Apr 042012
 

With 98% of the NHL season behind us, it’s time to fill in an imaginary awards ballot.

But before we get to that, let’s take a moment to consider two more dead teams:

Calgary Flames

What went wrong: No team had an easier stretch drive schedule among teams fighting for the last Western Conference playoff spots than the Flames did. They failed to reach the post season because they couldn’t score. The Flames as a team are currently 25th in shots on goal per game. They’re 3-9 in shootouts, rivalling Montreal (5-11) and Carolina (0-6) for the league’s worst record in the skills competition. Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen and Curtis Glencross will finish the year as the team’s lone 20-goal scorers. None of them are consistent (Iginla’s slow starts have become legendary). Calgary sits last in the league in faceoff performance.

What went right: Mikka Kiprusoff carried the team all season with stellar play between the pipes. When finally healthy for the second-half Mark Giordano played well. He has 16 points after the All-Star break and has helped Calgary reach 11th in the NHL on the powerplay. Mike Cammalleri has struggled to stay healthy with the Flames but when dressed has scored at a 30-goal pace.

Off-Season Gameplan: It’s been said in this space more than once, but this aging Calgary team desperately needs a rebuild. After three years of missing the playoffs there’s clearly not enough talent in the lineup to reach the post-season. There isn’t enough organizational depth right now either to create hope for better days in the future. This may the last chance Calgary gets to shop Jarome Iginla before seeing his value depreciate completely on the marketplace.

Winnipeg Jets

What went wrong: There was lots of talk pre-season about what the travel schedule would do to not only the Jets, but other teams in the Southeast Division. Clearly it was a factor for the Manitoba team, as Winnipeg has put together a terrible road record (13-21-5). The penalty kill is below 80%, which hurts a team that’s short-handed a lot (25th worst). As well as Ondrej Pavelec has been at times this season, he tired down the stretch (3.13 goals against in March) and currently ranks 57th in the league in save percentage (.906). Alex Burmistrov was improved this season, but his offensive progression has been slow (just 28 points in year two). Eric Fehr (3 points, 35 games) was a bust, while Tanner Glass (-12) was asked to do too much.

What went right: Blake Wheeler (61 points) and Evander Kane (29 goals) have taken steps forward as top-six, even top-line players. Dustin Byfuglien has had a strong second-half. Off the scrap-heap, Kyle Wellwood has been an effective offensive player (47 points despite just 14:57 per game in ice-time). The MTS Centre has proven to be one of the few home-ice advantages left in the NHL.

Off-Season Gameplan: Continue to build around a very solid core. Veteran depth, particularly the type that could improve the defensive side of Winnipeg’s game, would be helpful. Mark Scheifele will get the Burmistrov treatment next year. If Scheifele’s ready, he could supply enough offense to bring the playoffs back to Manitoba.

***

Now with that little bit of ugly business out of the way, let’s take a quick look at who deserves award recognition for the 2011-2012 NHL season.

Hart Trophy – Evgeni Malkin

Runners-up: Jason Spezza; Henrik Lundqvist

Malkin has been arguably the league’s best player this year. Lundqvist is probably the most valuable, but goalies rarely win this award. A Hart nomination is the feather-in-the-cap to a marvellous season from Jason Spezza.

Norris Trophy – Zdeno Chara

Runners-up: Alex Pieterangelo; Erik Karlsson

Chara wins because he’s put forth his strongest offensive season while retaining defensive dominance (+33 leads all d-men). Karlsson’s had a magical season but his defensive play remains average. Under Ken Hitchcock, Alex Pieterangelo has arrived, breaking the 50-point barrier but more importantly playing extremely well defensively night in, night out.

Vezina Trophy – Henrik Lundqvist

Runners-up: Jonathan Quick; Mike Smith

The Rangers success gives Lundqvist the nod over Quick, whose Los Angeles Kings team have been in a playoff dogfight all season. Mike Smith’s career rejuvenation in Phoenix gives him a slight edge over the two St. Louis Blues goalies (Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott) who’ve split too much playing time to be considered.

Selke Trophy – Patrice Bergeron

Runners-up: David Backes; Anze Kopitar

Bergeron wins almost 60% of his draws and is one of the league’s premiere penalty killers. Backes has flourished under Ken Hitchcock, leading Blues forwards in goals, points, hits and blocked shots. Kopitar deserves greater recognition, is leading the Kings in points once again but, more importantly to this category, has been Los Angeles best defensive player as well.

