Thursday, November 27, 2008

Could you please explain to me...

Why I have to feel bad about my desire to BOO the hell out of Todd Bertuzzi? Seriously, sometimes the fans of our team leave me scratching my head in disbelief. Then again why I even react to some of the things said on the board leave me wondering as well...

GAME DAY: Canucks vs Flames

Welcome to Episode 5, I think, of the Most Important Game Of The Season(c). To put this into perspective, should the Canucks win both games of this home and home series against the Flames, they will extend their lead over them in the NW Division to 9 points. Should they lose both, that lead will be down to a single point. Fortunately, the Canucks have decided that they aren't going to let a groin injury to Roberto Luongo stop them from continuing to play their best hockey of the season. They have only allowed more than 2 goals against once in their last 10 games, and have gone 8-0-2 since their 3-2 loss to Detroit to start the month of November.

Curtis Sanford has played quite well in Luongo's absence, posting a 1.69 GAA in the 3 consecutive games he has played. This game is likely to have a little more than the normal emotion between 2 bitter divisional rivals, as the Flames are unlikely to have forgotten the 2 losses they opened the season with against Vancouver, 6-0 and a 5-4 ot loss that the Flames led 3-1 at one point. Calgary's issue this year seems to be consistency. Mikka Kiprusoff is far from his All Star form of years past, and the once vaunted Calgary defence has made it harder for him by ensuring he leads the league in shots faced. The Flames will look as always to Jarome Iginla to lead the way, something he didn't do against the Canucks in the first 2 games,as he was held pointless. Iginla once again leads the Flames in goals, assists and points, but they will need more efforts like the 6-2 thumping of LA Thursday night if they want to catch the Canucks, a game that saw Mike Cammalleri and Rene Bourque score 2 a piece. Balanced scoring has been a big part of the Canucks' success so far this season, but their top line of Daniel & Henrik Sedin along with Pavol Demitra have been on a tear since being formed upon Demitra's return from injury. One of the real keys to this battle tonight is on defence. Vancouver's lunch bucket crew, led by Willie Mitchell, whose +16 leads all defencemen, and a possible return by Kevin Bieksa, against NHL poster boy (yeah it baffles the hell out of me, too...) Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr. Phaneuf has been forced to play more minutes than ever due to sharp decline on the talent scale after himself and Regehr, averaging more than 28 minutes per game. The Canucks have had good success against the Flames on home ice recently, winning 6 of their last 8, and as we saw against Pittsburgh and Detroit, it would be a mistake to count this team out merely because Roberto Luongo is out of the lineup.

As mentioned, Bieksa is expected to return tonight, and hopes are he will slide right back into the groove he was in before the injury, where he was showing signs of being the defenceman we had seen in him earlier in his career. A bad loss for the Canucks though is that of Ryan Johnson, who has a broken finger on his right hand and broken bone in his left foot. 3 to 5 weeks is the prognosis for the Canucks shot blocking expert. Steve Bernier is doubtful tonight after injuring his shoulder and foot in an awkward colision with the boards Monday night. Luongo, btw is still listed as week to week but reports he could return as early as next week. Rick Rypien is still on the IR with a sports hernia tear. The Flames could be without Dustin Boyd, who was injured Tuesday against the Kings. They are also missing Jim Vandermeer and Rhett Warriner.

Keys to the game:
1- Early shutdown: Seems simple enough, but a key for a Canucks win this year seems to be keeping the opponents off the scoresheet in the first. The Canucks are 10-0-2 when they don't allow a goal in the opening period, and 4-6-0 when they do. So a strong start defensively against a Flames team that will no doubt come charging out of the gate will be a huge factor.

2- Picking your battles: It wasn't bad enough the Canucks outscored the Flames in those 2 games 11-4, they also physically dominated the Flames (check out the Rick Rypien beatdown of Brandon Prust in the October archives). While Vandermeer is out of the lineup, you can almost guarantee Andre Roy will attempt to make his impact felt in the first 5 minutes of the game. I would not be shocked not only to see Jarome Iginla fight, but for there to be a line brawl in this one. It smells like old time hockey, and the Canucks must be ready to let the Flames know that they will go with them, but only when it makes sense. If they get an early lead, let the Flames take the penalty and kill them on the PP.

3- Big games from big players: Sure, everyone needs to play their roles. But in games like this, you need your top players to step up. The PHD line will need to continue their hot streak (26 points in the last 6 games) and they will also need some production from Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and Kyle Wellwood. Defensively, Willie Mitchell, Mattias Ohlund and Sami Salo must continue their strong play on both sides of the puck. Vancouver has 20 more points from the D compared to this time last season, one huge factor in their success thus far.

The beauty of this run the Canucks find themselves on is it's not like each game finds them making Cinderella-type comebacks with lots of fluke goals. The wins have come with basic, honest hard work to a man from this team. They have jelled in a way we aren't used to seeing with the club, and it's kind of nice. There really isn't any reason to think they can't continue to roll, if they bring the same work ethic and attitude to GM place tonight. The game goes at 7 on Sportsnet and the team 1040.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Canucks recall Alexandre Bolduc

Vancouver Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis announced today that centre Alexandre Bolduc has been recalled from the Manitoba Moose of the AHL.

Bolduc, 23, has appeared in 12 games this season, posting eight points (2-6-8) and a rating of +8.

Last season, Bolduc played in 70 games for the Manitoba Moose recording a career high 37 points (18-19-37). A graduate of the QMJHL, Bolduc split time between the Moose and the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL prior to joining the team full time in 2007-08.

