Andrew Bucholtz

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About Andrew Bucholtz

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  1. The odyssey isn't over yet

    (Note: You can find this post with embedded videos here. I'll also be live-blogging Game Two at <I><a href="http://www.canuckpuck.com">Canuck Puck</i></a> and at <a href="http://www.sportingmadness.ca"><i>Sporting Madness</a></i>. Puck drops at 9 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Pacific. Come join me then!) After the Canucks' <a href="http://www.nucksmisconduct.com/2010/5/2/1454607/sunday-morning-coffee-we-came-in">5-1 demolition</a> [<b>Kent Basky</b>, <i>Nucks Misconduct</i>] <a href="http://trevorpresiloski.com/2010/05/playoff-postscript-canucksblackhawks-wait-what/">of Chicago</a> [<b>Trevor Presiloski</b>, <I>The Internet Trashcan</i>] in Game One, it would have been tempting to conclude that Vancouver's going to win this series in a romp. In my mind, that conclusion would be wrong, though. These teams are very even; they were second (Chicago) and third (Vancouver) in the Western Conference standings this year, and second (Vancouver) and third (Chicago) across the league in goals for/game, averaging 3.27 and 3.20 goals per game respectively. Defence was a little more uneven, but in favour of the Blackhawks: Chicago was sixth in the league in goals allowed/game (2.48) while Vancouver was 12th (2.66). There isn't anything in those numbers to suggest that we'll have a whole series of walkovers. Fortunately, most of the Canucks' writers out there <a href="http://canucksarmy.com/2010/5/3/gdrc-gm-2-canucks-blackhawks">are</a> [<b>Cam Davie</b>, <i>Canucks Army</i>] <a href="http://canuckshockeyblog.com/?p=3599">keeping</a> [<b>Richard Loat</b>, <i>Canucks Hockey Blog</i>] <a href="http://benchedwhale.com/2010-articles/may/canucks-vs-blackhawks-game-2.html">perspective</a> [<b>Dani Toth</b>, <i>Benched Whale</i>]. This is still going to be <a href="http://canucknation2.wordpress.com/2010/05/02/first-game-easy-the-rest-dont-count-on-it/">a tough series</a> [<i>Canuck Nation</i>], especially considering that the Blackhawks are claiming <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/hawks-taste-humble-pie/article1554329/">to have underestimated Vancouver</a> [<B>Gary Mason</b>, <i>The Globe and Mail</i> before Game One. They won't make that mistake again. Something else to keep in mind is that Chicago <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/globe-on-hockey/sekeres-canucks-watch-list/article1555161/">actually controlled the first 10 minutes of play</a> [<b>Matt Sekeres</b>, <i>The Globe and Mail</i>] in Game One and was the better team in the first period, despite heading into the intermission down by two. The game turned into a rout, but it wasn't necessarily always going to be one. A few bounces one way or another and the story of the series so far would have been very different. This series reminds me of part of <b>Homer</b>'s <I><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odyssey">Odyssey</i> (no, not the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homer%27s_Odyssey_%28The_Simpsons%29">Simpsons' episode</a>!), which is why I used the music video I did above. Many know that it took <b>Odysseus</b> 10 years to return home after the 10-year Trojan War, but it isn't as well-publicized that he almost made it a lot sooner. Early in Odysseus' journey, he and his men stayed with <b>Aeolus</b>, master of the winds, who gave Odysseus a bag containing all the winds that he could use to get home to Ithaca more quickly. They were nearly there when the crewmen opened the bag while Odysseus was sleeping, thinking it contained gold; all the winds were instantly released and they were blown all the way back to the land of Aeolus. The same fate could befall the Canucks if they're not careful. Game One proved that they can play with and beat the Blackhawks, so their goal is visible. It would be easy for the players to lose sight of the overall mission and become consumed by greed like Odysseus' sailors, though, neglecting team objectives in favour of attempts to rack up individual statistics. That could be calamitous, and blow them right back where they started. We'll see tonight if they're able to remain focused on the task at hand or if they'll be tempted to let the winds out of the bag. <b>Prediction: Canucks 3, Blackhawks 2</b>
  2. [The original piece can be found here] The Canucks kick off their second-round matchup with the Blackhawks today at 8 p.m. Eastern/5 p.m. Pacific. I'll be live-blogging it at Canuck Puck and <em><a href="http://www.sportingmadness.ca/">Sporting Madness</a></em>, so feel free to stop by then and chat! To get you set for it, I interviewed <b><a href="http://twitter.com/jim_neveau">Jim Neveau</a></b> of Fanball's excellent Chicago blog, <i><a href="http://paintitblackhawks.com/">Paint It Blackhawks</a></i> on what we can expect from the Blackhawks this series. My questions and his answers are below. <b>Andrew Bucholtz:</b> The Blackhawks knocked off Nashville in six games in Round 1. Was that pretty much what you were expecting, or was it a tougher or easier series than you'd anticipated? <b>Jim Neveau:</b> With seven teams making the postseason in the West with 100 or more points, it wasn't much of a surprise that the Hawks went six games against the Predators. Nashville plays a very defensive style of hockey, mucking up the middle and generally trying to frustrate their opponent into mistakes. It is a style that teams with limited offensive talent generally try to employ to even the playing field, and Nashville did it very effectively against Chicago. The series probably would have ended sooner had the Hawks not stubbornly tried to stick to their perimeter game plan in the first three games of the series. Once Chicago started to crash the net, set up screens in front of <strong>Pekka Rinne</strong>, and start to really attack Nashville in the corners of the offensive zone, the series was pretty much over. <b>A.B.:</b> <strong>Jonathan Toews</strong> finished the first round with eight points, while <strong>Patrick Kane</strong> had seven. Which of the two stars do you think will be a bigger offensive threat against the Canucks? <b>J.N.:</b> While each of the two young Chicago stalwarts has an opportunity to have a great offensive series, the more likely candidate seems to be <strong>Patrick Kane</strong>. He played very solidly at the beginning of the Nashville series while his other teammates struggled, and he had a penchant for scoring clutch goals, as evidenced by his game-tying tally in Game 5 in Chicago. Toews is great at creating screens in front of goaltenders, so he is likely to get more of the "assists that don't appear on the score sheet" than actual helpers, but he will still pound in some rebounds like he did in the first period of Game 6 of the Predators' series. <b>A.B.:</b> On defence, how has <strong>Brent Seabrook</strong> (note for readers: a guy <a href="http://www.sportingmadness.ca/2010/03/hockey-interviewing-brent-seabrook-and.html">I interviewed</a> not that long ago) looked since returning from his concussion? Is he back in form, or does he still have a ways to go? <b>J.N.:</b> Seabrook was one of the hardest hitting Hawks in the Nashville series, and his physical play indicates two things: one, he isn't afraid of contact after the vicious hit that he took from <b>James Wisniewski</b>, and the second is that his body is allowing him to continue playing his game, thus proving he is healthy enough to be an asset. <b>A.B.:</b> <b>Duncan Keith</b> seemed pretty quiet in the first round, finishing with just two points and a -4 rating. Do you think he'll step it up in the second round? <b>J.N.:</b> Keith struggled mightily for most of the Nashville series, but he had a sort of coming out party in Game 6, scoring a goal and adding an assist in a little over 28 minutes of ice time. Add this to the fact that he played better defense in the second half of the series, and you have the potential for a breakout in the Western Semi-Finals. If Keith can get into a groove passing the puck (he had 55 assists during the regular season), and if he can continue to play solid blue line defense against a relentless Vancouver attack, then he could be poised to have a series befitting a Norris Trophy nominee. <b>A.B.:</b> How confident are you in <strong>Antti Niemi</strong>'s goaltending? <b>J.N.:</b> Inconsistent play plagued <strong>Antti Niemi</strong> at times during the first round series against Nashville. He displayed some poor puck-handling, and allowed a number of soft goals that very easily could have helped end the series sooner had he stopped them. On the flip side, there were times during the series that he stepped up his play to a level that befits a playoff goaltender, including a Game 2 shutout victory and a masterful third period performance in Game 6 in which he stopped 15 Nashville shots and helped his teammates kill off three straight Predator power plays. That Game 6, in fact, provided the perfect dichotomy by which to gauge fans' confidence in Niemi: if he plays like he did in the first period (allowing three goals), then fans will bemoan their fate in true Chicago sports fan style. If he can play like he did in the last 20 minutes of the series, then fans will rejoice that they may have found the perfect alternative to <strong>Cristobal Huet</strong>'s maddeningly inconsistent play. <b>A.B.:</b> Both teams have made lots of personnel changes since they met last season. Which team do you think has improved more? <b>J.N.:</b> The Chicago Blackhawks made one of the biggest splashes of the free agency period when they signed <strong>Marian Hossa</strong>, and his 24 goals in only 57 games played certainly made him a valuable asset to his team. <strong>Tomas Kopecky</strong> and <strong>John Madden</strong> were also added to the mix, with Kopecky scoring a career-high 10 goals and Madden serving as one of the best penalty killers on the team. The Vancouver Canucks, however, made a couple of moves that have turned out to be just as profitable, signing <strong>Mikael Samuelsson</strong> to a three-year contract and trading for defenseman <strong>Christian Ehrhoff</strong> during the off-season. Samuelsson has been an immediate blessing to the team, scoring 30 goals during the regular season and helping one of the better offenses in the Western Conference. Ehrhoff had an outstanding season as well, racking up a team-leading +36 and notching 17 power-play assists on the campaign. He also led the team in Time on Ice. With all of those stats floating around, it's a tight race as to which team made the better acquisitions, but the edge has to be given to the Canucks. Their blue line was instantly bolstered by the addition of Ehrhoff, and Samuelsson was a valuable asset on the offensive side of the puck as well. Hossa and his brethren were certainly great pick-ups by the Hawks, but for sheer bang for the buck, the Canucks outdid themselves here. <b>A.B.:</b> What do you think will be the key matchup of this series? -With how much the two despised each other during the last postseason, a lot of folks will point to the match-up between <strong>Dustin Byfuglien</strong> and <strong>Roberto Luongo</strong> as the key to this series, but since we don't like to go with the conventional wisdom, here's another one that will be just as important: <strong>Ryan Kesler</strong> against <strong>Jonathan Toews</strong>. Kesler brings some much needed intensity to the forward department for the Canucks, and he is just as likely to score a goal as he is to drop the gloves and have at it to help give his team a boost. Toews, on the other hand, is a cool customer, staying away from the agitating tactics that Kesler uses, and instead focusing on parking himself in front of the opposing goaltender, as well as being one of the best back-checking forwards in the league. While the differences between the two centers are abundantly clear, one thing is certain: both players will do the little things to help their team win, and whoever does them better will be on the smiling end of the handshake line at the end of the series. <b>A.B.:</b> Finally, what's your prediction for the series? <b>J.N.:</b> Accuse me of homerism if you want, but this series will be a hard fought one, with plenty of scoring, hard-hitting, and good old fashioned hatred. The Canucks are a better team than the one the Hawks saw in the playoffs last year, but in the end, the Hawks' depth at the forward spot and excellent penalty killing unit should be sufficient to oust the Canucks from the playoffs. It will likely be a seven-game slugfest, but I pick the Hawks to prevail. Thanks to Jim for taking the time to do this! Make sure to follow him on Twitter and check out <a href="http://paintitblackhawks.com/2010/05/01/pib-playoff-primer-who-needs-to-step-up-for-the-hawks-against-vancouver/">his preview post</a> over at <i>Paint It Blackhawks</i>. There are still almost three hours until the puck drops and the live blog kicks off, so here's my predictions for the series and links to some of the best other previews from around the web. Hope to see you tonight!
  3. A farewell to Kings, thanks to Jekyll, not Hyde