Calder Trophy – Gabriel Landeskog

Runners-up: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins; Matt Read

Not only is Landeskog tied for the rookie points lead, but he’s an incredible +23 and has played in all situations for the Avs down the stretch. He’s a future captain. Nugent-Hopkins is the most offensively-gifted rookie, but injuries have prevented him from running away with the freshman scoring crown. Matt Read leads all rookies in goals and has become an important player in the Flyers lineup.

Adams Trophy – Ken Hitchcock

Runners-up: Paul Maclean; John Tortorella

Hitchcock’s turned a middle-of-the-pack team into arguably the best team in the Western Conference. Paul Maclean has done wonders in Ottawa, taking a Sens team destined for a lottery pick into the playoffs. Tortorella’s nomination is a reward for guiding a team that’s out-performed its roster’s talent level all season.

 THOUGHTS ON THE FLY

  • Another take on possible NHL awards, this one from ESPN.
  • Let’s just get this out of the way: Mike Milbury was a joke as a general manager and he’s a joke as a commentator. His take on league affairs is almost always neanderthal and ultra-traditionalist. Attacking Sidney Crosby gets your name in the paper though.
  • This definitely should be on any list of craziest goals of the year. It also epitomizes the difference in heart between the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs.
  • At this point, wouldn’t it be for the best for everyone if the Washington Capitals missed the playoffs, fired their coach, and re-built their approach around Ovechkin’s offense than see the gutsy Sabres (one of the best teams in the NHL since the All-Star Game) come up short?
  • Quietly, Willie Mitchell’s having one of the best defensive defenseman seasons in the NHL this year. Granted, the ultra-conservative Kings gameplay helps in that regard.
  • Still without a contract, you have to expect the Edmonton Oilers are ready to walk away from Tom Renney. The talk is Todd Nelson, coach of Edmonton’s AHL farm team, will get a long look. Hard to believe he’s the guy who can take this young team to the next level.
  • It’s a small sample size, but the Nashville Predators are 4-3 in Alex Radulov’s seven games. The big Russian has 3 goals, 6 points in that span and has fit extremely well into the lineup.
  • For all of those people ready to anoint the Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh, let’s acknowledge the fact that the Penguins are actually 25th in the NHL in team save percentage. Marc-Andre Fleury, not Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby, will have the biggest say in how far the Penguins go in the playoffs.
  • Speaking of which, the Chicago Blackhawks, for what it’s worth, are 27th in the NHL in team save percentage. Numbers-wise, Chicago’s entering the post-season with the worst goaltending amongst remaining teams.
  • Some other interesting Pre/Post-All-Star Game numbers: Winnipeg was 22nd in league scoring during the first half; 3rd so far in the second half. Buffalo was 25th in the first-half; 5th in the second half. Going the other way, Vancouver was 3rd in the first half scoring-wise; 15th in the second half. Washington was 9th in the first half; 26th in the second half.
  • Defensively, the Bruins have gone from 4th in the first half to 22nd in the second half. Minnesota from 8th in the first half to 25th and Pittsburgh from 10th to 23rd. Improving their defensive play in the second half were teams like Buffalo (26th to 7th), Anaheim (23rd to 8th), Colorado (21st to 5th) and Ottawa (27th to 13th).
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.

May 212011
 

[Inspired by Arsenio Hall's "Things the 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.]

Hello readers.  My name is Clayton Imoo and I am thrilled to join the talented group of passionate Canucks fans here at the CHB.  I do a regular video-blog called “Clay’s Canucks Commentary” that is featured on Canucks.com and I’m excited to take a different approach for my contributions to this site:  “Things That Make You Go Hmmm…”

If you were at least a teenager in the late 80s and early 90s, then you’ll likely remember The Arsenio Hall Show.  One of Arsenio’s regular features occurred when the host would ponder certain thoughts.  This recurring segment was the inspiration behind C&C Music Factory’s top 10 hit “Things That Make You Go Hmmm…” in 1990.

Similarly, I’ll be taking a regular look at the Canucks and aspects of their games that may make us wonder, whether it be a strange play, puzzling coaching decision, or bizarre call for example.

