Jun 012013
 

Credit: NHL.com

The NHL’s Final Four starts today with the star-laden Penguins taking on the big, bad Bruins in the East.  In the West, it’s the talented Blackhawks against the defending champ Kings.

It’s very possible that many hockey fans – Vancouver Canucks hockey fans that is – are still undecided as to who to cheer for.  Thus, we here at CHB wanted to provide you with some suggestions.

Chicago Blackhawks

Recent History

The Chicago Blackhawks ousted the Vancouver Canucks in the second-round of the playoffs in both 2009 and 2010 before the Canucks got some revenge in the spring of 2011 in a thrilling seven-game first-round series.  Then in March 2012, just a few weeks before the start of the playoffs, Duncan Keith took out Daniel Sedin with a vicious elbow in the neutral zone, effectively leading to the Canucks’ disappointing first-round exit.

What’s to Like

Jonathan Toews, despite the occasional tantrum, is still a great leader and one of the hardest-working players in the league.  Patrick Kane has cleaned off his off-ice shenanigans and is very exciting to watch.  Patrick Sharp is one of the best snipers in the NHL.  Overall, the team plays an exciting brand of hockey led by their creative forwards.  And Brent Seabrook was born in Richmond if that makes a difference to you.

What’s not to Like

Duncan Keith.  Whether it’s concussing a Sedin or getting into it with a female reporter, the guy simply isn’t that likable.   As well, many Canucks fans still can’t get over those back-to-back playoff losses a few years ago.

Likability Score:  2.5/5

 

Los Angeles Kings

Recent History

The Canucks disposed of the Kings in six games in the 2010 playoffs.  Then, we all know what happened last year.  The Kings dominated the Canucks in the 2012 playoffs, much like they dominated every team they faced on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.  The Kings proved to be a very deep and rugged team, and goaltender Jonathan Quick was extremely strong.

What’s to Like

Jonathan Quick for one.  He is extremely athletic and absolutely never gives up on the play.  It’s very possible he could win back to back Conn Smythe awards.  Jeff Carter and Mike Richards are fun to watch (mostly) and are clean players (although David Booth might disagree).  Drew Doughty is an exciting player when he’s on his game.   Darryl Sutter is growing on me albeit very slowly.  And Willie Mitchell is still there.

What’s not to Like

Captain Dustin Brown has developed a reputation of being a diver, so much so that there are numerous YouTube “tribute” videos dedicated to his mastery of the craft.  It’s too bad, because at his best he’s a talented, scrappy player.

Likability Score: 3/5

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

Recent History

There’s hardly any to write of.  The Canucks didn’t play the Penguins in this lockout-shortened season, and prior to that they’ve only played once in a year. The games have ranged from the relatively-forgettable to the extremely-memorable (anyone remember Luongo’s overtime penalty shot save on Crosby at GM Place in December 2007)?  I must admit that I’ve been a Crosby fan ever since he scored the golden goal here in February 2010.

What’s to Like

If you’re a fan of offensive hockey, then Pittsburgh is your team.  Their forward depth is unbelievable with Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Iginla, Dupuis, Kunitz, Morrow, Jokinen, etc and they often need to outscore their goaltending.  Kris Letang is a stud back on the blue line, and you have ex-Canucks Tanner Glass and Matt Cooke (more on him below).

What’s not to Like

Much like some fans vehemently oppose Lebron James and his cast of superfriends on the Miami Heat in the NBA, there could be some who want to see the Penguins fail after loading up at the trade deadline.  As well, Matt Cooke is extremely polarizing, despite being an ex-Canuck.

Likeability Score:  4/5

 

Boston Bruins

Recent History

As if you need me to actually type anything here…haha.  The Bruins beat the Canucks in the Stanley Cup final in 2011 in a spirited and emotional series.  Their January 2012 regular season meeting in Boston (an intense game that Vancouver won 4-3) is regularly cited as the start of the Canucks’ downfall last year.

What’s to Like

My parents taught me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say to not say anything at all.

What’s Not to Like

Marchand.  Lucic.  Paille. Horton. Thornton. Chara. Julien.  And Tim Thomas….oh wait….

Likability Score:  0/5

May 312013
 

Of the four remaining teams in the NHL playoffs, three of them – the Chicago Blackhawks, the Boston Bruins and the Los Angeles Kings – are teams that beat the Canucks in the last 3 seasons en route to winning the Stanley Cup.