    (To view this piece with accompanying videos, go here) The Canucks made the <a href="http://twitter.com/#search?q=regicide">#Regicide movement</a> very happy Sunday night, knocking off the Kings in <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximilien_Robespierre">Robespierrean fashion</a> with <a href="http://www.nucksmisconduct.com/2010/4/25/1444361/another-third-period-rally-helps">a 4-2 win in Game Six</a> [<i>Nucks Misconduct</i>]. With the win, <a href="http://www.nationalpost.com/sports/story.html?id=2950527">they take the series four games to two</a> [<i>National Post</i>] and will move on to the second round. It's a result that many might have anticipated at the start of the playoffs thanks to Vancouver's superior regular-season record and goal differential, but also one that looked increasingly unlikely as the series went along thanks to L.A.'s strong play and the Canucks' issues.. Consistency is not the name of this team; they can blow you away one minute and then look like a non-playoff team the next. Their rapid identity shifts in this series made Jekyll and Hyde look normal by comparison. The Canucks got off to a good start with an overtime win in Vancouver in Game One, but quickly dropped the next two games. Going into Game Four, they were coming off a devastating loss that spawned a flood of <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2010/04/21/theyre-out-to-get-me-or-maybe-not/">conspiracy theories</a>. Their goaltending had been average, their discipline had been atrocious, their penalty killing <a href="http://trevorpresiloski.com/2010/04/playoff-postscript-canuckskings-game-3-there-was-a-second-shooter/">had been abysmal</a> [<b>Trevor Presiloski</b>, <i>The Internet Trashcan</i>] and they had acquired goals <a href="http://canucksarmy.com/2010/4/21/gdrc-gm-4-canucks-kings">from only four different players</a> [<b>Cam Davie</b>, <I>Canucks Army</i>]. They certainly weren't dead yet, but their claims to be getting better deserved some skepticism. Under immense pressure, though, the Canucks found <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2010/04/22/closer-to-the-heart/">the heart they needed</a> and came through in Game Four. They followed that up with a 7-2 thumping of the Kings in Game Five, and looked more like <a href="http://canuckshockeyblog.com/?p=3483">the dominant team we expected</a> [<b>J.J. Guerrero</b>, <i>Canucks Hockey Blog</i>]. If they could keep that up, they certainly looked set to win Sunday and advance. If all depended on if Jekyll or Hyde would show up, though. In Game Six, the early going <a href="http://www.benchedwhale.com/2010-articles/april/canucks-commit-regicide.html.">saw Vancouver's Hyde lookalikes return</a> [<b>Dani Toth</b>, <i>Benched Whale</i>]. The Kings took an early 1-0 lead and looked sure to expand upon it when Canucks' captain and star goaltender <b>Roberto Luongo</b> displayed the best leadership in action <a href="http://network.nationalpost.com/NP/blogs/posted/archive/2010/04/22/shatner-for-governor-general-page-explodes-on-facebook.aspx">this side of a certain Governor General candidate</a> [<b>Daniel Kaszor</b>, <I>National Post</i>], making a circus save off of <b>Ryan Smyth</b>. Inspired by their captain, the Canucks bounced back thanks to goals from <b>Shane Bernier</b> and <b>Kevin Bieksa</b>, but they found ways to struggle yet again, allowing a <b>Drew Doughty</b> goal in between their two tallies. It was still tied at two late in the game, but <b>Daniel Sedin</b> came through with a 57th-minute go-ahead goal and <b>Alex Burrows</b> added his first goal of the series on an empty-netter to seal the deal. It wasn't a dominating performance by any standards, and both the Jekyll and Hyde aspects of the Canucks were on full display, but Jekyll won out in the end. We'll see if that can continue into the second round, but for now, the Canucks will celebrate just getting there.
  4. Starting it up

