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Top 10 moments of 2011-12 - Canucks Army

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They writers over at Canucks Army are doing their top 10 moments of the 2011-12 season this summer. It's a nice change from all the proposal, rumour and white noise (what's your most/least favourite cereal) threads, so read on! (#10 to start)

TOP 10 MOMENTS OF 2011-12: MAX LAPIERRE, COYOTE HUNTER:

On the whole, 2011-12 wasn't a memorable season for Canucks fans - especially after the club's dominant 2010-11 campaign. But beneath the surface there were many fun moments if you stopped to smell the roses.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be looking at ten of them, and counting them down (in order).

For the first installment, I am going to take a look at a goal that personifies many things about this Canucks team. Read on to find out more about Lapierre's evening as a Coyote Hunter.

On November 25th, 2011, the Canucks were in Phoenix playing the Coyotes. The team jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first 50 minutes of the game. With less than 10 minutes left in the final frame, Max Lapierre scored a goal that was equal parts skill and hard work.

The goal:

Lapierre outworked and outsmarted several Coyotes on this play. The Canucks strayed away from their aggressive forecheck at times in 2011-12, after using it to such great success in 2010-11 and during their run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Lapierre’s work ethic was one constant this past season for the Canucks, and this goal is a perfect example of it.

Let’s break the goal down.

Lapierre1.jpg

In this first frame, Lapierre is bearing down on the Coyotes defense. Smith has just played the puck off to the side, giving Keith Yandle a number of outlets (although one of them happens to be Derek Morris).

Lapierre2.jpg

Lapierre follows Yandle behind the net, and knocks the puck loose. He centers the puck to a teammate, but no scoring chance arises. However, he doesn’t quit on the play. Morris is busy defending the referee in the corner.

Lapierre3.jpg

The Coyotes, who of course travel in packs, now have four players around the puck. Lapierre rushes back to catch up to the play. He knocks it loose for a second time. An Aarom Rome “off the glass” special wouldn’t be looking so bad for the Phoenix defense right about now….

Lapierre4.jpg

Lapierre, having isolated Morris, goes in for the kill. Morris has two great passing options as well as the boards in play, but he decides, of course, to throw the puck up the middle. For the third time on the shift, Lapierre knocks the puck loose.

Lapierre5.jpg

Lapierre beats Morris to the net, gains body position, spins, and fires a back hand shot far side past Mike Smith. An incredibly skillful move for any player to make, let alone one known more for his defensive and agitating abilities.

Lapierre6.jpg

Max Lapierre, Coyote Hunter.

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#9

TOP 10 MOMENTS OF 2011-12: RYAN KESLER, SHOOT FIRST PASS LATER

To say that Ryan Kesler has tunnel vision at times would be accurate. The gifted two-way pivot was criticized at times last season for failing to properly use his linemates (Kesler isn’t totally blameless, but he did see a revolving door of wingers and seemed out of sorts for much of 2011-12 after rushing back from offseason hip surgery).

There is a reason why Kesler looks to shoot – he has a great shot. In 2010-11, he used a newly-developed wrist shot to score a sizable chunk of his 41 goals. Teams seemed to key on his go-to move last season, which was a major reason (along with fewer power-play opportunities and shooting percentage regression) for the decline in goals (only 22). He loves rushing the puck up the ice on his off wing or up the middle, cutting in, and firing a wrist shot across his body to the blocker side of the opposing goaltender (or the glove hand side for the righty catchers).

On January 21st, 2012, Kesler scored a beautiful goal by doing exactly what got him 41 goals one season previous – rushing the puck up the ice, taking it to the middle of the ice, and scoring on a wrist shot. The difference with this goal is that he was a bit tighter in to the goalie, and he added a deke before shooting the puck.

The goal:

Let’s break it down.

kesler1.jpg

The play starts with Kesler pouncing on a loose puck at center. The word pouncing gets overused in sports (pounced on a rebound, pounced on a loose ball… you get the point), but it works perfectly to describe how much he wants the puck here.

kesler2.jpg

Chris Higgins, as he is known to do, works his butt off to lose his check. And would you look at that – actual photographic evidence of Kesler looking at a teammate. How about them apples?

kesler3.jpg

Perhaps the nicest part of the goal – Kesler evades the back checking Sharks forward with a slick toe drag. He also recognizes that Dan Boyle only half-commits to block the pass, leaving Antti Niemi vulnerable to the back door play.

kesler4.jpg

A lot is going on here. Higgins pulls up to bang home a rebound, since he knows Kesler is shooting it. Boyle has pulled a 180 and is now parallel to the goal line, while Niemi’s glove hand appears to be anchored to the ground, leaving only one place for Kesler to shoot the puck. Spoiler alert: it isn’t along the ice.

kesler5.jpg

Kesler looking at Higgins from a different view, just in case you didn’t believe me.

