Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Canucks 4 Stars 2

The train keeps a rollin', and it was another one of those 'winning in spite of Luongo' games. It's pretty remarkable when you think about it. Sure he gives them goaltending that is good enough to get the win. But since his return, has he stolen a game? Not one that I can think of. Hell he hasn't even been in the 3 stars more than a couple times. But what we have seen from the Canucks is the kind of attention to detail that will be needed down the stretch and into what could be a long playoff run. A few weeks ago, the media were crowning the Flames as NW Champions. Now they sit a mere 3 points ahead, and have struggled with consistency against teams they are supposedly able to destroy.

If you guessed last night's game would be decided by one goal, you wouldn't be alone. That the Canucks and Stars will be decided by one has been a pretty safe bet lately. Unfortunately for Dallas, they simply aren't the same team they were even earlier in the season. Marty Turco has struggled at times, and despite all the hype about his puck handling skills, gave it up a number of times last night. The Canucks got another solid team effort, especially from the third line. Kyle Wellwood's playing like a confident center who can make plays and drive to the net, and if this 3rd line continues to produce, that makes the Canucks look that much scarier heading into the post-season. Ryan Johnson was great last night, winning a ton of huge faceoffs (11-3), and was part of a 4th line that brought energy every time they were on the ice. Ryan Kesler and Mats Sundin had strong games, each with a goal and an assist, and we saw the Canucks go 2 for 2 on the PP, while the Stars were 1 for 6.
Steve Ott certainly got a lot of attention last night, from both the Canucks and TSN. Neither of it was really warranted though. While Ott has played well since his promotion, I hardly think you can put him in the same league as Burrows. I was baffled at the seeming reluctance of the officiating crew to call penalties on him last night, though kudos to him for douchebagging the Canucks into taking retaliation penalties. Also puzzling was how they missed Turco's stick between the legs of Alex Burrows. I have always maintained Turco is not given enough credit for how dirty and cheap he plays, last night was just another example. It really felt good not just to set a team record for 10 straight home wins, but to send a message to a team that has been a real rival over the years. It was also nice to see the Stars out of the top 8.

Up next for the Canucks is a team that has been as hot as they have been lately, and another pest for them, the St. Louis Blues. The Blues sit in 11th, just 2 points back of Nashville and Edmonton for the final playoff spot, and are 6-3-1 in their last 10. We are looking to actually have a podcast pre-game show for this match up tomorrow... so stay tuned.

The Stars head to Calgary tonight, hopefully they have a chip on their shoulder and take it out on the Flames. The Blackhawks will try and rebound from their date with Marty Brodeur and the record books last night as they take on Columbus, another game the Canucks will be watching intently. The Jackets sit 5 points back, and Chicago is playing their game in hand on Vancouver. Another game with playoff implications is in Anaheim, as the Predators look to move ahead of Edmonton into 7th and put another nail in the Ducks coffin.

Gotta say that last few minutes of the Tampa Bay/Toronto game was pretty entertaining for 2 teams that will miss the playoffs. Speaking of teams that will miss the playoffs, imagine what will happen if Montreal doesn't right their ship quickly. Carey Price seems to have lost his ability to come up with clutch saves, and Halak may not be the one who can save them. I am not going to be surprised if the Habs fall right out of the top 8.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The disfunctional relationship: Sean and Gary

Did you catch catch the Averython on today's Game of The Week on NBC? Seriously, this is a relationship that is in need of not just therapy, but perhaps an intervention. A cam trained on Sean Avery throughout the game? Extra coverage on to boot. It's like an episode of Dr. Phil just waiting to happen...

Dr. Phil: Now Gary, why don't you start? Tell us how Sean makes you feel?
Gary Bettman: Well, sometimes (blows nose) I get the feeling that the things that are important to Sean aren't what's important to me. He doesn't care about how I feel, or the way it looks to other people when he acts the way he does.
Sean Avery: Yeah, you know what? Maybe if you didn't just sit around all day watching soap operas while I go out and work, maybe I would care...
GB: I love you... (Cries)


The wheels coming off the Flames playoff wagon?

3-1 Atlanta after 2, Cammalleri, Iginla and Jokinen are all a -3, and Phaneuf and Leopold are -2. Add in a 4-1 Colorado over Chicago score, and one might think those who say the Canucks can track down both teams may not be completely crazy after all...

