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  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 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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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
  7. Vancouver and Colorado may have started the season both atop the Western Conference standings, but my, how things have changed. The Vancouver Canucks enter tonights match-up with the Avalanche with 101 points, 11 more than second place Detroit (who hold 2 games in hand). Winners of six straight, even without their full defensive corps. Alternately, the Avalanche have lost 8 in a row, one win in their last 19, and only managed three points in February. I know, February is a short month and all, but it's not that short. Jannik Hansen and Ryan Kesler give Canucks fans another reason to jump out of their seats For some Canuck fans, it's difficult to feel sympathy for the once proud, powerful Colorado organization. During the reign of Montreal-rejected Patrick Roy, Peter "Foppa" Forsberg, "Burnaby" Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk, many a Canuck dream was dashed. Quebec Nordiques fans had their team snatched out from underneath them just as they entered their prime. I remember grinding out road games on the radio in the ol' Camry. Canucks would be down 4-2 heading into the third at the Pepsi Center. The last thing I wanted to hear was another synthesized horn and sudden crowd outburst. Tom Larscheid would go on for minutes about Forsberg essentially carrying Canuck defenders on his back as he drove to the net. As far as conflicting emotions go, how many people were torn when native son Joe Sakic lit up Vancouver Canuck goaltenders? Jeff Tambellini and Antii Miettinen have a meeting of the minds Monday at Rogers Arena (photo courtesy of Rich Lam/Getty Images) Much has been made of the recent trades conducted by the Avalanche organization. Though the long-term jury is out on Erik Johnson, it sure doesn't look positive that the teams big slide has coincided with the blockbuster shipping Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk to St. Louis. In perhaps a "What have you done for me lately?" moment, 2010 playoff hero Craig Anderson was flipped for Ottawa's Brian Elliot. Along with David "The Swiss Miss" Aebischer, Peter Budaj, in Colorado, may you rest in peace Mr. Elliot. Cory Schneider will get his 19th start of the season tonight against the Avs. Starter Roberto Luongo joked with reporters about the possibility of Schneider getting the prerequisite 25 games to qualify for Calder Trophy nomination. "I don't know what the plan is for the rest of the way. Maybe I'll pull myself from a couple of games. Obviously, whether he gets there (to 25 games) or not, he's very deserving." Dan Hamhuis chalks up another shot block as Ehrhoff and Luongo look on (photo courtesy of Rich Lam/Getty Images) The Canucks were able to beat the Minnesota Wild Monday, but relied heavily on their League-leading special teams to get it done. Captain Henrik Sedin spoke about the win and reliance on a hot powerplay. "With the team and the guys and the depth we have, we aren't always going to have to play at 100 percent, but at the same time that's where we want to be." It appears the Captains example is being followed, right down to the foot soldiers. Re-invigorated from an All-Star break chat with line-mate Manny Malhotra and head coach Alain Vigneault, Raffi Torres spoke to Province reporter Jim Jamieson. "You don't want to go into the playoffs not playing well," he said. "You can't just turn the switch on. You want to be playing at the top level." On the defensive front, the team is still without Kevin Bieksa, who broke his foot February 15th at Minnesota. But he must be closer to recovery, as he's back in the dressing room and having little verbal jousts with the media. It was suggested that either he or Sami Salo would be playing tonight. "Oh yeah?" Bieksa said sarcastically. "That's very presumptuous I don't know, I'm just a player. I'm not a writer or a GM. I don't know what's going on. I've still got a little ways to go," he said, about a week after he'd first hoped to return. Sami Salo will be a game-time decision, his elbow still a little numb after blocking a shot Monday. With files from Getty Images and The Province, 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. 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/ line favorites to win the Stanley Cup (9/2), I'm Larenzo Jensen with files from the Canadian Press and CanucksHD
  9. Hockey players have always stood out from basketball, football, and to a lesser extent, baseball players because they carry themselves on and off the ice with a certain demeanor. Some call it boring or calculated, while others say they're humble and down-to-earth. Some of the greatest leaders the NHL has ever seen, including Wayne Gretzky, Steve Yzerman, and Bobby Orr, were very soft-spoken players who did more with their stick than their mouths. They were professional and knew their place in the league, respected the veterans, and realized that there was a time and place for everything. Having said that, PK Subban and Linus Omark have all recently attracted a lot of negative attention with their swagger. But, seriously, what's wrong with that? Subban has always been a very confident player. It was the reason why he made a seamless transition from a four-year career with Belleville to Hamilton, where he won the Presidents' Award in his first professional season for his outstanding accomplishments. After logging a team-high 25 minutes against the Oilers on December 1, in which the Habs blew a 3-1 lead and lost 4-3 in overtime, Jacques Martin decided to make Subban his scapegoat and proceeded to make him a healthy scratch for 3 games, all Habs wins. It was Subban's fault that Sam Gagner so easily sidestepped him en route to a shorthanded beauty and a lackadaisical pass to Mike Cammalleri, who also should've been at fault, that led to the Dustin Penner winner. But which rookie doesn't make mistakes? <img src=""class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Elliotte Friedman used his 'Price Theory' to rationalize Subban's exile, but I think that Price Theory is absolute junk. Price's game fell apart and there were questions about his work ethic. As far as I could tell, the only mistakes Subban made were in that game. Sure, he talks a lot of trash, but so do two very good players on the Canucks. Mike Richards obviously lost a lot of respect for Subban because he ran his mouth too much, but if that's the reason why Subban's sitting then the Habs are doing nothing but hurting Subban's game. What had become a trademark of Subban's game, enormous talent and a mouth to go with it, disappeared when he returned to the ice against Detroit. It was so obvious that Subban was overthinking the game, trying to stay within the boundaries Martin had drawn, that he became ineffective, and it didn't help matters when he was -3 against the Leafs a night later. Let's get one thing straight: Price was benched because he was awful for a long period and to win games the Habs were better off with Jaroslav Halak that year (as a side note, even though he was heavily criticized Price put up better numbers last year than he did the year before, but if you don't win games you get vilified in Montreal). Subban should've been benched and called out for his play in that Oilers game. But to tell this kid that what had made him so successful on the ice is the wrong way to play sends the wrong message. The Habs went 3-0 without Subban in the lineup, but in the process they potentially killed this kid's season and development. Like Subban, Linus Omark is a confident player whose reputation precedes him, especially after made him a YouTube sensation. Omark isn't a very well-rounded player, but he's got great hands and give him room around the net and he'll make sure the puck goes in, and after what he did in Sweden you can't fault Tom Renney to pick the rookie as one of his shooters. Well,, and all he did was do a spin-o-rama at center ice before faking a shot and slipping it into the net. After the game, Martin St. Louis wasn't too happy about it and accused Omark of disrespect and showboating. A lot of hockey pundits agreed, and to them, I say: "What!? Are you crazy!?" Let me first remind everyone that this is the same guy that pulled off the in a shootout once that caused as much controversy as Omark's goal. Not only is St. Louis being hypocritical, he's also being a sore loser. Omark did what he did best - he put the puck in the net. As gimmicky as that spin-o-rama at centre ice was, he got the job done, didn't he? That move may have been unnecessary, but I also wouldn't be surprised if that put Dan Ellis off guard. The moment Omark pulled off that move he instantly made himself unpredictable. Ellis probably didn't have a very comprehensive scouting report on Omark and was probably reading deke all the way and that spin-o-rama just sold it. The shootout was meant to entertain fans and Omark did just that. If the Lightning weren't happy about Omark's goal maybe they should've won that game in regulation. If Omark didn't score, this would be a complete non-issue. Stop whining, Marty. <img src=""class="imageFloatRightFramed">Breaking into the NHL is difficult and most young players have their ups and downs, but often the most successful players are the ones who are confident in their abilities. We don't have to look too far to find better examples. When Daniel and Henrik broke into the league, they were physically unprepared for the rigors of the NHL play and schedule, and after less than stellar rookie seasons I think they were questioning themselves if they had left MoDo too early (yes, they did). It wasn't until it became quite obvious that the days of the West Coast Express were over that they really stepped up their game. I don't think it was a coincidence at all that when Markus Naslund dipped from 32 goals and 79 points to 24 goals and 60 points in 2006, both the Sedins broke out and hit the 70-point plateau. It was then that they realized they could play and the Canucks were counting on them in the future. Their play wasn't all that different - they could still find each other telepathically and no matter who you put on a line with them, be it Wade Brookbank, Trevor Linden, or Taylor Pyatt, these guys found ways to score. They were confident in their abilities. They weren't the sisters anymore. I must admit, I was quite critical of them, even during the 2005-06 to 2007-08 seasons when they put up three consecutive 70+ point seasons. I thought they were statistically good, but had only led the Canucks to the playoffs once in three years and in their only postseason showing they were average at best. But there was one play in particular, and it wasn't of the highlight reel variety, that told me the Sedins were ready to compete. The Sedins are often victim of extra shots and after whistle scrums and for the most part they don't retaliate. Players with confidence and swagger don't back down. I'm not saying the Sedins are easily intimidated, because they're not, but they've never been in-your-face players. It's a trait that I like in hockey players and it's all about body language. I've never seen Subban shy away from a puck in the corner, a hit, a risky play, or a bigger player. I don't think there's a shootout move that Omark wouldn't attempt. But on December 27, 2009, the year that saw Henrik capture the Art Ross and the Hart Memorial in June, I knew the Sedins had arrived. How? After being totally abused by Dion Phaneuf alongside the boards, Henrik got up, headed towards the net, corralled the rebound and scored. That's resiliency. But the swagger? Immediately after the goal, Henrik went up to Phaneuf and just nearly made him cry. Watch the So, I ask again. What's so wrong with swagger?