    (Click here for the original post with embedded video) The Canucks <a href="http://www.nucksmisconduct.com/2010/4/16/1426332/reviewing-the-canucks-kings-game">got off to a pretty good start</a> [<I>Nucks Misconduct</i>] Thursday night with a 3-2 overtime win <a href="http://canuckshockeyblog.com/?p=3372">over the Los Angeles Kings</a> [<b>Matt Lee</b>, <I>Canucks Hockey Blog</i>]. It wasn't a dominating performance, but <a href="http://www.nucksmisconduct.com/2010/4/16/1425828/friday-morning-coffee-son-of-sam#storyjump">it was an effective one</a> [<I>Nucks Misconduct</i>]; Vancouver outshot the Kings <a href="http://canucks.nhl.com/club/boxscore.htm?id=2009030171">44-27</a> [<I>Canucks.com</i>], something which always bodes well for winning. They didn't play perfectly, but they got the job done. There were some troubling signs, though. The Canucks <a href="http://canuckshockeyblog.com/?p=3377">took some dumb penalties</a> [<b>J.J. Guerrero</b>, <i>Canucks Hockey Blog</i>], and that's something <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2010/04/03/bouncing-back/">that's been an issue</a> lately. Both of L.A.'s goals came on the power play, and the Canucks allowed them to get too many good chances; they only took four shots on their three power-play chances, but two of them beat <b>Roberto Luongo</b>, and neither was a particularly bad goal. By contrast, Vancouver was able to fire nine power-play shots at <b>Jonathan Quick</b>, but only one snuck by him. They were getting pucks on the net, which is always a good thing, but many of those weren't particularly good shots because the Kings' penalty kill was doing its job and shutting down the shooting lanes. Vancouver will have to be more disciplined and more effective on special teams if they want to take this series. On the whole, though, this was what the Canucks needed to do. As <b>Cam Davie</b> <a href="http://canucksarmy.com/2010/4/15/gdrc-gm-1-kings-canucks">pointed out</a> over at <i>Canucks Army</i> before Game One, Luongo had to turn in a solid performance, Vancouver needed to limit the Kings' chances and shots, and the Canucks' forwards needed to dominate the possession battle. All those things happened, and the Canucks took the game. If they can do that for the rest of the series, they should advance to the second round. Beyond that, what will be crucial for tonight's game? In my mind, the element that really favours the Canucks in this series is their depth up front. When you can throw out <b>Henrik Sedin</b>, <b>Daniel Sedin</b> and <b>Alex Burrows</b> as your first line and still have guys like <b>Ryan Kesler</b>, <b>Mikael Samuelsson</b> and <b>Pavol Demitra</b> in reserve, it's tough to pick who to defend. The Kings have some forward depth of their own, with the likes of <b>Ryan Smyth</b>, <b>Anze Kopitar</b> and <b>Alexander Frolov</b>, but they can't compare to the Canucks. Both teams have some defensive issues and inconsistent-at-times goaltending, but I think it's the forwards and the firepower they present that give the Canucks the edge. We'll see how they do tonight. The puck drops at 10 p.m. Eastern.
  5. Doing enough just to get by

    [You can view this post with embedded videos here] The Canucks <a href="http://www.theprovince.com/sports/Canucks+clinch+Northwest+Division+title+with+over+Wild/2763280/story.html">clinched the Northwest Division title</a> [<b>Ben Kuzma</b>, <i>The Province</i>] Sunday night with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Minnesota Wild, but they certainly didn't do so in style. They got off to an excellent start with a shorthanded goal from <b>Ryan Kesler</b> and a power-play goal from <b>Kyle Wellwood</b>, and they looked to be in good shape, but they collapsed down the stretch in a way we've seen many times before. <b>Andrew Brunette</b> made the score 2-1 midway through the third and the Wild poured on the pressure late, making it look like a comeback was inevitable. Even after <b>Alex Edler</b> gave the Canucks a 3-1 lead with a late empty-net goal, they still almost found a way to collapse. <b>Cody Almond</b> cut the lead to one and <b>Antti Miettinen</b> tied the score with less than 20 seconds left. Minnesota had all the momentum and it looked like they would take it home in the extra period, but <b>Henrik</b> and <b>Daniel Sedin</b> combined to set up <b>Sami Salo</b> for the game-winner during a power play created by an ill-advised Wild penalty. It wasn't a glorious win, but all points count equally in the standings, and that's a good thing. Sunday's effort wasn't all bad, though. Vancouver outshot Minnesota 39-27, which is always good to see. <b>Roberto Luongo</b> also mostly bounced back after <a href="http://www.nucksmisconduct.com/2010/4/2/1402337/moving-right-along-canucks-ducks">an 8-3 drubbing in his last outing</a> [<i>Nucks Misconduct</i>] against the Kings, stopping 24 of the 27 shots he faced. Allowing two goals within a minute late in the third period certainly is cause for concern, though, and suggests that his problems may not be entirely solved. Also on the bright side, Henrik <a href="http://canucks.nhl.com/club/recap.htm?id=2009021178">picked up his 106th point</a> [AP, <I>Canucks.com</i>] and increased his lead in the scoring race to four points. Kesler and Wellwood both looked very good, and <b>Mikael Samuelsson</b> returned after missing eight games and seemed to be in good form. With him back, Vancouver's got a lot of offensive firepower, which bodes well for their playoff success. However, there are still real issues that need to be looked at. The Canucks' penalty woes, <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2010/04/03/bouncing-back/">which I discussed Saturday</a>, continued to rear their ugly head; Vancouver took seven minor penalties against the Wild, including two dumb goaltender interference penalties and a delay of game penalty on Salo. They'll have to improve their discipline if they're going to go anywhere in the playoffs. Moreover, <b>Christian Ehrhoff</b> tweaked his knee Sunday night, which has the potential to really hurt the team. It doesn't sound like it's too severe at the moment, but Ehrhoff <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2009/11/28/in-with-the-new-hoff/">has been one of the team's best defencemen this year</a>, so any long-term injury to him might not auger well for the team's prospects. Still, the Canucks did enough to win here, and that's the key thing for the moment. In addition to clinching the division title and at least the third playoff seed in the Western Conference, they hit 100 points on the season with the win. Their remaining games against the Avalanche, Sharks and Flames won't be easy, and the Canucks probably won't be able to catch Chicago for second place (the Blackhawks have 105 points and four remaining games), but at least now they can view those games as tune-ups, not crucial battles for playoff positioning. That's not a huge victory, but it's a small one, and even little victories count.
  6. A shot through the heart? No, not really.