Go Penguins.

Here are our round three picks:

Western Conference

(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (5) Los Angeles Kings

Clay: Blackhawks in 7. This series will be an interesting clash of styles. Chicago is playing with some great confidence right now, having won three straight against Detroit. If the Hawks’ skill players can outplay the Kings’ skill players, then Chicago will win. While not as big and tough as the Kings, I think they can play tough enough to keep up. And Crawford shouldn’t worry about having to match Quick save for save; but he will have to avoid letting in a bad goal.

Victoria: Kings in 6. The Kings thrive at being the underdog without home ice. Also with two teams this closely matched in youth and Stanley Cup experience, goalies will matter most. Corey Crawford will crumble before Jonathan Quick does.

@cherry_grant: ‘Hawks in 7. Eff those guys, but ‘Hawks in 7. Gahhh, I’m getting tired of having to say nice things about Chicago, or at least saying not horrible things about those jerks! Go Blackhawks. *shiver*

J.J.: Blackhawks in 6. The ‘Hawks are a good team. Now only if the officials will let them showcase that skill.

Matt: Kings in 6. It pains me to write this, because it’s like trying to pick between which of the problem children you’d like to babysit at your house for another month. The fact is, Los Angeles is the more consistent team right now, whereas Chicago seemingly can’t be bothered to play their best hockey until they absolutely have to. This series will be a treat I’m sure, but I like the Kings’ chances of stealing a game on the road and holding serve at home more than the Blackhawks.

Eastern Conference

(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (4) Boston Bruins

Clay: Penguins in 6. The Penguins have been relatively untested so far in the playoffs so I’m intrigued as to how they will fare against the big, bad Bruins. I think that Pittsburgh will continue to outscore any goaltending issues they may have although Vokoun has been pretty solid (but not spectacular). In the end, I don’t see a team with Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Iginla, and Letang being denied.

Victoria: Penguins in 5. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching superhero movies, it’s good always triumphs over evil. And the Bruins are evil. The end.

@cherry_grant: Penguins in 7. AS IF I’m going to pick Boston this time. I hope Pittsburgh and the mighty Iginla hand their asses to them, then hoist the cup, preferably with misty eyes and exploding with well-justified pride. that said, I don’t think it’ll be easy.

J.J.: Penguins in 5. I mean, how much longer can the green Boston defense play as well as they have?

Matt: Penguins in 7. This matchup may even be sexier than the other series. But I like a stacked Pittsburgh forwards group against a Boston defense which has been beset by injury. That isn’t to say the Bruins kids (Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and the like) have not filled in admirably, but they’re not matching up against Ryan Callahan or Nazem Kadri anymore; these are tried and true bonafide superstars they will need to hold off. The one X-Factor could be the physicality of this series; if the Bruins can pulverize the Penguins, it may swing the series in Boston’s favour.

May 142013
 

With the first round of the 2013 NHL playoffs behind us, it’s time to talk about more important things, like who’s leading the CHB playoffs prediction pool – that would be the Victoria, who correctly predicted 5 of the series winners.

Here are our round two picks:

Western Conference

(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (7) Detroit Red Wings

Clay: Chicago in 6. The Blackhawks have too much firepower and their forwards will overwhelm the Red Wings’ defence. Chicago may come out a bit rusty (given the 6 days between games) but they will shake it off quickly.

Victoria: Chicago in 7. It’ll go to 7 games because Jimmy Howard is the better goalie, but he’s not good enough to steal a series from a bunch of younger, hungrier Hawks.

@cherry_grant: I want to say Wings in 7, but I will instead say ‘Hawks in 6. Part of me hopes the Kings and the Wings win their series and eventually have to face off just for rhyme’s sake.

J.J.: Chicago in 5. I should know better than to underestimate the Wings, especially Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in the playoffs, but the Blackhawks just have way too much depth and firepower.

Matt: Chicago in 6. Three of Detroit’s wins over Anaheim came via OT. What does that tell you? It could be that this is a team that never gives up, but it can also tell you the Wings are a team that just barely made it to the second round. They’ll put up a good fight but this is the end of the road for Detroit.

