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  1. 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
  2. It's playoff hockey time, my favourite time of the year. It's the time of year when lying on the couch watching playoff hockey at 4 PM and opening up the window for a nice breeze constitutes as "enjoying the nice weather." Whatever, with the MLB regular season and both NBA and NHL playoffs starting this might as well be my winter hibernation. And lo and behold, the greatest time of the year has also given us the best possible matchup in the first round - and it's certainly not because I think they're the shakiest team going in (that's Los Angeles from the West and Philadelphia from the East for me). I want the Blackhawks because I want to kick their butts. There is no question that the Canucks are the best (regular season) team this year and with Salo, Edler, Bieksa, Hamhuis, Ballard, and Ehrhoff all healthy, our confidence should be at an all-time high. When the Canucks do beat them (in 5 games, no less), it'll be a little less satisfying because their big "Boogey Man" from last year is hitting the courses early with the rest of the Atlanta Thrashers. It just wouldn't be as sweet a victory without Dustin Byfuglien looking dejected on the Blackhawks bench, but a series win is a series win, and the Canucks will have the final trump card. <img src=""class="imageFloatLeftFramed"> Other than the Boston-Montreal series (way too many storylines, the best being Price vs. Thomas), no other series has the potential to be more historically significant in a rivalry than this one. (I guess you could count Philadelphia-Buffalo, who will meet for the 9th time in history, but some of those series have been duds). Consider the consequences: if the Blackhawks manage to upset, they WILL have Vancouver's number. A 2 vs. 3-seed series could go either way, but if an 8 seed upsets the league's best team, they walk into the second round with sky-high confidence (which is also a reason why when lower seeds upset in the first round they tend to win in the second too). If the Canucks win, they are now the league's best team without any supposed weaknesses. Only Detroit will be viewed as a potential weakness but only because of their pedigree and reputation and goaltending's an issue. San Jose might be a really tough opponent too if they could bring the same intensity to brought in their final regular season tune-up but their depth doesn't hold a candle to the Canucks'. Either way, it's going to be an interesting series, blowout or not. Here's 5 things to watch for: 1. Roberto Luongo enters this series as the X factor (again and again) and this time's there's really no excuses – the Canucks have given him the rest during the season he obviously needed to stay fresh. He's said so himself, he's playing the best hockey of his career. Alright, Roberto, show us what you've really got. You may have a gold medal around your neck but we want the parade. And for the record, I don't think Luongo's leash is very long (if things go really south there's no way you don't play Schneider even though he is a rookie). 2. Who steps up their game for the Hawks? The depth isn't there and other than the usual suspects (Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp) their best offensively gifted player is Michal Frolik who has 3 goals in 28 games. Tomas Kopecky will stir up some trouble but he should be easier to handle since he's about 50 lbs. lighter than Byfuglien. It's nothing a Kevin Bieksa-stare can't handle. 3. The only guy I've seen who's always been able to really get the Sedins off their game is Dave Bolland. Unfortunately, along with Troy Brouwer, both are unlikely to dress for the series opener. Bolland has a concussion and with those things it's always dicey. Like I said, if the Canucks win it won't be quite the same, but they're still the Blackhawks, no? 4. Maturity is often the issue with Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows and by distancing themselves from any extracurriculars Kesler cracked the 40-goal barrier. There were times though, where you could see the old Kesler start to creep back, especially when his wingers weren't making the plays or when things weren't going right for himself. It's going to be a pressure packed series and there will be all the more need for Kesler and Burrows to stay on an even keel. (As an aside, my two picks for the Hart are between Daniel and Corey Perry, but I also think that Kesler's the team MVP. How does that work? How does the second-best player on his team be considered for the Hart? Honestly, I don't even know. I can't really explain it until you watch a Canucks game. Also, shouldn't the Canucks should given an award to Mr. Kesler for his little sit-down with Ryan? Without him, no 41-goal Kesler.) 5. That's compared to the Hawks, who sounded more relieved to be just in the playoffs. They didn't bring their A game against Detroit (with shaky goaltending) and they had to count on Marc Crawford and the Stars to choke (who didn't see that coming?) to make it into the top 8. Some of the players couldn't even watch the game. When that happens the players are more relieved than psyched to play in the playoffs. If the Blackhawks can go from "happy to be there" to "brand new season" mode before game one they will be much more competitive. The Hawks entered last summer as a team with a lot of swagger and confidence. That's definitely not the story anymore. Can and will the Canucks take care of that? For more hockey stuff visit my new (still kind of under construction) site Armchair Hockey. Click for my Eastern Conference Preview, Hart, Jack Adams, Selke, Norris, and Masterton picks. Western Conference Preview and Vezina, Calder picks coming soon.