The 6’3”, 200 lbs. native of Montreal, Quebec was originally drafted by St. Louis Blues in the fourth round, 127th overall, in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and signed as a free agent on July 2, 2008.

Bolduc was recalled in light of the upper body injury that forward Steve Bernier sustained during last night's overtime win against Detroit.

Keep an eye on the news widget on the side of the page for updates...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Canucks 3 Red Wings 2 (ot)

Forgive me if you've already heard this, but WOOOOOO! Not their best game for sure, but the effort was there. Detroit was certainly trying to test Curtis Sanford as much as they could, but just like that game in Minnesota, this Canucks team doesn't know how to quit. Taylor Pyatt had a huge game tonight, lots of hustle, great defensively and created a number of chances. That goal was so huge not just because it tied the game, but it sent a message to the Red Wings: this ain't over. And even when Datsyuk scored late in the third (and I am sorry, but I have to say the senior officials in the NHL lately have been mind-numbingly atrocious) I could feel the Canucks would score. And what a way for Daniel to get his 400th point. Great deflection, and then the best part is they don't quit, but actually press for the winner in regulation. In the OT it was all Canucks, and then Frandsen finally gets called for the interference Detroit had been getting away with all night long, and the PP goes to work. Pavol Demitra was the key there, continuing to call for the puck, and doing a hell of a job quarterbacking the power play. You knew Salo was gonna get another chance after hitting the post, and he nailed that one so hard I thought it would go right through the mesh. Salo made an impression on, as they named him 2nd star of the night. Of course he got beat out by Cal Clutterbuck (oh deja VU!!!), but at least Clutterbuck got on the scoresheet this time. So now it's a couple days rest and a date with the Calgary Flames, who we haven't seen since those back to back asskickings we gave them at the start of the season. Fireworks aplenty are coming, kids. More post-game coverage tomorrow.

Sami Salo back in the lineup

On a day when we kinda sorta found out about Roberto Luongo's injured groin, the Canucks did recieve some kinda sorta good news, Sami Salo is ready to return to the lineup tonight against Detroit. Salo's constant trips to the dressing room are worrisome indeed. He is a great defenseman but he goes down more than (insert dated sexist joke featuring some celebrity that has recently been in the news for their sexual misconduct). Here's to him staying healthy. This is a bolstering of the Canucks lineup for sure, as he can be a very intimidating presence on the power play, which can open up shooting lanes for others. Sometimes it's the threat that makes the difference, right?

Less than 2 hours to gametime and it feels like the playoffs. Maybe I just need to eat.

Rumor: Luongo out 4 to 5 weeks **Update**

While it hasn't been confirmed, you would think that the man's agent would be a fairly reliable source. The link is in French, but they say a press conference scheduled for 2pm from GM Place.

It's not nearly as bad as it could have been. Guess it's time for Canucks fans to meet the goalie of the future. We will provide a wrap-up of the press conference later this afternoon, and may even do some live blogging tonight (if not, then Saturday against the Flames for sure).

The Canucks have now said there will not be any announcement until tomorrow. The Score is reporting the 4-5 week timeframe but apparently Luongo's agent is now denying it

Team 1040 reports that Luongo is listed as week to week with a groin strain...

GAME DAY: Canucks vs Red Wings

As the Vancouver Canucks await word on the severity of Roberto Luongo's injured groin,
they have another pressing concern, that being the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings looked their usual selves in dismantling
the Calgary Flames Saturday night, and no doubt will want to test Curtis Sanford early and often. The Canucks are looking to win
their 4th straight tonight, and are playing a very confident brand of hockey right now despite the injury to their captain. Both teams
are among the hottest in the NHL right now, the Canucks sitting just 3 points behind the Wings for the 2nd seed in the West, and both are 7-1-2
in their last 10 games. The Red Wings have been the best road team in the NHL so far this season with a 10-1-1 mark, but Vancouver's 6-2-1
home record is no small potatoes. This is a short homestand for the Canucks as they play Calgary Thursday in the 1st half of a home and home
that sees the Canucks start a 7 game road trip Saturday in Cowtown. While the Canucks will be playing their backup tonight, the way this team
rallied around him both in Minnesota and Pittsburgh after Luongo went down has been nothing short of inspiring. You will see evidence of that tonight
when they hit the ice, and I bet you actually hear from this fabled 7th man they keep talking about. The games against the Wings are always highly entertaining
no matter how well the Canucks are doing, but you can't help but feel this team is on a mission to prove everyone was wrong about them.

Along with Luongo, the Canucks will be without Sami Salo, Kevin Bieksa and Rick Rypien. The Wings could be without Tomas Holmstrom, who has missed 2 straight with back
spasms, and Dan Cleary has missed 6 with an eye infection (ew!). They are still without Chris Chelios, on the IR with a fractured tibia.

The Canucks have at least a point in their last 9 games, an impressive run after that first disastrous road trip. The team has been getting some outstanding efforts
from a number of players, especially the line of Daniel and Henrik Sedin with Pavol Demitra, who have been on a tear since Demitra's return from a rib injury, and the
league took notice, naming Henrik 2nd star of the week for his 7 assists on that 4 game Eastern road trip. Despite wins against some very good teams, the Canucks will have
their hands full with the Wings, who have lost just twice in regulation. The Red Wings were the last team to beat the Canucks in regulation, a 3-2 win in GM Place that despite
the loss seemed to signal a bit of a turn around for the club. This is the Wings last visit for the season, so it should be a dandy.