*EDIT*- This one is in the books at 5-2 Atlanta. Interesting fun fact: Jarome Iginla scored his 30th, which was the point difference between the Flames and the Thrashers heading into this one...
Important stats:
Mike Cammalleri -3
Olli Jokinen -3
Jordan Leopold -3
Dion Phaneuf -2
Jarome Iginla -2
Miikka Kiprusoff .750 sv % 5 goals on 20 shots

I said this would happen, question is... how deep does the rabbit hole go? :p

Canucks 3 Sharks 1

The scene: The Canucks Dressing Room.
The Time: Moments after a 3-1 over the San Jose Sharks.
Coach Vigneault walks in among the players. The players are happy, there is much slapping of backs and the occasional WOO! heard, when the coach speaks:
Alain Vigneault: Settle down guys, settle down. OK, I don't know how to say this, so I guess the best way is to just come right out and say it. This one doesn't really count.
(stunned silence across the room, followed by comments expressing disbelief)
Ryan Kesler: Coach, that's crazy, we beat 'em fair & square...
AV: Sorry guys. I was just on the CDC, and according to (shuffles through papers) um... Ringmaster 316, they have injuries and are without their top goalie. So it doesn't count.
Alex Burrows: Tabernac!
Mats Sundin: Aw man! You made Hordi cry...

And that concludes this edition of Pessimistic Canucks Fan Theater...

So there you have it Canucks fans. Don't celebrate this win. The Sharks didn't have the vaunted offensive powers of Jeremy Roenick, Mike Greer, Marcel Goc, Torrie Mitchell and Claude Lemieux. Their defense obviously missed the spark it would have gotten from Kent Huskins. And let's face it, Brian Boucher is no Evgeni Nabokov. It's not like he is Curtis McElhinney or something.

Using this logic, you can discount the losses to San Jose previous, because the last 2 came with backup goalies. Do you think they say that in San Jose? Hardly. Yes the Sharks are struggling a bit right now. But correct me if I am wrong, but they did still have Joe Thornton? Jonathan Cheechoo? Devin Setoguchi? Dan Boyle? I think you see what I am getting at here. It's almost as though parity only applies to other teams. With the Canucks, and their detractors (hell, with some of their 'fans' as well) there has to be a qualifier. San Jose is only one of the best teams in the league if they have all their players in the lineup. Garbage.

What I saw last night was another 60 minute game from the Canucks, and a sign that really made me smile: San Jose struggled to keep up with our team speed. They took a number of penalties last night, uncharacteristically bad penalties for them, as they tried to keep the Canucks rushers at bay. While they did have some chances, the Sedin/Sedin/Burrows line was held in check. Fortunately the line of Ryan Kesler, Pavol Demitra and Mats Sundin had a tremendous game. The team was fairly disciplined last night, hell I wouldn't even fault them on giving the PP goal to Thornton, as it was a bad break for Johnson, but they really should have given Blake a goalie interference call on that play. I actually thought there was a lot of contact with Luongo, but he doesn't seem to get the calls other goalies do. Probably has something to do with him not being able to sell it like other goalies (coughKiprusoffcough). And how about new Dad Darcy Hordichuk laying out Jody Shelley? That was priceless. Luongo was very very good last night, but still, we haven't seen one of those A games. It's getting closer for sure. Perhaps this next game Monday against the LA Kings, who have been playing desperate hockey down the stretch will see him truly shine?

So now we have Chicago just 5 points ahead, and the Flames are 8. We are now 4 up on Columbus, and 6 on Edmonton, Dallas and Nashville. No time to take the foot off the pedal, but it is nice to see the one thing we have craved as fans from this team: consistency.

While it may be early to judge them on one loss, you certainly can't judge the Flames on one win either. But I really feel as though the trading deadline acquisitions of Jokinen and Leopold are not going to make a huge impact. There is a dark cloud hanging over Calgary's heads: They are DONE if Kipper goes down. Add in that you would swear the team has ZERO confidence playing in front of him and this could spell trouble for the Flames down the road. Funny though, I though Kipper was the Flames goalie that let in 6. Looks like the kid is catching on.

A number of interesting games last night, was there not? From the huge outburst out of Eric Staal (think he is happy to have Eric Cole back?) to the Red Wings giving up 8 for the second consecutive Saturday, it was a pretty entertaining night of hockey. Apart from the Oilers and Columbus, the Canucks got the help they needed. best part was, they helped themselves as they are now 12 wins in their last 14 games.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

GAME DAY: Canucks vs. Sharks

This was actually the script written for the podcast, so hopefully it translates well for this purpose...

