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  1. So at the end of the day, still no Zenon Konopka. That's unfortunate. I really think he could've helped. But Mike Gillis had the most productive deadline day of his career, bringing in veterans Chris Higgins from Florida and Maxim Lapierre from Anaheim. On a day in which little activity was anticipated, in part due to the large number of trades that occurred weeks before the deadline, Gillis accounted for 1/8 of all total trades. This despite Vancouver supposedly being one of the quietest teams. How do these two players change the overall makeup of the team? <img src="http://www3.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Toronto+Maple+Leafs+v+Florida+Panthers+aokOrc1maZil.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Chris Higgins, #20 The former Yale University product was selected 14th overall by Montreal in the 2002 draft, a year that produced very few impact players. The 2002 class produced only four all-stars (Rick Nash, Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Semin, and Cam Ward) and Higgins is only one of four players to have scored more than 100 career goals. However, Higgins' offensive struggles in recent years has been well documented, having been traded three times in the past two years, having been part of the deal that sent Scott Gomez to Montreal and Olli Jokinen to Calgary. While his 20-something goal-scoring days are over, Higgins is still a big-bodied forward with good skating ability who is able to play in the top nine. Maxim Lapierre, #40 Lapierre is an agitator, a fourth-line centre that brings speed and tenacity to the lineup. Another Montreal pick from the 2003 draft, Lapierre was instrumental in the Habs' upset of Washington last year. His speed, size, and general physicality caused problems in the offensive zone. But like Burrows and Kesler in year's past, Lapierre's antics, chirping and diving (he was once penalized for it in a playoff game) to name a few, began to limit his effectiveness as a hockey player. His (somewhat public) feud with Jacques Martin over his diminishing playing time earned him a ticket out of town, where even the grumpy Randy Carlyle couldn't harness him (Lapierre played 3:09 in his last game as a Duck and had started out on the third line). But like I've said before, if Gillis was to acquire a player, he better run it by Vigneault because there's no point in acquiring a player if your coach won't play him. That won't happen here with such an established veteran locker room presence with a clear focus on winning the Cup, and not to mention that Vigneault was once Lapierre's junior coach. Of course, lost in the shuffle is former Minnesota-Duluth star MacGregor Sharp (what an awesome name), who was acquired along with Lapierre from Anaheim. If Minnesota-Duluth rings a bell, it should: Mason Raymond was a Bulldog for two years, as was Evan Oberg, who went to Florida for Higgins. Current NHLers Jason Garrison (Florida) and Matt Niskanen (Pittsburgh) are also Minnesota-Duluth products. While Minnesota-Duluth is not exactly known as a NCAA powerhouse, it has become one of the better programs today, currently ranked 11th according to US College Hockey. However, Sharp is not expected to have a significant impact for Vancouver or Manitoba. And what did the three players cost us? A minor leaguer in Joel Perrault, two 3rd round picks, and Evan Oberg, who has since been leapfrogged by Chris Tanev, Lee Sweatt, Yann Sauve, and perhaps Kevin Connauton on the depth charts, making him expendable. You can certainly say that Gillis got great value, not sacrificing anybody on the current roster or significant prospect in the pipeline to nab two NHL veterans. But what about Marty Reasoner and Zenon Konopka, two players featured heavily in the Canucks' rumour mill? Well, there are reports that since Reasoner's wife is expecting soon, it didn't seem right for Tallon to deal him. Kudos to Tallon. And Konopka? The early rumour was that the Ducks were about to acquire the big centre but balked at Garth Snow's 2nd round pick asking price, which, to say the least, is idiotic. And we continue to wonder how and why Snow still has a job. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/images/upload/2011/01/107894055_std.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">While Lapierre will most certainly become a fixture on the fourth line, finally giving the team stability in that spot, the more interesting case is Higgins. He certainly has the ability to put the puck in the net but so do Mason Raymond and Jeff Tambellini and Mikael Samuelsson, but it's not the ability that's in question, it's the consistency. Higgins isn't the most consistent player by any means but at least he gives Vigneault other options after a clearly frustrated Kesler was trying to keep his mouth shut after a painful loss against Boston. Higgins can line up on the left wing on the second line with Samuelsson on the right, or even on the third line alongside Malhotra should Raymond or Tambellini re-find their touch. Given Higgins' size and physicality, it should relieve a little pressure off Kesler's shoulders, who has taken a beating every night on the powerplay and neither Raymond nor Samuelsson are as willing as Kesler to mix it up in the corners. That's not mentioning that Vigneault has lost so much faith in the rest of his lineup that Kesler's TOI/G has soared to over 22 minutes a game (including 26+ vs. Montreal) for the last six games. Even Sidney Crosby only averages around 22 minutes a night. But for the moment, Kesler will have to continue to keep his mouth shut because Higgins is still two weeks away from playing due to a fractured thumb. With the acquisition of Higgins, I hope Raymond hears the message loud and clear: score or sit. EDIT: Looks like Lapierre will be wearing 40, not 24. NOTE: I feel like I've been getting away from blogging about the Canucks, and since this is a Canucks site, I need to get back on track. For a breakdown of all the big deals, visit www.armchairhockey.net or follow me on Twitter @jasonchen16. Thanks for reading.