Looking back at the Canucks’ 4-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks in game 3 of the Western Conference Final, there are certainly a few Things That Make You Go Hmmm…:

  1. If it wasn’t broke, why did you try to fix it?  Canucks Coach Alain Vigneault surprisingly inserted Tanner Glass and Alexandre Bolduc into the line-up for Cody Hodgson and Jeff Tambellini, even after the team’s dominant 7-3 win in game 2.  Perhaps AV anticipated a rougher game and having nightmares about Ben Eager.  Ultimately, Eager didn’t even play and Glass (6:34 TOI) and Bolduc (4:34 TOI) played but not very much.  Granted, the number of Canuck penalties prohibited any type of flow, but Glass and Bolduc didn’t do anything to stand out.  While I don’t agree with AV’s decision to change the lineup, he does have one more Jack Adams award than I have.
  2. Where was the poise and discipline?  Coming into the game, the Sharks were a perfect 3 for 3 on the power play.  In game 3, they scored a couple of quick power play goals in the first period on their way to a 3 for 10 night overall with the man advantage.  These 2 quick goals meant the Canucks were playing a tough game of catch-up just 8 minutes into the game.  It’s clear to me that the tighter a game is called, the worse off the Canucks are.  Whistle-happy referees nullify the Canucks’ aggressive and high-flying style.  So why were the Canucks so undisciplined given both the proficiency of San Jose’s power play and seeing how Ben Eager hurt the Sharks in game 2?
  3. Can you decline a penalty?  The Canucks failed to score on back-to-back 2-man advantages in the second period.  Their futility with 2-man advantages is a great mystery to me, especially given their exceptional talent and that they own the best PP in the league.  This isn’t new. In the regular season, they converted on just 1 of their 9 2-man advantages. Last night, they seemed hesitant to shoot and often took too long to set-up their ideal shot(s).  The Sharks undoubtedly got a lift from killing off the penalties, while the Canucks missed a golden opportunity to get back into the game.  Though before we completely throw the PP under the bus, they at least scored a couple of goals on Jamie McGinn’s 5-minute major in the third period.

It will be interesting to see what the line-up for game 4 will look like given the incomplete marks for Glass and Bolduc and the injuries on the blue line to Ehrhoff and Rome.  It’s looking like Keith Ballard will draw into the line-up for the first time since game 2 of the Nashville series.  I’m not sure why Ballard hasn’t been playing more in the playoffs… yet another thing that makes me go hmmm.

Mar 132011
 

[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

70 GP, 45-16-9, 99 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference)

Who’s Hot

Daniel Sedin is currently on a 5-game point streak. He has 5 goals, 5 assists and a plus-4 rating in that stretch, and in the process, he’s increased his Art Ross race lead on Steven Stamkos to 5 points, and set career-highs in goals (37) and points (89).

Dank has been one of the best and most consistent players on the Canucks. The chemistry between him and his brother is a remarkable thing to watch. We are spoiled and are lucky enough to witness their greatness night in and night out. What more needs to be said than #DankforHart and #DankforArt.

Who’s Not

It’s extremely tough to pick a “not” player on a team that has gone 5-0 on their last road trip. But if I had to pick one, it would have to be Tanner Glass. Before you throw your hands up in outrage, I am merely picking Mr. Scrabble because he missed the last game with a “nagging upper body injury”. Glass has been our one constant on the fourth line, he brings energy to the line and is never scared to say no to a fight. Looking at his stats he hasn’t recorded a point in 7 games, so hopefully when he gets back into the lineup, he can chip in with a few points.

Who’s Next

Monday, March 14, 2011 vs. Minnesota Wild (7:00 PM start, home)

The Minnesota Wild are only 4 points out of 8th playoff spot in the Western Conference; however, they are slowly losing ground as other playoff hopefuls are winning games while the Wild are only 2-4-1 since the trade deadline.

Both the Canucks and Wild have 2 wins each in their season series; the Canucks won the last meeting by a 4-1 score in St. Paul.

Martin Havlat has 9 points (3G-6A) in his last 10 games. He has 3 points (1G – 2A) against the Canucks this season.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 vs. Colorado Avalanche (7:00 PM start, home)

After getting off to a great start this season, the Avs have struggled significantly in the second half. In the competitive Western Conference, they sit in 14th place, the only team with less points being the Edmonton Oilers. They’re winless in 9 games (0-7-2) and have one win in their last 19 games (1-16-2).

This is the last meeting of the season and the Canucks are 4-0-1 against the Avalanche. It’s hard to pump up a game against a team that has been playing horrible hockey as of late and has no real chance of making the playoffs. This is the first game in a few weeks that the Canucks will not meet up with a desperate, point chasing team.

Despite the Avs’ lack of success against the Canucks this season, Milan Hejduk is still living up to his “Canuck Killer” reputation and has 6 points against our good guys. He sits 3rd in team scoring with 48 points (19G-29A), only 5 points back of Paul Stastny’s team-leading 53 points (20G-33A).

