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  1. With two games remaining in the 2010/11 regular season, it's time to show some love for individual achievements within the teams' structure. Disclaimer: These are NOT official releases; the selections are yet to be announced. They are just my personal opinion, and in turn, open for debate and discussion. Ryan Kesler often keeps you on the edge of your seat with anticipation for what he'll do next Cyrus McLean: Awarded to the highest scoring Canuck and pretty self-explanatory, Daniel Sedin has this all but locked away, currently with 100 points. Considering 95% of goals have both Henrik and Daniel in on the scoring, and Daniel has an 8 point lead over his brother, Daniel will receive the Cyrus McLean. Molson Cup Trophy: Most Molson Cup selections. Typically, the winner of this award was the winner of the Cyrus McLean, so there's strong indication Daniel Sedin will win this award as well. That being stated, the official count hasn't been released, and Ryan Kesler could be in the mix, but Daniel is favored. Fred J. Hume: "Unsung Hero" is the designation of this award. It's quite interesting to look at this award and past recipients, and compare the style of players. Past winners include Martin Gelinas (twice), Jarkko Ruutu, and Alex Auld. This season, the player that has exhibited the grit, perseverance and dedication to his role in my mind is Jannik Hansen. The industrious Dane has become an integral part of the Canucks checking system, and is perhaps the teams best fore-checker. I'd need extra hands were I to count the number of times fans at Rogers arena have cheered his efforts as he headed to the bench after a penalty kill. Most Exciting Player: There could be a real argument here for another award to Daniel Sedin, but much like past winner Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler has truly brought fans to their feet this season. His end to end rushes, his diligent work on the penalty kill, his solid hitting on the fore-check give him the check-mark here. Although he could stand to pass a little more once inside the blue-line, it's just nitpicking. He is by far and away the most exciting second line player, not just for the Canucks, but in the NHL. Even Walter "Babe" Pratt would shake Christian Ehrhoff's hand for his excellent 2010/11 season. Apparently Luongo has been impressed too (photos courtesy of Rich Lam/Getty Images) Walter "Babe" Pratt: Awarded to the "Best Defencemen", it would be difficult not to give the nod to last years' recipient,Christian Ehrhoff. Of course, I'm a Dan Hamhuis supporter, and seeing what he's done for Kevin Bieksa's game this year, he deserves consideration. As far as pure defending goes, I'd award that to Hamhuis in a heartbeat. But Ehrhoff should finish the season with 50 points, and it is an "all-around" category, much like the Norris trophy itself. He's had some luck in the health category, something few Canuck defencemen can boast, which has helped his numbers. It would be a closer race if Bieksa and Edler hadn't missed significant time due to injuries. Cyclone Taylor: "Most Valuable Player" is quite an honor to bestow upon a team member, and speaks volumes to their worth within the organization. Several players come to mind, including last year's recipient, Henrik Sedin. Roberto Luongo has had a very understated year also, turning in what could be a career season in Vancouver. Fans have also thrown Ryan Kesler's name into the mix, especially after a red-hot first half of the season. But if you took Daniel Sedin off the team, I feel that would immediately change Vancouver's status as "Contender" to "Pretender". Not just for the 41 goals he's potted, nor the 100+ points he's contributed, but also for the class, the example and leadership qualities (yes, I'm referring to Daniel) he exudes. In my mind, the team would suffer most if they had to play without Daniel, and for that reason, he has my vote for Most Valuable Player.
  2. The trade deadline is tomorrow and in all likelihood the Canucks will not be making any changes. It's understandable, given the status quo with the Canucks atop the league with a healthy 15-point lead over second-place Minnesota in the division. This team boasts some really high-end skill, but given the recent performances of Mason Raymond, the on-and-off play of Mikael Samuelsson, and the general ineffectiveness of the bottom six save Tanner Glass and Manny Malhotra on most nights, you have to wonder if this team is deep enough offensively to win the Cup. I'm not trying to be negative nor am I pushing the panic button, but it certainly a legitimate question to ask. When I envisioned the Canucks winning the Cup, I had imagined that Cody Hodgson, Jordan Schroeder, or some young player on a rookie contract would play a significant role on the team. Given how there is now more emphasis on building through the draft with the CBA, no team can win the Cup without significant contributions from cheap players. When the Blackhawks won, Patrick Kane (3.725), Jonathan Toews (2.8), Andrew Ladd (1.55), Brent Seabrook (3.5), Dustin Byfuglien (3) and Duncan Keith (1.475) all had cap hits under $4 million. The same goes the 2009 Penguins with Evgeni Malkin (3.834) and Jordan Staal (2.2). Even the runner-ups share the same trend: the 2009 Red Wings had Henrik Zetterberg at a $2.65 million cap hit and Johan Franzen was earning a shade over $1 million while the 2010 Flyers featured a breakout from Claude Giroux. The point is, you need cheap players to significantly outperform the value of the contracts. The players I've listed can easily double or triple their original value on the open market. It's not enough for a $3 million player to produce $4 million-type numbers. You need a Zetterberg or a Toews, who both were under $3 million, to give you $6 million-type, MVP-type production to win. Since it's very unlikely that a veteran can outplay the value of his contract due to their relatively older age and lack of upside, the only way to get such "value contracts" is to deploy cheap yet effective young players. Looking up and down the Canucks roster and salary structure, nobody on our current roster fits the bill except Alex Burrows, who is currently struggling. Everyone is at or close to market value and nobody's going to significantly outperform the value of their contracts. Particularly concerning are the forwards, where it often feels as though the Canucks don't have any weapons other than the Sedins and Ryan Kesler. Nobody else scores on a real consistent basis and the Canucks are so close to the cap that adding a significant forward without losing a roster player is out of the realm of possibility. Mike Gillis has already gone on record to say that he doesn't want to move anyone. That's also another way of saying that should anything go wrong, the Canucks will have to look for the answer internally. <img src=""class="imageFloatRightFramed">In steps Cody Hodgson. The highly touted prospect's cap hit is just $1.67 million and I think he does have the ability to make some significant contributions. It may not be this year, but he is signed until 2013. However, it's ridiculous to even think that he can make any sort of contribution, or even begin to, if he's stapled to the bench and playing five minutes a night. How is Hodgson, or any player, going to improve playing five minutes a night? That fourth-line centre spot has been a joke all season (anyone miss Ryan Johnson yet? I do), featuring a handful of call-ups in Alex Bolduc, Mario Bliznak, and Joel Perrault and players playing out of position with Jeff Tambellini, Raffi Torres, Glass, and even Raymond. I'd rather have Hodgson playing significant minutes in Manitoba and bring up a player who is a short-term solution. If not, Gillis better go out and grab someone... like Zenon Konopka. But, of course, Gillis will have to go