  2. I wrote last week in my entry "Ups and Downs" that despite what everyone seems to think, this team was not in a slump. To recap, I think a slump is something like what the Kings are going through. The Kings, a team many picked to break out this year given their maturing young stars, finished October with 8 wins and 3 losses, and then kicked off 4 straight wins in December. By no stretch of the imagination was this a fluke - this is a team, after all, with a franchise centre in Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, and Jonathan Quick. As of right now the Kings sit 11th in the West. That's a slump. A team that obviously has the tools to win but short of firing Terry Murray or Dean Lombardi has tried everything it can to break out of its funk but only to fail time after time. The Canucks lost 4 in a row prior to a 7-1 drubbing of Dallas, but in those 4 defeats, 2 came in shootouts and one in overtime. That's not a slump, that's just a bump. Of course, having Kari Lehtonen play like he belongs in a beer league helps, but that's besides the point. It's also further proof that the Canucks (read: not specifically Luongo) are horrendous at shootouts, which again begs the question why Vigneault refuses to practise shootouts up until this year, but then you have to blame the Canucks for putting themselves in that position in the first place. <img src="http://www.puckagency.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Mikael-Samuelsson-Vancouver-Canucks.png"class="imageFloatRightFramed">If you're talking individual slumps, then you might have something there, but let's put everything into perspective. Stats are the most misleading aspect of sports. Nothing beats watching players and a game with a naked eye. If you're watching it live, even better. Sports scouting is not done through statistics. (Unless it's baseball, but that's a different topic altogether). It's certainly helpful and at least gives you an idea of how the player is performing, but by no means does it tell the entire story. A 20-goal scorer in the NHL, on average, will score a goal about once every four games. That's not bad, but remember that's the average. Since most scorers in the NHL are streaky and feast-or-famine type players, if that player scores a hat trick in one game, the law of averages say that he has a good chance of going the next twelve games or so without a goal. Take, for example, Mikael Samuelsson. His goal vs. Dallas was his first in 15 games. Before that dry spell, he was on a tear, with 5 points in 4 games (Dec. 20-26). Before that, he had gone 7 games without a goal (Dec. 1-18). Even before that, he had another 7-game goalless drought (Oct. 19-Nov. 4). Goalless droughts for him aren't unusual. So, 15 games is a little longer than anyone would like, but Samuelsson's still on pace for about 20 goals, which would still rank among his career highs. His feast-or-famine scoring ability couldn't be more apparent than last year when he got hot at the right time. Mason Raymond's 11-game goalless streak (Jan. 3-22) sounds terrible, but he had scored a hat trick two games before he got hurt. He's yet to find his groove, just less than one month removed from a hand injury and constantly bounced around in the lineup. Given his pace, he's still on track for roughly 20 goals, like Samuelsson. Manny Malhotra's gone pointless for an entire month, but he also went pointless last year in the month of May and had just one point in April and May combined. He's still on track for his career season averages of a dozen goals and 30-odd points. No more needs to be said about how streaky Raffi Torres can be. The only one that kind of baffles me is Jeff Tambellini, who's getting tons of scoring chances, shoots the puck very well, but just can't find the net. Even very good goal scorers, like Phil Kessel and Marian Gaborik, are prone to stretches of zero production. Before Gaborik's 4-goal outburst vs. Toronto he went 8 games without a goal and Kessel is currently mired in a 7-game drought for the third time this season. Neither Samuelsson nor Raymond are at that talent level so naturally I shrug when they don't score for 7 games. It's expected. When the Sedins are in a 7-game pointless drought, however, then you have a problem... When Dan Hamhuis scored, The Province's Tony Gallagher tweeted: "Hamhuis' first in 25 games not terribly meaningful but after that long we're pretty sure he'll take it." What? Does Gallagher even realize that with Hamhuis' current pace he's on pace to tie or break his career high of 7? Does Gallagher even realize that Hamhuis averages about 25 points per season? (I'm writing that 38-point season off, same with Samuelsson's 30 goals. Don't think we'll see either post those totals again). No one's mistaking Hamhuis for Shea Weber. I'm pretty sure Hamhuis isn't bothered by the fact that he hasn't scored in 25 games because that's not his game and he knows it. He's a dependable defense-first player that's occasionally seeing powerplay time this year because for whatever reason, Vigneault refuses to play Ballard (using Tanev instead vs. Dallas) on the man advantage. But I know better than to argue with results. Vancouver fans and media have been absolutely spoiled this year with such a great team that can, on most nights, seemingly score at will. Once we lost 4 games (3 of which we have collected points) everyone panicked. I like a win as much as the next guy but let's not lose perspective here. Had the Canucks continued their 3-2-4 "slumping" pace, that's still 91 points over a full season, a playoff-bound total. <img src="http://tenderslounge.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/evgeni_nabokov.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Okay, enough Canucks. Let's move ahead. I've had some time to digest the Evgeni Nabokov situation. The whole fiasco is a complete microcosm of why the Islanders still stink: management constantly overrating their value. What do I mean? I mean that Garth Snow thinks Long Island and a decrepit Nassau Coliseum is an attractive place to play, even though Manhattan and the much more storied Rangers are across town. This is a guy who was convinced he had a legitimate shot at signing Ilya Kovalchuk. That he thinks Nabokov, a player who has clearly earned enough money and is much more interested in a lengthy playoff run, would want to play for a team that's headed towards the lottery is lunacy. Is it even in the Islanders' best interests to play veterans and try to win games? The Islanders can't flip him back to Detroit (or any other team) for a pick because Nabokov would have to clear waivers again (he won't). Neither camp is moving and so the Islanders have suspended Nabokov. Dumb. The Islanders are supposed to be geared towards their youngsters. They don't need this distraction and what does this tell Islander players of their current situation when a guy who couldn't find a suitor during the offseason won't come play? Nabokov made it clear his intention was to play for Detroit, and from the information I've gathered, the Islanders didn't bother calling ahead and gauging Nabokov's interest in joining them. There were reports that Nabokov had hung up on Snow on a phone call (after he was claimed), but only because Nabokov didn't realize it was Snow. Does that sound as fishy to you as it does to me? It's not like Snow's brand new to the scene. Snow's quickly garnered a reputation as a very aggressive and sometimes confrontational GM. When he found out Nabokov wasn't coming you don't think he could've went into Bruce Boudreau-mode? If I were Nabokov, I'd hang up on him too. I'm not trying to start rumours or conspiracy theories, but that's just the way I envision it went down. By all means, Snow played within the rules, but that doesn't mean it's not a dumb move (see also: Lowe, Kevin and Penner, Dustin). An equally baffling move is Eugene Melnyk's decision to stick with Bryan Murray and Cory Clouston even though he's essentially admitted that the season's lost. Doesn't that make Murray and Clouston lame ducks? Melnyk may want to keep Murray beyond this season as a senior advisor but for a team that is in dire need of a new game plan, a new perspective, isn't that counter-intuitive? If the re-build starts now, wouldn't it better to bring in a new guy now and let him sell off the assets at the deadline for picks and prospects to establish his own foundation of the team? It seems as though the Sens are delaying the process of moving in a much-needed new direction. And by keeping Clouston, whatever motivational advantage Murray would've had by saying "we're not making any coaching changes, so suck it up and play like he wants you to play" has simply disappeared. I mean, what kind of affect would that have on a guy like Alex Kovalev, who on some nights really looks like he couldn't care less? Or Sergei Gonchar, who is probably really regretting turning down the Pens' two-year offer. On the other hand, you could argue that by doing so you could really tell the difference between players who are self-motivated and those who aren't and need to be shown the door ASAP. Some players may simply wish to play hard because they're looking for that big deal in the summer (Chris Philips, Kovalev) but it's kind of an interesting way to see which players respond and which don't. It's not on the record, but there's a belief that there are only two untouchables on the current roster: Daniel Alfredsson (declining) and Erik Karlsson (stud). It might change over the course of the next two months. Sometimes, you just never know with Eugene Melnyk.
