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  1. With just one Canucks playoff game to dissect this week, Number Crunching takes a page out of the playbook of our road warriors and gives Game 1 the full court press with the best stats from the Round 2 series opener. And because we're just so darned nice out here on the West Coast, we decide to give a shout out to a long-lost friend who just couldn't be here with us. BALANCING ACT <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">By combining on Vancouver's fifth and final goal of Game 1 against the Blackhawks, Michael Grabner and Rick Rypien became the 17th and 18th players, respectively, to tally a point during the 2010 playoff run for the Canucks - giving the Canucks the same number of players with a point they had in their entire 2009 playoff run. Through all Game 1's played in second round (i.e. excluding games played on Sunday), Vancouver not only leads all currently active playoff teams in goals with 30 (tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins) but their 18 players with a point also leads all teams still in the post-season. The Sharks and the Canadiens are right behind the Canucks with 17 players each with a point so far in the 2010 post-season, while the Blackhawks bring up the rear with just 14 players to have recorded a point. The Canucks also saw Kyle Wellwood and Michael Grabner become the 13th and 14th players, respectively, to tally a goal for them in this year's playoffs - giving them the lead among all active playoff teams in that category as well. The Red Wings and Penguins have the next highest total with 13 goal scorers each while the Flyers have the fewest among teams still alive with only eight different goal scorers. Last season, the 2009 Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins finished the playoffs with 16 different goal scorers and 20 different skaters who recorded at least one point. PLAYING KEEP-AWAY <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">A big reason the Canucks managed to keep the Blackhawks' potent offense largely in check during Game 1 was because of their puck control. The Canucks committed just four giveaways in Saturday's contest - the fewest so far for them in the 2010 post-season. The low number of giveaways was actually a trend for the Canucks during the regular season at the United Center as well. In their two regular season contests played in Chicago, the Canucks combined for just five total giveaways. Vancouver's record during the regular season when they committed five-or-fewer giveaways in a game was 19-8-2. During their first round series against the Kings, the Canucks committed an average of 10.7 giveaways per game - the most being 16 (Game 6) and the least being seven (Game 5). ONE AND DONE <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Roberto Luongo had one streak entering Game 1 on Saturday that he was more than happy to see come to an end. Luongo gave up just a single goal to the Blackhawks in the series opener snapping a streak of 10 consecutive games where he had given up multiple goals-per-game dating back to April 1 in the regular season. The streak of 10 games where he had personally given up two-or-more goals was the third longest single season streak for the netminder since he joined the Canucks in the 2006.07 season. Luongo's longest streak as a Canuck where he gave up multiple goals each game was 14 games from January 15, 2009 to February 24, 2009. Followers of the Canucks will remember that span took place upon Luongo's return from missing 24 games with a groin injury. His second longest streak was 11 games from January 8, 2008 to February 5, 2008. Luongo's longest streak of multiple goal games surrendered during the 2009.10 regular season was six games. He suffered through two such streaks during the regular campaign - first from January 9 to January 21 and again from January 25 to February 9. ON THIS DAY IN STANLEY CUP HISTORY (MAY 2) <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Number Crunching is a fully fledged member of Canucks Nation but that doesn't mean we don't welcome fans from across the NHL to read this blog. Today, we offer this little shout out to any Number Crunching fans reading this from Toronto. We know your beloved blue-and-white was not invited to this year's playoff party (your invitation must have been accidentally sent to Boston) but here's something that will turn that frown upside down: 1967: With the oldest lineup in Final history, the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game Six to win the 1967 Stanley Cup. The Leafs' roster included 42-year-old goalie Johnny Bower and 41-year-old defenseman Allan Stanley as well as seven others at least 30 years old. Toronto center Red Kelly played his 65th game in Final competition, setting a Stanley Cup record later tied by Montreal's Henri Richard. (Courtesy of Total Stanley Cup - NHL 2010 Playoff Media Guide) Statistics and other information appearing in this blog are for entertainment purposes only and a sense of humour is recommended when reading. E-mail the author here or follow him on Twitter.
