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Found 31 results

  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. As Canucks fans continue to live in the here and now, digesting every morsel of Vancouver playoff hockey, it's easy to forget the stepping stones that brought them this far. Mike Gillis, Alain Vigneault, and Rick Bowness have proven the cream rises to the top So often in professional sports, media and critics either directly or indirectly raise the question: What have you done for me lately? For the moment, let's fail to adopt that mentality, and recall a former General Manager for the Vancouver Canucks, Brian Burke. For that matter, let's involve another, Dave Nonis. While it's impossible to say what would have evolved were they to stay longer, the results they produced are irrefutable. The Western conference finals we are witnessing involve a solid number of players that these former GM's brought in during their tenure. You may recall one of them from the third period of Game One - With the game on the line, this Hart Trophy candidate laid his body down to block a slap-shot. Sure, he didn't score a goal or register a point in the game, but his importance to the outcome can't be understated. By now you must realize I'm referring to Daniel Sedin, one half of the oh-so-important tandem Burke brought in. He fervently worked the phones and 1999 Draft floor to obtain the 2nd and 3rd picks to ensure Henrik and Daniel would play together, in Vancouver. Keith Ballard works on his slap-shot under the tutelage of Assistant Coach Rick Bowness (photo courtesy of Harry How/ Getty Images) It would be an understatement to say that, prior to the Sedin-era, the Vancouver Canucks organization had challenges developing talent from within. Suffice it to say that Shawn Antoski, significant though he was in a trade, didn't pan out. Even 'can't misses' such as Petr Nedved, wound up improving their game, but only once they were dealt to another organization. Even more specifically, only now are they seeing dividends from investments developed in Manitoba in the farm system with the Moose. Cory Schneider is the first real bonafide Canuck goaltender produced in quite a span, thanks largely in part to Dave Nonis, who also saw promise in Ryan Kesler, and Alex Burrows. For reference, we need only look back on Troy Gamble, Mike Fountain and Kevin Weekes (the latter brought in via trade). Now, players such as Cody Hodgson and Sergei Shirokov that have been called up to the parent club show similar promise as the next generation of in-house talent. Sergei Shirokov (#25) and Jeff Tambellini (#10) stretch during Western Conference Finals practice at Rogers Arena Ultimately, although GM's have a lot to do with the process, there are others involved that drastically alter the final product that a team ices. One cannot acknowledge the contributions of Burke and Nonis without giving kudos to the Ownership group. Francesco Aquilini, the Managing Director of the Aquilini Investment Group has, like the Vancouver Canucks team he owns, grown and progressed. He hand-picked Mike Gillis, a retired player and player agent, which raised eyebrows across the league. But like so many of his other business decisions, Aquilini paved the way for a seeming stroke of genius. Gillis was instrumental in keeping Henrik and Daniel Sedin away from the free agency market. He flew to Sweden and negotiated identical $30.5 m deals hours before the July 1st deadline. He immediately set his sights on Roberto Luongo, whose four-year contract, signed by Dave Nonis, was coming to an end. Luongo imposed a Sept. 13 deadline before ceasing negotiations for the upcoming season. Several days after, Gillis signed Luongo to an historic 12 year, $64 million contract. Gillis also signed unrestricted free agent Mikael Samuelsson, and emerging Kontinental Hockey League prospect, Sergei Shirokov (pictured earlier). The Canuck Way will soon examine other integral components responsible for the exciting product we see before us in the 2011 Western Conference Finals.
