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  1. After jumping out to an early 2-0 series lead on home ice, the Vancouver Canucks return to Vancouver tied after a two game Beantown beating. Roberto Luongo looks on after Rich Peverly opens the scoring in Game 4 It just never comes 'easy' for the Vancouver Canucks. Of course, being that it's the Stanley Cup Finals, one wouldn't expect it should. But at the beginning of the series, it seemed like the Bruins might never get a goal on Roberto Luongo. When Alex Burrows scored 11 seconds into overtime in Game 2, you could feel the confidence eminating from the faces of every Canuck caught on camera. My, what a turnabout a change of venue brings to a series. After ripping the Canucks a new one in Game 3, the sea of black and yellow in TD Garden was loud to start the affair. They went raucous when Rich Peverly scored his first of two goals at the 11:59 mark of the opening period. The Canucks, who entered the game 1 for 16 on the powerplay, had an opportunity on a Brad Marchand cross-checking penalty to draw even. But Bruins bodies were flying around, getting down in front of pucks, and whatever did get through, Tim Thomas was able to see, and subsequently stop. To be frank, the refereeing was the poorest I've witnessed in the post-season. A lot of Bruins "head-snaps" and soccer-esque dives were rewarded with penalties, particularly one embellished by Andrew Ference. Mason Raymond was forechecking behind the net, reached in with his stick, which completely missed Ference's chin, but the head-snap sold the call. Also, Jannik Hansen received a pass at the attacking blue-line, and both skates were onside as he moved in with the puck for a 3-on-2, but the refs blew it down. Lastly, they deflated the Canucks early in the third period, giving Henrik Sedin a "slashing" penalty. In reality, the Bruin fell as a result of tripping on his team-mates' leg at the blue-line. This after they missed the Bruins having 1 extra player illegally on the ice. Dennis Seidenberg tries to clear traffic from in front of Tim Thomas (photo courtesy of AP Photo / The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward) It's hard to say which Canuck team will surface in Game 5, with some controversy already on who should start in net, Roberto Luongo or Cory Schneider. Alain Vigneault has already shocked the hockey world in that regard during the Chicago series, starting Schneider in Game 6 after back-to-back blowouts. Schneider, who relieved Luongo after Peverly's second goal 3:39 into the third period, had this to say. "It was just a couple unlucky goals. I don't know if he (ticked) off the hockey gods, but it just seems like the past two games he can't buy a break." Cory Schneider, Roberto Luongo and Kevin Bieksa watch as the final seconds tick down on Game 4 It's quite apparent that the absence of their top shutdown defenceman, Dan Hamhuis (who didn't even skate with the team in practice today), has had a rippling effect on the team. His partner, Kevin Bieksa, looks like he misses him the most. Normally, he has the luxury of being more aggressive carrying the puck into Boston territory. Without that chemistry, the Canucks are having a tougher time initiating offence, which is often derived from their pinching defense. Not only that, but Hamhuis' minutes have to be filled somehow, and that has exposed Alex Edler and Christian Ehrhoff's deficiencies in their own end. Though Bruins coach Claude Julien has stated he wants his players to play with class, Brad Marchand's late game antics aren't helping in that respect. He already warned Mark Recchi and Milan Lucic about their mockery of the finger-biting gestures. But, as Marchand was being escorted off the ice by the officials with a triple-penalty, he performed the "dusting off of the hands" gesture as he went by the Canucks bench. It's this kind of disrespect that hockey players hate, and incites violent acts down the road. Interestingly, Marchand didn't "win" any fight, or really have any claim to do that. It will be interesting to see if he's a targeted man in Game 5. With quite possibly the most disproportionate nose in hockey (now that Mike Ricci has retired), I'm certain the little guy (5 '9) might have it smacked for his late cheap hits in Game 4. Brad Marchand clothes-lined a Canucks defenceman, then low-bridged Daniel Sedin, and chucks his gloves off, knowing someone is going to want a piece With the series now a best of three, the one upside for Canucks fans is that during the regular season, with their President Trophy winning campaign, they earned home-ice advantage throughout the Playoffs. Hopefully the long flight from Boston will give them a chance to readjust mentally, and prepare them for what lies ahead. In a series where home ice has meant so much, it's imperative they corral momentum back. After all, Rogers Arena has been witness to many Canuck victories throughout the year.
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. Google "Canucks slump" and you're going to get an avalanche of news reports about how the Canucks have had trouble scoring after being shutout twice in three games prior to last night's game vs. Colorado. Isn't it amazing how the media can just pick this team apart? I'm not absolving myself for ripping into this team once in a while, but when I do it's usually for more pragmatic or philosophical reasons. The only time I would rip into this team is if they don't put in the effort I know they can. Teams get shut out, the best ones and the worst ones. It's not a slump and we're not struggling. We're just simply going through the ups and downs of any other regular NHL season. <img src=""class="imageFloatRightFramed">Had the Canucks had trouble scoring against the Avs, or put in another lacklustre effort like at Excel, I would've been (sort of) ready to jump on the slump bandwagon. But in between the two shutout losses I think everyone's sort of forgotten that we beat Washington 4-2. I wasn't able to watch the game, but from what I heard we weren't bad and a much better overall effort than against the Rangers. Although, to the Rangers credit, they played excellent hockey, a defensive, grinding style that John Tortorella's effectively used this year. (If Tortorella wants to be considered for the Jack Adams, losing Brandon Dubinsky for 3-4 weeks with a fractured tibia is the ultimate test. If the Rangers can still stay afloat without Dubinsky give Tortorella all the credit). The Rangers stuck to their game plan and executed it to perfection. Despite the Canucks firing 31 shots at King Henrik, the big chances only came when Vigneault had pulled Schneider. Most of the shots were relatively easy for the Swedish netminder and he had lots of help from his defense. Even Lundqvist said so himself: "...they didn't get that much. We had a couple of big blocks here and there." (And for those of you who read my previous Mid-Season Awards post, I bet you Girardi played a big part in some of those!) It was a one-goal game and it could've gone both ways. Both goaltenders were excellent but the Canucks were simply outplayed. It happens. Nothing unusual here, nothing that would indicate to me that the Canucks are in a slump. Then that awful game at Minnesota. Schneider was once again in net and I thought he was great. Of the four goals two came on breakaways and John Madden scored an easy tap-in from three feet when the Canucks defense completely forgot about him. Schneider's SV%, .840, was not indicative of how well he played. Two of Minnesota's biggest goals were scored on special teams, the opening PPG by Brunette and the third, a SHG by Matt Cullen that gave Minnesota