    [You can see the original post with videos here] Tonight's <a href="http://canucks.nhl.com/club/recap.htm?id=2009021066">4-3 overtime loss </a>to the Red Wings had elements of a crushing defeat, but it wasn't really one. If there's ever a time to <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2009/10/27/staying-medium/">stay medium</a>, this would be it; it's far too easy to get fired up about wins or disappointed about losses without considering them in the grand scheme of things. If you take the long view, this one wasn't actually so bad. The game started auspiciously for Canucks fans, as Vancouver played well early on and scored two quick goals. Things soon went downhill, though. The Canucks let Detroit back into the game by allowing two goals in five seconds, including a <b>Pavel Datsyuk</b> 40-footer that brought back bad memories of other long-range Detroit goals against Vancouver, such as this one: It's perhaps appropriate that Datsyuk scored that one, as <b>Chris Hollis</b> <a href="http://motownwings.com/2010/03/20/the-chase-pavel-datsyuk/">predicted</a> he'd have a big role to play tonight. I'm not sure if that's exactly what he imagined, though. The situation continued to deteriorate for the Canucks, as they then fell behind 3-2 late in the second period when they let <b>Valtteri Filppula</b> walk in alone on a shorthanded breakawy. They battled back to tie it up and send it to overtime, and were less than a second away from a shootout when <b>Henrik Zetterberg</b> beat <b>Roberto Luongo</b> to win it for the Red Wings. When you combine that with the long-range goal and the Filppula breakaway, there are lots of unfortunate portents Canucks fans can take away from this one, and that's before we consider that Detroit outshot Vancouver 54-32 on the night. This is obviously disappointing on several fronts. This was not a good overall game by the Canucks, and there were some egregious mistakes. I've <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2010/02/11/sitting-around/">written</a> <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2009/12/10/prey/">before</a> about the need to do well against teams that are further down in the standings, and from one point of view, Detroit fits there; they're barely hanging on to the eighth playoff spot in the West at the moment. Moreover, allowing so many shots on Luongo might help to tire him out before the playoffs, and it certainly doesn't inspire him to have faith in the team in front of him. The long-range goal he allowed doesn't help the team's confidence in him, either, and the late goal might crush the entire team's morale. However, there are plenty of bright spots to be found in this one. For one thing, <b>Shane O'Brien</b> looked very good after returning from the press box, finishing with a goal and an assist. <b>Kyle Wellwood</b> had a nice night with a goal and an assist, and <b>Kevin Bieksa</b> continued his return to form. Luongo played well on the whole and made several impressive saves. The bizarre nature of the Red Wings' goals and the mistakes that led to them can be seen as an indictment of the Canucks, but they can also be seen as random events that altered what could have easily have been a Vancouver win. With a few bounces, the end result could have been quite different. Moreover, keep in mind that the Red Wings aren't as bad as the standings make them look. Yes, they're fighting for the final playoff berth in the West, but with 83 points, they have more points than all but the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. They've also been playing well lately; they're 7-2-1 in their last 10. These aren't the incredibly dominant Red Wings we're used to seeing, but they're far from chopped liver. Finally, the one point Vancouver picked up will certainly still help. It's not the two they were hoping for, but the point for an overtime/shootout loss has become an increasingly important part of the NHL in recent years. Every point counts the same in the standings, so this is still at least partially a victory, even if right now it feels like a defeat. It's a blow for the Canucks, but it's not a shot through the heart.
  7. Road warriors and goal differentials

    [You can see this post with embedded videos here] The Canucks finished their brutal 14-game Road Trip From Hell™ earlier this week, and they did so in style. Despite being worn down from <a href="http://www.theprovince.com/sports/Canucks+drop+shootout+loss+Coyotes+game+road+trip/2668456/story.html">the longest road trip in league history</a> [<b>Ben Kuzma</b>, <i>The Province</i>] and starting backup <b>Andrew Raycroft</b>, Vancouver gave a very solid Phoenix Coyotes team all they could handle Wednesday, eventually falling 4-3 in the sixth round of the shootout at the hands of former Canuck <b>Adrian Aucoin</b>. They finished the road trip with an amazing 8-5-1 record, which has to be considered a huge victory, especially after they were 4-4 in the games before the Olympic break and barely pulled out those wins against some of the league's worst teams</a>. By and large, the Canucks involved in the Olympics <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2010/02/24/grading-the-olympic-canucks/">played well</a>, though, and that provided some optimism coming out of the break. Particularly encouraging was the resurgence of <b>Pavol Demitra</b>; as I wrote last week, Demitra <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2010/03/06/flyingundertheradar/">had been quite effective as a defensive player</a> in his limited appearances this year, but hadn't done much to find the net. He seemed to rediscover that offensive touch during the Olympics, leading the tournament in points, and he brought that back to the Canucks. The other Olympians have played pretty well, and the rest of the team has also stepped up, leading to a 4-1-1 stretch since the break that brought back memories of the team's <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2010/02/04/its-a-long-way-to-the-top/">most recent hot streak</a>. This road stretch has been even more impressive when you factor in that the Canucks haven't been very good away from home this year. They've put up a dominating 23-7-1 mark at GM Place, but even after this recent spate of success, still sit at just 18-16-2 on the road, a .500 winning percentage. They were .571 on this last trip, an incredible mark considering the brutal travel schedule involved. That bodes well for the future, but they'll have to keep it up. The Canucks have now played 67 games, or 81.7 per cent of their regular-season schedule. They have a 41-23-3 record, good enough for 85 points (first in the Northwest Division, tied for fourth in the Western Conference, tied for fifth in the entire NHL). What's even more impressive is their goal differential, though; they've scored 220 goals while allowing only 174, a difference of +46, which is the fourth-best mark in the league. Vancouver fans are used to seeing the team pick up their wins in close games, but that hasn't been the case this year, and that's a very positive development; sure, blowouts aren't worth any more points than close wins, but that kind of goal differential suggests your team is prevailing on skill, not luck. On that note, it's interesting to look at the <a href="http://www.nhl.com/ice/standings.htm#?navid=nav-stn-main">league-wide goal differentials</a> and the potential parity gap they present. Washington is first, with a ridiculous +75 mark. After the Capitals come Chicago (+57), San Jose (+52), and Vancouver (+46). Below the Canucks, there's a huge drop to the fifth-place L.A. Kings (+24), and there are only six more teams (Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Colorado and Buffalo) even above par. That's right, 19 of the league's 30 teams have allowed more goals than they have scored. That doesn't necessarily mean that the Canucks and the others in their goal-differential class are head-and-shoulders above everyone else; goal differential has its limitations. However, it certainly bodes well for their success down the stretch and in the playoffs. Their road success is also encouraging, given how that appeared to be one of their weaknesses early on. At the moment, they're looking like killing machines.
  8. Pavol Demitra, flying under the radar

