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Found 24 results

  1. As Canucks fans continue to live in the here and now, digesting every morsel of Vancouver playoff hockey, it's easy to forget the stepping stones that brought them this far. Mike Gillis, Alain Vigneault, and Rick Bowness have proven the cream rises to the top So often in professional sports, media and critics either directly or indirectly raise the question: What have you done for me lately? For the moment, let's fail to adopt that mentality, and recall a former General Manager for the Vancouver Canucks, Brian Burke. For that matter, let's involve another, Dave Nonis. While it's impossible to say what would have evolved were they to stay longer, the results they produced are irrefutable. The Western conference finals we are witnessing involve a solid number of players that these former GM's brought in during their tenure. You may recall one of them from the third period of Game One - With the game on the line, this Hart Trophy candidate laid his body down to block a slap-shot. Sure, he didn't score a goal or register a point in the game, but his importance to the outcome can't be understated. By now you must realize I'm referring to Daniel Sedin, one half of the oh-so-important tandem Burke brought in. He fervently worked the phones and 1999 Draft floor to obtain the 2nd and 3rd picks to ensure Henrik and Daniel would play together, in Vancouver. Keith Ballard works on his slap-shot under the tutelage of Assistant Coach Rick Bowness (photo courtesy of Harry How/ Getty Images) It would be an understatement to say that, prior to the Sedin-era, the Vancouver Canucks organization had challenges developing talent from within. Suffice it to say that Shawn Antoski, significant though he was in a trade, didn't pan out. Even 'can't misses' such as Petr Nedved, wound up improving their game, but only once they were dealt to another organization. Even more specifically, only now are they seeing dividends from investments developed in Manitoba in the farm system with the Moose. Cory Schneider is the first real bonafide Canuck goaltender produced in quite a span, thanks largely in part to Dave Nonis, who also saw promise in Ryan Kesler, and Alex Burrows. For reference, we need only look back on Troy Gamble, Mike Fountain and Kevin Weekes (the latter brought in via trade). Now, players such as Cody Hodgson and Sergei Shirokov that have been called up to the parent club show similar promise as the next generation of in-house talent. Sergei Shirokov (#25) and Jeff Tambellini (#10) stretch during Western Conference Finals practice at Rogers Arena Ultimately, although GM's have a lot to do with the process, there are others involved that drastically alter the final product that a team ices. One cannot acknowledge the contributions of Burke and Nonis without giving kudos to the Ownership group. Francesco Aquilini, the Managing Director of the Aquilini Investment Group has, like the Vancouver Canucks team he owns, grown and progressed. He hand-picked Mike Gillis, a retired player and player agent, which raised eyebrows across the league. But like so many of his other business decisions, Aquilini paved the way for a seeming stroke of genius. Gillis was instrumental in keeping Henrik and Daniel Sedin away from the free agency market. He flew to Sweden and negotiated identical $30.5 m deals hours before the July 1st deadline. He immediately set his sights on Roberto Luongo, whose four-year contract, signed by Dave Nonis, was coming to an end. Luongo imposed a Sept. 13 deadline before ceasing negotiations for the upcoming season. Several days after, Gillis signed Luongo to an historic 12 year, $64 million contract. Gillis also signed unrestricted free agent Mikael Samuelsson, and emerging Kontinental Hockey League prospect, Sergei Shirokov (pictured earlier). The Canuck Way will soon examine other integral components responsible for the exciting product we see before us in the 2011 Western Conference Finals.
  2. With the Vancouver Canucks advancing to the Conference finals for the third time in franchise history, the debate is on: Who would they rather face, the Detroit Red Wings or San Jose Sharks? Roberto Luongo celebrates from his knees shortly after making his last save in Game 6 (photo courtesy of Frederick Breedon/ Getty Images) Of course, for the time being, the Canucks have the luxury of taking a well-earned 'breather' until either Saturday or Sunday. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the Predators at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Monday night, guiding home a tight defensive effort to close the series. Henrik Sedin spoke to the feeling of putting away a plucky Predators team, anchored by solid defense and goaltending. "Relief," started the Canucks captain. "It was one of those series where they get on a roll and win this game, and all of a sudden there's a seventh game. That's the playoffs. There were a lot of ups and downs, so we are happy." But Ryan Kesler, who almost literally put the team on his back and delivered the series, insists the team isn't congratulating itself yet. "We have bigger things in mind," stated the leading playoff point producer. We're not just going to be satisfied making it to the conference finals." Kesler set up both goals in the series clincher, and was in on a remarkable 10 of 14 goals in the series overall. Ryan Kesler: "We have bigger things in mind. We're not just going to be satisfied making it to the conference finals." The Canucks now await the victor from the San Jose - Detroit series, where the Wings have erased a 3-0 deficit, and trail 3-2. Another Selke trophy (best defensive forward) finalist, Pavel Datsyuk, has hoisted his team and led the way with several clutch performances. So, who would the Canucks rather play - The Red Wings or the Sharks? Although the regular season encounters can only reveal so much information regarding possible playoff match-ups, let's see how they fared in each 4 game set. Canucks vs Detroit Red Wings: Series tied 2-2 (Canucks take 6 of 8 possible points) Nov. 6 - (6-4 win) Canucks pepper Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard with 23 shots in the third period, scoring 3 times in that span. Niklas Kronwall and Manny Malhotra score twice. Dec. 22 - (4-5 OT loss) Both teams shoot the lights out, combining for 84 shots. The Sedins both score, but Henrik Zetterberg bags a couple, including the overtime winner. Jan. 8 - (1-2 Shootout loss) Roberto Luongo and Jimmy Howard record a dazzling .970 save percentage; Jiri Hudler scores the lone shootout goal, killing the Vancouver fans' Saturday night buzz. Mar. 23 (2-1 win) Both goalies put on another superb display, and the twins produce Daniel's 39th and 40th goals of the season. Luongo stops 39 of 40 shots. Both team captains, Henrik Sedin and Shea Weber, shake hands at center ice - the previous two years this was the Canucks' queue to exit the playoffs (photo courtesy of AP Photo) Canucks vs San Jose Sharks: Canucks win series 3-1 (take 7 of possible 8 points) Nov. 26 - (6-1 win) San Jose outshot the Canucks 33-32, but Luongo stymies the Sharks, Keith Ballard scores his 1st as a Canuck, and Mikael Samuelsson records a pair of goals. Jan. 3 - (4-3 win) The Sharks score 3 in the second period, but Alex Burrows and Daniel Sedin lead the way with a goal and an assist each at the HP Pavilion, dubbed the "Shark Tank". Jan. 20 - (1-2 shootout loss) Roberto Luongo and Antti Niemi headline this affair; San Jose outshot the Canucks 46-37, uber-rookie Logan Couture scores in regulation, and Joe Pavelski scores the lone goal of the shootout. Mar. 10 - (5-4 shootout win) Cory Schneider gets riddled with 48 shots, but is perfect in the shootout. Alex Burrows, Sami Salo, Mason Raymond and Daniel Sedin record singles, with Burrows sealing the shootout with it's only goal. Interestingly, though many Canucks fans have voiced their desire to avoid San Jose in the conference finals, Vancouver sported a better regular season record against them. Fans cite the Sharks physical style of play as being their main deterrent to playing them in the third round of the playoffs. A common thread for the Canucks is that 6 of the 8 games played against the Sharks and Red Wings were decided by one goal. One thing all Canucks fans can agree on, though, is that they hope the Red Wings win Game 6, extending the series and hopefully tiring out their next round opponent. Memories 17 years in the making, I'm Larenzo Jensen with The Canuck Way
  3. No matter how they got here, or what direction they want to take in the future, the Vancouver Canucks are literally playing the most important game of their lives. Only three times in history has an NHL team erased a 3-0 series deficit to advance to the next round of the playoffs. There has been a lot of talk about the Canucks' chances of earning the dubious distinction as the fourth team to facilitate such a collapse. Rife with drama and storylines, this series has seen it all, from big controversial hits, to starting goaltending controversy, and questionable officiating. But it all takes a back seat to the drama in store tonight at Rogers Arena in Vancouver at 7:00 pm PST. A lot of experts agree that momentum clearly is the advantage the Chicago Blackhawks carry into Game 7. But the Canucks aren't without positive signs - they outworked the Blackhawks for most of Game 6, as well as controlling the tempo and play through the majority of the game. Rather than recap all that's been, I'd like to shift focus onto Four Keys for the colossal Game Seven. Key 1: Setting the tone Getting off to a fast, motivated start, complete with energetic, hard-hitting physical shifts has been integral to both teams' success so far this series. More than any other night, it's imperative for the Canucks to wrest momentum back in their corner. The Canucks were able to surprise the Blackhawks physically in the first three games, with Alain Vigneault doing an excellent job rolling through his deep lines, and establishing a solid forecheck. With the element of surprise gone, it'll be extremely important for the third and fourth lines to deliver effective hits, getting Blackhawk defenders worrying about what is coming, not what they're going to set up. Alex Burrows was one of the best Canucks in Game 6, and will need to put it all on the line tonight against the Hawks (photo courtesy of Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images) Key 2: Sedins re-establishing the cycle game A very positive sign in the second period of Game 6 was the amount of time that Daniel, Henrik and Mikael (Samuelsson) spent in the Blackhawks zone. Their cycling of the puck is what made them so effective and dangerous in the regular season, and they appeared to be wearing down the Hawks defenders with it. Both teams have done a good job collapsing down low to limit the rebound chances, but Vancouver could gain a decided advantage if the Sedins force Chicago to expend valuable energy chasing the puck down low. Key 3: Goaltending performance There is no question in my mind that Roberto Luongo will be starting Game 7. Subsequently, despite having played for Olympic Gold, and playing in some large playoff settings before, this is the game of his life. In only his first year of a 12 year, $64 M contract, the stakes couldn't be higher. Win or lose, it's up to Roberto to prove he can come through when it's all on the line. He did it before against the Dallas Stars, but fair or not, tonight will completely shape the rest of his career, given his past performances against the Blackhawks. Key 4: Officiating Unfortunately, the officiating has been suspect the last 3 games, and has been a hot button topic, not only in Vancouver, but League-wide. The Blackhawks have enjoyed a 22-12 edge (in powerplay chances) over the last four games, and hockey pundits agree that GM Mike Gillis had reason to be irate after Game 6. If the officials decide to punish the Canucks with more penalties, and miss calls like the one on Dave Bolland slashing Henrik Sedin's stick in half, it could be a very frustrating game for Canucks' fans. Expect the boo-birds to come out if the officials call the game similarly to Game Six. At the end of the day, though it's little solace for Canucks fans, the hockey world will benefit from what should be an intense Game Seven. This is what hockey is all about, and every youngster in love with the sport dreams about playing a significant role in a deciding Game Seven. Will it be elation, or utter dejection for Canucks fans following this pivotal game in the series and franchises' history? Kevin Bieksa might have set the stage the best: "Sometimes it takes all your lifelines to earn $1 million. That's where we're at. We've used our 3." Wishing the Canucks every fortune here from The Canuck Way, I'm Larenzo Jensen
  4. With just enough momentum swings to keep the fans at Rogers Arena guessing, they still went home with a renewed sense of optimism: The Canucks CAN beat the Blackhawks. Viktor Stalberg and Sami Salo jostle while Roberto Luongo makes a pad save (photo courtesy of Rich Lam/Getty Images) The shift after taking a holding penalty, Jannik Hansen opened the scoring for the Canucks, adding validity to the importance of "role players" in the playoffs. Hansen's hands, as CBC color commentator Jim Hughson was coined, might be catching up to his feet. His second in as many games was important on a number of levels. With 41 seconds remaining in the first period, Patrick Sharp took a tripping penalty, which the Canucks capitalized on 30 seconds into the 2nd period. Daniel Sedin set a screen in front of Corey Crawford, and tipped a Christian Ehrhoff point shot while jumping. Cody Hodgson and Alex Burrows gather to help Alex Edler celebrate his late 2nd period goal Chicago call-up Ben Smith (third star) had a gift-wrapped deflection off Luongo's trapper end up on his stick, with a half-open net to shoot at. Brian Bickell got around Kevin Bieksa on the left wing, shot a sharp angle shot, which Luongo only got a piece of with his glove. But the games' 2nd star, Alex Edler would put the Canucks back up by a deuce, with 14 seconds remaining in the frame. He slapped a seeing eye shot from the point, that Ben Smith's stick barely glanced, but it was enough to get up and over Crawford's shoulder. Roberto Luongo makes a save as ex-Canuck Ryan Johnson tries to redirect the puck (photo courtesy of AP Photo) But the Hawks were determined to insert some deja vu from the last two playoff series against the hard-luck Canucks. Within two minutes of the third period, Viktor Stalberg did Yeoman's work on the forecheck, and got off a quick wrister from the right wing boards. He surprised both Alex Edler and (subsequently screened) Roberto Luongo; it was the perfect height, just a foot off the ice below Lui's trapper. Daniel Sedin deftly took a breakout pass off his right skate, then took the puck deep into Chicago territory with line-mates Henrik and Burrows in support. The Chicago defense hesitated, long enough for Daniel to stop, tee it up, and bury it top shelf. The crowd had barely settled back into their seats, when Ben Smith pounced on a Michael Frolik rebound, renewing a nervous energy amongst the capacity crowd. "There was no panic," insisted Ryan Kesler. "We were calm the whole way. I'm confident in this group. We don't panic, just stick to our system and stay solid. It's a different team this year. We're growing together, and we've been through this before." They certainly are and have, and Canucks fans are elated that this year, everything seems different, highlighted by the fact they are heading to Chicago leading the series two games to none. What happens next in the Windy City? Stay tuned to The Canuck Way for more Playoff coverage...
  5. With two games remaining in the 2010/11 regular season, it's time to show some love for individual achievements within the teams' structure. Disclaimer: These are NOT official releases; the selections are yet to be announced. They are just my personal opinion, and in turn, open for debate and discussion. Ryan Kesler often keeps you on the edge of your seat with anticipation for what he'll do next Cyrus McLean: Awarded to the highest scoring Canuck and pretty self-explanatory, Daniel Sedin has this all but locked away, currently with 100 points. Considering 95% of goals have both Henrik and Daniel in on the scoring, and Daniel has an 8 point lead over his brother, Daniel will receive the Cyrus McLean. Molson Cup Trophy: Most Molson Cup selections. Typically, the winner of this award was the winner of the Cyrus McLean, so there's strong indication Daniel Sedin will win this award as well. That being stated, the official count hasn't been released, and Ryan Kesler could be in the mix, but Daniel is favored. Fred J. Hume: "Unsung Hero" is the designation of this award. It's quite interesting to look at this award and past recipients, and compare the style of players. Past winners include Martin Gelinas (twice), Jarkko Ruutu, and Alex Auld. This season, the player that has exhibited the grit, perseverance and dedication to his role in my mind is Jannik Hansen. The industrious Dane has become an integral part of the Canucks checking system, and is perhaps the teams best fore-checker. I'd need extra hands were I to count the number of times fans at Rogers arena have cheered his efforts as he headed to the bench after a penalty kill. Most Exciting Player: There could be a real argument here for another award to Daniel Sedin, but much like past winner Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler has truly brought fans to their feet this season. His end to end rushes, his diligent work on the penalty kill, his solid hitting on the fore-check give him the check-mark here. Although he could stand to pass a little more once inside the blue-line, it's just nitpicking. He is by far and away the most exciting second line player, not just for the Canucks, but in the NHL. Even Walter "Babe" Pratt would shake Christian Ehrhoff's hand for his excellent 2010/11 season. Apparently Luongo has been impressed too (photos courtesy of Rich Lam/Getty Images) Walter "Babe" Pratt: Awarded to the "Best Defencemen", it would be difficult not to give the nod to last years' recipient,Christian Ehrhoff. Of course, I'm a Dan Hamhuis supporter, and seeing what he's done for Kevin Bieksa's game this year, he deserves consideration. As far as pure defending goes, I'd award that to Hamhuis in a heartbeat. But Ehrhoff should finish the season with 50 points, and it is an "all-around" category, much like the Norris trophy itself. He's had some luck in the health category, something few Canuck defencemen can boast, which has helped his numbers. It would be a closer race if Bieksa and Edler hadn't missed significant time due to injuries. Cyclone Taylor: "Most Valuable Player" is quite an honor to bestow upon a team member, and speaks volumes to their worth within the organization. Several players come to mind, including last year's recipient, Henrik Sedin. Roberto Luongo has had a very understated year also, turning in what could be a career season in Vancouver. Fans have also thrown Ryan Kesler's name into the mix, especially after a red-hot first half of the season. But if you took Daniel Sedin off the team, I feel that would immediately change Vancouver's status as "Contender" to "Pretender". Not just for the 41 goals he's potted, nor the 100+ points he's contributed, but also for the class, the example and leadership qualities (yes, I'm referring to Daniel) he exudes. In my mind, the team would suffer most if they had to play without Daniel, and for that reason, he has my vote for Most Valuable Player.