Friday, March 18, 2011 vs. Phoenix Coyotes (7:00 PM start, home)

For now, the Phoenix Coyotes sit in 7th place in the constantly-changing Western Conference playoff race. They’ve lost 6 of their last 8 games (2-4-2), including a loss to the Canucks last Tuesday. (It was the first time this season the Canucks won a game after trailing after the first period.) The Canucks lead the season series 2-1-0 and have outscored the Coyotes 12-6.

Defenseman Keith Yandle leads the Coyotes in scoring this season (10G-45A-55P). Eric Belanger leads the team in scoring against the Canucks; he has 3 points (1G-2A) in 3 games.

Performance of the Week: Cory Schneider

I dedicate this whole section to the performance of Mr. Schneider in his outstanding effort against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday. Don’t be fooled by the 4 goals that the Sharks scored, Cory single-handedly won that game for the Canucks. He stood on his head for most of the night stopping 44 shots which included some spectacular cross-crease pad saves. Not only did he get us to overtime, he also stopped all 3 shootout attempts from the Sharks, which included shootout (and eating) specialist Kyle Wellwood. Oh yeah, I went there!

Here’s to Cory’s best performance of his career, a spectacular win from a goalie who will one day be a starter in this league.

Feb 072011
 

Congratulations to the Green Bay Packers for winning Super Bowl XLV. As well, congratulations to Christina Aguilera for joining Bryan Adams in national anthem infamy and looking like a younger Cyndi Lauper in the process.

As we turn our attention back to the Canucks and wait for puck drop in tonight’s game against the Ottawa Senators, here are some reads to help pass the time:

Jan 252011
 

[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 that watched a hockey game.]

Friends, Romans, countrymen, I ask you, humbly, what is the cure for an offensive slump? Don’t answer; this is a rhetorical question. The solution, as everybody knows, is an opponent with porous goaltending and crap defense. It’s a fairly simple remedy, but the real trick is finding a major league team willing to provide it. Short of scheduling a shinny with the Washington Generals or the South Park Peewee Team, you can only hope that some NHL club is going to fly into town and generously lay an egg. Lucky for Canucks fans, that’s about what happened in tonight’s game which, by the way, I watched:

