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Found 9 results

  1. Wanna Play?

    Like Trevor Gillies and his antics in the Penguins brouhaha, the league's negative headlines have far outweighed the good. Case in point - Sidney Crosby has now missed two months with a concussion and is now unlikely to return this season, and while that topic has dominated Maclean's covers and sparked talk of amending the rulebook in this week's GM meetings, the best story this season has been the playoff race. Never before do I remember such a close race in the West and two such intriguing storylines with the Leafs and Devils. But one thing's for sure: the Canucks will have to have a colossal collapse and the Wings would have to catch fire if the want to claim the West title. The former is unlikely to happen. This means that the Canucks enter the post-season as the number one seed, locking up home-ice advantage for, perhaps, the entire journey. With so much media scrutiny, so much pressure, and so many past meltdowns, you can't help but think that the Canucks are looking ahead to who they might face. They probably aren't, since they're such a level-headed team, and are concentrating on finishing the season on a high note. But of Minnesota, Anaheim, Nashville, Calgary, Dallas, and Phoenix (excluding Chicago and Los Angeles, who both have 7 wins in their last 10 and are most likely to finish in the top 5), who does Vancouver match-up the best? The worst? It is becoming increasing unlikely that the Wild will make the playoffs, but if they do, it'll present the Canucks with one of the most interesting match-ups. it's no secret - the Canucks stink at the Excel Energy Center in Minnesota, save Cory Schneider. The Canucks are tough at home and if they sweep the first two games then it's all fine and dandy. The only story that really matters is what to do if Luongo struggles. It's unlikely to happen for the 2011 Vezina-nominee (yes, I said it) but having such a strong backup eventually creates goalie controversies to varying degrees. The Ducks have a chance if they have Jonas Hiller, another would-be Vezina-nominee had he not been sidelined with vertigo, in the lineup. Dan Ellis may be hot right now and Ray Emery may be a feel-good story, but even with the addition of Beauchemin the Ducks just don't have enough depth up and down the roster. If the Canucks can play a clean game and keep Teemu Selanne off the powerplay and keep the Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry line from dominating, this should be an easy series. The Predators have not won a single playoff series in their history and it's not going to happen this year if they face the Canucks. Even with the unheralded Pekka Rinne, like the Ducks, the Preds just don't have the depth. The Shea Weber-led defense may frustrate the Canucks but the lack of scoring oomph in the Preds lineup may be even more frustrating for Barry Trotz. Let's not mentioning that the Preds will be playing 5 defensemen instead of 6 due to Shane O'Brien's constant bouts of Roxy flu. Of all the teams mentioned, Calgary scares me the most. They have a good goalie, an experienced blueline, and the ultimate warrior in Jarome Iginla. They've been a completely different team since Darryl Sutter was fired and are now playing the kind of hockey everyone expected them to play. They've got enough grit, size, toughness, and skill to at least make this a series. David Moss and Rene Bourque provides some good depth. The only questions here are the Canucks' health on defense and Calgary's poor matchups at centre against the Canucks. The Stars were in danger of missing the playoffs a couple weeks back after Brad Richards went down with an injury and the team was sent into a mini-downward spiral. Since then, the Stars have 6 wins in their last 10 and are trending up. Alex Goligoski was a good pickup for a team lacking offense from the blueline, even if the price was a little high. Marc Crawford is behind the bench and on squads that he's coached that don't feature Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, he's only made it past the quarterfinals once. There's nothing on this Dallas team that really scares me - except for a potential writhing Mike Ribeiro suffering from extreme "back pain." There's just enough drive from Brenden Morrow and Langenbrunner and skill from Benn and the very underrated Loui Eriksson to cause the Canucks some trouble, but remember that in head-to-head matchups this year the Canucks swept the season series outscoring them 20-5. Phoenix is an interesting team. They've got a great coach, good goaltending, a mobile defense headlined by Keith Yandle, and a crop of forwards that gets the job done without an elite forward. If Ilya Bryzgalov gets hot, and we've seen this happen with many, many undeserving Cup finalists, watch out. But that's about it. But here's the REAL low down. When Kyle Wellwood returned with the Sharks, he was quite vocal about the experience and maturity level in the Canucks' dressing room, saying that there's still "lessons to learn." In a way, he is right - the Sharks look much better right now than I've seen in years past and the Capitals enter the post-season as a virtual unknown because of their new commitment to playing defense. Both teams have choked in the playoffs rather dramatically. Upsets over the number one seed in the first round are rare in any sport, but for the past two consecutive seasons, it's happened in the NHL. In 2009, the President's-winning Sharks were upset by the Ducks despite the Sharks setting franchise records in wins (53) and points (117). In 2010, the Habs defeated the President's-winning Capitals in the first round despite the Caps' awe-inspiring 121 regular season points. Both the Ducks and Habs featured hot goalies - Jonas Hiller had shutouts in Games 1 and 4, perhaps the vital games in any series, and everyone knows the Jaroslav Halak story. This is why Phoenix may pose the biggest threat if Ilya Bryzgalov, or even Miikka Kiprusoff, gets hot. The Canucks are set to shatter their franchise record of 105 points and could very will finish the season close to around 115 (7 wins in 11 games - not impossible).