  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=""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=""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 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 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, and The Hockey News, I'm Larenzo Jensen
  12. It's been a while since I've blogged in this space. Hope I still remember how. Thought I'd share my thoughts on what I think the All-Star Game format should be. <img src="" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">So the NHL is changing their All-Star Game format to let captains pick out their teams. I like it. It's novel, it's unique, and as far as I know no other league has tried it before. But what I'd really like to see is for the NHL to go back to the day when it used to be the Stanley Cup Champions taking on a group of All-Stars. <img src="" class="imageFloatRightFramed">Now at this point you may ask what the appeal of watching the Blackhawks, to use this year as an example, play in a meaningless contest when you have 82 other games with something on the line to choose from. Well, for one thing, the Blackhawks wouldn't be the same watered down version of the team that is on the ice this season. I'm talking about using the actual Cup winning team, which would mean seeing the likes of Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien and Brent Sopel, to name a few, reunite with their old club for one night only. <img src="" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">In an era now where teams inevitably will break up because of the salary cap, seeing the old gang back together for one night would make for an interesting spectacle even if there's nothing on the line in the game itself. The champions could even tie-in their ring presentation ceremony on that same weekend so the whole team can be together for the occasion instead of having certain players randomly receive their rings at different points int he season. Having a ring presentation ceremony might even draw some extra media attention from the folks already covering the All-Star festivities. <img src="" class="imageFloatRightFramed">I'm even in favor of a bit of revisionist history if there's a case where they just can't get a guy back because he's injured, playing in another league, or retired (although I think the fans would get a kick out of seeing a retired player - if he's high profile enough - return for one game). Replacement players could be voted in by the fans out of the pool of players (outside of the champions) that are taking part in the game. How would Alex Ovechkin look streaking down the left side on a line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane? Or how much would Canucks fans cringe to see Henrik Sedin centering a unit with Marian Hossa on his left and Patrick Sharp on his right? This idea isn't perfect by any stretch. It may be a tough sell if, god forbid, it were the Florida Panthers or the Phoenix Coyotes versus the NHL All-Stars. But hey, it's a thought and it can't be that much worse than what's been done before.
  13. With three regular season games under their collective belt, the Vancouver Canucks have a win, a regulation loss, and a 'tie' (overtime loss). Tonight during their swing through California, they rematch against the team that gave them the latter. Peter Schaefer gets welcomed to the 2010/2011 regular season by Kings phenom defenceman, Drew Doughty The Canucks travel to Los Angeles with their 40th anniversary home opener freshly spoiled by the visiting Kings. But whether revenge, or a somewhat restless fanbase is the motive, no one knows for sure. It's not that the Canucks are having a poor start, but rather, it's the heightened expectations for the club this season that might take it's toll. There are definitely positives to take out of their early record, including the fact that newly appointed captain Henrik Sedin appears to be adapting seemlessly to his new role. Another factor, perhaps equally as important, is that after surrendering the captaincy, Roberto Luongo hasn't allowed it to impact his performance negatively. Traditionally, Luongo starts slow and finds his rhythm in later November, but stopped 72 of his first 74 shots, and doesn't appear phazed by the role-change. The top line for the Canucks has been producing well, but secondary scoring has been challenged so far (all photos courtesy of Yardbarker) Analysts from the Team 1040 radio station spoke after the loss to the Ducks about the importance of picking up points during this "easier" section of the schedule. With the Canucks top line garnering most of the points thus far, the pressure is mounting for Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond, both of whom had career seasons last year. Ryan Kesler, who had 25 goals and 50 assists, deflected any negativity that might pervade their early drought. "We're getting Grade A scoring chances. It's just a matter of time before they start going in." Kesler received a promotion to the 1st powerplay unit with the twins. "We're still getting a lot of chances. That's the important thing." The Canucks continue to search for their fourth line identity, and are still trying different combinations to that end. Center Rick Rypien became the third pivot in as many games, replacing Jeff Tambellini, who only lasted one game in relief of incumbent Alex Bolduc, who is out with a high ankle sprain. Though Rypien is better adapted to a grinding fourth line role, he still isn't a natural center, and his failures in the faceoff circle ended the experiment last season to convert him. Jeff Tambellini hasn't fared much better, so the team might look to either Cody Hodgson, Mario Bliznak or Joel Perrault from Manitoba. With Hodgson or Bliznak, the Canucks would again be calling on inexperienced players to fill the void, making the cut of Brendan Morrison that much more curious. Willie Mitchell is hit by Alex Bolduc, who later suffered a high ankle sprain, in the Canucks' season openener. The Kings won in the shootout, 2-1 The Canucks expect a similar tight checking game against the Kings (2-1-0), based on their season opener. If their playoff matchup indicated anything, it's their uncanny resemblance to the Canucks, from team structure to player development. The main difference, not just this year but in general, are the expectations placed upon the teams. In a market dominated by NBA basketball and baseball, the Kings don't occupy the same sort of limelight that the Canucks do. It makes for an interesting case study between the weight of expectations on a professional team and results from such pressure. At the end of the season, don't be surprised if we see further startling similarities drawn between not only the Los Angeles Kings' ability, but also their point totals in relation to the Vancouver Canucks. While it is early in the season, one can't help but wonder if tonight we're witnessing a fore-gleam of another potential early playoff match-up. Ryan Kesler on 2nd lines opening three games: "We're getting Grade A scoring chances. It's just a matter of time before they start going in."