a more comfortable lead and seemed to suck the energy out of the Canucks. We fired 32 shots at Anton Khudobin, who is starting in place of injured netminders Niklas Backstrom and Jose Theodore, and while I thought the Canucks' effort was better than the one at MSG, we still didn't look particularly dangerous. Let's also not forget that Khudobin has been lights out since his call-up: 2-1, .942 SV%, 1.59 GAA. It's no fluke, in Khudobin's two starts last year he was unbeaten with a .979 SV% and 0.87 GAA. Again, despite being shutout, I don't think this qualifies as a slump. Now Colorado. What a game last night. I'm a regular poster at, although not as frequently as in years past, but I noted that this Avs team should be a team that the Canucks might have a little trouble with if they met in the first round. The Avs skate extremely well and are relentless. The Canucks may be a mobile team and much better at moving the puck but we had trouble keeping up to their footspeed. John-Michael Liles was particularly effective with his speed and Matt Duchene was all over the place. And, oh yeah, we weren't shutout, scoring three times, twice on the powerplay that was the result of fantastic puck movement and quality scoring chances. We lost the game because Luongo was average and Raffi Torres took two dumb penalties, the first an interference on Philippe Dupuis that led to Milan Hejduk's goal, and another holding call early on the third period that gave a well-oiled Avs PP another chance. I would've benched Torres for the rest of the game after that interference call. The Canucks had gained so much momentum from Sergei Shirokov's highlight goal but that needless Torres penalty just completely killed it. Completely. And then instead of redeeming himself he comes back early in the third and takes a hold. What was he thinking? Again, giving that we had some great chances, peppered Craig Anderson with 40+ shots, scored three times, twice on the powerplay, I don't see any signs of a slump. <img src=""class="imageFloatLeftFramed">There were three things I took away from the Avs game, asides from re-affirming the fact that the Avs' speed could be a problem. First, Shirokov was fantastic. One reason why he's been so good: he's always moving. He opens up new lanes and angles by moving his hands when he's got the puck and moving his feet when he doesn't. He was our most dangerous player all game and it really made me wonder why Vigneault used his so sparingly in the third and on a crucial PP late in the same period on a Paul Stastny interference call why he still went to a struggling Raymond and snake-bit Tambellini on the second unit. Wouldn't it have made much more sense, considering how the game was going and which players were responding, to at least give Shirokov some ice-time there? It was a crucial powerplay and I think Vigneault blew it. Second, Chris Tanev looked tentative, but good. He made a nice play, if a little lucky, in breaking up that 3-on-1 before getting up, losing control of his body's momentum, and then falling on his butt. He's a guy that I can see log regular NHL minutes down the road, but not before another year or two in Manitoba. It's been awhile since Canucks fans have gotten excited about players in the pipeline and there are plenty to keep an eye on. Third, Kevin Bieksa was fantastic. Asides from one boneheaded giveaway I thought he was great defensively, breaking up at least 3 plays, all without any fanfare. He's played himself back onto the top 4 and won't be moved for Salo, if he even comes back. Henrik giving Bieksa that 'A' has done wonders. The Canucks have gone 2-4 in their past six, and only in one of those losses did I feel like we really deserved to lose, and that was against Minnesota on the road, which is always a tough match-up. We could've won that Detroit game had Jimmy Howard not stood on his head, the Rangers' loss came in a lack of effort and a well-executed gameplan by Tortorella, and that Avs game could've easily gone either way. Not exactly what you'd expect from a first place team but not exactly what I'd call a slump, but just a little up-and-down. This is traditionally the toughest stretch of the season, where players start getting injured and hurt. If you want to talk slumps, talk about Edmonton's 0-for-40-something powerplay. ... Actually, that's not a slump, that's... I don't know. I'm lost for words on that one. A slump is when a supposedly good team, like the Kings, go 2-8 in their last 10 and fall out of playoff contention. The Canucks? Still 6-2-2 and first in the conference. Two shutout losses in three games does not mean a slump. Got it?
  7. <img src=""class="imageFloatRightFramed">Sitting at the top of the league with 55 points in 38 games, the Canucks are in an unfamiliar territory. Always considered a division favourite and top 5 team in the West, having not lost a game in regulation since December 5 vs. St. Louis and going 11-0-2 afterwards, a slim lead over Colorado has expanded to 10 points and 1 game in hand and the Canucks are now the heavy favourites to win the Presidents' Trophy, the first in franchise history. It's unfamiliar territory for a franchise not exactly known for winning, but with a stunning effort in a 4-3 road win over San Jose in a playoff-like atmosphere, even the most cynical fan is asking himself if this is the best Vancouver Canucks team ever assembled. The blue and green are en route to a franchise-record third consecutive 100+ points regular season finish and also a third straight division title, but neither of the previous squads had cracked the 50-win barrier nor advanced past the semifinals. Is this the year that everything changes in Vancouver? Most teams will be over the halfway mark by the end of the week so now's a good time to break down the roster and see what the Canucks have in store for the rest of the year. Had Daniel Sedin been healthy all season last year, 2010 could've been the season the Canucks finished first overall in the West. Chicago had just three more wins and San Jose two more, and could Daniel have made up that difference? Definitely. If Henrik was good for 113 points, then Daniel was good for at least 105 as well. They're ranked 4th and 5th in league scoring, with Henrik having a one-point edge. They've been the most consistent point-producers in the NHL since the lockout, but the big difference this year is that they have been unbelievably good on the road. Henrik has 320 home points vs. 302 on the road in his career, but this year has 28 of his 50 points on the road. Daniel has 303 at home and 293 on the road, but has 31 of his 49 points on the road. It's a little unfortunate that neither player will ever win MVP if both remain healthy, because there's just no way to decide which is more important than the other (perhaps Henrik, but only slightly). Just to don't ask the Sedins to play on Wednesdays - the Sedins' combined career +/- based on the day of the week: Sundays +26, Mondays +34, Tuesdays +69, Wednesdays -2, Thursdays +38, Fridays +32, Saturdays +77. And what does that tell us about them? That they suffer from middle-of-the-week-itis, just like everybody else, except that they're really good at hockey. <img src=""class="imageFloatCenterFramed"> While the Sedins have been the engine driving the league's second-ranked offense, clicking at 24.8%, Ryan Kesler has been undoubtedly the team's MVP. He's on pace for 41 goals and plays more than any other forward. He's second on the team in shorthanded ice-time and first in powerplay ice-time (yes, more than the Sedins). In my mind, he's a franchise centre in the Mike Richards mold. If you were to build a team, after