through Vigneault first, because there's no use acquiring a player Vigneault ultimately is reluctant to use (Ballard). Vigneault is notoriously stubborn, and more often than not he's right, but how long is he going to stick to his guns? The thing with Vigneault is, if he doesn't like you, he's not going to put you in a position to succeed, which makes the odds for the underdog even worse. Even though Max Pacioretty didn't approach the situation the right way in Montreal, he was certainly right when he spoke out against Jacques Martin using him in the bottom six. A talented offensive player, Pacioretty knew he couldn't succeed without playing in the top six. It's a logical argument - you put scorers in your top six and checkers in the bottom six. So what, exactly, does playing Hodgson exclusively on the fourth line accomplish? Sergei Shirokov showed some great hands with Kesler but by the end of the next game he was on the fourth line again. Keith Ballard, who has some nice offensive instincts a kin to Jovanovski's in his ability to jump up on the play (I swear I'll stop the comparison someday), gets less powerplay ice-time than the decidedly average Aaron Rome (0:31 to 0:15 per game - granted, Ballard doesn't have a slapper but still). Tambellini is better than Raymond in a checking role with his physicality, but despite Gillis and Vigneault singing his praises he refuses to move Tambellini from the fourth line. By putting Kesler on the top powerplay unit (not even Vigneault's own idea) the Canucks have the league's powerplay, but the second unit is also suffering. Burrows and Raymond, two (fairly) regulars on the second unit, have just 5 PPG combined (they had 12 last year), one less than Henrik's season total. The Canucks feature three of the league's top 15 scorers this year (costing roughly $17 million combined) but the offensive depth of the team suffers for it. So this brings me to my next point. There's no point in trying to keep Christian Ehrhoff beyond this season. This ridiculous rash of injuries to our blueline aside, with Ballard, Hamhuis, Edler, and Bieksa, who I would re-sign, is a pretty good four-man group growing forward. It's comparable to Pittsburgh's Letang-Orpik-Martin-Michalek group, which I would say may be one of the deepest four-man groups in the league. Seeing as how Seabrook and Byfuglien both signed deals worth more than $5 million per season, the market value for Ehrhoff is extremely high. If he isn't willing to take a salary around $4 million, there's no point in keeping him because this Canucks squad needs another legitimate top six forward. Samuelsson is not the answer and it's becoming increasingly clear that Raymond is not either, despite me having him pegged for 30 goals before the season. Kesler's frustration is written on the wall. It couldn't have been clearer last night. He's tired of carrying the second line. Of course, this doesn't mean Ehrhoff's going to be dealt at the deadline. Far from it, but depending on how well Ehrhoff and the team performs in the playoffs, he could be a huge trade chip at the draft on June 24. For more hockey material, visit my new website, or follow me on Twitter @jasonchen16. Thanks for reading.
  3. The trade deadline is approaching. It's a little less than a month away, just 27 days left before frantic phone calls are made and triggers pulled too fast. It's my second most favourite NHL-related time of the year, just behind July 1, because I get to whine, complain, yell, laugh, praise, and wonder how close Pierre McGuire can creep up to Darren Dutchyshen before Dutchyshen completely loses it on live TV (I swear it's going to happen someday). It's also a great reason for me to stay home, glue my butt to the couch, and watch TSN until my eyes melt. So exciting. <img src=""class="imageFloatRightFramed">But are the Canucks even major players this year? Given that the Canucks are first in the West and in virtually no danger of falling out of the top eight, the team is obviously a buyer. But this is a team that never has been major deadline players under Mike Gillis. Over the past two trade deadlines, only three trades have been made, all of them last year. In Gillis' first season, the Canucks' last trade before the playoff run was a minor league swap (Mike Brown for Nathan McIver, who was waived by the Canucks the day before and claimed by Anaheim). It was never believed that the Canucks would be major players anyway, having signed Mats Sundin on December 18 and thus having little cap room to do anything else. To Gillis, signing Sundin was the equivalent to a trade deadline blockbuster, but without having to lose any long-term assets. Last year, the Canucks made three separate swaps, the only substantial piece being Andrew Alberts (the others by Yan Stastny and Sean Zimmerman), who was much maligned last year but has improved tremendously this year. Are we in store for another low-key trade deadline? I don't think there's any reason to suggest otherwise. The Canucks are interesting in adding pieces, not losing them (those Ehrhoff trade rumours are ridiculous and not worth discussing, and Schneider's staying), and while the pipeline is now replenished with some attractive pieces, it doesn't seem as if Gillis is willing to part with any particular player. Despite rumours of Cody Hodgson being on the move, I think largely fueled by a public semi-feud between the two camps regarding Hodgson's back injury, i would be shocked if Gillis gives up on his first ever draft pick. It was a pick that Gillis himself believed was a step in a new direction, a direction that shied away from "safe" picks which had been so common with Brian Burke and Dave Nonis, to players that had the right high-end mixture of talent and character. Losing Alex Edler to back surgery was a big blow but even by placing his remaining cap hit on the LTIR it doesn't open enough space for the Canucks to acquire anything substantial anyway. Like Sundin, the return of Sami Salo could be considered the Canucks' big deadline acquisition. In the playoffs, there is no salary cap, and if Edler and Salo can return by the opening round, the Canucks' six-man group, as noted before the season started, is the league's deepest. <img src=""class="imageFloatLeftFramed">But that doesn't mean Gillis shouldn't work the phones to plug two glaring holes: a injury-free, regular fourth-line centreman and a veteran player with plenty of playoff experience. Ideally, the two holes can be plugged by a single player, but if Gillis had to pick it should be the former. While experience is considered a luxury, it sure can be overrated. The team has already established its leadership group going forward and will rely heavily on the Sedins, Kesler, and Luongo to show what they can do to avoid another second-round exit. The Sedins will now enter the playoffs with over 60 games of playoff experience each and with few substantial roster changes over the past two years, most of the current Canucks will already have over 20 games and two separate playoff runs under their belts. So who can fill that fourth-line role? Not many. The first requirement is that the player be an impending UFA. It's important to acquire a player that is not signed beyond the 2010-11 season unless it's a two-way deal, which gives Gillis an escape plan should a rookie (Hodgson, Schroeder, Bliznak, Bolduc, etc.) be favoured for a roster spot next year. The second requirement is that the player has to win at least 50% of it's face-offs. While the Canucks do have three of the league's best centremen, having a dependable fourth will help. In the grand scheme of things the Canucks may not necessarily need him to win, but every play counts in the playoffs and it might give the team a better night's sleep if they didn't have to use Tambellini or Glass in a defensive zone face-off after an icing call.The only player that fits the bill, as Ben