  • What a welcome return to form for the home team. The Canucks played with the energy and pace they’d hinted at during the Calgary game and then some. We also saw a recommitment to limiting shots against (only 26 for a high-scoring Dallas team), and a renewed offensive potency (7 goals, y’all). They played much better than they have in quite awhile, more in keeping with the level we know they’re capable. Still, before we get ahead of ourselves, it wasn’t only a return to form that caused tonight’s result; Dallas also played sloppier than a loose meat sandwich. What we saw was the Canucks’ get better and the Stars come apart at the same time, and this beautiful coincidence resulted in a nasty shellacking.
  • A number of slumps were bumped tonight, but none more important than the goals scored by both of Ryan Kesler’s wingers. Mikael Samuelsson’s was an especially nice wrist shot. Word is he broke his goal-scoring slump by imagining a logo in the top corner of the net, then hitting it dead center. Perhaps more impressive than the goal, however, were his game-high five shots, equal to how the number of shots he attempted. None were blocked, and none missed.
  • I’m not sure if Mason Raymond’s goal will stay his. The scorekeepers seemed so eager to declare another slump busted that they seemed to give it to him just because he was near it. Looks like Edler blasted it clean through to me; Raymond might be more deserving of a takeaway for stealing credit. But I won’t quibble over whether or not it’s his; I’m not Maury Povich. Let’s just hope it’s the first of many.
  • Speaking of blasting pucks, let’s take a moment to celebrate the long-awaited emergence of Alex Edler’s deadly slapper. He had two assists tonight, both on redirected slapshots (the aforementioned, from Raymond, and one from Kesler to take a 2-1 lead). Christian Ehrhoff also had a goal on one that got clean through. Ehrhoff’s been the member of this pairing most willing to shoot this season, which has always seemed silly to me. Edler’s got the hardest shot on the team. Now, they’re both shooting regularly, and it’s made them a lethal tandem on the blue line, with 12 points in the last six games. Letting them fire away seems like a wise move, especially after they broke the power play’s two-game mini slump by these very means.
  • Aaron Volpatti had a strong game tonight, and it’s possible that you hardly noticed. First there was a solid hit on Tom Wandell behind the Stars’ net. Then, Krys Barch tried to respond by drawing Volpatti into a fight, but Volpatti was smart enough to realize it wasn’t the right time. Instead, he responded by shouting, “F*** you, Barch!” loud enough for the cameras to clearly pick it up.
  • Later, Volpatti assisted on the Henrik Sedin 5-1 backbreaker halfway into the 2nd, skating well and centering a puck that would go in off Steve Ott’s boot after a touch from Henrik. If the assist wasn’t enough, Volpatti then “accidentally” tripped over Ott as he circled the net to celebrate the goal. It was a smart, sneaky play, and don’t be surprised that Volpatti’s a sneak; everybody knows Ivy Leaguers are shifty. I mean, they steal entire social networks from one another.
  • If you’re wondering why Henrik Sedin already has a mind-boggling 50 assists on the season, look no further than his puck movement on the power play. Watch him on either power play goal. On Kesler’s goal, he draws three defenders to him with a simply head fake before making a brilliant saucer pass to Edler for a one-timer. On Ehrhoff’s goal, it’s much a simpler feed, but this time Henrik uses a head fake to back his defender off. Opponents are so terrified he’s going to pass, you’d think they were auditioning for American Idol.
  • The perennially out for blood Daniel Sedin is now 4 points back of the NHL scoring lead. Earlier today, Elliotte Friedman suggested he might get picked last in the NHL All-Star draft. If that happens, I suspect he’ll coolly walk to the podium and shoot his captain in the chest, like Boomer on Battlestar Galactica.
  • Andrew Raycroft’s mask is as sparkly as a preteen girl’s binder. Or a preteen girl’s idea of a vampire.
  • How to make a player lose his mind: eye gouge him in a scrum. Just like the Rypien incident, you can clearly see Burish raging, “he was eye gouging me,” after the referees finally pull Burrows and him apart. Not to go all “Ron Maclean” on you guys, but, considering Burr’s reputation, he’s probably guilty here. That’s a finger to the peeper and a stick to the peepee in the last two weeks. He needs to be careful he doesn’t get a reputation as a dirty(er) player.
  • If he’s not careful, he’ll undo all the goodwill the Zen Canucks have built up towards officials this season. Seriously, the Canucks successfully argued for a call to be overturned tonight. When the last time that’s ever happened? I think we’re more used to the “On second thought, the Canucks lose” type of calls. Especially recently.
  • Dan Hamhuis dropped his gloves tonight. Dan. Hamhuis. What could Mike Ribiero have possibly said or done to make Hammy drop the mitts? Ribieiro: Frankly, I don’t think Haiti deserves our relief. And the children can read to themselves. Hamhuis: I’ll kill you!
  • Congratulations to Chris Tanev, who picked up his first career point, an assist on Hamhuis’s goal, the seventh and final goal of the evening. Tanev showed impressive poise tonight, finishing a plus-one with two blocked shots in just over sixteen minutes of icetime. Granted, everyone (in blue) looked good tonight, but Tanev is beginning to look like he might belong in the NHL, which is more than I can say for tonight’s opponent.
  • All credit to Tanner Glass, who spent some time tonight as the fourth-line center, and some time as the third-line winger. When he earned third line icetime last season, it was more an indictment of the Canucks’ lack of forward depth. This season, however, he’s been so defensively responsible and so smart with the puck that he’s earned every extra minute he’s been given, and I’m happy to eat crow when it comes to his stints in the top nine. I’m still not sold on his scoring ability, but I think, when your third line hasn’t scored in ten games or more, Tanner Glass certainly can’t make you offensively less potent.
  • Kevin Bieksa’s eye doesn’t look too bad… if he’s planning a trip to McDonaldland. His face is so purple he could pass for The Grimace. Speaking of passing, Bieksa did take advantage of the distinguishable mark for some brilliant duplicity. Rather than serve a second period penalty, he traded places with a wax #statueofbieksa (hashtag credit: @RE4713), and nobody noticed because, like the real Bieksa, the replica had a black eye.
  • The Canucks dominated the faceoff circle tonight, winning 40 of 65 draws. All four centres finished over 50%, with even Glass winning 4-of-7. He’s won 17 of 31 on the season now, which is pretty impressive, considering he was 3-for-18 last season. He’s developing this skill really quickly.
  • This is the second consecutive game versus the Canucks where the Stars have lost their composure, and you have to consider their sources of leadership. First, Marc Crawford’s teams have never been known for being particularly mentally tough (and Crow’s never been good at knowing when to pull his goalie, either). Second, Brendan Morrow’s captaincy might be a good cautionary tale for those who think Kesler should have gotten the “C” in Vancouver. Like Kesler, Morrow plays an intense, gritty game that’s a nice example when he’s focused, but he has a tendency to get overemotional and lose focus. When he does, the team follows him. He’s simply not a calming force.
  • Henrik Sedin, on the other hand, knows how to channel his emotions. He digs so deep, you might say he chunnels his emotions. He was solely to blame on Dallas’s only goal, but rather than beat himself up about it, he simply upped his resolve. He looked downright determined to atone for the remainder of the period. Then he did. Not since the award-winning film based on the novel Atonement have I seen such atonement.
Jan 172011
 

