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I’m sure it wasn’t quite like the Canucks Tweetup at the Shark Club, but it was a good time nonetheless. The pub here at the resort put up last night’s game on both of their big screens and Tracy and I watched the game with fellow Canucks fans from Burnaby, Vancouver, North Vancouver, Nanaimo and Victoria. There was also a couple from St. Louis. We were 5,300 kms from home, but while the game was on, it felt very much like home.

I was talking to a guy from the Island earlier in the week and he was very critical of the Euros – specifically the Sedins and Sundin – we have up front. Last night, he at least laid off the Sedins.

There were many reasons the Canucks won game 1 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal against the St. Louis Blues. Roberto Luongo was spectacular and the defense and the team’s role players were very good. The Sedins’ play? It was eye-opening.

For years the Sedins have dealt with their unfair share of criticism and lack of respect. In case their excellent play over the last couple of months of the regular season didn’t quiet their critics, their performance last night may well have.

Quite simply, the Sedins were great. They were dangerous all night and were responsible for both Canucks goals. More important than the results though was the process. They played through checks and finished hits. They didn’t shy away from the physical play, and in fact, seemed to thrive on it. In front of our very own eyes, Henrik and Daniel grew from sisters to men.

I know it’s a cliche, but like every other team that goes on a successful Stanley Cup run, the Canucks need their best players to be their best players. Last night, they got that. 1 win down, only 15 more to go.

Apr 092009

At tonight’s game against the LA Kings – the Canucks’ last home game in the regular season – the team is handing out their annual end-of-season awards. Here are my personal picks:

Cyclone Taylor Trophy (presented to the Most Valuable Player)

Roberto Luongo

There are a lot of Canucks who have been critical to the team’s success this season. Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler and Willie Mitchell are having career seasons, and the Sedins have seemingly and quietly raised their game in the last couple of months. However, the fact is that the Canucks would not be in the position they are in right now – still challenging for first place in the Northwest Division and home ice advantage in the postseason – if not for Roberto Luongo. With Luongo in the lineup, the Canucks are 31-13-7; without him, they are 12-14-3.

Walter (Babe) Pratt Trophy (presented to the Most Valuable Defenseman)

Willie Mitchell

There’s no doubt that Big-stick Willie has been the Canucks’ most valuable defenseman this year. On a nightly basis, he’s faced the opposing teams’ best players; on a nightly basis, he’s shut them down. His career-high plus-28 rating is 4th best among all defensemen and 9th best in the entire NHL. He’s also set career-highs in assists (19) and points (22).

Most Exciting Player

Alex Burrows

Many of Alex Burrows’ 28 goals were momentum-shifting goals. And they were freakin’ exciting ones too – breakaways, shorthanded breakaways or just the result of some good, old-fashioned mucking and grinding. I’ve always loved his energy and tenacity but he’s taken it to a whole, different level this season.

Fred J. Hume Award (presented to this season’s Unsung Hero)

Ryan Kesler

At the start of the season, I don’t think anyone expected Kesler to be a 25-goal, 60-point guy. Like Burrows, Kesler has taken his game to another level this season and proved he was more than just a checking center. He doesn’t get as much credit for getting Sundin and Demitra going as Burrows has for getting the Sedins going.

Cyrus H. Mclean Trophy (presented to this season’s leading scorer)

Daniel Sedin

Going into tonight’s game, Daniel and Henrik both have 81 points. If they stay tied in points, Daniel wins the tiebreaker with 10 more goals. It’s worth noting though that Henrik has cracked the 20-goal barrier for the 1st time in his career (he has 21). Both lead the team with 7 GWG.

Molson Cup Award (presented to the player with the most Three Stars nominations throughout the season)

I honestly haven’t kept up with these nominations, though I will go out on a limb and say Alex Burrows or one of the Sedins win it.

Apr 062009

There are probably a million excuses for the Canucks’ weekend, which included back-to-back losses against teams that won’t make the playoffs. I mean, last night’s game was their 9th game in 16 days and they’ve had to travel the night prior to each one of them. Also, they’re still obviously feeling the loss of Carly Bragnalo, a family member.

The fact is, after the high of catching up to Calgary last Tuesday, the Canucks have lost 3 straight games (0-2-1), and in each of those losses, they surrendered the first couple of goals and had to play catch-up. Whether it’s physical or mental fatigue, they need to recover quickly – like, by Tuesday – if they want to continue to remain in the hunt for the Northwest Division championship.

To the Canucks’ credit, they’re not making any excuses.

Here’s Roberto Luongo (from Brad Ziemer, Vancouver Sun):

“There’s no excuses tonight,” said Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo. “That was a game we needed to have. We all need to give a little bit more, starting with myself trying to make one or two more saves.”

Here’s Sami Salo (from Ben Kuzma, Vancouver Province):

“We have to figure it out soon, because it’s not going to happen by pressing a secret button going into the playoffs,” said defenceman Sami Salo, who wouldn’t lean on the fatigue crutch of the Canucks playing three games in four nights and 10 in the last 18 days.

“Every team plays the same schedule, so that shouldn’t be an issue for anybody. We lost this game in every aspect — battles, puck management and everything.”

The Canucks are well aware of what’s at stake.

Here’s Daniel Sedin (from Iain MacIntyre, Vancouver Sun):

“If we don’t play better than we did today, we’ll get embarrassed,” winger Daniel Sedin said. “This is a tough game to explain. We talked about coming out in the first period and getting a lot of shots on net. We had five shots in the first period.

“I think everyone realizes we have a good chance to win the division, and to come up with this kind of effort is not good enough. We can’t go into the playoffs playing like this.”

Fortunately, they have an opportunity to quickly right this ship. Tuesday’s game is against the Calgary Flames – a win will keep their hope for a division championship (and home-ice advantage in the playoffs) alive and a loss will all but kill it.

Go ‘Nucks!

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