  3. 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."
  4. 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=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar1410_bieksa_t.jpg 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=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/02/feb0410_sens25_t.jpg 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 Jobing.com 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=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/van6_031410.jpg 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=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar1410_hank_t.jpg 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=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/02/feb0410_sens19_t.jpg 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=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/031010_VAN_PHX_bench205.jpg 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.
  5. The Vancouver Canucks said 'adieu' to GM Place on a high note Wednesday, grabbing their sixth straight win, amidst a controversial slashing call. Roberto Luongo bails out Alexander Edler after he coughed up the puck to Blues' leading goal-scorer, Andy McDonald (16 goals) With an unparalleled 14 game road trip on the horizon, the Canucks did themselves a solid, leaving GM Place (the Garage) behind for 45 days on winning terms. The win vaulted the hot hockey club into sole possession of 1st place in the Northwest division, leap-frogging the Colorado Avalanche. The Canucks played catch-up after Keith Tkachuk shelfed a nice cross crease pass over Roberto Luongo's trapper. Mason Raymond, the game's first star, put the Canucks ahead with his second of the night, fooling Conklin with a fake slapshot, before beating him stick side. The 2nd line combined for 7 points, with Raymond adding an assist on Christian Ehrhoff's game-winner with 7:48 remaining in the third period. Ryan Kesler, who was named the game's third star, had a fantastic night as well, with three assists, and was 9 for 13 (69%) in the faceoff circle. Ryan Kesler gives the NHL's 4th most penalized player, B.J. Crombeen (117 PIMS), a close shave The controversy ensued after the Blues' Paul Kariya whacked at Henrik Sedin, who was starting out of the Canucks zone with the puck. The near-side official didn't make a call, but the back-side official raised his arm. The slash hit Henrik on the left glove, forcing his hand off his stick, and loss of puck control. In most cases, where a trip or a slash would result in an offensive chance for the guilty party, the call is made. That was the case here, and the Canucks, who are 4th in the NHL with a 22% power play efficiency, capitalized. "Whether we agree with them or not is irrelevant," said Blues goalie Ty Conklin in reference to the official's call. "You've still got to kill them off." Conklin finished with 31 saves. Despite Alex Burrows' screen, he and the twins' were held off the scoresheet for the first time in 13 games T.J. Oshie tied the game midway through the third period, chipping a pass from David Backes high over Luongo's blocker. The Sedin line, who earned a combined 30 points over the last 5 games, were held pointless, but the 2nd line helped negate that. "That's part of winning consistently. You need secondary scoring to chip in," said coach Alain Vigneault. "We put a lot of emphasis on making sure we continued the streak we were on and we ended the homestand properly." The 'Nucks begin their well-documented road trip starting in Toronto against the Maple Leafs Saturday, for Hockey Day in Canada. Notes: Not that Mike Gillis has the time to read this, but concerning the rumors surrounding trading David Backes for Cory Schneider - please don't do that. Backes has 1 goal in 16 games, and would really only be removing an opportunity for any number of other Canucks waiting for their chance. Schneider might not play for us for awhile, but his value certainly outweighs any short-term stopgap. Who wants to play: Who doesn't belong? A) Rick Rypien B- Darcy Hordichuk C) Erik Johnson D) B.J. Crombeen (answer at bottom of page) Here are the game highlights, courtesy of Pouya from CanucksHD: Canucks vs Blues - game highlights (just click) Larenzo Jensen, with files from AP Photo / Canadian Press, Yahoo Sports and CanucksHD (youtube) Catch the Canucks road trip at http://thecanuckway.com Answer to Who doesn't belong question: C) Erik Johnson, the defenseman who has more points than the other 3 forwards combined...