Questions about Curtis Sanford's ability to step in and win big games seem to have been answered, as he has allowed just 3 goals on 48 shots in 2 consecutive victories. The Canucks
have Corey Schneider on the bench tonight, and depending on the severity of the injury to Luongo, you have to think he will get some playing time on this call up, especially on the road trip.
Some milestones could be reached tonight, as Daniel and Henrik are both sitting at 399 career points, and Steve Bernier is 1 short of 100.

Keys to the game:
1- Quick start: The fans will be looking for something to calm their fears, especially if the news about Luongo is bad today, so getting a couple behind Chris Osgood, who is a certified Canuck
Killer will be huge. Look for th Wings to concentrate heavily on the PHD line (23 points last week) perhaps freeing up the HBK line to do some damage.
2- Treat it like a road game: This seems to make a lot of sense, actually. The Canucks played some smart, fundamentally sound hockey on the road last week. They were great defensively, did a
decent job of staying out of the box, and towards the end even had a better effort on the PK. You cant give Detroit opportunities with the man advantage, so we need to make sure that the emotions are kept
in check and we stay at 5 on 5, where statistically we are better than them this season. We may not get many chances on the PP, but we need to make the most of them, as the Wings PK is pretty even with ours.
3- Focus: Just like the game against the Rangers, there are subplots that can be distracting. The Canucks did an incredible job of treating it like any other game and keeping focused on the real issue: 2 points
in the standings. They have a chance to move 7 up on the Flames and Wild, best to make the most of it.

Though it will be great when Salo and Bieksa return to the lineup, the Canucks D, led by Willie Mitchell and Mattias Ohlund have been stellar as of late, but it's been the grunts like Shane O'Brien, Alex edler
and Lawrence Nycholat who are getting it done. The shot blocking this team has been throwing up lately is so nice to see, and a sign this team is doing everything they can to help out their goaltender, regardless
of what number is on his jersey. Gametime is at 7pm and you can catch it on Sportsnet pacific and the Team 1040.

A little side note, we have added the news widget to the site, so you can see breaking news when it happens. We will be making one for our site soon too.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Willie Mitchell: Darkhorse for the Norris?

To say that Willie Mitchell has been the leader of the Canucks' defense this year is an understatement. The burly Vancouver Island native has certainly lead by example, and his stats this year put him in some pretty elite company. He is currently 2nd in +/- behind Alexander Semin, his 8 points is 3rd on the team but has him well on his way to a career best season. When you factor in how he stacks up against the other elite defensemen in the West, he certainly stands up well. He plays against the top lines, kills penalties and has done this with a rotating array of partners due to injury and illness. So I am going to put this out there. Not only should Mitchell get your write-in vote for the All Star game, but he needs some serious consideration for the Norris trophy (aka the Niklas Lidstrom award). Not to downplay Lidstrom, but I would match Mitchell against any Dman in the league right now. That includes former Kelowna Rocket Shae Weber of Nashville, any of those guys down in San Jose, even he of the massive sloping forehead; Dion Pahapheaeuneoouufff...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Luongogeddon has arrived!!!!

Stoic, leader-type guy: Ok... if I can get everyone to just be quiet for a second, we can see if we can muddle our way through this. Now, it's important that everyone stays calm. Here is what we know. Roberto Luongo has suffered some type of leg or groin injury... (camera pans to audience in mass hysteria, screaming. Some cry, others just stare blankly. One man jumps through the window to certain death on the concrete below).
Stoic, leader-type guy: People...people, please! You have got to calm down! We can get through this together, but you have to just chill the hell out!
Hysterical mid-30's man: You said this couldn't happen!! You said it wouldn't happen!!!
Stoic, leader-type guy: (Leaning over and slapping the man across the face) Dammit, man! Get a hold of yourself! Now, does anyone have any ideas? (Camera pans across the room, people showing a variety of emotions on their faces)
Hysterical mid-30's man: Well I don't know about you guys, but I can't deal with this, man! It's all too much... (he turns and walks towards the door, faster until he begins to run, not looking back)
Stoic, leader-type guy: Well? Anyone else think this is too much? Now's your chance to leave. If not, then let's get to work. We have to do something so this whole damn thing doesn't fall apart.

Ok, so my future as a screen writer is in serious doubt. But I really feel that this is not the end of the world. The reports of Luongo in the dressing room joking around afterwards seem to indicate at least for now it may not be serious. Obviously you can't make a diagnosis from that, but given how passionate Lu is, it's a good sign. The way this team has played since returning from that 6 game roadtrip has been quite impressive. They have gone 10-2-2 in their last 14, after going 2-4-1 in their first 7. The PHD line of Pavol Demitra with Daniel and Henrik Sedin have been on a tear, notching (if my math is correct) 23 points since Demitra returned to the lineup from his rib injury. The play of Curtis Sanford in the last 2 games is certainly a bright spot, with huge wins over Minnesota and now Pittsburgh. And defensively the Canucks have rattled off some impressive efforts, leaving teams utterly frustrated in their wake, none moreso than the Penguins today. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were a combined -3, with 1 and 3 shots respectively. The play of Willie Mitchell and Mattias Ohlund lately has been awe-inspiring. Mitchell was his usual rock solid self, logging almost 27 minutes, and Ohlund was a +3 with almost 25 minutes TOI. My favorite stat however, was the shot clock. The Canucks held the Pittsburgh Penguins and all their firepower to 19 shots on goal. I truly believe that this is not just a team on a hot streak, but the true manifestation of this year's dark horse. I know there is a lot of hockey to be played here. And with the Luongo injury, a lot of uncertainty. But for the time being Curtis Sanford and Corey Schneider will be called upon to handle the load. For now, they can rest in their own beds, await the news of their Captain's status, and prepare for Monday and the Red Wings. Oh, did I mention they are going on a 7 game road trip later in the week? You can't accuse them of being boring, that's for sure. Oh, and Matt Cooke played 25 seconds before douchebagging Alex Edler. You stay classy, Cooke. Shame all that amazing work you do in the community gets flushed away by your actions on the ice.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Canucks 3 Wild 2