taking an elite point-producing centre and locking down your first line, nobody is better than Kesler on that second line. Nobody. Will he reach 40 goals though? I'd wager no, but continue what he's been doing away from the puck - 60 hits, 41 blocked shots, 32 takeaways, 57.3% faceoffs won, discipline - and he's a lock for the Selke. Anything short of winning would be a complete travesty and the whole city should mobilize and march on Gary Bettman's house in protest. We knew that Manny Malhotra was a great in the circle, but did it warrant a three-year deal worth $7.5 million with a limited NTC? I guess since good face-off guys are so hard to come by, especially ones that can play a regular shift, unlike Zenon Konopka or Yanic Perreault, it's certainly worth it. For a team that depends so much on puck movement and puck possession, Malhotra was totally worth it. He wins 63% of his faceoffs, and is just 0.2% of the league from Dave Steckel (a hugely under-appreciated, under-valued player). It's no fluke - he won more than 60% in San Jose last year and 58% the year before in Columbus. He's found a market where he can thrive, not having to shut down the opposition's top line or worry about putting the puck in the net. The Canucks' PK ranks 5th in the NHL and has just allowed one shorthanded goal. The only gripe I have with Manny? While he wins more than 60% of his face-offs both at home and on the road, he has just 4 assists in 20 games and -5 on the road but 13 points in 18 home games and +6. It's nothing new though, Malhotra has always been much, much better at home than on the road, something that is worth keeping an eye come playoff time. Any Stanley Cup contender needs a strong supporting cast. Alex Burrows was sidelined early in the season and struggled with timing early on but has found his groove - he has 6 points in 6 games, and while the argument could be made that any player could play reasonably well with the Sedins, nobody does a better job on this roster than Burrows. Both him and Kesler made concerted efforts to tone down their extracurriculars, but Burrows doesn't have the respect of the league. Dan Boyle was noticeably irked by his high-sticking penalty because Burrows still has a reputation for being a diver. That's not going to help in the playoffs when special teams is a true premium. Like Burrows, Raymond's just coming back from injury but even on the fourth line he hasn't missed a beat, scoring a goal in his first game since breaking his finger. While I pegged Raymond to score 30 goals this year, he's unlikely to hit that total but he will have a chance to turn heads in the playoffs, where a much more physical game has clearly derailed his play. He has just 7 points in 22 career playoff games. <img src=""class="imageFloatCenterFramed"> Jeff Tambellini, Tanner Glass, and Jannik Hansen are three key players in the Canucks bottom six (along with Malhotra) that are keys to the Canucks' success. Tambellini's found a team that caters to his particular talents. The Canucks move the puck well, which allows Tambellini to show off his speed along the boards, and they pass the puck around a lot (almost too much, sometimes) and he's not afraid to shoot the puck. He's a great triggerman for a team that doesn't have a lot of shooters up front. He's also shown a willingness to take the body, with 50 hits in 28 games. He's far from your average one-dimensional offensive player. In Raymond's absence, his offense was more than adequately replaced by Tambellini, who has since been demoted to the fourth line upon Raymond's return. Hopefully Tambellini doesn't get demoted, because he's a good player to have on your roster. Glass is a true blue-collar player. He's the reason why teams don't need any Darcy Hordichuks or Raitis Ivanans anymore, because he can skate, hit, fight, and handles the puck well enough to pin the opposition defense. Hansen is a speedy forward, absolutely vital on our PK with his puck pursuit and he rarely gives up on a play, if ever, but like Raymond he struggles in the playoffs with just 4 career playoff points. How good is Hansen? Take away the offensive side of Kesler's game and the two are quite similar: JH 77 hits to RK's 60, JH's 24 takeaways to RK's 32. It's fun watching these three guys play, even if they're not the most exciting (until Tambellini picks a corner coming down the right wing) or most talented. The two forwards I have the most trouble watching are Mikael Samuelsson and Raffi Torres. For a guy who needs to shoot the puck a lot to be successful, Samuelsson doesn't hit the net much even when he shoots (31 missed shots, 2nd to Dan). At 34 he won't be hitting the 30 goal plateau anymore and while he's currently 4th in team scoring he could finish 7th or 8th by the end of the season. He's better off on the third line because he's an atrocious passer and marginally better stickhandler. Torres is just streaky. He plays with an edge that is there one game but absent in the next. If the Canucks want to go deep these two players have to hit their hot streaks at the right time. The Canucks benefited huge when Samuelsson went on a tear with 8 goals in 12 playoff games. And what can I say of arguably the league's best defense that hasn't been said already? The Canucks are first in the league in goal differential, quite a feat considering that none of our blueliners are elite material. It's certainly an offense by committee, not like in Pittsburgh with Kris Letang or Boston with Zdeno Chara. Ehrhoff and Edler have combined for a +19 rating and 48 points. The two skate very, very well and jump up in the play at the right times. They're so underappreciated (more on that later) that you can't imagine what sort of attention they'd be getting if they played for an East team. Moving forward, given our cap space, you wonder if we can really retain Ehrhoff, who's an UFA at the end of the year. Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard have both made Canucks highlight reels with their patented hip checks, with each at least upending an opposition once a game. I've actually been most disappointed with Hamhuis - perhaps it's because my perceptions of him as a more physical defenceman playing alongside Shea Weber and Ryan Suter - but he plays more like Willie Mitchell without the ridiculously long stick and has better mobility. I'm appalled at times with some of his giveaways and his blocked shots total, just 29, is less than one per game. This entire season may be an adjustment season for Ballard, so the best has yet to come, but he's our best shot blocker and the way he jumps up into the play (sometimes ill-advised and too deep), really reminds me of Ed Jovanovski. His 4 points aren't reflective of his offensive capabilities and Vigneault has used him rather reluctantly on the second powerplay unit, instead opting for Hamhuis. Kevin Bieksa was a big name in the rumour mill to begin the season but he's solidified his status as a top four guy in our lineup. No one else on our defense plays with an edge like he does, except Alberts, but Alberts doesn't have the same mobility or offensive weapons. The imminent return of Sami Salo raises some interesting questions because of the Canucks' cap bind, and while Bieksa was rumoured to be on the block to make room for the hard-shooting Salo, he's quickly become an untradeable asset again. If we can somehow get Salo into the lineup without sacrificing Bieksa or a forward, could you imagine what would happen? This team already leads the league and they're going to get even better. The Canucks were noticeably better with Salo in the lineup last year and it gives us a chance to get rid of Rome, who