After a long break, we are back and just in time for a

game that is a huge test for the Canucks, taking on a

suddenly mortal-looking San Jose Sharks squad tonight

at GM place. What can you say about the Canucks play

since getting out of that horrendous month-long funk

in January, the Canucks have been one of the hottest

teams in the NHL. This is due in large part to the

emergence of Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows, and

seemingly in spite of Roberto Luongo, who has slowly

been getting better. You can't help but feel positive

about their chances heading into the playoffs with the

way the team has played. The trading deadline has

come and passed, and while teams in the West loaded

up, Calgary and Edmonton in particular, the Canucks

and GM Mike Gillis held firm and decided to go in with

the team as is, apart from the pre-deadline waiver

pickup of Ossi Vaananen, who should make his Canucks

debut tonight. The Sharks are floundering lately

(ugh... who writes this stuff?), losing 4 of their

last 5 and 3 in a row. Their offensive production has

dried up, and that coincides with Evgeni Nabokov being

out the last 4 with a lower body injury. Backup Brian

Boucher has lost 3 straight starts, so the Sharks may

decide to start Thomas Greiss, who was called up from


The Sharks have a number of injuries besides Nabokov,

including the recently acquired Kent Huskins, who is

on the IR recovering from foot surgery but he may be

in the lineup tonight, as well as his former Ducks

teammate Travis Moen, both of them came over at the


The Canucks have been rolling with two solid lines

lately, Ryan Kesler has really clicked with Mats

Sundin and Pavol Demitra, despite hot & cold

performances from Sundin. And what can you say about

Alex Burrows on the top line with the Sedins. They

have looked dangerous everytime they're on the ice,

and make the Sedins as big a threat as they were when

they were teamed with Anson Carter. The defense has

really solidified, and are producing, especially Kevin

Bieksa, who is playing some of his best hockey lately.

Roberto Luongo has as mentioned been slowly getting

better, but the last couple games he has looked like

he is regaining his form. The Canucks are currently

10 points behind the Flames for 1st in the NW, but

hold 2 games in hand. The Flames got blown out 6-1 by

the Carolina Hurricanes last night in a game that must

worry the Flames and their fans about their ability to

continue should goalie Miika Kiprusoff get injured.

Curtis McElhinney has not won a start in the NHL, and

the Flames defense certainly doesn't look to be

interested in playing in front of him if last night is

any indication. We will take a quick look at the

Moose and Salmon Kings in our farm report coming up in

a bit, but first here is the keys to the game tonight:

the Canucks have won 11 of their last 13, battling

their way back into a playoff spot and winning in a

number of different ways, from dominant performances

against Chicago and Ottawa to come from behind wins

against St.Louis and Phoenix, the Canucks are in full

on battle mode every night right now. I had conceded

that the Canucks had tuned out Coach Alain Vigneault,

but he certainly seems to have the Canucks focused and

playing their best hockey of the season. And after

the last match against the Sharks, where they lost it

in the last minute of the game after leading the whole

way, you know they want to not only send a message to

the Sharks but the rest of the NHL: this team is for

Key 1- 60 minute effort- San Jose has been accused of

not playing complete efforts lately during this losing

streak, but even a small lapse by the Canucks to let

this team have a chance could prove disastrous. An

effort like the one against Minnesota, where they

completely neutralized them throughout the game is

needed, team defense, effective forechecking and

discipline to avoid letting the Sharks get numerous

power play chances will go a long way to ensuring a

Canucks victory
2- Third line must emerge- You can go a long way with

2 effective lines, but teams that are dominant have a

3rd line that can damage you as well. The line of

Bernier, Wellwood and Pyatt must not only be effective

in checking the Sharks dangerous offensive weapons,

but make the most of their chances in the offensive

zone. They got a very timely goal from Bernier in the

last game, they must build on that, and Wellwood

getting back in the groove will make the Canucks a

dangerous threat as we head to the postseason
3- Great save Luongo!- not something we have heard a

lot lately, but he has played well enough to give the

team a chance to win. As they get closer to the

playoffs however they will need him to be able to

steal a win or two, and this could be one of them.

The Canucks have as a team stepped up as Luongo has

continued his on the job rehab from the injury

suffered in November, and all signs point to him

having a break out game. Let's hope it's tonight.

One of the reasons GM Mike Gillis stood pat during the

trading deadline was an unwillingness to depart with

the few prospects we have in the system. We will keep

you updated on how the prospects are doing with the

Farm Report every week:
The Manitoba Moose continue to roll, leading the AHL

with a 42-17-0-5 record, and have won 6 of their last

10. Jason Krog leads the team in scoring with 21

goals and 43 assists, while they continue to get strong

goaltending from Curtis Sanford (5-1-2) and Cory

Schneider (22-5-1), Schneider leads the league with a

1.76 GAA and a .932 save percentage. The Moose are

set up well for a long playoff run, especially if they

have home ice for the duration of their playoff run,

which is good for the Moose, but not so good for the

parent Canucks if they wish to call up players like

Krog, Michel Ouellet or Micheal Grabner for the

playoffs. The Moose are taking on the Providence

Bruins tonight, then have 5 days off before a back to

back with the Hamilton Bulldogs next weekend.