Are you freakin' kidding me? As I had mentioned in the pre-game post, I didn't think this one would go down as a win, but it would be great to hang on for a point. No one told the Canucks that, as they battled back twice to tie it and then to paraphrase Joey Kenward on the Team 1040 last night "Henrik scores!! Or was that Daniel? I don't care, it was a Sedin and it's 3-2 Vancouver". Classic. Now unlike some who pander to the eternal pessimists out there, (*coughDanRussellcough*) I think it is a very big deal that the Canucks were able to win that game last night. Playing their 3rd game in 4 nights on the road, with a 3 hour flight and a time zone change tacked onto it, the Canucks went into a place where they were 6-1-2 in their last 9 visits with Curtis Sanford and without Sami Salo and Kevin Bieksa and won it. They did it with hard work, a great job of line matching by Alain Vigneault (congrats on win #100, Coach!) and great nights from 2 players in particular: Willie Mitchell and Pavol Demitra. Funny that not only did Mitchell not get recognized for his efforts last night in the 3 star selections, but neither did Curtis Sanford. Can't blame them though, as it's hard to look good when you have the league's premier player Cal Clutterbuck on the ice. Seriously. Clutterbuck was an even, with 3 shots and 8 hits. Fine, 8 hits. Good for him. But he had 9:34 TOI. Then we go to Mr. Mitchell: 1 assist, +2, 24:01 TOI, 2 hits and 4 blocked shots. But maybe they just wanted an excuse to get Mr. Clutterbuck on the scoresheet, because you won't find him anywhere else except the program. Is this a big deal? No. But it speaks volumes about the perception of things in the Cult of Lemaire (tm). Can't say enough about Curtis Sanford. he certainly showed how hard he can battle, and it was truly inspiring to see how hard the team was battling for him last night. Sanford is a relentless worker in practice, and it certainly gives the Canucks a boost to have him come in and give them the chance to win such a huge divisional matchup. Good on Steve Bernier to get off the Schneid as well... He has been busting his ass out there, so a goal, especially the timing of it was huge. So that's 5 of a possible 6 points on this road trip, and they head into Pittsburgh with a well-rested Roberto Luongo to take on Crosby, Malkin and the Penguins tomorrow morning at 11 am PST. Yeah, ask me how happy I am about that. The game is on Sportsnet with Shorthouse and Garrett, and Joey and Tommy have the call on the Team 1040.

On a side note, the game took on a bigger meaning as the Flames shutout Colorado 1-0. The win moves the Flames into a tie with the Wild, but they retain 2nd due to games in hand.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

GAME DAY: Canucks @ Wild

In the fabled 8th borough of New York City, the Canucks are hoping they have something left in a huge divisional matchup against the 2nd place Minnesota Wild. We all know this scheduling sucks, so let's get past this and do what they did last night and focus on the task at hand.

The last time these two teams met, the Canucks shut them out 2-0, and Roberto Luongo outdueled Niklas Backstrom. Tonight, it may be Curtis Sanford in goal however, as the Canucks may want to rest Luongo for the Saturday morning game against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. Backstrom was 3-0-2 against the Canucks lifetime at the Xcel Energy Center, and will be looking to keep his winning ways going, as he has won 2 straight in the shootout, including the Penguins Tuesday night. This will mark Pavol Demitra's first game against his old team. Demitra has returned with a vengeance from the IR, with goals in 2 straight games and 5 points in the 3 since his return from the rib injury. Sami Salo left the game limping last night and is questionable for tonight's game. Kevin Bieksa and Rick Rypien are still on the IR. Marion Gaborik, Kurtis Foster and Josh Harding are out for the Wild. This game is quite honestly not too winnable. The Canucks played last night then took the 3 hour flight to Minnesota, while the Wild have been resting since the shootout win over the Pens. I am expecting a loss, but with some hard work we could maybe see a point out of this. Getting to OT would be huge for the Canucks, who lead the Wild by 1 point. Here's what they need to do to have success tonight:

1- Play your game: Sure we would love to have a quick start, but it's not likely. So what will be needed is to weather the first 10 minutes. Jacques Lemaire will have his troops fired up and they will throw everything they can at a tired Canucks squad. If they can get out of the first half of period 1 unscathed, they have a shot.

2- Discipline: There are bad feelings brewing deeper and deeper each time we play the Wild, and no doubt their fans will be looking for some retribution for the 2-0 loss earlier this month. Jacques Lemaire accused the Canucks of playing "boring hockey" in that game. Seriously. It's amazing he doesn't get laughed out of the press conferences with lines like that. But with the PK still needing some fine tuning (the Rangers were 2 for 6 last night), the Canucks, especially Shane O'Brien need to stay out of the box and not let themselves get suckered into confrontations. Pick your battles.