  6. Some musings on the Vancouver Canucks, and what it would mean if the Stanley Cup Playoffs were to start today. Kesler: "Hank, did you really just squeeze that backhander top shelf? Of course you did!" Though they have six games remaining, the Canucks would face their playoff nemesis of the last two seasons, the Chicago BlackhawksThey would still have set a franchise record for most wins in a season, with 50Vancouver would already be guaranteed one trophy, the President's trophy (for best record in the NHL regular season) Christian Ehrhoff sneaks a wrister past a surprised Mathieu Garon in Columbus (photos courtesy of AP Photo) Three defensemen would be shelved because of injury, Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis, and Andrew AlbertsBe one road win shy of a franchise record nine straight away from home (can still be accomplished in Nashville today)Would own the best power-play record in the league, 69 goals for, and 25.3 % efficiencyBe tied for best penalty kill with the Pittsburgh Penguins at 86.3 %Daniel Sedin follows in brother Henrik's footsteps, and earns Art Ross trophy (most points during the regular season)Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis tie for second best plus/minus in the leagueRoberto Luongo records third best goals against average and save percentage: 2.18, .927%, has most wins with 35 Jannik Hansen and Matt Calvert work for the puck in the 2nd period in Columbus, Ohio Daniel Sedin notches 40 goals, third most in the leagueRyan Kesler shatters previous best in goals (26 in 08-09) with 36Henrik Sedin crowned leagues best set-up man with 70 assistsWith six games to go, a large number of these stats won't change too drastically. The standings watch won't end until April 10th, but many Canucks fans are eager to see who their first test in the playoffs will be. Juicing up for the playoffs? Stay tuned to The Canuck Way for all the excitement and team developments!
  7. Larenzo

    In The Driver's Seat

    After defeating their nearest Western Conference competition, the Vancouver Canucks appear to be in the driver's seat with eight games remaining. Canuck fans have voiced their concern this week over the team's chances heading into the post-season without Manny Malhotra. Signed in the off season to a healthy, though well-deserved contract, the uber-checking line center instantly brought a number of intangibles to the club. Widely considered one of the best face-off players in the game, Malhotra's special teams addition has worked wonders. Addressing the club's mediocre penalty killing (81.6 %, 18th overall) from last season, Manny's presence and change of puck possession time shorthanded is a large factor in the PK's resurgence. They currently sit fourth (85.8%), though Washington, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh all only have a 0.1% edge. In their convincing 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, Daniel Sedin scored his 39th and 40th goals of the season, moving him into a tie with Cory Perry for 2nd in the Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophy race. Steven Stamkos still leads the race with 43 goals, but has been slumping since the All-Star break, while Perry and Sedin have both been surging. The multi-point night for the Sedins also has them 1-2 in league scoring,Daniel with 95 points, Henrik with 88 points. Runners-up are the other"team-tandem" of Steven Stamkos (86 pts) and Martin St. Louis (85pts). More importantly, the win adds more degrees of separation between the Canucks and the pursuant Red Wings. Though 10 points with 8 games remaining is not insurmountable, it would take a collapse of epic proportions for Detroit to overtake the Conference title. For those watching the President's trophy race, the Philadelphia Flyers sat idle Wednesday night,trailing the Canucks by 8 points, but holding two games in hand. Roberto Luongo, named the games 2nd star, was instrumental in the outcome. He turned all but one of the 40 shots directed at him away, earning a .975 save percentage. With Malhotra's eye injury preventing him from playing the rest ofthe regular season or playoffs, protection has become a hot-button topic herein Vancouver. Kevin Bieksa, who saw his first action after missing 15games to a broken foot, echoed the sentiments of a number of team-mates. "I tried on about three or four (visors) before practice. I don't know, maybe over time. I'd like to get into one, but right now in midseason it would be hard for me to change. But it's definitely something I am considering." Bieksa led all Canucks in ice-time with23:19 in his return; the team continues their four game road trip Friday in Atlanta against the Thrashers. I'm Larenzo Jensen on The Canuck Way
  8. Wednesday's match-up with the Nashville Predators highlights the two very different paths that both the Canucks and Predators have taken in the NHL. One of the NHL's longest serving coaches, Barry Trotz, has done a lot with a little. The Nashville Predators, with the 8th stingiest payroll in the league, have essentially taken a page from the Minnesota Wild playbook. Henrik Sedin collides with Krys Barch and James Neal during third period action Monday (photos courtesy of Canadian Press/ Darryl Dyck) They ice a team rife with defensive talent, much of which they've shrewdly drafted, and instituted a tight, smothering defensive style. Oh, and they have also been dynamite drafting goaltenders as well, picking up Pekka Rinne (9-2-0, 1.62 GAA last 11 games) 254th (8th round) overall in 2004, and fellow Finn Anders Lindback (10-4-2, .915 Sv %) 207th overall in 2008. We're not sure what they're feeding them over there, but both are towering - Rinne at 6'5, Lindback is 6'6. They cover a LOT of the 4x6 net behind them; Rinne is slated to start against the Canucks. Aaron Volpatti celebrates an assist on Henrik Sedin's tally after finding Sedin streaking to the net Canuck fans recall an era in the not so distant past when defensive hockey was the credo, with Roberto Luongo tethering the teams' hopes of success. This during a time when the Sedins and Kesler were still coming into their own as offensive stalwarts, on the cusp of being elite talents. If you can't score a lot of goals, you better not allow very many, which has indeed been the focus of the Nashville Predators for several seasons now. Though they're not unique in this aspect, the fact that defenseman Shea Weber (Sicamous, B.C.) is their leading point producer this season (8 goals, 21 assists for 29 pts) speaks volumes. Nashville snuck out of the deep 2003 draft with another heist, nabbing Weber with the 49th pick, and is widely considered the best player on the team. Ryan Kesler tips a puck past Kari Lehtonen, marking a career high in goals [27] (photo courtesy of Canadian Press/ Darryl Dyck) All indications are that this will be another tight, close-checking affair. The teams have identical goals against averages, 2.35, though the Canucks definitely have the offensive edge coming in, scoring 3.29 goals a game (3rd). The Predators are 23rd at 2.59 goals for per game. But where it counts most, in the standings, the Preds are 4th in the Western Conference with 60 points, and are a good bet to make the playoffs. That being said, the San Jose Sharks and the Minnesota Wild only trail by 5 points, so they certainly aren't a lock. Only Boston (111) and Pittsburgh (114) have allowed fewer goals than Nashville (117). With the Canucks coming off a seven goal outburst against the Dallas Stars, it will be interesting to see how they adjust to the difference in style. Defensively, Vancouver had a very strong outing, feeding off the counter-attack, and generating offense from odd-man situations. http://www.youtube.com/user/canuckshd?blend=1&ob=4#p/u/6/vElXA90kKdw Last season, the Canucks and Predators played four times, splitting the season series 2-2. Wednesday's match-up is their first of the season, and they will play 3 more times following the All-Star Break (which is 5 days for Vancouver). The Canucks should have a decided personnel advantage, as the Predators are without several key players. Wingers J.P. Dumont (neck), Steve Sullivan (upper body), and forwards Marek Svatos (knee) and Matt Lombardi (concussion) are all side-lined due to injury. With a victory, the Canucks would pull even with the Philadelphia Flyers for most points (71) in the NHL, though with fewer wins. Following the Vegas/Bodog.com line favorites to win the Stanley Cup (9/2), I'm Larenzo Jensen with files from the Canadian Press and CanucksHD
  9. <img src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_JkKg_dKJQO0/S7k_bUctgwI/AAAAAAAAAk4/oR2sWN5UJ74/s1600/NHL-President%27s-Trophy.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Sitting at the top of the league with 55 points in 38 games, the Canucks are in an unfamiliar territory. Always considered a division favourite and top 5 team in the West, having not lost a game in regulation since December 5 vs. St. Louis and going 11-0-2 afterwards, a slim lead over Colorado has expanded to 10 points and 1 game in hand and the Canucks are now the heavy favourites to win the Presidents' Trophy, the first in franchise history. It's unfamiliar territory for a franchise not exactly known for winning, but with a stunning effort in a 4-3 road win over San Jose in a playoff-like atmosphere, even the most cynical fan is asking himself if this is the best Vancouver Canucks team ever assembled. The blue and green are en route to a franchise-record third consecutive 100+ points regular season finish and also a third straight division title, but neither of the previous squads had cracked the 50-win barrier nor advanced past the semifinals. Is this the year that everything changes in Vancouver? Most teams will be over the halfway mark by the end of the week so now's a good time to break down the roster and see what the Canucks have in store for the rest of the year. Had Daniel Sedin been healthy all season last year, 2010 could've been the season the Canucks finished first overall in the West. Chicago had just three more wins and San Jose two more, and could Daniel have made up that difference? Definitely. If Henrik was good for 113 points, then Daniel was good for at least 105 as well. They're ranked 4th and 5th in league scoring, with Henrik having a one-point edge. They've been the most consistent point-producers in the NHL since the lockout, but the big difference this year is that they have been unbelievably good on the road. Henrik has 320 home points vs. 302 on the road in his career, but this year has 28 of his 50 points on the road. Daniel has 303 at home and 293 on the road, but has 31 of his 49 points on the road. It's a little unfortunate that neither player will ever win MVP if both remain healthy, because there's just no way to decide which is more important than the other (perhaps Henrik, but only slightly). Just to don't ask the Sedins to play on Wednesdays - the Sedins' combined career +/- based on the day of the week: Sundays +26, Mondays +34, Tuesdays +69, Wednesdays -2, Thursdays +38, Fridays +32, Saturdays +77. And what does that tell us about them? That they suffer from middle-of-the-week-itis, just like everybody else, except that they're really good at hockey. <img src="http://www.nhlsnipers.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/kesler-mm.jpg"class="imageFloatCenterFramed"> While the Sedins have been the engine driving the league's second-ranked offense, clicking at 24.8%, Ryan Kesler has been undoubtedly the team's MVP. He's on pace for 41 goals and plays more than any other forward. He's second on the team in shorthanded ice-time and first in powerplay ice-time (yes, more than the Sedins). In my mind, he's a franchise centre in the Mike Richards mold. If you were to build a team, after taking an elite point-producing centre and locking down your first line, nobody is better than Kesler on that second line. Nobody. Will he reach 40 goals though? I'd wager no, but continue what he's been doing away from the puck - 60 hits, 41 blocked shots, 32 takeaways, 57.3% faceoffs won, discipline - and he's a lock for the Selke. Anything short of winning would be a complete travesty and the whole city should mobilize and march on Gary Bettman's house in protest. We knew that Manny Malhotra was a great in the circle, but did it warrant a three-year deal worth $7.5 million with a limited NTC? I guess since good face-off guys are so hard to come by, especially ones that can play a regular shift, unlike Zenon Konopka or Yanic Perreault, it's certainly worth it. For a team that depends so much on puck movement and puck possession, Malhotra was totally worth it. He wins 63% of his faceoffs, and is just 0.2% of the league from Dave Steckel (a hugely under-appreciated, under-valued player). It's no fluke - he won more than 60% in San Jose last year and 58% the year before in Columbus. He's found a market where he can thrive, not having to shut down the opposition's top line or worry about putting the puck in the net. The Canucks' PK ranks 5th in the NHL and has just allowed one shorthanded goal. The only gripe I have with Manny? While he wins more than 60% of his face-offs both at home and on the road, he has just 4 assists in 20 games and -5 on the road but 13 points in 18 home games and +6. It's nothing new though, Malhotra has always been much, much better at home than on the road, something that is worth keeping an eye come playoff time. Any Stanley Cup contender needs a strong supporting cast. Alex Burrows was sidelined early in the season and struggled with timing early on but has found his groove - he has 6 points in 6 games, and while the argument could be made that any player could play reasonably well with the Sedins, nobody does a better job on this roster than Burrows. Both him and Kesler made concerted efforts to tone down their extracurriculars, but Burrows doesn't have the respect of the league. Dan Boyle was noticeably irked by his high-sticking penalty because Burrows still has a reputation for being a diver. That's not going to help in the playoffs when special teams is a true premium. Like Burrows, Raymond's just coming back from injury but even on the fourth line he hasn't missed a beat, scoring a goal in his first game since breaking his finger. While I pegged Raymond to score 30 goals this year, he's unlikely to hit that total but he will have a chance to turn heads in the playoffs, where a much more physical game has clearly derailed his play. He has just 7 points in 22 career playoff games. <img src="http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/3891358.bin?size=620x400"class="imageFloatCenterFramed"> Jeff Tambellini, Tanner Glass, and Jannik Hansen are three key players in the Canucks bottom six (along with Malhotra) that are keys to the Canucks' success. Tambellini's found a team that caters to his particular talents. The Canucks move the puck well, which allows Tambellini to show off his speed along the boards, and they pass the puck around a lot (almost too much, sometimes) and he's not afraid to shoot the puck. He's a great triggerman for a team that doesn't have a lot of shooters up front. He's also shown a willingness to take the body, with 50 hits in 28 games. He's far from your average one-dimensional offensive player. In Raymond's absence, his offense was more than adequately replaced by Tambellini, who has since been demoted to the fourth line upon Raymond's return. Hopefully Tambellini doesn't get demoted, because he's a good player to have on your roster. Glass is a true blue-collar player. He's the reason why teams don't need any Darcy Hordichuks or Raitis Ivanans anymore, because he can skate, hit, fight, and handles the puck well enough to pin the opposition defense. Hansen is a speedy forward, absolutely vital on our PK with his puck pursuit and he rarely gives up on a play, if ever, but like Raymond he struggles in the playoffs with just 4 career playoff points. How good is Hansen? Take away the offensive side of Kesler's game and the two are quite similar: JH 77 hits to RK's 60, JH's 24 takeaways to RK's 32. It's fun watching these three guys play, even if they're not the most exciting (until Tambellini picks a corner coming down the right wing) or most talented. The two forwards I have the most trouble watching are Mikael Samuelsson and Raffi Torres. For a guy who needs to shoot the puck a lot to be successful, Samuelsson doesn't hit the net much even when he shoots (31 missed shots, 2nd to Dan). At 34 he won't be hitting the 30 goal plateau anymore and while he's currently 4th in team scoring he could finish 7th or 8th by the end of the season. He's better off on the third line because he's an atrocious passer and marginally better stickhandler. Torres is just streaky. He plays with an edge that is there one game but absent in the next. If the Canucks want to go deep these two players have to hit their hot streaks at the right time. The Canucks benefited huge when Samuelsson went on a tear with 8 goals in 12 playoff games. And what can I say of arguably the league's best defense that hasn't been said already? The Canucks are first in the league in goal differential, quite a feat considering that none of our blueliners are elite material. It's certainly an offense by committee, not like in Pittsburgh with Kris Letang or Boston with Zdeno Chara. Ehrhoff and Edler have combined for a +19 rating and 48 points. The two skate very, very well and jump up in the play at the right times. They're so underappreciated (more on that later) that you can't imagine what sort of attention they'd be getting if they played for an East team. Moving forward, given our cap space, you wonder if we can really retain Ehrhoff, who's an UFA at the end of the year. Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard have both made Canucks highlight reels with their patented hip checks, with each at least upending an opposition once a game. I've actually been most disappointed with Hamhuis - perhaps it's because my perceptions of him as a more physical defenceman playing alongside Shea Weber and Ryan Suter - but he plays more like Willie Mitchell without the ridiculously long stick and has better mobility. I'm appalled at times with some of his giveaways and his blocked shots total, just 29, is less than one per game. This entire season may be an adjustment season for Ballard, so the best has yet to come, but he's our best shot blocker and the way he jumps up into the play (sometimes ill-advised and too deep), really reminds me of Ed Jovanovski. His 4 points aren't reflective of his offensive capabilities and Vigneault has used him rather reluctantly on the second powerplay unit, instead opting for Hamhuis. Kevin Bieksa was a big name in the rumour mill to begin the season but he's solidified his status as a top four guy in our lineup. No one else on our defense plays with an edge like he does, except Alberts, but Alberts doesn't have the same mobility or offensive weapons. The imminent return of Sami Salo raises some interesting questions because of the Canucks' cap bind, and while Bieksa was rumoured to be on the block to make room for the hard-shooting Salo, he's quickly become an untradeable asset again. If we can somehow get Salo into the lineup without sacrificing Bieksa or a forward, could you imagine what would happen? This team already leads the league and they're going to get even better. The Canucks were noticeably better with Salo in the lineup last year and it gives us a chance to get rid of Rome, who serves little purpose other than to give the other five defenseman a breather or two. As awkward as Alberts looks with the puck, he's one of our most physical defenceman. Honestly, I just can't wait to get rid of Aaron Rome. I don't think he brings anything to this team that we don't already have but you had to admit he's a huge upgrade over Eric Weinrich, Ossi Vaananen, or some other extra defenceman plug we manage to get for a pick at the deadline. The biggest reason for our success? Our away record, which at 7 games above .500 is an extra 14 points for a team that plays average hockey on the road. The reason? Roberto Luongo. Last year's road record: 13-14-1, 3.07 GAA, .894 SV%. This year: 8-5-2, 2.59 GAA, .907 SV%. Luongo's still a far superior at home than on the road, but his stats have improved. It's not where the Canucks would like it to be, since his home record is a staggering 10-3-1, 2.25 GAA, .926 SV%, but you hope that Luongo can at least find a happy medium at home and on the road when all's said and done. <img src="http://www.lphs.ca/image/players/PavelBure-close-up.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Is this the best Canucks team ever? I certainly think so. In terms of top-end talent nothing beats the Mogilny-Bure duo, but they were never healthy at the same time and the team couldn't win any games. Mogilny's best year as a Canuck, his first, with 55 goals and 107 points, was wasted with Bure appearing in only 15 games and an atrocious Kirk McLean in net. We have a splendid first line, a spectacular second-line centre, a bottom six that can hit, skate, and score, a very capable and mobile defense, and a goalie who still has some good seasons in him. The Canucks are tops in the league in every single relevant category: 25 wins (t-1st), 8 losses (1st), .724 point % (1st), 3.42 g/g (1st), 2.45 ga/g (5th), 24.8% PP (2nd), 85% PK (6th), 56.3% faceoffs (1st). The worst part about all these league leading stats? The Canucks still don't get any respect. As of today, the Canucks' rank in all-star voting by position: forwards Henrik (23rd), Daniel (24th), Kesler (52nd); defencemen Hamhuis (25th), Ehrhoff (36th), Edler (38th); and Luongo (10th) The only wrinkle? Of the 24 times the Presidents' Trophy has been awarded, only 7 have gone on to win titles. It's clearly not a barometer for postseason success but we're looking pretty good right now.
  10. The Canucks finished November with a 8-4-1 record, but there was one game everyone had their eye on: Saturday, November 20, a nationally-televised matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks. While Chicago may have lost several pieces to Atlanta and other teams, they were still the team that had eliminated the Canucks two years in a row from postseason play. The Canucks were overcoming two straight losses, a tough 4-3 OTL in Buffalo, extending their winless streak at HSBC Arena to seven-plus years, and a 3-1 loss to the Penguins, which was supposed to be a preview of two potential Cup finalists. The Hawks were coming off a 7-2 loss to Calgary the night before. It certainly was a 'measuring stick' game, a test of resiliency between two very good teams. The result? A 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Chicago, an absolute shellacking in which Roberto Luongo was chased yet again, though at times through no fault of his own. The performance, if you could call it that, raised questions of whether this Canucks squad was truly ready for the same challenges that await them in the playoffs. To answer these questions, my friend Matt Sze (pronounced 'zee'), a fellow blogger who runs SzeSpeak: The Thinking Man's Blog has kindly joined me for this discussion. JC: The Hawks showed great resiliency by bouncing back from a terrible loss in the second night of a back to back. The Canucks followed up that effort with another loss against a hot Phoenix team. Resiliency is a key component of any good hockey team and in both games the Canucks just didn't seem to have any legs. Attitude reflects leadership, so the age-old question is, was Henrik the right choice as captain? It's no secret that for most North American kids, the ultimate dream is winning the Cup. For many Europeans, it's winning Olympic gold. MS: There was no other choice. Kesler's too young and plays an emotional game, something that can work against him. I'm not so sure Daniel was a good pick to wear the 'A' but Bieksa was a great choice. He has had a long tenure with the Canucks and provides some much-needed fire from the back end. And in regards to that Cup vs. Olympic gold argument, I don't buy it. All athletes are wired the same way - it doesn't matter what the prize is, athletes play to win. As former NFL coach Herm Edwards said, "you play to win the game." Getting to the pinnacle of any sport requires hard work, so to criticize the Sedins or anybody for lacking the desire to win is unfair. JC: I'm going to have to disagree, because I still think it makes a difference... Maybe I'm just a traditionalist and perhaps Lidstrom was just an anomaly... But what about Alexandre Daigle? The guy famously said he played hockey purely for the money. MS: Well, he didn't become a number one overall pick on talent alone, but he made some bad life decisions that eventually led to an unspectacular career. JC: The Canucks have been eliminated two consecutive years by the Hawks. Because Luongo and the Sedins are the best players, they have taken the brunt of the criticism, and a lot of it isn't unfounded. It seemed as though fortunes would be reversed in last year's playoffs, but the Sedins then vanished for stretches. Can our top players elevate their play? <img src="http://cache2.asset-cache.net/xc/73882764.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=77BFBA49EF8789215ABF3343C02EA54831A838CD875A9477EF75E5B296482BCE804B3618D4BA3975"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">MS: I don't think Luongo has ever demonstrated that he could elevate his game, except in that 2007 series against Dallas, his first ever playoff appearance. He may never elevate his game to that level again, but most times it's the other guys, the supporting players, that step up their games. Patrick Kane is a key player for Chicago, but prior to that Finals against Philadelphia it had mostly been Jonathan Toews, and Kane ended up with the series winner. When Pittsburgh won the Cup, it was Max Talbot who scored the game-winner. Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke, and Talbot all raised their games. JC: So what's the difference between those players who can elevate their games and those who can't? Is it emotion? Attitude? I think one of the reasons Henrik was so successful last year was because of his swagger. He had that "yeah, I'm the best player in the league" attitude. When Daniel came back, it seemed to have disappeared. MS: Right now - emotion, attitude, swagger - Henrik doesn't have it. But in the regular season I don't think there's any need for it. It's going to build up. The only guy that does show some swagger is Bieksa. The Sedins are quiet players. I think Henrik giving Bieksa the 'A' is a challenge for him to get back to his former level. Those 42, 43 point seasons may be an anomaly but he's still an effective player when his head's on straight. JC: So who's the X factor for the Canucks in the playoffs? MS: Well, obviously it's Luongo. For me, it's two players: Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen. We know that Raymond's got great speed and can put the puck in the net, but but he hasn't elevated his game in the playoffs yet. (In 22 playoff games he has only 7 points.) The other is Hansen, because he has the feistiness needed to make things happen in the postseason. I remember back in that Dallas series, Stars fans were going, "who is this guy?" JC: Gillis made an honest attempt to make this team better this offseason. If there's anything I noticed this year, it's that this team is so much faster. Speed kills, but we don't know how that will translate to playoff hockey. MS: We are faster and bigger, but I don't think we're grittier than we were last year. Torres isn't really an upgrade hitting-wise over Steve Bernier. Malhotra's an upgrade over Wellwood but he's not the sort of guy who'll just lay guys out. We really won't know the playoffs. The playoffs are tighter defensively but the Sedins are good playoff players because they won't necessarily create the room, but they can certainly find the open areas. They make space with their playmaking, not their physicality. They're 30 years old - still relatively young - and are still learning how to play better with each passing playoff series. JC: Alright, the real questions. Do the Hawks have our number? Vigneault hasn't announced who is starting Friday vs. Chicago, but I think you can't not start Luongo. Starting Schneider is a clear white towel message. MS: Ohhhh. Not right now, but certainly last year. We've been blown out only once this season. If the Canucks put up a good fight, what else do you want? Maybe the Hawks will be better in the season but come playoff time their lack of depth will hurt. Vancouver was vastly overrated last year. We were the underdogs in that series - the four best teams were Detroit, Chicago, San Jose, then Vancouver. The thing about the West is, any team can beat any team. The level of parity is so high, if you're off your game one night it can result in a disaster. If there is a mental edge, it's what they've done in the past. The Canucks have to continue to ride Luongo but also depends on how he losses the game. The team collapsed as a whole. Losses means the team has to look at itself as a whole, not just the goalie, unless there were some flagrantly bad goals. The Canucks have one of the best sports psychologists on staff. Chicago's lower in the standings. The Canucks should be better. JC: What about the Wings? We usually play moderately well against them. MS: No, they don't have our number either. We play the Wings tough, all the time. The Canucks just recently won 6-4 against them. That being said, the Wings are still the best team in the West, and in a 7-game series I'd still take the Wings because their best players can elevate their game. So far, the Canucks' players haven't. Guys like Dan Cleary, Tomas Holmstrom, and Johan Franzen are good in the regular season, but great in the playoffs. Kesler, Burrows, and Raymond weren't so good last year. Let's not let the Sedins off the hook - they should elevate their game too, but I do think they were better than Naslund and Bertuzzi. Depth is key. JC: If you look at some of the league's best playoff performers - Crosby, Mike Richards, Datsyuk, Zetterberg - these are guys who play in all situations of the game. The Sedins don't kill penalties. Part of the reason is because they don't have to, and also by blocking shots you're risking injury, but the upside is that when your team can't find their rhythm, you can get your best players more involved in the play. If I were to build a team, I'd like to have a franchise player I can play in every situation. MS: The Sedins not playing PK doesn't hurt them. If they're not on the ice because the team's constantly killing penalties then the team has to be more disciplined. The Canucks aren't built around 2 players, and that gives the Sedins the opportunity to really focus on one thing (scoring). The Sedins are great talents, but the Canucks don't have a standout talent like Ovechkin or Crosby. There is no shining star. The Canucks are built like a football team - you need everyone to perform their specific role for them to succeed. If special teams can't produce then you hope the depth can hold up. <img src="http://cache1.asset-cache.net/xc/86020661.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=77BFBA49EF8789215ABF3343C02EA54809ADCC78F7DA45A9E4E03DA6F564D905B4F7DACE93165AFCE30A760B0D811297"class="imageFloatRightFramed">JC: One thing I really noticed that year was the lack of net presence. Chicago had Byfuglien, Ladd, and Eager in Luongo's face the entire time. The Canucks have trouble against the Blues because David Backes is cemented in front of the net. MS: I agree, and that's my only bone to pick. It certainly adds yet another dimension to our potent attack. We lack that physical element. We're bigger, in fact, we always have been, but I don't think we're grittier than before. Torres can be a perimeter player sometimes too. We are missing a David Backes type. It's demoralizing for teams to have someone in front of the net you can't move. The Canucks defense was torn about by Byfuglien. Edler wasn't strong enough, Bieksa had the strength but not the frame. I think that's why Alberts could surprisingly play a big role on this team when it comes to clearing the crease. Look what Andy Sutton was able to do in Ottawa. He put players flat on their butts all the time. JC: It almost feels like this team is built for the regular season than the playoffs. If you look at how the Flyers were built last year, them going deep shouldn't be all that surprising. They had great veteran leadership and a great mix of size, talent, and grit. I picked the Flyers to upset that year because I knew they could go far. MS: I'm gonna play the devil's advocate and say it depends on who they play. Against almost all the teams they're good. The Canucks have trouble with Chicago, and I know that contradicts with what I said previously, but you just don't know how this team will fare against this version of the Hawks in the playoffs. Last year, Quenneville totally outcoached Vigneault. I think, line for line, other than that top line with Zetterberg and Datsyuk, we have the advantage in regards to the other 9 forwards, so I like how we match up against the Wings. JC: Let's talk Luongo, since he's the biggest X factor. I don't like his contract, and there are people who are already saying Luongo's overpaid, but he's still one of the better goalies in the West. What do you think? MS: Luongo's play has slipped but I think Kiprusoff's play has slipped more. A quarter of the way through the season, my top 5 West goalies are: Bryzgalov, Hiller, Backstrom, Quick, and Halak. But in the playoffs everything changes. I don't like the Luongo extension either - it's pro-rated, but I think if we could get him just a shade cheaper at around $5 million we might be able to afford to keep Bieksa. He brings an element no other defenseman on our team does and maybe he does need a change of scenery but we need players like him in the playoffs. JC: Vigneault says the window for this team to win is between now and 1 or 2 years down the road. I tend to agree with him. Canucks in 5 years - how many Cups? 1? 2? None? MS: I have to disagree with Vigneault. I think the window longer than that. Edler and Raymond are still young. The Moose is well-stocked. Granted, Luc Bourdon's untimely death set this franchise back a little, but it's more like a ten-year plan. Ideally, our top players will be ready to make a significant impact in 5 years. Look at the Red Wings. From 1980 to their Cup win in 1997 (their first in ages), they were eliminated from the playoffs 11 times, and only 4 times did they at least reach the Conference Finals. When you're building a team you're going to fail a lot in the beginning, because that's the feeling you have to know to succeed later on. Vancouver has no tradition of winning and that works against them. Vigneault is no Scotty Bowman, but at least the consistency is there. Would you rather be successful long-term or be a potential one-hit wonder like the Hawks with their cap issues? They still have yet to sign Seabrook and could only afford Marty Turco. Don't get me wrong, Chicago could still end up being competitive but it will be difficult. Maybe it's because I haven't lived through 40 years of disappointment, but we have to be patient. As long as we draft well, we'll stay competitive. It wasn't too long ago people were labelling Hodgson as a bust, but history has shown that the World Jrs. MVP, and it should've been Hodgson, no doubt, go on to have good NHL careers. (Past winners include Eberle, Malkin, Ovechkin, Parise, Cammalleri, and Iginla). The Canucks and Blackhawks face-off Friday night. We'll have to see what kind of team we really have.