The Victoria Salmon Kings seem to be doing the exact

opposite of the Canucks. While the Canucks were mired

in their losing streak, the SKIngs were turning heads

in the hockey world with a 15 game winning streak.

Once the streak snapped though, they have struggled as

they have been on the road for a long stretch. The

last game of this staggering road trip is tonight in

Idaho against the Steelheads, as they look to build

some momentum for a return home and hopefully a return

to their winning ways. The SKings are now in 3rd in

the West Division, 4 points back of Idaho and 3 behind

Alaska. The are still in a playoff spot, but going

2-7-0-1 in their last 10 has made them vulnerable to

missing the post season if they can't turn it around.

The good thing is they have their next 8 games at

home, before heading down to Stockton and Bakersfield

to wrap up the season in the last week of March.

Wes Goldie is the teams leading scorer, and his 43

goals is 2nd best in the ECHL, and Todd Ford is 15-12

in the nets for the Kings. The next series for the

SKings starts on the 11th as the begin a 4 game

homestand at the SOFMC against Ontario...

So have the Canucks made the right decision by not

bolstering the lineup with a Jay Bouwmeester or

another forward? Time will tell, but the fact that

the team is not just comfortable with the lineup they

have, but also mindful of developing the prospects

they have and not wanting to mortgage the future and

gamble with short term success is a good thing in my


After tonight's battle with the Sharks, the Canucks 3

games next week, 2 of them on the road as they make a

trip down to LA to take on the Kings Monday night and

then over to Anaheim on Wednesday. Wednesday's game

is a PPV btw, and the Canucks players are taking their

moms on this trip... they return home on Friday for a

return engagement with the Kings at the Garage...

We really do appreciate all of you who take time to

listen and check out the blog if you'd like to get a

hold of us, you can email us at

Podcast Issues part 37

So the plan was that we would have a brand new podcast all ready to go for today's game. That was the plan, but as you know the best laid plans of... pfft. Whatever. Long story short, we have run into some hosting issues that have forced us to look at exactly how we produce and host the show. We have a plan in place and will be moving forward with it for a new weekly format, starting next week. We also found out the rss feed no longer works (part of the aforementioned problem) so that will all be addressed as well. Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Deadline Day: Canucks stand pat

And this may not be so bad. While the Calgary Flames made a couple high profile moves, the Canucks, winners of 11 of their last 13 decided there wasn't a deal out there that made sense for them. Right up to the noon PST deadline the Canucks were rumored to be in the running for Florida's Jay Bouwmeester, and Toronto's Dominic Moore, but the J-Bo hype didn't pan out, and Moore went to Buffalo.

Is this the right thing for GM Mike Gillis to do? Time will tell, but if you look at the way this team has rebounded from that oh-so-forgettable January, and factor in the Canucks aren't swimming in bluechip prospects down in Manitoba, they most likely didn't see a deal that would upgrade the team without giving up too much. With the temptation there thanks to Calgary's aquistitions, the fact they went with keeping a fairly solid core in tact may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Game Day: CANUCKS @ Montreal

9 days after their last dance, the Canucks return the visit as they wrap up the Eastern swing with a visit to the Bell Center. The big question tonight isn't which Canucks team we will see, but which Canadiens team we will see. The Habs looked good on Saturday, especially Alex Kovalev, who had 3 points after taking a couple days off (read: sent away to get his head together) by GM Bob Gainey. In a season that was mean to glorify the achievements of the Habs, there seems to have been more distractions and embarrassments than anything else. The latest kerfuffle is the news reports linking the Kostitsyn brothers and Roman Hamrlik to a Montreal crime boss. Add in the team's recent slide (4 wins in their last 16) and the crumbling self-esteem of goalie Carey Price and you have a schizophrenic hockey club to battle with tonight. One thing that has helped the Habs is the addition of Mathieu Schneider, who solidifies the blueline and has definitely helped their struggling PP.