[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)]

Mikael Samuelsson, Raffi Torres

Photo credit: Yahoo Sports

Everyone put on their blue and green hardhats! Because after last night’s 4-0 shut-out loss in Minnesota, the sky is falling for a percentage of fans who sit on the tailgate of the Canucks bandwagon.

Yes, the team got its butt kicked, and yes, the Canucks now have three injuries in addition to Salo (Bolduc, Rome and Alberts), but hey, here’s the silver lining –- at least at this rate we won’t have to worry about making room for Salo when he comes back! In fact, many of us are ready for his return riiiiighhht about now.

But, aside from the injuries and last night’s sky-is-falling loss, there are a couple other questions floating around there in Canuck Nation.

Will the 3rd line score again?

This was asked before last night’s game against the Wild, so I was hoping for some positive reinforcement to answer this with… and then nobody scored. To be brief, if the 3rd line’s January record says anything, it’s looking dismal.

The last time the line produced any goals was the week from December 23rd to December 31st; they had 10 points that week. Samuelsson last scored on December 26th, and only has one assist since. Torres had a 2-goal night on December 23rd, hasn’t scored since December 31st, and has had 3 assists since. Malhotra last scored December 28th and has only 1 assist (onTorres’ goal on the 31st) since.

So what the hell happened, and why has it been so long since any member of the 3rd line has scored a goal? Is it a line slump? (Wait, am I asking Katie questions now?)

Who knows. The fans’ guesses are as good as mine, and Canucks fans are pretty smart. I just hope the 3rd line breaks their slump soon. With 3 d-men and Bolduc out, we can use all the offensive help we can get.

Tanner Glass or Jannik Hansen – who has surprised you more and why?

I’m going to give this one to Jannik. I’ve always known Hansen had the potential to be a great player, reminding me a bit of Mason Raymond three seasons ago: a young playmaker whose hands haven’t quite caught up to him yet (I think I’ve heard “hands of stone” thrown around on Twitter). But he seems to be progressing  and maturing very nicely this season, which has surprised me and a lot of Canucks fans. Halfway through the season he’s at 15 points and is a plus-8 (despite the loss in Minnesota). His career record is 21 pts in 55 games, which he’s definitely on pace to meet (and pass) and he had a very strong game against Washington, earning first star for the game. He’s the underdog and, like Tanner Glass, doesn’t get as much recognition as he deserves for his role on the ice.

Hansen has the ability to move between lines rather smoothly at the whim of Vigneault’s line juggling, and he consistently generates smart plays for whoever he’s on the ice with. He works tirelessly when he’s on the ice, forechecking, hitting (he leads the team with 99 hits) and isn’t too bad in the faceoff circle either.  If he could just find his hands and grow a bit more confidence (he tends to hesitate in front of the net a little), I think we could see a 25-to-30 point season from Hansen, and thus a lot more #36 jerseys around Vancouver to give @mozy19 some company.

J.J. Guerrero (@canuckshockey) asks: What’s up with all the New Kids tweets?

How is this related to the Canucks again, J.J.? The New Kids on the Block was the most amazing boy band to come out of the 90s (no offense to your precious Backstreet Boys, J.J.). My roommate and I like to youtube New Kids videos over a glass of wine and talk about the god ole days of fluorescent fanny packs and crimped bangs… Wait, was I supposed to reveal that information? And five bucks says Shane O’Brien knows all the words to “The Right Stuff” and the dance moves to go with it.

By the way, I was tweeting way more about BodyBreak commercials lately than New Kids. Who doesn’t like a great push-broom ‘stache and big hair in 80’s tracksuits? I rest my case.

Have a great week, Canucks fans. And don’t worry about the loss. We can’t win all 82 games. No one’s that good.