serves little purpose other than to give the other five defenseman a breather or two. As awkward as Alberts looks with the puck, he's one of our most physical defenceman. Honestly, I just can't wait to get rid of Aaron Rome. I don't think he brings anything to this team that we don't already have but you had to admit he's a huge upgrade over Eric Weinrich, Ossi Vaananen, or some other extra defenceman plug we manage to get for a pick at the deadline. The biggest reason for our success? Our away record, which at 7 games above .500 is an extra 14 points for a team that plays average hockey on the road. The reason? Roberto Luongo. Last year's road record: 13-14-1, 3.07 GAA, .894 SV%. This year: 8-5-2, 2.59 GAA, .907 SV%. Luongo's still a far superior at home than on the road, but his stats have improved. It's not where the Canucks would like it to be, since his home record is a staggering 10-3-1, 2.25 GAA, .926 SV%, but you hope that Luongo can at least find a happy medium at home and on the road when all's said and done. <img src=""class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Is this the best Canucks team ever? I certainly think so. In terms of top-end talent nothing beats the Mogilny-Bure duo, but they were never healthy at the same time and the team couldn't win any games. Mogilny's best year as a Canuck, his first, with 55 goals and 107 points, was wasted with Bure appearing in only 15 games and an atrocious Kirk McLean in net. We have a splendid first line, a spectacular second-line centre, a bottom six that can hit, skate, and score, a very capable and mobile defense, and a goalie who still has some good seasons in him. The Canucks are tops in the league in every single relevant category: 25 wins (t-1st), 8 losses (1st), .724 point % (1st), 3.42 g/g (1st), 2.45 ga/g (5th), 24.8% PP (2nd), 85% PK (6th), 56.3% faceoffs (1st). The worst part about all these league leading stats? The Canucks still don't get any respect. As of today, the Canucks' rank in all-star voting by position: forwards Henrik (23rd), Daniel (24th), Kesler (52nd); defencemen Hamhuis (25th), Ehrhoff (36th), Edler (38th); and Luongo (10th) The only wrinkle? Of the 24 times the Presidents' Trophy has been awarded, only 7 have gone on to win titles. It's clearly not a barometer for postseason success but we're looking pretty good right now.
  8. Hockey pundits and fans talk all they want and make bold predictions but once the puck drops the NHL really reminds us of how futile our efforts really are. Carolina, Toronto, and Dallas are all unbeaten. Pittsburgh is winless. Someone once said that sports is the most successful and best reality show in the world. I'd have to agree. Here are some storylines to keep watching for the rest of the year (or just to save myself some embarrassment, the next week). <img src=""class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Leafs are 2-0 but don't get used to that 1.000 winning percentage too soon because they face off against the winless Penguins next and you know Sidney Crosby won't be letting the former Cup champs slide to 0-3. To the Leafs' credit they've looked incredible so far. Their fans needed this hot start and so did Ron Wilson, who is temporarily off the hot seat but if the Leafs hit the links soon again this year then he won't be back coming back. The looked good in their season opener but remember that the Habs were without two of their top four with Andrei Markov and Roman Hamrlik both sidelined with injuries. With a healthy Phil Kessel and the addition of the shifty Kris Versteeg the Leafs are noticeably faster this year and caused all kinds of havoc on a disorganized Senators team. But if the Pens' breakouts continue to look like this then the Leafs may go 3-0. I noted Brent Burns as the player to watch in Minnesota and even though they're still having a little trouble putting the puck in the net (only 4 goals in 2 games) in Burns' second game he played 30:57, over 23 minutes on even strength alone. That's Scott Niedermayer/Chris Pronger territory right there. Burns is averaging 28:25 per game, fourth in the league and also has 9 shots, good enough for 8th in the league. While his defensive play is still probably something to be desired if you haven't picked up Burns yet in your fantasy league now's a pretty good time to do so. At least for now all the stars are pointing in the right direction for Burns. Speaking of good starts how about those Oilers? Taylor Hall didn't bulge the twine but he didn't have to. He was probably Edmonton's best player even though Jordan Eberle did steal the show which prompted some good ol' Canadian tongue in cheek humour from the rest of the dressing room. It's a small sample but judging from the Oiler's dressing room atmosphere but it really looks like they've got a team. One of the reasons the Blackhawks were so successful was partly because a lot of their young players matured together. The Oilers could be next with their Big Three (Eberle, Hall, Magnus Paajarvi). It's too early to speak of playoffs but this team is playing with confidence and sometimes the most dangerous teams in the NHL are the ones that no one ever takes seriously, like Colorado and Phoenix last year. Nikolai Khabibulin is no Ilya Bryzgalov but he does have a Cup ring (2004 with Tampa). Consistency may be the Oilers' biggest enemy this year, however. At least Oiler games won't be boring to watch anymore with one of the Big Three expected to score each game. If the Flames keep playing like that, which I suspect they will, they're finishing last in the Northwest. They're slow and old and generally ineffective. That Dion Phaneuf trade looks terrible right now and I do agree with Mike Peca in that Jay Bouwmeester is really easy to play against. He wasn't in the spotlight in Florida because it was mostly on Olli Jokinen (who coincidentally is on the Flames. Again). He didn't want to play for a non-hockey market team but didn't step his game any when he was shipped to hockey-mad Calgary. Bouwmeester is a complimentary player who's earning franchise player money. That just won't work under the cap. Mark my words, Bouwmeester is going to be the next Wade Redden. Last night Eric Francis from the Calgary Sun was on CBC and noted the friction between Darryl and Brent Sutter. My guess is that by the end of the year Brent stays while Darryl gets the boot. It's not exactly Brent's fault he was little to work. Next in line for Calgary's GM position is probably going to be the architect of Tampa's Cup win over Calgary in 2004, Jay Feaster. You get the feeling Calgary's going to be swimming circles all season long. <img src=""class="imageFloatRightFramed">Joe Thornton was named San Jose's captain after training camp ended and I have to say he's the most logical choice. Dan Boyle is relatively new to San Jose and doesn't come with Rob Blake's pedigree and Patrick Marleau had his chance. Joe Pavelski will be wearing an 'A' soon enough but he's a couple seasons away from captain material. Don't make any mistake though, this isn't the same Joe Thornton that briefly captained the Bruins. But like Shea Weber with Nashville and previously Roberto Luongo with Vancouver, I wonder if handing Thornton the captaincy is a goodwill gesture ultimately geared towards coming to a long-term extension. The whole situation blew up in Atlanta's face with Ilya Kovalchuk (more on him later) when they made him captain but San Jose is a contender with plenty of options for Thornton to pass to. Henrik Sedin was also the logical choice to be captain although I have to admit I had Ryan Kesler pegged as wearing the 'C'. Hank was management's choice all along because