Why does this goal rank in the top 10? Well, it was one of a few glimpse of how dominant Kesler can be when all of the parts of his game are working. Shortly after this goal was scored, in early February, Kesler got injured and I'm not sure we ever really got to see him at "full speed" for an extended period of time last season. Two, it was a big goal at a big point of the year against a top rival in the Western Conference.

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#8

TOP 10 MOMENTS OF 2011-12: DAVID BOOTH, NET CRASHER

The Canucks surprised many with the early season trade acquisition of David Booth from Florida. Although the Canucks had already been burned by acquiring a $4 million player from the Panthers just one year previous (Keith Ballard), the team had a hole to fill on the second line, and on paper Booth looked to be the right guy to fill it.

As a Canuck, Booth's play ranged from OK to good – he was dominant at times, and looked a bit lost at times, too. Ryan Kesler's offensive struggles likely contributed to Booth's lack of production, and his underlying numbers (fancy stats) are pretty good. They paint a picture of a player who should see his production increase this coming season.

Booth scored some nice goals in Vancouver, and he did start to play with more aggressiveness and confidence as the season wore on. On the last day of the season he was named the team's most "exciting player" by the fans, an award that was widely mocked on Twitter. That was before Booth shut everyone up by scoring a beauty goal against the Edmonton Oilers on April 7th.

The goal:

Let's break it down (if you are a fan or relative of Andy Sutton, now may be the time to turn away from the computer screen).

1.png

Kevin Bieksa has just dropped the puck off to Booth. The Oilers back off as Booth is coming with a lot of speed, and the Canucks are on the power play. This is also the only frame in which Sutton is in proper position.

2.png

See that giant Oiler beside Booth in the neutral zone? That is Sutton. Not really sure what he is thinking here. Did he see a shiny object on the ice? He skates very well for a big man, but too bad he takes himself so far out of position that Marc-Andre Gragnani even laughs.

3.png

The old adage “play the man, not the puck” must have not been repeated at Edmonton practices much. Two Oilers, defenseman Jeff Petry and forward Chris VandeVelde are both watching the puck while Booth shows he is more than just a pretty face with a slick outside-inside deke.

Sutton is in the process of turning around in the neutral zone. Or maybe he's going off for a line change.

4.png

The good news for Edmonton goaltender Devan Dubnyk – there are three Oiler skaters around the net, and only two Canucks. The bad news – Booth is in front of all of them. Booth skates in all alone on Dubnyk... and you can guess what happens next.

This is the only time I have ever seen a still image of Chris Higgins gliding as a Canuck. That guy works his butt off.

5.png

Probably a good thing Dubnyk wasn’t mic’d up for this one. I think playing goaltender for the Oilers would burn a lot of calories, too.

6.png

Eyes on the puck next time, gentlemen. Booth’s good looks aren’t a good enough excuse here...

Booth was known in Florida as a fearless power forward. He wasn't a physical presence the way Milan Lucic or Jarome Iginla play the position, but Booth uses his 6-2, 220 pound frame to crash the net with reckless abandon. The Canucks didn't have a player of that ilk before acquiring him.

The question mark with Booth in recent years has been his health, and more specifically, his head. He didn't play with the same consistent net drive after suffering a serious concussion a few years ago, and that was likely one reason why the Panthers felt he was expendable.

Booth's goal is hopefully a sign of things to come. He was largely ineffective in the first round loss to Los Angeles, but he did start to take the puck to the net with more regularity in March and April. The Canucks have a lot invested in him, and they need him to do this kind of thing a lot more in 2012-13.

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#7

TOP 10 MOMENTS OF 2011-12: AARON ROME AND THE BIONIC HAND

Aaron Rome was a divisive figure during his tenure with the Canucks, which is surprising considering he is a low-risk, low-event bottom pairing defenseman. Rome was a whipping boy for those in the fan base who disagreed with some of Alain Vigneault’s personnel decisions (namely playing Rome over the much more talented Keith Ballard).