So it is a much different Habs squad the Canucks will face tonight. After Saturday's emotional (read: scripted by the writers of the WWE, on loan to Mr. Bettman) shootout win in Mats Sundin's return to Toronto, will the Canucks be able to stay motivated for the chance to go 4 for 4 on this road trip? It's easy to see why they couldn't. Emotional letdown, fatigue, even a slight sense of complacency (though with the exception of the Sharks and Red Wings, no one in the West should be complacent right now) could all be a factor. But when you look at the significance of the game to 2 of the Canucks, you also get the feeling this could be a very special night. Last time the Canucks rolled into Montreal, Roberto Luongo, still in his ER gown after taking a slap shot to the throat in practice the day before shutout the Habs in his hometown. Alex Burrows is also eager to wrap up this Eastern tour in front of family and friends with a big night.

Should the Canucks come out on top tonight, they have only the lowly Tampa Bay Lightning to deal with to wrap up the month of February, and the possibility of going 10-1-0 for the month, which goes a long way in erasing the memory of a truly horrific January.

One thing that has really made a difference with the Canucks lately is their play on the road. They are now 16-10-4 away from GM Place, and at 8-1-1 in their last 10 the hottest team in the NHL. The improved play of Kevin Bieksa, Willie Mitchell and Shane O'Brien has been a key in all this. Bieksa has turned heads of late with huge offensive production, and praise from the likes of Red Fisher and Don Cherry. Now if we can get Edler, Salo and Ohlund back to where they should be, this team looks to be in good shape down the stretch.

The trade deadline is looming, wnd while GM Mike Gillis has said the Canucks don't look to be buyers on deadline day, I wouldn't rule it out. We have cap space, and the addition of a top 6 forward, as well as a mobile defenceman would certainly enhance the Canucks chances of a long playoff run. There is still a tough March schedule and a few key games in April to go, but it looks like Alain Vigneault has righted the ship. The thing that encourages me is that this team still hasn't played their best game, IMO. I am thrilled to see them finding the way to win night after night, but Roberto Luongo has yet to come out and truly dominate a game. Perhaps tonight we will see that.

After many threats to do so, the podcasts will be returning soon, once I have dealt with a nasty chest infection that has me on the IR at work. In the meantime I will be updating things on the site (a few new Canucksblog links to come) like the standings...

The game goes @ 4:30 on Sportsnet tonight, and as always there is liveblogging on in the Fan Zone. I may even pop in if I can snag Laurie's laptop :)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

HE Returns... but what is the real problem?

After 7 weeks on the IR with a groin injury (all better now that he "pounded it pretty hard" on the weekend), Roberto Luongo returns to the crease tonight as the Canucks take on the Phoenix Coyotes at GM Place. And not a moment too soon, as the Canucks continue to let games slip away heading into the All Star break. Vancouver fans are obviously relieved to have Luongo back, but the issues facing this team still remain: This team can't find a way to win games right now. Myself, I am beginning to wonder if this team hasn't grown tired of AV's coaching 'techniques'. The Pavol Demitra demotion, and benching of Kyle Wellwood are just recent examples of a coaching staff that appear to be running out of ideas, and have begun rehashing things that didn't work last season. Sure, they've had injuries. Sure, there are players that haven't played to their potential at times. But I think we are reaching the critical point for Alain Vigneault. Either he can find a way to get this team back on track, playing solid, defensive-minded hockey with the kind of offensive outbursts that on paper we should be seeing on a nightly basis, or it is time to make a change before it is too late. I am not saying his job is in jeopardy, but you almost have to wonder why it isn't? It might be easy enough for Canucks detractors to say that this is the way things were supposed to be, this team wasn't going to make the playoffs anyways. But this team has shown at times they were as good as any team in the league, they just haven't been that way in about, oh... 7 weeks. So having Lui back in the lineup will be a huge boost. But Vigneault had better figure out how to get his charges back on the same page or he will find himself out of a job, you can bet that.

Nice to see Kyle Turris will actually play in front of family and friends tonight, unless Gretzky decides to scratch him again. That was probably one of the coldest things I have seen. Nice job, Wayne. Sami Salo is not ready to return to the lineup yet, but is getting closer. Curtis Sanford cleared waivers and has been sent to the Manitoba Moose. He is a good guy, and you know he will make the most of this. The Moose are a better squad now for sure. The Coyotes will be without Viktor Tikhinov and Kurt Sauer. Expect Wellwood to be a scratch tonight, and the Canucks have had lines of Hansen, Sundin and Demitra, as well as Pyatt with the Sedin twins in practice. The Canucks have lost 3 straight, and 5 straight on home ice and will be looking to reverse that against the Coyotes, who sit 2 points behind with a game in hand.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

You had to know this was coming...

Curtis Sanford has been placed on waivers by the Canucks this morning. The Canucks have obviously made their choice for backup, and should he clear waivers I suppose he could get sent to Manitoba, or maybe even released outright. No word yet on what will happen, but I can't see him staying around long without someone snapping him up.