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  1. There are lots of stats you can trot out to make an argument of one versus the other, or that this obviously shows AV is playing favourites versus this stat shows he's playing the guys who provide the best chance to win. Many have tried to use subjective statements to show how obvious it must be, or even the basic stats used by the NHL every day. Well, I wanted to try and show the reality of how our defencemen our performing beyond our top 4. Settle in for a (hopefully) good read if you're willing. NAME GP TOI/60 Corsi Rel QoC Corsi Rel Corsi On Off Zone St % Off Zone Fin % AARON ROME 17 12.44 -0.142 -13.2 -0.57 42.3 43.3 KEITH BALLARD 40 13.79 -0.452 -15.8 -1.96 46.3 48.9 ALEX SULZER 12 14.91 -0.084 -2.1 -2.35 41.5 51.1 ANDREW ALBERTS 31 13.15 -0.604 -13.4 -4.42 39.3 50 Lets start with the easy stuff: Bieksa, Hamhuis, Edler and Salo are our best 4 d-men, so I've dropped them from the comparisons for now. Of the remaining 4, Ballard has the most games followed by Alberts (31) then Rome (17) and Sulzer (12). Rome's been held back by injuries so likely would have played more. For the rest of the stats, they are strictly 5 on 5 (no PK or PP), since that's the best indicator of their overall play versus any specialized minutes. Of the bottom 4, TOI per game is led by Sulzer (14.91), then Ballard, then Alberts, then Rome. Rome has had less time 5 on 5, two and a half less than Sulzer and over a minute less than Ballard, but there is the time for PP and PK that would factor in if you're worried about that alone. The other stats are meant to augment the 5 on 5 play so let's look at them. Ballard and Alberts are given the easiest quality of competition (Corsi Rel* QoC) out of anyone on our team, and Sulzer and Rome are closer to average opponents (with Rome being almost exactly neutral). Rome, and then Sulzer should have a harder time while Ballard and Alberts aren't challenged as much. *The relative Corsi is a better version of +/- to measure shot differential (goals, saves, missed shots and blocks) for the difference between when a player is on the ice or off it and the QoC version in the table measures the opposition players relative Corsi. For example if a player has more chances for in a game than he does against, he'll have a positive Corsi on ice. If the Corsi when that player is off the ice isn't as good, that player's relative Corsi would be higher still, meaning he contributes more to the team's chances to score. Each of the bottom 4 D's relative Corsi is included (as well as just their Corsi on ice) to show how the chances rate. The bottom 4 typically have more goals, saves, missed shots or blocks against them than they do for them (which you might expect given they don't start as much in the offensive zone), and that's amplified in the relative Corsi since most of our chances 5 on 5 occur when the top 4 are on the ice. Ballard gets the most offensive zone starts of the bottom 4 and Alberts gets the least, but it's interesting to note both Alberts and Sulzer have significant increases from their starts to their finish % in the offensive zone. That means they're doing a decent job of getting the puck back from the opposition (in Alberts case, most likely after a chance where Sulzer may be preventing chances generally to gain possession). Rome trends more towards a defensive zone player and Ballard is slightly more balanced. For comparison, here's the same results for the top 4. NAME GP TOI/60 Corsi Rel QoC Corsi Rel Corsi On Off Zone St % Off Zone Fin % KEVIN BIEKSA 46 17.66 0.791 7 11.3 47.7 50.7 ALEXANDER EDLER 46 16.25 0.588 6.6 11.24 58.4 54.2 DAN HAMHUIS 46 17.05 0.715 6.1 10.78 48.7 49.6 SAMI SALO 38 13.99 0.599 1.2 9.14 55.4 53.3 You can see their games played and TOI per game is much higher (although Salo is being rested more at even strength). The top 4 D are all 0.6-0.8 roughly for Corsi Rel QoC rather than negative like the bottom 4, so they face the toughest players and the third pairing gets sent out when the bottom lines are on the ice. Salo's a little more neutral in his personal relative Corsi 5 on 5, so that's also worth noting. The top 4 also have higher offensive zone start and finish percentages (where Ballard leads the bottom 4), and you can see Edler and Salo get a lot of shifts in that zone, as they play with the Sedins most often. The end result for the bottom 4? In my opinion Rome and Sulzer have been the most reasonable depth guys. Alberts contributes more because of his size and physicality than actual ability, and Ballard isn't obscenely bad but still can't contribute more than the others despite lesser opposition and more offensive zone time 5 on 5. For the obvious Rome vs Ballard comparisons, Rome plays a simpler, physical game and does well enough, while Ballard has done not quite as well. For his price, he should be better even if his style is limited to less of a risk/reward role than he's used to and it hasn't justified a larger role over anyone, much less Rome. Data source: BehindTheNet.ca, table sorted by Corsi On Ice.
  2. I came up with this a little earlier and posted the screencapture to my deviantart account, but I'll link them all here. Let's start with the Youtube video: And the screencapture: And now the main part of the whole ordeal, I got this going after so many people tried to say all hipchecks were illegal as a result of this ruling, and they commented on Ballard and Hamhuis as frequent hipcheckers. They also brought up Raymond's hit which is less defensable, but I wanted to clear the air about hipchecks and I'm using the video above as a clear cut comparison. You can use the screenshot as a more obvious reference than pausing the video as I ask below. ================================================================================== To play along with this post, please pause the video and go to the 15 second mark (the closeup of the intial contact on Hamhuis' hipcheck). We'll be using that as our reference point going forward. This is also a good time to note the camera angle isn't level with the play, it's up higher, basically from the stands area. Hopefully I haven't caused any Bruins fans to disagree yet. You can see Hamhuis' head appears slightly lower than the stripes on Lucic's jersey, which are at the top of or above his hips. If you consider that camera angle I talked about before, his head must be closer to level with those stripes and at least level with his hips. Obviously his head is attached to his torso, so that's where we're going next - stay with me on this. His torso isn't quite parallel to the ice - his shoulders are slightly higher. They are also angled towards Lucic meaning that's more the initial point of contact than the hips. That doesn't make it *not* a hip check, as he's still travelling towards him with the hips like he's angling into his path going backwards to initiate the contact (pretty much the definition of a hip check). Let me know if you disagree with that assessment. You can see the back of his sweater is actually in contact with Lucic's elbow (now, no one start calling Lucic a monkey and say his arms hang lower than a regular human's, that's not true or nice). Stand up and put your arms to your side - are your elbows above or below your hips? Lean forward a little even, like Lucic is doing, and then keep leaning down until you can finally get your elbows at your hip level. For me, that's maybe halfway towards being bent over 90 degrees at the waist and Lucic clearly isn't bent over even halfway. Now, if you can, bend over 90 degrees and you'll find your elbow is almost at your knees when you let it hang down. Take it easy coming up, I don't want anyone passing out from being lightheaded. If you look at Hamhuis' left arm at the 15 second mark as well, you'll see it's hanging mostly down (maybe 45 degrees out from his body at highest) from his side, versus parallel to his side and perpendicular to the ice. His elbow is about the same level as Lucic's trailing knee (don't forget that camera angle, and note Hamhuis has his knees bent, otherwise his elbow would be higher compared to Lucic). His knee closest to Lucic is also only a little lower. Just using your eyes on that one, no exercise. Remember when I had you bend over about half way before? Now bend over to almost 90 degrees and put your arm out a little from your side and let you hand hang down. One more step, bend your knees like Hamhuis has in the paused video. Where is you elbow in relation to your hip, above or below? For me it's lower than my hip, which is level with my tricep. No worries, no more exercise after this, unless you consider thinking exercise. Alright! For those that stuck with me, congrats, you're really a trooper. Your last task is think about where Hamhuis' hip (the lowest point that would make contact in a hipcheck) must be if his elbow and knee are lower than his hip, and his elbow is level with Lucic's knee, and Hamhuis' back is touching Lucic's elbow and his head is above or at least level with Lucic's hip? If you've done the math right (and you are a human that isn't horribly disproportionate to the average), you've figured out that his hip is at worst in full contact with the thigh. Remember, that's his lowest point of contact and much of the contact was with the lower part of his torso (top of the hips and under the ribs). Now, there's a super secret step, but it doesn't require a decoder ring, and it's all on you. Repeat the above steps we just went through with the 31 second mark of the video and post your results here. I'll send the first trinket I can find in my desk (ooh, a deck of playing cards) to the winner!