Rome was a well-liked teammate, a hard worker, and a very solid defenseman relative to his cap hit. It is unfortunate how his 2011 season ended (the Nathan Horton hit), especially considering the Canucks were already without Dan Hamhuis, and both Alex Edler (broken fingers) and Christian Ehrhoff (shoulder injury) were far from being 100 percent.

Rome suffered a broken hand before the 2011-12 season even started, and he didn’t make his debut until November. And what a debut it was.

On November 6th, 2011, Rome returned to the lineup against the Chicago Blackhawks.

His uncanny ability to chip the puck out of the zone off of the glass was still there, but that is not why Rome clocks in at number seven on this list.

Cody Hodgson makes a nice centering pass to David Booth, who channels his inner Mario Lemieux to “dummy” the puck to Rome, who has all the time in the world to rip the puck past an unscreened Corey Crawford. Rome is now a member of the Dallas Stars, where he will play a big role with a club in the middle of a significant transition.

The goal:

Let’s break it down.

Rome1.jpg

Hodgson rushes the puck into the corner, and fires a beautiful back hand pass to Booth, who is loading up for a one-timer from the slot. Rome is lurking in the background.

Rome2.jpg

Swing and a miss for Booth, who has his stick checked at the last second. Rome is still out of the frame. Hodgson has drawn two Blackhawks to the corner, freeing up some open ice near the blue line.

Rome3.jpg

Rome makes his first appearance in the clip. He receives the puck, winds up for a fake slap shot to give the forwards time to screen Crawford. Hodgson gets set up to tip in a wayward shot or pounce on a rebound.

Rome3.jpg

After finally finishing his shot fake, Rome decides to test out his new bionic hand.

Rome4.jpg

Great success!

Rome5.jpg

He was a bit wide open, eh? Again, great work by Hodgson to lure a check away from the point. Crawford also is nice enough to give Rome the entire net to shoot at.

Rome6.jpg

Higgins doesn’t get over to screen in time, but it doesn’t matter. Becasue it's Corey Crawford, he gets beaten clean.

The goal kick started a Jeff Cowen-like hot streak for Rome, who scored another goal on November 10th, then had a goal disallowed against Los Angeles before adding one more on November 13th for good measure. In 105 previous games with the Canucks, Rome had exactly one goal (of the empty net variety).

Rome has been a productive defenseman at the AHL level, and it will be interesting to see how his role changes with the Stars. His time with the Canucks wasn’t full of highlights, but he did provide a few of them.

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#6

TOP 10 MOMENTS OF 2011-12: THE NAME IS BITZ. BYRON BITZ.

Byron Bitz was signed in the summer of 2011 to supply the Canucks with size and toughness. He missed the entire 2010-11 season dealing with hip and groin issues, and the problem lingered on throughout training camp and into the beginning of the 2011-12 regular season.

He finally made his debut with in February of 2012. Bitz went on to record four points in 10 games with the Canucks, including three over a two game stretch in early February. For that brief period, head coach Alain Vigneault played a hunch by sticking Bitz on the top line with Daniel and Henrik.

Bitz rewarded his coach with a breakout performance against the Predators on February 7th. Although his time on the first line was short lived, Bitz provided some excitement in a largely disappointing season for the Canucks (it sure feels strange writing that about a first place* club).

*regular season

In the goal below, Bitz buries a nifty back hand saucer pass from Henrik into the back of the net.

Let’s break it down.

Bitz1.jpg

Bieksa bodies a Predator forward off of the puck, and the rest of Nashville’s players head off for a line change. Because, you know, that is a great idea with the Sedin twins about to turn the puck up the ice. Someone doesn’t want a minus beside their name (I am looking at you, Mr Weber...).

Bitz2.jpg

Sergei Kostitsyn appears to be stuck in quicksand, as Bitz skates past him to turn a 2-on-2 into a 3-on-2 rush for the Canucks.

Bitz3.jpg

The Nashville defenseman covering Bitz has to back off a bit as Daniel is out wide (and it makes sense to cover the former Art Ross winner over Bitz). The defenseman on Henrik has a tight gap, but that doesn’t matter. There are few players in the league better on their back hand than Henrik (Thornton, Crosby, and Datsyuk are all in the conversation).

Bitz4.jpg

A quick bench shot of Ryan Kesler limping off of the ice – I am going to wager a guess he ended up being OK.

Bitz5.jpg

Henrik’s pass is literally perfect. He puts just enough speed on it to get to Bitz before the backchecking forward can intercept it. And he places it just far enough in front of Bitz so he can step into it with some power.