  11. Larenzo

    The Other Brother

    During a recent NHL.com poll, Vancouver Canuck's Daniel Sedin was listed as the second best Left Winger in the NHL. Whether you agree with this ranking or not (at the quarter point in the 2010/11 season), there is evidence that he could possibly be in the hunt for hardware come late June. Daniel Sedin focused early in the season at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California Oct. 13, 2010 With the disclaimer (yet again, after forecasting Henrik Sedin early on to win the Hart Trophy) that I do not wish to 'jinx' Daniel Sedin, this is simply a review of accomplishments to date, with a dash of prognosticating sprinkled in. Pundits will usually concede that the quarter point in the NHL schedule is a strong indication of where the higher seeds will finish, as well as a decent gauge for player point totals. With 13 goals and 27 points over the first 22 games, he's on pace for a career season. Last season, though he missed 19 games, he still amassed more points than in any other (2006-07 84 pts, 2008-09 82 pts) season. He's currently ranked 5th in the League for goals, and 9th for points. On pace for 48 goals, 52 assists – 100 points. That is, of course, barring injury/illness, or any dozen other factors. Fans often marvel at how uncannily close the twins' point totals are, year after year. Were Daniel to have played the complete season as Henrik did, he was on pace for 111 points, and potentially also trophy nomination. Earlier, the poll mentioned regarding Left Wingers was lead by Alexander Ovechkin. Not much of a surprise there, but his pace has cooled from last season. Undoubtedly he'll catch fire at some point in the season, but he's on pace for 104 pts, only 32 of which are goals. One says 'only' when the individual mentioned scores 50+ annually. Anze Kopitar and Daniel Sedin race for a loose puck in the Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals (all photos courtesy of Yardbarker.com) Hockey pool guru Murray Townsend (The Hockey News) has been a professional prognosticator for 20 years. He had forecast Crosby and Ovechkin to tie for second in League scoring with 110 points. They finished with 109. Interestingly, two players that he's had difficulty projecting are the Sedin brothers. He thought that they had peaked in 2008-09 at 82 points a piece. Little could he imagine Henrik would go on a magical run to win the Art Ross and Hart Trophies. Basically, Daniel accomplished in 63 games what Townsend and others thought would take 82. But he's not sure that Henrik's performance will be duplicated. "Almost positive they've peaked," Townsend told The Hockey News. Voted NHL and TSN goal of the year (courtesy of Pouya - CanucksHD) One facet of the twins evolution that many overlooked initially was their preparation. In particular, their physical conditioning has been top notch, and aided them immensely. Each year, when they've finished the playoffs, they take two weeks off, then head back to Ornkoldsvik, Sweden, to commence off-season training. Since his rookie 2000-01 season, where Daniel scored 20 goals and 34 points, it's evident his ability to compete has heightened since becoming bigger and stronger. His ability to shield and protect the puck while cycling down low has increased. His shots, wrist, slap, snap and backhand, have become more potent, more forceful. His acceleration, though it will never be elite level, has reached a higher gear. In short, he is no longer a bright-eyed teenager playing a man's game. Whatever the rest of the season should hold, Vancouver Canuck fans will continue to be delighted and amazed as Daniel Sedin, part of the best one-two punch in the League, displays his quality. With files from CanucksHD, Yardbarker.com and The Hockey News, I'm Larenzo Jensen
  12. It is a contemplative week for Number Crunching as we look towards the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs for the 2010 Northwest Division Champions Vancouver Canucks. As part of our reflection, we take a trip down memory lane and revisit our mid-season award predictions and give our final thoughts on which Canucks should walk away this season with some hardware. WHAT IF DANIEL SEDIN DID NOT MISS 19 GAMES THIS SEASON DUE TO INJURY? <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar2410_burtwin_rr.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Henrik Sedin had a bad sense of déjà vu this past Thursday in Los Angeles (in addition to the bad taste left in his mouth from an 8-3 shellacking at the hands of the Kings) when - for the first time since mid-November - he looked over to his left winger and didn't see the familiar face of brother Daniel starring back at him. Despite playing in a career-high 19 games without Daniel this season (Daniel's previous career-high for most regular season games missed in a single year was seven while Henrik's is six), Henrik has managed to hold his own as evidenced by him challenging for the Art Ross Trophy this season as the NHL's leading point scorer. So just where would Henrik be had Daniel been by his side for all 79 games and counting this season? Henrik has been a point-a-game player so far this with Daniel out of the lineup scoring 10 goals and 19 points in 19 games with his brother on the shelf and while that pace would have been enough to match his previous career-high already, with brother Daniel in the lineup Henrik has been (naturally) even more dynamic. Through 60 games with Daniel in the lineup, Henrik is averaging 1.45 points-per-game with 19 goals and 87 points. If he managed to keep that pace for an entire 82-game season, Henrik would have finished this season with roughly 119 points. In that alternate reality, only three post-lockout players would have had more points in a single season than Henrik: Joe Thornton (125 points in 2005.06), Jaromir Jagr (123 points in 2005.06) and Sidney Crosby (120 points in 2006.07). WHAT IF THE CANUCKS DON'T WIN ON THURSDAY IN SAN JOSE? <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar2710_clowe_fps.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">If the Canucks don't secure at least a single point against the Sharks on Thursday in their final road game of the season, it will mark the first time since the 2000.01 season that the Canucks will qualify for the playoffs despite having a losing road record during the regular season. Having a sub-.500 record away from home heading into the playoffs is nothing new for the organization however. Out of the previous 22 times the Canucks have qualified for the post-season, only nine times have they had a .500 or better road record heading into the playoffs. So how has a positive road record during the regular season translated into success away from the home in the playoffs? In years where Vancouver's regular season road record is at .500 or better (1991.92, 1992.93, 1993.94, 1995.96, 2001.02 2002.03, 2003.04, 2006.07 and 2008.09), Vancouver's combined road record in the playoffs is 26-24. In years where Vancouver's regular season road record is below .500, Vancouver's combined road record in the playoffs is 12-24. WHAT IF THE CANUCKS HAD NOT BEEN BLOWN OUT BY THE KINGS ON THURSDAY? <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr0110_lak_kopitar_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">With the Canucks being pounded on the scoreboard on Thursday in Los Angeles, they opted to take a small measure of revenge out on their opponents by dishing out 32 hits versus just 15 delivered by the Kings that night. The 17-hit differential in favour of the Canucks marked a season-high for Vancouver surpassing the 16-hit positive differential they had way back on October 5, 2009 in their home opener - a 5-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Overall, it was just the third time this season Vancouver has out-hit an opponent by double digits and good thing too considering the Canucks are 0-3-0 in those three games. Conversely, the Canucks' record this season when out-hit by double digits is 7-5-1. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr0210_ducks08_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Michael Grabner: Three goals and five points in four games played. After just one point in his first five games back in the NHL, Michael Grabner finally found his game this past week recording a three-game point streak from March 30 - April 2, highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick on Friday against the Anaheim Ducks. There may have been grumblings about Grabner being slotted right away onto the second line upon his return to the NHL - ahead of a 20-goal scorer such as Mason Raymond - but Grabner quickly put his critics to rest by having the best week of his NHL career to date. Grabner's emergence and the respective returns of Pavol Demitra and Mikael Samuelsson to the Canucks lineup now gives the Canucks three solid scoring lines heading into the playoffs. With Steve Bernier inching closer towards a return to the lineup as well, the Canucks could arguably be the deepest team at the forward position compared to all other NHL playoff-bound clubs. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar3010_juice_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Kevin Bieksa: One goal...err, almost, in four games played. In the immortal words of Dr. Evil: "Throwing me a frickin' bone here!" After not finding the back of the net since Vancouver's season opener back on October 1, 2009, Kevin Bieksa looked to have finally bumped the goal slump on Sunday when he was credited with a goal against the Minnesota Wild in the second period of that contest...or so he thought. Unfortunately, 17 minutes worth of intermission time and the work of some overzealous off-ice officials at GM Place on Sunday took away what would have been Bieksa's second goal of the season and gave it to Kyle Wellwood. (Remember when fans booed Tanner Glass earlier in the season for being credited with a goal that was initially thought to be Wellwood's? Ah memories.) To his credit, Bieksa still finished the week off with two assists (should have been a goal and an assist...just saying) and now has 18 helpers on the season. A LOOK BACK AT NUMBER CRUNCHING'S MID-SEASON AWARDS Back in late December - when this blog was in still in its infancy - we came out with our Special Mid-Season Awards Edition where we gave you our picks for the Canucks award winners had the season ended at the same time the 2009 calendar year did. Here's a look back at those picks and what our final thoughts are now: <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar3010_burbieksa_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Most Exciting Player Mid-season pick: Mason Raymond Year-end pick: Alex Burrows Analysis: After 39 games gone by in the season, only one player - Henrik Sedin - had more goals on the team than Mason Raymond who had already shattered his previous career-high with 17 tallies. Raymond's production has dropped since then with just seven goals in his last 40 games. But even with that said, it is clear Alex Burrows is the runaway pick for this award. His back-to-back hat tricks just a week after that blog was published was a sign of things to come for the Pincourt, QC native who looks poised to finish the season with the most goals on the team. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/032410_VAN_ANA_205d.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Fred J. Hume Award for Unsung Hero Mid-season pick: Willie Mitchell Year-end pick: Andrew Raycroft Analysis: Perhaps this award should still go to Willie Mitchell considering Vancouver's struggles at the defensive end of the ice since his absence. Number Crunching is good, but not good enough to predict Willie would last just over two more weeks after that blog was published before being shut down (we assume) for the rest of the season due to a concussion. However, it's hard to argue with what Raycroft has done in the second half of the season. Since that blog was published, Raycroft's highlights include stepping into a 3-0 deficit in Toronto and helping the Canucks pull out a 5-3 win back on January 30 and clinching a playoff spot for the boys on April 2 in Anaheim with a 5-4 shootout victory. His nine wins (and counting) this season are the most by a Canucks back-up in the Roberto Luongo era. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar2710_scrappy_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Babe Pratt Trophy for Most Outstanding Defenceman Mid-season pick: Christian Ehrhoff Year-end pick: Christian Ehrhoff Analysis: He's been Mr. Consistency on the back-end all season. His 14 goals and 43 points lead all Canucks defencemen in those categories while he also has an eye-popping plus-33 rating. The Canucks can only hope his tweaked knee at the end of Sunday's win over the Wild at GM Place is nothing serious. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar2710_face_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Cyclone Taylor Trophy as Canucks MVP Mid-season pick: Henrik Sedin Year-end pick: Henrik Sedin Analysis: We figured he would runaway with the team's scoring lead, but we never thought he'd be close to running away for the NHL's scoring title as well. Henrik is not only a shoe-in for the team MVP, he deserves serious consideration for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP as well (Ken Campbell...I'm looking at you). <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar2710_luclowe_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Molson Cup Winner Mid-season pick: Roberto Luongo Year-end pick: Henrik Sedin Analysis: Somewhere between our Mid-Season Awards blogand now, the Canucks official Media Game Notes package stopped listing the full points standings for the Molson Cup - which is given the player with the most three-star selections at the end of the season. What we can tell you is that Henrik has won the monthly award three times (October, November, March), Luongo twice (January and February) and Kesler once (December). Our initial thought when picking Luongo mid-season (even though Henrik actually led the standings at the time of that blog) was we felt as good as Henrik had performed to that point, Luongo would be a difference most nights for Vancouver down the stretch. Let's just say we were right about that...but not so much in the way we thought it would work out. Statistics and other information appearing in this blog are for entertainment purposes only and a sense of humour is recommended. E-mail the author here or follow him on Twitter.
  13. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov1709_chbsmall_smallt.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">When I see highlight reel goals night in and night out from the Sedins it's hard to find a place to start when trying to talk about them, but if you start by looking at the most recent highlight reel treat did anything stand out to you? To me it was the fact that the absolutely beautiful between-the-legs-no-look-feed was by Daniel and not Henrik. This season the twins have done something special that's changed them from just a double threat, to a quadruple threat and it is all a result of that injury Daniel sustained at the beginning of the season. Before the injury, the Sedins were solvable. It was Henrik pass, Daniel shoot. They still put up very respectable numbers, they were point per game players, you threw Alex Burrows with them and they had a trigger man. However the fact remained that they were not as versatile as they could have been. For arguments sake they seemed like two halves that made a whole. Two singles that made a double threat. It was good, it was effective and they lead the Canucks and have gotten better in each of the 10 years they've been with the organization thus far. Since Daniel went down to injury he was forced to find the other side of his game and now with a career high in goals and on pace for his first 30 goal season ever, the leading Hart Trophy candidate at the moment has seemingly become a whole threat instead of being one half to his brother's other half. Likewise, Daniel has come back and has started racking up assists like he's a second Henrik Sedin. Both players have found this other dimension to their game and now we see a set of Sedin Twins that are simply potent. There's no longer the predictable answer to "Who passes? Who shoots?". Daniel can dish it as well as Henrik can, and Henrik's taken charge and at times seems like he can score at will. All of a sudden we're seeing Sedin twins who are not just a double threat, as a duo, but they're double threats individually. Whether it's Henrik setting up his brother, the two of them setting up Burrows, or Daniel feeding Lukowich, the twins have finally stepped out of that shadow and criticism that they were predictable because they're a living highlight reel night in and night out and no body predicted what they'd be doing this season. Both Sedins are averaging an assist per game this season, Henrik has 52 assists in 52 games played and Daniel has 34 assists in 34 games played. The Twins are no longer just a one-two punch. They've turned themselves into the one-two combination right before hitting you with the left hook. This is what Brian Burke must have envisioned when he went into the '99 draft claiming no one was going to leave that draft with both Sedins if it wasn't him. The Sedins have finally found a way to silence the critics. Before this season their only "flaw" was that they were predictable and now with both of them wheeling, dealing, and pulling the trigger, shutting down the Sedins went from hard to nearly impossible. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov1709_mozy_small.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Richard Loat writes for Canucks Hockey Blog and is a fan of the underdog – first Bryan Allen, then Alex Burrows, and now Jannik Hansen. His passion for the Canucks led to the Canucks Hockey Blog and a lot of #Canucks tweets on his Twitter account.