  6. In the Canucks locker room, they ought to be calling Alex Burrows "The Joker" after all the tricks he played last week. But here on Number Crunching, we're not joking around when we dedicate this week's blog to the hat trick hero himself. Read on to find out who takes home this week's coveted Number Crunching Player of the Week Award (as if you didn't already know). TWO IS AS GOOD AS THREE... <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/01/jan0710_bur2_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">If you asked Alex Burrows, he'd tell you good things come in threes - except when they happen twice, then two is just as good as three. Three was certainly the magic number for Burrows this week after a pair of hat tricks in back-to-back games gave him a total of three career hat-tricks at the NHL level and made him just the third Canuck all-time to score hat tricks in back-to-back games joining Bobby Schmautz and Petri Skriko. He is also the first NHL player to accomplish that feat since Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk scored back-to-back hat tricks on November 1st and 3rd, 2007 against the Senators and Lightning, respectively. (Special thanks to the Canucks Media Relations Department for these tidbits). Burrows also became the first Canuck to record multiple hat tricks in a single season since Todd Bertuzzi back in 2005.06 (Big Bert notched a hat trick on Detroit's Manny Legace on November 13th and another against the Islanders' tandem of Rick DiPietro and Wade Dubielewicz on January 14th). Burrows still has a ways to go if he'd like to catch up to the all-time team record for most hat tricks in a single season. That belongs to Petri Skriko who tallied four in the 1986.87 season. And here's the Numbers part of this week's blog...what do you get when you add three plus two? Five...as in five times in team history that the Canucks have had hat tricks in back-to-back games: 1972.73 November 17th: Bobby Schmautz vs. Los Angeles November 19th: Bobby Schmautz (4) vs. Buffalo 1975.76 November 8th: Ron Sedlbauer vs. Boston November 11th: John Gould vs. Toronto 1986.87 November 18th: Petri Skriko vs. Calgary November 21st: Petri Skriko (4) vs. NY Rangers 1995.96 March 6th: Russ Courtnall vs. Buffalo March 9th: Trevor Linden vs. Colorado 2009.10 January 5th: Alex Burrows vs. Columbus January 7th: Alex Burrows vs. Phoenix ...OH BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE... <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec2209_burr2_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">In true Alex Burrows fashion, he was quick to praise the work of his teammates in helping his capture a piece of Canucks history so, of course, Number Crunching looks at the effect of Burrows' double hat trick and their significance as far as the Canucks record books are concerned. With his first hat trick of the week against the Blue Jackets, Burrows became the fourth different Canuck to net a hat trick this season marking the first time that four different Canucks have tallied hat tricks in a single season since 2000.01. That year, the Canucks got hat tricks from Andrew Cassels (Anaheim), Harold Druken (San Jose), Todd Bertuzzi (San Jose) and Markus Naslund (Calgary). It also marked the eighth time in team history that at least four different Canucks have had hat tricks in the same season. Vancouver's all-time record for most hat tricks by different players in a single season is five. That was set back in the 1995.96 season when Alex Mogilny led the way with a hat trick of hat tricks while Cliff Ronning, Russ Courtnall, Trevor Linden and Markus Naslund all chipped in with singles. ...AND WITH ONE HAND BEHIND MY BACK TOO! <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec1209_burrows_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Style points count here at Number Crunching, so we're giving the nod to Burrows' first hat trick of the week as the more impressive one simply because one of the three tallies in that game came short-handed. For Burrows, it was the ninth short-handed goal of his Canucks and NHL career and moved him into sole possession of fifth place on the Canucks' all-time list of most short-handed goals - one ahead of Matt Cooke and two behind fourth-place Petri Skriko (there's that name again!). Burrows' short-handed tally was just the second of the season for the Canucks. Their first came back on November 5th in Minnesota courtesy of Henrik Sedin. The Canucks are 2-0-0 this season when scoring a short-handed goal. THE BIG FIVE-O <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/01/jan0510_spray_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">There's no truth to the rumour that Roberto Luongo was belting out the words to Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer after his shutout performance over the Coyotes on Thursday - specifically the part that goes "ohhhh...we're halfway there" - but that's about roughly where he is now compared to the all-time shutout king Martin Brodeur after he picked up his 50th career goose egg this past week. Luongo became just the 24th all-time NHL netminder to hit the 50-shutout mark joining an exclusive list that includes the likes of the aforementioned Brodeur, Terry Sawchuk, Dominik Hasek and Patrick Roy. Luongo is now just the third active NHL netminder who has 50-plus NHL shutouts joining Brodeur and Chris Osgood (also 50 career shutouts), sitting one shutout ahead of San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov. MILESTONES <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/01/010510Canucks205.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Number Crunching congratulates the following players for reaching their respective milestones this week and we honour them by providing each player with a "best of" statistic: Willie Mitchell 100th career NHL assist vs. Coyotes on 01/07 Canucks record this season when Mitchell gets a point: 7-3-0 Mikael Samuelsson 100th career NHL goal vs. Coyotes on 01/07 Canucks record this season when Samuelsson scores: 10-2-2 Steve Bernier 300th career NHL game vs. Coyotes on 01/07 Canucks all-time record when Bernier scores: 13-6-2 (5-4-0 this season) Kyle Wellwood 300th career NHL game vs. Coyotes on 01/07 Canucks all-time record when Wellwood scores: 9-8-4 (2-1-1 this season) NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec1409_luongo_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Alex Burrows: Six goals and seven points in three games What more can be said about Burrows that we haven't already covered? How about the fact that if he can manage to have as good a second half as he did last season, he could become the first Canuck not named Daniel Sedin to score 30 goals in a season for the Canucks since Markus Naslund (32) and Anson Carter (33) did back in 2005.06? Last season, Burrows didn't score his 17th goal of the season until March 3rd when he scored goals 17 and 18 of the season in a game against the Minnesota Wild. That game was Vancouver's 63rd game of the season. Burrows managed to score his 17th this season in game no. 44 - 19 games ahead of last year's pace. 18 of Burrows' 28 goals last season came after January 28th, or in other words, in the final 34 games of the regular season. As of this writing, the Canucks have 37 games left in the 2009.10 regular season. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/121209_VAN_MIN_raymond205.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Mason Raymond: One assist in three games Every player goes through their ups and downs throughout the course of the season so we aren't trying to be overly critical of the 24-year old Raymond who, by all accounts, has been having a fantastic season so far already having set new career-highs in every offensive category. However, Raymond's been uncharacteristically quiet over the last couple of weeks since his hat trick performance in Calgary back on December 27th. For the second straight week, all Raymond has to show for on the scoresheet has been a single assist. The lack of points stands out more than perhaps it normally would because his regular linemates haven't seen a slowdown in their production. Ryan Kesler managed four assists while Mikael Samuelsson had three goals this past week. It was a similar story the previous week when Kesler (1-2-3) and Samuelsson (2-1-3) both tallied three points each compared to just a single helper for Raymond. Raymond enters this week having not scored in his last six straight games - his longest goal drought of the season.