3- Play their game: The whole Minnesota model is clog up the middle, forecheck tenaciously and try and capitalize on mistakes. Sounds like a plan to me. It may not make for the most exciting game, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and if it means giving them a taste of their own medicine, so be it. The points are what's important, and this team has shown it can play a number of styles. Give them a trap of their own to deal with and make sure to provide support for Sanford (or Luongo, as I am not entirely sure they won't just go with him) with lots of support.

Like I said, I don't expect them to win this one, but it is not out of the realm of possibility. A confident team can do some amazing things, and the Canucks are certainly that after dismantling the best in the East last night. After this the Canucks head back East for that Saturday morning matchup against Sid the Kid and the Penguins.

Canucks 6 Rangers 3

Non-factor. That's what I said about Markus Naslund. The Canucks would focus on winning the game, and Markus Naslund would not make an impact on the game one way or another. And while he did have a strong 3rd period for the Blueshirts, Naslund was indeed a non-factor. To be fair, I don't think you could say any Ranger really played well last night, making you wonder if this team took the Canucks seriously at all. I love it when that happens, because those nights seem to see the Canucks score 6 goals. A strong start was what they needed and they certainly got it from Kyle Wellwood, who was sprung by Mattias Ohlund and made a beautiful deke to put it past Lundqvist. Alex Burrows showed he is a big game player, as he potted 2 in his first appearance at MSG. The star of the game in my eyes though was Mattias Ohlund. 3 assists and a +4, with all the trade winds swirling around him right now he went out and played his best game of the season, a classic Ohlund performance where he was strong defensively, a calming influence who seems to dictate the pace of the game. And he had a couple beautiful setups (especially the Wellwood goal). Roberto Luongo stopped 39 of 42, including 16 in the 3rd period, as the Canucks once again looked great on TSN. We really need to think about making them the official broadcaster, in spite of Pierre McGuire. Nice to see the fans really not given anything to work with last night, as the MSG crowd can be downright intimidating. Kudos to the coaching staff for getting everyone in the right mindset for the game. It's always a big deal when you take down one of the top teams in the league. Better yet, it's always good when you make people realize they were wrong, and YOU'RE one of the top teams in the league (and not just because you have the best goalie). Oh, and for the record, that was a goal. Not sure what is going on with the refs on this road trip, but we are certainly getting the short end of the stick on some calls that replays seem to show as being cut and dry. Finally, congrats to Ryan Johnson on getting his 1st as a Canuck. Now let's get Hordi set up, eh?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

GAME DAY: Canucks @ Rangers

It's a day some thought would never happen. Facing off against Markus Naslund. I don't feel like getting into an examination of did the team do right by him, what are they thinking, etc. None of that matters. There are 2 valuable road points on the line tonight. Beating Naslund, while on everyone's minds, is secondary. The Canucks can move back into 1st in the Northwest with this victory, and after an inconsistent outing against the Islanders, will likely be a lot more focused tonight, and ready to take a boisterous MSG crowd out of it early. They did get off to a fast start on Long Island and will need to do the same tonight. The difference is, no letting their foot off the Rangers' throats this time, like they did with the Isles.

While no one was expecting a goaltenders' duel Monday night, we can expect to see one tonight. The Rangers Henrik Lundqvist is one of the big reasons the Rangers are off to such a great start. And we all know what Roberto Luongo has been up to recently, so this one could be a real treat for those who love those highlight reel saves. While Naslund has been off to a great start in the Big Apple, their top player right now is Nikolai Zherdev, who is leading the team in nearly all offensive catagories. He really seems to be adjusting to life in the Big City after languishing in obscurity in Columbus. Despite the Rangers record, and the Canucks road woes, this game is winnable. Here's what the Canucks need to do to take the 2 points tonight:

1- Quick start: As mentioned, the Canucks must establish a lead quickly. It always helps when the road team gets a good start, and especially in a hostile environment like MSG, getting the fans out of it early and then ensuring that they keep sustained pressure, with lots of shots and cycling in the Rangers end, they will have success. The best defense is a good offense, and not allowing the Rangers the puck certainly will do the trick.

2- Physicality: The Rangers are big, fast and strong. So are the Canucks. So Darcy Hordichuk may be called upon tonight to take matters (read Colton Orr) into his own hands tonight. Hordi hasn't had to scrap too often thus far, but has been impressive when needed. So expect some fists to fly in this one.

3- Prevent Nazzy from having a huge game, but...: Don't lose sight of the other weapons. Obviously the Canucks will spend some of the night with Ryan Kesler and his line all over Naslund, but the Rangers have a number of weapons that can hurt you, so they will need to be on top of their defensive game tonight.

This one is gonna be a beaut, there is no doubt. And should they win, there is no time for celebration as they will board a plane for Minneapolis immediately after the game. The schedule makers for the NHL really need to examine how anyone could consider this road trip in particular, acceptable. Anyways, complete post game wrap up tomorrow, along with a preview of a huge divisional showdown against Minny.