  3. For those of you who aren't familiar with what I do, I write the Game Notes for (aka Tale of the Tape) which you can read every game day at Of course a big part of Tale of the Tape is statistics. Some of them are easy to find ( and, some I get from researching the official game notes packages sent out by the various media relations department around the league, but the majority of them are ones that I keep track of myself throughout the season. To show everyone who reads Tale of the Tape that I don't just make this stuff up, I am sharing my master list of compiled statistics throughout the year. The stats I usually try and track are ones that media relations departments don't normally provide - which explains why I'll keep track of something such as Vancouver's record when they allow two-or-more power play goals and not their record when they allow a power play goal. Of course, if there are any other stats junkie out there that finds an error with anything, please feel free to let me know at dfung_sports[at] You can follow me on Twitter as well at @daniel_fung. Enjoy! Canucks record when... Any defenceman scores: 27-5-5 Christian Ehrhoff scores: 10-3-1 Daniel Sedin scores: 24-5-5 Raffi Torres scores: 9-1-0 Mason Raymond scores: 11-0-0 Mikael Samuelsson scores: 11-2-2 Ryan Kesler scores: 26-1-2 Manny Malhotra scores: 6-1-1 Jeff Tambellini scores: 8-0-1 Henrik Sedin scores: 13-2-3 Jannik Hansen scores: 7-2-0 Alex Edler scores: 4-0-3 Alex Burrows scores: 22-2-0 Tanner Glass scores: 2-1-0 Dan Hamhuis scores: 4-1-0 Kevin Bieksa scores: 5-1-0 Keith Ballard scores: 1-0-1 Alex Bolduc scores: 2-0-0 Sami Salo scores: 3-0-0 Andrew Alberts, Mario Bliznak, Aaron Volpatti, Lee Sweatt, Cody Hodgson, Maxim Lapierre, Chris Higgins, or Aaron Rome scores: 1-0-0 Alex Burrows does not play: 5-3-2 Sami Salo does not play: 33-11-9 Keith Ballard does not play: 8-7-2 Dan Hamhuis does not play: 12-5-1 Kevin Bieksa does not play: 11-5-0 Mason Raymond does not play: 9-1-2 Andrew Alberts does not play: 27-9-4 Alex Edler does not play: 22-9-0 Manny Malhotra does not play: 7-3-0 Tanner Glass does not play: 8-1-0 Mikael Samuelsson does not play: 6-1-0 Christian Ehrhoff does not play: 2-0-1 Playing on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada: 7-3-4 Playing on Rogers Sportsnet Pacific: 32-10-3 Playing on Rogers Sportsnet Vancouver Hockey: 9-4-0 Playing on TSN: 6-2-2 Score two-or-more power play goals: 17-2-4 Allow two-or-more power play goals: 2-6-2 (wins came vs ANA on Dec 8 and CGY on Apr 9) Don't allow 1st period goal: 39-8-3 Don't allow 2nd period goal: 25-4-4 Don't allow 3rd period goal: 28-6-5 Have a two-goal lead at any point in game: 41-0-0 Have a three-goal lead at any point in game: 25-0-0 Have a four-or-more goal lead at any point in game: 12-0-0 Score a goal in the 1st minute of a game: 2-1-0 (Oct 19 MIN, Nov 11 OTT, Mar 6 ANA) Score a goal in all three regulation periods: 27-0-2 Allow a goal in all three regulation periods: 2-5-1 Hold a lead at any point in the third period: 50-1-3 Surrender a shorthanded goal: 0-2-0 (Nov 17 PIT and Jan 16 MIN) Don't allow a power play goal: 37-8-3 Score a shorthanded goal: 4-0-1 (Nov 6 DET, Dec 1 CGY, Jan 22 CGY, Feb 1 DAL, Mar 25 ATL) When getting more power play chances than opponent: 17-7-2 When getting fewer power play chances than opponent: 25-7-4 When getting equal power play chances as opponent: 12-5-3 Playing the first game on a back-to-back night: 5-4-2 Playing the second game on a back-to-back night: 8-1-2 Playing an opponent that had to play the night before: 8-3-3 Canucks list of third period goal scorers... Alex Burrows & Ryan Kesler: 15 each Daniel Sedin: 12 Henrik Sedin: 9 Mason Raymond: 7 Mikael Samuelsson: 6 Raffi Torres, Jeff Tambellini, Manny Malhotra, Christian Ehrhoff: 4 each Dan Hamhuis, Alex Edler, Jannik Hansen: 3 each Chris Higgins, Kevin Bieksa, Keith Ballard: 2 each Aaron Rome, Lee Sweatt, Mario Bliznak, Tanner Glass, Peter Schaefer: 1 each Canucks overall average... Shots on goal per game: 32 Opponent shots on goal per game: 30.1 Shot attempts blocked per game: 15.3 Opponent shot attempts blocked per game: 13.1 Missed shots per game: 12.5 Opponent missed shots per game: 10.9 Hits per game: 21.7 Opponent hits per game: 22.7 Giveaways per game: 6.8 Opponent giveaways per game: 7.7 Takeaways per game: 7.3 Opponent takeaways per game: 7.2 Blocked shots per game: 13.1 Opponent blocked shots per game: 15.3 Canucks average at home... Shots on goal per game: 32.2 Opponent shots on goal per game: 30.2 Shot attempts blocked per game: 17 Opponent shot attempts blocked per game: 13.4 Missed shots per game: 12.3 Opponent missed shots per game: 10 Hits per game: 22 Opponent hits per game: 21 Giveaways per game: 6.2 Opponent giveaways per game: 4 Takeaways per game: 8.4 Opponent takeaways per game: 6 Blocked shots per game: 13.4 Opponent blocked shots per game: 17 Canucks average on road... Shots on goal per game: 31.8 Opponent shots on goal per game: 30 Shot attempts blocked per game: 13.6 Opponent shot attempts blocked per game: 12.7 Missed shots per game: 12.6 Opponent missed shots per game: 11.8 Hits per game: 21.7 Opponent hits per game: 24.4 Giveaways per game: 7.3 Opponent giveaways per game: 11.4 Takeaways per game: 6.1 Opponent takeaways per game: 8.5 Blocked shots per game: 12.7 Opponent blocked shots per game: 13.6 SEASON HIGHS AND LOWS Canucks Most - One Period Goals: 4 (twice) - Nov 11 OTT (3rd) & Dec 1 CGY (3rd) Goals Allowed: 4 - Nov 20 CHI (2nd) Shots: 23 - Nov 6 DET (3rd) Shots Allowed: 25 - Jan 20 SJS (2nd) Canucks Fewest - One Period Shots: 1 - Feb 15 MIN (3rd) Shots Allowed: 0 - Mar 31 LAK (3rd) Canucks Most - One Game Goals: 7 (three times) - Dec 1 CGY, Dec 23 CBJ, Jan 24 DAL Goals Allowed: 7 - Nov 20 CHI Shots: 51 - Jan 11 NYI Shots Allowed: 48 - Mar 10 SJS Penalty Minutes: 34 - Apr 5 EDM Penalty Minutes Opp: 36 - Dec 1 CGY Canucks Fewest - One Game Goals: 0 (five times) - Nov 9 MTL, Jan 13 NYR, Jan 16 MIN, Mar 3 NSH, Apr 5 EDM Goals Allowed: 0 (five times) - Nov 1 NJD, Dec 3 CHI, Feb 2 DAL, Mar 6 ANA, Apr 7 MIN Shots: 14 - Feb 15 MIN Shots Allowed: 12 - Dec 12 EDM Penalty Minutes: 2 (twice) - Nov 26 SJS, Mar 16 COL Penalty Minutes: 0 (twice) - Oct 11 FLA, Nov 21 PHX Canucks Largest - One Game Margin of victory: 6 (twice) - Jan 24 DAL, Feb 2 PHX Margin of defeat: 6 - Nov 20 CHI Individual Most - One Game Goals: 3 (five times) - Raffi Torres, Mason Raymond, Ryan Kesler x3 Goals allowed: 2 (seven times) - Dustin Brown (LAK), Niklas Kronwall (DET), Fernando Pisani (CHI), Taylor Pyatt (PHX), Henrik Zetterberg (DET), David Jones (COL), Bobby Ryan (ANA) Assists: 3 (10 times) - Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kesler, Daniel Sedin, Christian Ehrhoff, Mason Raymond x2, Henrik Sedin x4 Assists allowed: 3 (three times) - Ryan Getzlaf (ANA), Marian Hossa (CHI), Brian Rafalski (DET) Points: 4 (twice) - Mason Raymond (Dec 1 CGY) & Henrik Sedin (Dec 23 CBJ) Points Allowed: 4 - Ryan Getzlaf (Oct 13 ANA) Saves: 45 - Roberto Luongo (Jan 20 SJS) Saves, Opponent: Kevin Poulin (Jan 11 NYI)