  7. As the Vancouver Canucks reach the midway point of the 2009/10 schedule, here is a reflection to date of the individual top 11 performers for the club, in my humble opinion. Willie Mitchell, B Willie Mitchell hits Zach Stortini, -has been taking the body with more authority this season (AP Photo / The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck) Willie Mitchell came to Vancouver touted as a shut-down defender. The Canucks were well acquainted with the Port McNeil blueliner, having been Todd Bertuzzi's irritating shadow when the Canucks faced the Minnesota Wild in the post season. This year, Mitchell has added an element to his game that is a welcome addition for Canucks fans. As pictured, Mitchell has been hitting with more frequency and tenacity, which is what got him so much attention early in his career. Still needs to work on stickhandling, though. His 22:22 average ice-time a game leads all Canucks. Mikael Samuelsson, B- Samuelsson helps Kesler celebrate a goal vs the Oilers (AP Photo/ The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck) 'Twas earlier in the season when many a Canuck fan pondered whether or not Samuelsson might lead the Canucks in goalscoring this season. Though the torrid pace early, Mikael has slowed significantly, and has the highest puck turnover percentage on the team. He has 10 goals and 14 assists in 39 games, and has improved slightly to +2 rating. Still gives the Canucks an element they were missing last season, and that was someone to shoot the puck. Is ahead of Ryan Kesler by 1 shot in that department, 117, for the team lead. Mason Raymond, A Far and away Mason's prettiest goal in his pro career (AP Photo / The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck) Raymond has taken his best shot at being this years' "Cinderella story". Whereas last season featured Alex Burrows' unlikely 28 goal outburst, home-grown Canuck talent has converted a hard work ethic and blazing speed into results. No more evident was last Sunday night in Calgary where he helped chase Miikka Kiprusoff with his 'natural' hat trick. Has already left his career best totals in the dust with his hot first half. Gives the Canucks the secondary scoring element they've desperately needed. Canucks fans finally breathing a sigh of relief that the farm system is paying dividends again after a few lean years development wise. Alexander Edler, B Alex Edler challenges Dan Carcillo for the puck, while defending the back door play (Photo by Jim McIsaac, Getty Images) I felt it was unfair that a couple of callers to the Team 1040 radio station referred to Elder as 'Bambi' on a recent talk show. Though he has had his ups and downs as all Canucks have, we're starting to see dividends from the organizations' early pairing with Mattias Ohlund. Though not a typical protege, Edler incorporates pieces of Ohlund's game, and exhibits a willingness to pay the price. His hitting continues to get better, makes good decisions in his own zone, and though he occasionally gets caught pinching, he has picked his spots better. Has 2-19-21 in 33 games, is a -3, and averaging 20:49 a night. Could benefit by making better use of his limited powerplay time. Alexandre Burrows, B "Burr" rubs out Alex Ovechkin, much to the delight of fans at GM Place Dec. 18/09 Though Burrows is not on pace to duplicate his goal production from last season, he is on pace to silence his critics. Ever the pesky, glove in your face mentality, Burrows combines a number of gritty elements, throws in a dash of skill and hockey smarts, with excellent results. He has 10-16-26 in 39 games, and a +12 rating, not so surprisingly tied with both Sedins for 2nd best on the team. Head coach Alain Vigneault continues to stand by 'Burr' and his promotion to the 1st line. He understands his role, and was obviously a little dishevelled by Daniels' 14 game hiatus with a broken left foot. Helps create space for the Sedins with his forecheck, - is easily earning his new ($2 M) contract. Ryan Kesler, A Ryan Kesler scores the game-winning goal versus Jonathan Quick and the L.A. Kings (AP Photo / The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck) Perhaps it might be best to quote Canucks' captain Roberto Luongo for this report. "He's a warrior. That's his name. Warrior. That's the only name you can use." This in reference to his leg injury sustained recently versus the Oilers, amidst his other aches and pains, and his continued production. We've been witness to a transformation this season, from an excellent player to an elite one. Has 10-23-33 in 39 games, a -1 rating in that span, and logs nearly 20 minutes a night of hard, hard ice. Heart and soul player. Stay tuned for Part II of the Canucks mid-season report card, coming soon, and by all means, throw a shout out if you agree, disagree, or have any thoughts at all on anything you've read. Follow the Canucks all season long at www.thecanuckway.com Larenzo Jensen, with files from AP Photo / The Canadian Press, Getty Images, TSN and Yahoo! Sports
  8. There was certainly plenty of holiday cheer in Canucks Nation this week with the team sweeping all three games during the week. In the spirit of the holidays and with the official halfway point of the season about to be reached, Number Crunching gets into the giving mood by presenting the unofficial mid-season awards. Be sure to bookmark this blog (Ctrl + D) to see how many of the predictions pan out at the end of the 2009.10 season. And of course, feel free to share your thoughts on who you would choose as your mid-season bests. MOST EXCITING PLAYER <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec2709_flames02_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Mason Raymond: 17 goals and 29 points in 39 games played Alex Burrows has taken this award home for the past two seasons but the speedy Raymond figures to have the inside track for this year's honour. Not only has the 24-year old shattered his previous career-high with 17 goals so far this season (just one behind Henrik Sedin for the team lead), but the third-year pro has a newfound confidence with the puck and it has clearly shown with his increasing repertoire of moves and his highlight-reel tallies so far this season. He'll face tough competition from the likes of Ryan Kesler and Roberto Luongo in the second half of the season but assuming he continues to do what he has been so far, he'll have a chance to take home his first ever piece of Canucks hardware. 2008.09 winner: Alex Burrows FRED J. HUME AWARD FOR UNSUNG HERO <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec2709_flames15_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Willie Mitchell: Three goals and 10 points in 39 games played Unsung hero is usually one of the most difficult awards to pick a winner because it's one of those honours that can simultaneously seem like there are too many and too few candidates. But so far this year, Willie Mitchell is the runaway winner of this award. Mitchell's contributions don't often show up on the scoresheets but there is no Canuck who is counted on more than Willie game-in, game-out. The Port McNeill native leads all players on the team averaging 22:22 of ice-time per game, as well as leading the team in even-strength ice-time (18:13 average) and short-handed ice-time (3:57 average). Despite seeing the best of the best on the opposition nightly, he has still managed to rack up a plus-nine rating on the season. Mitchell will also warrant consideration for the Babe Pratt Trophy (he's won the past two years) but if he doesn't walk away with that honour, he should at least be recognized as an Unsung Hero. Other candidates include Tanner Glass (gone from being pegged to be a farmhand in the pre-season to solid third-line contributor with career-high numbers this season), Steve Bernier (quietly on pace to set career-highs in goals and points), Jannik Hansen (solid penalty killer who can play anywhere from the second to fourth line), and Rick Rypien (Mr. Energy who is showing he is more than just about the fisticuffs). 