Canucks 1 Islanders 2 (SO)

Welcome once again to the local chapter of the 'This really isn't the worst thing that ever happened to the Canucks' support group. Should they have won that game Monday night? Absolutely. A team 7 points down in the standings from you may not be the worst team in the league, but still, it's a general rule of thumb. But was it so inconceivable that they would lose to the Islanders? Yes, they're in 28th place, but they're not that far out of a playoff spot. They have a sub .500 record, but had played well since Rick DiPietro's injury (read into that what you will). They have a hot goalie right now in Joey McDonald, and no doubt were fired up by the comments in the Vancouver media about how this game would be a cake walk (I believe the term 'perennial doormats' was used, showing that not only do the Canucks press corps not believe in quotes that go on dressing room walls, but they don't realize how much more often the Islanders make the playoffs than the Canucks). Now as far as the win goes, apart from a brutal second period, I think probably their worst period of hockey all season, the Canucks played a pretty decent road game. They tried not to take penalties (hands down some of the worst and most bizarre rule interpretations I have ever seen... between the puck that hit a camera over the glass and the throwing of the puck up the ice, those 2 are the worst blown calls I have seen in some time) and the PK was good. There were some issues with the ice, not the reason why they lost, but it was bad enough that it did impact both teams, they missed passes and often saw pucks hop the line. The Islanders goal to tie it though was hardly a sign they were dominating. It was a shot on net that went in off Shane O'Brien. So why is it that people lose their minds over this? I think the media certainly set the fans up for a fall. Of course the Canucks should be confident going into the game, they had been playing very well, and have had success against the team recently. But to imply the game was unloseable (is that even a word?) was crazy. All it did was show that no team can afford to play less than a 60 minute game in the NHL. Take a period off, you usually pay for it. And losing in the shootout is not losing in my eyes. It's a tie. And we got a valuable road point. So everyone take a deep breath. We are in for a treat tonight, and one I think that now we have adjusted to the 3000+ mile road journey we are ready for. Bring on the Rangers!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Good luck puppy pic

Jack is focused and ready for a big Canucks win... that is if he isn't napping or distracted by something.

GAME DAY: Canucks @ Islanders

After a fairly successful homestand that saw Roberto Luongo re-establish himself as a goaltending force in the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks head out on a 4 game road swing to see if they can re-establish something else they have enjoyed over the last few years: an ability to dominate Eastern teams. They certainly didn't dominate the shot clock Saturday against the Leafs, but they didnt spend all night on defense either. This struggling Islanders team however may be just the thing they need to get geared up for the big matchup Wednesday afternoon at MSG against Markus Naslund and the Rangers. The Islanders are once again floundering, but are coming off back to back wins against the struggling Ottawa Senators. They have yet to win 3 in a row this season so you know they will be pushing hard in this one. The Canucks have won their last 2 on the road, the most recent one the Halloween shootout shocker against the Ducks. Pavol Demitra's return to the lineup Saturday was huge as he set up 3 of the 4 Canucks goals, and Luongo as mentioned was strong when he needed to be. He is 4-0-1 in his last 5 with a 0.59 GAA. The Islanders have yet to win back to back at home this year, and may be starting Joey McDonald tonight, who has never faced the Canucks in his career. The Isles have a good PK, ranked 9th in the league, but their PP is 26th, so an improving Canucks PK should be able to handle them. Doug Weight has been everything the Islanders had hoped when they brought him over in the offseason, leading the team with 15 points, but apart from Trent Hunter, there isn't much else to speak of on this Islanders squad. There are some Canucks connections in the lineup, as former Nucks richard Park and Mike Sillinger (he is on IR, though) are in the lineup, as well as Jeff Tambellini, son of former Asst. GM Steve Tambellini. With G Rick DiPietro on IR once again, this one could be easy as long as the Canucks come out strong, stay focused and play their style of road game. They need to address the task at hand before they start thinking ahead to Wednesday. The game goes tonight at 4pm PST on Sportsnet with John Shorthouse and John Garrett, and Joey Kenward and Tommy Larscheid have the call on the Team 1040 as always.

As a kid I was also a big Islanders fan (a childhood friend's dad played junior hockey in Kamloops with legendary Islander tough guy and Stanley Cup OT hero Bobby Nystrom). My first Canucks game was against the Islanders in 1977, and after the game we got to meet the Islanders in the dressing room. I think Nystrom had a hat trick in that game. They certainly aren't the team that dominated the league for a number of years back then, but they still have a special place in my love for hockey.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Afternoon celebrating the win over the Leafs puppy goodness...

Canucks vs. Leafs Post Game

Boy they made it so close. The Canucks are lucky they have Luongo. Wellwood's goal was a fluke, and I think there was interfer... uh, sorry. I seem to have been temporarily possessed by a Leafs fan for a minute there. Fact is, all the score does is flatter the Leafs even more. They had no business winning that game, because they didnt mount any type of sustained pressure. Sure they outshot the Canucks, but they didn't dominate the play. If anything, they should thank their defense for doing such a good job of clogging up the slot so the Canucks couldnt get shots through on the point. Hey at least one of their scouts was paying attention...
Pavol Demitra had an impressive return, setting up 3 of the 4 goals, including the opener from Wellwood, who was in the lineup because of Demitra's rib injury in the first place. As far as the story of the game though it was the 5 on 3 powerplay that the Leafs had in the first. Roberto Luongo, playing without a stick stopped the Leafs 5 times, and not long after Wellwood got the Canucks on the board. The defensive duo of Shane O'Brien and Lawrence Nycholat were solid last night, and Nycholat's set up of Daniel Sedin for the 4th Canucks goal was downright impressive. Who knew he had that kind of set up ability? Favorite moment of that game however, besides the fans chanting "Leafs Suck" after various organ tunes, was the Willie Mitchell goal. Big Willie has been busting his ass this year, and is well on his way to a career high for points, but had been goal-less so far. So it was fitting that his goal was not only a beauty, as he charged up the middle to tap it home, but it was the game winner. Luongo may be the Captain, but as far as the skaters go, Mitchell leads by example with heart and desire every night on the ice. The Taylor Pyatt bashing continues, and Steve Bernier continues to be snakebit. Pyatt didn't play bad IMO, and as far as Bernier, you can feel it building up, and we will probably see a long streak coming from him. So with that Eastern roadtrip out of sight and another one approaching, the Canucks are now 7-2-1 in their last 10, neck and neck with the Wild for 1st in the Division. First up on the trip is the Islanders, followed by a game we've all had circled on the calendar: the Rangers and Markus Naslund. This game is not just huge because it's against our former Captain, but because this will send a message to the league and many of those sports writers who still think it's the Vancouver Luongos: This team is far better than you thought, and while it's not necessary to apologize, should they beat the Rangers, you can at least admit you were wrong. Yeah I get a little worked up about this stuff. I'm a fan, no apologies.
The new jerseys made their debut last night, and I think I speak for most when I say the Johnny Canuck shoulder patch should have been the main logo. I like 'em, but they would have been the best jersey in the league with JC on the front.