  14. As the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton gains it's full stride, several mini-dramas continue to unfold within the Vancouver Canucks organization. With another disappointing second round ousting behind them, the Canucks organization has rallied resources to ensure a better outcome. With additions such as Keith Ballard, Dan Hamhuis, Manny Malholtra and others, expectations for the club have never been higher (which, even by Vancouver standards is quite lofty). Though an unfair measuring tool, several publications, including the Hockey News, have the Canucks pegged to take the Western Conference crown, and others, to win the Holy Grail. Before I add my own diagnostics, let's consider some of the issues behind the scenes. "C" or no, Roberto Luongo is the consummate professional, always leading by example, a welcome presence in any dressing room The hot topic right now is surrounding the meeting on Monday that saw Roberto Luongo stepping aside from the Captaincy. Personally, I like this decision, but mostly because of the limitations it removes from the Canucks. Having your goaltender as captain is a novel idea, if mostly ceremonial in nature. But functionality is always a concern, and not having a captain that can talk to the refs during every event, call, or dispute is a handicap. For the most part, goalies are limited to their crease areas, save for during TV timeouts. They cannot be in and around all of the action, where most of the penalties, infractions and otherwise, occur. For that reason, it's difficult to say "I object" to something that you either a) didn't see or weren't close enough to hold an objective viewpoint. There's a reason Roberto was the first goaltender in over 40 years to hold the distinction: It's not very practical. For all the OTHER reasons, he was a good choice, and at the time, probably the best man available. Ryan Kesler would be a good choice for captain, but perhaps with one or two more seasons under his belt. Currently, Henrik Sedin is the selfless, team-first, lead by example professional that should take the reins. Watch for him to be named as such soon. The Young Stars Tournament in Penticton is quite a hit, with a number of stories being generated even as you read this. The freshly stocked Edmonton Oilers, who won't look much different on opening night than the way they do at this tournament, have their own drama unfolding. Disgruntled Sheldon Souray has been asked not to report to training camp. The Edmonton crew were too much for the Canucks to handle in their opening game on Sunday, which, given the situation, isn't a big surprise. With Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi all accounted for, they're sporting a good chunk of their regular season roster. One has to believe now that this Souray debacle will grow even more unattractive, with all efforts focused on moving Souray and his big cap hit. He's owed $9 M dollars over the next two years, and comes with a $5.4 M dollar cap hit in each... Best case scenario, the Oil find a trading partner with someone else with a large cap hit and a player that just needs "a better situation". Historically, most big-name players that find themselves in Edmonton either have a wife that doesn't like it there, or outgrow the city within a couple of seasons. Worst case scenario, Edmonton doesn't find a suitor, and are stuck this year and next with a useless salary. Unlike Chicago and Cristobal Huet, they can't just ship him off to the KHL (or CAN they?) and avoid the financial headache. "Hey Brandon, what do you do to beat the long Alberta winters?" '"-Meh, not much. Usually just fight..."' (photo by Yardbarker) So far in the tournament, Jordan Schroeder, unfortunately, has been underwhelming. Not to worry, though, as everything that he's done so far indicated a steady, upward incline, and the work ethic is definitely there. Perhaps part of the problem is that many Canuck supporters are starting to panic in the absence of Cody Hodgson from the camp. Schroeder's time is coming, but I truly believe it'll be after another year of conditioning as a pro with Manitoba. He'll more than likely get a cup of coffee with the big club at some point this season, but I'd be uber surprised to see him play more than 12 games this season. Aaron Volpatti might be this camps Sergei Shirokov, scoring two second period goals and adding a scrap during Vancouver's 5-3 win over the San Jose Sharks squad. " (Kellan) Tochkin made a great play, took a hit to make a play and I went in 2-on-1 and saw an opening on the near side and just shot," said Volpatti of his game-winner. Aaron Volpatti warms up for his two-goal 2nd period with a 1st period scrap with San Jose's Joe Loprieno Canucks fans are sure hoping that Cody Hodgson is like the first big-box Christmas present that gets put under the tree. It seems to take forever before you can open it, but it's potential entices you. It seems to make all the other presents appear like consolation prizes. Open it too early, and the surprise is ruined. In Hodgson's case, though, I don't understand why so many are expecting him to show up to camp and play soon. He was misdiagnosed by physicians early, and Canucks doctors finally caught the real problem. Let's allow the lad some time to heal, then see how he plays hockey after that. I don't know what Alain Vigneault was thinking when he downplayed Hodgson's injury early on, saying it was just a "teenager's reaction to a less than stellar performance at training camp" (last season). It would just be Vancouver's luck to have the best prospect in 15 years leave the organization because he doesn't feel appreciated by management or the coaching staff. I'm not saying Vigneault needs to walk on eggshells with him, but he should leave words like that up to the GM to voice. Cody will be fine, great even, he only needs time to heal properly. That Christmas present will be worth the wait. Cody Hodgson during 'better back days' playing in the CHL Top Prospects game (photo courtesy of Yardbarker)
  15. Kent, he of the We Are All Canuckleheads Podcast, is looking like a genius right now. I say this because he was one of the first people I saw making a case for Henrik Sedin for the Hart Trophy. Talk of Henrik being a favorite for the Hart trophy picked up steam earlier this week with an article from Michael Farber over on Sports Illustrated's website (scroll down about midways) who named Henrik Sedin as his pick for the Hart Trophy. (Incidentally, no mention or love for Kesler in the Selke category. Boo.) Michael Traikos of the National Post also had some love for Henrik Sedin as he also picked him to win the Hart trophy. More recently, TSN's James Cybulski gave Henrik some love, saying that the Swedish twin is HIS pick for the Hart. Taking a look at it, I have to say that Henrik has made a great case for himself in the first half of this season to be a leading candidate for the Hart Trophy. The biggest point in favor of Henrik would be the fact that his brother Daniel went down with injury for a prolonged period of time. There are many people out there who will acknowledge that the Sedins are a great duo, but individually they suffer. That line of thinking took a beating reminiscent of the other night as Henrik went on a tear for the Canucks, shouldering the offensive burden without his brother. In the 18 games Daniel was out, Henrik racked up an impressive 10 goals and 18 points, including one hat trick and 2 game winning goals. This is notable given that Henrik has habitually been portrayed as being more of a passer and less of a shooter. Were that the only argument in favor of Henrik Sedin: that he puts up a lot of points and has been able to play well without his brother, it wouldn't make for a very convincing argument in favor of the Hart. Heck, Marian Gaborik scored a lot of goals for the Minnesota Wild and is now doing much of the same in New York (and getting talk of Hart nominations due to the spotlight being shone there. More on that in a second.) But no, there is more to Henrik's Hart and there's a strong argument that can be made in favor of him. There's the fact that Henrik, along with his brother, actually makes players around them better. It's been a long-running joke in Vancouver that you could take anyone and have them play with the Sedins and they'd be made to look like perennial All-Stars. As I mentioned in my 'Third Sedin' article last month, aging veteran Trent Klatt got driven to the airport due to being a Sedin linemate, Jason King got a 'Rookie of the Month' nod for playing with the Sedins, Anson Carter got a substantial pay raise due to being the Sedins linemate and Mattias Weinhandl has been able to take his play with the Sedins back in their SEL days and turn it into, ugh, an Olympic roster nomination. There's also Alex Burrows (pictured above), the Sedins current linemate. Prior to playing with the Sedins, Burrows was a fixture on the team's checking line and wasn't exactly known for his offensive contributions, having scored 22 goals in the past three seasons. In an attempt to fix things for the Canucks, who were in the middle of a horrible losing streak last season, head coach Alain Vigneault decided to stick Burrows with the Sedins and see what happened. The result? Burrows ended up with 28 goals and 51 points by the end of last season and is on pace for the same amount of goals and 62 points this season. Not too bad for a guy who was playing ball hockey and toiling in the ECHL. Burrows' improved play can be compared to the rub Jonathan Cheechoo got from Joe Thornton when they played together in San Jose. Back in 05/06, Cheechoo won the Rocket Richard trophy, the same year that Thornton picked up the Art Ross and Hart trophies. You could also point to Colby Armstrong benefitting from Sidney Crosby when he played with the Penguins, although Armstrong did have his greatest offensive totals while playing in Atlanta. Henrik's linemates should also be noted when discussing other Hart trophy candidates. Unlike Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin, Henrik doesn't have the luxury of playing with ridiculously talented forwards like Malkin, Jordan Staal, Hossa, Backstrom, Semin or Norris candidates like Mike Green and Sergei Gonchar. Not to mention guys like Joe Thornton, who get to play with Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley. While the