  3. It's understandable that Vancouver Canuck fans are freaking out a little bit. The team has a 40-year history without conquering Lord Stanley, and after two great games on home ice, we were all dreaming of coming home for Game 5 with either the Stanley Cup or a 3-1 series lead. But now that it's 2-2 and Luongo has looked fragile and the power play has been listless and the momentum has swung in favour of the Bruins, it's no time to jump ship. The series is still there for the taking, and there's no reason to think Vancouver doesn't have the moxy to overcome this adversity. After all, nobody wins it all without going through some tough times. But let's not sugarcoat it. There's a lot to feel miserable about when your team is outscored 12-1 in two of the most important games in franchise history. We can start with the fact that Bobby Lou has given up 12 goals on 58 shots for a woeful .793 save percentage — numbers that are eerily reminiscent of the Chicago series when he was shredded for 10 goals on only 40 shots in Games 4 and 5 for an even uglier .750 save percentage. The question heading into Game 5 is whether Luongo can regain his composure and confidence. It's a question Vigneault will no doubt be asking himself right up to game time on Friday. Unlike the Chicago series, though, I don't think there's any reason to consider putting Cory Schneider between the pipes. As Alain Vigneault has already stated, "Louie is going to be fine. He's one of the best goaltenders in the league. We've got a lot of trust and faith in him…in his ability to play well." On the other hand, it must be said that Vancouver could have won both games in Boston if Tim Thomas had been in their net. The Canucks out-shot Boston in both games, and they carried the play in the first period of both games. Had they managed to put an early one past Thomas in either game, we're probably not talking about Luongo. In Game 4, unable to score early on, the snowball was put in motion by a pair of bad breaks when Edler's stick broke (leading to a seeing-eye shot from Andrew Ference) and Kesler re-directed a Mark Recchi pass past Luongo. But the fact is that after a couple fluke goals, Luongo has made very few big saves, while Thomas has been rock solid. This is why Luongo gets so little credit when Vancouver wins and a lot of blame when they lose. During a six-week stretch against Chicago (Game 7), Nashville, San Jose, and Boston (Games 1 and 2), Vancouver was the better team and Luongo was part of the equation. But it would be hard to argue that Luongo has stolen a game for Vancouver in these playoffs. Either way, six weeks of solid goaltending is nothing to sneeze at. And then, all of a sudden, after a couple bad bounces, he's playing as if shell-shocked and his mental fortitude is once again a big-time concern. Of course, Vancouver has plenty of other culprits. The Sedins have played decent 5-on-5 hockey, but haven't been scoring on the power play. Kesler hasn't been playing like the beast he was against the Predators. As a group, the defense hasn't been adding much to the offense, while the forwards haven't supplied enough traffic in front of Thomas or produced enough second chances. Finally, lady luck seems to be on Boston's side. But as Tommy Larscheid would point out, "you've gotta be good to be lucky, and lucky to be good". Having success begins with trusting your keeper to make a few clutch saves when the defense breaks down. And that's not happening right now. In the first period of last night's game, Vancouver out-shot Boston 12-6. Boston had two quality scoring chances. The first came on a Rich Peverley breakaway. On the play, Peverley made no deke or fake. He skated in and fired a wrist shot right at Luongo, who initially had his stick covering the five-hole, only to inexplicably remove it when the shot was released, thereby opening the door to the back of the net. Sure, it was a defensive breakdown, but it was a very makeable save. The second scoring chance came in the closing minutes of the period when Michael Ryder undressed Christian Ehrhoff and snapped a wrist shot short-side on Luongo that, despite a tight angle, rang off the post. Two days after the 8-1 debacle, you could tell Luongo wasn't sharp, and any team, no matter how confident and cohesive, will lose energy and focus when they're wondering if their keeper is rattled. As any Canuck fan knows, if Luongo's mind isn't sharp, neither is his technique; and he's not an athletic scrambler who can overcome poor technique and a frantic mindset. On the second goal, with Vancouver still carrying the play (not by a long shot, mind you), Ryder stepped over the blue line and fired a 60-foot wrist shot that found the back of the net. Yes, the puck took a slick deviation off Sami Salo's stick at the release point, causing the puck to dip slightly. But an NHL goaltender has to make that save. It's one thing if the deflection happens right in front the net and you have no time to react, but from that distance, Luongo had the time to pick it up, but his glove remained a foot higher than the puck's trajectory. If he's locked in and focused, it's easy pickings. On the third goal by Brad Marchand, there was mass confusion between Ballard and Bieksa. Ballard had a nightmare of a game, and after losing the puck once, he was tripped behind the net, which led to Marchand finding the puck on his stick right in front of the net. Again, Vancouver needed a save to keep the game within reach, and they didn't get it. By 4-0, Vigneault had no choice but to pull Luongo — which he also should have done after the second period in Game 4 to save Luongo from digging the puck out of his net four more times. In any case, heading into Game 5, Canuckleheads near and far will be wondering whether Schneider will see any more action in these playoffs. Stability in goal is a prerequisite to winning the Stanley Cup, and my guess is that Luongo will start Game 5 and Vancouver will play so well and be so hungry for a win that Luongo won't face much action early on. But if Boston weathers the early storm and starts getting their chances, we'll find out very quickly how confident Luongo is by his rebound control and his ability to catch the puck cleanly. And if Vancouver gets behind the 8-ball, I'd expect Vigneault to have a quick hook, especially with the knowledge that Schneider played well in Game 6 against Chicago…despite a pair of costly puck-handling gaffes. And so it comes down to this: if Vancouver is destined to win the Stanley Cup, they will stem the tide of momentum and take advantage of being back on home ice. But they'd better not wait for some last-minute heroics to get it done, because Luongo's confidence is unquestionably shakier now than it was early in the series. Speed should be the key. Boston has now matched Vancouver's physicality, but the Canucks must use their team speed to exploit the Bruins' defense. If they do, they'll get Thomas moving the way Tampa had him moving on occasion in the Eastern Conference Finals. Then the goals will come in bunches.
  4. The unbelievable news of Manny Malhotra’s return to the Canucks’ lineup will be a major x-factor in the Stanley Cup Finals. When you listen to him deal with the media, the guy oozes class, professionalism, and positivity. In the two-and-a-half months since his injury, he has dealt with two major eye operations and faced the fear that his hockey career was potentially over and that his vision may never fully recover. Despite the gravity of the injury, Malhotra remained directly involved with the team — going on road trips, being present in the locker room, and working on faceoff techniques with his fill-ins: Maxim Lapierre, Mason Raymond, and Cody Hodgson. And when Henrik Sedin accepted the President’s Trophy, what an emotional moment it was to see Manny emerge and accept the trophy alongside the Canucks’ captain. And now he’s back. Naturally, Alain Vigneault is remaining discreet about how Malhotra will fit back in to the Canucks’ lineup, but you’ve gotta think he’ll be there, centring either the third or fourth line. Bringing a guy like Malhotra into the Canucks’ dressing room is where Mike Gillis deserves a tremendous amount of credit. Signed very early in last summer’s free-agency period to a 3-year $7.5-million contract, some observers thought it was a lot of money for a third-line guy with limited offensive potential. But $2.5 million to Malhotra is the luxury Gillis could afford by maintaining a very balanced salary structure since taking over the ship three years ago. With cap hits of $6.1 million for each Sedin, $5.3 million for Luongo, $5 million for Kesler, and an incredibly deep blue line with six guys each making between $3.1 million and $4.5 million (Hamhuis, Ballard, Bieksa, Salo, Edler, and Ehrhoff), Gillis has refused to invest too heavily in one guy, knowing that depth throughout the lineup is far more important than putting all your eggs in one basket the way Washington has with Ovechkin or New Jersey did last summer with Kovalchuk. Of course, long-term injuries to Salo, Burrows, Edler, and Malhotra helped the Canucks retain their tremendous depth (while even adding to it with the shrewd deadline acquisitions of Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre). But Gillis, along with capologist Laurence Gilman, must be applauded for remaining patient and not dealing anyone until it became an absolute necessity, which it never did. So now that Vancouver has made it to their third Stanley Cup Final in the 40-year history of this franchise, Malhotra’s return adds yet another chip for Vigneault to play against the Bruins. All season, Malhotra has been a leader on and off the ice. Every Canuck fan knows that much, and if you’d forgotten, his recent press conference to discuss his return told you everything you need to know about Malhotra as human being. When asked what he learned about himself and his teammates by enduring such a severe injury, Malhotra choked up a little in discussing the family environment the Canucks have built over the past few years, and as an outside observer to that family, the bond has never seemed stronger. Here it is in Malhotra’s words: “We talk about our team concept all the time…We have a real family environment around here…Obviously, we’re here to win, we’re here to play hockey. But more importantly, the level of care we have for each other in the room and the importance we put on our personal health and the health and well-being of our families really came first and foremost. Right from ownership to management, coaches, teammates, and even players around the league. GMs, coaches I’ve never played for expressed their best wishes and thoughts just for my health, and you really put things into perspective. And like I said, we’re here to play hockey, we’re hockey players, but at the end of the day the level of respect that we have for one another as friends, husbands, brothers, fathers — that really came to the forefront for the last couple months.” Once you get past the miracle of Malhotra’s return and you consider things purely from a hockey perspective, you remember what a solid player he is, and how much pressure he takes off Ryan Kesler to be the shutdown guy. To be sure, Kesler will likely be playing against the Krejci, Lucic, and Horton line for much of the series, but as Malhotra gets more comfortable on the ice, you can expect to see him taking more key draws (especially in the defensive zone, in the closing minutes, and on the penalty kill). Throughout the regular season, he was a rock on the third line between Torres and Hansen. He has size, speed, and smarts, and even if Lapierre starts the series on the third line, if things go well for Malhotra, it seems pretty likely that he’ll return to his regular spot, which should alleviate the need to have Kesler’s line playing the shut-down role all the time. Against Chicago and San Jose, Kesler’s primary focus was shutting down the Toews line and the Thornton line respectively. But against Nashville, when there was no dominant player to contend with, Kesler was free to roam and he turned in a dominant offensive performance. If all goes well, we may see that same Kesler in the finals against Boston, and that may prove to be Manny’s greatest contribution.