  2. Gillis Adds Grit

    So at the end of the day, still no Zenon Konopka. That's unfortunate. I really think he could've helped. But Mike Gillis had the most productive deadline day of his career, bringing in veterans Chris Higgins from Florida and Maxim Lapierre from Anaheim. On a day in which little activity was anticipated, in part due to the large number of trades that occurred weeks before the deadline, Gillis accounted for 1/8 of all total trades. This despite Vancouver supposedly being one of the quietest teams. How do these two players change the overall makeup of the team? <img src="http://www3.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Toronto+Maple+Leafs+v+Florida+Panthers+aokOrc1maZil.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Chris Higgins, #20 The former Yale University product was selected 14th overall by Montreal in the 2002 draft, a year that produced very few impact players. The 2002 class produced only four all-stars (Rick Nash, Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Semin, and Cam Ward) and Higgins is only one of four players to have scored more than 100 career goals. However, Higgins' offensive struggles in recent years has been well documented, having been traded three times in the past two years, having been part of the deal that sent Scott Gomez to Montreal and Olli Jokinen to Calgary. While his 20-something goal-scoring days are over, Higgins is still a big-bodied forward with good skating ability who is able to play in the top nine. Maxim Lapierre, #40 Lapierre is an agitator, a fourth-line centre that brings speed and tenacity to the lineup. Another Montreal pick from the 2003 draft, Lapierre was instrumental in the Habs' upset of Washington last year. His speed, size, and general physicality caused problems in the offensive zone. But like Burrows and Kesler in year's past, Lapierre's antics, chirping and diving (he was once penalized for it in a playoff game) to name a few, began to limit his effectiveness as a hockey player. His (somewhat public) feud with Jacques Martin over his diminishing playing time earned him a ticket out of town, where even the grumpy Randy Carlyle couldn't harness him (Lapierre played 3:09 in his last game as a Duck and had started out on the third line). But like I've said before, if Gillis was to acquire a player, he better run it by Vigneault because there's no point in acquiring a player if your coach won't play him. That won't happen here with such an established veteran locker room presence with a clear focus on winning the Cup, and not to mention that Vigneault was once Lapierre's junior coach. Of course, lost in the shuffle is former Minnesota-Duluth star MacGregor Sharp (what an awesome name), who was acquired along with Lapierre from Anaheim. If Minnesota-Duluth rings a bell, it should: Mason Raymond was a Bulldog for two years, as was Evan Oberg, who went to Florida for Higgins. Current NHLers Jason Garrison (Florida) and Matt Niskanen (Pittsburgh) are also Minnesota-Duluth products. While Minnesota-Duluth is not exactly known as a NCAA powerhouse, it has become one of the better programs today, currently ranked 11th according to US College Hockey. However, Sharp is not expected to have a significant impact for Vancouver or Manitoba. And what did the three players cost us? A minor leaguer in Joel Perrault, two 3rd round picks, and Evan Oberg, who has since been leapfrogged by Chris Tanev, Lee Sweatt, Yann Sauve, and perhaps Kevin Connauton on the depth charts, making him expendable. You can certainly say that Gillis got great value, not sacrificing anybody on the current roster or significant prospect in the pipeline to nab two NHL veterans. But what about Marty Reasoner and Zenon Konopka, two players featured heavily in the Canucks' rumour mill? Well, there are reports that since Reasoner's wife is expecting soon, it didn't seem right for Tallon to deal him. Kudos to Tallon. And Konopka? The early rumour was that the Ducks were about to acquire the big centre but balked at Garth Snow's 2nd round pick asking price, which, to say the least, is idiotic. And we continue to wonder how and why Snow still has a job. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/images/upload/2011/01/107894055_std.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">While Lapierre will most certainly become a fixture on the fourth line, finally giving the team stability in that spot, the more interesting case is Higgins. He certainly has the ability to put the puck in the net but so do Mason Raymond and Jeff Tambellini and Mikael Samuelsson, but it's not the ability that's in question, it's the consistency. Higgins isn't the most consistent player by any means but at least he gives Vigneault other options after a clearly frustrated Kesler was trying to keep his mouth shut after a painful loss against Boston. Higgins can line up on the left wing on the second line with Samuelsson on the right, or even on the third line alongside Malhotra should Raymond or Tambellini re-find their touch. Given Higgins' size and physicality, it should relieve a little pressure off Kesler's shoulders, who has taken a beating every night on the powerplay and neither Raymond nor Samuelsson are as willing as Kesler to mix it up in the corners. That's not mentioning that Vigneault has lost so much faith in the rest of his lineup that Kesler's TOI/G has soared to over 22 minutes a game (including 26+ vs. Montreal) for the last six games. Even Sidney Crosby only averages around 22 minutes a night. But for the moment, Kesler will have to continue to keep his mouth shut because Higgins is still two weeks away from playing due to a fractured thumb. With the acquisition of Higgins, I hope Raymond hears the message loud and clear: score or sit. EDIT: Looks like Lapierre will be wearing 40, not 24. NOTE: I feel like I've been getting away from blogging about the Canucks, and since this is a Canucks site, I need to get back on track. For a breakdown of all the big deals, visit www.armchairhockey.net or follow me on Twitter @jasonchen16. Thanks for reading.
  3. Trade Breakdown, Part I

    Christmas for the hockey fan is coming soon. As the deadline approaches, several teams have started to jump the gun. This is the first time I remember deals being completed several weeks before the deadline. Some of the big names have already been moved while I imagine others are waiting for the market to settle down. With Ottawa and Toronto both getting a head start on selling their assets, I don't imagine there will be a lot of big trades on deadline day but that won't stop the TSN crew from re-hashing the same trades for about six hours. To save you some time here's the breakdown on the trades so far. February 9 - Toronto trades Francois Beauchemin to Anaheim for Jake Gardiner and Joffrey Lupul People think Lupul's a salary dump, and he is for Anaheim, since at $4-plus million a year he's just too expensive as a third-line winger. That being said, he's going to be a huge lightning rod for Leafs fans. But Lupul can still score. Like Keith Ballard, this entire season has been a transition year for Lupul, who's practically missed an entire year due to various injuries and a serious infection. Don't write him off yet. Cody Hodgson (the Canucks parallels will stop, I promise) was written off by many after the entire controversy over his bulging disc last year but when he scored his first NHL goal people were all too ready to jump back on the wagon. In Beauchemin, the Ducks get an experienced defenseman back on a blueline that is completely devoid of any sort of depth and who played his best hockey under Randy Carlyle. Gardiner's an interesting piece. I remember when he was drafted - your prototypical strong-skating defenseman that would be valued in today's NHL. Gardiner's averaging a point per game in his third year at Wisconsin, but that's hardly a barometer for any kind of success. His own coach, Mike Eaves (father of Patrick), admits that he's got work to do before he makes the NHL. Hard to tell if his collegiate success would translate to the big leagues - Patrick Wiercioch, a second-round pick from University of Denver by Ottawa, was a similar big-bodied, able skater averaging a point per game, but has only scored 6 points in 48 games for Binghamton. February 9 - Florida trades Alexander Salak and Michael Frolik to Chicago for Jack Skille, Hugh Jessiman, and David Pacan I love this trade for Chicago... puke. Michael Frolik is the most talented player in this deal, just edging out Salak. I don't imagine we'll ever see Skille live up to his seventh-overall potential (Kopitar, Marc Staal, and Stastny were still all available) but he's got the potential to be a second-line winger, although he might be much better suited for a third line role. For a team that's lacking depth, Frolik's a good pick-up for Chicago, able to relieve some pressure off Toews, Kane, Sharp, and the oft-injured Hossa. The scales would really tip in Chicago's favour is if Salak pans out. He played one season in the AHL last year before returning to Sweden on a loan to Farjestad BK, where he's been the best goalie in arguably the second-best league in the world. But let's take that with a grain of salt - this is the same Swedish Elite League that hailed Jonas Gustavsson as "The Monster" and was the league's best goalie. (What does that tell you about the NHL?) <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/53/Mike_fisher_predators.