Canucks are a good team and Henrik doesn't suffer for lack of quality linemates, Burrows, no matter how driven he is, is a far cry from the likes of Heatley. Basically, not only is Henrik being a great player, he is helping to make other players look great as well. Honest question, would Alex Burrows' back to back hat tricks have happened without Henrik Sedin? Probably not, as Henrik (and Daniel) assisted on 5 of Burrows 6 goals. It's a remarkable example of what Henrik can do for the players that play with him and his brother. Some other stats to chew on and consider: Henrik is second in icetime amongst Canucks forwards, behind only Ryan Kesler. I'd imagine that Henrik might be leading the Canucks in icetime if they weren't one of the most penalized teams in the NHL (3rd worst as of last night's game) as Kesler spends a lot of his time on the PK, something which Henrik isn't as prolific with. Henrik's 4 game winning goals puts him in a tie for fourth, tied with guys like Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Zetterberg and Teemu Selanne. His brother Daniel is tied for third with his 5 game winners. His +/- of +19 ties him with linemate Alex Burrows for fifth overall amongst forwards, behind only Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise. Daniel, for that matter, isn't that far off, as his +17 puts him in a tie for seventh overall amongst forwards. Did I mention that he's resting comfortably atop the NHL scoring race with 62 points right now? Should he continue this amazing tear he's been on for the rest of the season, there's a very good chance that he'll be in contention for the Art Ross Trophy. It should also be noted that 5 of the last 6 Hart Trophy winners (Ovechkin, Crosby, Thornton and St. Louis) also won the Art Ross, so being in contention (or even winning!) would be huge for Henrik. There's also the accolades he's been receiving, as he was just named the NHL player of the month for December. He has also led the Canucks in the Molson Cup standings for 2 months now. Although the Molson Cup isn't an official award, it's useful because the Molson Cup standings are based on three star selections, meaning that Henrik Sedin has been getting named one of the three stars pretty frequently, which means his contributions on the ice have been significant. Simply put, Henrik Sedin has been playing amazing. But what about his competitors? Well, let's take a quick look at some other potential Hart trophy candidates. Marian Gaborik is essentially a one man show on the Rangers and is third in the NHL scoring race at the moment and was leading the league in goals scored. There's a good chance that he'll be able to keep up his rate of scoring, but he's one groin injury away from being tossed from Hart contention. There's also the fact that the Rangers are fighting for a playoff spot: they're only 3 points removed from 9th place Philly and 4 points away from the 10th place New York Islanders. Should they not make the playoffs, that will significantly hurt his chances. Ryan Miller has been carrying the Buffalo Sabres on his back for most of this season and has been posting impressive goaltending numbers to boot, even when the team in front of him has been less than impressive. It's been said that members of the media (who vote on the Hart trophy) are reluctant to select goaltenders after Jose Theodore's Hart win and subsequent fall from grace. That said, Miller is no Theodore and will remain a strong candidate if he keeps it up…especially if he is able to take his play for Buffalo and transform it into Team USA medalling at the Olympics. It'll have everyone talking. Sidney Crosby is another favorite and was Pierre LeBrun's pick for ESPN's mid-season awards. With Malkin cooling off this season, Crosby has had to pick up the slack and carry the Pens offense and has done so admirably. It doesn't hurt that Crosby is a one time Hart winner so he has the name recognition that some voters may opt for instead of taking a risk on someone like Henrik Sedin. Alexander Ovechkin has won the Hart twice now and is another guy who is in the thick of the NHL's scoring race, this, despite missing some games earlier in the season. Everybody loves Ovi and it's going to be hard for some sportswriters to resist voting for Ovechkin to make it three consecutive seasons of winning the Hart trophy. The fact that he was just named captain also speaks of how valuable he is to the Capitals organization and will stand out for many. Joe Thornton is also putting up big numbers and up until last night was tied with Henrik in the NHL scoring race. That said, he's playing on an absolutely stacked team with a potential Rocket Richard winner in Heatley, has guys like Rob Blake and Dan Boyle on the backend. Not to mention Thornton's other linemate, Patrick Marleau, who currently leads the league in goals scored. It's going to be hard to argue that Thornton is having the same impact on the Sharks that he did in 05/06 (when he won the Hart.) Compare Cheechoo, a guy who greatly benefitted from Thornton that season, with Heatley a guy who has absolutely killed pretty much since he's been in the league. Assuming that Henrik Sedin manages to continue at the pace he's set for himself and continues to play at the high level we Canucks fans have been enjoying year round, it's going to be hard to say that Hank doesn't stack up against the likes of Crosby, Ovechkin or Joe Thornton. As big of a fan as I've been of the Sedins, even I am finding it hard to believe…but it doesn't mean I'm not enjoying this dominance. Hard to believe that there were folks who thought this team would be better off without the Twins. Trevor Presiloski is a Westerner stuck out East in Toronto. You can check out his website, which features more coverage on the Canucks, at He can also be found over on Twitter at He is an avid reader and loves the sport of falconry.
  16. In the 2010 NHL playoffs, Vancouver draws the 6th seeded Los Angeles Kings, whom they bested 3 games to 1 in their 4 game season series. Mason Raymond has the puck knocked off his stick by Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings April 1st, 2010 at the Staples Center When covering playoff series in Fantasy leagues, I will often refer readers first to the season series. It doesn't always tell the full tale of the tape, and there are always anomalies, but usually offers a rough, workable outline. I'm not a full on mathematician, but percentages and probability rate factor into most sports. I haven't seen the "Las Vegas line" for this series, but I'm assuming Vancouver is a favorite to win this series. Being a Western conference team, the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks were scheduled 4 regular season games. Using this as my reference point, the numbers indicate the Canucks won the lions share, 75% of the games this season. Here's a quick breakdown of those contests: Henrik Sedin signals to the bench prior to a first period faceoff against the Kings in Los Angeles April 1st(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Oct. 29, 2009 - Whether a fan of the shootout or not, it's here, and it favored the Canucks. Scott Parse opened scoring in the 1st period, and Mikael Samuelsson answered in the 2nd period. Samuelsson would also roof a beautiful backhand shot past Jonathan Quick in the shootout. Andrew Raycroft was an anchor in net, making 30 stops earning a .967 sv %. Vancouver wins 2-1. Nov. 26, 2009 - Wayne Simmonds officially registers himself as a pain in the Canucks side. The 21 yr old scores the Kings lone goal and forechecks with aplomb. Burrows, Henrik, Glass and Wellwood reply for the Canucks, as Luongo begins to overcome a slow start, improves to 8-8-0. Jonathan Quick makes 30 stops and records a .909 sv %. Dec. 14, 2009 - The Kings get a good taste of the Canucks 2nd line, who outworked a tired L.A. team. Ryan Kesler broke open the scoring 64 seconds in on a nice setup from Mikael Samuelsson and Mason Raymond. Sami Salo pounds one in from the point on a play made by the twins, though Alexander Frolov cut the lead with 7 seconds to go in the 1st period. Raymond finished off a nice play by Kesler and Shane O'Brien with 5 minutes to go in the third. Luongo makes 24 saves for a .960 sv % and improves to 14-10-0, as the Canucks win 3-1. Mikael Samuelsson hasn't been talked about much prior to this playoff series, but he should be a factor, especially considering Oct. 29th game (Images courtesy of Yardbarker) Apr. 1, 2010 - The Canucks wish that the 8-3 score listed in the newspapers was indeed an April Fool's joke leader, but it wasn't. Sports journalists have a hay day at Roberto Luongo's expense, quoting "His worst game ever" and "Career low" (.724 sv %) in their columns. A number of sub-plots also rose to the surface, including Vigneault's reluctance to pull Luongo despite the run-up score. Power forward Dustin Brown leads the way with a hat-trick, while Frolov, Kopitar, Stoll, Williams and Handzus contribute singles. Kyle Wellwood pots a pair, and Ryan Kesler scores in a losing cause. Jonathan Bernier earns the win with a .900 sv % and 27 saves. Without Willie Mitchell to help clear the crease, the writing is on the wall for the Canucks defense: Luongo must be protected (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Honestly, I can't think of a better lesson for the Canucks to learn from in their final regular season meeting with Los Angeles. "We can't sit back," said Ryan Kesler, one of the league's top defensive forwards, who had a breakout offensive year (75 pts). "If we change our game and become a defensive-minded team we're not playing to our strengths. We have who I think is the best goalie in the NHL and he allows us to take chances offensively." Based on the 2009/10 season, the law of averages argues that the Canucks should take this series. Roberto Luongo should be one of the deciding factors in this series, leveraging them above the Kings and their inexperienced goaltending tandem. The Sedins are rolling in hot and should prove too much for the Kings, who are going to have a very difficult time limiting Vancouver's cycle. Canucks in 6. Playoff series have a way of producing rivalries, and it seems inevitable there will be even less love lost between Vancouver and Los Angeles post-playoffs With files from Yardbarker, Getty Images and The Province, I'm Larenzo Jensen Need more 'Nucks?