  5. With the Stanley Cup Finals set to begin on Wednesday, June 1 at The Garage, Vancouver has a distinct advantage over Boston in two areas: their power play and overall team speed. So far in these playoffs, Boston's power play is clicking at a paltry 8.2% (5-for-61) compared to Vancouver's 28.3% (17-for-60) efficiency. Boston scored 0 goals in their first-round series against Montreal, 2 goals against Philly in Round 2, and 3 goals in their schizophrenic series against Tampa. And if you've seen many Bruins games since their trade for Kaberle, you'll know that his presence hasn't blended well with the rest of Boston's first unit — which generally includes Chara, Lucic, Horton, and Krejci. Most of the time they look dysfunctional, and although Chara may disturb Luongo in front of the net, I'd rather have him there than unleashing bombs from the point with Lucic and Horton banging around and sniffing for rebounds. The sheer fact that Boston has advanced to the Finals in an era where special teams usually play a decisive role in winning and losing is a remarkable testament to their 5-on-5 play, their collective resolve, and their good fortune. Vancouver, on the other hand, had the best power play in the regular season at 24.2%, and it's continued to be efficient throughout their playoff run, accounting for a lot of clutch goals. And since we're talking special teams, both penalty-killing units have been mediocre at best. The Canucks have killed 80.6% (58-for-72) of their short-handed situations, while the Bruins have killed 79.4% (50-for-63) of their penalties. Vancouver's other distinct edge is their team speed. When you think of getting in on the forecheck, as both Boston and Vancouver like to do, the Canucks have burners like Kesler, Raymond, Hansen, Torres, Burrows, and Lapierre who should wreak some havoc on Boston's blueline. Chara is obviously solid, but expect Torres to take a run or two at Chara, while the rest of the Canucks forecheckers should focus on hammering the other guys: Seidenberg, Kaberle, McQuaid, Ference, and Boychuk. Like Boston's forwards, their defense has size, but they're not the most mobile group, so Vancouver's game plan will be to use their speed to hit, cause confusion, and force turnovers. In contrast to Vancouver, Boston has very few speedsters. Despite the imposing size of guys like Lucic and Horton, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Chris Kelly will be key to disrupting Vancouver's quick and efficient breakout. If Boston is too slow to get in on the forecheck, though, Vancouver's slick passing and collective speed could help them accelerate the tempo, which is something Boston will want to slow down. Boston's toughest test so far in the playoffs was against Montreal, when Thomas played very well (unlike the Tampa series where he was pretty shaky), but Montreal's team speed and skill, along with an efficient power play, gave the Bruins all they could handle. It wasn't a good match-up for Boston, and although they squeaked through, Vancouver boasts a deeper, a more experienced, and a much tougher line-up than the Habs. So what about Boston? Where do they hold the advantage? Let's say that in goal, Vezina finalists Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo are a wash. Both are capable of playing at an elite level, and both have their bouts of inconsistency. But Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, and Nathan Horton are Boston's biggest difference makers, and their presence raises a few vital questions for the Canucks: 1. Will the Sedins and Burrows be able to win their fair share of puck battles to gain control in the offensive zone? 2. Will Chara, Lucic, and Horton succeed in causing chaos in and around Luongo's crease? And if so, how will Luongo handle the disturbance? 3. Boston has had a more balanced offensive attack in the playoffs than in the regular season with the emergence of Marchand, Seguin, and others. But Vancouver has more depth on their third and fourth lines, so the real question is whether Kesler, Raymond, Higgins, Bieksa, and Hamhuis can control the Krejci-Lucic-Horton line and prevent them from taking over games. In the lone regular- season game between the Canucks and Bruins, this line took over a tightly-contested affair that was played at the Bruins' speed. X-Factors: With the news that Manny Malhotra may be ready to play (and possibly even in Game 1), will he play his third-line role right away and be assigned to the Krejci line? Or will he begin on the fourth line, leaving Kesler and company to deal with Boston's best line? Either way, the Malhotra storyline will be fascinating to follow, because whatever role he plays should be galvanizing for Canuck fans and an emotional boost to the whole team. For the Bruins, Tyler Seguin has only played 7 games in the playoffs, but he has 6 points. If Boston is going to win, they'll need Seguin or Michael Ryder or Rich Peverley to give the Bruins the balanced scoring they've enjoyed through three rounds.
  6. http://www.chillerinstinct.com With the Canucks entering Game 7 of the Western Conference quarterfinal against the vilified and rival Chicago Blackhawks, one must put the goal-keeping controversy aside and think solely upon the team's play as just that - the team. In the past, that is what foiled the attempts put forth by Vancouver versus Chicago in the playoffs. The Blackhawks as a team were superior to the Canucks. Without getting into specifics and hashing all kinds of statistics and such, the intangibles will be the deciding factor. Period The depth of the team will become the focus of British Columbia in the months to come, win or lose. Win - the Nashville Predators come calling. Lose - well, management's effectiveness and the players on the depth chart will be scrutinized against their pay cheques, consistency, heart, etc. The team simply must perform better and seize the moment; mistakes have simply not been the realm of only Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. On my website, Chiller Instinct, I have linked the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview show with the talents/hosts of Goal Mouth Radio and The Blueline: Hockey Talk Radio in which I predicted Vancouver to win in Game 7. Round Two is also a possibility and new content is on each site weekly if you happen upon them. We went over each and every series and struck a lot of gold in contrast to the play we've witnessed since mid-April. I stood by the assumption that Toews and Co. would not go away lightly. That said I believe that Vancouver will prevail 4-2 in tonight's deciding game. Enjoy hockey enthusiasts; this is one for the ages... 26 April 2011 / Robin Keith Thompson http://www.chillerinstinct.com
  7. VANCOUVER—The Canucks management brass made two deals right at the NHL trade deadline on Monday, Feb.28. The Canucks targeted two players who will come in and help their forward depth, two guys who are interchangeable in the bottom six role on the Canucks. With the opening on the fourth line center ice position all season, after former-West coast express member Brendan Morrison exiled to Calgary for a bigger role, the Canucks had no proper replacement to fit in the fourth line. Roles on the team: Maxim Lapierre: fourth line centre, and occasional shifts on Manny Malhotra's wing if the situation arises. He has the speed and defensive instincts to play a penalty killing duty, lessening pressure on Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows on the PKs. He can take faceoffs with his respectable 53.4% winning rate on the season. Chirs Higgins: fourth line winger with Tanner Glass and Lapierre. Higgins has been teammates with Lapierre before, and they're no strangers to each others play. Look for head coach Alain Vigneault to rekindle old chemistry between the two. Higgins has the hands to play some shifts on the third line with Raffi Torres and Malhotra. He may even get a shot at replacing Mason Raymond on Ryan Kesler's second line left-wing if Raymond struggles. A very versatile player is what the Canucks got with Higgins. Luckily, I've had the pleasure of staying two seasons in Montréal. Following the Canadiens under the spotlight was quite a special experience. They take hockey to a new level. Unlike the Leaf Nation who really has had nothing to cheer for over six decades, I went through the Canadiens Centennial Year celebrations. Royal Canadian Mint designed a Canadiens loonie in celebration of the club's 24 Stanley Cup wins and a big boost to the atmosphere in town. From what I know about Higgins and Lapierre, who both left La Belle Province not too long ago, the Canucks have now got some valuable, quality members at forward. At the end of training camp in September of 2008 the Canadiens were getting set for their 100th NHL season. I can still remember listening to the FAN990, Montreal Sports Radio. They were ecstatic about Higgins. They felt it was Higgins' breakout year offensively on the Habs. Tony Marinaro, who currently hosts an on-air show called "Montreal Forum" predicted that Higgins could reach 40 goals this season. Head coach Guy Carbonneau was also optimistic. Kostitsyns was one year older, Higgins would step up and D'Agostini and Pacioretty were coming up promisingly. We all know that it did not exactly materialize, but the Canadiens did get into the playoffs, only to lose in the first round to the Boston Bruins. As for Lapierre, the Messiah to save our fourth line that we have dreamed for so long has finally arrived. In Montréal, Lapierre was loved by his coaching staff as a "hard-nosed, gritty hockey player," who worked "extremely hard night after night." While Lapierre will not score very many goals for his hockey club, he is very much like a Jannik Hansen or Glass on the Canucks; he gives a consistent effort each game and can really skate well. Lapierre has the speed, and with a faceoff percentage of 53.4%, is very tough to play against. He finishes his checks, gets under the skin of opposing players (mainly due to his tenacity) and he can chirp at will. When asked about chirping he said, "If they want me to shut up, I'll do it." After the trades, I received some strong reactions from Vancouver fans: Voice of the Canucks Nation: "Loved em both. The 4th line is soooo much better!" "Higgins is a great team guy as well." "Yea. Lost a little depth on D in Oberg tho. Should be fine." ~Todd Cordell, former-B/R lead writer, current SportsHaze Canada content manager via text message "A good sign, he's buying in already!" (on Lapierre agreeing to shut his mouth if asked by coaches) ~EvoLu7ioN, member on Canucks.com forum "Great trades today by netting Higgins and Lapierre that should solidify Vancouver's bottom 6 lines" ~Drewbro77, on twitter "Luvin vancouver's acquisition....lapierre & burrows 2 big pests...and underachieving higgins can chip in wtv on 3rd or 4th lines" ~Drizzydre87, twitter "Many props to Gillis for bringing in just what our roster needed. Higgins n lap will be perfect. And for cheap. Love it." ~Robertus97, twitter Thanks for following your Vancouver Canucks. This is Joseph Trenton. Follow Joseph Trenton on Twitter for the latest Canucks, NHL news, as well as CFL news.