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed"> February 10 - Ottawa trades Mike Fisher to Nashville for 2011 1st round and 2012 conditional picks Of all the trades that have been made, this has been my favourite. Did anyone notice how fired up Fisher looked last night in a Predators jersey? Did anyone notice how packed the rink was? Shades of Mike Fisher circa 2006-08, folks. Not only did the Preds get a very good player in Fisher, who will most certainly excel under Barry Trotz, with the possibility of Carrie Underwood appearing in more games it immediately sparks more interest. There's not much competition - the Memphis Grizzlies bleed money and the Tennessee Titans just recently fired long-tenured coach Jeff Fisher and cut ties with supposed franchise QB Vince Young. I asked ESPN's Pierre LeBrun over Twitter about Underwood's presence and he said that it "definitely" will raise the profile of the Predators. Fisher's fired up - he's in a city that his wife loves and on a team that wins games with a style of play that's very similar to his. (When this whole Fisher/Underwood in Nashville thing works, and honestly, this union might as well come from a Disney movie, at the rate hockey pros are reeling in high-profile entertainment stars, when do you think that Gary Bettman will start enforcing a "celebrity" clause, in which the player has to play for his girlfriend's hometown team? That means Mike Comrie heads to Hollywood - or Dallas? I believe Hilary Duff is from Texas and Comrie's a player I can see Marc Crawford using - and would prevent future dumb trades like Calgary sending Dion Phaneuf and Elisha Cuthbert, both Albertans, to Toronto for some pucks and a waterboy in Matt Stajan.) <img src="http://phillysportscentral.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/kris-versteeg2-e1297880213906.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed"> February 14 - Toronto trades Kris Versteeg to Philadelphia for 2011 1st and 3rd round picks You probably can't get a better deal than that for a player miscast as a top-line forward. The shifty Versteeg is a great depth player and would excel on a team where he doesn't have to be solely responsible for setting up Phaneuf's cannons or trying to find Phil Kessel. All Versteeg needs is a swift kick in the butt, and not from Ron Wilson, who's mixed signals should probably be translated into some sort of manual. (Did he really mean what he said when he thought Jeff Finger was good against Joe Thornton? One of life's greater mysteries). And Peter Laviolette's smart, giving Versteeg his much-wanted #10, and as athletes know it's a little more special when you get to wear your number, and by starting him on a line with Mike Richards and Andreas Nodl, two of the most competitive players on the Flyers' roster. Laviolette's hoping the work ethic rubs off on Versteeg and I think it's going to work. February 18 - Ottawa trades Brian Elliott to Colorado for Craig Anderson Someone explain this trade to me because I don't get it. Let's compare the two: Elliott: 13-19-8, .894 SV%, 3.19 GAA, 3 SO, RFA '11, age 25 Anderson: 13-15-3, .897 SV%, 3.28 GAA, 0 SO, UFA '11, age 29 How the heck do the re-building Sens improve on this deal? There's absolutely no return at all in this deal. Anderson, who I lauded as a great value signing by the Avs two years ago and then cautioned against fantasy owners overrating the guy this year, walks as a UFA on July 1. The two goalies are obviously struggling, but would you trust a 25-year old or a 29-year old to get better next year? It's a no-brainer, it's Elliott. He has more long-term value and he's a RFA, meaning that the Sens could very well get another year from him. But Anderson? He's not even better than Elliott this year. The only redeemable facet of this trade for Ottawa is if Anderson re-signs with them, but again, wouldn't you rather have Elliott, who has more upside, to tend the pipes? Honestly, Bryan Murray couldn't have gotten a third or fourth-round pick for Elliott? C'mon, man! <img src=" February 18 - Boston trades Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler to Atlanta for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik I have no idea why Nashville gave up on Rich Peverley, one of the more underrated centremen in the league. It's too bad he plays a position that can be so diluted, but he wins well over 50% of his face-offs regularly (55.5% this year) and has the ability to put up 40 points easily. He's a great pick-up for Boston, who asides from Patrice Bergeron, doesn't have a centreman capable of winning more than half the face-offs he takes. Valabik's a huge defenseman, but he's probably more well-known in Vancouver as being the guy who made the mistake of challenging Rick Rypien, thinking he had an easy win. Playing alongside fellow countrymen Zdeno Chara should allow him to learn a thing or two about playing in this league, but when you have cement feet you can only go so far. Also, I'm glad Blake Wheeler ended up in Atlanta. Here's a guy who outright said "no" to Gretzky and Phoenix, completely pissing Gretzky off, a major hockey no-no, then signs with an Original Six franchise thinking that it might be better for his profile. Well, as they say, karma's a b... February 18 - Toronto trades Tomas Kaberle to Boston for Joe Colborne, 2011 1st round and a conditional pick Can we declare Boston as the winners of the trade deadline already? They essentially got Peverley, Kaberle, and Chris Kelly for Joe Colborne, who still may or may not turn into a bust (odds are he doesn't). While I still think Philadelphia is the more talented and deeper team, the Bruins aren't going down without a fight. The Bruins still don't have a legitimate scoring threat after losing Kessel (yes, Kessel's a scoring threat - let's not underrate him just because he's a Leaf) and it's quite likely they'll finish the season with just a single 30-goal scorer (team leader Lucic is 6 away and Horton has 14, which means we really should give up on the dream that Horton would ever become a first-line power forward) while Philadelphia will have two snipers (Briere-28, Carter-26) and Mike Richards. But Kaberle does bolster an anemic powerplay (18.1%, 14th) while the Flyers lag behind at 17th. And also I think Peter Chiarelli has the entire southern Ontario region at gunpoint. <img src="http://nucksiceman.com/wp-content/upLoads/2010/10/Cory-Schneider-fantasy_g_schneider_3001.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">And just so we can end this post on the Canucks, can I just say how absolutely terrible we've been looking out there? The lack of NHL-calibre ability on the blueline is one thing, but this team just doesn't have any jump. It looks like Kesler's hurting a little and I haven't seen a Sedin-esque Sedin cycle in a long time. And that's not mentioning that Christian Ehrhoff is making dumb plays and coughing up pucks like Bryan McCabe. We didn't deserve to win against St. Louis or Nashville last night and Cory Schneider stole a game in Minnesota. You can't win games like that in the playoffs. Sooner or later you'll find out that goaltending can only take you so far before your players have to start putting the puck in the net on a more regular basis. And, really, it's a legitimate question, but if the Canucks meet the Wild in the first round, how long of a leash do you give Luongo before you put in Schneider? If the Canucks split the two home games (possible) and the Wild win their first at home (possible), do you go back to Luongo or play the odds with Schneider? Hmmm...