  17. It's celebration week for Number Crunching as we, along with the rest of Canucks Nation, congratulate Henrik Sedin for becoming the first ever Vancouver Canuck to capture the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading point scorer. In honour of Henrik's achievement, we crunch the numbers on some Art Ross history and make a case for why Hank is better than Sid and Ovie. And as a wrap-up to the regular season, we present the Number Crunching Super Stats Pack. TODAY THE ART ROSS, TOMORROW THE WORLD? <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Henrik Sedin became the first Canucks player to capture an Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer with his 112-point season (29-83-112) but his greatest challenge is yet to come as he looks to be just the 11th Art Ross Trophy winner in the last 39 NHL seasons to lead his team to a Stanley Cup victory. Since the Canucks' inaugural season in 1970.71, the Art Ross Trophy winner has advanced to 12 different Stanley Cup Finals while winning it 10 times. Working against Henrik, as far as history goes, will be the fact that an Art Ross Trophy winner has not won back-to-back Stanley Cups since 1984 and 1985 when Wayne Gretzky captured the award in both seasons while also winning the Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers both years. Last season, Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin captured the Art Ross Trophy and went on to win the Stanley Cup with the Penguins. Below is a complete list of Art Ross Trophy winners that have gone on to win the Stanley Cup since the 1970.71 season: 1972 - Phil Esposito - Boston Bruins 1976 - Guy Lafleur - Montreal Canadiens 1977 - Guy Lafleur - Montreal Canadiens 1978 - Guy Lafleur - Montreal Canadiens 1984 - Wayne Gretzky - Edmonton Oilers 1985 - Wayne Gretzky - Edmonton Oilers 1987 - Wayne Gretzky - Edmonton Oilers 1992 - Mario Lemieux - Pittsburgh Penguins 2004 - Martin St. Louis - Tampa Bay Lightning 2009 - Evgeni Malkin - Pittsburgh Penguins The other two Art Ross Trophy winners that appeared in the Stanley Cup Final the same season but did not win the ultimate prize were: 1974 - Phil Esposito - Boston Bruins (lost to Philadelphia Flyers) 1983 - Wayne Gretzky - Edmonton Oilers (lost to New York Islanders) NO TIME TO SPARE <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">While some critics during the race for the Art Ross Trophy have pointed out that both Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin played fewer games than Henrik Sedin, one thing that no one can dispute is that Henrik has gotten more accomplished while getting much less average ice-time per game. Henrik finished the season averaging 19:41 of ice-time - over two full minutes fewer on average per game compared to Sidney Crosby (21:57) and Alex Ovechkin (21:47). In fact, out of the top-10 leading scorers in the NHL, only Chicago's Patrick Kane had a less ice-time on average (Kane finished the season with 88 points in 82 games). Henrik is the first player since Peter Forsberg in 2002.03 to capture the Art Ross Trophy despite having fewer than 20-minutes of average ice-time per game. That season, Forsberg finished with an average per-game ice-time of 19:19 - the lowest average ice-time out of the top-13 scorers that season. On an interesting side note, former Canucks' captain Markus Naslund - who finished second to Forsberg in that year's race for the Art Ross Trophy - had an average ice-time of 19:54. As far as how Henrik measures up in points versus total ice-time over the season compared to Sid and Ovie, Henrik finished the season averaging one point for every 14.414 minutes of ice-time. He finished well-ahead of Crosby in that category (one point for every 16.315 minutes) and was only slightly edged out by Ovechkin (one point for every 14.398 minutes of ice-time) ON A HIGH NOTE <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">For just the third time in team history, the Canucks ended their regular season tallying seven-plus goals in their final contest. Vancouver's 7-3 win over the Flames on Saturday night was the most goals they have scored in a regular season finale since they lit up the Los Angeles Kings for eight goals back on April 15, 1993 - an 8-6 win at The Forum. That season, the Canucks finished in first place in the Smythe Division and knocked off the Winnipeg Jets (4-2) in their first round playoff series before falling in their second round series to those same Kings (2-4). The first and only other time the Canucks tallied seven-or-more goals in their regular finale was back on April 4, 1982 which also came against the Kings - a 7-4 at the Pacific Coliseum. That 1982 Canucks team, which finished second place in the Smythe Division, went on to become the first Canucks team to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals knocking off the Flames (3-0), Kings (4-1) and Blackhawks (4-1) before eventually falling to the New York Islanders (0-4). NUMBER CRUNCHING SUPER STATS PACK Number Crunching took the liberty of compiling some interesting statistics throughout the 2009.10 season. Here's a look at some of the best numbers from the regular season: <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Canucks' record when... A defenceman scores: 24-5-2 Daniel Sedin scores: 17-3-3 Henrik Sedin scores: 19-4-1 Mikael Samuelsson scores: 18-5-3 Alex Burrows scores: 22-7-0 Ryan Kesler scores: 18-6-0 Mason Raymond scores: 14-5-1 Jannik Hansen scores: 7-2-0 Kyle Wellwood scores: 7-4-2 Sami Salo scores: 9-0-0 Alex Edler scores: 5-0-0 Sami Salo is not in the lineup: 9-4-1 Kevin Bieksa is not in the lineup: 18-7-2 Willie Mitchell is not in the lineup: 21-9-2 Mikael Samuelsson is not in the lineup: 4-3-1 <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">They score two-or-more power play goals: 13-4-0 They surrender two-or-more power play goals: 4-9-0 They don't allow a 1st period goal: 22-4-2 They don't allow a 3rd period goal: 32-5-4 Score a short-handed goal: 9-0-0 Surrender a short-handed goal: 1-4-1 Don't allow a power play goal: 30-5-4 When getting more power play chances than opponent: 27-12-1 When getting fewer power play chances than opponent: 19-13-1 When getting equal power play chances as opponent: 3-3-3 They play on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada: 11-2-2 They play on Rogers Sportsnet: 22-21-1 They play on TSN: 8-1-1 They play on Canucks TV Pay-Per-View: 8-3-1 Highs and Lows... <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Canucks Most - One Period Goals: 5 (NOV.28.09 vs Edmonton, first period) Goals Allowed: 5 (MAR.05.10 at Chicago, first period) Shots: 22 (OCT.30.09 at Anaheim, third period) Shots allowed: 22 (NOV.06.09 at Dallas, first period) Canucks Fewest - One Period Shots: 0 (MAR.14.10 vs Calgary, third period) Shots Allowed: 2 (MAR.13.10 vs Ottawa, first period) Canucks Most - One Game Goals: 8 (NOV.14.09 at Colorado) Goals Allowed: 8 (APR.01.10 at Los Angeles) Shots: 47 (FEB.02.10 at Montreal) Shots Allowed: 54 (MAR.20.10 vs Detroit) Penalty Minutes: 68 (NOV.10.09 at St. Louis) Penalty Minutes Opposition: 58 (APR.08.10 at San Jose) Canucks Fewest - One Game Goals: 0 (twice - most recent NOV.22.09 vs Chicago) Goals Allowed: 0 (five times - most recent FEB.11.10 at Florida) Shots: 15 (OCT.29.09 at Los Angeles) Shots Allowed: 14 (MAR.13.10 vs Ottawa) Penalty Minutes: 2 (JAN.25.10 vs Buffalo) Penalty Minutes Opposition: 4 (three times - most recent MAR.20.10 vs Detroit) Canucks Largest - One Game Margin of victory: 6 (twice - most recent NOV.14.09 at Colorado, 8-2) Margin of defeat: 5 (three times - most recent APR.01.10 at Los Angeles, 3-8) <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Individual Most - One Game Goals: 3 (eight times - Daniel Sedin x2, Alex Burrows x2, Henrik Sedin, Mason Raymond, Mikael Samuelsson, Michael Grabner) Goals Allowed: 3 (four times - David Perron, Erik Cole, Martin Erat, Dustin Brown) Assists: 4 (Henrik Sedin - APR.10.10 vs Calgary) Assists Allowed: 3 (six times - Rick Nash, James Wisniewski, Brad Boyes, Daniel Alfredsson, John Tavares, Patrick Marleau) Points: 4 (five times - Henrik Sedin x2, Alex Burrows, Mikael Samuelsson, Daniel Sedin) Points Allowed: 5 (John Tavares - MAR.16.10 vs New York Islanders) Saves: 50 (Roberto Luongo - MAR.20.10 vs Detroit) Saves, Opponent: 45 (Jaroslav Halak - FEB.02.10 at Montreal) Statistics and other information appearing in this blog are for entertainment purposes only and a sense of humour is recommended when reading. E-mail the author here or follow him on Twitter.
  18. 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= 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= 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= 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= 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= 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= 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= 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= 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= 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= 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.