  8. When Henrik Sedin was drafted in 1999 along with his brother Daniel 2nd and 3rd overall respectively, Canucks fans and the NHL had no idea what they were getting. The twin brothers entered the NHL in the 2000-2001 season and showed a little bit of why they were drafted so high. Daniel netted 20 goals in his rookie season while Henrik bagged 29 points. These first points were the start of something extraordinary as the brothers have become one of the most potent dynamic duos in the NHL. Ever since they started playing professional hockey they have played together. That is why then GM Brian Burke tried so hard to draft both of them because they were better together then apart. We can now see why as they have bagged over 1000 points between the two of them mostly playing together. Ever since they were drafted, every year they have worked hard in the off season to improve themselves. This hard work explains why they have steadily increased their point totals every season. Henrik and Daniel have become one of the best, if not the best dynamic duo in the NHL. Every team going into a game against the Vancouver Canucks have to devise a game plan to shut down the Sedins. Occasionally this has been a problem for the brothers as they have fallen in the trap of getting away from the game that has made the successful and trying to become something they are not. This was prevolent in the 2007-2008 playoffs when they were completely shut down against the Anaheim Ducks. The checking line of Moen, Paulsson and Niedermayer played physical against them and made them a non factor. At this point the Sedins were still getting accustomed to being number one line players. The Canucks also did not have enough depth to survive without the contributions from the Sedins. The result was another second round exit. 2009 – The discovery of Alex Burrows (aka the third Sedin) On February 3rd 2009, in the midst of a potentially catastrophic 9 game losing streak at home, in an act of desperation head coach Alain Vigneault put checking line winger Alex Burrows with the Sedins on the number one line. Before the game, fans were a buzz on the forums wondering what will come of this move. Burrows was thought of as a very effective checker, but never as a scoring line winger. The result was Burrows scoring the game winning goal short handed, breaking the long 9 game drought. The game also saw Burrows play very well with the Sedin twins. This success made Vigneault keep Burrows with the Sedins for the foreseeable future. Burrows was so successful with them that he put up 28 goals. A season later, playing almost exclusively with them, he put up 35 goals while being his usual agitating self. This discovery of the third Sedin also helped Henrik and Daniel to career highs of 112 and 83 points respectively. The Evolution of 2010 Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy Winner Henrik Sedin When brother Daniel Sedin got injured long term in the early stages of the 2009-2010 season, Canucks fans were worried to say the least. Henrik had never played long term without his brother so it was an unknown how he would play. Would he play like a number one center or an inconsistent number 2 or 3 center? Two months later, Henrik had 15 goals and was chugging along at a point per game pace. Henrik reinvented his game to include a “going to the net” mentality and a “shoot first, pass later” part to his game. This made him a much more potent threat as a centerman. Opposing teams had to think twice when checking him as he was now a threat to score as well as make a perfect pass to a line mate. When Daniel returned to the lineup in December, Henrik did not miss a beat and Daniel just cruised along with him putting up multiple point games almost every second night. By the end of the season Daniel had put together a career season in just 68 games while Henrik became the first Art Ross trophy winner in Canuck history beating out Alex Ovechkin while also eventually winning the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player. Henrik is now considered one of the elite centerman in the NHL. After years of critique and ridicule the Sedins have shown the hockey world that they are a force to be reckoned with. Now that the Canucks have the depth to give them even more room, who knows what the NHL's most potent dynamic duo will bring the Canucks, may be the franchise's first Stanley Cup.
  9. With Ryan Getzlaf healthy and Corey Perry's emergence as the West's best power forward, the Ducks boast one of the league's best duos. What should be concerning is their defense. The Ducks are expecting Brett Festerling, Brendan Mikkelson, Stu Bickell, Luca Sbisa, and perhaps Cam Fowler, if he makes the team, to log consistent NHL-calibre minutes, but if they can't then the Ducks' atrocious 251 GA (fourth-worst in West) could look even uglier. Offense: B, Defense: C+, Goaltending: B- Other than Jarome Iginla, the Flames are chock-full of underachievers (Matt Stajan, Olli Jokinen, Alex Tanguay, Jay Bouwmeester) and good depth players (Rene Bourque, Nik Hagman, Ian White). Given the strength of the Western Conference and the lack of consistent weapons the Flames boast making the playoffs will be a challenge. Miikka Kiprusoff is once again expected to play at least 75 games given the relative inexperience of his potential backups (Henrik Karlsson, Leland Irving). Offense: B-, Defense: B, Goaltending: B Oh, how the mighty have shot themselves in the foot. Dale Tallon's mismanagement of the cap has given Stan Bowman headaches with no outs. It's a good thing Tallon has a good eye for talent with a whole new slew of youngsters ready to make their mark for the defending champs having lost a bunch of good depth. The Hawks are finally under the cap but have a questionable duo of Marty Turco and Corey Crawford manning the pipes. If the goaltending can't hold then forget about a second consecutive Cup title. Offense: A-, Defense: A, Goaltending: C+ <img src="http://nimg.sulekha.com/sports/thumbnailfull/craig-anderson-2009-10-15-23-10-58.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Like Phoenix and Buffalo, a big reason for the Avs' success was the play of Craig Anderson. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't come with either Ryan Miller or Ilya Bryzgalov's pedigree. The Avs won't catch anyone off-guard this year because there most likely won't be any breakout performances (Chris Stewart) or surprising rookies (Ryan O'Reilly). Kyle Quincey has become the Avs' best blueliner but he's going to have a big workload in front of him and Anderson needs bailing out. Offense: B, Defense: B, Goaltending: B- Columbus was just on the cusp of breaking out before Steve Mason hit the sophomore wall and the whole team imploded. The team has the pieces in place, although they may be one top pair defenseman away, to be a playoff team. All that has to happen is for everybody, especially Derick Brassard, to perform. Rick Nash is slowly growing into his leadership role and Antoine Vermette still has untapped potential. The Jackets are a young team led by rookie coach in Scott Arniel but GM Scott Howson's acquisition of seasoned veteran Chris Clark will help smooth the bumpy ride. Offense: B+, Defense: B, Goaltending: B- One thing about Marc Crawford's squads is that they can really score. That's all great but it's worth nothing if you can't defend and win some games. The six highest paid players on the Stars' payroll have no-trade clauses and none of them, save Loui Eriksson, are entering their prime. With the uncertainty behind the ownership of the Stars, the club has been forced to cut costs. The team has a good group of talented individuals but it's a club that's in limbo. They're not exactly contending for the playoffs and not exactly re-building (which they should) either. Joe Nieuwendyk has provided more stability than the failed Les Jackson-Brett Hull experiment but it hasn't gotten off to a good start. Offense: B, Defense: B-, Goaltending: C+ <img src="http://nbcsportsmedia.msnbc.com/j/msnbc/Components/Photo_StoryLevel/080515/080515-Nicklas%20Lidstrom-vmed-234p.widec.