There could very well be a podcast for that game Monday, it all depends on how many puppies we still have around the house (the shameless attention hogs that they are, they're always trying to hog the mic).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Canucks vs. Leafs Second Period

To paraphrase a CDC poster: "the new gold standard of how much your team sucks is when Willie Mitchell scores on you". While Toronto is obviously trying, the Daniel Sedin goal was a back-breaker. For as few shots as the Canucks have managed, the play certainly hasn't seemed so lopsided as you would guess from looking at the score. Nice stat about the Canucks not giving up an even strength goal since the Halloween game against Anaheim. The Leafs haven't really played a bad game, they just haven't gotten any breaks, can't do anything with their PPs, didn't get any help from their goaltending and have poor penalty killing. But other than that, they're right in it.

Canucks vs. Leafs First Period

All in all an entertaining first period. Roberto Luongo may have played the most amazing stretch during that 5 on 3 since he came to Vancouver, and that's saying something. Gotta feel good for Kyle Wellwood, potting one against his old team, you know that one stings. Toskala does not look good so far, and it may be a good thing for him that once again we are struggling to get shots through. I am looking for some rolaids because I know I will need them after the spin Cherry puts on what was a disastrous 1st period for the Leafs. They may not recover the lost momentum from that 5 on 3. Good on Luke Schenn for sticking up for his teammate, but loved the way Davison was feeding him lol.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

GAME DAY: Canucks vs Avalanche

It's been quite a week for Roberto Luongo and the Canucks. After returning what most felt was a disastrous road trip, and a hard fought loss to Detroit, the Canucks didn't just rattle off 3 wins, they shut them out. Another important game tonight as they take on a divisional opponent they haven't seen yet this year; the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avs have a bit of a different look about them, gone are some familiar faces like Jose Theodore, Kurt Sauer, Brad Richardson and Jeff Finger and in are Andrew Raycroft Daniel Tjarnqvist, Ruslan Salei and Darcy Tucker. The most notable thing thus far about the Avs is how hot & cold they have been. They've had a 5 game win streak, but also had losing streaks of 3 and 5 games, the latter broken Saturday with a 1-0 win over Phoenix. As far as the Canucks go, it appears to be business as usual except we could see the return of Janick Hansen and Pavol Demitra is expected back soon from his rib contusion. Rick Rypien remains on the IR. The biggest Canucks killer of all time is out for the Avs, as Burnaby Joe Sakic remains day to day with a back injury, as is Tjarnqvist (foot).

A lot of the focus will be on Luongo, and can he keep this streak going, now at over 10 periods of scoreless hockey. Luongo doesn't seem to be putting too much emphasis on it, the real focus should be the continued strong play of the defence that has kept their opponents to under 30 shots in each of these 3 shutouts. One of the biggest disasters last season was their play against the Avs, as they won the first 2 meetings, only to drop the last 6. They will need to continue their unbeaten streak against their divisional rivals, a tough challenge against a talented team that is better than their record indicates. Fortunately, they won't have to face Jose Theodore, who was in net for 5 of those 6 wins. They will likely face Peter Budaj, coming off a shutout Saturday himself.

Keys to the game:
1- First goal a must- The Canucks, like most other teams do better when they score first. Though they have shown an ability to come from behind this year, it's crucial, especially to get the crowd into it like they were against Minnesota to give them something to cheer about.
2- 11 minutes- Just over 11 minutes into the first and Roberto Luongo will break his shutout minutes streak. Though they say they aren't thinking that, if they can get past this mark, it will no doubt give them a boost that will be hard to overcome.
3- No Sakic, but lots to contain- They may not have Joe, and Andrew Brunette may have left for Minnesota, but there are still a number of offensive concerns with the Avs. They have to keep a lid on Milan Hejduk, Marek Svatos, Paul Stastny, Ryan Smith and Wojtek Wolski, as well as John-Micheal Liles and their mobile defence.