  4. Wrote this for the SFU paper before Manny's fatal accident; however it some weird twisted extremely confident thought, The Canucks may play better. I actually think the Canucks are less likely to be upset in the first two rounds of the playoffs now that they know that they have a significant hole...and know that they all have to pick up their games and contribute each night. Check out the positive article, something different from the consistent negativity. In a season of remarkable runs, the Canucks have been able to put substantial distance between themselves and the teams chasing them. For the first time, the franchise has an opportunity to add a new banner to solidify their success. After all, this year the Canucks have clinched their division title in the shortest time in franchise history, and, until now, have never been the top seed in their conference, let alone the league. With no signs of taking a nap, the players have provided the fans with an extremely consistent season, forcing analysts to desperately search for holes. As much as we all want to believe that this is the year, the Canucks always seem to fall short come playoff time, and the history of fans waiting for the "expected" to occur is a well-known ritual in this city. But what if the "expected" doesn't happen? What if there are no catastrophes? What if this team gets healthy and stays healthy throughout the post-season? What if instead of having difficulty making things happen in a defensive playoff battle, the stars of this lineup finally wake up? What if this team finally proves all their critics wrong? The team deserves credit for what they have achieved thus far, and this may be the year fans can justifiably "Believe in Blue". The Canucks created a path to stroll into the playoffs as the number one seed, locking up home-ice advantage for possibly the entire battle. The countdown is on. Who is to say this has to turn out badly? By the way this team has conducted itself, they have proven for months that they have a firm grip on something very unique in terms of leadership and professionalism. It has been a business-like atmosphere since training camp and every time you expect this team to let down and have it crumble, they gain momentum and go on a run. The numbers don't lie; the Canucks have won six or more games at four different points this season, which is why it is no surprise the Canucks are on top of league. No brother duet has ever won back-to-back scoring titles in league history. Both Sedin brothers have been able to grab the game by the throat and take charge, a trademark of any great player. They have proven this year after year, and now they are established trophy case candidates. The luxury of alternating goaltenders is not a dilemma; it's the solution to Roberto Luongo's playoff woes. Not only is the undisputed number one tied with Montreal's Carey Price for most wins, but Cory Schneider is playing as if he's a seasoned veteran. Schneider has not been the guy with the burden; nevertheless, he is without question the greatest insurance policy that this franchise has ever had. He has been able to gain an incredible amount of respect from his teammates and management. If the team stays on schedule and the core defense all get back in time for the playoffs as expected, it will be the most mobile group in the league. Even with injuries to the blueline, the Canucks have proven that they are extremely resilient. Rather than have their fourth line sit in the press box (reminiscent of last year), the new look of Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre provide the team with speed, agility, and much needed grit. The intangibles are more evident than ever before, and overriding them all is leadership. Players such as third-line centre Manny Malhotra helped the team stay on the rails and brought with him the culture of consistent professionalism that it takes to be a champion. I am not saying it's going to be a breeze to win the Cup, but seriously, in what other year did they have a team of this caliber to compete for Lord Stanley? It has been 40 years of cherished memories and unforgettable statistics, but one team photo has yet to be shot. Maybe the hockey gods finally understand the pain the city has felt and are telling us to leave the concern by the front door and let the players handle themselves. This group has handled the scrutiny better than any other Canuck ensemble and the end is in sight with no negative symptoms. Failure is too ingrained in the mentality of people in Vancouver when it comes to the Canucks. Let's lift our spirits.
  5. "I'm going to go out on a limb here and I'm going to say that the Vancouver Canucks will not make it out of the first round... no matter who they play," says Theo Fleury. Soon after Fleury made those comments, he was lambasted on Twitter (@TheoFleury14) and accused of being a misinformed troll. Ah, the beauty of social media and the Internet. Now, before everyone here starts getting their pitchforks and lanterns in a city-wide manhunt, let's step back and discuss this. First, while I disagree with Fleury's prediction, he has made it clear that he's going against the grain. There's nothing inherently wrong with that - it would've been akin to saying that Boston U would've upset Kansas in the first round of the NCAA tournament. You're going to get laughed at, and Fleury clearly knew what he was going to get, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. If the Canucks did indeed bow out in the first round, doesn't that make Fleury a genius? Like it or not, he makes some great points in his argument. He even concedes that the Sedins' skills are mind-blowing. Second, if there's anybody's opinion about this matter that you should respect, it's Theo Fleury's. Very few players have made it to the NHL with a size disadvantage and even fewer have played with the same amount of fire Fleury had back in his heyday. He's an Olympic gold medalist, a Stanley Cup winner, and overcome substance abuse and depression. He's been on league-leading teams, teams that have choked, and teams that have won. If anyone knows about fighting a battles, win or lose, it's Fleury. Expectations are sky high in Vancouver - anything short of a Cup title and the President's Trophy this squad will win won't mean anything. The ultimate prize is still the Cup, so whatever happens between Opening Night and the last game of the playoffs is just all white noise when all is said and done. Jason Botchford isn't sure why there's been so much criticism directed at the Canucks, and more specifically, Roberto Luongo, but it's clearly because the Canucks have never, even been in this position. Think about it. Which team is the most criticized in the MLB? The Yankees, because they're a historically great team with an insane payroll that isn't a reflected on the field. The NBA? The Miami Heat, because LeBron James and his buddies teamed up and have formed one of the most talented nucleus in league history and promised 6 championships yet still struggle to stay atop the East. The NFL? The New England Patriots, because Tom Brady's pretty boy image was front and center along with their historic 16-0 season. The Vancouver Canucks are the best team in the NHL. They sit comfortably atop the league standings and boast the league's best special teams. Luongo is statistically having one of the best seasons in his career. Make no mistake - the Canucks are public enemy number one in all 29 other arenas in the NHL. Every single team wants to beat the Canucks. They're going to get picked apart by fans, experts, GMs, and coaches because they're the team to beat. They're the litmus test. And one of the easiest bones to pick with the Canucks? The fact that they've been blown out by the Hawks in two consecutive years, and in both years Luongo has been less than stellar. Pressure to win in the playoffs comes from regular season success. It's the logical step. What people want to know are the ones at the top. It's an exercise in social psychology as it is about sports. The reason why so many top teams choke (Washington) is because there's much more pressure on them to perform. And so many upsets happen every year (Montreal) because there's less pressure. Some teams thrive off pressure, some don't. So far, it's pretty fair to say the Canucks don't. Some people in Vancouver are up in arms because they can't take the criticism. Well, now we know how the Sharks felt the past couple of years and we know how Sidney Crosby feels on a nightly basis. You want to know why nobody picks apart the Red Wings' game even though Jimmy Howard really isn't that good, Jonathan Ericsson has hit a wall in his development, and Tomas Holmstrom refuses to fight? Because they've won Cups. Stop whining about not getting enough respect. Suck it up, play hard, and win the damn thing.