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Never count out the Red Wings, especially when Nicklas Lidstrom is back to give one last kick at the can. Given the cap troubles of the Hawks and their cost-cutting measures, the Red Wings are in a position to re-take the Central Division crown. It's a golden opportunity for the Wings this season with Jiri Hudler back and GM Ken Holland added some great depth in Mike Modano and Ruslan Salei. Johan Franzen is healthy. If Valtteri Filppula can play like we all know he can, watch out. Offense: A-, Defense: A, Goaltending: A- It's hard to get excited about the Oilers' upcoming season but they will feature a bevy of potential superstars: Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Jordan Eberle, and Linus Omark. If you're going to watch the Oilers don't expect a win but do expect some razzle-dazzle from its youngsters. The franchise is clearly in re-building mode but I'm not sure if they've found the right coach in Tom Renney. With Sheldon Souray most likely gone 27-year old Ales Hemsky is considered a veteran and will have to help these players grow.. Offense: B-, Defense: C+, Goaltending: C The Kings have been inching towards the top ever so slightly since drafting Anze Kopitar. There's a good collection of young talent, veterans (Ryan Smyth, Michal Handzus, Rob Scuderi), and prospects (Brayden Schenn, Thomas Hickey, Colten Teubert, Jonathan Bernier) for the Kings to forge ahead. They will be big players at the deadline, looking for that extra piece. While they have no game-breaking winger yet, which was why GM Dean Lombardi went after Ilya Kovalchuk, the Kings still have a very solid group that can compete. Willie Mitchell stabilizes the blueline and Drew Doughty has become of the true elite blueliners in this league. Offense: A-, Defense: A, Goaltending: A- After committing some big dollars to Martin Havlat (with a few parting shots at Chicago) and a promise from rookie coach Todd Richards to implement a more attacking system, the Wild responded by finishing 13th in the conference. The Wild were relatively quiet this summer save for Mikko Koivu's overpriced extension and the signing of Matt Cullen, but the general belief in Minnesota is that this team can play much better. There's toughness up front with this group but a little short on skill. Brent Burns is still the major X factor and if he plays well he's a great spark for the Wild attack. Offense: B-, Defense: B-, Goaltending: B+ Anyone who appreciates hockey has to appreciate the Predators. Led by GM David Poile and Barry Trotz, one of the league's best coaches, the Preds play a blue-collar game and win on a consistent basis. Never mind that they've never won a single playoff series – that they've managed to even make the playoffs consistently with such a strict payroll budget is astounding. Expect more of the same this year. Some things just don't change. Offense: B, Defense: B+, Goaltending: B+ If the Phoenix Coyotes can win 50 games again this year Dave Tippett may be the best coach in the league. The roster isn't anything to smirk at but it's not exactly intimidating either. The Desert Dogs' fate will be solely based on the play of Ilya Bryzgalov. Picking up Ray Whitney was a shrewd move for a young team and if they can get Kyle Turris and Oliver Ekman-Larsson to make significant contributions they are a dangerous team. But count me in as one of those doubters, especially after losing shot-blocking machine Zbynek Michalek. Offense: B+, Defense: B, Goaltending: A- Some people don't think the Sharks can win without Evgeni Nabokov, but with an offense that features at least two 40-goal scorers (Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau) and one of the league's best playmakers in Joe Thornton, there's no shortage of weapons up front for Todd McLellan although the bottom six isn't great. Dan Boyle is best powerplay quarterback in the West and Marc-Edouard Vlasic's production can't dip any further. Whether or not this team can succeed in the post-season is yet another question. Offense: A, Defense: B+, Goaltending: B+ Things were looking so good in St. Louis when they took a giant step back. There's enough talent up front even but David Backes and Brad Boyes need to regain their scoring touches. Jaroslav Halak is more than an adequate replacement for Chris Mason. Erik Johnson is a stud defenseman but they still need Eric Brewer and Barrett Jackman to stay healthy. Easier said than done, of course. Offense: B, Defense: B-, Goaltending: B+ <img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3416/3276791653_6041358afd.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Bar none, the Canucks are the best team in the West. This isn't just some hometown bias working here, it's the truth. No other team can match the Canucks' depth, up front or on the blueline, and there shouldn't be any questions in net... unless Keith Ballard knocks out Roberto Luongo. We may see Mason Raymond score 30 this year and while many didn't like the Raffi Torres signing, I definitely did. After losing out on Arron Asham you can't go wrong with a former 27-goal scorer with some sandpaper for only $1 million bucks. Offense: A+, Defense: A, Goaltending: A STANDINGS 1. Vancouver2. San Jose3. Detroit4. Chicago5. Los Angeles6. Phoenix7. Nashville8. Calgary9. St. Louis10. Colorado11. Columbus12. Minnesota13. Anaheim14. Dallas15. Edmonton
  10. A win in Game 5 at the United Center keeps the Canucks' hopes of re-writing history alive as their quest to avoid having a similar fate this year against the Blackhawks as they did in 2009 continues for at least one more game. And since this year's theme for the playoffs is History Will Be Made, Number Crunching explores some of that history that has already been re-written so far in the 2010 playoffs for the Canucks. SPEED KILLS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0510_flying_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">To say the Canucks' start to Game 4 on Friday was their worst ever start in a playoff game is no exaggeration. Brent Seabrook's goal just 18 seconds into Game 4 set a new record by a Canucks' opponent for fastest goal to start a playoff game. The previous fastest goal to start a playoff game by a Canucks' opponent came from Jeff Halpern of the Dallas Stars back on April 13, 2007. Halpern scored 24 seconds into Game 2 of the Stars' Quarter-Final series against the Canucks that year. Seabrook's tally, however, was nowhere close to the all-time Blackhawks record for fastest goal to start a playoff game. That record belonged to forward Ken Wharram who set the mark way back on April 13, 1967 with a goal nine seconds into a playoff contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The NHL's all-time record for fastest goal from the start of a playoff game belongs to Don Kozak of the Los Angeles Kings who tallied six seconds into a contest against the Boston Bruins on April 17, 1977. OVERPOWERED <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0910_hawks08_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">The four power play goals surrendered by the Canucks in Game 4 on Friday not only was a high for the Canucks in the 2010 post-season, it established a new dubious franchise record for most power play goals against in a single playoff game. Vancouver's previous record for most power play goals surrendered in a single playoff game was three - something they had fallen victim to eight previous times most recently in Game 3 of their opening round series against the Kings. Three of the Blackhawks' power play goals on Friday came off the stick of Jonathan Toews, who incidentally tied an NHL record for most power play goals in a single game. Toews became just the 11th different NHL player (12th time overall) to score three power play goals in a single NHL playoff game. The record was initially set by Red Wings' forward Syd Howe (no relation to Gordie) on March 23, 1939 in a game against the Montreal Canadiens. The most recent player to accomplish the feat prior to Toews was Valeri Kamensky of the Colorado Avalanche. Kamensky notched the feat, coincidentally, in a 7-0 win on April 24, 1997 over the Chicago Blackhawks. The other players who have tallied three power play goals in one playoff contest are: Sid Smith (DET), Phil Esposito (BOS), John Bucyk (BOS), Denis Potvin (NYI), Tim Kerr (PHI), Jari Kurri (EDM), Mark Johnson (NJD), and Dino Ciccarelli (x2, DET). FIRST-MINUTEMEN <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0910_hawks10_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Goals coming in the opening minute of a game involving the Canucks were a rarity during the regular season so it was a bit unusual to see it happen this week in back-to-back games. During the 2009.10 regular season, the Canucks were involved in just five games where a goal had been scored in the opening minute. While it may seem like a huge advantage to have a lead less than one minute into a game, it didn't quite work out that way in the regular season at least as far as games involving the Canucks were concerned. Teams that scored one minute or less into a regular season contest involving Vancouver this season won just two of the five games where it occurred although in the playoffs they are a perfect 2-0. The following is a list of the first minute scorers in games involving Vancouver this season: October 27 vs DET - Henrik Sedin @ 0:30 - 5-4 Red Wings November 10 @ STL - Andy McDonald @ 0:18 - 6-1 Blues January 30 @ TOR - Phil Kessel @ 0:52 - 5-3 Canucks February 12 @ CBJ - Rick Nash @ 0:22 - 4-3 Canucks March 30 vs PHX - Alex Burrows @ 0:37 - 4-1 Canucks *May 7 vs CHI (Game 4) - Brent Seabrook @ 0:18 - 7-4 Blackhawks *May 9 @ Chi (Game 5) - Christian Ehrhoff @ 0:59 - 4-1 Canucks *Denotes playoff game. A MESSAGE TO THE BOYS FOR GAME 6 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.
  11. 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=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0110_hawks24_t.jpg 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=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0110_hawks09_t.jpg 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=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0110_hawks08_t.jpg 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=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/01/205x115_3_13010.jpg 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.