Kuzma has noted before, is the Islanders' Zenon Konopka, a big, strong fourth-line centre who is ranked sixth in the NHL if face-off %. Konopka's been on my radar for awhile as a fourth line player with some major sandpaper (250+ PIM last year) but his face-off ability is something that has gone under the radar the past two seasons, in large part because he was under-utilized by Rick Tocchet in Tampa Bay. He'll cost a mid-round pick, a minor price to pay. But how busy the trade deadline will be depends entirely on the market. There are four obvious sellers (Edmonton, Ottawa, New Jersey, and the NY Islanders) but none have any real attractive pieces, the most high-profile being Alex Kovalev, but he comes with a major red flag and seems destined to finish his career in the KHL. There are another four teams (Columbus, St. Louis, Florida, and Buffalo) that have an outside shot at making the playoffs but probably won't and will most likely be sellers at the deadline as well, especially Florida, which is slowly beginning it's rebuilding process. There is, of course, Toronto, who really should be a seller by this point already but haven't declared so, perhaps out of some misguided sense of self-worth, but have a great trade piece in Tomas Kaberle. That leaves 21 teams that are potential buyers. That's a lot, but we can narrow down the list even more. There are three teams that cannot afford to add salary due to ownership issues: Dallas, Phoenix, and Atlanta. There are two teams that have traditionally been non-buyers, Nashville and Carolina, who may be major players only if ownership gives the green light (unlikely). <img src=""class="imageFloatRightFramed">Vancouver and Detroit are in a good position to finish in the top two spots in the West but don't have any cap space to add anybody from outside the organization. Like I said before, Salo's return is Vancouver's big move and Detroit would love to have Pavel Datsyuk and Dan Cleary back. Pittsburgh and Boston are headed towards the postseason but have little cap space to work with, which means Ray Shero probably won't find a winger for Crosby (again) and the Bruins are already pretty deep. San Jose, Chicago, Calgary, and Montreal are in danger of not making the playoffs. All four teams already have or currently trying to create some space for deadline deals. San Jose (Torrey Mitchell) and Montreal (Cammalleri, Markov) may have space to work with due to injuries, while Chicago (shuttling Nick Leddy back and forth from AHL) and Calgary (waiving Ales Kotalik) are making personnel changes. It's a TBD situation for all four but it'll be difficult. The Wild, Flyers, Rangers, and Capitals can perhaps add one extra body of note. The Capitals may choose not to make a move considering that Alex Ovechkin is "saving himself" for the playoffs (not buying the theory) and the Rangers eagerly await the return of Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan. The Ducks and Kings have roughly $4 million in cap room, giving them some good options, and both teams could use more help. My bet would be on the Kings to make the big splash but given their disappointing season thus far you have to wonder if Lombardi should stand pat and give the current Kings a vote of confidence and emotional boost. If my math is correct, that leaves two teams: Tampa Bay and Colorado. Greg Sherman is one of the league's most secretive GMs and who knows what he's up to, but my bet is that he doesn't do anything substantial. He's obviously a very smart GM and it would be wise for this young Avs team to grow together as a group in the playoffs. His only noteworthy deadline deal last year was swapping young players (Wojtek Wolski to Phoenix for Peter Mueller and Kevin Porter) and not acquiring a seasoned veteran, one of which (Scott Hannan) he has already dealt this year. That leaves Tampa as the real, true, major buyer at the deadline. It's been a fantastic season for Steve Yzerman and company and they seem destined to win the Southeast. A great season with tons of attention on superstar Steven Stamkos and stable ownership means that their pockets will be looser. But they have to be careful. Nothing erases memories of a good season faster than a quick exit in the first round (ask the Thrashers, who finally made the playoffs as the Southeast champs in 2007, made a huge deal of acquiring Keith Tkachuk, but bowed out in 4 games after being outscored 17-6 and become the butt of everyone's jokes again) so the Lightning would be wise to avoid this pitfall. Coming soon: a look at the players most likely to be moved.
  4. The Vancouver Canucks first true 'comeback' win of the season came in a slightly bizarre, but memorable fashion against the Anaheim Ducks, Wednesday night. The teams had met only once earlier in California, with the Ducks skating to a 4-1 win. Whatever the reason, the Ducks seem to have it out for the Canucks, and for years, players the ilk of Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, and Corey Perry have posed problems. Problems that were not kind to Vancouver's Goals Against Average. With an exhaustive 10 round shootout win the night previous in Edmonton, the Ducks had energy early and Perry opened the scoring less than 5 minutes in. Ryan Kesler, who was easily the best player on the ice, as he has been for past few games, responded for the Canucks on the powerplay. He deflected a Christian Ehrhoff point shot, bringing Roger's Arena into the game. They hadn't been seated more than a moment as Jeff Tambellini scoured the slot for rebounds, and got one off a Mason Raymond wrister eleven seconds later. Joffrey Lupul notched it at two with his first goal in a year since returning from back surgery. Corey Perry found Teemu Selanne cross-ice during a 2-on-1 with Alex Edler off for a tripping penalty. Selanne notched the 616th goal of his career with a labelled wrist shot over Luongo's left shoulder with 17 seconds remaining in the second frame. Rookie defenseman Cam Fowler had a strange goal go in off Alex Edler, who pursued Todd Marchant right up to the Canucks goalcrease off the rush.Up until the 8:42 mark of the third period, Ducks goaltender Curtis Mcelhinney had been brilliant in goal. The former Flames' backup made key stops on both Henrik and Daniel Sedin, particularly in the third period. But his luck ran out as Christian Ehrhoff sizzled one from the point, catching McElhinney squarely in the mask. The puck dropped down to Daniel Sedin who added his 15th of the season. It was a game-changing moment, because it stirred a lot of contention as to whether the referees should have blown the play dead or not. In International rules, the play is whistled dead immediately if a goalie stops a hard shot with his head. But in the NHL, it's up to the referee's discretion. The play unfolded very quickly, and though McElhinney was down from the initial shot, he got up, skating toward their bench, hunched over and bleeding. He had to be helped to the dressing room. New second line addition Jeff Tambellini scored the only goal of the shootout with a perfect shot over (replacement) Jonas Hiller's shoulder. Though Selanne, Perry and Lupul all scored in regulation, Roberto Luongo stopped each of their shootout attempts. "My teammates bailed me out with two goals in the third," said Luongo, who stopped 16 shots through regulation and overtime. "We haven't come back from behind once in the third period at all this year, so we were due for one." Vancouver entertains the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday, then fly to Edmonton right after for an early Sunday evening affair. With files from AP Photo, I'm Larenzo Jensen on The Canuck Way
  5. 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= 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= 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= 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.