they felt Kesler's not quite ready yet. At least this time the logic behind this one seems sound, unlike when they made Luongo captain (not that he was a bad one but there's a reason why goalies can't/don't wear the 'C'). The assistants were hand-picked by Henrik himself and unsurprisingly includes brother Daniel, Kesler, and newcomer Manny Malhotra. It may have surprised some that Kevin Bieksa was named the fourth assistant over the steady Dan Hamhuis or high-scoring Christian Ehrhoff or Alex Edler, but I think this is Henrik's first leadership move. By giving Bieksa the 'A' Henrik's publicly (but quietly) challenging Bieksa to assume a leadership role and play better. There's still a chance that Bieksa will remain a Canuck beyond the trade deadline and this season but of course that will depend on how well Bieksa plays and so far it's only been so-so. The NHL opened their season with games abroad, the fourth consecutive year they've done so. Minnesota and Carolina opened in Helsinki, Phoenix and Boston in Prague, and Columbus and San Jose in Stockholm. I think it's absolutely great that the NHL is playing meaningful games overseas, especially in Europe (forget anywhere else), although the selection of teams does leave my head scratching. If anyone had been watching those early games you might have noticed that most of the games, especially Columbus-San Jose, played to quiet and mostly empty arenas. If Gary Bettman wants to maximize these opportunities, which he should, his selection of the teams has to be better. San Jose and Columbus don't have any significant Swedes to speak of and that means less vested interest for Swedish fans. Instead, pick teams with enough significant local flavour to play games. Could you imagine how crazy a Detroit-Vancouver match-up would be in Stockholm? Why aren't national heroes Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne playing in Helsinki when this may be their last swan song together? Why aren't Ales Hemsky or Patrik Elias in Prague? Why not bring Marian Hossa and Zdeno Chara to Bratislava? And KHL willing, why not have the Pens and Capitals face-off in Moscow? (My guess is that a Pens-Caps 2-game series in Moscow will just about trounce anything the KHL has to offer and president Alexander Medvedev doesn't want that). Europe's a hockey market. Let's showcase the best of the best. Unlike Bob McKenzie, I didn't have a problem with the that left Ivanans concussed. I agree that the fight really didn't solve anything but the Oilers were completely dominating and it doesn't take much to tick off hockey players sometimes and God knows what it could've escalated to. I bet you that McKenzie would change his tune had Ivanans made a run at Eberle or Hall because MacIntyre refused to fight. Could Ivanans have saved himself from a concussion? Maybe. The truth is, once you lace up those skates you play knowing that there's the possibility of getting hurt. If you drop the gloves you expect to be punched. Ivanans' an enforcer who's job is to hit, fight, and spark his team. MacIntyre didn't want to fight but he knew he had to. Fights happen. Concussions happen. Live with it. McKenzie says there was no point. I say it's just two guys trying to keep their NHL careers afloat and it's just unfortunate one had to leave the game. I think fighting does belong in the game but heavyweights are a dying breed. There's no use keeping a player on the roster for his fists if he can't skate. Speaking of heavyweights as a dying breed, one of the reasons is because stars (some, at least) aren't afraid to drop the gloves anymore. while Henrik Zetterberg tussled with Ryan Getzlaf behind the play. The Ducks were taking runs at the Wings' skill players all game and when you don't have a heavyweight (and given Detroit's success, another reason why you don't necessarily need one) these players have to fend for themselves. This is the way hockey should be. Stand up for yourself and fight. Big props to David Booth for dropping the gloves with Mike Richards upon his return instead of having a plug like Andrew Peters (now a Canuck) doing it for him. And who says you need a good fight to spark a team? Kovalchuk's tilt against Mike Green wasn't spectacular but for a guy who earns $10 million a season and scores 40+ goals to willingly drop the gloves like that and try and generate something speaks a lot about his character. And let's face it, an ugly Kovalchuk-Green tilt is more interesting than some unknown fourth liners in a fight. I'm not sure if anyone's kept track but I thought it was interesting that while
  9. All things considered, Kevin Bieksa seems to be on the outside looking in. With the acquisitions of Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard the Canucks don't have enough room to keep everyone. Alex Edler and Christian Ehrhoff aren't going anywhere, so at $3.75 million Bieksa is a very expensive third pair defenseman. Salo, Hamhuis, and Ballard all have no-trade clauses. I imagine none of the three will be asked to waive those clauses and if asked would be unwilling. Ben Kuzma of The Province lists Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles, Columbus, and Dallas as potential suitors, but to me none of those teams make sense, especially when Mike Gillis wants to make "a hockey deal." <img src=""class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Now in mid-July, training camp is about two months away. It gives Gillis ample time to find a trade he likes, but as the saying goes, it takes two to tango. Considering how long this Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes has been going on, Gillis may end up having to jettison Bieksa in a hurry. It would be a little awkward for Bieksa to show up at camp when he knows he's going to be gone. If Gillis wants to make a hockey deal, I can't see him trading Bieksa to a Western Conference team, although it may end up having to happen. As many as ten teams reportedly asked about Bieksa at the trade deadline and perhaps around the same at the draft but obviously nobody offered anything concrete that Gillis liked. Here's a look at some ideal trading partners. Anaheim - The Ducks are swimming in shallow water with their current blueline. Ha. Ha. Ha. Even with the addition of Toni Lydman, the retirement of Scott Niedermayer automatically makes their blueline go from above average to mediocre. Bieksa would be a good fit in SoCal and had Brian Burke still been their boss it would've happened already. But Anaheim is a conference opponent and has bigger things to worry about (re-signing Bobby Ryan) before making any other decisions. Buffalo - It's close to Ontario so maybe Bieksa can find some solace in being traded to one of the most boring cities. Looking at the Sabres defense, I'm going to take a gander and guess that Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier are planning on Ryan Miller to steal at least 10-15 games. The Sabres do have some young players - Philip Gogulla, Paul Byron - worth taking a second look at. Carolina - Quick, name the 'Canes top four. If you guessed Joni Pitkanen, Joe Corvo, Anton Babchuk, and Tim Gleason, give yourself a pat on the back. It may not seem like much, but this group is underrated, starting from the puck-moving ability of Pitkanen to the consistent play of Gleason. Adding Bieksa gives them some toughness and it seems like 'Canes fans wouldn't mind seeing Bieksa there either (although I'd have to pop Wage's bubble and speak for Gillis: "No, thanks."). Digression: Guy to watch for last year was Brandon Sutter. This year it's not Zach Boychuk or Drayson Bowman. It's Jamie McBain. Bonus points for a cool name. Columbus - Of