  19. It was a Debbie Downer sort of week in Canucks Nation with just one victory in three games to celebrate and Number Crunching continues with the theme by presenting the stats you'd least like to hear about. But of course we do have one bright spot and that's our Number Crunching Player of the Week Award, which figures to be a Ray of sunshine in an otherwise dreary week in Canuckland. THE 100-POINT CURSE? <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Henrik Sedin became the first player in the NHL this season to reach the 100-point mark on Saturday and while it is a very significant individual accomplishment, is it really one worth rejoicing? Since the NHL lockout and coming into this season, the NHL has seen 18 100-point performances (Henrik became the 19th on Saturday and Alex Ovechkin became the 20th on Sunday). Of those 18 performances, 13 of them were players who belonged to teams that were bounced from the NHL playoffs by the second round while only three of them managed to taste the ultimate glory at the end of the season. The following list shows the team success for the 18 respective 100-plus point performers since the NHL lockout: Three failed to qualify for the playoffs: Alex Ovechkin (WSH) and Sidney Crosby (PIT) in 2005.06; and Joe Sakic (COL) in 2006.07. Five were eliminated in round one: Jaromir Jagr (NYR) in 2005.06; Sidney Crosby (PIT), Vincent Lecavalier (STL) and Martin St. Louis (STL) in 2006.07; and Alex Ovechkin (WSH) in 2007.08. Five were eliminated in round two: Joe Thornton (SJS), Dany Heatley (OTT) and Daniel Alfredsson (OTT) in 2005.06; Joe Thornton (SJS) in 2006.07; and Alex Ovechkin (WSH) in 2008.09. Two lost in the Stanley Cup Final: Dany Heatley (OTT) in 2006.07 and Evgeni Malkin (PIT) in 2007.08. Three won the Stanley Cup: Eric Staal (CAR) in 2005.06; and Evgeni Malkin (PIT) and Sidney Crosby (PIT) in 2008.09. Here is how the Canucks' team success has fared over the years when they have had a 100-point performer on their roster in the regular season: 1992.93 Pavel Bure (110 points) - Advanced to second round 1993.94 Pavel Bure (107 points) - Advanced to Stanley Cup Final 1995.96 Alex Mogilny (107 points) - Qualified for playoffs 2002.03 Markus Naslund (104 points) - Advanced to second round HOUSE OF HORRORS <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">The Canucks will not publicly admit it, but if there is one team they would like to avoid in a playoff match-up it would be the San Jose Sharks considering their lack of success playing at the HP Pavilion at San Jose as evidenced on Saturday when they dropped their fifth straight game at the Shark Tank dating back to 2007.08. The five-game winless streak (0-4-1) at the Shark Tank is the longest active losing streak for the Canucks in any building in the NHL. Their second longest winless streak in an opposition building is at the Arena in Glendale, Arizona - home of the Phoenix Coyotes. Vancouver's winless streak at the Arena is three games (0-1-2). Below is a list of some of the other buildings around the NHL where the Canucks currently have a multi-game winless streak: Honda Center (Anaheim): 0-1-1 HSBC Arena (Buffalo): 0-1-1 RBC Center (Carolina): 0-2-0 Bell Centre (Montreal): 0-2-0 St. Pete Times Forum (Tampa Bay): 0-2-0 FIRST THE WORST <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Perhaps the best statistic in the Canucks favours this week was that after surrendering two first period goals to the Oilers to open the week on Tuesday, the Canucks were perfect in opening frames defensively to close out the week. So far this season, the first period has clearly been the worst for the Canucks. Among all teams currently in a playoff position, the Canucks have surrendered more first period goals than any other club with 77 in 75 games played (averaging more than one first period goal per game). The overall leader for most first period goals against this season are the Atlanta Thrashers, who have given up 82 in the same number of games played as the Canucks (for the week ending Sunday, March 28). It is a stark reversal from last season when the Canucks were one of the better first period teams in the NHL giving up just 65 total first period tallies during the 82-game regular season. The 77 (and counting) first period goals surrendered by the Canucks this season are the most in the Roberto Luongo era and the most they have surrendered since giving up 82 first period tallies during the 2005.06 season. Last season, the San Jose Sharks led all playoff-bound teams giving up 79 first period goals during the regular season. Also of note in 2008.09, the top four playoff-bound teams that surrendered the most first period goals (namely the Sharks, Canadiens, Flames and Flyers) all ended up being knocked out of the playoffs in round one. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Andrew Raycroft: 30 saves on 31 shots on Wednesday against Anaheim. It is not often a player that appears in just one game gets singled out for a weekly honour but in Andrew Raycroft's case we are willing to make an exception. Raycroft led the Canucks to their only victory of the week and looked very good doing it, even getting the crowd to chant his name on Wednesday at GM Place. The victory was the eighth of the season for Raycroft marking the most wins for a single Canucks backup netminder in the Luongo-era. Raycroft's eight victories on the season are also the second most in the NHL among netminders who have played 20 games-or-fewer (Raycroft has appeared in 19 games this season). Only Washington's Michal Neuvirth (17 games played in) has more victories among goaltenders in that category with nine. Honourable mentions go to Daniel Sedin, who finished the week with three goals and five points and extended his overall goal streak to four games entering the week, and Henrik Sedin, who had six assists in three games and not only surpassed the 100-point mark for the first time in his career but also established a new career-high in assists with his 73rd helper and counting. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Sami Salo: Zero points and two shots on goal in three games played. For a player that possesses arguably the most dangerous shot on the team, Salo's lack of pucks thrown on net in recent contests has to be a cause for concern. Salo managed just one shot each against the Oilers and Ducks on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, and then was held without a shot for just the 10th time this season on Saturday against the Sharks. He also had a particular tough outing on the defensive end on Saturday as he was caught on the ice for three of the four Sharks goals on the evening and had an especially embarrassing gaffe at the end of the game where he misplayed the puck after an icing call had been waived off leading to a Sharks' empty-net goal. Salo enters this week with no points in his last seven games - his longest streak without a point since an 11-game slump from November 3 - 29, 2009.
  20. This weekend was a big weekend for the Canucks, their fans, the record books and King Henrik himself. Henrik's play has been phenomenal this season. Even when "slumping" on the road he managed to pull things together on the tail end of the trip and end up at a point per game pace. His assault on the record books this year has been nothing short of impressive and here's a break down of what he's done. Canucks All Time Assists Leader: On Saturday Henrik tied Trevor Linden's all time assists record with his 415th assist on a feed to none other than his brother Daniel. Because of that it only seemed fitting that he should break the assist record on an assist to his brother again as the two got Vancouver on the board early in their Sunday affair with the Flames. Henrik's 416 assists marks a new Canucks franchise record and the impressive thing is he's done it in 425 fewer games and our beloved Trevor Linden. All Time Scoring Center: Henrik's record tying assist also marked his 551st point making him the Canucks all time leading scorer over former Canucks center Thomas Gradin. While Gradin did it in exactly 100 fewer games, his point per game average over his career is something I think Henrik will catch up to in years to come. Career Bests: So far this season Henrik has broken his career bests for goals and points and sitting with the league lead in assists in the NHL it wouldn't be unexpected for him to break his single season assists record too. He's positioned himself to hit the 30 goal plateau for the first time in his career and with 13 games to go this season it'll mark another achievement for him in this season that's already seen him rewrite his professional resume with his improved play. Single Season Assists Record: Henrik's league lead in assists is 65. His Canucks record for assists in a season is 71. With 13 games to go, and the pace at which he's racking up points, coupled with the fact that a majority of games are at home, he's giving Canucks fans another milestone to countdown to and get excited over. Canucks Plus/Minus Record: Last year Willie Mitchell was on pace to beat the Canucks single season plus/minus record and fell short at the end of the year. The record of +35 held by Marek Malik and Pavel Bure is set at the end of an 82 game schedule so Henrik has 13 games to make it happen. Henrik's plus/minus is right now sees him tied with his brother Daniel (fittingly) at +35 and the team lead. With their dominant 5-on-5 play and the way, they've put themselves in a good position yet again. Single Season Points Record: This is a little bit more of a stretch, but the post wouldn't be complete without mentioning it. If you do some simple math, Henrik's right now on pace for 112 points. Pavel Bure currently holds the Canucks records for most points in a single season at 110. The Canucks haven't had a 100 point scorer since the last time they had a 90 point scorer which was back in the 2002-03 season when Naslund finished the year off with 104. NHL Points Race: Henrik's play at home has been nothing short of dominating. With the majority of his games at home and with Ovechkin in his sights, the NHL points race is going to come down to the wire. He sits a few points away from Ovechkin and with a potential Ovechkin suspension looming Henrik could really take over the standings over the course of the next week. It's not unreasonable to consider when you look at the way Samuelsson's finding the back of the net and they way the Sedins have always played off each other.