    [You can find the original post with video here]. One of the stars of the Winter Olympics’ men’s hockey tournament was <b>Pavol Demitra</b>, who finished first in overall scoring with 10 points (three goals and seven assists) in seven games and played a crucial role in Slovakia’s eventual fourth-place finish. It was an interesting showing from Demitra, who had barely featured at all with the Canucks this year thanks to injuries and was playing on the fourth line in the days before the tournament. Was Demitra’s play at the Olympics an aberration, or a sign of things to come, and can he be effective for the Canucks down the stretch? Let’s take a look. Demitra certainly has the talent to star offensively at the NHL level, as he’s shone on many occasions. He’s had three seasons with 30 or more goals and 10 seasons with 20 goals or more. He's also had four seasons with 70 points or more and 10 seasons with 50 points or more. However, one of the main knocks on him has been his consistency. He’s often struggled with injuries, and for every night where he’s been outstanding, there have been other nights where he’s been invisible. Last season with the Canucks, he put up a very efficient line of 20 goals and 33 assists in 69 games, but he looked brilliant in some games and was hardly noticeable in others. This year, he only has seven points in the 14 games he's played. Linemates often have a considerable influence on a player’s success, though, and for much of his Canucks’ career, Demitra hasn’t exactly received the cream of the crop. The best offensive player who he’s seen regular time with is probably <b>Ryan Kesler</b>. Kesler can be very good offensively at times, but he often plays as a two-way guy with a focus on defence. Still, he's much better than some of the other players who have been paired with Demitra, guys like <b>Taylor Pyatt</b> and <b>Jannik Hansen</b> who are capable in their own right but hardly offensive dynamos. What often flies under the radar is that Demitra can be an effective defensive player, though. Using <em>Behind The Net</em>'s <a href="http://www.behindthenet.ca/2009/new_5_on_5.php?sort=28&amp;section=goals&amp;mingp=&amp;mintoi=&amp;team=VAN&amp;pos=">advanced stats</a>, we can take a look at how many goals the Canucks scored per 60 minutes of even-strength time that certain players were on the ice (GFON/60) and how many goals they allowed (GAON/60) during that same period. This gives you a sense of how the team would do if they played that player for the entire game (without fatigue), and allows for a more effective isolation of a particular player's skills than the standard plus-minus system. This season, Demitra has an unremarkable 2.21 GFON/60, but a sparkling GAON/60 of 0.74. That's the best mark on the team (except for <b>Evan Oberg</b> and <b>Guillaume Desbiens</b>, who both saw brief ice time in the one game they played without having a goal scored against them). Demitra also has a +/-ON/60 of 1.47, the seventh-best mark on the team. His numbers are necessarily prone to small sample size, given the limited number of games he's played in this year, but they suggest that he can be a capable and useful player even when he isn't registering points. Demitra's performance in the Olympics showed that he still has that offensive talent, though, and gave plenty of hope that he can contribute offensively during the playoff push. He also has three points in his three games since the break. However, even if he doesn't display the same sort of scoring prowess he did during the Olympic tournament, don't write him off yet. His contributions this year have gone well beyond the offensive end, and that bodes well for the Canucks. Despite his limited presence on the stat sheet and his injury concerns, there's every reason to believe this won't be a wasted year for Demitra.
  9. Grading the Olympic Canucks

    The Olympic tournament has produced some exceptional hockey so far, and many Canucks have been prominently involved. It's worth taking a look at how they've played so far, as that may reflect what we can expect to see from them once the NHL schedule resumes. Without further ado, here's my grades of the Canucks' seven Olympic players: <b>Ryan Kesler</b> (USA): <b>A</b> Kesler's contributions haven't always been noticed, as he only has one goal (an empty-netter against Canada) and no assists for the U.S. so far. However, that's partly due to his role; he's been employed mostly as a checking centre, and he's done quite well with that. His most impressive showing has come in the faceoff circle, where he's won 38 of his 50 draws (76 per cent, the best mark in the tournament). Faceoffs are often underrated, but they can play a huge role in a team's success, especially on special teams where a draw can be the difference between a solid power-play scoring chance or a puck safely cleared by the penalty-killing team. I'd like to see Kesler contribute a little more offensively, but he's been playing his assigned role very well and has been a big part of the Americans' success so far. <b>Pavol Demitra</b> (Slovakia): <b>A</b> Somewhat surprisingly given his injury struggles this year, Demitra is the only Canuck to crack the top 30 in Olympic scoring leaders. He has one goal and three assists in four games for the Slovaks. He still doesn't seem to be in top form, especially defensively, but he's given a much better showing than I thought he would. We'll see if he's able to continue that down the stretch. <b>Roberto Luongo</b> (Canada): <b>A</b> Luongo started Canada's first game, shutting out the Norwegians, but then was replaced by <b>Martin Brodeur</b>. He got the call again for Canada after Brodeur's dismal outing against the Americans Sunday, and stopped 21 of 23 shots in a 8-2 victory over the Germans last night. He's second in save percentage in the tournament with a .947 mark, behind only the perfect-so-far Henrik Lundqvist. However, Luongo doesn't get an A+ because of the poor quality of competition he's faced so far and the two goals he allowed yesterday. In my mind, he remains the Canadians' best option in goal going forward, but we'll have to see how he does against the ever-dangerous Russians tonight. <b>Daniel Sedin</b> (Sweden): <b>B+</b> Daniel has a goal, two assists and a +3 rating in four games for the Swedes, which certainly isn't bad. However, given the way he's played for the Canucks this year, it definitely isn't as dominant as many might have expected. He's also only received 45:07 of ice time, well below most of the Swedish forwards, and he's been overshadowed offensively by the likes of Loui Eriksson and Nicklas Backstrom. I wouldn't count Daniel out yet, though; his brand of offence may come in handy against the Slovaks tonight. <b>Henrik Sedin</b> (Sweden): <b>B</b> As per usual for the Sedins, most of what's written about Daniel can also apply to Henrik. However, Henrik's been slightly more disappointing in this tournament, as he has only two assists in 48:53 of ice time. He and Daniel haven't been anywhere near as threatening as they normally are, and I'm not quite sure why. We'll see if they can work the kinks out as the Olympics progress. <b>Sami Salo</b> (Finland): <b>B-</b> Salo has been a consistent minutes-eater for Finland, receiving a team-high 71:21 of ice time in three games so far. That's reassuring given his usual fragility and recent injuries; it suggests that he's in good physical condition. He's been reasonably effective defensively as well, and is +1 on the tournament. However, I'd like to see him do more offensively; he has no goals and one assist so far. He is shooting the puck, as his seven shots place him fourth on the team, but he hasn't produced the results many would hope for yet. He's got a terrific shot, so I'd expect more from him on the offensive end in the games to come. <b>Christian Ehrhoff</b> (Germany): <b>C-</b> Germany was the most disappointing team of the tournament, in my mind. They had more NHL talent than most of the underdog teams, with seven current NHLers on their roster, but they just never seemed to click. Part of that blame can be placed at the feet of Ehrhoff, one of the Germans' top stars. He <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2009/11/28/in-with-the-new-hoff/">had been playing tremendously well</a> with the Canucks and led all German skaters with 89:06 of ice time in their four games, but did next to nothing offensively, firing nine shots without recording a single point or coming particularly close to scoring. He was better defensively, and finished at -1 for the tournament (not bad when you consider that the Germans were outscored 12-3 in the round-robin portion and 8-2 in their playoff game last night), but more was expected. Hopefully, he'll be able to return to solid play at both ends after the break.
  10. Slumping into the break