  3. With the Vancouver Canucks advancing to the Conference finals for the third time in franchise history, the debate is on: Who would they rather face, the Detroit Red Wings or San Jose Sharks? Roberto Luongo celebrates from his knees shortly after making his last save in Game 6 (photo courtesy of Frederick Breedon/ Getty Images) Of course, for the time being, the Canucks have the luxury of taking a well-earned 'breather' until either Saturday or Sunday. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the Predators at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Monday night, guiding home a tight defensive effort to close the series. Henrik Sedin spoke to the feeling of putting away a plucky Predators team, anchored by solid defense and goaltending. "Relief," started the Canucks captain. "It was one of those series where they get on a roll and win this game, and all of a sudden there's a seventh game. That's the playoffs. There were a lot of ups and downs, so we are happy." But Ryan Kesler, who almost literally put the team on his back and delivered the series, insists the team isn't congratulating itself yet. "We have bigger things in mind," stated the leading playoff point producer. We're not just going to be satisfied making it to the conference finals." Kesler set up both goals in the series clincher, and was in on a remarkable 10 of 14 goals in the series overall. Ryan Kesler: "We have bigger things in mind. We're not just going to be satisfied making it to the conference finals." The Canucks now await the victor from the San Jose - Detroit series, where the Wings have erased a 3-0 deficit, and trail 3-2. Another Selke trophy (best defensive forward) finalist, Pavel Datsyuk, has hoisted his team and led the way with several clutch performances. So, who would the Canucks rather play - The Red Wings or the Sharks? Although the regular season encounters can only reveal so much information regarding possible playoff match-ups, let's see how they fared in each 4 game set. Canucks vs Detroit Red Wings: Series tied 2-2 (Canucks take 6 of 8 possible points) Nov. 6 - (6-4 win) Canucks pepper Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard with 23 shots in the third period, scoring 3 times in that span. Niklas Kronwall and Manny Malhotra score twice. Dec. 22 - (4-5 OT loss) Both teams shoot the lights out, combining for 84 shots. The Sedins both score, but Henrik Zetterberg bags a couple, including the overtime winner. Jan. 8 - (1-2 Shootout loss) Roberto Luongo and Jimmy Howard record a dazzling .970 save percentage; Jiri Hudler scores the lone shootout goal, killing the Vancouver fans' Saturday night buzz. Mar. 23 (2-1 win) Both goalies put on another superb display, and the twins produce Daniel's 39th and 40th goals of the season. Luongo stops 39 of 40 shots. Both team captains, Henrik Sedin and Shea Weber, shake hands at center ice - the previous two years this was the Canucks' queue to exit the playoffs (photo courtesy of AP Photo) Canucks vs San Jose Sharks: Canucks win series 3-1 (take 7 of possible 8 points) Nov. 26 - (6-1 win) San Jose outshot the Canucks 33-32, but Luongo stymies the Sharks, Keith Ballard scores his 1st as a Canuck, and Mikael Samuelsson records a pair of goals. Jan. 3 - (4-3 win) The Sharks score 3 in the second period, but Alex Burrows and Daniel Sedin lead the way with a goal and an assist each at the HP Pavilion, dubbed the "Shark Tank". Jan. 20 - (1-2 shootout loss) Roberto Luongo and Antti Niemi headline this affair; San Jose outshot the Canucks 46-37, uber-rookie Logan Couture scores in regulation, and Joe Pavelski scores the lone goal of the shootout. Mar. 10 - (5-4 shootout win) Cory Schneider gets riddled with 48 shots, but is perfect in the shootout. Alex Burrows, Sami Salo, Mason Raymond and Daniel Sedin record singles, with Burrows sealing the shootout with it's only goal. Interestingly, though many Canucks fans have voiced their desire to avoid San Jose in the conference finals, Vancouver sported a better regular season record against them. Fans cite the Sharks physical style of play as being their main deterrent to playing them in the third round of the playoffs. A common thread for the Canucks is that 6 of the 8 games played against the Sharks and Red Wings were decided by one goal. One thing all Canucks fans can agree on, though, is that they hope the Red Wings win Game 6, extending the series and hopefully tiring out their next round opponent. Memories 17 years in the making, I'm Larenzo Jensen with The Canuck Way
  4. After infamously being dubbed "the best player to not yet score in the NHL playoffs", Ryan Kesler scores twice in the Canucks 3-2 overtime win in Nashville. Kesler is surrounded by teammates after tipping home the overtime winner (photos courtesy of AP Photo) One year ago, during their playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings, Roberto Luongo was asked about the play of Ryan Kesler. "He's a warrior. That's all you can call him, a warrior." Canucks fans hearts sagged after a disappointing loss in Vancouver in double overtime. Much attention has been focused on the lack of offensive contributions from key Canuck sources, including (but not limited to) Henrik and Daniel Sedin, and Ryan Kesler. In Kesler's defence, though, many point to his shutdown performance on Jonathan Toews. Just prior to the playoffs, The Canuck Way examined Ryan's importance to the team, in several aspects of the game. Though he's had some very exciting performances throughout the regular season, lending over to the playoffs, Game 3 in Nashville