendy’s for a limited time, and it’s delicious. But now it’s gone, and who knows how long he’ll have to wait for them to bring it back? /regret
  • And finally, Jeff Tambellini was the fourth-line center tonight, and while he did a fine job (especially in the faceoff circle, where he was 5-for-6) I’m not sure I like he and Mason Raymond on that line together. They’re too tiny, and tiny on the fourth line is a bad idea, unless it’s an ironic nickname for someone huge, like Tiny, the classic character from SNES’s Clayfighter.
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