2008.09 winner: Steve Bernier BABE PRATT TROPHY FOR MOST OUTSTANDING DEFENCEMAN <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec2009_ehrhoff_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Christian Ehrhoff: Eight goals and 21 points in 39 games As mentioned earlier, this is an award that Mitchell should be given consideration for but very likely the engraving on the trophy already bears Ehrhoff's name. The former San Jose Shark has been very impressive in his first season as a Canuck and has turned into what the Canucks had originally hoped Mathieu Schneider would be - a dependable puck-moving, power play quarterback. Ehrhoff is tied for the lead among all team defencemen with 21 points while he leads all blue-liners with eight goals. Last season, the highest scoring Canucks defenceman was Alex Edler who had seven goals. 2008.09 winner: Willie Mitchell CYCLONE TAYLOR TROPHY AS CANUCKS MVP <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/205x115_4_121609.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Henrik Sedin: 18 goals and 50 points in 39 games It's hard to imagine where the Canucks would be had Henrik struggled while his brother Daniel was on the shelf for 18 games. Henrik, however, has shown that he's not only a great player in his own right, he is one of the NHL's elite players even if he does go about his business in a quiet way on most nights. Through games played on Sunday, only one player in the entire NHL had more points than Henrik's 50 - that being San Jose's Joe Thornton who currently leads the League with 54 points. Henrik has also shown this season that he's more than just a one-dimensional offensive threat. His 18 goals on the season not only lead the team but put him in the same company among the likes of Patrick Kane (15), Rick Nash (19), Jarome Iginla (20) and Ilya Kovalchuk (22) - not too shabby for a guy who's known to pass first. Henrik will get a run for his money from perennial MVP contender Roberto Luongo as well as the likes of Mason Raymond, Ryan Kesler and his brother Daniel Sedin but barring the unforeseen, you can consider this award signed, sealed, and delivered. 2008.09 winner: Ryan Kesler Henrik also has a 17-point lead on second place Ryan Kesler in the race for the Cyrus H. McLean Trophy which is given annually to the Canucks leading point scorer at the end of the season. In 2008.09, Henrik along with Daniel were co-winners of the points award. MOLSON CUP WINNER <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct2509_luongosave_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Here are the current standings for the Molson Cup which is awarded annually to the player who receives the most game star selections. Each star selection is worth five points with tie-breakers being settled by most first star selections followed by most second star selections, and so on. Henrik Sedin - 55 points Roberto Luongo - 50 points Ryan Kesler - 35 points Mason Raymond - 30 points Daniel Sedin - 20 points Andrew Raycroft - 15 points Christian Ehrhoff - 15 points Alex Edler - 15 points Michael Grabner - 10 points Mikael Samuelsson - 10 points Alex Burrows - 10 points Shane O'Brien - 10 points Kyle Wellwood - 10 points Willie Mitchell - 10 points Cory Schneider - 5 points Jannik Hansen - 5 points Steve Bernier - 5 points Number Crunching's official prediction is that Roberto Luongo will capture his fourth consecutive Molson Cup by season's end. 2008.09 winner: Roberto Luongo BEST STAT OF THE FIRST HALF <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec1409_luongo_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">It goes without saying that getting off to a good start in a game goes a long way in securing two points at the end of the night and so far this season, few teams have gotten off to more good starts than the Canucks. Through games played on Sunday, only two teams in the entire NHL had held a lead after the first period more times than Vancouver's 17 - the Washington Capitals (24) and the Colorado Avalanche (18) - while only the Capitals (49) have scored more first period goals than the Canucks' 45. Vancouver's 14 wins this season when leading after the first period is tied for second most in the NHL. Only the Blackhawks, with 15 wins, have more victories when leading after the first period. What the Canucks would like to improve on in the second half of the season is their defensive game in first periods. While the Canucks are one of the best teams offensively in first periods, they've been one of the worst defensively having surrendered 35 goals in first periods this season - the most among all their periods this season. The Canucks have a record of 11-3-0 this season when they don't give up a first period goal. WORST STAT OF THE FIRST HALF <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec2209_lu_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">It has gotten much better in recent games, but the penalty killing was clearly a major thorn in the paw for the Canucks throughout the first half of the season. The Canucks have given up at least one power play goal in 21 of the 39 games they have played so far this season and the results haven't been pretty when they do give up a goal while short-handed. Vancouver's record this season in games where they surrendered a power play goal is 7-14-0, much more devastating than last season when they managed to finish with a .500 record in games when giving up a man-advantage goal (20-20-8). It gets even worse when they give up more than one power play goal to the opposition as they are just 2-6-0 in those games. Through games played on Sunday, Vancouver's power play sat right smack in the middle of the NHL pack at number 15 with a success rate of 80.5 percent having allowed 29 goals on 149 times shorthanded. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK The holidays are a time for giving so Number Crunching is doling out two POTW awards this week. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec2209_sedin_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Daniel Sedin: Two goals and seven points in three games It was a banner week for the 29-year old forward who was looking to rebound after ending the previous week with no points in the final two games. Daniel began the week with a three-point night (1-2-3) against the Predators and followed that up with another three-point night (1-2-3) on Boxing Day versus the Oilers. After finding out officially on Sunday morning that he would be representing Sweden at the 2010 Winter Olympics, Daniel celebrated the news by extending his point streak to three games with an assist against the Flames. The point against Calgary also marked Daniel's 20th point in December tying his personal best for most points recorded in a single month (March 2007). <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec1409_bieksa_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Mason Raymond: Three goals and four points in three games There is no better place than home to spend the holidays and Mason Raymond would definitely attest to that. The Alberta native, playing in front of family and friends at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary on Sunday, netted his first career hat trick to close out the week in a 5-1 win for the Canucks. Included in the three-goal outing for the 24-year old was also his team-leading eighth power play goal of the season - double his entire total from all of last season. It's going to be all gravy for the left winger from this point out in terms of single-season career totals. He has already set new highs in goals (17) and points (29) and his next assist will give him a new career-high in the helpers category as well. His next major milestone will be his 100th career NHL point. He's currently sitting at 76 career points (40-36-76) but given his current pace, it's not a stretch of the imagination to think that he'll be able to reach that mark before the end of the 2009.10 regular season. In the spirit of the holiday season, there will be no Crunched By The Numbers player this week. And while I have this opportunity, I would like to wish every member of the Canucks Community a very happy and prosperous New Year! Thanks for reading and see you all in 2010.