  21. The Canucks are on a high after picking up seven out of a possible eight points (3-0-1) but Number Crunching is going to take a page from Flo Rida's book and tell you about the "low, low, low, low, low, low" from this past week of Canucks hockey. But one thing that's definitely not low is the recipient of this week's Number Crunching Player of the Week Award, who will be revealed if you read on. THE BIG O <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault suggested on Sunday that, after playing their eighth game in 13 days, his team ran out of gas towards the end of game against the Flames and no statistic proves that better than the big goose egg sitting in the third period shot column. According the Canucks Media Guide, it is the fifth time in team history that the Canucks have failed to register at least a single shot in an entire regulation period. The last time that happened was over two years ago on October 21, 2007 in the second period of a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Canucks did go on to win that game versus Columbus by a final score of 4-1 despite being out-shot 36-19 overall that evening. Oddly enough, in the same Sunday game against the Flames, the Canucks also had one of their best periods as far as shots-on-goal are concerned. Their 20 shots in the first period were just shy of their season-high of 22 in a single period set back on October 30, 2009 against the Anaheim Ducks when they notched the feat in the third period of a 7-2 loss. OPEN SEASON ON RAZOR <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">On Thursday in Phoenix, the Canucks saw goaltender Andrew Raycroft turn in one of his best performances of the season despite a shootout loss - even more impressive considering the lack of support they gave him in the form of blocked shots. Statisticians at the Arena in Glendale credited the Canucks with just three blocked shots in that contest, marking a season-low for Vancouver in that category. The previous season-low was five blocked shots, which the Canucks had recorded three previous times this season (Dec 10 vs ATL; Dec 14 vs LAK; Jan 7 vs PHX). The Canucks have failed to record double digits in blocked shots just 17 times this season through 69 games played posting a record of 9-7-1 in those games. Through 69 games this season, the Canucks have blocked a total of 841 shots - an average of 12.2 per game. You didn't really think this whole blog could make it through without looking at some of the highs from this week, did you? KES MAKES IT FIVE <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Ryan Kesler certainly provided a big high this week when he became the fifth Canuck to tally his 20th goal of the season joining Alex Burrows, Mikael Samuelsson, Henrik Sedin, and Mason Raymond. The five 20-plus goal scorers matches last year's total when the Canucks saw both Sedin brothers, Kesler, Burrows, and Demitra all reach the 20-goal plateau. With Daniel Sedin sitting at 19 goals this season, it is a matter of when and not if they will have at least six 20-goal scorers this season which would mark the most 20-goal scorers that Canucks have had in a single season since 1995.96. In 1995.96, the Canucks had seven 20-goal scorers in Alex Mogilny, Trevor Linden, Martin Gelinas, Russ Courtnall, Cliff Ronning, Markus Naslund and Jesse Belanger. Naslund and Belanger, however, joined the Canucks part-way through the season and scored the majority of their respective goals with their previous team. The last time the Canucks had six-or-more players score 20-plus goals all for the Canucks was in 1992.93 when they got 20-plus goals from seven players: Pavel Bure, Petr Nedved, Trevor Linden, Geoff Courtnall, Cliff Ronning, Greg Adams and Dixon Ward. They also had an eighth 20-goal scorer on the roster in Murray Craven although all of his 25 goals that season came with the Hartford Whalers before he was dealt to Vancouver. The most 20-goal scorers the Canucks have had in a single season is eight: 1980.81 and 1984.85. (Canucks goals only). TOP OF THE HEAP <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Congratulations this week goes out to Henrik Sedin who recorded career assist no. 416, all with the Canucks, and in the process became the franchise's most prolific assists man surpassing the record held since 2008 by Trevor Linden. What is even more impressive is Henrik's rapid pace at scaling the assists mountain. His 416th assist came in his 715th game with the Canucks. Trevor Linden recorded his final assist as a Canuck in his 1,138th game with the team on April 1, 2008. For trivia fans, Linden's final assist as a Canuck came on a goal by Willie Mitchell against the Colorado Avalanche. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Mikael Samuelsson: Six goals and 10 points in four games played. If you close your eyes and listen real carefully, you can still hear the faint sound of sobbing coming from Swedish Olympic hockey coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson. Samuelsson, who was snubbed by the Swedish Olympic team apparently because Mattias Weinhandl was going to be a better fit playing with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, finally got his chance to play on a regular basis with the twins this week and he definitely delivered the goods. Samuelsson opened the week with his first career hat-trick against the Avalanche on March 9 and by the end of the week had new career-high marks in goals (30) and points (53). The worst thing to happen to Samuelsson this week is he saw his career-high six-game goal streak come to an end on Sunday against the Flames although he continued his point streak with an assist in that contest giving him points in seven straight games to end the week. The seven-game point streak not only matched a season-high previously set from December 27, 2009 to January 9, 2010 but gives him another shot at going for a career-high eight game point streak when he faces the Islanders on Tuesday. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Mason Raymond: 0 points and a minus-four rating in four games played. He had a rough start to the week in Colorado on March 9 when Coach V decided to bench him after he made terrible giveaway in his own zone resulting in a goal against in the game against the Avalanche (he had a season-low 8:06 of ice-time that night) and the week did not get much better for the third-year pro after that. A healthy Demitra and a red hot Samuelsson meant no room for Raymond among the top-six forwards and, consequently, the 24-year-old was dropped down to the third line playing alongside Kyle Wellwood and Jannik Hansen. His four-game point drought this week marks the third time he has gone four-or-more games without a point. His season-long point slump is five games set from November 29, 2009 to December 8, 2009.
  22. <img src="" class="imageFloatLeftFramed"> Now that the Canucks last home game before the Olympics is done it's time to look forward to those 45 days away from GM Place that includes a 14 game road trip interrupted by the Olympics for two weeks. The Canucks leave GM Place in the hands of VANOC and embark on a 14 game road trip which has a lot of fans worried because going into this road trip they currently own the second worst road record amongst any of the playoff teams in the East and West. That doesn't paint an accurate picture though as the Canucks in their last 10 games away from home, after a terrible start on the road this year, are 6-3-1. The Canucks main concern isn't even going to be the first half of the trip: Jan. 30 at Toronto Feb. 2 at Montreal Feb. 4 at Ottawa Feb. 6 at Boston Feb. 9 at Tampa Bay Feb. 11 at Florida Feb. 12 at Columbus Feb. 14 at Minnesota The first half of the trip the Canucks do a swing through Eastern Canada and if there's one thing the Canucks have been able to do it's devour teams in the East. When you look at the East teams the Canucks are playing they have better goal tending, and the fact that they rarely see these teams gives them the advantage because the other team's lack of familiarity should let the Sedins run rampant. The six of the first eight games on the road swing should be a breeze. Even if the Canucks go 6-2 through that stretch that'll be a fantastic lead up to the two week Olympic break. The tough part is after the Olympic break. The Canucks six games after the Olympics looks like this: March 2 at Columbus March 3 at Detroit March 5 at Chicago March 7 at Nashville March 9 at Colorado March 10 at Phoenix In the first eight games of the road trip the Canucks play only one, maybe two playoff teams (depending on the standings fluctuation). In the back end of the road trip, post Olympics, they're ploughing through some of the toughest teams in the West and taking on a list of Western Conference playoff teams. They're also hitting four teams in the Central Divsion, a division they've improved against lately but one that has been unkind to them all season. The other concern for the Canucks is going to be the Olympic hangover. This could work both for and against the Canucks. The Canucks are going to have 7 of their stars play throughout the two weeks and you have to imagine fatigue will kick in. The rest of the team should be nice and rested, but it's a double edge sword if the rest just leads to a sluggish start and they take a few games to find their legs. That being said every NHL team is in the same boat so that should even the playing field and the Canucks stars will have to lead the team having been the ones that played through the two weeks off. The thing everyone's going to be watching the most on this trip though is going to be Henrik Sedin's play. He leads the NHL in the points race going into this road trip, but of the 76 points he's scored this year, 49 of them have been on home ice. That's the most by any NHL Player this season, but means if Henrik is going to contend throughout the remainder of the season his road numbers are going to have to go up drastically. This road trip is going to define the Canucks season. It's been said before and sounds somewhat cliché, but it plays a role in determining whether the Canucks chase a playoff spot down the stretch or sit comfortably while watching the rat race, and it's going to determine just how good Henrik Sedin really is. Either way, with the last three games of the regular season versus NW division opponents, you can't help but think this season is going to come down to the wire yet again. <img src="" 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.
  23. <img src="" 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="" 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.