might have been his most important in a Canucks sweater. He paid the price all night, scoring an important first powerplay goal, and set up Chris Higgins for another. With the Canucks on the power play for a hooking call that he drew against Shea Weber, he deftly tipped a Mikael Samuelsson point wrister for the win. "It feels good to get this one and good to go up 2-1 in this series," Kesler told reporters post-game. Former Canuck Shane O'Brien watches helplessly after he failed to block a Mikael Samuelsson wrist shot that Kesler deflects 5-hole on Pekka Rinne Fan reaction in Nashville closely emulated (Predator winger) Jerred Smithson's, who smashed his stick over the crossbar after Kesler's goal. Following suit, a fan threw their beverage onto the ice in the Nashville zone, while others rained their orange towels onto the playing surface as the Canucks celebrated. Predators coach Barry Trotz took a dim view of the penalty call that led to the overtime opportunity. "He chicken-winged the stick and kept moving, and really if you look at it, Webs is trying to pull his stick out of there. I've seen it before. One of the earlier games, he drew a couple of penalties by chicken-winging the stick and just holding it there, and keep moving and see if he can sell it." Predator center David Legwand, who opened the scoring shorthanded, echoed his coach's thoughts. "It's a horrible call. Obviously they're going to think it's a good call, but Kesler's obviously holding his stick. I don't know if (referee) Timmy Peel had a date or something, but he wanted to get out of here pretty quick, it looked like. It's a tough way to lose a game." In typical fashion, Kesler was unapologetic. "He was hooking me. I thought it was a good call. We were the harder working team tonight, and we deserved that one." Leading 2-1, the Canucks now have a chance to take a strangle-hold on the series. Game Four resumes at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville at 5:30 PST. With The Canuck Way playoff action, I'm Larenzo Jensen
  5. http://www.chillerinstinct.com With the Canucks entering Game 7 of the Western Conference quarterfinal against the vilified and rival Chicago Blackhawks, one must put the goal-keeping controversy aside and think solely upon the team's play as just that - the team. In the past, that is what foiled the attempts put forth by Vancouver versus Chicago in the playoffs. The Blackhawks as a team were superior to the Canucks. Without getting into specifics and hashing all kinds of statistics and such, the intangibles will be the deciding factor. Period The depth of the team will become the focus of British Columbia in the months to come, win or lose. Win - the Nashville Predators come calling. Lose - well, management's effectiveness and the players on the depth chart will be scrutinized against their pay cheques, consistency, heart, etc. The team simply must perform better and seize the moment; mistakes have simply not been the realm of only Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. On my website, Chiller Instinct, I have linked the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview show with the talents/hosts of Goal Mouth Radio and The Blueline: Hockey Talk Radio in which I predicted Vancouver to win in Game 7. Round Two is also a possibility and new content is on each site weekly if you happen upon them. We went over each and every series and struck a lot of gold in contrast to the play we've witnessed since mid-April. I stood by the assumption that Toews and Co. would not go away lightly. That said I believe that Vancouver will prevail 4-2 in tonight's deciding game. Enjoy hockey enthusiasts; this is one for the ages... 26 April 2011 / Robin Keith Thompson http://www.chillerinstinct.com
  6. No matter how they got here, or what direction they want to take in the future, the Vancouver Canucks are literally playing the most important game of their lives. Only three times in history has an NHL team erased a 3-0 series deficit to advance to the next round of the playoffs. There has been a lot of talk about the Canucks' chances of earning the dubious distinction as the fourth team to facilitate such a collapse. Rife with drama and storylines, this series has seen it all, from big controversial hits, to starting goaltending controversy, and questionable officiating. But it all takes a back seat to the drama in store tonight at Rogers Arena in Vancouver at 7:00 pm PST. A lot of experts agree that momentum clearly is the advantage the Chicago Blackhawks carry into Game 7. But the Canucks aren't without positive signs - they outworked the Blackhawks for most of Game 6, as well as controlling the tempo and play through the majority of the game. Rather than recap all that's been, I'd like to shift focus onto Four Keys for the colossal Game Seven. Key 1: Setting the tone Getting off to a fast, motivated start, complete with energetic, hard-hitting physical shifts has been integral to both teams' success so far this series. More than any other night, it's imperative for the Canucks to wrest momentum back in their corner. The Canucks were able to surprise the Blackhawks physically in the first three games, with Alain Vigneault doing an excellent job rolling through his deep lines, and establishing a solid forecheck. With the element of surprise gone, it'll be extremely important for the third and fourth lines to deliver effective hits, getting Blackhawk defenders worrying about what is coming, not what they're going to set up. Alex Burrows was one of the best Canucks in Game 6, and will need to put it