(4) Los Angeles Kings vs. (6) San Jose Sharks

Clay: Kings in 6. While the Sharks dispatched the Canucks quickly, the Kings had a tougher first-round series yet also won four straight games. The Kings will be able to match the Sharks’ depth at forward and they have a stronger blue line. Look for the Kings to exert their will over the Sharks in this battle of California.

Victoria: Kings in 6. I’ve been attending a lot of Kings games and really can’t say enough how focused and calm they’ve been playing. Canucks laid down and gave up. Kings will not.

@cherry_grant: Kings. With genuinely no bitterness from being swept in the first round by the stinkin’ Sharks (okay, maybe a tiny bit of bitterness). I would rather see the Sharks win over the Kings (I think), but I just don’t see it, even though my last batch of picks proved my lack of psychic ability. (I won’t be sad to be wrong here.)

J.J.: Kings in 7. Kings started playing better as the playoffs rolled on. Who’ll dive more – Joe Thornton, Tommy Wingels or Dustin Brown?

Matt: San Jose in 7. My gut tells me that this is essentially a coin flip. Jonathan Quick has reemerged as the best goaltender in the playoffs after a woeful first two games, but this is a San Jose team that dispatched a bad Vancouver club with depth and terrific defense. Sound familiar?

Eastern Conference

(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (7) Ottawa Senators

Clay: I mentioned in the last round that Marc-Andre Fleury didn’t have to be awesome; he just had to be good. Well, it seems like he might not even be good enough to start this series. Regardless, the Penguins have too much firepower for the Senators and they will dispatch of the lone Canadian team left.

Victoria: Pittsburgh in 4. Pittsburgh in 4. The Senators just don’t have the talent depth of the Penguins. And also Gary Bettman will want to get rid of that last Canadian team quickly. ;)

@cherry_grant: Pittsburgh in 5. I feel like a traitor going against the Canadian team, but not QUITE enough to not go against the Canadian team. Pens > Sens.

J.J.: Pittsburgh in 6. I would love it if Ottawa made it through, and if Fleury was still in net for the Pens, I totally would have picked the Sens. As it stands, the Pens have gotten enough good goaltending from their backup, Tomas Vokoun, to allow the Pens’ offense to do their thing.

Matt: Pittsburgh in 7. I want badly to say the Senators can win this series, but unless the duo of Tomas Vokoun and Marc Andre Fleury have a meltdown between the pipes, I can’t see even this gutsy Sens team overcoming the Penguins’ power up front. It’ll be a war though.

(4) Boston Bruins vs. (6) New York Rangers

Clay: Rangers in 7. The Rangers are playing good hockey right now while the Bruins had to squeak into the second round. The Bruins’ blueline is beat up, and I expect this to be a low-scoring series, with Henrik Lundqvist out-dueling Tukka Rask in the end.

Victoria: Rangers in 6. My call here is based on the fact that Lundqvist is better than Rask, and the fact that I hate the Boston Bruins more than anything else in the universe.

@cherry_grant: Bruins in 6. I hope they pound each other terribly and the winner of this series gets swept in the next round. Just kidding. Ok, no I’m not. I’m still picking the Bruins.

J.J.: Rangers in 6. Hmmm… to pick the team that beat the Canucks in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals or the team that beat the Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals? In the first round, the Rangers showed they have some damn good balance throughout their lineup; meanwhile, the Bruins got a bit beat up, especially back on d.

Matt: Rangers in 7. Boston should’ve handled the Leafs in five or six games but took all seven plus a miraculous comeback to put them to rest. New York is riding strong defense and hot goaltending and if that trend continues, the Rangers have reason to be optimistic.

May 082013
 

In this last TGATT of the season, we recap the Canucks’ final game of the season – a 4-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks.

Are you disappointed? Mad? Sad? Glad?

Some people drink to drown their sorrows, some eat salad. D’fferent strokes, I suppose.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

May 052013
 

The Canucks played better in game 2 than they did in game 1, though – and let’s be honest here – that’s not really saying much.

Roberto Luongo played great. And so did Ryan Kesler, who unleashed his beast mode in the third period and damn well near stole the Canucks a win.

Yup, that sounds about right.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

May 032013
 

As fans, we’re almost always optimistic about how good our team is. When they have bad games, we just know they’ll bounce back with good games. After good games, we don’t expect any team to beat them.