Overall, this to me smells like a win. The Canucks are playing a very confident brand of hockey right now, getting balanced scoring, limiting their opposition's chances and adapting their style of play to counter their opponents styles quite well. That and the return of Janick Hansen should see another fine performance on TSN tonight. Gametime is at 7 and as always you can hear it on the Team 1040 with John Shorthouse and Tommy Larscheid.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

GAME DAY: Canucks vs Wild

Two games in a row, two more consistent efforts and 2 shutouts to show for it. But the Canucks have a much more difficult task at hand tonight as they take on the division leading Minnesota Wild at GM Place. This would be, for those of you who are counting, The Most Important Game Of The Year Part 3. Minnesota has gotten off to a flying start this year with the tried and true methods of the Cult of Lemaire(™), stifling, yawn-inducing defence; tenacious forechecking; solid goaltending; and the ever present threat he might let Derek Boogaard take a shift and punch a hole in someone. And yet for as well as the Wild have played, and as inconsistent as the Canucks have been, a win can launch Vancouver over Minnesota into 1st, as the teams are separated by a mere loser point the Wild picked up. Vancouver's season will depend once again on how well they do against their divisional rivals. 2 years ago they were great, and made the playoffs. Last season they weren't and, well you see what I am getting at. Roberto Luongo is playing his best hockey of the season right now, his goalless streak sitting at 138 minutes and 34 seconds. Minnesota hasn't been shutout since Feb of last season, but considering the trouble this team has scoring goals, it could very well be tonight. Some of the Canucks will no doubt have the last meeting of these 2 teams in the back of their mind, which the Wild won 4-0, part of that horrendous slide that ended the Canucks season. Luongo will need to buck a trend against Minnesota, his worst record against any one opponent is Minnesota, including going 3-4-1 last season. One bit of good news is the Wild will still be without one of their best Dmen tonight. Brent Burns is out with an upperbody injury (remember when they only used to not tell you during the playoffs?) and will miss the game. For the Canucks, Alex Burrows missed yesterday's practice but is expected to be in the lineup, and Janick Hansen could return as well from his groin injury. More good news on the horizon as Pavol Demitra may get cleared to return to practicing Monday, he has begun skating and is healing ahead of schedule. Rick Rypien is still on the IR after his sports hernia tear. The Wild will also be without Marion Gaborik, Owen Nolan and Kurtis Foster, Tomas Mojzis is listed as day-to-day. This has all the makings of a classic battle: 2 teams with an intense dislike for each other, first place on the line, one of the top scoring teams against a defensive juggernaut. Something has to give and it will tonight.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

GAME DAY: Canucks vs Predators

After a frustrating loss to the Red Wings Sunday night, the Canucks look to get back on track tonight on TSN with a matchup against the surging Nashville Predators. They played well against Detroit, except for on the PK, where Detroit was able to score all 3 of their goals. Nashville comes into this game 3-0-1 in their last 4, behind the strong play of Dman Shea Weber, who was named 3rd star of the month on, and leads all defencemen with 11 points. The Canucks will again be without Janick Hansen, who suffered a groin pull in the 7-6 shootout win over Anaheim Friday night. Rick Rypien and Pavol Demitra are still on the IR and the Canucks have put Michel Ouellet on recall to get him up for the game, hopefully no one grabs him before they get a chance to get him in the line up for a chance to see what he can do. Roberto Luongo will get the nod for the Canucks again tonight, while Pekka Rinne has started the last 2 games, as #1 guy Dan Ellis has been on the bench with back stiffness, I bet we see Ellis tonight though. One good thing is the Preds special teams are atrocious, even worse on the road, and that may be just the thing to get the Nux back on track. Mason Raymond and Kevin Bieksa have been stellar lately for the Canucks, Raymond with 9 points in his last 9 games and Bieksa returning to the form he showed in his rookie season, playing with edge and composure. It's nice to see him with his confidence back.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

WTF Was That??? Canucks 7 Ducks 6 (SO)

Ok, that had to be the most messed up game I can recall the Canucks being involved in for a long time. Each period was a game unto its self. The Canucks played well in the first, apart from the penalty issues that continue to plague them, and didn't give up after surrendering 2 quick PP goals to the Ducks. Steve Bernier continued his strong play, and his first period goal set this crazy night in motion. The second period, more Canucks penalties, yet the Canucks rattled off 4 goals on 13 shots, the 4th goal of the night chasing J.S. Giguere, and then Jonas Hiller gave up his first one, the Canucks now have a 5-2 lead and it's all good, right? Wrong. Just a couple moments later, the game is now tied in what has to be some of the sloppiest and craziest few minutes of hockey in recent memory. Moving on to the 3rd, and it's Bernier again, using his size and speed to charge in and scoop the carom off the boards of a Kevin Bieksa shoot-in and the Canucks are back in the lead. But with the goalie pulled, an uncharacteristically bad attempt to clear the zone by Mattias Ohlund leads to Corey Perry's last minute goal, his 5th point of the night. OT solves nothing so they go to the shootout. An amazing deke from Kyle Wellwood puts the Canucks up, but it's matched by Ryan Getzlaf. It doesn't end until Vancouver's 13th shooter, Mattias Ohlund makes amends for his goof in the 3rd and ends it, giving the Canucks the 7-6 win to sweep the mini road trip to California. A few things came to mind as I looked at the aftermath of this game:
- The Oilers have now dropped to the division basement, and this time they don't have injuries as a reason for their slump. It's early, but things aren't looking good in Oil Country right now.
- The next hockey writer to say the Canucks have trouble scoring this year is gonna get a smack, as they are now 3rd in goals for. Seriously, it's as bad as the Obama hangs with terrorists line...
- Luongo may not have played like he did against LA, but when he needed to make the big saves in OT and the shootout he did, some amazing stuff there in the skills competition...
- After that horrendous road trip, and for how good the Flames and Wild have played lately, there we are tied for the division lead... makes me look forward to our first matchup against the Mild...
- We get another shot at Detroit Sunday, and I hear the 7th man may actually show up for this one.

Overall the last 7 days have been good for the Canucks. They've won 3 of 4, scored 17 goals, allowing 10, and made up for those losses on the eastern swing. a 2 week homestand and a chance to really put together some wins can help set them up for the season, and it all starts tomorrow against the Wings.