  12. We're doing the happy dance at Number Crunching this week after the Canucks completed a successful 4-2 first round series victory over the Los Angeles Kings but before we talk about Vancouver's next dance partner, we take a look back at the best numbers from round one in the Canucks/Kings series and in the NHL. NO EARLY BIRD SPECIAL <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr2310_quick_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Conventional wisdom and statistics suggest that teams scoring the first goal in a game will win more often than not but if the Canucks/Kings series was any indication, then perhaps scoring the opening goal isn't all that it's cracked up to be. In the six-game series between the Canucks and Kings, the team scoring first accounted for just one victory - that was Vancouver's 7-2 win in Game 5 at GM Place - while the team trailing first won five of the six games. It certainly isn't a statistic backed up by the rest of the teams so far in the playoffs. Through playoff games played on Sunday in the first round, if you take out games from the Canucks/Kings series, teams that trail first in a game have a record of only 14-24 (19-25 if you add the Canucks/Kings series results). The Canucks are a perfect 3-0 when trailing first in a game and are tied atop that category in wins with the Boston Bruins (3-2) through Sunday. While it's not a statistic the Canucks will want to tempt fate with in the next series, it should be noted that last year the Pittsburgh Penguins led all playoff teams with six victories (6-4) when trailing first and they went on to capture the Stanley Cup. SHORT-COMINGS <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr2510_kings07_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">The Canucks set or equaled plenty of positive team records during their first round series against the Kings but one they'd like to forget about is the number of goals surrendered on the penalty kill. The 10 goals surrendered by Vancouver's PK not only leads all playoffs teams through Sunday's games but equaled a record for most power play goals surrendered by the Canucks in a single playoff series. That mark was initially set back in 1989 in Vancouver's Division Semi-Final series against the Calgary Flames. The Canucks are now already half way to the franchise mark for most power play goals ever surrendered in an entire playoff season. That mark of 20 was set back in 1994 during the Canucks run to the Stanley Cup. During the 2009 playoffs, Vancouver surrendered just a total of nine power play goals in 10 playoff games played. PREVENTION IS KEY <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr2110_kings16_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Observers of the Canucks/Kings series might note that Roberto Luongo was not as big a reason the Canucks won the series as perhaps in other playoff series in the past but that may have had more to do with the fact his team was much better this year at preventing the number of shots he faced. The Canucks surrendered 166 shots in six games to the Kings during their first round playoff series, an average of 27.7 shots per game. That total is the fewest average number of shots per game in a playoff series since Roberto Luongo joined the Canucks. The following is a breakdown of the average shots against in each playoff series the Canucks have played in since Luongo joined the team. Note, however, that some of the numbers may be skewed because of lengthy overtime games in certain series. 2010 WQF vs Los Angeles: 166 shots against in six games - 27.7 average shots against per game 2009 WSF vs Chicago: 175 shots against in six games - 29.2 average shots against per game 2009 WQF vs St. Louis: 131 shots against in four games - 32.8 average shots against per game 2007 WSF vs Anaheim: 198 shots against in five games - 39.6 average shots against per game 2007 WQF vs Dallas: 240 shots against in seven games - 34.3 average shots against per game NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYOFF PERFORMER OF ROUND ONE <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr1510_happy_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">Mikael Samuelsson: Seven goals and 11 points in six games played. What more is there to say about Mikael Samuelsson that hasn't already been said? Samuelsson was Mr. Fantastic and Mr. Consistency in round one for the Canucks and came just shy of setting several new individual player records as a Canuck in the process. He tied Pavel Bure's record for most goals in a single playoff series with seven (set back in 1995 vs St. Louis) and his consecutive streak of goals in five straight games from Game 1 to 5 tied for the longest playoff goal streak in Canucks history initially set by Cliff Ronning in 1991. Samuelsson finished one point shy of a team record for most points in a single playoff series (record is 12 by Pavel Bure in 1995 vs St. Louis) and his 28 shots in the series were just two shy of Bure's record for most shots in a single playoff series (record is 30 by Pavel Bure in 1995 vs St. Louis). (Note: The 1995 playoff series versus St. Louis where Bure set those team records took seven games to complete). Samuelsson's 11 points and counting is already one point more than any Canucks player had all of last year in the playoffs. Henrik and Daniel Sedin shared the team lead in playoff points in 2009 with 10 each. PLAYOFFS SUPER STATS PACK (UPDATED THROUGH ROUND ONE) Spewing statistics can make anybody sound smart (I wouldn't write this blog if it didn't!). As a gift to Number Crunching's loyal fans (yes, all three of you out there) here are some stats you can share with your friends to make you sound like an expert too: The Canucks' record when... <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr2310_edler_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">A defenceman scores: 3-0 Mikael Samuelsson scores: 3-2 Daniel Sedin scores: 3-1 Pavol Demitra scores: 2-0 Steve Bernier scores: 2-1 They score two-or-more power play goals: 1-0 They surrender two-or-more power play goals: 2-2 They don’t allow a 1st period goal: 1-1 They don’t allow a 3rd period goal: 2-1 Don’t allow a power play goal: 1-0 When getting more power play chances than opponent: 2-1 When getting fewer power play chances than opponent: 1-1 When getting equal power play chances than opponent: 1-0 Highs and Lows... <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr2510_kings13_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">Canucks Most - One Period Goals: 4 (APR.21.10 at LAK, third period) Goals allowed: 3 (APR.19.10 at LAK, second period) Shots: 17 (twice - most recent APR.21.10 at LAK, third period) Shots Allowed: 16 (APR.25.10 at LAK, first period) Canucks Fewest - One Period Shots: 4 (APR.17.10 vs LAK, first period) Shots Allowed: 2 (APR.15.10 vs LAK, third period) Canucks Most - One Game Goals: 7 (APR.23.10 vs LAK) Goals Allowed: 5 (APR.19.10 at LAK) Shots: 44 (APR.15.10 vs LAK) Shots Allowed: 32 (APR.25.10 at LAK) Penalty Minutes: 22 (APR.23.10 vs LAK) Penalty Minutes Opp: APR.23.10 vs LAK) Canucks Fewest - One Game Goals: 2 (APR.17.10 vs LAK) Goals Allowed: 2 (three times - most recent APR.25.10 at LAK) Shots: 22 (APR.25.10 at LAK) Shots Allowed: 26 (twice - most recent APR.23.10 vs LAK) Penalty Minutes: 6 (APR.19.10 at LAK) Penalty Minutes Opp: 6 (APR.25.10 at LAK) Canucks Largest - One Game Margin of victory: 5 (APR.23.10 vs LAK. 7-2) Margin of defeat: 2 (APR.19.10 at LAK, 3-5) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr2310_ryp_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Individual Most - One Game Goals: 2 (three times - Mikael Samuelsson 2x, Steve Bernier) Goals Allowed: 2 (Michal Handzus - APR.19.10 at LAK) Assists: 3 (Daniel Sedin - APR.21.10 at LAK) Assists Allowed: 3 (twice - Jack Johnson, Drew Doughty) Points: 3 (three times - Daniel Sedin, Mikael Samuelsson, Pavol Demitra) Points Allowed: 4 (Drew Doughty - APR.19.10 at LAK) Saves: 30 (Roberto Luongo - APR.25.10 at LAK) Saves, Opp.: 41 (Jonathan Quick - APR.15.10 vs LAK)
  13. Okay, so this post will be dealing with the Toronto Maple Leafs a little bit, but I promise that it's for a good reason. There's also going to be a lot of Internet nerd talk going on here, so if neither of those points hasn't resulted in you running screaming into the night, thanks. I caught a mention on Twitter not too long ago about how the Leafs are supposedly losing their young fans to video games. Avoiding the easy joke, that the Leafs are probably losing young fans because the Leafs are a horrible, horrible team and have been since the lockout, I found the article to be indicative of just how out of touch Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment are with things and representative of how much work they have cut out for themselves in getting back to being a respectable hockey club. Especially when you compare how the Leafs are handling the big, scary online world compared to how another team handles it. Such as, say, the Canucks. The Vancouver Canucks have long been on top of things in the online world and I'm not necessarily saying that because I'm a fan of the team. Right from the very get go, the Canucks have been online, the earliest possible record I can find of a Canucks site is 1994. The earliest incarnation I was able to dredge up of the Leafs was 1996, not too bad, but amusing to see that one of the biggest NHL franchises has been a little slow in embracing new technology and ways of reaching out to fans. Funnily enough, the more things change the more they continue to remain the same. Using Twitter, something that was elaborated on in the article I linked above, it looks as though the 'official' Maple Leafs Twitter account was being used by a fan or imposter before being utilized by MLSE proper. If you take a look at this snapshot of the account, you'll notice a discrepancy of roughly 700 Tweets recorded versus what is actually there. Unfortunately, there's no way to determine when precisely the Leafs took over the account as I've tried to confirm whether this was the case, but attempts to reach someone at the Leafs haven't yielded anything. That makes determining how long it took to get their fanbase difficult (the Leafs account has 6,692 followers at the time I wrote this.) Not too bad, I suppose, although you'd think that number would be a little higher given that the GTA is one of Canada's densely populated regions. Especially when you look at the Canucks profile and see that they're sitting at a whopping 18,529 followers. What's most interesting to me, though, is looking at the number of Tweets made by each account. The Canucks account has made 1,942 Tweets, or roughly 9.5 followers per Tweet. The Leafs have made 2,287 Tweets for their 6,692 followers or, roughly 2.9 followers per Tweet. This indicates to me that the Canucks have a great online presence (which they do) and don't have to do a whole lot of work to get that fan support online, because fans are plugged in and have things like Twitter available to them. For comparison, the Montreal Canadiens, who generally are neck and neck with the Canucks in terms of monthly site activity for being the #1 active official NHL team site, arguably have the most rabid and devoted NHL fans out there have over 30,000 followers and have done even less Tweeting than the Canucks. The Flames (@NHLFlames) are on pace with the Leafs in terms of followers/Tweets and the Atlanta Thrashers (@ATLTHrashers), a team that has one of the smallest fanbases in the league has, er, a staggering 3,102 followers on Twitter. It's pretty bad that the Leafs are patting themselves on the back for hiring folks to deal with Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, a social networking site that is rapidly going the way of Friendster. Working in Toronto over the summer, I saw advertisements being made for these positions. At the time, I had assumed that they were recently vacated positions but the article seems to indicate that they were newly created roles, which is absolutely baffling to me. Why? Well, two reasons. The first: the Leafs are specificially devoting time, resources and money to establish a presence online, specifically with sites like Twitter and they