  6. 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.
  7. For the second straight year, on the same exact day, in the same exact scenario, the Canucks fell flat on their faces. I think if you could point to one determining factor in the series, it was that the Canucks just couldn't match the Blackhawks' drive and talent. Despite Shane O'Brien and Kevin Bieksa stepping up their games, they still couldn't quite match the impact Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and even former Canuck Brent Sopel had for their teams. Jonathan Toews' drive to win was unmatched, Patrick Kane couldn't be contained, and Antti Niemi was just good enough to beat the Canucks. In my previous post I said the number one to watch was Game 6. I kind of regret writing that now. I finished the game in its entirety, from the national anthem to the post-game interviews (more on that later) and I can't help but feel dissatisfied about the Canucks' effort. Asides from Kyle Wellwood, I don't think anybody brought their A-game. You could point out that several key players, including Sami Salo and Ryan Kesler, were playing with a considerable amount of pain, but both of them even said it's not an excuse. You play hurt in the playoffs. Yet, somehow, we dealt less mental and physical damage to the Hawks - if not, they certainly didn't show any weakness. Had we peppered Niemi with 50 shots I would've been a little more satisfied, but in an elimination game the Canucks only managed 30 and lacked the same intensity the Hawks showed all game. I don't like how the Canucks responded after a convincing win to force another game at GM Place. And that brings me to the post-game interviews. I was never one of those that particularly liked Mike Gillis and Alain Vigneault's decision to make Roberto Luongo captain. I certainly was skeptical and noted how it was perhaps a sign that no one in the dressing room was fit to wear the 'C'. A little concerning, to say the least. After Luongo backstopped Canada to a gold medal and Henrik Sedin elevated his game to set a new franchise record in points in a season, a lot of questions about the Canucks were erased. But after last night's performance, the same questions are raised again. Is Luongo a big-game player? Are the Sedins too soft? Is our team deep enough? Is Luongo the right choice as captain? For me, at least, I know the answer to the last question is a resounding "no." <img src=""class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Why do I say that? Asides from a logistical perspective, having a goalie as a captain really limits the role of a captain. Because goalies cannot cross the red line, communicating with referees and other players can be quite difficult. For the most part, ceremonial face-offs and communication with the referees have been assigned to a committee of leaders rather than one singular individual. But I think the most telling part of the Canucks' playoff run were the post-game interviews. When bombarded with a plethora of questions regarding the Canucks' play, Luongo's most common answer was, "I don't know." Kelly Hrudey on CBC was highly critical of Luongo at his (apparent) refusal to comment on how poor his game was but that's not the reason I'm more than a little annoyed. As a captain and face of the franchise, an "I don't know" answer tells me that this team obviously lacks any clues as to why and how they lost. I realize that it takes days, even months, to digest a loss as devastating as this one, but certainly "I don't know" is not an answer. 94% of voters on The Province website said Luongo will not be captain next year. The most interesting interview, I thought, was the guy who had the least to say, and that was Ryan Kesler. "Words can't describe how I feel right now." Playing with a nagging shoulder injury, Kesler sounded like he was the Canuck that took the loss the hardest (although I'm sure everyone took the loss hard). Kesler's passion shows on the ice and he certainly didn't make any excuses. To him, the Canucks just came up short. Really short. Vancouver fans are no stranger to disappointments. After 40 years of futility we've seen just about everything. But never have I ever seen any Canucks team fail to salute the fans after the end of the season. That perhaps was the most frustrating part of the game. Sure, most fans booed and with the way the Canucks showed up to this game I wouldn't want to stick around the rink any longer than I should, but there are fans who still cheer for them through the tough times and who still genuinely care. Vancouver's a passionate hockey town and for the team to ultimately disrespect their fans like that is discomforting. The majority of the fans left the rink with a sour taste in their mouths but that's no excuse to not acknowledge the support Vancouver fans have given the team all year. I want an apology. Not so much for the poor performance in Game 6 but rather how the Canucks showed their appreciation to their fans. I guess there's always next year.