  2. 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.
  3. <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.
  4. <img src="" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Rogers Sportsnet Canucks game host @sportsnetmurph is reporting center Ryan Johnson has been placed on injured reserve, which means his foot injury will keep him out of the lineup for at least one week. This brings the Canucks active roster down from the maximum of 23 to 22 players. With Johnson on injured reserve, this will enable the Canucks to call-up a forward from the Manitoba Moose with Michael Grabner as the leading candidate. However, the Canucks may be in no rush to call anybody up given the Canucks have won two straight games and Darcy Hordichuk's strong play last night. In 8:03 of ice time, Hordichuk had a team-high six hits with the Raymond, Bernier, Kesler, Glass, and Bieksa next with two hits each and drew a penalty in the third period on Steve Staios by driving hard to the net. Since being sent down on December 19, Grabner has yet to get into a game as the Moose just finished a one week Christmas break. The Moose host the Abbotsford Heat tonight and Grabner is expected to be in the lineup playing on a line with Marty Murray and Matt Pettinger. Although Grabner's demotion was not officially deemed as for conditioning purposes by the Canucks, if it were the Canucks probably would want him to get into a few more games before a call-up. Mikael Samuelsson will have to pickup his play or he will find himself on the third line soon. Samuelsson has one point in five games and is simply not scoring enough for a top-six forward or making contributions in other areas.
  5. <img src="" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">After being cleared to begin skating by himself last week, Michael Grabner joined the team for their practice today at General Motors Place and looks poised to return to playing hockey by the end of December. But the question is where? The first choice appears to the Canucks farm team, the Manitoba Moose. The Moose do not have the sexiest top six in the AHL on paper and with the re-addition of Grabner should be a spark a team that is three games above .500. Prior his call up, Grabner also displayed great chemistry with Russian winger Sergei Shirokov. But at the same time, Grabner could be a spark to the Canucks who are four games above .500 and displayed great chemistry on a second line with fellow speedsters Mason Raymond and Ryan Kesler. How the Canucks play in the time between now and until Grabner's activation of injured reserve will determine where he goes and if the game against the Anaheim Ducks last night was just a blip. The fact that the Canucks are at the 23-man roster limit with Pavol Demitra still on injured reserve will definitely play a role. All players presently on the roster are waivers eligible and all hold one-way contracts with the exception of Tanner Glass and Jannik Hansen. Grabner on the other hand is not waivers eligible and is on a two-way contract which puts him at a disadvantaged position. The popular consensus among Canucks fans is that Grabner has played well enough in his nine games thus far with the Canucks this season and should be given a spot on the team upon his return and Darcy Hordichuk should be dispatched to the minors because he's a floater and is useless. <img src="" width="300" height="257" class="imageFloatRightFramed">Are we expecting too much from Hordichuk? I tend to think so. Yes, he was hailed by Mike Gillis as this great fourth line enforcer who could play a regular shift, bring energy, and be a deterrent to extracurricular activities on the ice. Much like how Dave Nonis hailed Tommi Santala as the league's best fourth line centre. But he is an enforcer after all, is he not? A floater, a four minutes a night guy, dumb penalties, questionable hits, and a bench warmer in the third period is what you get for an enforcer in the NHL. Hordichuk brings a decent skating to the table, something many enforcers in the NHL are unable to do. Having an enforcer is important and look no further than the last four Stanley Cup champions coming out of the lockout. Last year, Eric Godard was there to serve and protect for the Pittsburgh Penguins. In 2008, there was Aaron Downey on the Detroit Red Wings. In 2007, there was of course George Parros and Shawn Thornton on Brian Burke's Anaheim Ducks. In 2006, there was Jesse Boulerice for the Carolina Hurricanes, albeit for four months of the season before being traded as part of the Doug Weight deal. Questionable hits so far this year in the NHL this season have also been committed to mostly teams that have lacked a heavyweight enforcer. Both Jarkko Ruutu and Alexander Ovechkin's respective hits