  9. The Canucks suffered a letdown in their game against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night to wrap up a 2-2-0 week but we won't disappoint in this week's edition of Number Crunching. Read on to find out who takes home the coveted Number Crunching Player of the Week Award. I MAY BE A BACKUP BUT DON'T CALL ME NUMBER TWO <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec1009_hansen_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">For most teams, getting to face an opposition's backup netminder is a very pleasant surprise but for the Canucks this season, it hasn't exactly been a cakewalk when going up against goaltenders that aren't number one on a team's depth chart. Since winning their first three games of the season against backup netminders, the Canucks have won just four of their last nine games when facing someone other than the team's number one goaltender including Sunday's loss to Ty Conklin and the Blues. Vancouver's record this season when facing backup netminders is 7-5-0. For our purposes, backup netminders are defined as goaltenders that did not start the season as their team's number one netminder on the depth chart. Below is a list of the so-called backups the Canucks have faced this season: October 21st @ Chicago - Antti Niemi - Win October 24th vs. Toronto - Joey MacDonald - Win October 25th vs. Edmonton - Jeff Deslauriers - Win October 27th vs. Detroit - Jimmy Howard - Loss November 12th @ Detroit - Jimmy Howard - Loss November 22nd vs. Chicago - Antti Niemi - Loss November 28th vs. Edmonton - Jeff Deslauriers - Win December 3rd @ Phiadelphia - Brian Boucher - Win December 5th @ Carolina - Manny Legace - Loss December 12th vs. Minnesota - Josh Harding - Win December 18th vs. Washington - Jose Theodore - Win December 20th vs. St. Louis - Ty Conklin - Loss NO THIRD HELPINGS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec1609_ob_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">As has been well-documented this season, the Canucks are not only one of the best teams when it comes to scoring in the third period (third in the League with 44 third period goals) but they've been pretty good at preventing third period markers as well. Vancouver has given up just 28 third period tallies this season - the fewest goals among all their other periods this season (34 in first periods; 31 in second periods). What's even more impressive is Vancouver's record this season when they don't give up a third period goal at all. 16 of Vancouver's 20 wins this season have come in games where they don't surrender a third period goal. In fact, the Canucks have just two losses this season in games where they don't give up a goal in the final regulation period. One of those two losses came in their most recent game on Sunday against the Blues when they entered the final frame down 3-1 and weren't able to generate any offence to mount a comeback. The other loss came back on October 16th in Calgary when the Canucks spotted the Flames a 5-0 lead through two periods and managed to tally three times in the third period but still fell by a 5-3 score. BROTHER ACT <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/205x115_4_121609.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">It was a relatively quiet week for Daniel and Henrik, but of course no Number Crunching column would be complete without a mention of the Sedin twins so we offer this interesting little note. When Daniel notched his third career hat-trick back on December 10th against the Atlanta Thrashers, he succeeded in completing a rare feat that had not been accomplished in 17 years. Combined with Henrik's hat trick against the Colorado Avalanche on November 14th, the pair became the first brothers to record a hat trick in the same season for the same team since Peter and Marian Stastny did it back in the 1982.83 season with the Quebec Nordiques. That season, Peter had an impressive four hat tricks while old brother Marian wasn't too shabby either with two of his own. The fact the record has stood for so long is impressive considering the list of impressive brother duos that have played on the same team since Peter and Marian did including the likes of Pavel and Valeri Bure with the Florida Panthers, Rob and Scott Niedermayer with the Anaheim Ducks, and of course Geoff and Russ Courtnall with the Vancouver Canucks. Special thanks to the Canucks Media Relations Department for this tidbit. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK (for the week ending Sunday, December 20th) <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/121209_VAN_MIN_raymond205.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Mason Raymond: Five points (3-2-5) in four games It was a career-week for the Cochrane, Alberta native. After setting a new career-high in goals on Monday with his 12th of the season against the Los Angeles Kings to kick off the week, Raymond proceeded to set a new career-high in points by recording points 23 and 24 of the season with his two-goal outing against the Washington Capitals on Friday. The 24-year old has also become Vancouver's go-to guy on the power play as his goal on the man-advantage against the Caps on Friday was his team-leading seventh power play marker of the season. Not only that but Raymond currently sits tied for sixth in the NHL with his seven power play goals while only San Jose's Dany Heatley has more power play goals among Western Conference players than Raymond with ten. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec1409_bieksa_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Kevin Bieksa: Zero points and even rating in four games played. His lack of offensive production this season stands out like a sore thumb - just one goal and 15 points in 36 games this season coming off a 43-point season last year (11-32-43) - but his inability to put up goals has been somewhat easy to overlook because of the situations that the 28-year old is often asked to play in. The fifth-year pro is among the Canucks leaders in ice-time racking up plenty of shifts on the power play, short-handed and in even-strength situations. However, it seems even Coach Vigneault's patience with Bieksa is starting to wear a little thin this week. Bieksa, who is accustomed to playing 20-plus minutes per game, saw his ice-time go from 24:17 and 23:18 to start the week against the Kings and Ducks, respectively, to just 17:18 and 16:22 against the Capitals and Blues to end the week.