all on the line tonight against the Hawks (photo courtesy of Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images) Key 2: Sedins re-establishing the cycle game A very positive sign in the second period of Game 6 was the amount of time that Daniel, Henrik and Mikael (Samuelsson) spent in the Blackhawks zone. Their cycling of the puck is what made them so effective and dangerous in the regular season, and they appeared to be wearing down the Hawks defenders with it. Both teams have done a good job collapsing down low to limit the rebound chances, but Vancouver could gain a decided advantage if the Sedins force Chicago to expend valuable energy chasing the puck down low. Key 3: Goaltending performance There is no question in my mind that Roberto Luongo will be starting Game 7. Subsequently, despite having played for Olympic Gold, and playing in some large playoff settings before, this is the game of his life. In only his first year of a 12 year, $64 M contract, the stakes couldn't be higher. Win or lose, it's up to Roberto to prove he can come through when it's all on the line. He did it before against the Dallas Stars, but fair or not, tonight will completely shape the rest of his career, given his past performances against the Blackhawks. Key 4: Officiating Unfortunately, the officiating has been suspect the last 3 games, and has been a hot button topic, not only in Vancouver, but League-wide. The Blackhawks have enjoyed a 22-12 edge (in powerplay chances) over the last four games, and hockey pundits agree that GM Mike Gillis had reason to be irate after Game 6. If the officials decide to punish the Canucks with more penalties, and miss calls like the one on Dave Bolland slashing Henrik Sedin's stick in half, it could be a very frustrating game for Canucks' fans. Expect the boo-birds to come out if the officials call the game similarly to Game Six. At the end of the day, though it's little solace for Canucks fans, the hockey world will benefit from what should be an intense Game Seven. This is what hockey is all about, and every youngster in love with the sport dreams about playing a significant role in a deciding Game Seven. Will it be elation, or utter dejection for Canucks fans following this pivotal game in the series and franchises' history? Kevin Bieksa might have set the stage the best: "Sometimes it takes all your lifelines to earn $1 million. That's where we're at. We've used our 3." Wishing the Canucks every fortune here from The Canuck Way, I'm Larenzo Jensen
  7. With just enough momentum swings to keep the fans at Rogers Arena guessing, they still went home with a renewed sense of optimism: The Canucks CAN beat the Blackhawks. Viktor Stalberg and Sami Salo jostle while Roberto Luongo makes a pad save (photo courtesy of Rich Lam/Getty Images) The shift after taking a holding penalty, Jannik Hansen opened the scoring for the Canucks, adding validity to the importance of "role players" in the playoffs. Hansen's hands, as CBC color commentator Jim Hughson was coined, might be catching up to his feet. His second in as many games was important on a number of levels. With 41 seconds remaining in the first period, Patrick Sharp took a tripping penalty, which the Canucks capitalized on 30 seconds into the 2nd period. Daniel Sedin set a screen in front of Corey Crawford, and tipped a Christian Ehrhoff point shot while jumping. Cody Hodgson and Alex Burrows gather to help Alex Edler celebrate his late 2nd period goal Chicago call-up Ben Smith (third star) had a gift-wrapped deflection off Luongo's trapper end up on his stick, with a half-open net to shoot at. Brian Bickell got around Kevin Bieksa on the left wing, shot a sharp angle shot, which Luongo only got a piece of with his glove. But the games' 2nd star, Alex Edler would put the Canucks back up by a deuce, with 14 seconds remaining in the frame. He slapped a seeing eye shot from the point, that Ben Smith's stick barely glanced, but it was enough to get up and over Crawford's shoulder. Roberto Luongo makes a save as ex-Canuck Ryan Johnson tries to redirect the puck (photo courtesy of AP Photo) But the Hawks were determined to insert some deja vu from the last two playoff series against the hard-luck Canucks. Within two minutes of the third period, Viktor Stalberg did Yeoman's work on the forecheck, and got off a quick wrister from the right wing boards. He surprised both Alex Edler and (subsequently screened) Roberto Luongo; it was the perfect height, just a foot off the ice below Lui's trapper. Daniel Sedin deftly took a breakout pass off his right skate, then took the puck deep into Chicago territory with line-mates Henrik and Burrows in support. The Chicago defense hesitated, long enough for Daniel to stop, tee it up, and bury it top shelf. The crowd had barely settled back into their seats, when Ben Smith pounced on a Michael Frolik rebound, renewing a nervous energy amongst the capacity crowd. "There was no panic," insisted Ryan Kesler. "We were calm the whole way. I'm confident in this group. We don't panic, just stick to our system and stay solid. It's a different team this year. We're growing together, and we've been through this before." They certainly are and have, and Canucks fans are elated that this year, everything seems different, highlighted by the fact they are heading to Chicago leading the series two games to none. What happens next in the Windy City? Stay tuned to The Canuck Way for more Playoff coverage...
  8. 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.
  9. 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!