on Patrick Kaleta of the Buffalo Sabres, David Koci on Washington's Mike Green, Ovechkin on Tim Gleason of Carolina, Mike Richards on David Booth of Florida, Carcillo's cheapshot on Matt Bradley of Washington in a fight, or Georges Laraques knee on Niklas Kronwall of Detroit. So, in short, I believe Darcy Hordichuk has a place on this team and I would say his job is safe on the team. <img src="" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">As well as Tanner Glass has played this year and as bad as Hordichuk has played this year and his reluctance to get into a fight, I would say Glass's job is in danger, if not more than Hordichuk. After surprisingly making the team out of training camp, Glass has played exceptionally well so far this NHL campaign and already setting career highs in goals, assists, and points in a single season. But two things are working against Glass. Waivers. If the Canucks choose to put Darcy Hordichuk on waivers to clear the requisite roster space for Michael Grabner or Pavol Demitra's return in January, he will most likely get claimed by a rival NHL club. Carolina, Detroit, New York Islanders, and Washington are all without a heavyweight. Surely, any one of these could put a claim in or any of teams that already have a heavyweight could as well as it is not easy finding one that can skate. Even if Hordichuk manages to clear waivers and gets sent to the minors, he will be subject to re-entry waivers if the Canucks ever want to bring him back up at which point you run the risk of having a rival team claim him and have half of his cap hit count towards the Canucks' cap. Glass has the higher probability of clearing waivers and is a player not subject to re-entry waivers. Redundancy. Both Tanner Glass and Rick Rypien are similar players. They both are quick on the forecheck, like to run guys through the boards, great middleweight scrappers, decent puck skills, and solid defensively. Needless to say, I think Rypien wins. Whatever the decision is, when Michael Grabner returns and Pavol Demitra in January, it is a decision for Alain Vigneault and staff to make, and not ours.
  6. <img src="" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Wednesday Night Update: The White Towel is now reporting that early indication is that Edler will miss two weeks with a shoulder injury. This means Mathieu Schneider will get back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch. Defenceman Aaron Rome could have his two-week conditioning stint to the Manitoba Moose end early as well. Wednesday Morning Update: The White Towel is reporting that Edler will be re-evaluated today and also speculates it is an injury to his left shoulder. Tuesday Night Update: In Tuesday night's game, Canucks defenceman Alex Edler was crunched into the boards by Nashville Predators defenceman Shea Weber with 11:31 left in the period. Edler left the ice with discomfort holding onto his arm. While initially suspected to be a hand injury, it was pointed out by Canucks commentator John Garrett that it may be a shoulder injury. The update received in the first intermission was that Edler suffered an upper-body injury and would not return for the rest of the game. After the game, it was reported by @NHLSourcesSay that Edler suffered a separated shoulder and will miss a significant amount of time. The report was refuted by Sportsnet Pacific host for Canucks games, Dan Murphy's Twitter (@sportsnetmurph), that when Edler left the rink he was "not wearing a sling or anything." It is anybody's guess what injury Edler suffered, but it was obviously serious enough to keep him out of the game. But we do know that Edler was not seen with the sling following the game which would suggest he did not suffer a separated shoulder, which means he should not be out long, if any games, unless he suffered a serious injury to his wrist or any other part of his upper-body. <img src="" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Grabner: @TC_Carling reports that injured forward Michael Grabner has been cleared by the Canucks medical staff to begin light skating. Grabner broke his ankle while warming up on November 1st in preparation for a game against the Colorado Avalanche at General Motors Place. Upon his activation off injured reserve, it is expected he will be re-assigned to the Manitoba Moose right away as the Canucks are at its 23-man roster limit despite having a strong showing in nine games with the Canucks. Side Note: Martin Biron of the New York Islanders goaltender Martin Biron was run over by Philadelphia Flyers forward Scott Hartnell in Tuesday night's game and this past June's 1st overall pick John Tavares was right there taking exception to what Hartnell had done before a teammate took over. Great to see.