  8. 30. That was Canucks hockey at its finest. Even at the Madhouse, the Blackhawks lacked that extra step all night. But that's what's most frustrating about the Canucks - they can't play their game on a more consistent basis. <img src=""class="imageFloatLeftFramed">29. I was never a fan of Shane O'Brien, especially in game four when he took two bone-headed cross-checking penalties. No one has ever questioned his toughness but you can't help but notice that his game has improved drastically. His skating and his hockey smarts are two things that have really jumped out at me this season. 28. Will the real Ryan Kesler please stand up? Much like Alex Burrows, Kesler has struggled to find his game in the second round after a fantastic regular season and an even better performance at the Olympics. It's not like Kesler's invisible - that's more Pavol Demitra than anyone - but he hasn't made a big impact in games like we all know he can. 27. Roberto Luongo was better, but not fantastic. He didn't exactly steal the game, although there were more Hawks chances than I'd like to see. It's not exactly like the Hawks are an easy team to play against either. 26. Special teams is vital, especially if it's not the regular season. The Hawks powerplay didn't look nearly as dangerous and Dustin Byfuglien wasn't as noticeable as he was in Game Four. The Canucks didn't allow a single PPG in four penalty kills. A rarity these days. 25. If there was a goat for the entire series, I'm not picking the less than spectacular Luongo. It's Daniel Sedin. Having accumulated only 28 PIM all season, the twin without the 'A' has 12 PIM in 11 games and just one powerplay goal. Daniel was clearly rattled by David Bolland in Game Four and a lot of the penalties he's been taken have just been plain dumb. There was a collective sigh of relief for Canucks Nation when the Canucks came out strong again in the second period after a late hooking call on Daniel. Perhaps this is the reason why Alain Vigneault gave Henrik rather than Daniel the 'A'. 24. Kyle Wellwood can be a blast to watch. He's perhaps one of the best stickhandlers in the league in close quarters, but ask him to do it while skating at full speed and, well, it's probably not going to happen. But either way, I think he was one of the best players out there last night (along with Kevin Bieksa and O'Brien), and I think most will agree. He may be only one of the few returning UFAs and he won't come much more expensive than his current salary ($1.2 million). 23. It's a foregone conclusion that Pavol Demitra is gone after this season. I didn't expect him to be back next year but his overall lack of effort just solidified my case even more. 22. Never mind Patrick Kane - he's a slick puckhandler with great vision and soft hands, but it doesn't seem like he'll be anything more than that. Perhaps it's because his development into a NHL star has paled in comparison to Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews', but even after a couple of seasons in the league I don't think he's improved his defensive game any, if at all. I don't expect Kane to win the Selke, Kesler's going to do that this year, but I know some Hawks fans that cringe when they see 88 loitering around the defensive zone. 21. Kris Versteeg is one of those sneaky fast players that plays hard. If anything, his spirited tilt against Patrick Eaves was a testament to his heart and grit. 29 other teams would love to have him. Asides from Toews, for obvious patriotic reasons, he may be one of my favourite Hawks. Don't shoot me. 20. If the Canucks advance to the finals it won't be because Henrik, Luongo, Alex Edler, or even Christian Ehrhoff elevated their play. It's because of the return of Ryan Johnson, who returns to his regular fourth line spot. The underappreciated centre won 8 of 9 draws (he single-handedly raised the Canucks' FO% by 5%), blocked 2 shots, and dished out 1 hit in 11 minutes of ice-time. One thing that you can depend on Johnson for is quality minutes. Against San Jose defense will be huge, now with Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton (finally) hitting their stride. <img src=""class="imageFloatRightFramed">19. How about that PK Subban? The kid oozes poise and confidence on the blueline and with Hal Gill questionable for an elimination game and Jaroslav Spacek's expected to return (although not necessarily at 100%), expect Subban to log 20 minutes. He's already averaging 18:41 and don't be surprised if Jacques Martin assigns Subban to Sidney Crosby. 18. It's funny how much ink Jaroslav Halak is getting, but once the playoffs are over expect the Halak vs. Carey Price debates to continue. Habs fans have fallen head over heels with Halak but I caution against jumping on the bandwagon too soon. One good season does not make for a good goalie. I'm not doubting Halak's ability, but I am a little appalled how fast people throw Price under the bus. But, I guess that's just Montreal for you. 17. The Flyers have always wanted that elite netminder, but ask any Philly fan and they'll say that Ron Hextall was the last good goaltender they had. But what's Hextall's career save percentage? A rather pedestrian .895. What Flyers fans miss is the toughness and pugnacity Hextall brought to the table but those goalies don't grow on trees. In fact, I think a case can be made to jettison Ray Emery (in all likelihood won't be re-signed, anyone else think he has a career in MMA?) and enter the 2010-11 season with Brian Boucher as the number one and Michael Leighton as the backup. Neither come with starting goalie pedigree (Boucher was a former 22nd overall pick), but the Flyers are a team built for the playoffs and all they need to do is to make it. They got lucky and drew the declining Martin Brodeur in the first round, but Boucher has always traditionally played better when it counts. His regular season numbers aren't exactly stellar (.900, 2.72 GAA career) but his playoff numbers are significantly better (.915, 2.17 GAA career). A Boucher/Leighton tandem will save them money and allow them to keep Simon Gagne. If anything, this would be a one season experiment. I've always felt some backups never get the chance to show what they can really do. 16. Everyone's been saying how easy it was to shut down Alex Ovechkin but how about Crosby? He's almost been a non-factor in the series but like Mike Babcock, Dan Bylsma will live or die with his best players on the ice. Evgeni Malkin, last year's Conn Smythe winner, has been invisible for stretches of the game. I actually think the best Penguin in this playoffs has been Kris Letang. So much for finding the right wingers - Ruslan Fedotenko has zero points and Alexei Ponikarovsky was a healthy scratch recently. 15. The new Bobby Orr statue that commemorates the 40th anniversary of his goal against St. Louis will be unveiled tonight. The Bruins are looking to eliminate the Flyers at home (they will) and advance to the Conference Finals where in all likelihood they will face Pittsburgh, which will no doubt be a spirited bout. After facing the 6'7" Gill, Crosby will yet again face another giant, this time the 6'9" Zdeno Chara. Expect more frustration and shattered sticks. Marc-Andre Fleury needs to outplay Tuukka Rask if the Pens want to advance. 