  10. Larenzo

    In The Driver's Seat

    After defeating their nearest Western Conference competition, the Vancouver Canucks appear to be in the driver's seat with eight games remaining. Canuck fans have voiced their concern this week over the team's chances heading into the post-season without Manny Malhotra. Signed in the off season to a healthy, though well-deserved contract, the uber-checking line center instantly brought a number of intangibles to the club. Widely considered one of the best face-off players in the game, Malhotra's special teams addition has worked wonders. Addressing the club's mediocre penalty killing (81.6 %, 18th overall) from last season, Manny's presence and change of puck possession time shorthanded is a large factor in the PK's resurgence. They currently sit fourth (85.8%), though Washington, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh all only have a 0.1% edge. In their convincing 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, Daniel Sedin scored his 39th and 40th goals of the season, moving him into a tie with Cory Perry for 2nd in the Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophy race. Steven Stamkos still leads the race with 43 goals, but has been slumping since the All-Star break, while Perry and Sedin have both been surging. The multi-point night for the Sedins also has them 1-2 in league scoring,Daniel with 95 points, Henrik with 88 points. Runners-up are the other"team-tandem" of Steven Stamkos (86 pts) and Martin St. Louis (85pts). More importantly, the win adds more degrees of separation between the Canucks and the pursuant Red Wings. Though 10 points with 8 games remaining is not insurmountable, it would take a collapse of epic proportions for Detroit to overtake the Conference title. For those watching the President's trophy race, the Philadelphia Flyers sat idle Wednesday night,trailing the Canucks by 8 points, but holding two games in hand. Roberto Luongo, named the games 2nd star, was instrumental in the outcome. He turned all but one of the 40 shots directed at him away, earning a .975 save percentage. With Malhotra's eye injury preventing him from playing the rest ofthe regular season or playoffs, protection has become a hot-button topic herein Vancouver. Kevin Bieksa, who saw his first action after missing 15games to a broken foot, echoed the sentiments of a number of team-mates. "I tried on about three or four (visors) before practice. I don't know, maybe over time. I'd like to get into one, but right now in midseason it would be hard for me to change. But it's definitely something I am considering." Bieksa led all Canucks in ice-time with23:19 in his return; the team continues their four game road trip Friday in Atlanta against the Thrashers. I'm Larenzo Jensen on The Canuck Way
  11. Vancouver and Colorado may have started the season both atop the Western Conference standings, but my, how things have changed. The Vancouver Canucks enter tonights match-up with the Avalanche with 101 points, 11 more than second place Detroit (who hold 2 games in hand). Winners of six straight, even without their full defensive corps. Alternately, the Avalanche have lost 8 in a row, one win in their last 19, and only managed three points in February. I know, February is a short month and all, but it's not that short. Jannik Hansen and Ryan Kesler give Canucks fans another reason to jump out of their seats For some Canuck fans, it's difficult to feel sympathy for the once proud, powerful Colorado organization. During the reign of Montreal-rejected Patrick Roy, Peter "Foppa" Forsberg, "Burnaby" Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk, many a Canuck dream was dashed. Quebec Nordiques fans had their team snatched out from underneath them just as they entered their prime. I remember grinding out road games on the radio in the ol' Camry. Canucks would be down 4-2 heading into the third at the Pepsi Center. The last thing I wanted to hear was another synthesized horn and sudden crowd outburst. Tom Larscheid would go on for minutes about Forsberg essentially carrying Canuck defenders on his back as he drove to the net. As far as conflicting emotions go, how many people were torn when native son Joe Sakic lit up Vancouver Canuck goaltenders? Jeff Tambellini and Antii Miettinen have a meeting of the minds Monday at Rogers Arena (photo courtesy of Rich Lam/Getty Images) Much has been made of the recent trades conducted by the Avalanche organization. Though the long-term jury is out on Erik Johnson, it sure doesn't look positive that the teams big slide has coincided with the blockbuster shipping Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk to St. Louis. In perhaps a "What have you done for me lately?" moment, 2010 playoff hero Craig Anderson was flipped for Ottawa's Brian Elliot. Along with David "The Swiss Miss" Aebischer, Peter Budaj, in Colorado, may you rest in peace Mr. Elliot. Cory Schneider will get his 19th start of the season tonight against the Avs. Starter Roberto Luongo joked with reporters about the possibility of Schneider getting the prerequisite 25 games to qualify for Calder Trophy nomination. "I don't know what the plan is for the rest of the way. Maybe I'll pull myself from a couple of games. Obviously, whether he gets there (to 25 games) or not, he's very deserving." Dan Hamhuis chalks up another shot block as Ehrhoff and Luongo look on (photo courtesy of Rich Lam/Getty Images) The Canucks were able to beat the Minnesota Wild Monday, but relied heavily on their League-leading special teams to get it done. Captain Henrik Sedin spoke about the win and reliance on a hot powerplay. "With the team and the guys and the depth we have, we aren't always going to