    Thanks! Excellent point; if there's going to be a slump, this is as good of a time as any for it to happen. I'm quite confident this team can still do well if they get their minds/effort levels right; they've got a ton of talent and they've played very well at times. It's just a question of making that effort consistent, which can be a tough task.
  11. Slumping into the break

    [You can find the original post with embedded video here] The Olympic break comes at a perfect time for the Canucks, as their play lately has been appalling. A 4-4 record on the first portion of the Road Trip From Hell ™ isn't inherently horrible, but the Canucks, ranked seventh in the league in points, managed to lose to Montreal (21st), Ottawa (10th), Tampa Bay (22nd) and Minnesota (20th), and only the Montreal game was remotely close. Now, anything can happen once teams get on the ice, and a higher-ranked team won't always beat a lower-ranked team, but dropping that many points against the dregs of the league has to be cause for concern. What's even more worrisome is how the Canucks barely squeaked out three of those four wins against Boston (18th in the league), Columbus (25th) and Toronto (29th). Their only real decisive win was <a href="http://www.nucksmisconduct.com/2010/2/12/1307694/friday-morning-coffee-here-at-last">a 3-0 victory</a> [<i>Nucks Misconduct</i>] over the injury and <a href="http://trevorpresiloski.com/2010/02/postscript-canuckspanthers-ping/">trade-depleted</a> [<b>Trevor Presiloski</b>, <i>The Internet Trashcan</i>] Florida Panthers (26th in the league) Thursday. Losses happen, but Vancouver just isn't playing well at all right now, and they easily could have picked up less than eight points from this road trip. One of the chief areas of concern has to be the play of <b>Roberto Luongo</b>. Luongo started the year slowly, but then rounded into form, and his overall numbers (.919 save percentage, which is tied for 12th in the league, a 2.35 save percentage, 10th in the league, and four shutouts, tied for sixth in the league) certainly aren't too bad. However, his recent play has been very hit-and-miss, and the way he allowed five goals on <a href="http://canucks.nhl.com/club/boxscore.htm?id=2009020918">just 32 shots</a> before getting pulled against the Wild Sunday definitely wasn't impressive. That loss wasn't entirely Luongo's fault, though, and the team's poor play goes well beyond the crease. The Canucks took 36 penalty minutes Sunday and allowed four power-play goals. They also were outshot 41-29 and only registered two shots on goal in the second period. They're not going to win many games that way. What do the Canucks need to do to get better? For one thing, they need to come out of the gate ready to play; as I <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2010/02/11/sitting-around/">wrote last week</a>, they've allowed other teams to score first way too often. To me, that's symptomatic of the bigger problem, though; they've started to believe their own hype and are coasting on their reputation. The team has a tremendous amount of talent, but there's enough parity in the NHL that they can't take anyone lightly. Hopefully, they'll realize that after the Olympics. The Olympic break could be an excellent opportunity for the team, though. For one thing, it gives them time to think and time to heal; with the slew of defensive injuries and the recent report by <b>Jim Jamieson</b> of <i>The Province</i> that <b>Henrik Sedin</b> <a href="http://www.theprovince.com/sports/hockey/canucks-hockey/Sedins+return+Vancouver+competition/2569384/story.html">has been suffering from a back injury</a> for the last 10 days, that time could be a huge benefit. The break also provides a rest for the players who aren't involved in Olympic competition. In my mind, it's the [a href="http://communities.canada.com/THEPROVINCE/blogs/kurtenblog/archive/2010/02/14/roasting-the-olympic-bound-canucks-not-named-roberto-luongo.aspx"&gt;seven players</a> [<i>Orland Kurtenblog</i>] who will be in the tournament that could really benefit, though; many of them <a href="http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/Vigneault+points+finger+Canuck+Olympians+after+ugly+loss+Minnesota/2564482/story.html">have been playing poorly lately</a> [<b>Brad Ziemer</b>, <i>Vancouver Sun</i>], and they might just be jolted out of their comfort zone by playing for their country, with different teammates, and potentially in elimination games, where you're forced to give it everything you've got. Furthermore, most of the Canucks competing are expected to play significant roles. The Sedins will likely be on one of Sweden's top lines and collect a fair bit of power-play time, while <b>Ryan Kesler</b> may be a crucial two-way forward for the Americans. <b>Christian Ehrhoff</b> is probably Germany's best player, while <b>Sami Salo</b> will see plenty of ice time with the Finns. <b>Pavol Demitra</b> may have a more limited role with Slovakia, as he's just returned from injury, and <b>Roberto Luongo</b>'s chances at the starting spot with Team Canada <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Can-struggling-NHL-goalies-hit-the-reset-button-?urn=nhl,219891">are still up for debate</a> [<b>Greg Wyshynski</b>, <i>Puck Daddy</i>], although there's a case that can be made for him, particularly when you consider <b>Martin Brodeur</b>'s <a href="http://canuckshockeyblog.com/?p=2899">recent struggles</a> [<b>J.J. Guerrero</b>, <i>Canucks Hockey Blog</i>]. Still, it looks like these guys will be important components of their Olympic teams, and that experience, plus the chance to play with other elite players, may help them when they return to the NHL. Moreover, the Games are in Vancouver and the schedule isn't that tough, so it's like a regular two-week homestand for the Canucks who are participating. Hopefully, if they can use that time wisely, they can learn from the Games and bring a more aggressive mentality back to the NHL after the break to give the Canucks a great finish to the regular season. The bell is tolling for them; the question is if they'll step up and answer the call.
  12. Sitting Around And Watching The World Go By