  10. Larenzo

    Boudreau's "Bravo"

    With the Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks tied at 2 at 12:24 of the third period, referee Brad Meier assessed Caps Tom Poti a double minor that changed the game. Washington's head coach, Bruce Boudreau couldn't beleive what he was seeing as Poti first received a cross-checking minor for hitting Alex Burrows in the shoulders. Then, after dismissing Meier's call with a "take off" waving gesture, Poti was given an additional two minute minor for Unsportsmanlike conduct. On the subsequent power play, Mason Raymond notched his 2nd of the game, and as Brad Meier skated by the Washington bench, all Boudreau could do was clap his hands (at Meiers) and sarcastically say: "Bravo, bravo." Kesler helps Raymond celebrate the tying goal - (AP Photo / The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck) The Kesler, Raymond and Samuelsson line was assigned the Alex Ovechkin coverage, and performed admirably. Denying time and space, Kesler admitted prior to the game to looking very much forward to the role and responsibility. Afterwards Ovechkin was rather short with reporters and walked away after two minutes and this comment: "I just didn't have the puck." His best chances came in the third, where he registered three shots, one a great shoulder save by Roberto Luongo. Kesler opened the scoring at 6:39 of the first period, when a Jannik Hansen backhand whack at the blueline took a few fortuitous skips and onto Kesler's stick. He had drawn a penalty while interupted by a hook taking a backhand shot, but a Capital's dragging skate pushed the puck past a sprawled Theodore. The Capitals fired right back with a nice wrist-shot by Alexander Semin, who took advantage of a broken play to beat Luongo gloveside. Brooks Laich paid the price for the goal, getting drilled by Tanner Glass off his feet into the Canucks bench (pictured below) while passing to Semin. Chris Clark gave the Capitals the lead heading into the second period, collecting the second shot attempt rebound off Kevin Bieksa for his 4th of the year. But Mason Raymond would score a beautiful goal late in the second period on a 2-on-1 rush, going backhand, then forehand, undressing Theodore to tie it. "We were trying to capitalize off their mistakes," said Raymond. "We knew if we kept shutting their top lines down, we would be heading back the other way." Alexander Ovechkin was shadowed all night long; here by Henrik Sedin, and regularly by Ryan Kesler (AP Photo, Darryl Dyck) As noted earlier, special teams played a significant role in the game, and the Canucks defense did a great job of boxing Washington out. Alex Burrows and both Ryan's (Kesler and Johnson) made significant plays to help knock pucks out of their end, and to keep them on the perimeter. "Our power play was horrible," coach Boudreau remarked, after failing to register a shot on 3 of 4 power plays. "We didn't generate anything." Only 19 seconds after Raymond's goal, Kevin Bieksa hauled Alexander Semin down on a partial breakaway. Referee Mike Leggo pointed to center ice to indicate a penalty shot. "I was playing the shot the whole way," explained Canucks captain Luongo. "Took as much net away as possible, and once he went for the shot I went down right away and was able to get a pad on it." The save (picture below) helped Raymonds' goal stand up to be the winner. Note: Henrik Sedin's assist on Mason's tying goal extended his point streak to 9 games, though twin Daniel had his stopped at 8 games. Next up: St. Louis Blues (away record, 8-3-3) have been playing better on the road than at home; visit Sunday for game 6 of 8 during Canucks' homestand.
  11. Larenzo

    Speed Kings

    Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond proved a formidable, speedy duo with both recording a goal and an assist against the surging Los Angeles Kings. The Los Angeles Kings touched down at YVR looking to accomplish something they hadn’t done since 1980: Earn points in 9 straight games. Unfortunately for them, they would take off early Tuesday morning from Vancouver International failing to duplicate the feat. The Vancouver Canucks skated to a 3-1 victory over the Western conference leading Kings Monday night. Los Angeles also missed the opportunity to move abreast of the entire NHL with a win. Vancouver outhustled and overwhelmed the Kings with a speedy forecheck and a thorough ownership of the neutral ice area. “We didn’t come out as strong as we wanted to,” said Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. “It’s not an easy task coming into this rink and taking control in the first period but you’ve got to compete and fight off that wave of momentum they throw at you right at the beginning.” Ryan Kesler opened the scoring just 1:04 into the game, perfectly positioned in front of the Kings net (pictured), swiping home the Mason Raymond slapper. Shane O’Brien hustled and helped orchestrate the play by pinching the clearing attempt and leaving a drop pass for Raymond. “This game’s a lot about confidence,” stated Kesler, probably referring to both him and O’Brien. “It’s a funny game that way. You have confidence and you’re working hard but it seems like it’s effortless out there but I’m getting the bounces and I’m feeling good right now.” Kesler also made a crucial shot block during a 46 second 2-man advantage for the Kings. Luongo made the initial stop off a Drew Doughty slapshot, and a couple moments later Kesler sacrificed the body as Doughty let another blast go from the point, with traffic in front. “It was one of our best (games) of the year,” said Luongo. “We came out with an early lead and really played well the rest of the way and never really gave them much as far as scoring chances are concerned.” Daniel and Henrik Sedin both assisted on Sami Salo’s power play goal late in the first period, keeping their points streak alive at seven games. Mason Raymond’s speedy forecheck just added to the Kings’ frustration, as they had a difficult time moving the puck between center and the Canucks’ blue line. Raymond’s goal was his 12th, a career high in a season for him. The Orca crew (19-14-0) is 3-0 on their current 8 game homestand, and play Anaheim (12-13-7) Wednesday. The Ducks bring a 3-5-5 road record with them into GM Place. Check out further Canuck action at www.thecanuckway.com Larenzo Jensen, with files from The Canadian Press/ AP Photo and Yahoo! Sports
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