  24. People of Fanzone: After a week-long negotiation with CDC, Number Crunching is officially being put on hiatus until post-Olympics after this final blog (our settlement, unlike Conan's, was only worth 32 cents and a Churro). When it returns, Jay Leno will be taking over as your new Number Crunching blogger. Okay, so I kid...but Number Crunching is going on an Olympic break after this blog but before we go dark, we review the best and unusual statistics from the week that was in Canucks hockey in this record-breaking edition and as always, we have this week's Number Crunching Player of the Week Award to dole out. STREAKING INTO THE RECORD BOOKS <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">There are certain individuals in the media (whose names shall remain anonymous) who will have you believe that Alex Burrows is no more than your typical agitator or pest. But Number Crunching challenges all the uninformed members of the fourth estate to show us when the last time the likes of Steve Ott or Sean Avery or Daniel Carcillo had a point streak of ten-or-more games at the NHL level as Burrows managed to achieve this past week on Thursday with a goal against the Dallas Stars (he since extended it to 11 games on Saturday with three assists versus the Blackhawks). In the process, Burrows became the first Canuck in just under two weeks (okay, so it would have been more impressive if we said nearly seven years but Henrik Sedin beat him to the punch) to record a double digit streak. Burrows also joined a rare list of only 13 all-time Canucks (including himself) to have recorded a point streak of 10-or-more games. Below is a list of the players that have achieved that mark in Canuck franchise history: Petr Nedved: once - 15 games* (15-9-24) Todd Bertuzzi: twice - longest 15 games* (7-12-19) Darcy Rota: once - 14 games (15-15-30) Stan Smyl: twice - longest 13 games (8-19-27) Pavel Bure: four times - longest 13 games (12-10-22) Thomas Gradin: once - 12 games (10-16-26) Anatoli Semenov: once - 12 games (1-16-17) Alex Burrows: once - 11 games** (13-5-18) Tony Tanti: once - 11 games (13-10-23) Dennis Kearns: once - 11 games (1-19-20) Alex Mogilny: twice - longest 11 games (9-8-17) Jiri Bubla: once - 11 games (1-11-12) Henrik Sedin: once - 10 games (5-15-20) *denotes franchise record **denotes currently active streak Burrows' current 11-game point streak is now tied for 12th place on the all-time franchise list for longest point streak. Excluding games played on Sunday, it is also tied for the third longest point streak this season behind only Anaheim's Corey Perry (19 games) and Buffalo's Tim Connolly (15 games) and is the second longest active point streak behind Connolly's aforementioned 15-game streak. PLAYING KEEP AWAY <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Canucks fans who bore witness to the Marc Crawford era in Vancouver know that Crow is a coach who likes to employ a wide-open style of hockey which can lend itself to more error-prone play at times. It probably surprised many on Thursday then when Crow's Stars battled the Canucks in a game that featured more goals than turnovers between the two teams combined. In fact, according to the statisticians at GM Place, the Stars gave the puck away just once in the course of the 60-minute contest marking a season-low by a Canucks opponent. The previous low was two giveaways, a feat accomplished four previous times by a Canucks opponent most recently by the Flames on January 9th. What may be most surprising is the fact that the combined four giveaways in that game between the Canucks and Stars (which is a far cry from the 39 giveaways the Canucks and Oilers combined for just the night before) is not the fewest in a game involving the Canucks this season. That honour belongs to Vancouver's October 7th tilt with the Montreal Canadiens at GM Place when the two teams combined to give the puck away just three times (once by the Canucks, twice by the Habs). So how do the Canucks fare in games where puck possession is taken far too seriously? Vancouver has a record of 6-2-2 in games that feature ten-or-fewer giveaways by both teams combined. #1 GOING ON 40 <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Roberto Luongo often suggests that he tends to play better the more work he's subjected to so perhaps the Chicago Blackhawks employed the wrong strategy on Saturday night when they pelted the Canucks' captain with 44 shots only to watch him turn aside a personal season-high 43 of them. It was the first time since April 7th of last year that Luongo had been called on to make more than 40 saves in a single game and as far as it being his busiest night save-wise in a Canuck uniform, it ranked only in a tie for fourth place for most saves he has made in a single regular season game since becoming a Canuck. Since becoming a Canuck, Luongo has posted a record of 4-1-3 in games where he has been called on to make 40-or-more saves. Below is a list of Roberto's 40-plus regular season save nights since becoming a Canuck: 49 saves - February 21.08 - 3-2 SO win at Nashville 47 saves - January 17.08 - 2-3 SO loss at Detroit 46 saves - April 07.09 - 4-1 win vs. Calgary 43 saves - January 23.10 - 5-1 win vs. Chicago 43 saves - March 13.08 - 0-2 loss at Phoenix 40 saves - February 01.08 - 3-4 SO loss at Florida 40 saves - January 26.07 - 2-3 SO loss vs. Los Angeles 40 saves - December 02.06 - 2-1 win vs. Colorado Luongo was just two saves shy on Saturday of tying a season-high in saves by a Canucks netminder. That mark still belongs to Cory Schneider who made 45 saves in a 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars back on November 6th. THE 400-CLUB <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Henrik Sedin opened the week with a three-assist effort against the Oilers on Wednesday but none of his three helpers were more important than the last because not only did that one set up the overtime winner by brother Daniel but it marked the 400th assist in his Canucks and NHL career. As far as franchise records go, assist No. 400 put him into a very exclusive club that previously consisted of only three other members: Trevor Linden, Stan Smyl and Markus Naslund. With 402 career assists and counting, it seems only a formality before Henrik takes his place as the Assists King in Canucks franchise history. He is just 13 helpers away from tying Trevor Linden atop the leaderboard with 415 assists as a Canuck. Stan Smyl and Markus Naslund sit second and third place on the franchise list with 411 and 410 assists, respectively. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK Henrik Sedin: Two goals and seven points in three games played <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">We could easily have gone with co-winners along with brother Daniel or perhaps even named that entire top line with Alex Burrows all as Players of the Week but we give Henrik the sole honour for this week after he notched his 23rd goal of the season on Saturday night and in the process set a new career-high for goals in a single season. Henrik's previous career-high was set last season when he tallied 22 goals and it did take him all 82 games to hit that mark as his last tally of the year came in overtime of the final regular season game of the season. Henrik's 22nd and 23rd goals, respectively, this season came in Game 51. Last year after 51 games, Henrik had eight goals. Henrik will begin the new week with a four point advantage on Washington's Alex Ovechkin atop the NHL leader board and should reach another major milestone later this coming week barring the unforeseen. Henrik is expected to suit up in his 700th career NHL game on Saturday in Toronto - ironically, the same city that he and his brother were rumoured to be headed to during this past off-season when the two were unrestricted free agents. Talk about a close call. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS Nolan Baumgartner: 29 games <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">It's important to point out that we aren't picking on the man they call 'Bomber' for no apparent reason. After all in his lone game played during the week he finished with a very solid plus-one rating in 15:18 of ice-time against the Blackhawks. But for those who haven't figured what the significance of what the aforementioned 29 games is - that is the number of man-games lost combined between Vancouver's top six blue-liners this season. That number is actually higher for those who wish to include Mathieu Schneider's injured games at the start of the season though for our purposes, our top-six consists of Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Willie Mitchell, Sami Salo, Christian Ehrhoff and Shane O'Brien. This season, Ehrhoff and O'Brien are the only Canuck defencemen who have yet to miss a game due to injury (knock on wood). Baumgartner, who became a bit of a poster-boy this week for Vancouver's injury woes on the back end this season, became the 11th different defenceman to suit up for the Canucks this season - two more blue-liners than the Canucks had to employ all of last season. This is officially Baumgartner's third stint with the Canucks although it may not seem that way for many since Bomber has been around the Canucks since 2002.03. He was briefly claimed off waivers by the Penguins in 2003.04 before returning to Vancouver via waivers later that season. Prior to Saturday, he last played for the Canucks in 2005.06 when he appeared in a career-high 70 games and actually led all Canucks defencemen in points with 34 (5-29-34). In 2006.07, he signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Flyers but played just six games with them before being dispatched to the minors. He was claimed off re-entry waivers later that season by the Dallas Stars then spent the following season in Iowa with the Stars' farm club. He signed as a free agent with the Canucks in the summer of 2008 and spent all of last season in Manitoba. Well folks, that brings this week's blog to a conclusion. While we don't have the resources to end it off with a big celebrity guest or a big musical number, if we did you can imagine it would look a little something like this: <iframe width="480" height="289" frameborder="0" src=""></iframe> Thanks for reading. See you after the Olympics. Enjoy the Games.
  25. 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...