    (You can view this post with embedded videos at Canuck Puck). <i>If you think I'll sit around as the world goes by/You're thinking like a fool cause it's a case of do or die/Out there is a fortune waitin' to be had/You think I'll let it go you're mad/You've got another thing coming.</i> <i>-<b>Judas Priest</b>, "You've Got Another Thing Coming".</i> The Canucks could take a lesson from Judas Priest these days. They're certainly sitting around as the world goes by, as they haven't scored the first goal of a game in <a href="http://canuckshockeyblog.com/?p=2801">three weeks</a> [<b>J.J. Guerrero</b>, <I>Canucks Hockey Blog</i>]. Counting Tuesday's game against the Lightning, they've given up the first goal in their last seven games and <a href="http://www.theprovince.com/sports/First+things+first+Canucks+score/2540335/story.html">in 12 of their past 14 contests</a> [<b>Gordon McIntyre</b>, <i>The Province</i>]. After that game, they'd also <a href="http://www.theprovince.com/sports/Provies+nightly+awards/2544205/story.html">led for a grand total of two minutes and four seconds</a> [McIntyre] on this Road Trip From Hell . That's certainly a worrisome trend. What's to blame? Well, the Sedins have cooled off recently and they're sure not getting a lot of support from the bottom half of the lineup. Guys like <b><a href="http://www.nucksmisconduct.com/2010/2/10/1304485/wednesday-afternoon-coffee-wait">Kyle Wellwood</a></b> [<i>Nucks Misconduct</i>] and <b><a href="http://communities.canada.com/theprovince/blogs/kurtenblog/archive/2010/02/08/canucks-week-at-a-glance-feb-8-15.aspx">Steve Bernier</a></b> [<b>Mike Halford</b>, <i>Orland Kurtenblog</i>] haven't lived up to their promise. At least the third line's been okay defensively. The fourth line, on the other hand, is <a href="http://trevorpresiloski.com/2010/02/the-sinister-six/">producing next to nothing</a> [<b>Trevor Presiloski</b>, <i>The Internet Trashcan</i>] at either end of the ice. In fact, the Canucks just aren't scoring goals at the moment; they have <a href="http://www.nhl.com/ice/standings.htm?type=con#&amp;navid=nav-stn-conf">185 goals in 58 games</a> so far this year, a healthy average of 3.2 goals per game, but <a href="http://canucks.nhl.com/club/schedule.htm">in their last four games</a>, they've scored one goal against Tampa, two (not counting the shootout winner) against Boston, one against Ottawa and two against Montreal. That isn't going to lead to a lot of wins, considering how even the best goaltenders (and <b>Roberto Luongo</b> is certainly in that class) tend to have a goals-against-average above two (Luongo's <a href="http://canucks.nhl.com/club/stats.htm">is 2.33</a>). Perhaps the bigger issue at play is the Canucks' tendency to play down to the level of their opponent, though. The teams they've played on this road trip <a href="http://www.nhl.com/ice/standings.htm?season=20092010&amp;type=LEA">are ranked</a> 29th (Toronto), 17th (Montreal), 11th (Ottawa), 21st (Boston), and 19th (Tampa Bay) in the league in overall points. As I <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2009/12/10/prey/">wrote</a> earlier this year, this is something we've seen over and over again from this team; they tend to perform well against top teams, but they often take it easy against the bottom feeders, hoping their talent will carry them through. Sometimes it does; they wake up after allowing early goals and storm back to win, the way they did against Toronto and Boston. More often, they dig themselves into a hole and can't find their way out. However, all is not doom and gloom. Despite this abominable stretch of recent play, the Canucks are still somehow 2-3-0 on this road trip and 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. They're also only two points behind the Avalanche for the division lead. They still have one of the best lines in the league, one of the league's top goaltenders and a solid defensive corps. Sure, there are issues that need to be worked out, but most of them are effort issues as opposed to talent issues, and those are much easier to overcome in general. It's easier to get a good team to play like an elite team than to get a bad team to play like a good team. Tonight's game against the 26th-ranked Florida Panthers should provide an excellent measuring stick. Will we see a new and improved Canucks' squad, or the same team that's slow out of the gate and caught up in circles time after time?
  13. Ride the Lightning, and Matty Ice's return

    (You can view this post with embedded videos here). After <a href="http://www.nucksmisconduct.com/2010/2/4/1296208/the-ballad-of-andrew-raycroft">a tough loss</a> to a red-hot Senators team Thursday and <a href="http://trevorpresiloski.com/2010/02/postscript-canucksbruins-it-looks-awful-but-it-worked/">shootout win against Boston</a> on the weekend, the Canucks continue their Road Trip From Hell ™ tonight <a href="http://canucksarmy.com/2010/2/9/gdrc-canucks-lightning">against</a> the <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/End-of-an-error-Lightning-sold-as-Koules-Barri?urn=nhl,217925">under-new-ownership</a> <a href="http://www.nucksmisconduct.com/2010/2/9/1301605/dont-wizz-on-the-electric-fence">Tampa Bay Lightning</a>. It should be an interesting clash. The Canucks are <a href="http://www.nhl.com/ice/standings.htm#?navid=nav-stn-main">8-2-0</a> in their last 10 games, while the Lightning are 7-2-1. Vancouver has 72 points this year with a 35-20-2 record, while Tampa Bay has 61 points with a 25-21-11 record. There's more to it than just those numbers, though; Tampa Bay's looked very impressive lately, while the Canucks have been in a bit of a slump despite their 8-2-0 mark in the last 10; they suffered two bad losses and then squeaked out a win in Beantown thanks to a superb effort from <b>Roberto Luongo</b>. Based on recent form, it looks like the Lightning have the edge. One positive for the Canucks is their superlative record against the Eastern Conference this year; they're 11-3-0 in their out-of-conference games. Vancouver's a dismal 12-13-1 on the road, though, and they're only 2-1-0 against the Southeast Division. However, the Lightning are only 5-5-5 against the Western Conference and 2-2-1 against the Northwest Division. Also, Tampa Bay has taken a ton of games to overtime this year, which might not be such a bad thing for the Canucks; they're not competing against the Lightning for a playoff berth, so taking at least one point away from this game would be a desirable outcome. We'll see which trends will follow through later tonight. Another element that comes into play here is that this is the first game the Canucks will play against <b>Mattias Ohlund</b> since he left the team last summer as a free agent (<a href="http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Did-Tampa-Bay-tamper-with-Mattias-Ohlund-?urn=nhl,174744">amid tampering allegations</a>, to boot). Ohlund was a tough loss for the Canucks; sure, he had only six goals and 19 assists last season, but he played all 82 games for the Canucks (a rarity in this <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2010/01/25/droppinglikeflies/">era of fragile Vancouver blueliners</a>), and the advanced stats from <em>Behind The Net</em> show he was <a href="http://www.behindthenet.ca/2008/new_5_on_5.php?sort=&amp;section=goals&amp;mingp=&amp;mintoi=&amp;team=VAN&amp;pos=D">better than the simple stats show</a>. He led all Canucks' defencemen with a 2.94 goals for on/60 rating, and posted a respectable 2.34 goals against on/60 rating. In my mind, the Canucks were wise to let Ohlund walk, though. He's 33, and Tampa Bay offered him a 7-year, $26 million deal, with an annual cap hit of $3.6 million. That didn't look like a bad deal for them, as he provides valuable experience for their blueline; he's the only one over 30, and he can help tutor their young stars like <b>Victor Hedman</b>. He's durable and was probably the best defenceman on their roster going into the season, but his skills were almost certain to decline either this year or in the coming years, and the Canucks couldn't afford to spend that much on a defenceman who probably wouldn't even crack their top pairing, especially considering the importance of getting good value for money in today's NHL. The move's certainly looking pretty good about now, as Ohlund has struggled in Tampa Bay. He has no goals and 10 assists in 50 games, and has posted a -8 rating. His advanced stats are even worse; his GF60ON is only 2.00 and his GA60ON is 2.50, meaning that Tampa Bay allows .5 more goals than they score per 60 minutes of ice time he receives. Sure, part of that might be due to Tampa's spotty goaltending and weak lineup of forwards, but the Lightning score 2.21 goals per 60 minutes when Ohlund's off the ice and allow 2.48. Thus, he's part of the problem, not part of the solution. The effects his experience and leadership have on the team are more difficult to quantify, but early returns suggest the Canucks were wise to let Ohlund walk. Many players do tend to step their game up a notch against their old team, though. We'll see if Ohlund can pull that off tonight, and if vengeance will be his.
  14. It's a long way to the top

