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  1. After jumping out to an early 2-0 series lead on home ice, the Vancouver Canucks return to Vancouver tied after a two game Beantown beating. Roberto Luongo looks on after Rich Peverly opens the scoring in Game 4 It just never comes 'easy' for the Vancouver Canucks. Of course, being that it's the Stanley Cup Finals, one wouldn't expect it should. But at the beginning of the series, it seemed like the Bruins might never get a goal on Roberto Luongo. When Alex Burrows scored 11 seconds into overtime in Game 2, you could feel the confidence eminating from the faces of every Canuck caught on camera. My, what a turnabout a change of venue brings to a series. After ripping the Canucks a new one in Game 3, the sea of black and yellow in TD Garden was loud to start the affair. They went raucous when Rich Peverly scored his first of two goals at the 11:59 mark of the opening period. The Canucks, who entered the game 1 for 16 on the powerplay, had an opportunity on a Brad Marchand cross-checking penalty to draw even. But Bruins bodies were flying around, getting down in front of pucks, and whatever did get through, Tim Thomas was able to see, and subsequently stop. To be frank, the refereeing was the poorest I've witnessed in the post-season. A lot of Bruins "head-snaps" and soccer-esque dives were rewarded with penalties, particularly one embellished by Andrew Ference. Mason Raymond was forechecking behind the net, reached in with his stick, which completely missed Ference's chin, but the head-snap sold the call. Also, Jannik Hansen received a pass at the attacking blue-line, and both skates were onside as he moved in with the puck for a 3-on-2, but the refs blew it down. Lastly, they deflated the Canucks early in the third period, giving Henrik Sedin a "slashing" penalty. In reality, the Bruin fell as a result of tripping on his team-mates' leg at the blue-line. This after they missed the Bruins having 1 extra player illegally on the ice. Dennis Seidenberg tries to clear traffic from in front of Tim Thomas (photo courtesy of AP Photo / The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward) It's hard to say which Canuck team will surface in Game 5, with some controversy already on who should start in net, Roberto Luongo or Cory Schneider. Alain Vigneault has already shocked the hockey world in that regard during the Chicago series, starting Schneider in Game 6 after back-to-back blowouts. Schneider, who relieved Luongo after Peverly's second goal 3:39 into the third period, had this to say. "It was just a couple unlucky goals. I don't know if he (ticked) off the hockey gods, but it just seems like the past two games he can't buy a break." Cory Schneider, Roberto Luongo and Kevin Bieksa watch as the final seconds tick down on Game 4 It's quite apparent that the absence of their top shutdown defenceman, Dan Hamhuis (who didn't even skate with the team in practice today), has had a rippling effect on the team. His partner, Kevin Bieksa, looks like he misses him the most. Normally, he has the luxury of being more aggressive carrying the puck into Boston territory. Without that chemistry, the Canucks are having a tougher time initiating offence, which is often derived from their pinching defense. Not only that, but Hamhuis' minutes have to be filled somehow, and that has exposed Alex Edler and Christian Ehrhoff's deficiencies in their own end. Though Bruins coach Claude Julien has stated he wants his players to play with class, Brad Marchand's late game antics aren't helping in that respect. He already warned Mark Recchi and Milan Lucic about their mockery of the finger-biting gestures. But, as Marchand was being escorted off the ice by the officials with a triple-penalty, he performed the "dusting off of the hands" gesture as he went by the Canucks bench. It's this kind of disrespect that hockey players hate, and incites violent acts down the road. Interestingly, Marchand didn't "win" any fight, or really have any claim to do that. It will be interesting to see if he's a targeted man in Game 5. With quite possibly the most disproportionate nose in hockey (now that Mike Ricci has retired), I'm certain the little guy (5 '9) might have it smacked for his late cheap hits in Game 4. Brad Marchand clothes-lined a Canucks defenceman, then low-bridged Daniel Sedin, and chucks his gloves off, knowing someone is going to want a piece With the series now a best of three, the one upside for Canucks fans is that during the regular season, with their President Trophy winning campaign, they earned home-ice advantage throughout the Playoffs. Hopefully the long flight from Boston will give them a chance to readjust mentally, and prepare them for what lies ahead. In a series where home ice has meant so much, it's imperative they corral momentum back. After all, Rogers Arena has been witness to many Canuck victories throughout the year.
  2. 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.