14. If there were any doubts over Doug Wilson's job security in San Jose, the Sharks' first appearance in the Conference Finals in six years certainly wiped it all away. Joe Thornton, surprisingly, came up huge and he's been playing really well. But the big coming out party is for "Little Joe" Pavelski, who I thought along with Ryan Kesler, Ryan Miller, and Brian Rafalski was one of the best players for USA. 13. Just a little story on Pavelski. After playing two years at the University of Wisconsin, Pavelski signed an entry-level contract at $850,000 in the summer of 2006. Despite his spectacular college numbers (101 points in 84 games, James van Riemsdyk only collected 74 in comparison), Pavelski initially didn't expect to make the team. He was absolutely shocked when he walked into the locker room one day and saw his familiar #8 (his college number) waiting for him at his stall. He knew then that he had made it. Even his mother has often commented about how the entire family was surprised at how good he was at the game. It's this kind of modesty that really makes great players. The kind of modesty that makes you work hard at your game day-in and day-out. 12. That San Jose made the Conference Finals must be great news for Gary Bettman. After interest in hockey in California began to fade after the Ducks' struggles, the Sharks have finally found that playoff success and the Kings are becoming relevant again. If you were to argue for Bettman's side that hockey will work in non-traditional markets, California is a great example. Former Vancouver Giants standout Jon Blum is from California and a big reason he got into hockey was because of Wayne Gretzky. We could see a big boom in hockey interest in California very, very soon. <img src=""class="imageFloatLeftFramed">11. Back to college hockey - if anyone gets a chance, watch the NCAA Frozen Four. I personally dislike watching basketball in general, especially the NBA, but March Madness is a different animal altogether. Just imagine the hype, the skill, the determination, and the hard work, but just on ice. It's a spectacular tournament that unfortunately really doesn't garner enough attention. The player that I've been watching all year and think could have a great NHL career? Former Wisconsin captain Blake Geoffrion (whose squad finished second this year to Boston College), the grandson of Hab legend Boom-Boom Geoffrion and wears #5 in his honour. If there was any family that knows how to shoot the puck, it's the Geoffrions. 10. It's about time the NHL made an award for executive of the year, although I wish they would name it. There is no question that this year's winner is Don Maloney, much like this year's Jack Adams should go to Dave Tippett. What they've done together in Phoenix has been incredible. Should the Coyotes move to Winnipeg, they will already have a solid management group in place, a key ingredient to a successful hockey franchise and ensure that the "new" Jets won't be stuck in expansion mediocrity in its infancy. 9. Next award to introduce? How about an award for most assists? There's a minor award for one of the useless stats in hockey with the +/- award, so why not one for helpers? This isn't some sort of ploy to get Henrik another trophy (he will win both the Hart and Pearson) but playmaking is an art form but is somehow less glamorous than goal-scoring. Let's change that. 8. There's little doubt in my mind that the new hardware being handed out this year is somehow tied to the fact that for the foreseeable future the NHL Awards will be held in glitzy Las Vegas. 7. I'm going to refrain from making any predictions about who will come out of the west for fear of jinxing our dearly beloved, but I am going to say that the East won't be winning the Cup this year. Although I'm sure Bettman is just absolutely jonesing for a Chicago-Pittsburgh tilt. Ratings would be through the roof. 6. My avid golfer dad and I enjoyed the brief absence of Tiger Woods from the PGA Tour. It's not that we don't like the way he golfs - his aggressiveness and competitiveness is second to none - but it's the way he carries himself on and off the course (no more needs to be said here). If you remember, it wasn't too long ago when Woods made a little comment about how "no one watches hockey," which prompted "Mad Mike" Milbury to dub him "," I can't help but think how ignorant that comment is. USA Hockey is providing a new surge of talent and if the Olympics were any indication at all, it's going to become really relevant again. That Tiger Woods, the world's most marketable athlete behind LeBron James (the scandal actually did The Masters a favour), is turning a blind eye towards his own country's feats and accomplishments is downright ignorant and frustrating. This has gone on long enough. Now for a short top five things to watch for. 5. Steven Stamkos at the World Championships in Cologne, Germany. He will be Canada's #2 pivot for years to come behind Sidney Crosby. Stamkos is already better than Eric Staal, Vinny Lecavalier, or Ryan Getzlaf when they were his age. No surprises here, but Matt Duchene is also another player to watch and will end up having a more brilliant career than John Tavares. Which is why the Oilers should go with potential and smarts rather than raw skill by selecting Tyler Seguin over Taylor Hall. In fact, maybe Steve Tambellini can dupe Peter Chiarelli into thinking that the Oilers are going to take Hall and somehow swindle a low pick from them to guarantee them that they'll take Seguin first overall. <img src=""class="imageFloatLeftFramed">4. Nicklas Lidstrom may have played his last game as a Red Wing and it's a shame that it has to end on a low note, especially after falling to Crosby and the Pens last year. Had the Wings won the Cup Lidstrom's decision to retire would be much easier, but like most veteran players who are on the fence (Mike Modano included), there's always that question of "what could've been." Either way, congratulations are in order for both Modano and Lidstrom. 3. Mark Messier selected the squad for Canada at Cologne and no doubt the Canadians will achieve some form of success due to the abundance of talent. But managing a NHL team is a different. There's salary caps, trades, negotiations, and PR disasters (the Rangers still have Sean Avery). I certainly hope Messier's success at the international level doesn't somehow get translated into a lengthy NHL managing career. On second thought, that might not be a bad idea. 2. The Canucks somehow played better with 4.5 defensemen (sorry, Andrew Alberts). With Sami Salo expected to out with a potentially ruptured testicle (ouch... but follow it on twitter @salostesticle) this will be a test to how the Canucks respond. The home team has the losing record in this series but look for GM Place to be rowdy as ever. 1. The number one thing to watch? Game Six. Duh.
  9. <img src="" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">If the rest of the series goes the way that last night's game did, this has the potential to be the most exciting series in the first round of this year's playoffs. As badly as the Canucks outshot the Kings, it didn't feel like the Canucks weren't making the most of their chances. This wasn't a matter of having a wide open net and shooting it wide. Jonathan Quick played pretty well for the Kings, and if it hadn't been for him, the game probably would have been over at the end of the second period. Sometimes you just roll up a goalie like that. You deal with it anyway you can, and hope it doesn't repeat in game 2. Except for the lack of ability on the PK, and Andrew Alberts' tendency to PUT the Kings on the power play, there wasn't a whole lot lacking in the Canucks' game last night. Alex Edler played like a man possessed, and Roberto Luongo showed no signs of the struggles he's gone through the last few weeks. Of course, it'll take more than just one game to say that he's got his game back completely. The Sedins showed no signs of slowing down from what they accomplished in the regular season, and what else can you say about Mikael Samuelsson? The guy scored two goals, and was out there hitting people, too. That's the kind of thing that some of the others could learn from, definitely. It was even great to see Alex Burrows yapping with Drew Doughty. Just because he didn't pick up a point doesn't mean that Burr was ineffective. What else do the Canucks need to do? Work on the PK, obviously, but also not lose sight of the fact that if it hadn't been for a rather spectacular reach by a certain goalie-captain, this series would have been 1 - 0 in the other direction. The Kings might not be any division champions, but they're in this to win. There's nothing to be gained in taking any opponent lightly. Just ask Ovie and the Capitals. Regular postings, including game recaps, are also available on - your feedback is always appreciated.