  6. It is a contemplative week for Number Crunching as we look towards the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs for the 2010 Northwest Division Champions Vancouver Canucks. As part of our reflection, we take a trip down memory lane and revisit our mid-season award predictions and give our final thoughts on which Canucks should walk away this season with some hardware. WHAT IF DANIEL SEDIN DID NOT MISS 19 GAMES THIS SEASON DUE TO INJURY? <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Henrik Sedin had a bad sense of déjà vu this past Thursday in Los Angeles (in addition to the bad taste left in his mouth from an 8-3 shellacking at the hands of the Kings) when - for the first time since mid-November - he looked over to his left winger and didn't see the familiar face of brother Daniel starring back at him. Despite playing in a career-high 19 games without Daniel this season (Daniel's previous career-high for most regular season games missed in a single year was seven while Henrik's is six), Henrik has managed to hold his own as evidenced by him challenging for the Art Ross Trophy this season as the NHL's leading point scorer. So just where would Henrik be had Daniel been by his side for all 79 games and counting this season? Henrik has been a point-a-game player so far this with Daniel out of the lineup scoring 10 goals and 19 points in 19 games with his brother on the shelf and while that pace would have been enough to match his previous career-high already, with brother Daniel in the lineup Henrik has been (naturally) even more dynamic. Through 60 games with Daniel in the lineup, Henrik is averaging 1.45 points-per-game with 19 goals and 87 points. If he managed to keep that pace for an entire 82-game season, Henrik would have finished this season with roughly 119 points. In that alternate reality, only three post-lockout players would have had more points in a single season than Henrik: Joe Thornton (125 points in 2005.06), Jaromir Jagr (123 points in 2005.06) and Sidney Crosby (120 points in 2006.07). WHAT IF THE CANUCKS DON'T WIN ON THURSDAY IN SAN JOSE? <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">If the Canucks don't secure at least a single point against the Sharks on Thursday in their final road game of the season, it will mark the first time since the 2000.01 season that the Canucks will qualify for the playoffs despite having a losing road record during the regular season. Having a sub-.500 record away from home heading into the playoffs is nothing new for the organization however. Out of the previous 22 times the Canucks have qualified for the post-season, only nine times have they had a .500 or better road record heading into the playoffs. So how has a positive road record during the regular season translated into success away from the home in the playoffs? In years where Vancouver's regular season road record is at .500 or better (1991.92, 1992.93, 1993.94, 1995.96, 2001.02 2002.03, 2003.04, 2006.07 and 2008.09), Vancouver's combined road record in the playoffs is 26-24. In years where Vancouver's regular season road record is below .500, Vancouver's combined road record in the playoffs is 12-24. WHAT IF THE CANUCKS HAD NOT BEEN BLOWN OUT BY THE KINGS ON THURSDAY? <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">With the Canucks being pounded on the scoreboard on Thursday in Los Angeles, they opted to take a small measure of revenge out on their opponents by dishing out 32 hits versus just 15 delivered by the Kings that night. The 17-hit differential in favour of the Canucks marked a season-high for Vancouver surpassing the 16-hit positive differential they had way back on October 5, 2009 in their home opener - a 5-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Overall, it was just the third time this season Vancouver has out-hit an opponent by double digits and good thing too considering the Canucks are 0-3-0 in those three games. Conversely, the Canucks' record this season when out-hit by double digits is 7-5-1. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Michael Grabner: Three goals and five points in four games played. After just one point in his first five games back in the NHL, Michael Grabner finally found his game this past week recording a three-game point streak from March 30 - April 2, highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick on Friday against the Anaheim Ducks. There may have been grumblings about Grabner being slotted right away onto the second line upon his return to the NHL - ahead of a 20-goal scorer such as Mason Raymond - but Grabner quickly put his critics to rest by having the best week of his NHL career to date. Grabner's emergence and the respective returns of Pavol Demitra and Mikael Samuelsson to the Canucks lineup now gives the Canucks three solid scoring lines heading into the playoffs. With Steve Bernier inching closer towards a return to the lineup as well, the Canucks could arguably be the deepest team at the forward position compared to all other NHL playoff-bound clubs. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Kevin Bieksa: One goal...err, almost, in four games played. In the immortal words of Dr. Evil: "Throwing me a frickin' bone here!" After not finding the back of the net since Vancouver's season opener back on October 1, 2009, Kevin Bieksa looked to have finally bumped the goal slump on Sunday when he was credited with a goal against the Minnesota Wild in the second period of that contest...or so he thought. Unfortunately, 17 minutes worth of intermission time and the work of some overzealous off-ice officials at GM Place on Sunday took away what would have been Bieksa's second goal of the season and gave it to Kyle Wellwood. (Remember when fans booed Tanner Glass earlier in the season for being credited with a goal that was initially thought to be Wellwood's? Ah memories.) To his credit, Bieksa still finished the week off with two assists (should have been a goal and an assist...just saying) and now has 18 helpers on the season. A LOOK BACK AT NUMBER CRUNCHING'S MID-SEASON AWARDS Back in late December - when this blog was in still in its infancy - we came out with our Special Mid-Season Awards Edition where we gave you our picks for the Canucks award winners had the season ended at the same time the 2009 calendar year did. Here's a look back at those picks and what our final thoughts are now: <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Most Exciting Player Mid-season pick: Mason Raymond Year-end pick: Alex Burrows Analysis: After 39 games gone by in the season, only one player - Henrik Sedin - had more goals on the team than Mason Raymond who had already shattered his previous career-high with 17 tallies. Raymond's production has dropped since then with just seven goals in his last 40 games. But even with that said, it is clear Alex Burrows is the runaway pick for this award. His back-to-back hat