  3. Some musings on the Vancouver Canucks, and what it would mean if the Stanley Cup Playoffs were to start today. Kesler: "Hank, did you really just squeeze that backhander top shelf? Of course you did!" Though they have six games remaining, the Canucks would face their playoff nemesis of the last two seasons, the Chicago BlackhawksThey would still have set a franchise record for most wins in a season, with 50Vancouver would already be guaranteed one trophy, the President's trophy (for best record in the NHL regular season) Christian Ehrhoff sneaks a wrister past a surprised Mathieu Garon in Columbus (photos courtesy of AP Photo) Three defensemen would be shelved because of injury, Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis, and Andrew AlbertsBe one road win shy of a franchise record nine straight away from home (can still be accomplished in Nashville today)Would own the best power-play record in the league, 69 goals for, and 25.3 % efficiencyBe tied for best penalty kill with the Pittsburgh Penguins at 86.3 %Daniel Sedin follows in brother Henrik's footsteps, and earns Art Ross trophy (most points during the regular season)Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis tie for second best plus/minus in the leagueRoberto Luongo records third best goals against average and save percentage: 2.18, .927%, has most wins with 35 Jannik Hansen and Matt Calvert work for the puck in the 2nd period in Columbus, Ohio Daniel Sedin notches 40 goals, third most in the leagueRyan Kesler shatters previous best in goals (26 in 08-09) with 36Henrik Sedin crowned leagues best set-up man with 70 assistsWith six games to go, a large number of these stats won't change too drastically. The standings watch won't end until April 10th, but many Canucks fans are eager to see who their first test in the playoffs will be. Juicing up for the playoffs? Stay tuned to The Canuck Way for all the excitement and team developments!
  4. The biggest news out of Vancouver tonight isn't the Canucks' suffering just their fourth regulation loss on home ice. It's potentially the loss of Dan Hamhuis to a concussion on a team that's looking to finish strong down the stretch with an already battered blueline. This rash of injuries to the Canucks' defensemen is something I've never, ever seen before. It seems as though once one defenseman comes back, another gets hurt. They're just dropping like flies. It's not like the Islanders losing Rick DiPietro, Nathan Lawson, and Kevin Poulin in succession. It's happening to a team that already had tons of depth on the blueline and needs a strong six-man defensive group to win games. Let's digest what's happened the past week or so. First, the injury to Keith Ballard. It was a slewfoot. Was it intentional? It's hard to tell, but given the outcry by the Vancouver media on that play you'd think Milan Michalek was the next coming of Bryan Marchment or Darius Kasparaitis. It's pretty one-sided journalism in a hockey-mad city, but here's what Michalek said according to the Toronto Sun: "He went to hit me and we kind of collided together... I was falling down and I grabbed him... I didn't want to hurt him, I didn't want to do anything." This is something a Jordin Tootoo, Matt Cooke, or Steve Ott would never say, and it's not like Michalek's a dirty player either. Keep in mind Ballard gives up about 3 inches and 20 pounds in that match-up. It wasn't an obvious slewfoot. Compared to or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DN99_E0tLhg, Michalek's looks tame. I think Michalek was trying to get free from Ballard and when both players pulled their feet just gave out and gravity did the rest. Was it suspension worthy? No, because I think there was any clear intent to injure, and in reality a lot of slewfoots happen when two players get tangled and try to jostle for position, but a holding penalty could've been called. <img src="http://i64.photobucket.com/albums/h164/jchockey/getzhammer.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">And then tonight the Canucks lost another key piece in Hamhuis on a http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9DhHejqQcg. To all those who think Getzlaf should be suspended, don't be silly. For those thinking it was a head shot, it clearly wasn't. I've watched the clip numerous times and Getzlaf didn't leave his feet or stick out an elbow to hit Hamhuis. John Garrett (let's face it, he's a Canucks homer) is clearly wrong because Getzlaf left his feet after contact. This isn't http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=322zqTkL0-c. However, it was a bad hit and it should've been a boarding call at the very least. But Hamhuis did see Getzlaf coming around the net, which is why he played the puck up the boards and not around the net, and turned his back to a 6'4", 220 lbs. player who isn't afraid to shy away from the hitting aspect of the game. What really did the damage was Hamhuis' head hitting the boards. Seeing how Hamhuis reacted, I'm pretty sure he has a concussion, even if Alain Vigneault says he "seems fine." Concussions are tricky and as I've said in previous posts, the big picture is the playoffs, which means that even if Hamhuis feels the slightest discomfort he should be held out of Saturday night's tilt against Calgary. That's two veteran defensemen down for a month while Alex Edler is recovering from back surgery. That leaves Kevin Bieksa and Christian Ehrhoff as our top two, who will most likely be separated to even out the pairings, and Alberts and Rome rounding out the top four. Sami Salo is set to come back on Saturday, but I can't imagine him logging 20+ minutes in his first game back, despite lighting it up in the AHL on his conditioning stint. But Calgary may force Vigneault's hand if Chris Tanev, expected to be the sixth defenseman, isn't having a strong game (even though he's been good) or the Canucks are down and a powerplay opportunity presents itself. Ehrhoff and Samuelsson are expected to remain on the top powerplay unit while the second unit may feature two righties with Bieksa and Salo, perhaps with Tanev taking a shift or two. What appeared to be the Canucks' biggest strength heading into the season, strong defensive depth, has quickly become depleted, even if the farmhands have been performing admirably. With Lee Sweatt out with a broken foot, the Canucks can't afford another injury to their blueline. Ryan Parent, acquired from Nashville for Shane O'Brien, has struggled all season and in my opinion has completely lost his confidence, having just one point in 24 games with the Moose. Evan Oberg has eight goals in the AHL and appeared in two NHL games last year, both of them decidedly average, but may have been leapfrogged by Kevin Connauton, who excelled with the Vancouver Giants with 73 points in 69 games after transferring from Western Michigan and has 10 goals with the Moose. Are the Canucks at their breaking point? The Canucks have got some really nice bounces this year, but that's not taking anything away from the Sedins, Edler, Ryan Kesler, and Roberto Luongo, all of whom have been spectacular. But sitting 9 points ahead of second place Detroit in the West and first in the league puts the Canucks in an interesting position. In years past, the Red Wings have often been the measuring stick for teams seeking playoff spots, and in those games the opposition very often ratchets up the intensity. The Canucks are clearly the team to beat this year and the ultimate litmus test. With 27 games to go this final stretch will be very interesting to watch and we may find out what this team is really made of. This will be the Canucks' toughest test.