  4. Anaheim Post-Game

    In a game that featured two teams struggling to score, it was Anaheim's trio of Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, and Corey Perry that emerged victorious with a combined 7 points in a 4-3 win over Vancouver. The Ducks entered their home opener 0-3, heavily outshot and outscored. After a lambasting by coach Randy Carlyle in this morning's practise, the Ducks responded appropriately, taking advantage of odd-man rushes and scoring chances while the Canucks failed to capitalize on theirs. While the highlight reel goals may suggest otherwise, this was actually a game in which both teams went through stretches of poor play and silly mistakes. Just 36 seconds into the first period Peter Schaefer put the Canucks on their heels with a hooking call despite a flurry of shots by the Canucks to start the game. Alain Vigneault clearly wanted the Canucks to keep firing at the net but Schaefer's penalty gave the Ducks a good opportunity to get their offense going. Another bad penalty, this time by Ryan Kesler, put the Ducks on a 5-on-3 advantage and while the Canucks managed to kill off Schaefer's penalty they couldn't complete the job and the Ducks capitalized first with a powerplay goal by Getzlaf assisted by Ryan and rookie Cam Fowler, who looks like he'll be staying the entire season. The Ducks are talented but struggling and if you give them opportunities they will capitalize. Getzlaf and Ryan needed to get on the scoresheet and Randy Carlyle needed a good start. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/5c/fullj.d55ad3c38bce204c0c1f5881e883fa63/d55ad3c38bce204c0c1f5881e883fa63-getty-102832475rr028_vancouver_ca.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Daniel Sedin tied it moments later on a beautiful cross-ice feed from Henrik and just 17 seconds later Raffi Torres netted his first as a Canuck on a deflection. With 16 shots in the first period it seemed like the Ducks were well on their way to another shellacking and the Canucks' secondary scoring finally putting it together but it was just a tease. While many were commending Torres on his goal and his fight against Sheldon Brookbank in response to a open-ice hit from behind on Schaefer, I thought it was an absolutely terrible time to pick a fight. I appreciate the fact that Torres was protecting his teammate but it was a relatively harmless hit and it certainly didn't warrant an instigator that put the Canucks on the penalty kill again. Putting your team on the PK when you've just gotten the lead is a sure-fire way to kill any sort of momentum you've just built. Torres was barely visible for the rest of the game. The Ducks pulled even on a Teemu Selanne powerplay snipe after Kevin Bieksa was called for slashing when he broke Perry's stick in half. Bieksa's decision-making has drawn the ire of many but I don't think he's really at fault for this one. He didn't touch a single hair on Perry's body and today's sticks snap like twigs anyway. I think it was a unlucky call and to pin this mistake on Bieksa is unfair. But it is what it is and Bieksa allowed the Ducks to tie it up at 2. That's fine because there's still plenty of hockey left to play but I imagine what irks people more is that Bieksa didn't do anything to redeem himself. I thought it was interesting that he was the assistant captain on the road and not at home where I imagine Vancouver's critical fans wouldn't hesitate to lambaste him. Christian Ehrhoff's powerplay marker on a phantom hooking call on Ryan early in the third seemed to have iced the game but then the Canucks started to sit back a little. There was little urgency in their play and the second line duo of Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond has yet to generate any significant offensive opportunities. Each player finished with 3 shots but none of them were particularly dangerous. A strange ricochet off the glass and the top of Jonas Hiller's net left the Canucks stunned for a moment which led to an odd-man rush in which Perry scored his first of the season. Bieksa was left to defend three Ducks players but instead of remaining in position he decided to chase the puck instead which left Perry wide-open on the right side of the net for an easy tap-in. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/5b/fullj.9cc043dd69cf4516e2237a78e7b3e4d5/9cc043dd69cf4516e2237a78e7b3e4d5-getty-102832475rr030_vancouver_ca.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">The most controversial call, or non-call, in this case, came from Ryan's game-winner. Leading the breakout and carrying the puck through the neutral zone, Ryan poked the puck away from Henrik towards Getzlaf who skated down towards the net on a 3-on-1 and passed it back to Ryan for an easy goal. The problem with that play was that there was supposed to be a penalty on the Ducks. When Ryan jumped over the boards and touched the puck, Matt Beleskey, the player coming off for Ryan, still had his two skates on the ice. It was a too many men call that was completely missed by veteran referee Stephen Walkom and Justin St. Pierre. Still, the truth is the Canucks' offense just didn't look very dangerous and failed to capitalize on a few key chances. The offense the Canucks boasted last year still hasn't shown up. This is the first game that I've kept a close eye on Keith Ballard (playing his 400th NHL game) and I really like what I saw. I have always been a fan since his Florida Panther days but I got a good look at him tonight and the guy plays with an edge. He's not afraid to hit and not afraid to jump up on the play which is why some people have prompted comparisons to Ed Jovanovski. Ballard doesn't quite have the same offensive talents but when and if Bieksa gets traded he may be the only defenseman on our roster that has a mean streak. Early on in the game Roberto Luongo was run over by Perry and then given a snow shower by Dan Sexton but nobody responded. It's the same story as last year. Opposing teams take liberties and take runs at Luongo while the Canucks' defensemen just sort of stand around and look at Walkom for a call. It can't work that way. The Canucks need to play with an edge and protect the goalie when necessary. Ballard certainly does that. Each year, Mike Gillis brings in a new crop of bottom six forwards and every time the Canucks fail to go deep into the playoffs a new bottom six is brought in. This year's group includes free agent veterans Manny Malhotra and Schaefer and rookie Guillaume Desbiens. Given the performance of the bottom six tonight (and the team in general) the Canucks have no shot at going deep. Torres started off great but did his disappearing act. The usually physical Tanner Glass was invisible. Rick Rypien is not a NHL-level face-off guy. Schaefer can be easily replaced with a faster, grittier option. Desbiens, try as he might, and God knows he's worked hard to get here, unfortunately just doesn't bring enough to the table to last in this league. While it is still early in the season, Kesler and Raymond have yet to register a single point. They had a good outing against Florida but were stymied by Tomas Vokoun. Kesler has a team-high 8 missed shots. I have a feeling he's trying to do too much on offense. I have yet to see him create turnovers with his speed and puck pursuit like he did so many times last year in his Selke-nominated season. He needs to do what he does best. Kesler has just two takeaways thus far this season while his biggest Selke rival, Pavel Datsyuk, already has six. The Canucks face the Kings next in LA Friday night. Luongo wasn't particularly sharp tonight but he wasn't bad either and he will obviously start against the Kings in a key match-up. Alain Vigneault has said that he will go to Luongo as long as he has the hot hand, but with a quick one-game homestand (Carolina, 17th) and then two big back-to-back games on the 19th (Minnesota) and 20th (Chicago) on the road, I am curious as to what Vigneault will do. Of the next four games the Carolina game may be the easiest and more insignificant than the rest since the other three are against conference rivals so I imagine that's the game we will be seeing Cory Schneider for the first time this season.
