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
 

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.

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.

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