tricks just a week after that blog was published was a sign of things to come for the Pincourt, QC native who looks poised to finish the season with the most goals on the team. <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Fred J. Hume Award for Unsung Hero Mid-season pick: Willie Mitchell Year-end pick: Andrew Raycroft Analysis: Perhaps this award should still go to Willie Mitchell considering Vancouver's struggles at the defensive end of the ice since his absence. Number Crunching is good, but not good enough to predict Willie would last just over two more weeks after that blog was published before being shut down (we assume) for the rest of the season due to a concussion. However, it's hard to argue with what Raycroft has done in the second half of the season. Since that blog was published, Raycroft's highlights include stepping into a 3-0 deficit in Toronto and helping the Canucks pull out a 5-3 win back on January 30 and clinching a playoff spot for the boys on April 2 in Anaheim with a 5-4 shootout victory. His nine wins (and counting) this season are the most by a Canucks back-up in the Roberto Luongo era. <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Babe Pratt Trophy for Most Outstanding Defenceman Mid-season pick: Christian Ehrhoff Year-end pick: Christian Ehrhoff Analysis: He's been Mr. Consistency on the back-end all season. His 14 goals and 43 points lead all Canucks defencemen in those categories while he also has an eye-popping plus-33 rating. The Canucks can only hope his tweaked knee at the end of Sunday's win over the Wild at GM Place is nothing serious. <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Cyclone Taylor Trophy as Canucks MVP Mid-season pick: Henrik Sedin Year-end pick: Henrik Sedin Analysis: We figured he would runaway with the team's scoring lead, but we never thought he'd be close to running away for the NHL's scoring title as well. Henrik is not only a shoe-in for the team MVP, he deserves serious consideration for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP as well (Ken Campbell...I'm looking at you). <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Molson Cup Winner Mid-season pick: Roberto Luongo Year-end pick: Henrik Sedin Analysis: Somewhere between our Mid-Season Awards blogand now, the Canucks official Media Game Notes package stopped listing the full points standings for the Molson Cup - which is given the player with the most three-star selections at the end of the season. What we can tell you is that Henrik has won the monthly award three times (October, November, March), Luongo twice (January and February) and Kesler once (December). Our initial thought when picking Luongo mid-season (even though Henrik actually led the standings at the time of that blog) was we felt as good as Henrik had performed to that point, Luongo would be a difference most nights for Vancouver down the stretch. Let's just say we were right about that...but not so much in the way we thought it would work out. Statistics and other information appearing in this blog are for entertainment purposes only and a sense of humour is recommended. E-mail the author here or follow him on Twitter.
  7. There was certainly plenty of holiday cheer in Canucks Nation this week with the team sweeping all three games during the week. In the spirit of the holidays and with the official halfway point of the season about to be reached, Number Crunching gets into the giving mood by presenting the unofficial mid-season awards. Be sure to bookmark this blog (Ctrl + D) to see how many of the predictions pan out at the end of the 2009.10 season. And of course, feel free to share your thoughts on who you would choose as your mid-season bests. MOST EXCITING PLAYER <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Mason Raymond: 17 goals and 29 points in 39 games played Alex Burrows has taken this award home for the past two seasons but the speedy Raymond figures to have the inside track for this year's honour. Not only has the 24-year old shattered his previous career-high with 17 goals so far this season (just one behind Henrik Sedin for the team lead), but the third-year pro has a newfound confidence with the puck and it has clearly shown with his increasing repertoire of moves and his highlight-reel tallies so far this season. He'll face tough competition from the likes of Ryan Kesler and Roberto Luongo in the second half of the season but assuming he continues to do what he has been so far, he'll have a chance to take home his first ever piece of Canucks hardware. 2008.09 winner: Alex Burrows FRED J. HUME AWARD FOR UNSUNG HERO <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Willie Mitchell: Three goals and 10 points in 39 games played Unsung hero is usually one of the most difficult awards to pick a winner because it's one of those honours that can simultaneously seem like there are too many and too few candidates. But so far this year, Willie Mitchell is the runaway winner of this award. Mitchell's contributions don't often show up on the scoresheets but there is no Canuck who is counted on more than Willie game-in, game-out. The Port McNeill native leads all players on the team averaging 22:22 of ice-time per game, as well as leading the team in even-strength ice-time (18:13 average) and short-handed ice-time (3:57 average). Despite seeing the best of the best on the opposition nightly, he has still managed to rack up a plus-nine rating on the season. Mitchell will also warrant consideration for the Babe Pratt Trophy (he's won the past two years) but if he doesn't walk away with that honour, he should at least be recognized as an Unsung Hero. Other candidates include Tanner Glass (gone from being pegged to be a farmhand in the pre-season to solid third-line contributor with career-high numbers this season), Steve Bernier (quietly on pace to set career-highs in goals and points), Jannik Hansen (solid penalty killer who can play anywhere from the second to fourth line), and Rick Rypien (Mr. Energy who is showing he is more than just about the fisticuffs). 2008.09 winner: Steve Bernier BABE PRATT TROPHY FOR MOST OUTSTANDING DEFENCEMAN <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Christian Ehrhoff: Eight goals and 21 points in 39 games As mentioned earlier, this is an award that Mitchell should be given consideration for but very likely the engraving on the trophy already bears Ehrhoff's name. The former San Jose Shark has been very impressive in his first season as a Canuck and has turned into what the Canucks had originally hoped Mathieu Schneider would be - a dependable puck-moving, power play quarterback. Ehrhoff is tied for the lead among all team defencemen with 21 points while he leads all blue-liners with eight goals. Last season, the highest scoring Canucks defenceman was Alex Edler who had seven goals. 