  14. One of the interesting aspects about Henrik Sedin suddenly being thrust into Crosby and Ovechkin's spotlight is that you have a number of puckheads trying to figure out why the sudden rise after nine seasons. It's not as easy as you may think. Take for instance the SI mention the other day about Hank being the magazine's mid-season player of the year. Farber suggested that, without Daniel around to finish the passes, Henrik essentially had to shoot more. Said Farber: "While Henrik's goal production has been ascribed to a belated willingness to shoot, this is only fractionally correct. (He averaged 2.25 shots per game in the first four matches with Daniel, then 2.28 in the ensuing 18 and 1.90 after Daniel returned on Nov. 22.) He's simply been firing from better goal-scoring locations. "He took a big responsibility to show everyone he could play without me," says Daniel, who entered the season with 70 more goals than Henrik, and who hadn't been separated from his twin for more than a few games in their careers. "He also had to show himself, I think." So picking his spots better is one idea. Over at Hockey Or Die, Jonathan Willis has another take which I highly suggest you check out. In essence he argues that Hank's season isn't a breakout at all and nor is that a bad thing. Much of this revolves around his current shooting percentage (21.4%) in comparison with his career shooting percentage (13.2%). Unlike Farber, Willis doesn't believe not having Daniel around is the reason why Hank's shooting percentage has jumped since - to start with - the shooting percentage can be unreliable: "it fluctuates seemingly at random, and it's more likely a run of shots just going in then any fundamental shift in Henrik's mentality." Hank's shooting percentage has fluctuated throughout his career (20.5% in 2001-02 then 9.9% the following year and, post lockout, he jumped up to 15.9% before dropping back to 7.5%). And those totals were while playing with Daniel (who himself has had shooting percentage ups and downs) so the lack of playing time together may not be the reason. Also Willis poses a hypothetical that if you extrapolate out Hank's numbers this season without Daniel over an 82 game stretch, it looks like: Without Daniel: 46 goals, 36 assists, 82 points, 0 +/- With Daniel: 30 goals, 104 assists, 134 points, +57 So Hank's numbers are actually worse without Daniel (you can cite a number of things, from increased defensive responsibilities, more defensive zone starts, different line combinations that AV had to use, etc). As Willis suggests "Every single coach in the game will take a 30-goal scorer who is on the ice for 57 more goals for than against over a 46 goal-scorer who gives everything back the other way." Can't say I'd argue with that at all. And as long as we're talking about Hank's shooting percentage, stats God Gabe Desjardins also looked at it and has some not surprising, but still sour news: odds are Hank falls back to earth. After compiling data on other 20% shooters during 100-shot intervals over the last four seasons, Gabe concludes: Regardless of why, Willis says that it's not a breakthrough season for Hank simply because the twins were already elite players: This is very much in line with what Mirtle wrote prior to last year's playoffs. The Sedins "arrived" awhile ago. Of course, most of us knew that in one way or the other. There will still be those who knock their lack of playoff experience and perhaps there is some lingering truth to that. Others still may knock their perceived lack of toughness, though I'd suggest those people aren't actually watching them play. But to argue they are anything short of spectacular players at this point is absurd. And to think Hank's production is coming during the first year of his new contract when he could just have easily mailed it in. I love seeing what Hank is doing and will continue to look for some indicators to explain it. But it's equally possible many Canucks fans don't care. This team is, after-all, one that has never had a Hart Trophy winner in its history so just to have his name bantered about in consideration is a thrill (as too is waking up some of the Eastern media folks who don't see him on a regular basis). And perhaps even better is that Daniel is back, Burrows is seemingly scoring at will and the three are now the most productive line in team history. Now about that third line...
  15. Many in Vancouver have supported <b>Henrik</b> and <b>Daniel Sedin</b> for the past few years, but there was a time when they were widely derided as busts. Even after they started to excel, they still didn't get a lot of hype outside of Vancouver; one of the few exceptions is <a href="http://www.fromtherink.com/2009/4/18/843358/why-the-sedins-have-arrived-as">this piece</a> <b>James Mirtle</b> wrote last spring about how the twins had quietly turned into elite forwards. Despite growing recognition of the Sedins, there was still considerable debate about just how much they were worth this offseason; I <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2009/06/22/moneypuck-why-gillis-should-resign-the-sedins/">argued</a> that their consistent point production made them two of the league's most valuable players, and I was quite happy when the Canucks <a href="http://canuckpuck.com/2009/07/03/sedins-stay-canucks-add-four-players/">locked them up</a> for five years and $30.5 million each, which gave them only the 35th and 36th highest cap hits in the league. Have they lived up to those deals so far? Well, no one would give you an argument about Henrik; he's leading the league with 67 points (21 goals, 46 assists) in 48 games, and <a href="http://www.nhl.com/ice/playerstats.htm?fetchKey=20102ALLSASAll&amp;sort=avgPointsPerGame&amp;viewName=points">is second</a> to <b>Alexander Ovechkin</b> in points per game. He's <a href="http://www.nucksmisconduct.com/2010/1/19/1260724/in-the-sports-lexicon-this-is">started to get a bit of Hart Trophy buzz</a>, and deservedly so; however, he's still overlooked by many (check out <b>Richard Loat</b>'s <a href="http://canuckshockeyblog.com/?p=2613">piece</a> on the subject for more details). However, partly thanks to injury, Daniel remains below the radar. Over the years, many have struggled to differentiate Henrik and Daniel. In my mind, that's one of the reasons their recognition as elite players has been slow in coming across the league. They're identical twins, they play on the same line and they have a similar skill set; great vision, brilliant passing skills and solid shots. Daniel takes more shots while Henrik sets up others, but there still isn't a lot to separate them, and that's why many have written their success off as just a function of their bond. The logic goes that they aren't really great players, but as twins, they're able to work together so well that it overcomes their perceived lack of superlative skill. That logic flew out the window when Daniel was injured this year and Henrik continued to carry the Canucks. The problem, though, is that some see that as conclusive proof that Henrik is the better player and use that idea to make it seem that he's carrying Daniel. In fact, <b>Michael Farber</b>'s otherwise excellent <i>Sports Illustrated</i> <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1164826/index.htm?eref=mySI">piece</a> somewhat suffers from this disease. I can appreciate where this line of thought comes from; one of the traditional questions around MVPs is what kind of support system they have, so it might buttress a player's argument for that honour if you downplay the contributions of his teammates. However, by doing this, we run the risk of ignoring just how good Daniel is. Remember that <a href="http://www.nhl.com/ice/playerstats.htm?fetchKey=20102ALLSASAll&amp;sort=avgPointsPerGame&amp;viewName=points">points-per-game list</a> I cited earlier? Ovechkin is first with 1.59 points per game, followed by Henrik with 1.40. However, Daniel's tied with <b>Ilya Kovalchuk</b> for third; both have 1.30 points per game. Additionally, many have previously bashed Daniel for being a shoot-first player, but he has 12 goals and 27 assists this year in just 30 games. Part of that's thanks to Henrik's increased willingness to shoot and the <a href="http://canuckshockeyblog.com/?p=2660">continued emergence</a> of <b>Alex Burrows</b> as a top-tier forward (21 goals and 18 assists in 48 games), but it also shows that both Henrik and Daniel have become more complete players this year. What's also impressive is that the Sedins have become much more efficient offensively; their jump in point totals hasn't come from much of a jump in ice time. Last season, <a href="http://www.behindthenet.ca/2008/new_5_on_5.php?sort=22&amp;section=goals&amp;mingp=&amp;mintoi=&amp;team=VAN&amp;pos=">according to</a> <i>Behind The Net</i>, Henrik averaged 13.91 minutes of ice time per game and Daniel averaged 13.56. Henrik's GFON/60 (goals scored by the Canucks per 60 minutes of even-strength time he played) was 3.42, while Daniel's was 3.40. Those were the two top numbers on the team. They were both good defensively too; Henrik's GAON/60 (goals the Canucks allowed per 60 minutes of even-strength time he played) was 2.14, while Daniel's was 1.96. Those numbers were good, but <a href="http://www.behindthenet.ca/2009/new_5_on_5.php?sort=24&amp;section=goals&amp;mingp=&amp;mintoi=&amp;team=VAN&amp;pos=">this year</a>'s have been even better. The Canucks score a ridiculous 4.58 goals per 60 minutes of even-strength time Daniel gets and 4.11 per 60 minutes Henrik plays, again the top two numbers on the team. Their defensive numbers have eroded slightly (Daniel now has a GAON/60 of 2.44 and Henrik has a GAON/60 of 2.56), but their overall numbers are better (if you subtract GAON/60 from GFON/60 for the +/- ON/60 , Henrik had a +1.28 last year and a +1.55 this year, while Daniel had a +1.44 last year and a +2.14 this year). Yet, they're still playing basically the same amount of ice time as they were last year (14:27 now for Henrik as compared to 13:91 last year, 14:05 for Daniel as compared to 13.56 last year). That's incredible efficiency. The point isn't to minimize what Henrik's done. He's had a tremendous year, and it was impressive that he proved he can play without Daniel. He deserves every bit of MVP consideration he gets, in my mind. However, don't overlook what Daniel's done as well. Both Sedins have been among the league's top players this year. If they keep that kind of production up, it could be a very good year for the Canucks.
  16. Larenzo

    Move over, Petri

    Alex Burrows penned his name alongside a 23 year old Vancouver Canucks scoring record of back to back hat tricks, originally set by Petri Skriko in 1986/87. Two of the hottest players in the NHL celebrate Alex Burrows' 2nd straight hat trick performance (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) The Phoenix Coyotes got the short end of the straw Thursday night during their visit to the Garage, outplaying the Canucks for large stretches. But the rules of physics applied, and objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and the Canucks, winners of 12 of their last 14 games, did just that. Just as the Coyotes had a few fortuitous bounces in their previous game in the desert, so too did the Canucks. "My linemates (Henrik and Daniel Sedin) found me a couple of times there and made great plays and it makes my job a lot easier," said Alex Burrows post game. Coyotes captain Shane Doan spoke candidly about the pictured goal with 4 seconds remaining in the second stanza. "You can point the finger at me on that one," started Doan, who tried to pin Ryan Kesler along the end boards. "It's my fault and it totally turns the tide. We kind of controlled the second period, but I dropped the ball on that one... If I don't give up that second, then it's a totally different game." With 4 seconds remaining in the second period, Ryan Kesler took the audio cue from Mikael Samuelsson, dished him a backhand saucer for a pivotal 2-0 lead The match featured almost every hockey element possible, including a couple of scary, bloody moments for Canucks fans. Aaron Rome was blindsided by a (clean) Taylor Pyatt check near the boards, which lacerated the left side of his face, leaving him bleeding profusely. Late in the second period, Willie Mitchell's upward rising stick blade caught Sami Salo in the enclave area just underneath his left eyebrow, narrowly missing his eye. He too colored the ice red before hastily leaving the ice surface withtrainer Mike Bernstein. He would return, though, to a warm ovation from the 18,810 fans at GM Place to start the third period. Canucks fans breathed a collective sigh of relief upon learning this injury missed Salo's eye by a centimeter (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck) Roberto Luongo, who earned his third shutout of the season, credited his d-men for clearing rebounds in front of him, and giving him a good look at the puck. "I've only got 50... Once I get done, maybe we'll talk about it more," deferred Luongo, who acknowledged his milestone, but inferred that he is well back of the 106 shutouts held by Olympic teammate, Martin Brodeur. Former Canuck Taylor Pyatt is stopped in close by Roberto Luongo (Photo by Rich Lam/ Getty Images)Henrik Sedin was also more interested in the strong team play than individual accolades. "Like I said before, that's what good teams do," said the current NHL points leader. "They put a lot of wins together. We need to keep going here." The win was good enough for 5th place in the Western Conference standings, though they are now tied with the Calgary Flames for 1st place in the Northwest division. Calgary holds a game in hand, so presently has sole possession of third place in the Conference, despite the Canucks having more wins (which is the first tie break if teams have played even amount of games). The Flames put the Northwest division lead on the line when they visit here on Saturday for one of the featured HNIC (Hockey Night in Canada) tilts. Queue R.Kelly's "I believe I can fly" during this exciting Mason Raymond penalty shot (AP Photo / Darryl Dyck) Special thanks to Pouya of CanucksHD for the following uploads of Burrows' goals (just move your cursor over the following and click) Alex Burrows' 2nd goal Alex Burrows' Hat trick goal Keep pace with the torrid Canucks at www.thecanuckway.com Larenzo Jensen, with files from TSN, Yahoo Sports, Getty Images and AP Photo
  17. I have to admit that I was never quite convinced that the Sedins could carry this team. First, there were naysayers that their offensive success had come because opposing teams' top defensive pairings regularly drew the famed West Coast Express. After Todd Bertuzzi was shipped off to Florida, Brendan Morrison signed with Anaheim, and Markus Naslund left for Manhattan before retiring, there is no higher scoring duo than Dan and Henrik. Since the lockout, Henrik is ranked among the top five playmaking centres in the league while Daniel has become a legitimate 30-goal scoring threat. After establishing early in the season that the pair can be legitimate top-liners, with Henrik on pace for a 100+ point season and well on his way to establishing a new career high in goals, the new question that has emerged is whether or not they can carry the team to the promised land. While I don't think the Canucks are considered favourites to win the Cup, I think that the most important aspect about this coming-out party for the Sedins is their new-found swagger. Back when the WCE was at its peak, the Canucks stepped onto the ice knowing that they could score 4, 5, or even 6 goals against their opposition no matter who was in net. They were confident and cocky in their abilities. They took risks, they mouthed off, and they weren't backing down to anybody. When the line began to falter and Naslund no longer had his seeing-eye wrister, the Canucks lost that swagger and what followed was an bout of inconsistency, hesitancy, and lack of execution in key situations or games. Four seasons since the lockout, two division banners but also two playoff misses. <img src="http://beta.images.theglobeandmail.com/archive/00297/Samuelson26_297301gm-a.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">In today's Winter Classic (a great game, by the way), Don Cherry made a point about the recent Calgary-Vancouver tilt in which Henrik was knocked down by Dion Phaneuf but proceeded to get back up and score in the same shift. Ignoring his celebrating teammates, Henrik proceeded to skate by Phaneuf and let him know that he's not going to take that kind of hit and not do anything about it. I noticed that while watching the game as well and had a good laugh. It's always nice to see that dumb look on Phaneuf's face. It was much of the same in St. Louis, except it was brother Daniel that wasn't afraid to run his mouth against Barret Jackman while Shane O'Brien, ever the consummate teammate, jumped to his defense. While I do agree that Dan Carcillo's post-fight celebration was a bush-league move, I personally like the cocky confidence the Sedins now exude. Scratch that - I friggin' love it. Five years ago, or even a year ago, I don't think we would've really seen the Sedins really stick up for themselves like that. Perhaps it was because we've always had a Jarkko Ruutu or Matt Cooke on our team. And remember the Wade Brookbank experiment as the third brother? Perhaps it's because the Sedins have now really embraced their roles as the leaders of the team, especially with the new 'A' on Henrik's sweater. Perhaps Mikael Samuelsson's rubbing off on them. Whatever the reason is, expect more great things from the Sedins. Why? Because this new found aggression has always served players well. Defensemen now know that you can't push the Sedins without getting a response. When's the last time anyone called them the sisters? The Sedins are smart players and they'll hit you where it hurts most: the scoreboard.