have to play at 100 percent, but at the same time that's where we want to be." It appears the Captains example is being followed, right down to the foot soldiers. Re-invigorated from an All-Star break chat with line-mate Manny Malhotra and head coach Alain Vigneault, Raffi Torres spoke to Province reporter Jim Jamieson. "You don't want to go into the playoffs not playing well," he said. "You can't just turn the switch on. You want to be playing at the top level." On the defensive front, the team is still without Kevin Bieksa, who broke his foot February 15th at Minnesota. But he must be closer to recovery, as he's back in the dressing room and having little verbal jousts with the media. It was suggested that either he or Sami Salo would be playing tonight. "Oh yeah?" Bieksa said sarcastically. "That's very presumptuous I don't know, I'm just a player. I'm not a writer or a GM. I don't know what's going on. I've still got a little ways to go," he said, about a week after he'd first hoped to return. Sami Salo will be a game-time decision, his elbow still a little numb after blocking a shot Monday. With files from Getty Images and The Province, I'm Larenzo Jensen on The Canuck Way
  12. Growing up in a hockey-mad city, I idolized the Canucks. As a kid, you don't pay as much attention to wins or standings or special teams efficiency, and although the adrenaline rush of watching your team win is unmatched, you're always rooting for a single player. But given the economics of the league, players are drafted, signed, traded, waived, or bought out, coaches and GMs are hired, fired, and re-hired. For me, the appreciation of a single player was enough to keep me interested. When I attended Canucks games, which weren't many, considering I'm not a season-ticket holder and single game tickets can be pricey, I was watching one player and one player only: Trevor Linden. I can honestly say that I've never, ever left a game early, and I always made my dad stay until the three-star selections. It was a huge delight for me to see Linden skate in a mini-circle and give a wave to the fans, if only it lasted less than five seconds. You cheered for your favourite player, even in tough losses. So it is particularly disappointing for me to hear that the Canucks have now grown a tendency to not come out during the three-start selections. Back in May, I ripped the Canucks for not saluting their fans after the Blackhawks ended the Canucks' playoff run on home ice. This is what I wrote: "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." (May 12, 2010) <img src="http://mattgunn.files.wordpress.com/2007/05/game4lost_ducks.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">I understand the bitterness after a loss. Everyone's experienced it before. Words are harder to put together. Movements are slower. You're in disbelief, then your shoulders drop and you wonder what you could've done better, then you start getting angry, wondering why you weren't good enough, having been eliminated in a similar fashion the year before. I get it. But what I don't get, is why these professionals can't suck it up and give their fans a little wave of thanks. There are many fans who don't care - a win is a win, and after all, it is a team game. But there are also many who do care. There are a lot of kids today who wait to get an extra glimpse of Henrik, Dan, Kesler, Luongo, or whoever. If 18,859 people walk out of Rogers Arena not caring about the three stars, the players should still come out and give that one person remaining in the stands a salute. It doesn't mean a lot to us because we don't care, but there are still those who do, and given the prices these fans pay to come to games, it's not too much to ask. On January 5, I ripped Luongo on Twitter for not coming out after being named the game's first star in a 3-1 win. It was quite obvious to me that he was upset at losing his shutout with only 10.3 seconds to go in the game. "I'm a competitor and I want to stop them all and I was a little disappointed that one went in at the end," Luongo had said after the game, after declining an on-ice interview when he was named the game's first star after stopping 43 shots. Wait. Was Luongo actually so bitter that he lost a statistic that he refused to come out and acknowledge the fans? Could he be that selfish and petty? I sure hope not. But sure enough, after losing to Detroit in a 2-1 shootout loss, the Canucks once again failed to come out. Luongo and Ballard were named two of the three stars but neither came out. I can understand why players don't come out during road games, like Jimmy Howard, because this isn't their hometown crowd, even if there are plenty of Red Wings fans in the stands. So in both wins and losses, the Canucks just don't come out. It's not like being named a star isn't worth anything - the Canucks' Molson Cup award is annually given to the player who is named one of the three stars most over the course of the season. Luongo won the award three consecutive times, from 2006-2009. I don't get it. Then, Iain MacIntyre reveals to us that the Canucks have "... a loose, long-standing policy against asking their players to return to the ice after losses. Ballard, in fact, didn't even know until [MacIntyre] told him that he'd been named a star and was horrified at the possibility fans might think he had disrespected them." Kudos to Ballard for actually feeling guilty about the whole thing, but what kind of organization does this to their fans? When did the Canucks become such prima donnas? We understand that the Canucks' first goal is to win and quite (unfairly) both the organization and fans think that a Cup title will all of a sudden exonerate all of the past miscues. Not really.