Bitz wasn’t done with this goal, either. Later on in the game, he set up Daniel for a tap in goal with a beautiful pass from behind the net. It only took him 20 or 30 minutes to do what Steve Bernier never could – figure out how to not screw up while playing with Daniel and Henrik.

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#5

TOP 10 MOMENTS OF 2011-12: THE MULTITASKING KEVIN BIEKSA

In the interest of space, I'm going to post the first part from here forward and let you check out the rest at the link. Way too many pictures from the previous posts.

Kevin Bieksa has provided his fair share of highlights over the years. From his days of a feared middleweight fighter, to his goal that sent the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final back in 2011, to his foray into glove tossing this past season, the man known as “Juice” is an integral part of the Canucks, both on and off of the ice. He and Dan Hamhuis form one of the best two-way defensive pairings in the entire league.

In 2011-12, Bieksa set a career high with 44 points in 78 games. The Grimsby, Ontario native now has three NHL seasons of 40 or more points. Even with a career year offensively, his play in 2011-12 could be best described as inconsistent, as his defensive game was a bit of an adventure at times.

One of those times was in early February in Colorado. He struggled mightily against the Avalanche that night, turning the puck over numerous times. However, just like Lloyd in Dumb & Dumber, Bieksa went ahead and totally redeemed himself at the end of the game.

The Canucks pulled Roberto Luongo late in the third period for the extra attacker, and Colorado looked to seal the game late. Bieksa had other ideas. The save (and the goal) from February 4th, 2012:

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#4

TOP 10 MOMENTS OF 2011-12: CORY SCHNEIDER'S ARRIVAL

The date was November 23rd, 2011. The Canucks went in to Colorado and defeated the Avalanche 3-0 thanks in large part to a stellar performance from goaltender Cory Schneider.

It also marked Alain Vigneault's 247th win as head coach of the Canucks, moving him past Marc Crawford into first place in the club's all-time record books. The date was also Gabriel Landeskog's 19th birthday, and the young Swede was recently named as Colorado's captain, making him the youngest full-time captain in NHL history

Records and birthdays aside, the game has special significance for the Canucks and Schneider. Read on to find out why.

The shutout victory kicked off a stretch of tremendous play for Schneider (well, technically Schneider's streak started three nights before in a 2-1 overtime win over Ottawa). From November 23rd to November 29th, Schneider went 4-0 with two shutouts and only three total goals allowed on 139 shots (a 0.978 save percentage).

It wasn't the first time we saw Schneider dominate at the NHL level, but it was the first time he was able to do so with consecutive starts. His play at the end of November was an exclamation point on his arrival as a very good NHL goaltender.

It was hard to decide on a highlight to break down from the Colorado game, as Schneider made at least a half-dozen spectacular saves.

One stands out, however. 10 minutes into the third period, the Canucks were holding on to a two goal lead. The Avalanche were pressing, and Schneider was forced to hold down the fort.

The save(s):

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#3

TOP 10 MOMENTS OF 2011-12: CORY SCHNEIDER'S ARRIVAL (PART 2)

There were not many positive highlights from Vancouver's first round series against the LA Kings, as the Canucks were thoroughly outclassed throughout the majority of the five game defeat.

However, Cory Schneider's play was one bright spot. He stepped in to replace Roberto Luongo in Game 3 after the Canucks had dropped the first two games at home. Luongo's play wasn't poor, but the team needed a shake-up. Schneider stopped 19 of 20 shots in a 1-0 defeat in Game 3. He was good, but the team was unable to give him any goal support.

He was at his best in Game 4, though. The Kings out-shot Vancouver 44 to 30, but Schneider only let one puck get past him. His best save came five minutes into the third period.

The Canucks, facing elimination, were leading the Kings by one goal. Dustin Brown managed to free himself on a breakaway before getting hauled down by Kevin Bieksa. The play resulted in a penalty shot for Brown, and Schneider was forced to make a monumental save (at the time) to keep the Canucks ahead by one.

The penalty shot (and save):

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#2

TOP 10 MOMENTS OF 2011-12: ALEX BURROWS, STREAK BREAKER

To say that the Vancouver Canucks players struggled to get up for every single game in the 2011-12 regular season would be accurate. The magnitude of a Tuesday night game against Minnesota simply doesn't compare to a Stanley Cup Final contest (sorry, Wild fans), and the Canucks seemed to meander through the regular season (for the most part).

There were several notable exceptions. Early January in Boston was a huge game for the team, as was a date with the Red Wings in late February.