only have twice as many followers as the Atlanta freaking Thrashers. While the Canucks organization does have a huge fanbase that is passionate about the Canucks, simply having that fanbase isn't enough to drive traffic to your website or have people care about what you're doing. That the Canucks do a great job of providing a reason to check out the team online is what's important and has helped to hold onto these 'young fans' that are eluding the Leafs. Given that the Leafs site went up around 1996, it's sort of amusing that it only took them 14 years to figure that content = visitors. The second reason, though, goes back to a point I made about the Canucks. As opposed to the Leafs, who are the Johnny Come Latelys to this 'Information Superhighway' and have only recently stopped waxing their modems (to try to make it go faster while they surf, you see) the Canucks have a long history of engaging their fans and treating them very well. While the Twitter account is simply the most recent in a long line of online initiatives for the Canucks, it's something that's been going on for a long time. For example, the Canucks.com forums have been up and running for years and have a large, devoted fanbase, one that ranks at the very top of the NHL in terms of overall activity. It's not often that the play of Jan Bulis could crash a website, but the Canucks faithful were able to do so. Another example would be the offering of the Canucks.com e-mail accounts that were good up until a few years ago (signing up for them ended a long time ago and the accounts themselves have since been deactivated.) Going back to the 'losing young fans to video games' comment made in the original article, it's important to note that the Canucks are great at providing free and interesting content to fans. Younger fans typically don't have a lot of disposable income, but they are tech savvy (how many 'my 9 year old knows more about programming my VCR than I do' jokes are there?) and have a lot of time on their hands. Having a forum for fans to congregate together and giving them a ton of content, be it e-mail addresses, quality video from games, along with pre and post-game videos as well as things like Facebook and Twitter accounts are all great ways to engage fans and make them more likely to care about the club. Also, the Canucks have been great at rewarding fans and granting them acknowledgement on the site. If you're a Canucks fan and are on Twitter, chances are you've run into Richard Loat, aka mozy19, who has been heavily involved in Canucks social media and has been featured on the site. Looking over at the Leafs site, the only real Twitter presence are from other MLSE employees. While it's important to have a strong online presence, it's also important to understand the social media is very much a two way street. You have to be careful not to appear as though you're talking down to your audience, keeping them out of arm's reach…especially if you're the Maple Leafs, as the reputation they have is one of being a corporate machine, interested only in their fanbase's money. That's why I find MLSE's blaming video games as stealing away their fanbase to be a stupid argument. It's not because kids don't care about hockey or the Leafs. It's because 'the kids' have no real way to embrace the Leafs, even if it's to vent their spleen over how horrible they've been (misery loves company, after all.) While it may be easy to say that the Canucks have been a successful team and this sort of online love comes as a result of that I'd like to point out that the Canucks have had a ton of negative moments that would sour many fans. Getting eliminated by the Wild back in 2003, the heartbreaker series loss to the Flames in 2004, the Bertuzzi/Moore incident, missing the playoffs 2 seasons post-lockout, all things that can test the faith of most fans, yet the Canucks continue to grow and become stronger, both on the ice and online. The Leafs? Floundering, behind the times and desperately trying to catch up. I'll let you decide whether I'm talking about the Internet or the on-ice product there.
  14. <a href="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec2109_linden_b.jpg" border="0"><img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec2109_linden_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed"></a>Well, Ladies and Gents...This is my first AfghaniBlog and it is starting on a very positive note. This week for me hasn't really been very easy, on the 19th of December I was in the Role 3 hospital having surgery on my lower back to remove a growth, I know, not at all rough compared to the other troops I was sharing the Ward with. I am having to miss duty for the next 8 days due to not being able to sit down or move around properly, so not being with my crew or at work really bummed me out, not until I received something today I will cherish for the rest of my life. My mom had written a very nice letter to Trevor Linden sometime in October, sharing my story and referring him to my upcoming article in the November 29th issue of 'Canuck Nation' in the Vancouver Province Newspaper (I just found out about said letter earlier in the evening). My Sgt came into my room tonight and handed me a 'FEDEX' parcel stamped with the Vancouver Canucks address, I had no idea what to expect. To my amazement I pulled out a blue Vancouver Canucks jersey with the big '16' and 'LINDEN' on the back with a big signature running north to south along the '6' I instantly recognized the penmanship of the one and only, Trevor Linden, as I have an autographed picture of him I received as a young boy when I used to write to all the Canucks players. I sat there for a few minutes in utter shock, turning the jersey over and running my fingers over the stitching, It is like a dream come true. I wanted to write this blog reminding everybody that Mr. Vancouver Canuck, The heart and soul of the franchise, The man who we all got misty eye'd over when they raised his number into the rafters is still a total class act. Trevor, it's people like you who are not only heroes and role models to many people out there, from young hockey players, to just regular joe's such as myself who had the thrill of watching you play for our favorite team, that make my job really easy and gives me a solid reminder of why I would serve my country at the drop of a hat. Thanks again, Trevor and to the management/front office staff who made this possible for me. I will be in the seats on January 25th cheering until i lose my voice as the Canucks host the Sabres. GO CANUCKS GO!
  15. Hey guys, just a video I made for this year! Love the Kesler goal at the end! Cheers Parksy
  16. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/116x66_1_103009.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">A break in the schedule and with 21 games already in the books equals a good time to review the first quarter of the Vancouver Canucks 2009.10 season. At the outset of the season, if told the Canucks would be sitting at 11-10-0 after the first 21 games, there may have been cries of outrage among those in Canuck Nation. After all, this was a team that had stated from the beginning that getting off to a good start would be crucial to their playoff hopes given their enormous 14-game road trip (actually an eight-game trip before the Olympic break plus a six-game trip coming out of the Winter Games) beginning in late January and stretching through to mid-March. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov1809_luongo_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">21 games into this season, however, and it is still virtually impossible to gauge this season's version of the Canucks. At no time during this season have the Canucks had the benefit of a fully healthy lineup and not only have the amount of injuries been staggering, they've been to the likes of some of Vancouver's key performers including Daniel Sedin and Roberto Luongo. Strictly going by the numbers, the Canucks are behind their pace of last season. After 21 games in the 2008.09 campaign, the Canucks sat first overall in the Northwest Division and third overall in the Western Conference. This season, the Canucks entered Wednesday trailing the division-leading Colorado Avalanche by seven points after the same number of games played. Keeping in mind that game no. 21 of last season happened to be a key turning point for the team's fortunes as it was the afternoon contest in Pittsburgh where the Canucks lost Roberto Luongo for what turned out to be a 24-game stretch, barring the same misfortune and with Daniel Sedin's return on the horizon, the Canucks expect to be in a much better position as far as their roster is concerned as they drive towards the mid-way mark of the season. As far as individual performances go, here are some of the best and worst of the first quarter of play for the Canucks in 2009.10: THE POSITIVES Henrik Sedin (12-11-23 in 21 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov1109_daniel_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">For Henrik to have 23 points at this stage of the season is no shocker. For him to be able to do so without the winger who's been his linemate since he was in diapers is a bit of a surprise. 17 of his 23 points have come in the 17 games since Daniel's injury. The biggest surprise with Sedin is that, after last Friday's hat-trick, he finds himself with a team-leading 12 goals. He's currently on a pace for a 40-plus goal season although it's probably a safe bet his goal pace won't continue through the rest of the season especially when Daniel gets back into the lineup as Henrik will likely to go back to his more familiar role of set-up man. However, it's probably a good thing for the Canucks to know that if they did choose to split the Sedins somewhere again down the line, Henrik at the very least can hold his own and actually can find the net on a regular basis. Ryan Kesler (5-14-19 in 21 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov3_kesler2_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">Last year's Team MVP looks to have picked up right where he left off last season as he's been one of Vancouver's most consistent point producers so far this season. The biggest change with Kesler is whereas last season much of his success was attributed to playing with Pavol Demitra and Mats Sundin, this season Kesler has been the one credited for sparking improved play among some of his new linemates. He had showed good chemistry with Michael Grabner (prior to his injury) and seems to be a big reason for some of Mason Raymond's offensive success of late. After 21 games played last season, Kesler had just 13 points (5-8-13). He's had a reputation of getting stronger as the season goes along so he'll definitely be a player to watch for the Canucks as they near the midway mark of the season. Mason Raymond (8-5-13 in 21 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct1709_wild03_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">After two seasons of tantalizing Canuck fans with his blazing speed but frustrating them all at the same time with his inability to finish, Mason Raymond looks like he's finally been able to put it all together. Raymond had just 23 points (11-12-23) all of last season (all career-high numbers) but is on pace to shatter all of those numbers providing he can stay healthy and not go into one of his trademark prolonged slumps. Last season, he teased Canuck fans posting 10 points (5-5-10) in his first 13 games but went into a funk for most of November. After bouncing back with a decent December, he went into hibernation again for most of the rest of the season. He had just four points from January to the end of the regular season. Canucks fans are certainly hoping for a different path for Raymond this season. Honourable Mention: Christian Ehrhoff/Andrew Raycroft <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov0509_ehrhoff_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">Christian Ehrhoff came to Vancouver with the reputation as a point-producing defenceman and so far he hasn't disappointed. He leads all team blue-liners with goals (3) and points (12) but perhaps most surprisingly, he leads the team with a plus-nine