  5. Wednesday's match-up with the Nashville Predators highlights the two very different paths that both the Canucks and Predators have taken in the NHL. One of the NHL's longest serving coaches, Barry Trotz, has done a lot with a little. The Nashville Predators, with the 8th stingiest payroll in the league, have essentially taken a page from the Minnesota Wild playbook. Henrik Sedin collides with Krys Barch and James Neal during third period action Monday (photos courtesy of Canadian Press/ Darryl Dyck) They ice a team rife with defensive talent, much of which they've shrewdly drafted, and instituted a tight, smothering defensive style. Oh, and they have also been dynamite drafting goaltenders as well, picking up Pekka Rinne (9-2-0, 1.62 GAA last 11 games) 254th (8th round) overall in 2004, and fellow Finn Anders Lindback (10-4-2, .915 Sv %) 207th overall in 2008. We're not sure what they're feeding them over there, but both are towering - Rinne at 6'5, Lindback is 6'6. They cover a LOT of the 4x6 net behind them; Rinne is slated to start against the Canucks. Aaron Volpatti celebrates an assist on Henrik Sedin's tally after finding Sedin streaking to the net Canuck fans recall an era in the not so distant past when defensive hockey was the credo, with Roberto Luongo tethering the teams' hopes of success. This during a time when the Sedins and Kesler were still coming into their own as offensive stalwarts, on the cusp of being elite talents. If you can't score a lot of goals, you better not allow very many, which has indeed been the focus of the Nashville Predators for several seasons now. Though they're not unique in this aspect, the fact that defenseman Shea Weber (Sicamous, B.C.) is their leading point producer this season (8 goals, 21 assists for 29 pts) speaks volumes. Nashville snuck out of the deep 2003 draft with another heist, nabbing Weber with the 49th pick, and is widely considered the best player on the team. Ryan Kesler tips a puck past Kari Lehtonen, marking a career high in goals [27] (photo courtesy of Canadian Press/ Darryl Dyck) All indications are that this will be another tight, close-checking affair. The teams have identical goals against averages, 2.35, though the Canucks definitely have the offensive edge coming in, scoring 3.29 goals a game (3rd). The Predators are 23rd at 2.59 goals for per game. But where it counts most, in the standings, the Preds are 4th in the Western Conference with 60 points, and are a good bet to make the playoffs. That being said, the San Jose Sharks and the Minnesota Wild only trail by 5 points, so they certainly aren't a lock. Only Boston (111) and Pittsburgh (114) have allowed fewer goals than Nashville (117). With the Canucks coming off a seven goal outburst against the Dallas Stars, it will be interesting to see how they adjust to the difference in style. Defensively, Vancouver had a very strong outing, feeding off the counter-attack, and generating offense from odd-man situations. http://www.youtube.com/user/canuckshd?blend=1&ob=4#p/u/6/vElXA90kKdw Last season, the Canucks and Predators played four times, splitting the season series 2-2. Wednesday's match-up is their first of the season, and they will play 3 more times following the All-Star Break (which is 5 days for Vancouver). The Canucks should have a decided personnel advantage, as the Predators are without several key players. Wingers J.P. Dumont (neck), Steve Sullivan (upper body), and forwards Marek Svatos (knee) and Matt Lombardi (concussion) are all side-lined due to injury. With a victory, the Canucks would pull even with the Philadelphia Flyers for most points (71) in the NHL, though with fewer wins. Following the Vegas/Bodog.com line favorites to win the Stanley Cup (9/2), I'm Larenzo Jensen with files from the Canadian Press and CanucksHD