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

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