rating. The biggest knock on Ehrhoff coming from San Jose was his defensive game but that hasn't been an issue so far. Last season, he finished minus-12 with the Sharks. We don't expect to see too much of Andrew Raycroft from now until the midpoint of the season (barring injury to Roberto Luongo) but give him credit for keeping the ship afloat during the six games Luongo was out. His 2.18 GAA and .916 save percentage still have him ranked as statistically the best goaltender for the Canucks this season. If the season were to end today, his GAA would be the best by a Canucks netminder since the NHL lockout. THE UNDERACHIEVERS Kyle Wellwood (0-1-1 in 17 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/09/Sept_23_09_RAR_8_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">He was last year's feel-good story but the only thing Kyle Wellwood's feeling this season is the heat after getting off to the worst start of his NHL career. For a player who redefined himself as a goal-scorer last season Wellwood's lack of shots this season have been especially alarming. Through 17 games played, Wellwood has just 17 shots on goal - an average of one per game. He has had more than one shot on goal in just three of his 17 games played this season. Last season, he had 94 shots in 74 games played. Kevin Bieksa (1-10-11 in 21 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct15_bieksa_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">After scoring 11 goals and netting a career-high 43 points in 2008.09, much more was expected of the Grimsby, Ontario native coming into this season. However, it's been a struggle for Bieksa at the offensive end of the ice. Bieksa hasn't scored since opening night in Calgary although his point production has been somewhat better in recent games as he has four assists in his last four outings. It's hard to compare his production this year versus last since he missed eight of the first 21 games (ended up missing 9 of the first 22 games overall) with injury. However, through Vancouver's first 21 games last season, Bieksa had already tallied three times and had the same number of points as he does right now despite appearing in just 13 of those first 21 games in 2008.09. Alex Edler (0-10-10 in 21 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov0509_prewild03_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">He had gotten progressively better in each season since entering the NHL, so Alex Edler's sudden struggles this season are a bit hard to explain. He had a career high in goals (10) last season but has yet to find the back of the net in 2009.10. He is also on pace for the first time in his career to finish on the minus side of the plus-minus rating. But before Canuck Nation starts going into a panic, consider that Edler had an equally slow start through the first 21 games of last season (which included two missed games due to injury). At this time last season, Edler had one goal and five assists. Seven of his 10 goals last season came on or after January 31st. Dishonourable Mention: Alex Burrows <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov1009_blues09_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">12 points (4-8-12) in 21 games and a shared spot in the top-five of team scoring isn't too shabby but, based on the way he finished last season, it's understandable why Canucks fans are considering this start to be a disappointing one for Burrows. In his defence however, Burrows point production isn't too far off from where he was at this time last season. Through the first 21 games of the 2008.09 season, Burrows had 13 points (6-7-13). It's easy to forget that Burrows didn't really hit his stride until he was placed on a line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin last season, but with Daniel's injury he hasn't had that opportunity much this season playing mostly on makeshift lines. One thing that's been noticeable looking at his numbers this season is that he's spreading the points around in more games. He has just one multi-point game this season whereas last season, through the first 21 games, he already had four multi-point outings. THE JURY'S STILL OUT Steve Bernier (6-4-10 in 19 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct1509_sportscelebs15_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">He is the NHL's version of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. On some nights, he can look like a dominant power forward and goal scorer. On others, you'd have to check the official roster to see if he's dressed. What we can tell you about Steve Bernier is that he's off to a slightly better start this season than he was in his first year as a Canuck. Through the first 21 games last season, Bernier had five goals and nine points. He has six goals and 10 points so far this season and that's playing in two fewer games after he had to sit out a pair of contests earlier due to a bout with the flu. Coming out of last Friday's win over the Avalanche, the Bernier bandwagon is full again thanks to his first two-goal game of the season. Where it will be five, or 10, or 15 games from now is anybody's guess. Mikael Samuelsson (8-7-15 in 21 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct28_samuelson_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">When the Canucks signed Mikael Samuelsson away from the Red Wings in the off-season, they figured that being in the right scenario he could be a consistent 20-goal scorer (even though he had only reached the mark once in his career). A quarter into the season, he looks like he's certainly everything the Canucks have said he will be. However, for those who read the Game Notes on a regular basis, you'll also know that Samuelsson tends to play his most productive hockey in the month of October and this season that appears to be no exception. After 12 points in 14 games during the season's opening month, Samuelsson has managed just three points in seven games in November. Through the first 21 games last season with Detroit, Samuelsson had five goals and 18 points. Sami Salo (0-2-2 in 14 GP) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/08/aug1009_pic_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">With just two assists at the quarter mark of the season, it's tough to suggest Sami Salo's start is anything but a disappointment. However, Salo gets the nod in the "jury's still out" category for the reason that the Canucks seem to be in a transition mode with Salo in terms of his role with the team. His penchant for injury makes it tough for the Canucks to consider him an everyday player. Instead, it almost seems like an added bonus when Salo is in the lineup. Certainly, the Canucks would love to see more production out of him when he does suit up. But even then, the Canucks re-tooled this off-season adding Christian Ehrhoff and Mathieu Schneider and, combined with the likes of Kevin Bieksa and Alex Edler assuming they will eventually snap out of their respective funks, have four defencemen who can be relied on to generate offence from the back end meaning the pressure on Salo should be lightened somewhat. At this point last season, Salo had one goal and eight points despite missing four of the first 21 games with injury. Vancouver's 2008.09 record from Game No. 22 to Game No. 41: 8-9-3 Daniel writes the Tale of the Tape preview prior to each Canucks game. More of his work can be found here.
  17. I implore you to temporarily muck all that media and message board hype out of that skull and take an honest look at this edition of the Canucks. Done now? Okay. Exactly why were folks so bloody high on this team to start the season? Was it just me or were even the most bitter, yellowed Canucks haters calling this the best team this franchise has seen? Even Tony G – that bastion of searing Canucks vitriol - was calling Mike Gillis team a legitimate playoff contender. No way. Ehrhoff, yeah, he's good. Better than Ohlund? Yeah, probably. But what else changed on the back end? Willie is no faster and no less likely to fire a puck up the boards in the dying moments of a crucial playoff game. Bieksa is no bigger, nor any more able to clear the front of his crease. Edler meaner? No. Up front this team has only gotten smaller and less skilled. Granted, they don't have to deal with Demitra's messes, but they also have zero semblance of a second line. Kesler, Raymond and whatever else AV has inked in beside them simply isn't good enough. The Flames have more offensive upside than this team and that's solely because they have Renee Bourque. And the Twins – oh god the poor Twins – they still don't have a winger. And I'm beginning to think they never will. John Leclair? Cam Neely? Dan f-ing Heatley for chistsakes. Anyone with some size, smarts and finish. Anson – I heart Europe – Carter was able to pop 30+ for the twins and was out of the league two years later. What does that tell you? Stay with me here… They can turn poop into gold. Imagine what they could do with some lead; lead that planted itself in the crease and kept its stick on the ice. And then there's Lui. What of Luongo? He's not a bad goalie. He's a very good goalie even. Certainly capable of getting hot at the right time just like anyone else. BUT, can any team really afford to spend $7 + million a year between the pipes when guys like Cam Ward and Chris Osgood can carry a team further for a fraction of the cost? I would say not. Too small. Too soft. Not skilled enough to play an offensive game and not gritty enough to play a grinding defensive game. And too expensive in the crease to fix what ails them.
  18. Can't wait until tomorrow to read the Canucks.com Tale of the Tape preview? Here's a sneak peak of the scouting report versus the Avalanche. It seems that midnight may be about to strike for the Avalanche's Cinderella start to the season if it hasn't already. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov1409_faces_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Avs have just one win in their last five games and, for the most part, have not looked good in the losses. One positive for the Avs is that their offence is continuing to click. They scored three times against a tough Flames squad to open their road trip on Tuesday and found the net four times on Wednesday in a losing effort to the Oilers. The return of Milan Hejduk to the lineup has certainly been a welcome sight. Hejduk missed two games earlier in the season with a back injury but has three goals in his last two games. Hejduk's move off the top line and onto a unit with rookie Matt Duchene also gives the Avs a chance to spread around some of their offence and force the opposition's defence to focus on more than just the top unit featuring Paul Stastny and Wojtek Wolski. Keeping pucks out of the net has been a different story. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/11/nov1409_mats_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">It would have been easy to chalk up their eight goals allowed to the Canucks six nights ago as an aberration were it not for the fact that defensive lapses have occurred more often than not over the last five games. They gave up five goals to the Oilers on November 8th, rebounded with a better defensive effort in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Blackhawks on November 11th, had that forgettable night against the Canucks on November 14th, seemed to right the ship with a 3-2 win in Calgary this past Tuesday, but then gave up six goals to the Oilers in a loss on Wednesday. Based on this recent pattern, tonight's meeting should shape up to be a much tighter, relatively lower-scoring affair and that certainly seems more likely with Craig Anderson expected to return to the crease tonight. The Canucks chased Anderson from last Saturday's game after beating him four times on 22 shots, but the 28-year old responded well in his next start stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 win over the Flames. He watched from the bench on Wednesday night as his Avs team squandered a two-goal second period lead en route to a 6-4 loss. Read the complete Canucks.com Tale of the Tape preview here. (Updated on the morning of each game)
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