This unfailing loyalty was in full display going into game 1 of the Canucks’ first round match-up against the San Jose Sharks. Despite an uneven season – they played some good games in spurts and bad in others – the prevailing thought among the Canucks faithful was that the team would switch the proverbial switch in a favorable match-up against the Sharks.

Somehow, we convinced ourselves that the Canucks’ 0-2-1 record against the Sharks this season doesn’t mean a lick.

And expected the 20th ranked offense in the NHL in the regular season to light the lamp against a top-10 goaltender in Antti Niemi.

And believed that all they needed was the return of Ryan Kesler to the lineup to provide an emotional lift.

Well, as we know, the Canucks failed to score a goal on Wednesday (remember it was the Sharks’ Raffi Torres who put the puck in his own net to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead), and couldn’t muster any semblance of offensive pressure with the score tied in the third period.

For the last week or so, I’ve been referencing the Canucks’ 3-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks from April 22nd. I said all along that this team could be a true contender if they played like they did against Chicago that night. As if, in this shortened season, that was the norm.

But looking back at it, how many of the Canucks’ games this season resembled that Chicago game?

And how many resembled game 1 against the Sharks?

The honest truth is, game 1 was probably like most Canucks games this season – a disjointed offense, very little pressure and a lack of finish.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m still a fan and am still eternally optimistic that the Canucks will bounce back tonight. But what if what we see is what we get? After all, we’ve seen them play like this all season long.

Maybe we’re wrong and there is no switch to flip. Or maybe there is one, and the Canucks are still fumbling around looking for it.

Quickies

May 032013
 

Who wants to win some Canucks tickets? Well, lets play a game, shall we?

Vancouver Canucks "This is What We Live For"

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com


Rules are simple, you solve the puzzle, you have a shot at the Canucks tickets. Feel like testing some of your Canucks knowledge? It isn’t going to be easy! Have at’er and let me know what you come up with!

Ready?

Step 1: Lets crunch some numbers.

Quick example of how this is going to work – If I gave you the clue: “You take Mario Bliznak, and take away Dan Hamhuis. Next, throw in Rob Davison.” Then your answer would be 604. Mario Bliznak (62) take away Hamhuis (2) is equal to 60. The answers to each of the clues in the following bullets is a number. Do you follow?

First, lets play with some jersey numbers, shall we?:

  • Divide Alex Burrows in two.
  • What number did Gary Lupul, Dan Quinn and Barry Pederson have in common?
  • Imagine Trevor Linden being half the man he is.
  • Throw in that cheeky best-shootout-goal-ever goal scorer, Marek Malik.
  • Divide Cam Neely into three.
  • Then add together Charlie Hodge, Keith Carney and Pat Quinn.
  • John Arbour and John Schella shared more than a first name.
  • Anyone remember Fred Speck?
  • Oh, and lastly, a current player in the San Jose Sharks organization has a dad that played for the Canucks – what was daddy’s number? (The one he shared with another ex-Canuck, fondly called by some as the “Finnish MacInnis”.)

Step 2: How’s your math?

Write down the numbers in the order you got them. If you’ve figured it out, you might be looking at a phone number. Before you do anything with it, add these ten numbers up.

The number you get should be one of the jersey numbers a former San Jose Shark and former Sedin linemate wore just before he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks.

Who was this player?

Step 3: Text us your answer.

Remember that code you cracked, Mr/Mrs. Da Vinci Code?

Text your answer (from step 2) to that phone number (from step 1) by 3:00 PM today – make sure you include your name or Twitter handle so we know who you are – and you could two lower bowl tickets to tonight’s Game 2 playoff matchup between the Canucks and the San Jose Sharks.

It’s that simple.

And… go!

May 022013
 

Ahhh… the playoffs. White towels galore, Roberto Luongo in net, and U2′s “Where the Streets Have No Name” blaring as the Canucks skate on the ice.

Lu was great too. It’s just too bad the rest of the team weren’t.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

May 012013
 

In the 7th episode of CHB TV, Clay, Chris, Ed, our special guest, Shanel Pratap from Global TV, and myself break down the Canucks/Sharks playoff series.

(Note: This episode was taped on Sunday, April 29th, prior to Roberto Luongo being named tonight’s starter. So yeah…)

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