  13. The Canucks finished November with a 8-4-1 record, but there was one game everyone had their eye on: Saturday, November 20, a nationally-televised matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks. While Chicago may have lost several pieces to Atlanta and other teams, they were still the team that had eliminated the Canucks two years in a row from postseason play. The Canucks were overcoming two straight losses, a tough 4-3 OTL in Buffalo, extending their winless streak at HSBC Arena to seven-plus years, and a 3-1 loss to the Penguins, which was supposed to be a preview of two potential Cup finalists. The Hawks were coming off a 7-2 loss to Calgary the night before. It certainly was a 'measuring stick' game, a test of resiliency between two very good teams. The result? A 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Chicago, an absolute shellacking in which Roberto Luongo was chased yet again, though at times through no fault of his own. The performance, if you could call it that, raised questions of whether this Canucks squad was truly ready for the same challenges that await them in the playoffs. To answer these questions, my friend Matt Sze (pronounced 'zee'), a fellow blogger who runs SzeSpeak: The Thinking Man's Blog has kindly joined me for this discussion. JC: The Hawks showed great resiliency by bouncing back from a terrible loss in the second night of a back to back. The Canucks followed up that effort with another loss against a hot Phoenix team. Resiliency is a key component of any good hockey team and in both games the Canucks just didn't seem to have any legs. Attitude reflects leadership, so the age-old question is, was Henrik the right choice as captain? It's no secret that for most North American kids, the ultimate dream is winning the Cup. For many Europeans, it's winning Olympic gold. MS: There was no other choice. Kesler's too young and plays an emotional game, something that can work against him. I'm not so sure Daniel was a good pick to wear the 'A' but Bieksa was a great choice. He has had a long tenure with the Canucks and provides some much-needed fire from the back end. And in regards to that Cup vs. Olympic gold argument, I don't buy it. All athletes are wired the same way - it doesn't matter what the prize is, athletes play to win. As former NFL coach Herm Edwards said, "you play to win the game." Getting to the pinnacle of any sport requires hard work, so to criticize the Sedins or anybody for lacking the desire to win is unfair. JC: I'm going to have to disagree, because I still think it makes a difference... Maybe I'm just a traditionalist and perhaps Lidstrom was just an anomaly... But what about Alexandre Daigle? The guy famously said he played hockey purely for the money. MS: Well, he didn't become a number one overall pick on talent alone, but he made some bad life decisions that eventually led to an unspectacular career. JC: The Canucks have been eliminated two consecutive years by the Hawks. Because Luongo and the Sedins are the best players, they have taken the brunt of the criticism, and a lot of it isn't unfounded. It seemed as though fortunes would be reversed in last year's playoffs, but the Sedins then vanished for stretches. Can our top players elevate their play? <img src="http://cache2.asset-cache.net/xc/73882764.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=77BFBA49EF8789215ABF3343C02EA54831A838CD875A9477EF75E5B296482BCE804B3618D4BA3975"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">MS: I don't think Luongo has ever demonstrated that he could elevate his game, except in that 2007 series against Dallas, his first ever playoff appearance. He may never elevate his game to that level again, but most times it's the other guys, the supporting players, that step up their games. Patrick Kane is a key player for Chicago, but prior to that Finals against Philadelphia it had mostly been Jonathan Toews, and Kane ended up with the series winner. When Pittsburgh won the Cup, it was Max Talbot who scored the game-winner. Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke, and Talbot all raised their games. JC: So what's the difference between those players who can elevate their games and those who can't? Is it emotion? Attitude? I think one of the reasons Henrik was so successful last year was because of his swagger. He had that "yeah, I'm the best player in the league" attitude. When Daniel came back, it seemed to have disappeared. MS: Right now - emotion, attitude, swagger - Henrik doesn't have it. But in the regular season I don't think there's any need for it. It's going to build up. The only guy that does show some swagger is Bieksa. The Sedins are quiet players. I think Henrik giving Bieksa the 'A' is a challenge for him to get back to his former level. Those 42, 43 point seasons may be an anomaly but he's still an effective player when his head's on straight. JC: So who's the X factor for the Canucks in the playoffs? MS: Well, obviously it's Luongo. For me, it's two players: Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen. We know that Raymond's got great speed and can put the puck in the net, but but he hasn't elevated his game in the playoffs yet. (In 22 playoff games he has only 7 points.) The other is Hansen, because he has the feistiness needed to make things happen in the postseason. I remember back in that Dallas series, Stars fans were going, "who is this guy?" JC: Gillis made an honest attempt to make this team better this offseason. If there's anything I noticed this year, it's that this team is so much faster. Speed kills, but we don't know how that will translate to playoff hockey. MS: We are faster and bigger, but I don't think we're grittier than we were last year. Torres isn't really an upgrade hitting-wise over Steve Bernier. Malhotra's an upgrade over Wellwood but he's not the sort of guy who'll just lay guys out. We really won't know the playoffs. The playoffs are tighter defensively but the Sedins are good playoff players because they won't necessarily create the room, but they can certainly find the open areas. They make space with their playmaking, not their physicality. They're 30 years old - still relatively young - and are still learning how to play better with each passing playoff series. JC: Alright, the real questions. Do the Hawks have our number? Vigneault hasn't announced who is starting Friday vs. Chicago, but I think you can't not start Luongo. Starting Schneider is a clear white towel message. MS: Ohhhh. Not right now, but certainly last year. We've been blown out only once this season. If the Canucks put up a good fight, what else do you want? Maybe