Detroit had reeled off 23 straight wins at home, setting a league record in the process. At the time, they were two points clear of the Canucks in the NHL overall points standings. The league's best home team (Detroit) was facing the league's best road team (Vancouver).

Luongo shared his thoughts on the eve of the contest:

"We've been hoping they would still be undefeated by the time we got there. Talking to the guys, even two to three weeks ago, I was hoping that they would hold on until we got there at least so we can get a chance. That's what's fun about playing the game — challenges like that. I think as a group, we're excited about it and we're going to step up to the plate."

The Canucks were trailing by a goal late in the third period when Daniel Sedin blasted a slap shot past Jimmy Howard to send the game to OT. In the extra frame, the clubs battled through five minutes without a goal, and the game went to a shootout. I am not a huge fan of the shootout, but in this particular case, it was entertaining, and the perfect finale to 65 minutes of beautiful hockey between two skilled clubs.

Here is the complete shootout (to watch the final goal, skip ahead to the 2:50 mark):

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And finally, #1:

TOP 10 MOMENTS OF 2011-12: CODY HODGSON, BEAR HUNTER

Althought David Booth may not want to hear it, the best shot fired at a bear last season from a Canuck came from someone else. January 7th, 2012 was a date that Boston and Vancouver fans, coaches, management, and most importantly players had circled in their calendars for months (and months). It was the first time that the two teams were going to face each other since Boston defeated Vancouver in seven games during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

There were some new faces on each side, including rookie Cody Hodgson. The game absolutely delivered on all of the hype and attention leading up to it. The Canucks started Cory Schneider in his hometown, and many fans assumed that the Canucks were "hiding" Roberto Luongo after he had been shelled in each of the three games the Canucks played in Boston during the final.

Schneider played great, allowing only three goals on 36 shots. There was no love lost between the two teams, either. Alex Burrows and Max Lapierre combined for 29 penalty minutes. Weise immersed himself in the rivalry by dropping the gloves with Nathan Horton, and Brad Marchand paid respects to his favorite movie U-571 with a malicious low-bridge on Canuck defenseman Sami Salo.

The Canucks were able to do something that eluded them the previous June - leave Boston with a win. The TSN turning point of the night (and Boston's season, for that matter) came about five minutes into the third period. Dan Hamhuis spotted Cody Hodgson on the right wing, and Hodgson carried the puck into the Boston zone. You know what happened next.

The goal:

...

The Canucks failed to break Thomas during the 2011 Final. He stopped first shots, second shots, and almost everything else. Hodgson didn't care. He beat Thomas clean - no screen, no distractions.

This goal was an easy choice for the top moment of last year. It came during the biggest game of the season (by far). It was scored by Hodgson, who was involved in just about every big storyline from last season. It led to a second half slump for Bruins (and Thomas, in particular). The Canucks, self-admittedly, weren't the same team after this game either.

January 7th, 2012 - The goal that broke Tim Thomas.

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I hope Booth can play like he did for parts of the season more consistently this year. He has great hands and speed, and can power his way through the defense. I also liked his hits. While by no means a Lucic or Bertuzzi, he is a hard hitter and in tandem of Kesler and him, hopefully can provide better secondary scoring, and also learn to be better defensively like Kesler.

Just imagine him and Kesler on top of their games together.

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That's all fine and dandy to reminisce about a good game in November against the Coyotes, but who made it further in the playoffs. :picard: I know i'm a Debbie downer but seriously this celebrating nothing has got to stop.

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That's all fine and dandy to reminisce about a good game in November against the Coyotes, but who made it further in the playoffs. :picard: I know i'm a Debbie downer but seriously this celebrating nothing has got to stop.

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That's all fine and dandy to reminisce about a good game in November against the Coyotes, but who made it further in the playoffs. :picard: I know i'm a Debbie downer but seriously this celebrating nothing has got to stop.

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I honestly don't want to remember anything from this past season... it was awful.

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I honestly don't want to remember anything from this past season... it was awful.

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I see nothing wrong with looking back on the great memories from last season. It doesn't always have to be "Let's not look at good but let's look at bad"

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I see nothing wrong with looking back on the great memories from last season. It doesn't always have to be "Let's not look at good but let's look at bad"

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That's all fine and dandy to reminisce about a good game in November against the Coyotes, but who made it further in the playoffs. :picard: I know i'm a Debbie downer but seriously this celebrating nothing has got to stop.

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