  5. With Ryan Getzlaf healthy and Corey Perry's emergence as the West's best power forward, the Ducks boast one of the league's best duos. What should be concerning is their defense. The Ducks are expecting Brett Festerling, Brendan Mikkelson, Stu Bickell, Luca Sbisa, and perhaps Cam Fowler, if he makes the team, to log consistent NHL-calibre minutes, but if they can't then the Ducks' atrocious 251 GA (fourth-worst in West) could look even uglier. Offense: B, Defense: C+, Goaltending: B- Other than Jarome Iginla, the Flames are chock-full of underachievers (Matt Stajan, Olli Jokinen, Alex Tanguay, Jay Bouwmeester) and good depth players (Rene Bourque, Nik Hagman, Ian White). Given the strength of the Western Conference and the lack of consistent weapons the Flames boast making the playoffs will be a challenge. Miikka Kiprusoff is once again expected to play at least 75 games given the relative inexperience of his potential backups (Henrik Karlsson, Leland Irving). Offense: B-, Defense: B, Goaltending: B Oh, how the mighty have shot themselves in the foot. Dale Tallon's mismanagement of the cap has given Stan Bowman headaches with no outs. It's a good thing Tallon has a good eye for talent with a whole new slew of youngsters ready to make their mark for the defending champs having lost a bunch of good depth. The Hawks are finally under the cap but have a questionable duo of Marty Turco and Corey Crawford manning the pipes. If the goaltending can't hold then forget about a second consecutive Cup title. Offense: A-, Defense: A, Goaltending: C+ <img src="http://nimg.sulekha.com/sports/thumbnailfull/craig-anderson-2009-10-15-23-10-58.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Like Phoenix and Buffalo, a big reason for the Avs' success was the play of Craig Anderson. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't come with either Ryan Miller or Ilya Bryzgalov's pedigree. The Avs won't catch anyone off-guard this year because there most likely won't be any breakout performances (Chris Stewart) or surprising rookies (Ryan O'Reilly). Kyle Quincey has become the Avs' best blueliner but he's going to have a big workload in front of him and Anderson needs bailing out. Offense: B, Defense: B, Goaltending: B- Columbus was just on the cusp of breaking out before Steve Mason hit the sophomore wall and the whole team imploded. The team has the pieces in place, although they may be one top pair defenseman away, to be a playoff team. All that has to happen is for everybody, especially Derick Brassard, to perform. Rick Nash is slowly growing into his leadership role and Antoine Vermette still has untapped potential. The Jackets are a young team led by rookie coach in Scott Arniel but GM Scott Howson's acquisition of seasoned veteran Chris Clark will help smooth the bumpy ride. Offense: B+, Defense: B, Goaltending: B- One thing about Marc Crawford's squads is that they can really score. That's all great but it's worth nothing if you can't defend and win some games. The six highest paid players on the Stars' payroll have no-trade clauses and none of them, save Loui Eriksson, are entering their prime. With the uncertainty behind the ownership of the Stars, the club has been forced to cut costs. The team has a good group of talented individuals but it's a club that's in limbo. They're not exactly contending for the playoffs and not exactly re-building (which they should) either. Joe Nieuwendyk has provided more stability than the failed Les Jackson-Brett Hull experiment but it hasn't gotten off to a good start. Offense: B, Defense: B-, Goaltending: C+ <img src="http://nbcsportsmedia.msnbc.com/j/msnbc/Components/Photo_StoryLevel/080515/080515-Nicklas%20Lidstrom-vmed-234p.widec.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Never count out the Red Wings, especially when Nicklas Lidstrom is back to give one last kick at the can. Given the cap troubles of the Hawks and their cost-cutting measures, the Red Wings are in a position to re-take the Central Division crown. It's a golden opportunity for the Wings this season with Jiri Hudler back and GM Ken Holland added some great depth in Mike Modano and Ruslan Salei. Johan Franzen is healthy. If Valtteri Filppula can play like we all know he can, watch out. Offense: A-, Defense: A, Goaltending: A- It's hard to get excited about the Oilers' upcoming season but they will feature a bevy of potential superstars: Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Jordan Eberle, and Linus Omark. If you're going to watch the Oilers don't expect a win but do expect some razzle-dazzle from its youngsters. The franchise is clearly in re-building mode but I'm not sure if they've found the right coach in Tom Renney. With Sheldon Souray most likely gone 27-year old Ales Hemsky is considered a veteran and will have to help these players grow.. Offense: B-, Defense: C+, Goaltending: C The Kings have been inching towards the top ever so slightly since drafting Anze Kopitar. There's a good collection of young talent, veterans (Ryan Smyth, Michal Handzus, Rob Scuderi), and prospects (Brayden Schenn, Thomas Hickey, Colten Teubert, Jonathan Bernier) for the Kings to forge ahead. They will be big players at the deadline, looking for that extra piece. While they have no game-breaking winger yet, which was why GM Dean Lombardi went after Ilya Kovalchuk, the Kings still have a very solid group that can compete. Willie Mitchell stabilizes the blueline and Drew Doughty has become of the true elite blueliners in this league. Offense: A-, Defense: A, Goaltending: A- After committing some big dollars to Martin Havlat (with a few parting shots at Chicago) and a promise from rookie coach Todd Richards to implement a more attacking system, the Wild responded by finishing 13th in the conference. The Wild were relatively quiet this summer save for Mikko Koivu's overpriced extension and the signing of Matt Cullen, but the general belief in Minnesota is that this team can play much better. There's toughness up front with this group but a little short on skill. Brent Burns is still the major X factor and if he plays well he's a great spark for the Wild attack. Offense: B-, Defense: B-, Goaltending: B+ Anyone who appreciates hockey has to appreciate the Predators. Led by GM David Poile and Barry Trotz, one of the league's best coaches, the Preds play a blue-collar game and win on a consistent basis. Never mind that they've never won a single playoff series – that they've managed to even make the playoffs consistently with such a strict payroll budget is astounding. Expect more of the same this year. Some things just don't change. Offense: B, Defense: B+, Goaltending: B+ If the Phoenix Coyotes can win 50 games again this year Dave Tippett may be the best coach in the league. The roster isn't anything to smirk at but it's not exactly intimidating either. The Desert Dogs' fate will be solely based on the play of Ilya Bryzgalov. Picking up Ray Whitney was a shrewd move for a young team and if they can get Kyle Turris and Oliver Ekman-Larsson to make significant contributions they are a dangerous team. But count me in as one of those doubters, especially after losing shot-blocking machine Zbynek Michalek. Offense: B+, Defense: B, Goaltending: A- Some people don't think the Sharks can win without Evgeni Nabokov, but with an offense that features at least two 40-goal scorers (Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau) and one of the league's best playmakers in Joe Thornton, there's no shortage of weapons up front for Todd McLellan although the bottom six isn't great. Dan Boyle is best powerplay quarterback in the West and Marc-Edouard Vlasic's production can't dip any further. Whether or not this team can succeed in the post-season is yet another question. Offense: A, Defense: B+, Goaltending: B+ Things were looking so good in St. Louis when they took a giant step back. There's enough talent up front even but David Backes and Brad Boyes need to regain their scoring touches. Jaroslav Halak is more than an adequate replacement for Chris Mason. Erik Johnson is a stud defenseman but they still need Eric Brewer and Barrett Jackman to stay healthy. Easier said than done, of course. Offense: B, Defense: B-, Goaltending: B+ <img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3416/3276791653_6041358afd.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Bar none, the Canucks are the best team in the West. This isn't just some hometown bias working here, it's the truth. No other team can match the Canucks' depth, up front or on the blueline, and there shouldn't be any questions in net... unless Keith Ballard knocks out Roberto Luongo. We may see Mason Raymond score 30 this year and while many didn't like the Raffi Torres signing, I definitely did. After losing out on Arron Asham you can't go wrong with a former 27-goal scorer with some sandpaper for only $1 million bucks. Offense: A+, Defense: A, Goaltending: A STANDINGS 1. Vancouver2. San Jose3. Detroit4. Chicago5. Los Angeles6. Phoenix7. Nashville8. Calgary9. St. Louis10. Colorado11. Columbus12. Minnesota13. Anaheim14. Dallas15. Edmonton