Kuzma's suggestions, this makes the most sense. If Bieksa heads to Ohio, he automatically becomes one of their go-to guys, although I don't think GM Scott Howson and the money-conscious Jackets would like a $1 million seventh guy (Marc Methot). I also believe that Howson would be reluctant to give up any picks or prospects, considering the somewhat promising future of the organization. Although rumours did indicate that Howson was dangling Nikita Filatov I can't see the Russian winger fitting into Gillis' smart hockey, team-first locker room culture. Dallas - Kuzma has already reported that the Stars are on a restricted payroll. That counts them out already even with the Marc Crawford connection. I can't see them adding more salary after re-signing their RFAs. <img src=""class="imageFloatRightFramed">Florida - Trading with the Cats has always served us well so why not do it again? Bieksa slots in easily as a top four defenseman and that puts less pressure on Russian sensation Dmitri Kulikov and Keaton Ellerby to perform. It seems unlikely, however, that Dale Tallon would part with any picks or prospects as he begins to put his stamp on the team. A name of interest, since Gillis loves his BC boys, is Michal Repik, a Czech native who honed his hockey skills under Don Hay and the Giants. A key player to watch out for on the Panthers is Evgeni Dadonov. I got the chance to see him last year at the Panthers training camp in Port Hawkesbury in an exhibition game against my alma mater, St. Francis Xavier. The kid can fly. And snipe. Los Angeles - If the Kings land Kovalchuk, forget about it. The Kings have $16 million in cap space as of right now, and if Kovalchuk gets what he wants at least half of that will count towards the cap. Tack on Bieksa's salary and it looks workable, but even with Michal Handzus ($4 million) and Justin Williams' ($3 million) contracts expiring next year Lombardi needs to leave enough room to re-sign RFAs Wayne Simmonds, Jack Johnson, and Drew Doughty. In the long run it just doesn't make sense, especially if you consider the fact that the Kings and Canucks are developing a rivalry of sorts. NY Islanders - The Isles need to reach the cap floor. Adding Bieksa won't solve the problem but it helps in the number books and on the ice. With their years of futility it won't be hard to pry a decent prospect from GM Garth Snow although the former Canuck 'tender is quickly developing a reputation around the league as a tough negotiator. San Jose - The Sharks do have enough room to accommodate Bieksa and could use another body on defense but the best package Gillis may get offered by Doug Wilson is a late 1st rounder and a mid-level prospect. Not a bad haul, but again, the Sharks are a Western Conference team that will be playoff staples and their pipeline isn't exactly overflowing with quality prospects. EDIT: Tampa Bay - The Bolts have a good group of forwards and maybe now Vincent Lecavalier can stop whining about not having Vaclav Prospal as his winger with Simon Gagne in the fold. The defense needs work and with arguably their toughest defenseman gone they could use some grit on the back end. Philly fans are going to love Matt Walker. It seems as though Steve Yzerman has been given the green light so the normally cost-conscious Bolts won't be adverse to adding salary. Washington - I honestly thought the Caps would land Anton Volchenkov on July 1. It didn't happen so the Caps defense remains the same: offensively gifted but defensively clueless. Adding Bieksa puts some much needed sandpaper on their back end and as of right now Jeff Schultz is their shut-down man. Yikes. John Carlson and Karl Alzner are all but guaranteed spots for next year's lineup but the Caps' pipeline features plenty of intriguing players like Anton Gustafsson (the son of Team Sweden coach Bengt Gustafsson), Patrick McNeill, Francois Bouchard, Andrew Gordon, and Mathieu Perreault.
  10. 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.
  11. With their loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday, the Vancouver Canucks dropped to 2 games below .500 on the road. Could some roster changes be far behind? The Canucks found out why the Lightning have gone 10-2-2 since the New Year at home, courtesy of Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos Not that anyone is pressing the panic button yet, seeing as how the club is not far removed from a 7 game winning streak. But on their current road trip, the Canucks are 2-3, with one of the wins coming against one of the leagues worst teams, and the other versus a team that had lost 9 straight games. The fact is that the Canucks are a different team on the road, and it’s showing now more than ever. Though the Canucks have injured players from other clubs, it often seems Vancouver receives the lions share of injuries (The Canadian Press / J. Meric) Of course, I’ll be one of the first individuals to defend the Canucks ineptitude on the road by pulling the ‘injuries’ card. It has never been lost on me that Willie Mitchell is our top shutdown defender, and I hope he continues to wear a Vancouver sweater for years to come. Following a hit from Evgeni Malkin January 16th, Mitchell has been suffering post-concussion symptoms, including headaches. While a number of Canucks defenders have picked up the slack, it’s nearly impossible to replace what the minutes-muncher brings to the table. It is projected that he will be back after the Olympics break, but just ask anyone with the last name Lindros how tricky these kind of injuries are, and you see it’s just that – projection. Mike Fisher of the Ottawa Senators nearly added to the Canucks' blueline "games missed" tally with this hit on Aaron Rome (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images) Any Vancouver hockey fan knows that every year, a certain amount of games for Sami Salo have to be written off in lieu of injury, -this season being no exception. They also recognize that when he is healthy, he provides the team with veteran qualities that are hard to replace. He is patient with the puck, almost always makes a great first pass out of their zone, and his bomb from the point makes goaltenders nervous. His calming influence on the blueline was noticeably absent in their first 4 games of the current road trip. Even when things get scrambly, particularly behind Luongo and in the tough areas along the end boards, he remains poised. He returned from a groin injury against Tampa Bay and during 25 shifts played over 24 minutes, with 4 shots on goal. Canucks fans are all crossing their fingers his health prevails down the stretch. In their defense, the Canucks have run into some hot goaltending during this road trip, including Jaroslav Halak and Antero Niitymaki, both vying for Olympic jobs (AP Photo) Kevin ‘Boom Boom’ Bieksa must have nightmares about sharp, slicing blades. His misfortune with errant skate blades has been epic, if not outright freaky. In particular, the months of November and December are ominous ones for the intense, yet well-humored Grimsby, Ontario native. November 3rd, 2007 had the 5th round draft pick lacerate his calf, subsequently missing the next 47 games. The following November (13th), he broke his foot, though only missing 7 games. Bad luck struck again last December, with a left ankle tendon laceration. He is sporting a walking cast, and still sidelined indefinitely. Though Shane O’Brien has elevated his game in several aspects, Bieksa’s nastiness in front of Luongo is sorely missed. He causes opponents to have their head on a swivel should they crash Roberto when he is patrolling. Pavol Demitra had a torn rotator cuff, but wanted to