  18. The turn of the calendar provides an opportunity for some reflection so this week's column (our seventh edition for those keeping count...ever wonder why I never numbered them before? Seems a bit silly) looks back on the best of December, reveals the true meaning of a New Year's Bash, and counts down a list of those we have forgotten over the past decade. Also, read on to find out who takes home this week's coveted Number Crunching Player of the Week Award. (Published Sunday, January 3rd, 2010 - despite what the Entry Date may suggest). 10-4 ON ONE GREAT DECEMBER <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec2009_ehrhoff_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Thursday's improbable come-from-behind win over the St. Louis Blues not only ended 2009 in style for the Vancouver Canucks, it also helped the Canucks to close out the calendar year with a record-setting month. With the victory, the Canucks finished the month of December with an impressive 10-4-1 record marking the first time in team history the Canucks have ever reached double digits in the wins column in December. Their previous best December came during the 1992.93 season when they went 9-1-1 during the final month of the calendar year. It also marked the first time the Canucks have hit a double digit win total in a single month since March 2009. Last season, Vancouver's record during the month of December was 6-7-1. A VERY "GOD JUL" FOR THE TWINS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec1509_hank_2_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">December was not only a record-setting month for the Canucks as a team, it was one to remember for both Daniel and Henrik Sedin who each set new personal career-highs for points in a single month. Daniel netted 22 points (9-13-22) in 15 contests during December surpassing his previous career-high of 20 points in a single month (also 15 games) which he set back in March 2007. The only Canuck to record even greater numbers in December was Henrik who amassed a staggering 25 points (5-20-25) in 15 games tying him for fifth spot for most productive month in Canucks history with Alex Mogilny who also had 25 points (12-13-25) back in February 1996 (albeit Mogilny played in two less games). Henrik's previous high for most points in a single month was 19 (7-12-19) recorded back in the 15 games he played in March 2009. The record for most points in a single month by a Canuck is still held by Stan Smyl, who netted 31 points (10-21-31) in 16 games played during March 1983. NEW YEAR'S BASH INDEED <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/01/jan0210_richardsbur_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Nashville may be Music City, but apparently the best hits these days emanate from Dallas. According to the stats trackers at the American Airlines Center, the Canucks nailed their opponents with a season-high 40 hits (their previous high was 27 achieved twice earlier this season) in their first game of 2010 on Saturday afternoon only to be out-done by the hometown Stars who responded by hitting the Canucks back 49 times - marking the most hits a Canucks opponent has netted this season (eight more than Carolina's 41 back on December 5th). The 89 combined hits between the Canucks and Stars also marked a season-high in a single game for the Canucks this season. The previous high for most combined hits in a single game for Vancouver this season was 63. Guess where that game took place? Dallas (November 6th). THE BEST OF HORDI <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/01/jan0210_hordibarch_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Number Crunching would like to congratulate forward Darcy Hordichuk who appeared in his 400th career NHL game earlier this week on Tuesday in Phoenix. In honour of the 29-year old's milestone mark, Number Crunching presents the top four Hordi stats of the season: 1. Canucks record when Hordichuk records a point: 2-0-0 (that one was easy!) 2. Canucks record with Hordichuk in the lineup: 17-9-1 3. Canucks record when Hordichuk gets into a fight: 3-3-0 4. Canucks record when Hordichuk records a shot on goal: 3-1-1 WE HARDLY KNEW YE <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct25_schneider_rr.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Inspired (or perhaps uninspired) by Mathieu Schneider's short-lived career as a Vancouver Canuck - which unofficially came to an end this past week after just 17 games and five points - Number Crunching goes through the history books to pick out this past decade's top five We Hardly Knew Ye Canucks: <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec0809_Osweden2_rr.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">5. Magnus Arvedson: 8-7-15 in 41 GP, 2003.04 After six seasons playing with the Ottawa Senators which included a Selke Trophy nomination in 1998.99, GM Brian Burke managed to lure the then-32 year old free agent away from our nation's capital and to the West Coast proclaiming him to be not only a great defensive forward but also a solid secondary scorer as well. Things didn't quite work out that way for Arvedson. He struggled early to put up points and just when he started to look more comfortable with his new team, he suffered a knee injury in a game against the Washington Capitals that proved to be career-ending. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/bc/images/images/inbydate06/oct1706/chouinardgame_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">4. Marc Chouinard: 2-2-4 in 42 GP / Tommi Santala: 1-5-6 in 30 GP, 2006.07 A pair of Dave Nonis acquisitions from the 2006.07 season share the fourth spot on our list. First, there was Marc Chouinard who had just come off a career-high 30 point season with the Wild and was supposed to be the answer to all of Vancouver's third line worries. He managed just two goals and four points before being placed on waivers and banished to the AHL. He hasn't been back in the NHL since. At last report, he was plying his trade with the Cologne Sharks in Germany. At the same time, there was Tommi Santala - heralded as the best fourth line centre money could buy. A combination of healthy scratches, injuries and time spent in the minors limited Santala to just 30 regular season games with the Canucks. He somehow did manage to crack the lineup for one playoff game that season. After 2006.07, Santala went home to Finland. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/02/feb1809_ottawa24_tt.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">3. Mats Sundin: 9-19-28 in 41 GP, 2008.09 Well we all knew this was coming didn't we? It's not that Sundin's stint as a Canuck was terrible but for the former Maple Leaf, the buzz was bigger than his bite. It took until mid-December before Sundin officially put his name on the dotted line but it took even longer for the player the Canucks thought they would be getting to finally show up. Sundin looked slow and sluggish to begin his Canuck career and when he finally did find his game in the playoffs (eight points in eight games), he wasn't able to help extend Vancouver's season beyond the second round. After a brief flirtation this past summer, Sundin officially announced his retirement prior to the start of the 2009.10 season. His time in Vancouver may have been short-lived but he did set one unofficial record for selling the most number of jerseys with a shelf-life of less than four months. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/bc/images/images/inbydate05/oct0305/mccarthy_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">2. Steve McCarthy: 2-4-6 in 51 GP, 2005.06 It had all the makings of a great story: local boy returns to play for his hometown team. What could go wrong? Everything as it turns out for Steve McCarthy. The Trail, BC native was a point producing defenceman during his days in junior playing with the Edmonton (later Kootenay) Ice but never did seem to find that part of his game in his first five NHL seasons in Chicago. The Canucks hoped bringing him back to his home province would spark a resurgence of that offensive flair but that would not be the case. McCarthy lasted just 51 games in a Canucks uniform before being dealt to the Thrashers. Upon his departure, he made some less than kind remarks about the Canucks organization mostly concerning the relationship between team captain Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi. McCarthy spent the 2008.09 season in the KHL before returning to North America this season where he is currently playing with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/bc/images/images/inbydate05/nov1505/clouts_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">1. Martin Brochu: 0-3-0 record with a 4.17 GAA in 6 GPI, 2001.02 After opting not to re-sign veteran netminder Bob Essensa during the off-season, GM Brian Burke decided in the early part of the season that the best backup to pair with the still relatively fresh-faced Dan Cloutier was the immortal Martin Brochu, who had all of two NHL games worth of experience prior to joining the Canucks. Needless to say, the Brochu era in Vancouver didn't last very long. The Anjou, Quebec native made just six appearances in a Canucks uniform (clearly he didn't last long on most nights as he racked up just 216 overall minutes) and had a .856 save percentage. He was soon after replaced by Peter Skudra, who lasted parts of two seasons with the Canucks. After his short Canuck stint, Brochu played just 32 more total minutes in the NHL. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct15_samuelsson_rr.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Mikael Samuelsson: Two goals and three points in three games The week did not start off very well for the veteran Swede who learned last Sunday that he won't be participating in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in February after being left off Team Sweden. The snub was clearly taken personally by Samuelsson who made some rather off-colour, although very straight-from-the-heart remarks regarding not being selected. Team Sweden's loss was the Canucks' gain, however, as Samuelsson seemed to use the disappointment from being left behind as motivation. He snapped a 14-game goal drought with his tally against the Coyotes on Tuesday (his first goal since November 28th versus Edmonton) and added another marker on Thursday helping his team recover from a 3-0 deficit for a win in St. Louis. Samuelsson ended the week riding a four-game point streak - his longest since a five-game streak back in late October. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/10/SHARKS_CANUCKS_PRE_11_tt.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Rick Rypien: Zero points and 15 penalty minutes in three games Ignore the zeroes in the respective points columns because we all know Rick Rypien's primary focus isn't to provide offence, but the feisty forward from Coleman, Alberta nets the dubious distinction this week for his match penalty on New Year's Eve in St. Louis. We figure Rick's to blame for the whole hand-taping incident since referees never make mistakes, right? For the record, the 15 minutes worth of penalties in that contest for Rypien marked a regular season career-high in a single game for Rypien. Last season in the playoffs, he did manage to rack up 24 penalty minutes in a single game on May 2nd - Game 2 of Vancouver's Western Conference Semi-Final series against the Chicago Blackhawks in which his team lost 6-3. On that night, Rypien earned a 10-minute misconduct just over six minutes into the game and then earned another 10-minute misconduct in the final frame to go with a pair of minor penalties.
  19. There was certainly plenty of holiday cheer in Canucks Nation this week with the team sweeping all three games during the week. In the spirit of the holidays and with the official halfway point of the season about to be reached, Number Crunching gets into the giving mood by presenting the unofficial mid-season awards. Be sure to bookmark this blog (Ctrl + D) to see how many of the predictions pan out at the end of the 2009.10 season. And of course, feel free to share your thoughts on who you would choose as your mid-season bests. MOST EXCITING PLAYER <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec2709_flames02_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Mason Raymond: 17 goals and 29 points in 39 games played Alex Burrows has taken this award home for the past two seasons but the speedy Raymond figures to have the inside track for this year's honour. Not only has the 24-year old shattered his previous career-high with 17 goals so far this season (just one behind Henrik Sedin for the team lead), but the third-year pro has a newfound confidence with the puck and it has clearly shown with his increasing repertoire of moves and his highlight-reel tallies so far this season. He'll face tough competition from the likes of Ryan Kesler and Roberto Luongo in the second half of the season but assuming he continues to do what he has been so far, he'll have a chance to take home his first ever piece of Canucks hardware. 2008.09 winner: Alex Burrows FRED J. HUME AWARD FOR UNSUNG HERO <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec2709_flames15_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Willie Mitchell: Three goals and 10 points in 39 games played Unsung hero is usually one of the most difficult awards to pick a winner because it's one of those honours that can simultaneously seem like there are too many and too few candidates. But so far this year, Willie Mitchell is the runaway winner of this award. Mitchell's contributions don't often show up on the scoresheets but there is no Canuck who is counted on more than Willie game-in, game-out. The Port McNeill native leads all players on the team averaging 22:22 of ice-time per game, as well as leading the team in even-strength ice-time (18:13 average) and short-handed ice-time (3:57 average). Despite seeing the best of the best on the opposition nightly, he has still managed to rack up a plus-nine rating on the season. Mitchell will also warrant consideration for the Babe Pratt Trophy (he's won the past two years) but if he doesn't walk away with that honour, he should at least be recognized as an Unsung Hero. Other candidates include Tanner Glass (gone from being pegged to be a farmhand in the pre-season to solid third-line contributor with career-high numbers this season), Steve Bernier (quietly on pace to set career-highs in goals and points), Jannik Hansen (solid penalty killer who can play anywhere from the second to fourth line), and Rick Rypien (Mr. Energy who is showing he is more than just about the fisticuffs). 2008.09 winner: Steve Bernier BABE PRATT TROPHY FOR MOST OUTSTANDING DEFENCEMAN <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec2009_ehrhoff_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Christian Ehrhoff: Eight goals and 21 points in 39 games As mentioned earlier, this is an award that Mitchell should be given consideration for but very likely the engraving on the trophy already bears Ehrhoff's name. The former San Jose Shark has been very impressive in his first season as a Canuck and has turned into what the Canucks had originally hoped Mathieu Schneider would be - a dependable puck-moving, power play quarterback. Ehrhoff is tied for the lead among all team defencemen with 21 points while he leads all blue-liners with eight goals. Last season, the highest scoring Canucks defenceman was Alex Edler who had seven goals. 2008.09 winner: Willie Mitchell CYCLONE TAYLOR TROPHY AS CANUCKS MVP <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/205x115_4_121609.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Henrik Sedin: 18 goals and 50 points in 39 games It's hard to imagine where the Canucks would be had Henrik struggled while his brother Daniel was on the shelf for 18 games. Henrik, however, has shown that he's not only a great player in his own right, he is one of the NHL's elite players even if he does go about his business in a quiet way on most nights. Through games played on Sunday, only one player in the entire NHL had more points than Henrik's 50 - that being San Jose's Joe Thornton who currently leads the League with 54 points. Henrik has also shown this season that he's more than just a one-dimensional offensive threat. His 18 goals on the season not only lead the team but put him in the same company among the likes of Patrick Kane (15), Rick Nash (19), Jarome Iginla (20) and Ilya Kovalchuk (22) - not too shabby for a guy who's known to pass first. Henrik will get a run for his money from perennial MVP contender Roberto Luongo as well as the likes of Mason Raymond, Ryan Kesler and his brother Daniel Sedin but barring the unforeseen, you can consider this award signed, sealed, and delivered. 2008.09 winner: Ryan Kesler Henrik also has a 17-point lead on second place Ryan Kesler in the race for the Cyrus H. McLean Trophy which is given annually to the Canucks leading point scorer at the end of the season. In 2008.09, Henrik along with Daniel were co-winners of the points award. MOLSON CUP WINNER <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct2509_luongosave_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Here are the current standings for the Molson Cup which is awarded annually to the player who receives the most game star selections. Each star selection is worth five points with tie-breakers being settled by most first star selections followed by most second star selections, and so on. Henrik Sedin - 55 points Roberto Luongo - 50 points Ryan Kesler - 35 points Mason Raymond - 30 points Daniel Sedin - 20 points Andrew Raycroft - 15 points Christian Ehrhoff - 15 points Alex Edler - 15 points Michael Grabner - 10 points Mikael Samuelsson - 10 points Alex Burrows - 10 points Shane O'Brien - 10 points Kyle Wellwood - 10 points Willie Mitchell - 10 points Cory Schneider - 5 points Jannik Hansen - 5 points Steve Bernier - 5 points Number Crunching's official prediction is that Roberto Luongo will capture his fourth consecutive Molson Cup by season's end. 2008.09 winner: Roberto Luongo BEST STAT OF THE FIRST HALF <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec1409_luongo_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">It goes without saying that getting off to a good start in a game goes a long way in securing two points at the end of the night and so far this season, few teams have gotten off to more good starts than the Canucks. Through games played on Sunday, only two teams in the entire NHL had held a lead after the first period more times than Vancouver's 17 - the Washington Capitals (24) and the Colorado Avalanche (18) - while only the Capitals (49) have scored more first period goals than the Canucks' 45. Vancouver's 14 wins this season when leading after the first period is tied for second most in the NHL. Only the Blackhawks, with 15 wins, have more victories when leading after the first period. What the Canucks would like to improve on in the second half of the season is their defensive game in first periods. While the Canucks are one of the best teams offensively in first periods, they've been one of the worst defensively having surrendered 35 goals in first periods this season - the most among all their periods this season. The Canucks have a record of 11-3-0 this season when they don't give up a first period goal. WORST STAT OF THE FIRST HALF <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec2209_lu_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">It has gotten much better in recent games, but the penalty killing was clearly a major thorn in the paw for the Canucks throughout the first half of the season. The Canucks have given up at least one power play goal in 21 of the 39 games they have played so far this season and the results haven't been pretty when they do give up a goal while short-handed. Vancouver's record this season in games where they surrendered a power play goal is 7-14-0, much more devastating than last season when they managed to finish with a .500 record in games when giving up a man-advantage goal (20-20-8). It gets even worse when they give up more than one power play goal to the opposition as they are just 2-6-0 in those games. Through games played on Sunday, Vancouver's power play sat right smack in the middle of the NHL pack at number 15 with a success rate of 80.5 percent having allowed 29 goals on 149 times shorthanded. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK The holidays are a time for giving so Number Crunching is doling out two POTW awards this week. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec2209_sedin_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Daniel Sedin: Two goals and seven points in three games It was a banner week for the 29-year old forward who was looking to rebound after ending the previous week with no points in the final two games. Daniel began the week with a three-point night (1-2-3) against the Predators and followed that up with another three-point night (1-2-3) on Boxing Day versus the Oilers. After finding out officially on Sunday morning that he would be representing Sweden at the 2010 Winter Olympics, Daniel celebrated the news by extending his point streak to three games with an assist against the Flames. The point against Calgary also marked Daniel's 20th point in December tying his personal best for most points recorded in a single month (March 2007). <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec1409_bieksa_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Mason Raymond: Three goals and four points in three games There is no better place than home to spend the holidays and Mason Raymond would definitely attest to that. The Alberta native, playing in front of family and friends at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary on Sunday, netted his first career hat trick to close out the week in a 5-1 win for the Canucks. Included in the three-goal outing for the 24-year old was also his team-leading eighth power play goal of the season - double his entire total from all of last season. It's going to be all gravy for the left winger from this point out in terms of single-season career totals. He has already set new highs in goals (17) and points (29) and his next assist will give him a new career-high in the helpers category as well. His next major milestone will be his 100th career NHL point. He's currently sitting at 76 career points (40-36-76) but given his current pace, it's not a stretch of the imagination to think that he'll be able to reach that mark before the end of the 2009.10 regular season. In the spirit of the holiday season, there will be no Crunched By The Numbers player this week. And while I have this opportunity, I would like to wish every member of the Canucks Community a very happy and prosperous New Year! Thanks for reading and see you all in 2010.