  6. Lame Duck Bieksa

    All things considered, Kevin Bieksa seems to be on the outside looking in. With the acquisitions of Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard the Canucks don't have enough room to keep everyone. Alex Edler and Christian Ehrhoff aren't going anywhere, so at $3.75 million Bieksa is a very expensive third pair defenseman. Salo, Hamhuis, and Ballard all have no-trade clauses. I imagine none of the three will be asked to waive those clauses and if asked would be unwilling. Ben Kuzma of The Province lists Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles, Columbus, and Dallas as potential suitors, but to me none of those teams make sense, especially when Mike Gillis wants to make "a hockey deal." <img src="http://canucksarmy.com/uploads/old/2009/04/kevin-bieksa_1.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Now in mid-July, training camp is about two months away. It gives Gillis ample time to find a trade he likes, but as the saying goes, it takes two to tango. Considering how long this Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes has been going on, Gillis may end up having to jettison Bieksa in a hurry. It would be a little awkward for Bieksa to show up at camp when he knows he's going to be gone. If Gillis wants to make a hockey deal, I can't see him trading Bieksa to a Western Conference team, although it may end up having to happen. As many as ten teams reportedly asked about Bieksa at the trade deadline and perhaps around the same at the draft but obviously nobody offered anything concrete that Gillis liked. Here's a look at some ideal trading partners. Anaheim - The Ducks are swimming in shallow water with their current blueline. Ha. Ha. Ha. Even with the addition of Toni Lydman, the retirement of Scott Niedermayer automatically makes their blueline go from above average to mediocre. Bieksa would be a good fit in SoCal and had Brian Burke still been their boss it would've happened already. But Anaheim is a conference opponent and has bigger things to worry about (re-signing Bobby Ryan) before making any other decisions. Buffalo - It's close to Ontario so maybe Bieksa can find some solace in being traded to one of the most boring cities. Looking at the Sabres defense, I'm going to take a gander and guess that Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier are planning on Ryan Miller to steal at least 10-15 games. The Sabres do have some young players - Philip Gogulla, Paul Byron - worth taking a second look at. Carolina - Quick, name the 'Canes top four. If you guessed Joni Pitkanen, Joe Corvo, Anton Babchuk, and Tim Gleason, give yourself a pat on the back. It may not seem like much, but this group is underrated, starting from the puck-moving ability of Pitkanen to the consistent play of Gleason. Adding Bieksa gives them some toughness and it seems like 'Canes fans wouldn't mind seeing Bieksa there either (although I'd have to pop Wage's bubble and speak for Gillis: "No, thanks."). Digression: Guy to watch for last year was Brandon Sutter. This year it's not Zach Boychuk or Drayson Bowman. It's Jamie McBain. Bonus points for a cool name. Columbus - Of Kuzma's suggestions, this makes the most sense. If Bieksa heads to Ohio, he automatically becomes one of their go-to guys, although I don't think GM Scott Howson and the money-conscious Jackets would like a $1 million seventh guy (Marc Methot). I also believe that Howson would be reluctant to give up any picks or prospects, considering the somewhat promising future of the organization. Although rumours did indicate that Howson was dangling Nikita Filatov I can't see the Russian winger fitting into Gillis' smart hockey, team-first locker room culture. Dallas - Kuzma has already reported that the Stars are on a restricted payroll. That counts them out already even with the Marc Crawford connection. I can't see them adding more salary after re-signing their RFAs. <img src="http://farm1.static.flickr.com/189/441393950_df854bd0e5.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Florida - Trading with the Cats has always served us well so why not do it again? Bieksa slots in easily as a top four defenseman and that puts less pressure on Russian sensation Dmitri Kulikov and Keaton Ellerby to perform. It seems unlikely, however, that Dale Tallon would part with any picks or prospects as he begins to put his stamp on the team. A name of interest, since Gillis loves his BC boys, is Michal Repik, a Czech native who honed his hockey skills under Don Hay and the Giants. A key player to watch out for on the Panthers is Evgeni Dadonov. I got the chance to see him last year at the Panthers training camp in Port Hawkesbury in an exhibition game against my alma mater, St. Francis Xavier. The kid can fly. And snipe. Los Angeles - If the Kings land Kovalchuk, forget about it. The Kings have $16 million in cap space as of right now, and if Kovalchuk gets what he wants at least half of that will count towards the cap. Tack on Bieksa's salary and it looks workable, but even with Michal Handzus ($4 million) and Justin Williams' ($3 million) contracts expiring next year Lombardi needs to leave enough room to re-sign RFAs Wayne Simmonds, Jack Johnson, and Drew Doughty. In the long run it just doesn't make sense, especially if you consider the fact that the Kings and Canucks are developing a rivalry of sorts. NY Islanders - The Isles need to reach the cap floor. Adding Bieksa won't solve the problem but it helps in the number books and on the ice. With their years of futility it won't be hard to pry a decent prospect from GM Garth Snow although the former Canuck 'tender is quickly developing a reputation around the league as a tough negotiator. San Jose - The Sharks do have enough room to accommodate Bieksa and could use another body on defense but the best package Gillis may get offered by Doug Wilson is a late 1st rounder and a mid-level prospect. Not a bad haul, but again, the Sharks are a Western Conference team that will be playoff staples and their pipeline isn't exactly overflowing with quality prospects. EDIT: Tampa Bay - The Bolts have a good group of forwards and maybe now Vincent Lecavalier can stop whining about not having Vaclav Prospal as his winger with Simon Gagne in the fold. The defense needs work and with arguably their toughest defenseman gone they could use some grit on the back end. Philly fans are going to love Matt Walker. It seems as though Steve Yzerman has been given the green light so the normally cost-conscious Bolts won't be adverse to adding salary. Washington - I honestly thought the Caps would land Anton Volchenkov on July 1. It didn't happen so the Caps defense remains the same: offensively gifted but defensively clueless. Adding Bieksa puts some much needed sandpaper on their back end and as of right now Jeff Schultz is their shut-down man. Yikes. John Carlson and Karl Alzner are all but guaranteed spots for next year's lineup but the Caps' pipeline features plenty of intriguing players like Anton Gustafsson (the son of Team Sweden coach Bengt Gustafsson), Patrick McNeill, Francois Bouchard, Andrew Gordon, and Mathieu Perreault.