represent Slovakia for the Olympics, so Hal Gill helps him test it out (Associated Press Photo) The official trade deadline is March 3rd, though there is a roster freeze in effect starting Friday while the Olympics take place. Of course, General Managers (including Mike Gillis) still have the ability to enter talks with other teams regarding prospective deals. Considering Gillis’ past performance, I don’t expect more than 2, possibly 3 moves come the deadline, but something must be done. With the Canucks penchant for sustaining injuries heading into the postseason, and particularly on defense, it should behoove Gillis to pull the trigger to add some defensive depth. With injuries to prominent defenders on Vancouver's roster, the safe play for Gillis would be to add another defenseman, preferably capable of 2nd powerplay unit duty (pictured left to right, courtesy of TSN: Willie Mitchell, Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo) Given Vancouver’s situation in the standings (currently 6th in the Western Conference, 2nd in Northwest), they are ill-advised to stand pat. Were the playoffs to begin today, the Canucks would face the Colorado Avalanche, with the Avalanche holding home advantage. Unless Vancouver can get and retain top spot in the Northwest, they will likely will spend the majority of whatever playoff hockey they play on the road. Considering the Avalanche’s home record (19-8-2), combined with their superior road record (Colorado: 15-11-4, Vancouver: 12-14-1), the glass certainly looks half-empty for the Canucks. Should the Canucks road woes continue prior to the Olympic break, it’s highly likely that my next blog will be focusing in on possible names on the trade-block, and potential suitors from around the NHL. Got Canucks? Visit with files from TSN, AP Photo and the Canadian Press, I'm Larenzo Jensen
  12. <img src="" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">It is interesting that at the beginning of the NHL campaign, the Vancouver Canucks were over the salary cap and over the roster limit and we are halfway through the season and the Canucks have yet to have to really address any of the problems. Coming out of training camp, Tanner Glass and Sergei Shirokov made it, Pavol Demitra was suppose to be back by mid- or late-October, Brad Lukowich had a good camp, Mathieu Schneider was out until late October, and Jannik Hansen broke his finger in a fight with the Edmonton Oilers' Gilbert Brule. The Canucks started off by sending Cody Hodgson back to the Ontario Hockey League's Brampton Battalion, sending Brad Lukowich to the Texas Stars, placed both Mathieu Schneider and Pavol Demitra on long-term injured reserved to free up the required cap space to get the Canucks under the $56.8 million salary cap. By the latest, the Canucks would be forced to make some moves in late October. But what do you know, Daniel Sedin breaks his foot four games into the season and is out until early November, effectively freeing up the necessary cap space for Mathieu Schneider to make his Canucks debut. We learn that Pavol Demitra had suffered a setback in his rehab from offseason shoulder surgery and had to undergo a second procedure, pushing his return date to December. Michael Grabner who was called up to replace the injured Daniel Sedin, injures his ankle warming up playing soccer freeing up the roster space for Jannik Hansen to make his season debut. In December, we learn that Demitra's return has been pushed back to January. But great news, January is almost here and we would have a 100% healthy Canucks lineup and some decisions would have to be made. Who goes on waivers to make room for Demitra? Is it Glass? Hordichuk? Hansen? Rome? Fear not. We learned today that Kevin Bieksa will be out for up to three months which will peg him for a post-season return. This frees up the extra roster space needed for Demitra's return. In the post-season, there is no roster limit and salary cap which would give the Canucks a $60 million team.
  13. The Canucks suffered a letdown in their game against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night to wrap up a 2-2-0 week but we won't disappoint in this week's edition of Number Crunching. Read on to find out who takes home the coveted Number Crunching Player of the Week Award. I MAY BE A BACKUP BUT DON'T CALL ME NUMBER TWO <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">For most teams, getting to face an opposition's backup netminder is a very pleasant surprise but for the Canucks this season, it hasn't exactly been a cakewalk when going up against goaltenders that aren't number one on a team's depth chart. Since winning their first three games of the season against backup netminders, the Canucks have won just four of their last nine games when facing someone other than the team's number one goaltender including Sunday's loss to Ty Conklin and the Blues. Vancouver's record this season when facing backup netminders is 7-5-0. For our purposes, backup netminders are defined as goaltenders that did not start the season as their team's number one netminder on the depth chart. Below is a list of the so-called backups the Canucks have faced this season: October 21st @ Chicago - Antti Niemi - Win October 24th vs. Toronto - Joey MacDonald - Win October 25th vs. Edmonton - Jeff Deslauriers - Win October 27th vs. Detroit - Jimmy Howard - Loss November 12th @ Detroit - Jimmy Howard - Loss November 22nd vs. Chicago - Antti Niemi - Loss November 28th vs. Edmonton - Jeff Deslauriers - Win December 3rd @ Phiadelphia - Brian Boucher - Win December 5th @ Carolina - Manny Legace - Loss December 12th vs. Minnesota - Josh Harding - Win December 18th vs. Washington - Jose Theodore - Win December 20th vs. St. Louis - Ty Conklin - Loss NO THIRD HELPINGS <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">As has been well-documented this season, the Canucks are not only one of the best teams when it comes to scoring in the third period (third in the League with 44 third period goals) but they've been pretty good at preventing third period markers as well. Vancouver has given up just 28 third period tallies this season - the fewest goals among all their other periods this season (34 in first periods; 31 in second periods). What's even more impressive is Vancouver's record this season when they don't give up a third period goal at all. 16 of Vancouver's 20 wins this season have come in games where they don't surrender a third period goal. In fact, the Canucks have just two losses this season in games where they don't give up a goal in the final regulation period. One of those two losses came in their most recent game on Sunday against the Blues when they entered the final frame down 3-1 and weren't able to generate any offence to mount a comeback. The other loss came back on October 16th in Calgary when the Canucks spotted the Flames a 5-0 lead through two periods and managed to tally three times in the third period but still fell by a 5-3 score. BROTHER ACT <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">It was a relatively quiet week for Daniel and Henrik, but of course no Number Crunching column would be complete without a mention of the Sedin twins so we offer this interesting little note. When Daniel notched his third career hat-trick back on December 10th against the Atlanta Thrashers, he succeeded in completing a rare feat that had not been accomplished in 17 years. Combined with Henrik's hat trick against the Colorado Avalanche on November 14th, the pair became the first brothers to record a hat trick in the same season for the same team since Peter and Marian Stastny did it back in the 1982.83 season with the Quebec Nordiques. That season, Peter had an impressive four hat tricks while old brother Marian wasn't too shabby either with two of his own. The fact the record has stood for so long is impressive considering the list of impressive brother duos that have played on the same team since Peter and Marian did including the likes of Pavel and Valeri Bure with the Florida Panthers, Rob and Scott Niedermayer with the Anaheim Ducks, and of course Geoff and Russ Courtnall with the Vancouver Canucks. Special thanks to the Canucks Media Relations Department for this tidbit. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK (for the week ending Sunday, December 20th) <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Mason Raymond: Five points (3-2-5) in four games It was a career-week for the Cochrane, Alberta native. After setting a new career-high in goals on Monday with his 12th of the season against the Los Angeles Kings to kick off the week, Raymond proceeded to set a new career-high in points by recording points 23 and 24 of the season with his two-goal outing against the Washington Capitals on Friday. The 24-year old has also become Vancouver's go-to guy on the power play as his goal on the man-advantage against the Caps on Friday was his team-leading seventh power play marker of the season. Not only that but Raymond currently sits tied for sixth in the NHL with his seven power play goals while only San Jose's Dany Heatley has more power play goals among Western Conference players than Raymond with ten. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Kevin Bieksa: Zero points and even rating in four games played. His lack of offensive production this season stands out like a sore thumb - just one goal and 15 points in 36 games this season coming off a 43-point season last year (11-32-43) - but his inability to put up goals has been somewhat easy to overlook because of the situations that the 28-year old is often asked to play in. The fifth-year pro is among the Canucks leaders in ice-time racking up plenty of shifts on the power play, short-handed and in even-strength situations. However, it seems even Coach Vigneault's patience with Bieksa is starting to wear a little thin this week. Bieksa, who is accustomed to playing 20-plus minutes per game, saw his ice-time go from 24:17 and 23:18 to start the week against the Kings and Ducks, respectively, to just 17:18 and 16:22 against the Capitals and Blues to end the week.
  14. <img src="" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The no-goal For the second consecutive game, the Vancouver Canucks had referee Mike Leggo assigned to their game after refereeing the Washington Capitals game in which he called a questionable unsportsmanlike penalty to Tom Poti for making a diving hand gesture. Then he proceeded to call a penalty shot on the Canucks after Canucks defenceman hauled down Alexander Semin on a partial breakaway if you can even call it that. Tonight, Mike Leggo and the hockey operations department in Toronto made the call that Canucks forward Alex Burrows had kicked the puck into the net when replays showed that the puck was directed in my Burrows' skate before the kicking motion was made and then deflecting off the Blues defenceman Barret Jackman into the net. Kicking motion or not, should the goal have been allowed since it deflected off Jackman? If icing was called and it hits a player's leg at centre ice, the call is waived off. Right? So why not waive the kicking motion and allow the goal to stand? Jackman's Cheap Shot Alex Burrows took an extra whack at goalie Ty Conklin for a loose puck and received a nice knuckle sandwich from Blues defenceman Barret Jackman who had his glove off somehow. The punch is similar to the one that Dan Carcillo thrown at Matt Bradley in which Carcillo received a five minute major for fighting, two minutes for instigating, two minutes for crosschecking, a misconduct, and a game misconduct for a grand total of 19 penalty minutes and a four game suspension of the NHL. Bradley and Carcillo were about to engage in a fight, so Bradley probably should have expected a punch coming. In this case, Jackman had his gloves off for whatever reason and fired a punch to the face of an unsuspecting Burrows, resulting in a bloodied nose. Jackman received a minor roughing. The referees do not have the luxury of slow motion, video replays so they cannot be blamed for not giving the Canucks a nine minute power play as it appeared to be just any old hockey scrum with the face washing. Burrows has a reputation for embellishing calls in hopes of getting a penalty and it was something I thought he was doing. Colin Campbell and the National Hockey League hockey operations department have the luxury of replays, but unfortunately Barret Jackman is not Dan Carcillo and Alex Burrows is Alex Burrows. Do not expect anything more than a one game suspension, if anything at all. <img src="" class="imageFloatRightFramed" width="320" height="180">Bieksa Bieksa....Bieksa.... On the second goal, Blues forward David Backes walked around him and then Luongo to tuck the puck into the net. Bieksa had great position on Backes, yet somehow managed to let him walk around him.... Also worth pointing out that for the second consecutive game, Bieksa finished the game with less time than Shane O'Brien who struggled to get into the lineup earlier this month. Bieksa had just 16:02 of ice time while O'Brien had 17:02. On the season, Bieksa averages 22:14 a game, behind Willie Mitchell's 22:27. Looks like the chat with Alain Vigneault in which he broke his stick in frustration didn't do anything to change his game for the better. Ryan Johnson injured Heading into Sunday night's game, forward Ryan Johnson was questionable after blocking a shot and injuring himself on Friday night against the Washington Capitals. Johnson only saw 6:52 of ice time and the only time he was noticed on the ice was when Tanner Glass missed him with a drop pass and the Blues went back the other way to score. We will keep our eye on this story. Glass + Hit = Goal For the second consecutive game, rugged Canucks forward Tanner Glass delivered a bone crushing hit only to have the opposing team scored. On Friday, Brooks Laich was sent into the Canucks bench by Glass, only to have Alexander Semin score glove side on Roberto Luongo. Tonight, Glass flattened the diminutive Paul Kariya only to see Kariya's shot deflected in front of the goal by David Backes. Maybe Glass needs to pick his spots better, or Luongo gets distracted easily by big hits. Remember Game 5? <img src="" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">O'Brien's First in 166 Congratulations to Shane O'Brien on getting his first goal in 166 regular season games. Tonight, O'Brien was everything the Canucks had hoped he'd be. A physical stay-at-home defenceman who could put up the odd goal, make simple passes or plays out of the defensive zone, make smart pinches, and clear the crease. By the looks of his celebration, it seemed like he had scored the Game 7, Stanley Cup clinching goal in overtime. Fan Appreciation Night You may know, or you may not know. Tonight was the annual Fan Appreciation Night, hosted in the middle of the NHL season once again. Much like last year, it does not appear anybody was even aware it was Fan Appreciation Night as the stands were completely empty as players took their jerseys off their backs. After a bitter loss to the St. Louis Blues, who would stick around anyways? Still puzzled as to why they moved this from the last game of the season as it is perfectly fitting players take off their jerseys at the last home game and give it to the fans.