    (You can view the original post with videos here). The Canucks have been one of the league's hottest teams recently, led in particular by stellar play from the Sedin twins and <b>Alex Burrows</b>. <b>Henrik Sedin</b> <a href="http://canuckscorner.com/2010/01/08/king-henrik/">continues to make his case</a> as a <a href="http://canuckshockeyblog.com/?p=2613">Hart Trophy candidate</a>, and the team's also getting extremely solid performances from the likes of <b>Christian Ehrhoff</b> and <b>Alex Edler</b> despite <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2010/01/25/droppinglikeflies/">an injury-plagued defensive corps</a>. When things are going this well, teams just seem to find a way to win; despite falliing behind 3-0 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first period of the first game of a brutal road trip Saturday and pulling <b>Roberto Luongo</b>, the Canucks <a href="http://www.nucksmisconduct.com/2010/1/31/1285563/sunday-morning-coffee-the-comeback">clawed their way back</a> with <b>Andrew Raycroft</b> in net, preventing Toronto from scoring another goal and notching five straight goals of their own en route to their seventh consecutive victory. Those kinds of hot streaks can't last forever, though. Four out of those seven wins were by one goal, and there were signs of weakness even in the lopsided victories. The NHL has enough parity and a long enough season that most games can go either way, depending on a few bounces. You can't just go through the schedule checking off the teams below you in the standings as guaranteed victories; in fact, as I <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2009/12/10/prey/">wrote earlier this season</a>, one of the Canucks' frequent issues has been been competing hard against the lesser teams. The Montreal Canadiens aren't an awful team, as their 58 points currently have them in playoff position, but they are 12 points behind the Canucks and it's hard to argue that their roster possesses more talent. Still, <a href="http://canucks.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=515992&amp;navid=DL|VAN|home">Tuesday's game</a> showed that standings and individual skills don't always make the difference. The Canucks played reasonably well and launched a season-high 47 shots at the Habs' net, but <b>Jaroslav Halak</b> did an excellent job in goal for Montreal, the Canadiens got a few bounces and the Canucks made some mistakes. In the end, that was enough to give the Habs <a href="http://www.nucksmisconduct.com/2010/2/3/1290897/wednesday-morning-coffee-the">a 3-2 victory</a>. That doesn't mean there's anything particularly wrong with how the Canucks are playing, though. Sure, there are a few issues here and there, such as the lack of secondary scoring, the <a href="http://canucksarmy.com/2010/2/3/help-wanted-3rd-line">poor performance by the third line</a> and the amount of injuries they're dealing with. There's always tweaking that can be done, even when you're winning, and this loss will hopefully be a reminder that they can't take anyone lightly. However, the Canucks are doing a lot of things right at the moment; they're leading the Northwest Division with 70 points, they're 7-3-0 in their last 10 games and they have perhaps the best forward line in the league. Above all else, they need to <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2009/10/27/staying-medium/">stay medium</a> and not get too wrapped up in individual wins and losses. There are a lot of games left, and this massive road trip will test them, but things aren't all that gloomy. It's a long way to the top, but these boys can rock and roll.
  15. United

    (Quick side note; I'll be attending tomorrow night's Canucks Tweetup at the Lamplighter. If you're going to be there, make sure to say hi; I'll probably be the only one with a blond mustache, leather jacket and red/navy old Canucks third jersey! Also, check out this piece I wrote on the Canucks' defensive depth, and go here if you want to see the videos included in this post.) This Alex Burrows - Stephane Auger saga just continues to spiral. In terms of Vancouver versus the league, the NHL's already come out with their nothing to see here, move along line, and it doesn't look like much of anything further will happen on that front. The Canucks versus CBC story is much more interesting, though, and it hasn't quite wrapped up yet. Flash back to the Canucks' Jan. 16 game against the Penguins on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada. Before the game started, Ron MacLean and company aired an 11-minute segment on the Burrows-Auger controversy, featuring the comments of MacLean and NHL VP Colin Campbell. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion on that segment. Personally, I thought it was unfair and irresponsible. One of the key elements of journalism is giving both sides a chance to state their perspective. In news stories, that's done by talking to (or attempting to talk to) both sides. With opinion pieces, that's usually done by providing space for rebuttal; in print or Internet pieces, that can take the form of letters to the editor or comments on a story, while in television, it's usually accomplished by talking to someone with a different perspective or at least suggesting that there is a different perspective out there. It's ironic that MacLean failed to do this, as he frequently provides that balancing information in his Coach's Corner segments with Don Cherry. This time, though, MacLean gave a league official (Campbell) eleven minutes of free air time to state the league's position and fell all over himself agreeing with it. The Canucks were provided with no opportunity for rebuttal until coach Alain Vigneault's segment on After Hours. Vigneault did an excellent job of defending Burrows, but I'm sure his defence was noticed by a lot fewer people, as After Hours doesn't air until around 1 a.m. Eastern. That's not a particularly fair and balanced way to look at things, in my mind, and MacLean's pompous and unapologetic defence of his actions after the fact didn't help matters. The Canucks agreed with this take, promptly boycotting all Hockey Night In Canada interviews this past Saturday against the Blackhawks. Here's the key part from Ben Kuzma's piece, linked just above: "It was an organization's decision," said Vigneault. "Any time we feel that one of our players has not been treated fairly, as an organization we have to take a stand and we did that last night and we're moving forward." My background is as a traditional media reporter, and I usually hate the idea of players or teams deciding not to talk to organizations to make a point. I particularly hate boycotting a media organization over the actions of a columnist or an editorial board, as usually they're not the ones trying to get quotes from you afterwards. Making the beat reporter's life difficult doesn't accomplish anything. However, I do agree with the reasons behind this particular boycott, especially considering that top CBC executives seem unwilling to consider that the Canucks have a point; Bruce Dowbiggin reports that CBC Sports head Scott Moore is standing by MacLean despite other CBC employees questioning the piece, and HNIC executive producer Sherali Najak said "There are no agendas". This isn't a lone media member going beyond the pale; it's his organization backing him to the hilt and refusing to address the improprieties in his work. Because the CBC didn't consider Burrows' side of the story and refused to address the topic in a balanced matter, a boycott seems like the only way for the Canucks to launch an effective protest. That doesn't mean they should continue the boycott indefinitely, though, and that's why it's reassuring to see that the Canucks are involved in discussions with Hockey Night In Canada ahead of this Saturday's game against the Leafs. They've made their point effectively on the issue; now hopefully they can move forward and put it to bed. Everyone now knows what they were fighting for, and hopefully that will put pressure on Hockey Night In Canada to be more fair and balanced in the future. Regardless of what HNIC does, though, it will be more valuable to have Canuck players and coaches give their opinions on games on the air than continue a boycott over a past slight; that would just force HNIC to provide one-dimensional coverage of their games, and multiple biased pieces only make things worse. Plus, the Canucks should heed Charles Brownson's famous saying, "Never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel". It's airtime instead of ink in this case, but the principle is the same; protracted fights with the media don't usually work well. The Canucks need to move forward and get this over with. However, it is refreshing to see that the team did conduct this boycott against one of the most powerful media entitites in Canada on behalf of one of their players. Rather than hanging Burrows out to dry, they've stuck with him through this entire incident. Burrows has received tremendous support from his teammates, his coaches and his organization, and that's good to see. He's continued to score at a ridiculous pace despite the scrutiny, and I'd venture part of it is because of the backing he's getting. That can inspire a team to come together, and it shows the players that this organization is willing to defend them. United, they can do far more than they ever could apart.