Jan 162011
 

[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

44 GP, 29-9-6, 64 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference)

Who’s Hot

Alex Edler is starting to cement his place as one of the good, young defensemen in the NHL. He has been a workhorse, averaging over 25 minutes of ice-time per game in the first 3 games of this road trip and over 24 minutes of ice-time per game this season. Despite the extended ice-time, he’s been very reliable and hasn’t had a minus-game since Boxing Day. Edler is on pace for career year in points and his goal against the Capitals moved him to 4th in team scoring behind only the Sedins and Ryan Kesler.

Who’s Not

Since Jeff Tambellini’s recall on November 24, 2010, the Canucks have gone 19-2-3 with him in the line-up. Jeff has already matched his career-high of 15 points; however, he has been on a slump as of late going 9 games without recording a point. He has been splitting his duties between the second and fourth lines in the last few games.

Who’s Next

Tuesday, January 18, 2011 vs. Colorado Avalanche (6:00 PM start, road)

The Avalanche are the Canucks’ only real threat in the Northwest Division and currently sit in 6th place in the Western Conference. They are 4-4-2 in their last 10 games and have won 2 of their last 3 games. However, the Canucks have won all 4 games against the Avs this season.

The Canucks’ 2nd-ranked powerplay can take advantage of the Avalanche’s 3rd-worst penalty-killing in the league.

Chris Stewart is back from injury which boosts the Avalanche’s lineup. He missed 21 games, but has 25 points in 24 games.

Thursday, January 20, 2011 vs. San Jose Sharks (7:00 PM start, home)

The Sharks have been struggling lately going 3-7-0 in their last 10 games. The Canucks have won both meetings against the Sharks this season – a 6-1 thrashing at Rogers Arena and a 4-3 come-from-behind win in San Jose.

The Canucks and the Sharks have the 2nd and 5th-ranked powerplays, respectively, but neither have been prominent in the teams’ season series so far – in two games, the Canucks were 1-for-4 with the powerplay and the Sharks were 1-for-3.

The Sharks big 3 – Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley – have been disappointing this season. They have a combined 115 points (46 G -69 A), but also, a combined plus/minus rating of -36.

Saturday, January 22, 2011 vs. Calgary Flames (7:00 PM start, home)

The Flames have been hot (no pun intended) in their last 10 games going 6-2-2. They are currently on a mini 2-game win streak and have points in their last 4 games.

The Canucks have loved playing the Flames this season, winning both meetings to-date and decisively outscoring them 10-3.

Mason Raymond especially likes playing his hometown team. He has 3 goals and 2 assists in only 2 games against the Flames this season.

Most Deserving of a Shout-out: The Fourth Line

The play of the fourth line recently has been outstanding. They single-handedly set the tone in Washington. They spent a majority of their shifts in the offensive zone, controlled the puck and forced the Caps to chase them around. Glass-Hansen-Bolduc were a combined +5, while Hansen assisted on 2 key goals. (Unfortunately, Bolduc got injured during the Caps game and is out for 3-4 weeks.) In a mediocre game against the Islanders, Tanner Glass saw the opportunity to spark the team with a big fight against Matt Martin. Let’s just say after a 1-2 punch to the dome, Martin was down for the count while wiping the blood from beneath his right eye.

Jan 122011
 

[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.]

The Canucks had a season-high 51 shots tonight, the Islanders had 41; that’s 92 shots total. How odd, then, that I found this game, with its scoring chances hither and thither, exceedingly dull. Heck, the shootout nearly matched the entire game for entertainment value. Why so mundane? I suspect some of it has to do with the act the Islanders were forced to follow. They’re a pabulum team at the best of times, but in direct contrast with last Saturday’s Red Wings, they’re duller than airplane cutlery.

The Canucks didn’t help, though. Despite keeping rookie goalie Kevin Poulin plenty busy, they played a sloppy, uninspired game. After a strong first period, they slowed down for the last forty, and their defensive coverage was suspect all night long. They looked tired, and I suspect they still are. That’s not good. They’ve still got four more games on this road trip, and I’d like them to win most of them. I’d also like them to be more entertaining than this one, which I watched:

  • Just as was predicted, Ryan Kesler played despite his injured thumb. Word was that he might let his wingers take a few draws, and considering Jeff Tambellini and Mason Raymond took four between them, it’s probably safe to say Kesler gave them one extra faceoff apiece. He really knows how to cut back. The injury didn’t seem to hamper his ability to shoot the puck, either, as he still put a game-high eight shots on net. One of them went in (above). Then he scored the shootout winner. This guy’s ability to play through pain is mind-boggling, which, consequently, is what I call the mental exercise I perform when nobody will play Boggle with me.
  • Former Canuck Michael Grabner seemed determined to make the Canucks regret letting him go, breaking in past the defense on multiple occasions and putting a team-high 7 shots to Roberto Luongo. While none of those shots made it past the goal line, Grabner definitely looked like a threat to score all night. But, before you start navelgazing, take a look at the rest of his stat line. It’s blank. Grabner didn’t register a single hit, takeaway, or blocked shot, which is kind of remarkable considering everybody else did. Grabs is a uniquely pure goalscorer, so pure he neglects all other facets of the game, including even elementary things like passing. Consider that both he and Henrik Sedin are fourth in goals scored among their respective teams with 9 goals each. Henrik simply has 42 more assists. It’s unfair to be compared to Henrik Sedin, but it’s just an example of how scorers can be overvalued in some cases. Grabner may be an NHL-quality scorer, but to my mind he’ll never be a complete player.
  • I love Tanner Glass. Part of it is that he agreed to play Scrabble with me. The other part of it is because he does stuff like this. Glass’s fight may have salvaged this game, giving his team an energy boost when they began to skate on sand. Look at Kesler’s excited face on the bench after the tilt–he’s amped. Glass isn’t the best fighter in the world, but you can see in this bout that he’s a smart fighter. He patiently waits for Matt Martin to open up a bit, then he just slides in and pushes his off button. Hard. With his fist.
  • A word on Luongo’s All-Star snub. He doesn’t care. At all. He’s been before, and he fought to avoid the game two years ago when his wife had a baby. Hey, guess what, she had a baby this year too! I suspect we’ll eventually find out that Luongo had a chance to go to Raleigh, but declined in order to spend time with his family. He doesn’t want to be in North Carolina. Few people do. Half the state didn’t, which is why there’s a South Carolina. I would much rather spend a weekend with my newborn son than go to North Carolina. Heck, that’s just one on a long, long list of things I’d rather do than go to North Carolina.
  • Luongo was solid tonight, by the way. Ignore the fact he let in three goals and remember that he made 38 saves. Furthermore, nobody is stopping that John Tavares shot. That was like a summer’s day, it was so beautiful.
  • It may not have been perfectly executed, but it was nice to see the Sedins and Burrows pull off that faceoff play. They used it to perfection so many times last year that everybody’s wise to it, which is why we’ve yet to see it work this season. But my favourite thing about the Wizards of the Coast is that, while they know full well that every defense in the NHL knows what they’re trying, they still try it. Unlike Wile E. Coyote, they don’t try a plan once, then scrap it forever. Then keep everything in their bag of tricks and just hammer away at the defense’s scouting reports. Did you watch video on this? Did your coach tell you to watch out for this?
  • Jeremy Colliton seems a bit rough around the edges, doesn’t he? He took two silly penalties tonight–one on a hook and one on a hold–and both of them seemed as avoidable as a banana peel on Koopa Troopa Beach. The hold on Henrik Sedin was particularly egregious. If he thinks it’s okay to hold a person like that, I’d advise against letting him have a kitten or a bunny rabbit. He’d be like George from Of Mice and Men.
  • Today I realized we talk about Kevin Bieksa a lot here at PITB, but man, looking at his stat lines these days, you’d think he was Adam Banks. Apart from scoring Vancouver’s game-tying goal (on a lucky deflection, but still), he also put up 5 shots, 6 hits, 2 takeaways and a block. Michael Grabner, take notes: this is how you do other things.
  • I fell asleep during this game. More interestingly, I fell asleep while fast forwarding the PVR through the second intermission, and when I woke up, Don Taylor was telling me the final score. Not cool, Don Taylor.
  • The Canucks outhit the Islanders 38 to 24, but didn’t it seem worse than that? The Islanders, as currently assembled, are a team of semi-skilled young’uns, severely lacking in hittiness or old man strength. Meanwhile, the Canucks have more old man strength than The Crimson Permanent Assurance.
  • The Canucks now sit atop the NHL standings with 62 points, three more than Philadelphia and Detroit, and still with a game in hand on the Red Wings. It excites me, as a fan, to be checking the scores of the other top teams in the NHL rather than simply the teams in our division. I’m not used to being so inclusive. If the Canucks win the Presidents’ Trophy, all those Northwest Division titles will seem a bit trite, no?
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