  10. 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="" 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="" 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="" 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="" 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="" 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="" 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="" 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)
  11. It's that time of year again... the best time of the year! And of course, like every year, I make my predictions. Usually I'm pretty good, but this year I think the West is completely wide open. I think there's a potential for upset in every single series. I'm cheating a little bit here because the first games have been played, but (swear to God!) I made these picks before the games. EAST Washington over Montreal in 6. - Really, there's no contest, no matter what Tomas Plekanec might think. Sure, the Habs have the advantage in goal, but it's marginal at best, because despite Jaroslav Halak's save percentage the Habs are still allowing more than two and half goals per game. Buffalo over Boston in 7. - Both Tuukka Rask and Ryan Miller can stop the biscuit as well as anyone in the league, but the difference maker here is that the Sabres can put the puck in the net. The Bruins are starved on offense and Peter Chiarelli's announcement that Marc Savard will be ready for round two will be all for naught because I can't see the Bruins making it out of this one, but they will put up a fight. The Bruins have a noticeable physical advantage over the Sabres but that fatigue probably won't show until the second round. <img src=""class="imageFloatRightFramed">Philadelphia over New Jersey in 6. - The Flyers did take game one, but my decision to take the Broad Street Bullies wasn't based on that. It's based on this telling fact: since the lockout, the Devils have been eliminated from the semifinals two years in a row and then from the quarterfinals two years in a row. See a trend? It doesn't matter if Martin Brodeur stops enough pucks (he boasted a .929 SV% last year), the Devils just can't seem to find the timely scoring. Also, let's not forget that Chris Pronger has made the finals in the first year of every new city he's played for. It'll be a close series but I see the Flyers taking it, even with Ilya Kovalchuk on the Devils and Brian Boucher in net. Pittsburgh over Ottawa in 6. - Ottawa took game one in a shocker, but the Pens will pull it together. There's no way Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will allow their team to get ousted in the opening round. The Sens are playing with less pressure, since most people are already counting them out, especially with the loss of Alexei Kovalev. WEST San Jose over Colorado in 6. - Like the Senators, the Avs have very little pressure on them. All eyes are on the Sharks, who are looking to at least reach the Conference Finals. Anything less would be a failure, despite yet another fantastic regular season. I think the Avs are still too green, although it would give the Denver hockey market a huge boost if they advance. Not since the days of Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg have I see so much optimism in the Mile High City. Chicago over Nashville in 5. - I've noted in previous blog posts that Barry Trotz has really gotten the short end of the stick with Nashville's constantly depleted roster. Trotz's squads have never won a playoff round and that's not necessarily his fault, and it won't be again this year. Against perhaps the most talented team in the league, even the blue-collar Preds won't be able to fend off Joel Quenneville's multi-faceted attack. Even if Pekka Rinne completely stands on his hand, the Preds don't have enough top-end talent to win. <img src=""class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Vancouver over Los Angeles in 6. - The Kings crushed the Canucks in a 8-3 win in their last regular season meeting, but the playoffs are a completely different animal and the Kings haven't tasted the postseason since 2002. Both Jonathan Quick and Roberto Luongo, the two key players in this series, have struggled down the stretch and it remains to be seen which man can find his game quicker. However, the Canucks are just too deep up front and with a vaunted powerplay LA's mediocre PK unit should be quivering. Vancouver's defense remains the team's Achilles' heel, but if Henrik and Daniel Sedin can pin the Kings in their own zone it won't be a problem at all. Henrik has especially embraced his new role with the Canucks as their primary go-to man and who knows what he and Daniel have in store for the playoffs. Could you imagine if they elevated their game even more? Detroit over Phoenix in 6. - Phoenix took game one and looked pretty good doing it. But I would never count out any team coached by Mike Babcock and captained by the steady Nicklas Lidstrom. The Coyotes, like the Avs and Sens, have zero pressure on them to perform - by all accounts they have had successful seasons considering the expectations that had been placed upon them, but like any young team the Coyotes are hungry. The Wings are ranked lower, but they're definitely not the underdog. Dave Tippett's teams have generally performed well in the playoffs but have had some terrible luck.
  12. The Canucks are meeting the LA Kings in the first round of the NHL playoffs. Since we’re going to be seeing a lot of LA, I figure I’d go and take the time to provide a primer for Canucks fans who may not be 100% up to date on the Kings. Think of this comprehensive, all-inclusive guide as your ‘cheat sheet’ to the Los Angeles Kings. Forwards Dustin Brown – 34 years old, Brown hails from Brown earned the ire of Canucks fans everywhere back in 02-03 when he beat out Markus Naslund for the Rocket Richard trophy, but quickly earned it back when in the 05/06 season, cementing his reputation as being one of the league’s top hitters. Known to assault small children, Dustin Brown is the captain of the Los Angeles Kings. Being such a beloved figure down in LA explains why there were so many rumors circling around about trading him to Atlanta in exchange for Ilya Kovalchuk. Rich Clune – Hailing from Toronto, ON, Clune has always dreamed of suiting up to play for the Maple Leafs in the playoffs. Realizing the futility of such a dream, Clune has graciously lended his talents to the Kings. A future Lady Byng candidate, Clune had a storied junior career, including winning silver and gold for Canada at the World Juniors, demanding a trade from the Sarnia Sting and landing with the Barrie Colts. Barrie was so touched with Clune’s professionalism that they promptly awarded him a team sportsmanship award after he scored an empty net goal October 28, 2006 against the London Knights and proceeded to taunt his opponents. Alexander Frolov – A pioneer in gravity control research, per his website: “Alexander V. Frolov has been described as a technology pioneer. Born September 25th, 1962 in the Saratov area of Russia, Alex Frolov has been quietly but progressively becoming one of the world’s scientists to watch.” The fans of the LA Kings are so fond of Alexander Frolov that they were eager to include him in numerous trade proposals for Ilya Kovalchuk. Has the second most asymmetrical face behind only Dany Heatley. O_o Jeff Halpern – American born and bred, Jeff Halpern is a former great captain of the Washington Capitals, being part of a list that reads like some of the greatest names in hockey, such as Steve Konowalchuk, Chris Clark, Ryan Walter (yes, THAT Ryan Walter) and Alexander Ovechkin. Halpern has spent his entire career playing on American teams in the Southern divisions. As a result, it is recommended that you not cheer, jeer or make any other loud noises, look him in the eye or make any mention of the playoffs, so as not to startle and confuse him. Michal Handzus – Once owner of one of the NHL’s most luxurious manes and a heckuva hockey player to boot, Handzus