2008.09 winner: Willie Mitchell CYCLONE TAYLOR TROPHY AS CANUCKS MVP <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Henrik Sedin: 18 goals and 50 points in 39 games It's hard to imagine where the Canucks would be had Henrik struggled while his brother Daniel was on the shelf for 18 games. Henrik, however, has shown that he's not only a great player in his own right, he is one of the NHL's elite players even if he does go about his business in a quiet way on most nights. Through games played on Sunday, only one player in the entire NHL had more points than Henrik's 50 - that being San Jose's Joe Thornton who currently leads the League with 54 points. Henrik has also shown this season that he's more than just a one-dimensional offensive threat. His 18 goals on the season not only lead the team but put him in the same company among the likes of Patrick Kane (15), Rick Nash (19), Jarome Iginla (20) and Ilya Kovalchuk (22) - not too shabby for a guy who's known to pass first. Henrik will get a run for his money from perennial MVP contender Roberto Luongo as well as the likes of Mason Raymond, Ryan Kesler and his brother Daniel Sedin but barring the unforeseen, you can consider this award signed, sealed, and delivered. 2008.09 winner: Ryan Kesler Henrik also has a 17-point lead on second place Ryan Kesler in the race for the Cyrus H. McLean Trophy which is given annually to the Canucks leading point scorer at the end of the season. In 2008.09, Henrik along with Daniel were co-winners of the points award. MOLSON CUP WINNER <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Here are the current standings for the Molson Cup which is awarded annually to the player who receives the most game star selections. Each star selection is worth five points with tie-breakers being settled by most first star selections followed by most second star selections, and so on. Henrik Sedin - 55 points Roberto Luongo - 50 points Ryan Kesler - 35 points Mason Raymond - 30 points Daniel Sedin - 20 points Andrew Raycroft - 15 points Christian Ehrhoff - 15 points Alex Edler - 15 points Michael Grabner - 10 points Mikael Samuelsson - 10 points Alex Burrows - 10 points Shane O'Brien - 10 points Kyle Wellwood - 10 points Willie Mitchell - 10 points Cory Schneider - 5 points Jannik Hansen - 5 points Steve Bernier - 5 points Number Crunching's official prediction is that Roberto Luongo will capture his fourth consecutive Molson Cup by season's end. 2008.09 winner: Roberto Luongo BEST STAT OF THE FIRST HALF <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">It goes without saying that getting off to a good start in a game goes a long way in securing two points at the end of the night and so far this season, few teams have gotten off to more good starts than the Canucks. Through games played on Sunday, only two teams in the entire NHL had held a lead after the first period more times than Vancouver's 17 - the Washington Capitals (24) and the Colorado Avalanche (18) - while only the Capitals (49) have scored more first period goals than the Canucks' 45. Vancouver's 14 wins this season when leading after the first period is tied for second most in the NHL. Only the Blackhawks, with 15 wins, have more victories when leading after the first period. What the Canucks would like to improve on in the second half of the season is their defensive game in first periods. While the Canucks are one of the best teams offensively in first periods, they've been one of the worst defensively having surrendered 35 goals in first periods this season - the most among all their periods this season. The Canucks have a record of 11-3-0 this season when they don't give up a first period goal. WORST STAT OF THE FIRST HALF <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">It has gotten much better in recent games, but the penalty killing was clearly a major thorn in the paw for the Canucks throughout the first half of the season. The Canucks have given up at least one power play goal in 21 of the 39 games they have played so far this season and the results haven't been pretty when they do give up a goal while short-handed. Vancouver's record this season in games where they surrendered a power play goal is 7-14-0, much more devastating than last season when they managed to finish with a .500 record in games when giving up a man-advantage goal (20-20-8). It gets even worse when they give up more than one power play goal to the opposition as they are just 2-6-0 in those games. Through games played on Sunday, Vancouver's power play sat right smack in the middle of the NHL pack at number 15 with a success rate of 80.5 percent having allowed 29 goals on 149 times shorthanded. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK The holidays are a time for giving so Number Crunching is doling out two POTW awards this week. <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Daniel Sedin: Two goals and seven points in three games It was a banner week for the 29-year old forward who was looking to rebound after ending the previous week with no points in the final two games. Daniel began the week with a three-point night (1-2-3) against the Predators and followed that up with another three-point night (1-2-3) on Boxing Day versus the Oilers. After finding out officially on Sunday morning that he would be representing Sweden at the 2010 Winter Olympics, Daniel celebrated the news by extending his point streak to three games with an assist against the Flames. The point against Calgary also marked Daniel's 20th point in December tying his personal best for most points recorded in a single month (March 2007). <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Mason Raymond: Three goals and four points in three games There is no better place than home to spend the holidays and Mason Raymond would definitely attest to that. The Alberta native, playing in front of family and friends at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary on Sunday, netted his first career hat trick to close out the week in a 5-1 win for the Canucks. Included in the three-goal outing for the 24-year old was also his team-leading eighth power play goal of the season - double his entire total from all of last season. It's going to be all gravy for the left winger from this point out in terms of single-season career totals. He has already set new highs in goals (17) and points (29) and his next assist will give him a new career-high in the helpers category as well. His next major milestone will be his 100th career NHL point. He's currently sitting at 76 career points (40-36-76) but given his current pace, it's not a stretch of the imagination to think that he'll be able to reach that mark before the end of the 2009.10 regular season. In the spirit of the holiday season, there will be no Crunched By The Numbers player this week. And while I have this opportunity, I would like to wish every member of the Canucks Community a very happy and prosperous New Year! Thanks for reading and see you all in 2010.