  20. <img src="http://nhluploads.invisionzone.com/canucks/1262568096/gallery_43389_43_54888.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Notes: -Players will be listed according to their primary position during this decade. For example, Naslund will be listed as a left winger because he spent most of this decade as a left winger. -A player's success throughout the decade will be taken into consideration, not just individual season accomplishments. Second Team LW – Daniel Sedin After being feared that him and his brother Daniel would not develop into first line forwards, but whose saying they aren't now? Daniel Sedin has established himself as one of the top left wingers in Canucks history. A scoring threat in the offensive zone and a reliable defender in the defensive zone. Daniel has been the team's leading scorer two of the past three seasons. Honourable Mention(s): Alex Burrows C – Brendan Morrison If you needed a clutch goal, Brendan Morrison was the guy you'd look for as he is the franchise leader in regular season overtime goals. Morrison was solid at both ends of the rink and even on the point on the power play. Morrison also was an integral part of the West Coast Express with Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi. At the line's peak in 2002-03, Morrison had 25 goals and 46 assists. In addition, Morrison holds the franchise record for most consecutive games played. Honourable Mention(s): Ryan Kesler RW – Trent Klatt I would have liked to say somebody else, but this decade the Canucks were just not blessed with many great right wingers. Klatt was simply the best out of the right wingers that have played. You could put Anson Carter in this spot, but he played in one season or maybe Alex Burrows, but he's had less than a year with the Sedins on right wing, or maybe Ryan Kesler, but only spent half a season on right wing. Klatt spent most of his time as a Canuck as the right winger for the Sedin twins on the second line. His best season as a Canuck came in 2000-01 when he potted 13 goals and 20 assists. Honourable Mention(s): Anson Carter, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows D – Sami Salo Although seemingly made out of glass, Salo has been key contributor when he's been in the lineup this decade and has been a stabilizing presence in the back end. Always a threat on the power play with the one timer, possesses the skill set to move players out from the crease, and is excellent at moving the puck up the ice. D – Willie Mitchell Since being acquired as a free agent in the summer of 2006, Mitchell has been rock solid defensively for the Vancouver Canucks and has come as advertised. The Canucks go-to guy as the shutdown defenceman and in the process has racked up decent point totals for a defensive defenceman. Mitchell has also won the last two Babe Pratt Trophies, the team's best defenceman as voted by the fans. Honourable Mention(s): Brent Sopel G – Dan Cloutier Quite simply there was nobody else to choose as Cloutier had been the team's number one goalie from 2001 to 2005. During his tenure, he posted three straight 30 wins season from 2001-02 to 2003-04 and ranks top-five in all franchise goalie records. Cloutier still remains the franchise record holder for best goals against average in a single season. Honourable Mention(s): Alex Auld First Team LW – Markus Naslund Although you could argue Pavel Bure was the more skilled and better offensive forward, there is no doubt that Naslund was the best left winger this franchise has had. Heading into the 2009-10 NHL campaign, he is the franchise leader in goals, points, power play goals, and shots as well as third in games played and assists behind Canuck greats Trevor Linden and Stan Smyl. Naslund along with Smyl are the longest serving full-time Canucks captains at eight years. In addition, Naslund was chosen as the team's most valuable player four times, led the team seven straight years in scoring, and was the winner of the Lester B. Pearson Award winner (awarded to the league's most outstanding player as voted by the members of the NHLPA). C – Henrik Sedin There were questions about whether Henrik Sedin and his brother Daniel could become legitimate first line forwards in the NHL after being picked second and third overall in 1999. The first five years of the decade, Henrik was mediocre at best, but the last five following the lockout has vaulted him into star player status. Henrik has developed into a dependable two-way forward who excels in both zones, a capable penalty killer, and a player who could win a key draw. RW – Todd Bertuzzi His time at stardom was short lived, but during that time he was the premier power forward in the NHL and was an integral part of hockey's most feared line, the West Coast Express. In the year that the Canucks were supposed to win it all (2002-03), Bertuzzi potted a career-high 46 goals and added 51 assists. His last two years with the Canucks in 2003-04 and 2005-06, he had a respectable 0.87 points per game average, but since his performance has tailed off. D – Ed Jovanovski Jovanovski did it all for the Canucks. He had skating ability, could score from the point on a slapshot or a simple wrist shot, go to the front of net to provide a screen, setup his teammates, send you through the boards with a hit, and fight. He was the complete package. D – Mattias Ohlund For most of this decade, Ohlund was the designated shutdown defenceman for the Canucks and logged upwards of 20 minutes a game nightly for the team playing on both the power play and penalty kill. Ohlund possessed great open-ice hitting ability as well and would always play through pain. Ohlund is also a four time winner of the Babe Pratt Trophy, the team's best defenceman as voted by the fans. Definitely one of the top defenceman in Canucks history. G – Roberto Luongo Need to say anything? In about three and a half seasons as a Canuck goalie, Luongo has already established himself as one of the best goalies in franchise history. Luongo holds the franchise records for the most wins in a single season, best save percentage in a single season, most saves in a single game, longest shutout streak at 242 minutes and 36 seconds, most shutouts in a single season, and most shutouts as a Canuck. Should Luongo finish his career as a Canuck, he is on pace to become the franchise leader in most goaltending categories.
  21. The Canucks suffered a letdown in their game against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night to wrap up a 2-2-0 week but we won't disappoint in this week's edition of Number Crunching. Read on to find out who takes home the coveted Number Crunching Player of the Week Award. I MAY BE A BACKUP BUT DON'T CALL ME NUMBER TWO <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec1009_hansen_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">For most teams, getting to face an opposition's backup netminder is a very pleasant surprise but for the Canucks this season, it hasn't exactly been a cakewalk when going up against goaltenders that aren't number one on a team's depth chart. Since winning their first three games of the season against backup netminders, the Canucks have won just four of their last nine games when facing someone other than the team's number one goaltender including Sunday's loss to Ty Conklin and the Blues. Vancouver's record this season when facing backup netminders is 7-5-0. For our purposes, backup netminders are defined as goaltenders that did not start the season as their team's number one netminder on the depth chart. Below is a list of the so-called backups the Canucks have faced this season: October 21st @ Chicago - Antti Niemi - Win October 24th vs. Toronto - Joey MacDonald - Win October 25th vs. Edmonton - Jeff Deslauriers - Win October 27th vs. Detroit - Jimmy Howard - Loss November 12th @ Detroit - Jimmy Howard - Loss November 22nd vs. Chicago - Antti Niemi - Loss November 28th vs. Edmonton - Jeff Deslauriers - Win December 3rd @ Phiadelphia - Brian Boucher - Win December 5th @ Carolina - Manny Legace - Loss December 12th vs. Minnesota - Josh Harding - Win December 18th vs. Washington - Jose Theodore - Win December 20th vs. St. Louis - Ty Conklin - Loss NO THIRD HELPINGS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec1609_ob_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">As has been well-documented this season, the Canucks are not only one of the best teams when it comes to scoring in the third period (third in the League with 44 third period goals) but they've been pretty good at preventing third period markers as well. Vancouver has given up just 28 third period tallies this season - the fewest goals among all their other periods this season (34 in first periods; 31 in second periods). What's even more impressive is Vancouver's record this season when they don't give up a third period goal at all. 16 of Vancouver's 20 wins this season have come in games where they don't surrender a third period goal. In fact, the Canucks have just two losses this season in games where they don't give up a goal in the final regulation period. One of those two losses came in their most recent game on Sunday against the Blues when they entered the final frame down 3-1 and weren't able to generate any offence to mount a comeback. The other loss came back on October 16th in Calgary when the Canucks spotted the Flames a 5-0 lead through two periods and managed to tally three times in the third period but still fell by a 5-3 score. BROTHER ACT <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/205x115_4_121609.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">It was a relatively quiet week for Daniel and Henrik, but of course no Number Crunching column would be complete without a mention of the Sedin twins so we offer this interesting little note. When Daniel notched his third career hat-trick back on December 10th against the Atlanta Thrashers, he succeeded in completing a rare feat that had not been accomplished in 17 years. Combined with Henrik's hat trick against the Colorado Avalanche on November 14th, the pair became the first brothers to record a hat trick in the same season for the same team since Peter and Marian Stastny did it back in the 1982.83 season with the Quebec Nordiques. That season, Peter had an impressive four hat tricks while old brother Marian wasn't too shabby either with two of his own. The fact the record has stood for so long is impressive considering the list of impressive brother duos that have played on the same team since Peter and Marian did including the likes of Pavel and Valeri Bure with the Florida Panthers, Rob and Scott Niedermayer with the Anaheim Ducks, and of course Geoff and Russ Courtnall with the Vancouver Canucks. Special thanks to the Canucks Media Relations Department for this tidbit. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK (for the week ending Sunday, December 20th) <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/121209_VAN_MIN_raymond205.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Mason Raymond: Five points (3-2-5) in four games It was a career-week for the Cochrane, Alberta native. After setting a new career-high in goals on Monday with his 12th of the season against the Los Angeles Kings to kick off the week, Raymond proceeded to set a new career-high in points by recording points 23 and 24 of the season with his two-goal outing against the Washington Capitals on Friday. The 24-year old has also become Vancouver's go-to guy on the power play as his goal on the man-advantage against the Caps on Friday was his team-leading seventh power play marker of the season. Not only that but Raymond currently sits tied for sixth in the NHL with his seven power play goals while only San Jose's Dany Heatley has more power play goals among Western Conference players than Raymond with ten. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec1409_bieksa_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Kevin Bieksa: Zero points and even rating in four games played. His lack of offensive production this season stands out like a sore thumb - just one goal and 15 points in 36 games this season coming off a 43-point season last year (11-32-43) - but his inability to put up goals has been somewhat easy to overlook because of the situations that the 28-year old is often asked to play in. The fifth-year pro is among the Canucks leaders in ice-time racking up plenty of shifts on the power play, short-handed and in even-strength situations. However, it seems even Coach Vigneault's patience with Bieksa is starting to wear a little thin this week. Bieksa, who is accustomed to playing 20-plus minutes per game, saw his ice-time go from 24:17 and 23:18 to start the week against the Kings and Ducks, respectively, to just 17:18 and 16:22 against the Capitals and Blues to end the week.
  22. All is right in Canuck Nation again following two straight wins over the Thrashers and the Wild. We keep the good times rolling in the Canucks Community with this week's edition of Number Crunching. Read on to find out who takes home this week's coveted Number Crunching Player of the Week Award. (Note: Statistics reflected in this column do not include games played on Monday, December 14th). WHEN THEY'RE HOT, THEY'RE REALLY HOT <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/121209_VAN_MIN_raymond205.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Canucks may be the only team in the entire NHL that can go from doom-and-gloom one moment to sunshine-and-rainbows the next at least as far as the mood concerning their power play goes. Before Saturday's 3-for-5 performance against the Wild, there hadn't been a lot of positives to say about the Canuck power play that had just one goal (a 5-on-3 marker) in their previous six games while connecting on just one opportunity on 18 chances overall in that stretch. So how is it that, despite all the negativity concerning the Canucks power play in recent weeks, the team still manages to find themselves near the top of the League in terms of power play efficiency? The reason for that is that no team in the NHL this season have had more multiple power play goal games than the Canucks. The Canucks have scored two-or-more power play goals 10 times this season. The Philadelphia Flyers are the next most successful team with nine multiple PPG games. Behind them, there are several teams tied with seven multiple power play goal games. Perhaps a more telling stat is that 24 of Vancouver's 31 power play goals this season have come in those ten games, leaving just seven power play goals scored in the other 22 games this season. The Canucks have a record of 7-3-0 this season when scoring two-or-more power play goals in a game. DANNY MOVING ON UP <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec0809_preds01_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Since his return to the lineup back on November 22nd, it seems Daniel Sedin has not missed a beat and is not only making up lost time by piling up points against the opposition, he's also taking aim at the team record books as well. Daniel's goal against the Wild on Saturday marked his seventh of the season and, more significantly, was his 186th as a Canuck moving him into an eighth place tie with Don Lever and just two goals shy of a seventh place tie with Todd Bertuzzi (188). Oddly, the goal was just the first power play marker this season for Daniel after he finished third on the team with nine power play goals in 2008.09 behind only Ryan Kesler (10) and Kyle Wellwood (10). It was the 68th career power play goal for Sedin who now finds himself just one PPG marker away from tying none other than Pavel Bure (69) for sixth on the franchise's all-time list. He's also within striking distance of Stan Smyl (74) for fifth place and Todd Bertuzzi (79) for fourth place. What fans should keep a close eye on for the rest of this month is to see if Daniel can make a charge at making this December one of the most productive months in his career. Daniel's most successful month came back in March 2007 when he recorded 20 points (9-11-20) in 15 games played. Through six games in December, Daniel has already netted 11 points (6-5-11). The Canucks will play a total of 15 games this December. INJURIES? NO SWEAT <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov2809_edler_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Canucks didn't get the week started off on a great note. Not only did they drop their second straight game to end their road trip in Nashville, they also lost the services of defenceman Alex Edler - who had been playing some of his best hockey of the season prior to the injury. But as was evident in the two games that followed, the Canucks simply don't use injuries as an excuse nor are they overly concerned when the injury bug takes a bite to their roster. Below are the Canucks' respective records this season with some of their key players missing: (note: only players who began the season with the Canucks are listed) Without Daniel Sedin in lineup: 11-7-0 Without Sami Salo in lineup: 4-3-0 Without Ryan Johnson in lineup: 3-1-0 Without Alex Edler in lineup: 2-0-0* Without Kyle Wellwood in lineup (injury only): 2-2-0 Without Roberto Luongo in lineup (injury only): 4-2-0 *denotes current injury. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK (for the week ending Sunday, December 14th) <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov2809_twins_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Daniel Sedin: Five goals and seven points in three games played. It was a tough trying to choose between Daniel and Henrik Sedin but to avoid the easy route by picking co-winners, Number Crunching goes with Daniel who was the only Canuck to score in each of the three games this past week and also recorded his third career hat trick on Thursday against the Atlanta Thrashers. However, the most impressive stat from Daniel this week wasn't his goals or points totals, it was his 22 combined shots in three games played - including a season-high 10 shots on Thursday versus the Thrashers. The 22 shots on goal were more than the Daniel had recorded in his first seven games since returning from injury. Daniel begins the week riding a season-high six-game point streak - just one game shy of matching a career-high - while he has goals in three straight games marking the first time he has done that since December 17-22, 2008. Daniel's numbers from last week should warrant him some consideration for being one of the NHL's Three Stars of the Week, which is just the second most prestigious weekly award behind the Number Crunching Player of the Week. But we're sure Daniel is plenty happy already having earned his first career NCPOTW award. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov2009_ehrhoff_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Christian Ehrhoff: Zero points in three games played this week. Since giving us his best Bobby Orr impersonation about four weeks ago back on November 20th against the Colorado Avalanche, Christian Ehrhoff has gone almost completely quiet since that night memorable night. While it's not necessarily a bad thing when you don't notice a defenceman, Ehrhoff's game is all about sparking the offence - something the Canucks will be counting on him to do even more than before with Alex Edler out of the lineup. Ehrhoff has just one goal (one point) in his last seven games and has gone without a point in his last four straight games, tying a season-high point drought for the native of Moers, Germany. Not only would the Ehrhoff love to find the back of the net again, the Canucks as a team would be more than thrilled to see him score. Vancouver has won their last three straight games when Ehrhoff has tallied a goal.