routinely topped the lists of ‘hottest NHLer’ in annual puck bunny polls alongside Mike Ricci. He now looks like a serial killer. Nicknamed ‘Zeus’ by teammates, Handzus lives in mortal fear of tiny midgets with anger management issues. Raitis Ivanans – A Latvian born player, Ivanans is a forward who is known for his hockey smarts: in his very first NHL game, he dropped the gloves against Zdeno Chara and earned a broken orbital bone for his efforts. Also played for the Macon Whoopee, which is probably the greatest hockey team name ever. See Also: Jones, Randy. Anze Kopitar – A virtual unknown to Canucks fans, Anze Kopitar was actually selected 11th overall in the 2005 entry draft, one pick after the Canucks 10th overall selection. The enigmatic Kopitar hails from Slovenia and plays center and is an alternate captain for the Kings. Kopitar has hit 60 points or more in every NHL season he has played in and has 2 30+ goal seasons. Kopitar has been quoted as saying that he is incredibly grateful that he was not drafted by the Canucks, as he wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to showcase his talent like he has in LA. Fredrik Modin – The true #33 for Team Sweden, Modin has a long and legendary career as an NHL forward. The Legend of Modin began in 2004 when, after realizing his boyhood dream of playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, he journeyed to the hockey mecca known as Tampa Bay and became a member of the Lightning. Taking youngsters Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Dan Boyle and Martin St. Louis under his wing, Modin, alongside future Hall of Famer Ruslan Fedotenko, placed the team on their back and won the Stanley Cup. Not content to rest on his laurels, Modin lent his talents to Team Sweden at the 2006 Olympics. His 2 goals and single assist propelled the Swedes to the gold medal. While some may say that the wheels have completely fallen off of the Modin wagon, as his 20 goals in the past 119 games (over the past four seasons) would indicate he is slowing down, wise fans know that Modin is simply pacing himself. Scott Parse – A rookie for the Kings, Parse is a former college player and is apparently a huge nerd. How huge of a nerd is he? Well, this is the advice he imparted to youngsters wanting to get better at hockey: Brad Richardson – Is like some sort of cobbled together first generation genetically engineered Chinese hockey player. What do I mean? Well, he’s got the knockoff name of Brad Richards, coupled with the feet problems of Peter Forsberg while being nowhere near as good as either of them. This made him qualify for the Masterton trophy because he went 57 games without scoring a goal, falling short of Kevin Bieksa’s absolutely epic 80 NHL games goalless drought. Wayne Simmonds – Fortunately, Wayne does not get a lot of comparisons to another former King who goes by the name of Wayne and was also born in Ontario. Unfortunately, he does get a lot of comparisons to George Laraque, Jarome Iginla and former King Anson Carter, due to the clueless nature of sports media types. While we’re on the subject, no, Evander Kane and Patrick Kane are not brothers. Ryan Smyth – Formerly of the Edmonton Oilers, Ryan Smyth was about the only person who didn’t want to leave the city of Edmonton, becoming the first recorded instance of NHL Stockholm Syndrome. Has a brother, Kevin, who played for the Hartford Whalers and hates Southwest Airlines. Jarret Stoll – Has a less geekier name than fellow hockey player Norbert Stoll. Stoll’s known to go cougar hunting, as he was dating Rachel Hunter, a woman who was 13 years his senior. Stoll, in a show of being a true gentleman and all around classy guy, broke up and cancelled his wedding engagement with Hunter via e-mail and hooked up with Melrose Place star Katie Cassidy. Not since the days of have we seen such a ‘dynamite’ pairing. Justin Williams – Williams won a Cup with Carolina back in 2006. Looking to learn more about this youngster who has managed to put together back to back 30 goal seasons, I headed over to Wikipedia. I learned that Williams is adored by ‘female fans everywhere’ and that in August 12, 2006 he married his fiancee. Truly, there has never been a more talented hockey player than Justin Williams. Defense Drew Doughty – Much like Canucks blueliner Willie Mitchell, Doughty is apparently is suffering from post-concussion issues, as he issued a bewildering statement Tuesday, stating that he thinks that his D will have no problems shutting down the Sedins. He went on to elaborate ‘Well, we’ve got Scotty and Pronger back there, plus, we’ve got the home team supporting us at Canada Hockey Place. This should be easy.’ Also: has more chins than Kyle Wellwood. Davis Drewiske – Hollywood is full of Double Ds and I guess the Kings are no exception. Matt Greene – Traded from Edmonton, Matt Greene became the 74th defenseman to have been traded out of Rexall Place in the last 3 years who went on to bigger and better things. The defenseman who was traded for him, Lubomir Visnovsky, became the 75th Oilers defenseman to have been traded in the last 3 years who went on to bigger and better things. Greene is highly regarded for being a great playoff performer and is known for racking up points in the offseason and will be a welcome addition to the Kings PP. Peter Harrold – Is the most boring person in the NHL. More boring than the Jacques Lemaire coached Minnesota Wild. How boring is he? Even fan dislike of him is underwhelmingly tepid at best. Zzzz. Jack Johnson – That’s J-A-Ha-Ha-C-K, J-O-Ha-Ha-H-N-S-O-N,, Jack Johnson. Future country music superstar and beloved by everyone in Vancouver for his tremendous displays of sportsmanship and class. Johnson plays a physical, dominating game and comes up Randy Jones – You know how Alain Vigneault continually dresses that one player you despise above all others and you cannot fathom how he continues to make it into the lineup because his existence in said lineup defies all convention, logic and reason? Randy Jones is the Kings equivalent of that player. Sean O’Donnell – Affectionately known as ‘SOD’, not because that’s the acronym his name makes, but because he resembles an inert pile of grass and dirt, Sean O’Donnell is a big, hulking Irish defenseman who is prone to taking penalties. Basically SOB in about a decade, but without the party animal vibe. Rob Scuderi – Scuderi is known as The Piece, apparently because he arrogantly defined himself as ‘The Piece’ to the Pittsburgh Penguins puzzle. Much like his other namesake, ‘Scud’, he remains inaccurate and non-lethal. Goalies Dan Cloutier – Is still on the Kings payroll this season and could probably provide more consistent goaltending than Quick/Ersberg/Bernier. Jonathan Quick – The latest ‘anointed’ one by Kings faithful, Quick is the most recent in a long list of goalies that have been mass produced by the City of Angels, the likes of which have included such great starters such as Kings goalie of the future Jason ‘The Barber’ Labarbera, Leafs goalie of the future Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Habs goalie of the future Mathieu Garon, Flyers goalie of the future Roman Cechmanek, Habs goalie of the future Cristobal Huet, Leafs goalie of the future Felix Potvin, Red Wings goalie of the future Manny Legace, Canucks goalie of the future Dan Cloutier as well as Jamie Storr and Steve Passmore. Basically what I’m trying to say is that Vancouver’s ‘goalie graveyard’ was the book upon which LA’s ‘goalie graveyard’ direct to video film was based upon. Erik Ersberg – Is really hoping that Jonathan Quick is a good goalie Jonathan Bernier – The other Jonathan who plays goal for the Kings. Spent 4 games up with the Kings in 07/08, boasting a 4.03 GAA and .864 Sv%. In the eyes of your typical Canucks fan, is still a far more effective hockey player than Steve Bernier. And that should hopefully be all you need to know about the Kings going into Thursday’s game! Kings fans, this is all in good fun and would love to see your ‘take’ on the Canucks!