  7. Ray-croft! Ray-croft!

    Those chants were sweet to backup Andrew Raycroft as they were to me. The premium in the playoffs is goaltending because every game counts and a game stolen by Roberto Luongo could mean the difference between winning and losing a series. Since coming back from the Olympic break Luongo has been faltering, including an absolutely abysmal performance in Edmonton two nights ago, so it's nice to see that the Canucks have at least found confidence in their backup goaltending, ending a goaltending carousel that's featured Curtis Sanford, Johan Hedberg, Bob Essensa, Peter Skudra... the list goes on and on. Not that it should ever happen, but if Luongo falters in the playoffs at least Alain Vigneault will have some confidence in Raycroft to put him in net. A lot of people wondered why Vigneault didn't start Raycroft in Edmonton and then Luongo against a tougher Anaheim squad, but quite simply, I think it was because Vigneault planned to start Luongo every night until the end of the season, maybe save for the last game of the season if it was meaningless. I disagree with D13G0 DA SNIPUR here because I think the worst thing to do to a struggling goalie is staple him to the bench. Get Luongo more games, see more pucks, swallow the bitter pills, and hopes he finds his grove come playoff time. There's no point in giving Raycroft more ice-time if he's not going to start in the playoffs - at most he's an insurance policy the coaching staff can trust. All things considered the Canucks probably have the division title and home-ice advantage locked up in the first round. The Avalanche are five points away with nine games to play and aren't exactly on a roll, going just 5-4-1 in their last ten. The only difference the last game of the season may make is deciding which team the Canucks will have to play in the first round, and that could mean LA, Colorado, Nashville, or Detroit. Sorry Calgary fans, I don't think so. Just a side note, if the Flames miss the playoffs this year the Sutters will really have to look at themselves in the mirror. The Flames have been taken sideways steps at the most since their Cup run against the Lightning. That Olli Jokinen trade was a do-over (I didn't think he would mesh well with Jarome Iginla in the first place - they're too similar) and that Dion Phaneuf trade may end up hurting them too. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/ap/20100325/capt.10b40c62d7e3432a89a8f77c2c25b681-10b40c62d7e3432a89a8f77c2c25b681-0.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Raycroft, who earns $500,000, is set to be a UFA at the end of the season and don't be surprised if Mike Gillis ends the goaltending carousel now and gives Raycroft a brand-new multi-year deal worth roughly the same money next year. I think it's a foregone conclusion that Cory Schneider won't be sticking around because 1) he's a valuable trade chip and 2) he won't be starting here anytime soon. Several teams will still be in the market for a goalie and if anything Gillis will make his presence felt at the draft, where the Canucks don't have a second or third round pick. By signing Raycroft to a multi-year contract, Gillis and Vigneault will save themselves from the backup goaltender headache and really provide Luongo and the team with some stability. Goalies are developing such different styles and having Raycroft stick around for a little longer provides more familiarity between him and the five other guys on the ice. Congrats to Henrik Sedin hitting 71 assists, tying a career high, but also moving him to 99 points and the league lead. Given Henrik's current pace, he'll be finishing the year with 109.7 points, which rounded up to 110 will tie him with Pavel Bure (perhaps the best ever Russian scorer) for the franchise record. The Sedins do face an incredible array of goaltending talent in their upcoming games, with Evgeni Nabokov, Ilya Bryzgalov, Miikka Kiprusoff, Niklas Backstrom, and then Craig Anderson and Jonathan Quick. However, if they can pull off anything like Henrik's spin-o-rama backhand pass to Alex Burrows again (they will), the points will come. Props also to George Parros and Darcy Hordichuk for mixing it up on more than one occasion including a very spirited first bout. Michael Grabner was equally impressive with his speed, but as Chris Cuthbert pointed out he's been unwilling to go to the net. He reminds me a lot of a younger Mason Raymond - his wheels just turn too fast for him to think and react at the right time. Kyle Wellwood has really picked up his game lately and when Steve Bernier comes back this team will be really deep up front. (And I'm terribly sorry Daniel, but I don't believe you were just "throwing the puck at the net." That was a set play and Burrows was the fly-by screen. If Daniel was truly throwing it there for Burrows to fetch the puck should've been shot five feet lower. That puck went top corner blocker side. Take a look at Burrows' route and where his stick was. He wasn't even going to bother tipping it. All he wanted to do was tie up Niedermayer. Video here.) The Canucks weren't stellar last night even though the score does suggest we dominated. The Canucks had six giveaways last night and four of them came from our defensemen. As much as the Canucks were successful in pinning the Ducks in their own zone, the opposite was true as well and had it not been for Raycroft the score would've been much closer. On more than one occasion Raycroft stood on his head. The Ducks are an interesting story this year, as their offensive production has absolutely gone downhill. After scoring 245 goals last year the Ducks sit only at 205 this year. Everyone except for Jonas Hiller, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan (what a fantastic set of hands he has) seems to have taken a step backwards. The bad news is that Scott Niedermayer may retire at the end of the year, which would end his distinguished career on a low note. If the Ducks finish out of the playoffs it'd be the first time since 1996 Niedermayer has failed to reach the post-season and he's two points shy of 100 career playoff points. The good news is that should Niedermayer retire, the Ducks will have lots of money to play with and their young core is already in place. The Canucks visit the reeling Sharks Saturday night on CBC. EDIT: I didn't realize this until I saw this just now, but a fight broke up between a Ducks fan and a Canucks fan last night. I only saw the TSN feed and they didn't say anything about it. Anyway, Mozy did a bang-up job writing it up and I wholeheartedly agree with him.