  23. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/116x66_1_103009.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">A break in the schedule and with 21 games already in the books equals a good time to review the first quarter of the Vancouver Canucks 2009.10 season. At the outset of the season, if told the Canucks would be sitting at 11-10-0 after the first 21 games, there may have been cries of outrage among those in Canuck Nation. After all, this was a team that had stated from the beginning that getting off to a good start would be crucial to their playoff hopes given their enormous 14-game road trip (actually an eight-game trip before the Olympic break plus a six-game trip coming out of the Winter Games) beginning in late January and stretching through to mid-March. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov1809_luongo_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">21 games into this season, however, and it is still virtually impossible to gauge this season's version of the Canucks. At no time during this season have the Canucks had the benefit of a fully healthy lineup and not only have the amount of injuries been staggering, they've been to the likes of some of Vancouver's key performers including Daniel Sedin and Roberto Luongo. Strictly going by the numbers, the Canucks are behind their pace of last season. After 21 games in the 2008.09 campaign, the Canucks sat first overall in the Northwest Division and third overall in the Western Conference. This season, the Canucks entered Wednesday trailing the division-leading Colorado Avalanche by seven points after the same number of games played. Keeping in mind that game no. 21 of last season happened to be a key turning point for the team's fortunes as it was the afternoon contest in Pittsburgh where the Canucks lost Roberto Luongo for what turned out to be a 24-game stretch, barring the same misfortune and with Daniel Sedin's return on the horizon, the Canucks expect to be in a much better position as far as their roster is concerned as they drive towards the mid-way mark of the season. As far as individual performances go, here are some of the best and worst of the first quarter of play for the Canucks in 2009.10: THE POSITIVES Henrik Sedin (12-11-23 in 21 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov1109_daniel_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">For Henrik to have 23 points at this stage of the season is no shocker. For him to be able to do so without the winger who's been his linemate since he was in diapers is a bit of a surprise. 17 of his 23 points have come in the 17 games since Daniel's injury. The biggest surprise with Sedin is that, after last Friday's hat-trick, he finds himself with a team-leading 12 goals. He's currently on a pace for a 40-plus goal season although it's probably a safe bet his goal pace won't continue through the rest of the season especially when Daniel gets back into the lineup as Henrik will likely to go back to his more familiar role of set-up man. However, it's probably a good thing for the Canucks to know that if they did choose to split the Sedins somewhere again down the line, Henrik at the very least can hold his own and actually can find the net on a regular basis. Ryan Kesler (5-14-19 in 21 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov3_kesler2_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">Last year's Team MVP looks to have picked up right where he left off last season as he's been one of Vancouver's most consistent point producers so far this season. The biggest change with Kesler is whereas last season much of his success was attributed to playing with Pavol Demitra and Mats Sundin, this season Kesler has been the one credited for sparking improved play among some of his new linemates. He had showed good chemistry with Michael Grabner (prior to his injury) and seems to be a big reason for some of Mason Raymond's offensive success of late. After 21 games played last season, Kesler had just 13 points (5-8-13). He's had a reputation of getting stronger as the season goes along so he'll definitely be a player to watch for the Canucks as they near the midway mark of the season. Mason Raymond (8-5-13 in 21 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct1709_wild03_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">After two seasons of tantalizing Canuck fans with his blazing speed but frustrating them all at the same time with his inability to finish, Mason Raymond looks like he's finally been able to put it all together. Raymond had just 23 points (11-12-23) all of last season (all career-high numbers) but is on pace to shatter all of those numbers providing he can stay healthy and not go into one of his trademark prolonged slumps. Last season, he teased Canuck fans posting 10 points (5-5-10) in his first 13 games but went into a funk for most of November. After bouncing back with a decent December, he went into hibernation again for most of the rest of the season. He had just four points from January to the end of the regular season. Canucks fans are certainly hoping for a different path for Raymond this season. Honourable Mention: Christian Ehrhoff/Andrew Raycroft <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov0509_ehrhoff_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">Christian Ehrhoff came to Vancouver with the reputation as a point-producing defenceman and so far he hasn't disappointed. He leads all team blue-liners with goals (3) and points (12) but perhaps most surprisingly, he leads the team with a plus-nine rating. The biggest knock on Ehrhoff coming from San Jose was his defensive game but that hasn't been an issue so far. Last season, he finished minus-12 with the Sharks. We don't expect to see too much of Andrew Raycroft from now until the midpoint of the season (barring injury to Roberto Luongo) but give him credit for keeping the ship afloat during the six games Luongo was out. His 2.18 GAA and .916 save percentage still have him ranked as statistically the best goaltender for the Canucks this season. If the season were to end today, his GAA would be the best by a Canucks netminder since the NHL lockout. THE UNDERACHIEVERS Kyle Wellwood (0-1-1 in 17 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/09/Sept_23_09_RAR_8_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">He was last year's feel-good story but the only thing Kyle Wellwood's feeling this season is the heat after getting off to the worst start of his NHL career. For a player who redefined himself as a goal-scorer last season Wellwood's lack of shots this season have been especially alarming. Through 17 games played, Wellwood has just 17 shots on goal - an average of one per game. He has had more than one shot on goal in just three of his 17 games played this season. Last season, he had 94 shots in 74 games played. Kevin Bieksa (1-10-11 in 21 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct15_bieksa_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">After scoring 11 goals and netting a career-high 43 points in 2008.09, much more was expected of the Grimsby, Ontario native coming into this season. However, it's been a struggle for Bieksa at the offensive end of the ice. Bieksa hasn't scored since opening night in Calgary although his point production has been somewhat better in recent games as he has four assists in his last four outings. It's hard to compare his production this year versus last since he missed eight of the first 21 games (ended up missing 9 of the first 22 games overall) with injury. However, through Vancouver's first 21 games last season, Bieksa had already tallied three times and had the same number of points as he does right now despite appearing in just 13 of those first 21 games in 2008.09. Alex Edler (0-10-10 in 21 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov0509_prewild03_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">He had gotten progressively better in each season since entering the NHL, so Alex Edler's sudden struggles this season are a bit hard to explain. He had a career high in goals (10) last season but has yet to find the back of the net in 2009.10. He is also on pace for the first time in his career to finish on the minus side of the plus-minus rating. But before Canuck Nation starts going into a panic, consider that Edler had an equally slow start through the first 21 games of last season (which included two missed games due to injury). At this time last season, Edler had one goal and five assists. Seven of his 10 goals last season came on or after January 31st. Dishonourable Mention: Alex Burrows <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov1009_blues09_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">12 points (4-8-12) in 21 games and a shared spot in the top-five of team scoring isn't too shabby but, based on the way he finished last season, it's understandable why Canucks fans are considering this start to be a disappointing one for Burrows. In his defence however, Burrows point production isn't too far off from where he was at this time last season. Through the first 21 games of the 2008.09 season, Burrows had 13 points (6-7-13). It's easy to forget that Burrows didn't really hit his stride until he was placed on a line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin last season, but with Daniel's injury he hasn't had that opportunity much this season playing mostly on makeshift lines. One thing that's been noticeable looking at his numbers this season is that he's spreading the points around in more games. He has just one multi-point game this season whereas last season, through the first 21 games, he already had four multi-point outings. THE JURY'S STILL OUT Steve Bernier (6-4-10 in 19 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct1509_sportscelebs15_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">He is the NHL's version of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. On some nights, he can look like a dominant power forward and goal scorer. On others, you'd have to check the official roster to see if he's dressed. What we can tell you about Steve Bernier is that he's off to a slightly better start this season than he was in his first year as a Canuck. Through the first 21 games last season, Bernier had five goals and nine points. He has six goals and 10 points so far this season and that's playing in two fewer games after he had to sit out a pair of contests earlier due to a bout with the flu. Coming out of last Friday's win over the Avalanche, the Bernier bandwagon is full again thanks to his first two-goal game of the season. Where it will be five, or 10, or 15 games from now is anybody's guess. Mikael Samuelsson (8-7-15 in 21 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct28_samuelson_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">When the Canucks signed Mikael Samuelsson away from the Red Wings in the off-season, they figured that being in the right scenario he could be a consistent 20-goal scorer (even though he had only reached the mark once in his career). A quarter into the season, he looks like he's certainly everything the Canucks have said he will be. However, for those who read the Game Notes on a regular basis, you'll also know that Samuelsson tends to play his most productive hockey in the month of October and this season that appears to be no exception. After 12 points in 14 games during the season's opening month, Samuelsson has managed just three points in seven games in November. Through the first 21 games last season with Detroit, Samuelsson had five goals and 18 points. Sami Salo (0-2-2 in 14 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/08/aug1009_pic_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">With just two assists at the quarter mark of the season, it's tough to suggest Sami Salo's start is anything but a disappointment. However, Salo gets the nod in the "jury's still out" category for the reason that the Canucks seem to be in a transition mode with Salo in terms of his role with the team. His penchant for injury makes it tough for the Canucks to consider him an everyday player. Instead, it almost seems like an added bonus when Salo is in the lineup. Certainly, the Canucks would love to see more production out of him when he does suit up. But even then, the Canucks re-tooled this off-season adding Christian Ehrhoff and Mathieu Schneider and, combined with the likes of Kevin Bieksa and Alex Edler assuming they will eventually snap out of their respective funks, have four defencemen who can be relied on to generate offence from the back end meaning the pressure on Salo should be lightened somewhat. At this point last season, Salo had one goal and eight points despite missing four of the first 21 games with injury. Vancouver's 2008.09 record from Game No. 22 to Game No. 41: 8-9-3 Daniel writes the Tale of the Tape preview prior to each Canucks game. More of his work can be found here.
  24. The Vancouver Canucks have hit the midway point in their quest for hockey's holy grail, Lord Stanley's Cup, - here are 5 more players with the top grades so far this season. Christian Ehrhoff, A Ehrhoff nods while celebrating his OT winner against the St. Louis Blues Dec. 31/09 Even after registering 15 points in his first 13 games with the Canucks, "B-Mac" from Team 1040 (radio) still wasn't sold on Christian's defensive abilities. But I say that's why Vancouver has the Mitchell's and the Salo's - they've got shutdown defencemen. The ex-Shark gives the Canucks a dimension lacking in seasons past, and that's an offensive upside. The other undeniable part of his game is his timing and even-strength play. His +21 rating is right near the top of the NHL, let alone for defenders. Mike Gillis deserves part of this grade for securing his very, very useful services in the offseason. Daniel Sedin, A Daniel Sedin has potted the most Game-winning goals (4, -Vancouver) despite playing just over half the games (AP Photo/ Bill Boyce) ere's a testament to the kind of player that Daniel Sedin is: He's played just over half the games that his teammates have, and yet he leads the club with 4 GWG's (game-winning goals).In 23 games, he has 10-19-29, and is just shy of tied for 2nd best +/- rating on the team with +12. Earlier in the season, after he was lost to a broken left foot, the team tried to rally without him, but there is a discernable difference when he is not playing. Not just because of the uncanny symetry that he forms with his wonder-twin, but also because of the attention other teams must focus on him when he's present. I'm convinced he would be right there with Thornton, Crosby, Gaborik and his brother for the NHL lead in points were it not for his injury. Steve Bernier, B- Bernier manages to keep his balance and protects the puck against Eric Brewer (AP Photo/ Bill Boyce) Interestingly enough, another ex-Shark makes the top 11 Canucks list. Big and strong, with a good sense for where the puck will be, Bernier's committment to offseason conditioning has paid dividends this season. He lost 15 lbs over the summer, and got faster in the process, which is helping him to not only win races to the puck, but also forechecking. Playing just a shave under 15 minutes a night, he has 10 goals and 8 assists in 39 games. I'm of the belief that he is one of the cleanest bodycheckers in the league, if not one of the hardest. Just watch any opposing defenceman these days when Bernier is bearing down on them, -you'll witness the speed with which they get rid of the puck. He might not be Eddie Shack, but boy, when he's coming, yeah, you better "clear the track". Roberto Luongo, A Nothing I could add could do this picture justice... (The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh) For any of the 'haters' that feel that Luongo should have gotten the best grade, I would direct them to my comment about the pictured save. Yes, I do recognize that Luongo has been selected by Team Canada. I am also aware that he is one of the best in the NHL, has a .919 save percentage, is 20-12-1-2, and is sporting a 2.29 goals against average. While trying to remain objective, I will also point out that I clapped my hands together rather audibly when I discovered he was a Vancouver Canuck, via a trade with the New York Islanders. Hockey pundits, though, have a valid argument about postseason success, but that is not what is being discussed here. His season to this point has been strong, and the amazing thing is that purists know that at any moment, he could become red hot and nigh invincible tending goal. His penchant for strong finishes to the season surely has fans humming Bryan Adams' "The Best was Yet to Come". Henrik Sedin, A+ Henrik Sedin celebrates with Sami Salo after a goal, a scene witnessed 19 times already (The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck) Trevor Linden knew this day was coming.As a matter of fact, he even told Henrik so, which is one of the reasons 'Hank' had the confidence to achieve the heights that he has. But it wasn't always so. For a few years, there were the jeers of "The Sedin Sisters", or "The Pantene's" (in reference to the popular line of hygenical products). I've heard them all. Now, I just think of the people who uttered them as insightless, unknowledgeable critics. They certainly don't have much to say about Henrik Sedin currently 2nd in the entire NHL for points, only 2 points removed from the top. They also don't have answers to how two "Sisters" managed to become strong, well-trained men that boast rugged, injury resistant careers. Perhaps if they followed them to Ornskoldsvik (Sweden) and watched them train like demons in the offseason after a short, 2 week break, they'dstart to understand. Henrik Sedin stands tall amongst his peers, as one of the best players in the game. Period. More second half excitement in store at www.thecanuckway.com Larenzo Jensen, with files from The Associated Press and AP Photo