  8. All is right in Canuck Nation again following two straight wins over the Thrashers and the Wild. We keep the good times rolling in the Canucks Community with this week's edition of Number Crunching. Read on to find out who takes home this week's coveted Number Crunching Player of the Week Award. (Note: Statistics reflected in this column do not include games played on Monday, December 14th). WHEN THEY'RE HOT, THEY'RE REALLY HOT <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Canucks may be the only team in the entire NHL that can go from doom-and-gloom one moment to sunshine-and-rainbows the next at least as far as the mood concerning their power play goes. Before Saturday's 3-for-5 performance against the Wild, there hadn't been a lot of positives to say about the Canuck power play that had just one goal (a 5-on-3 marker) in their previous six games while connecting on just one opportunity on 18 chances overall in that stretch. So how is it that, despite all the negativity concerning the Canucks power play in recent weeks, the team still manages to find themselves near the top of the League in terms of power play efficiency? The reason for that is that no team in the NHL this season have had more multiple power play goal games than the Canucks. The Canucks have scored two-or-more power play goals 10 times this season. The Philadelphia Flyers are the next most successful team with nine multiple PPG games. Behind them, there are several teams tied with seven multiple power play goal games. Perhaps a more telling stat is that 24 of Vancouver's 31 power play goals this season have come in those ten games, leaving just seven power play goals scored in the other 22 games this season. The Canucks have a record of 7-3-0 this season when scoring two-or-more power play goals in a game. DANNY MOVING ON UP <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Since his return to the lineup back on November 22nd, it seems Daniel Sedin has not missed a beat and is not only making up lost time by piling up points against the opposition, he's also taking aim at the team record books as well. Daniel's goal against the Wild on Saturday marked his seventh of the season and, more significantly, was his 186th as a Canuck moving him into an eighth place tie with Don Lever and just two goals shy of a seventh place tie with Todd Bertuzzi (188). Oddly, the goal was just the first power play marker this season for Daniel after he finished third on the team with nine power play goals in 2008.09 behind only Ryan Kesler (10) and Kyle Wellwood (10). It was the 68th career power play goal for Sedin who now finds himself just one PPG marker away from tying none other than Pavel Bure (69) for sixth on the franchise's all-time list. He's also within striking distance of Stan Smyl (74) for fifth place and Todd Bertuzzi (79) for fourth place. What fans should keep a close eye on for the rest of this month is to see if Daniel can make a charge at making this December one of the most productive months in his career. Daniel's most successful month came back in March 2007 when he recorded 20 points (9-11-20) in 15 games played. Through six games in December, Daniel has already netted 11 points (6-5-11). The Canucks will play a total of 15 games this December. INJURIES? NO SWEAT <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Canucks didn't get the week started off on a great note. Not only did they drop their second straight game to end their road trip in Nashville, they also lost the services of defenceman Alex Edler - who had been playing some of his best hockey of the season prior to the injury. But as was evident in the two games that followed, the Canucks simply don't use injuries as an excuse nor are they overly concerned when the injury bug takes a bite to their roster. Below are the Canucks' respective records this season with some of their key players missing: (note: only players who began the season with the Canucks are listed) Without Daniel Sedin in lineup: 11-7-0 Without Sami Salo in lineup: 4-3-0 Without Ryan Johnson in lineup: 3-1-0 Without Alex Edler in lineup: 2-0-0* Without Kyle Wellwood in lineup (injury only): 2-2-0 Without Roberto Luongo in lineup (injury only): 4-2-0 *denotes current injury. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK (for the week ending Sunday, December 14th) <img src= class="imageFloatRightFramed">Daniel Sedin: Five goals and seven points in three games played. It was a tough trying to choose between Daniel and Henrik Sedin but to avoid the easy route by picking co-winners, Number Crunching goes with Daniel who was the only Canuck to score in each of the three games this past week and also recorded his third career hat trick on Thursday against the Atlanta Thrashers. However, the most impressive stat from Daniel this week wasn't his goals or points totals, it was his 22 combined shots in three games played - including a season-high 10 shots on Thursday versus the Thrashers. The 22 shots on goal were more than the Daniel had recorded in his first seven games since returning from injury. Daniel begins the week riding a season-high six-game point streak - just one game shy of matching a career-high - while he has goals in three straight games marking the first time he has done that since December 17-22, 2008. Daniel's numbers from last week should warrant him some consideration for being one of the NHL's Three Stars of the Week, which is just the second most prestigious weekly award behind the Number Crunching Player of the Week. But we're sure Daniel is plenty happy already having earned his first career NCPOTW award. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src= class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Christian Ehrhoff: Zero points in three games played this week. Since giving us his best Bobby Orr impersonation about four weeks ago back on November 20th against the Colorado Avalanche, Christian Ehrhoff has gone almost completely quiet since that night memorable night. While it's not necessarily a bad thing when you don't notice a defenceman, Ehrhoff's game is all about sparking the offence - something the Canucks will be counting on him to do even more than before with Alex Edler out of the lineup. Ehrhoff has just one goal (one point) in his last seven games and has gone without a point in his last four straight games, tying a season-high point drought for the native of Moers, Germany. Not only would the Ehrhoff love to find the back of the net again, the Canucks as a team would be more than thrilled to see him score. Vancouver has won their last three straight games when Ehrhoff has tallied a goal.
  9. The first of a weekly feature. Each week, I pull out the most eye-popping or unusual statistics in relation to Canucks hockey and share them with the members of the Canucks Community. GREY CUP AND GRAY SKIES? <img src="" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The biggest groans after the Saskatchewan Roughriders knocked off the Calgary Stampeders in the CFL's West Division Final on Sunday did not come from fans in Cowtown, but rather it would have come from some of the stats-obsessed members of the Canucks organization. Since 1970, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have advanced to the Grey Cup Championship five times (1972, 1976, 1989, 1997, and 2007). In the spring following those five Grey Cup trips made by the Roughriders, the Canucks have gone on to miss the playoffs in each of those years. Of course, it's not all doom-and-gloom for those who believe there is a cosmic connection between the Canucks and the Grey Cup. Since 1970, the Montreal Alouettes (including their stints as the Montreal Concordes and Baltimore Stallions) have made it to the Grey Cup 14 times and in the spring following those 14 trips, the Canucks have gone on to make the playoffs 11 out of those 14 times. The last two times the Alouettes made it to the big dance, the Canucks have responded the following spring with not only trips to the post-season, but with first round playoff victories (2006-07 and 2008-09). SPORTSNET CURSE <img src="" class="imageFloatRightFramed">It might be time to mandate that all members of the Sportsnet Pacific broadcast crew carry four-leaf clovers each time they're on the air during Vancouver Canucks hockey. For whatever reason, the Canucks just can't seem to string wins together when their games have aired on S-Pac. Following Sunday's loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Canucks fell to 3-9-0 when appearing on Rogers Sportsnet. That record does not include the win against the Minnesota Wild on November 5th that was scheduled to only air on Citytv but ended up being shown on Sportsnet as well as a result of MLB's World Series ending after six games. Rogers Sportsnet is the only (Canadian) network the Canucks have a losing record on this season. So far this season, the Canucks are 3-1-0 on CBC, 2-1-0 on Canucks TV Pay-Per-View, 1-0-0 on Citytv, and 3-0-0 on TSN. PREDICTING THE FUTURE: AFTER 21 <img src="" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">If you missed it, last week on Fanzone I reviewed the Canucks season after the first 21 games and highlighted some of the best and worst individual performers of the season. One thing that wasn't explored in detail was just how much can be predicted after the first 21 games. After the first 21 games of the 2008.09 campaign, the Canucks sat third in the Western Conference with a record of 13-6-2. Here's how the top eight of the Conference looked on the morning of November 23, 2008 following the Canucks' 21st game of last season: 1. San Jose 2. Detroit 3. Vancouver 4. Anaheim 5. Chicago 6. Minnesota 7. Calgary 8. Columbus Here is what the top eight looked like after 82 games: 1. San Jose 2. Detroit 3. Vancouver 4. Chicago 5. Calgary 6. St. Louis 7. Columbus 8. Anaheim While there was some movement in positioning among the bottom five seeds, only one team that was not in a top eight position near the quarter-pole of the season managed to squeeze in to a playoff spot - the St. Louis Blues, who on the morning of November 23, 2008 were three points behind eighth-place Columbus but had two games in hand. The importance of the first quarter was even more pronounced in the Eastern Conference. Here is what the top eight of the East looked like on the morning of November 23, 2008: 1. Boston 2. NY Rangers 3. Pittsburgh 4. Montreal 5. Washington 6. Carolina 7. New Jersey 8. Philadelphia Here's how the Eastern Conference finished in 2008.09: 1. Boston 2. Washington 3. New Jersey 4. Pittsburgh 5. Philadelphia 6. Carolina 7. NY Rangers 8. Montreal The Canucks will be the first team to tell you how much shuffling there can be throughout the course of a season after their rollercoaster ride through the Western Conference standings last season, but when 15 of the 16 teams at the quarter-pole that occupy a playoff position end up staying there, it should be a testament to the importance of a good start. Games in hand notwithstanding, here's some good news for Canucks fans. On the morning following their 21st game of this season - Vancouver's 8-2 triumph over Colorado - here is what the standings looked like: 1. San Jose 2. Colorado 3. Chicago 4. Calgary 5. Los Angeles 6. Detroit 7. Phoenix 8. Vancouver (note: division leaders listed first, second and third in the Conference, respectively) BEST OF THE GAME NOTES Published November 22nd As far as which player has earned the Canucks the most success this season when scoring, that honour belongs to Ryan Kesler. Vancouver is a perfect 5-0-0 when Kesler finds the back of the net. Honourable mentions go out to Henrik Sedin (6-3-0), Mikael Samuelsson (6-2-0), and Steve Bernier (4-2-0). For trivia lovers, here's a head-scratcher for you: Excluding Kesler, which other players have scored this season only in Canuck wins? I'll post the answer on Wednesday. (Hint: There are five)
  10. The Vancouver Canucks have hit the midway point in their quest for hockey's holy grail, Lord Stanley's Cup, - here are 5 more players with the top grades so far this season. Christian Ehrhoff, A Ehrhoff nods while celebrating his OT winner against the St. Louis Blues Dec. 31/09 Even after registering 15 points in his first 13 games with the Canucks, "B-Mac" from Team 1040 (radio) still wasn't sold on Christian's defensive abilities. But I say that's why Vancouver has the Mitchell's and the Salo's - they've got shutdown defencemen. The ex-Shark gives the Canucks a dimension lacking in seasons past, and that's an offensive upside. The other undeniable part of his game is his timing and even-strength play. His +21 rating is right near the top of the NHL, let alone for defenders. Mike Gillis deserves part of this grade for securing his very, very useful services in the offseason. Daniel Sedin, A Daniel Sedin has potted the most Game-winning goals (4, -Vancouver) despite playing just over half the games (AP Photo/ Bill Boyce) ere's a testament to the kind of player that Daniel Sedin is: He's played just over half the games that his teammates have, and yet he leads the club with 4 GWG's (game-winning goals).In 23 games, he has 10-19-29, and is just shy of tied for 2nd best +/- rating on the team with +12. Earlier in the season, after he was lost to a broken left foot, the team tried to rally without him, but there is a discernable difference when he is not playing. Not just because of the uncanny symetry that he forms with his wonder-twin, but also because of the attention other teams must focus on him when he's present. I'm convinced he would be right there with Thornton, Crosby, Gaborik and his brother for the NHL lead in points were it not for his injury. Steve Bernier, B- Bernier manages to keep his balance and protects the puck against Eric Brewer (AP Photo/ Bill Boyce) Interestingly enough, another ex-Shark makes the top 11 Canucks list. Big and strong, with a good sense for where the puck will be, Bernier's committment to offseason conditioning has paid dividends this season. He lost 15 lbs over the summer, and got faster in the process, which is helping him to not only win races to the puck, but also forechecking. Playing just a shave under 15 minutes a night, he has 10 goals and 8 assists in 39 games. I'm of the belief that he is one of the cleanest bodycheckers in the league, if not one of the hardest. Just watch any opposing defenceman these days when Bernier is bearing down on them, -you'll witness the speed with which they get rid of the puck. He might not be Eddie Shack, but boy, when he's coming, yeah, you better "clear the track". Roberto Luongo, A Nothing I could add could do this picture justice... (The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh) For any of the 'haters' that feel that Luongo should have gotten the best grade, I would direct them to my comment about the pictured save. Yes, I do recognize that Luongo has been selected by Team Canada. I am also aware that he is one of the best in the NHL, has a .919 save percentage, is 20-12-1-2, and is sporting a 2.29 goals against average. While trying to remain objective, I will also point out that I clapped my hands together rather audibly when I discovered he was a Vancouver Canuck, via a trade with the New York Islanders. Hockey pundits, though, have a valid argument about postseason success, but that is not what is being discussed here. His season to this point has been strong, and the amazing thing is that purists know that at any moment, he could become red hot and nigh invincible tending goal. His penchant for strong finishes to the season surely has fans humming Bryan Adams' "The Best was Yet to Come". Henrik Sedin, A+ Henrik Sedin celebrates with Sami Salo after a goal, a scene witnessed 19 times already (The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck) Trevor Linden knew this day was coming.As a matter of fact, he even told Henrik so, which is one of the reasons 'Hank' had the confidence to achieve the heights that he has. But it wasn't always so. For a few years, there were the jeers of "The Sedin Sisters", or "The Pantene's" (in reference to the popular line of hygenical products). I've heard them all. Now, I just think of the people who uttered them as insightless, unknowledgeable critics. They certainly don't have much to say about Henrik Sedin currently 2nd in the entire NHL for points, only 2 points removed from the top. They also don't have answers to how two "Sisters" managed to become strong, well-trained men that boast rugged, injury resistant careers. Perhaps if they followed them to Ornskoldsvik (Sweden) and watched them train like demons in the offseason after a short, 2 week break, they'dstart to understand. Henrik Sedin stands tall amongst his peers, as one of the best players in the game. Period. More second half excitement in store at Larenzo Jensen, with files from The Associated Press and AP Photo