  8. The Hockey Code

    When I tell people I live and breathe hockey, one of the most common answers I get is: "You like hockey? Really!? It's so barbaric! They fight all the time!" In a way, it is true. Grown men on skates in post-whistle scrums hacking, pushing, shoving, punching, trash-talking, fighting. What most people don't understand, and most often than not it's because they've had very little exposure to the sport either by watching or playing, is that there is a "hockey code" involved. I once tried to explain this to a friend of mine to justify all the "barbaric" things that happen on the ice but there were times where I really stumbled on my words to convey my message. It's not something easily understood. There's a certain honour when it comes to dropping the gloves and hitting someone, something that has clearly been lost as evidenced by this week's crazy sequence of events. It's hard to pinpoint exactly when hockey players lost respect for one another. Hits to the head, elbows, kneeing, slew foots have been just a few of the instances this year in which hockey players lost their ability to make good decisions. Mike Richards' hit was a poor decision. As was Matt Cooke's hit on Marc Savard, Patrice Cormier's elbow on Mikael Tam, and most recently James Wisniewski's hit on Brent Seabrook. It certainly doesn't help hockey's image when papers like the Boston Herald are actively calling for a punishment on Matt Cooke. This is head-hunting at its best. This all gives hockey a bad image. I'm a little shocked that Gary Bettman hasn't publicly said anything about the matter or the Herald's front page (... on second thought, I'm actually not). The last time an (alleged) head hunt was called ended in a nasty situation that involved a season-long suspension and fractured vertebrae. The NHL took huge five steps forward with the success of the Olympics with an all North American final but its image has once again suffered because the league has proved incapable and inefficient once again to really address the issues. In fact, I think the Pittsburgh-Boston game Thursday night was a great example of why the league really needs to get rid of the instigator rule. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/rids/20100319/i/r3602461247.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">First, I thought the Bruins responded in a great way to the incredible amount of pressure on them to exact revenge on Matt Cooke. Cooke knew what was coming too and obliged when he was challenged by Shawn Thornton in a spirited tilt (kudos to both). Thornton was tossed from the game for throwing punches when Cooke was vulnerable on the ice, but I'm glad that it didn't get worse, because really, it could've. Never mind the Bruins lost, that was asides from the point. Had Cooke declined the offer to drop the gloves (and he does have a history of doing that) the pent up rage of the entire Bruins squad and Boston crowd could've escalated into something much worse. In regards to Wisniewski's hit on Seabrook, had there been no instigator rule, I don't think the hit would've happened. Instead, Wisniewski would've dropped the gloves whether Seabrook was willing or not. In some ways, a spirited tilt in which the play is dead and the referees and linesmen's focus is on the fight, and in which Seabrook doesn't necessarily have to be as aware of the surroundings around him, makes it a much safer option than skating 20 feet and slamming Seabrook into the boards when he isn't looking. At least in a fight Seabrook has a chance to defend himself. It was clear Wisniewski wanted to send a message. I find it hard to believe that retaliation wasn't something he had in mind when he skated from his own bench and flew into Seabrook like a RPG. Fighting needs to stay in the NHL. Blindside hits and the instigator rule have to go. Respect, for the players and sport alike, needs to be earned again.
  9. Anaheim Post-game Reaction

    The last ten minutes of the third period were probably the most fun I've had watching the Canucks in awhile. The action was rapid and the Canucks were constantly on the forecheck, causing turnovers and creating scoring chances. But where was that all game? The Canucks have been plagued with inconsistency all year and no wonder they're still sitting outside the playoff picture - they can't play a full 60 minutes of solid hockey. The first period was forgettable to say the least, but only when the Canucks were down did they realize they had a game to play. I'm not exactly sure what's wrong here - maybe it's the players, maybe it's the schedule, maybe it's the coach. In John Tortorella's colourful words, "I can't [expletive] explain it." Did anyone see spark plug Rick Rypien anywhere tonight? I sure didn't but that's probably because he only played 4:15. Total. For a team that lacked any sort of energy I'm a little stunned that Rypien was underused. Tanner Glass has been a really nice pick-up after Florida declined to qualify a bunch of their young players and he was arguably one of the better Canucks tonight. Darcy Hordichuk made his mark with a good hit on George Parros which was quickly answered by dropping the gloves with one of the league's biggest heavyweights. Speaking of the bout, why do all hockey players find it acceptable to follow up a good hit with a fight? Hordichuk obviously accepted the invitation but I'm getting sick of some of these meaningless fights. Shane O'Brien's tilt with Kyle Chipchura had a much bigger effect on the game. The Sedins extended their streaks but Alain Vigneault made a great point before the game - it's not that they're playing any better than before, it's just that they're getting the bounces. Henrik's marker in the first period was a shot that I think caught Jonas Hiller off-guard because he was playing the pass. The Sedins are getting the chances and really capitalizing on them but it's a bit of a stretch to think that this will continue for the rest of the season. For the better portion of the second period and parts of the first, the Sedins actually remained quite invisible. <img src="http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/canucks+clinch+playoff+spot+despite+shootout+loss+ducks/1458116/1458112.bin?size=620x400" class="imageFloatLeftFramed"> My boy Steve Bernier was also invisible for stretches throughout the game, but the sequence in which he knocked down Nick Boynton twice really got his game going. He eventually scored the second goal to tie things up but he's one of the more underrated young players in the league. He uses his body very, very well and has the ability to become a 30-goal scorer one day. He won't wow you with his skill or skating, and probably never will, but he's a player that is willing to do the dirty work in front of the net and keeps the game nice and simple. If Bernier can give efforts like his every night, there's no question he'd be one of the most coveted players in the league with his rare blend of skill and size. The Canucks' relatively lacklustre offensive production tonight was, I think, in part because they were trying to be too cute. They tried to go for the pretty puck-control, tip-in plays but they didn't work against a stronger, more motivated Anaheim squad. Alex Burrows' best shifts came when he forechecked and carried the puck into the offensive zone with reckless abandon. It's easy to play with the Sedins because they can get you the puck so easily, but it's also easy to get lost in the cycling, give-and-go game and forget to puck your stick on the ice. For a guy who really prides himself on positional play, I've been pretty disappointed with Willie Mitchell thus far. I think sometimes his extra long stick gets in the way of his skating and puck-handling, although admittedly he doesn't have to do a lot of either to be effective. I think too many times already this season he's been caught out of position or scrambling to get back into the play. The best defenseman tonight was Christian Ehrhoff and his 23:26 TOI led all Vancouver skaters. His defensive play is something to improve on, that is certain, but offensively no one else is as good a playmaker as he is. While he isn't as brash or flashy, his ability to create plays in the offensive zone is quite reminiscent of Ed Jovanovski. I hope that Ehrhoff remains a Canuck for some time - San Jose's loss is our gain. For Mathieu Schneider, I think we're still seeing a guy who's still trying to get into game shape. His 10:44 TOI on even strength was a bit of an adventure sometimes and I wish he'd hit the net on the powerplay. The Canucks have two guys that can really fire the puck but Sami Salo and Schneider combined for only 4 shots and the team went 0-5 on the powerplay, whose recent trend of feast or famine continues. Craig MacTavish believes the Canucks are one of the best teams in the West, and he's right, but only on paper. At some point, something has to give and the Canucks have to realize that they cannot win games by playing half the game.