the Hawks will be better in the season but come playoff time their lack of depth will hurt. Vancouver was vastly overrated last year. We were the underdogs in that series - the four best teams were Detroit, Chicago, San Jose, then Vancouver. The thing about the West is, any team can beat any team. The level of parity is so high, if you're off your game one night it can result in a disaster. If there is a mental edge, it's what they've done in the past. The Canucks have to continue to ride Luongo but also depends on how he losses the game. The team collapsed as a whole. Losses means the team has to look at itself as a whole, not just the goalie, unless there were some flagrantly bad goals. The Canucks have one of the best sports psychologists on staff. Chicago's lower in the standings. The Canucks should be better. JC: What about the Wings? We usually play moderately well against them. MS: No, they don't have our number either. We play the Wings tough, all the time. The Canucks just recently won 6-4 against them. That being said, the Wings are still the best team in the West, and in a 7-game series I'd still take the Wings because their best players can elevate their game. So far, the Canucks' players haven't. Guys like Dan Cleary, Tomas Holmstrom, and Johan Franzen are good in the regular season, but great in the playoffs. Kesler, Burrows, and Raymond weren't so good last year. Let's not let the Sedins off the hook - they should elevate their game too, but I do think they were better than Naslund and Bertuzzi. Depth is key. JC: If you look at some of the league's best playoff performers - Crosby, Mike Richards, Datsyuk, Zetterberg - these are guys who play in all situations of the game. The Sedins don't kill penalties. Part of the reason is because they don't have to, and also by blocking shots you're risking injury, but the upside is that when your team can't find their rhythm, you can get your best players more involved in the play. If I were to build a team, I'd like to have a franchise player I can play in every situation. MS: The Sedins not playing PK doesn't hurt them. If they're not on the ice because the team's constantly killing penalties then the team has to be more disciplined. The Canucks aren't built around 2 players, and that gives the Sedins the opportunity to really focus on one thing (scoring). The Sedins are great talents, but the Canucks don't have a standout talent like Ovechkin or Crosby. There is no shining star. The Canucks are built like a football team - you need everyone to perform their specific role for them to succeed. If special teams can't produce then you hope the depth can hold up. <img src="http://cache1.asset-cache.net/xc/86020661.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=77BFBA49EF8789215ABF3343C02EA54809ADCC78F7DA45A9E4E03DA6F564D905B4F7DACE93165AFCE30A760B0D811297"class="imageFloatRightFramed">JC: One thing I really noticed that year was the lack of net presence. Chicago had Byfuglien, Ladd, and Eager in Luongo's face the entire time. The Canucks have trouble against the Blues because David Backes is cemented in front of the net. MS: I agree, and that's my only bone to pick. It certainly adds yet another dimension to our potent attack. We lack that physical element. We're bigger, in fact, we always have been, but I don't think we're grittier than before. Torres can be a perimeter player sometimes too. We are missing a David Backes type. It's demoralizing for teams to have someone in front of the net you can't move. The Canucks defense was torn about by Byfuglien. Edler wasn't strong enough, Bieksa had the strength but not the frame. I think that's why Alberts could surprisingly play a big role on this team when it comes to clearing the crease. Look what Andy Sutton was able to do in Ottawa. He put players flat on their butts all the time. JC: It almost feels like this team is built for the regular season than the playoffs. If you look at how the Flyers were built last year, them going deep shouldn't be all that surprising. They had great veteran leadership and a great mix of size, talent, and grit. I picked the Flyers to upset that year because I knew they could go far. MS: I'm gonna play the devil's advocate and say it depends on who they play. Against almost all the teams they're good. The Canucks have trouble with Chicago, and I know that contradicts with what I said previously, but you just don't know how this team will fare against this version of the Hawks in the playoffs. Last year, Quenneville totally outcoached Vigneault. I think, line for line, other than that top line with Zetterberg and Datsyuk, we have the advantage in regards to the other 9 forwards, so I like how we match up against the Wings. JC: Let's talk Luongo, since he's the biggest X factor. I don't like his contract, and there are people who are already saying Luongo's overpaid, but he's still one of the better goalies in the West. What do you think? MS: Luongo's play has slipped but I think Kiprusoff's play has slipped more. A quarter of the way through the season, my top 5 West goalies are: Bryzgalov, Hiller, Backstrom, Quick, and Halak. But in the playoffs everything changes. I don't like the Luongo extension either - it's pro-rated, but I think if we could get him just a shade cheaper at around $5 million we might be able to afford to keep Bieksa. He brings an element no other defenseman on our team does and maybe he does need a change of scenery but we need players like him in the playoffs. JC: Vigneault says the window for this team to win is between now and 1 or 2 years down the road. I tend to agree with him. Canucks in 5 years - how many Cups? 1? 2? None? MS: I have to disagree with Vigneault. I think the window longer than that. Edler and Raymond are still young. The Moose is well-stocked. Granted, Luc Bourdon's untimely death set this franchise back a little, but it's more like a ten-year plan. Ideally, our top players will be ready to make a significant impact in 5 years. Look at the Red Wings. From 1980 to their Cup win in 1997 (their first in ages), they were eliminated from the playoffs 11 times, and only 4 times did they at least reach the Conference Finals. When you're building a team you're going to fail a lot in the beginning, because that's the feeling you have to know to succeed later on. Vancouver has no tradition of winning and that works against them. Vigneault is no Scotty Bowman, but at least the consistency is there. Would you rather be successful long-term or be a potential one-hit wonder like the Hawks with their cap issues? They still have yet to sign Seabrook and could only afford Marty Turco. Don't get me wrong, Chicago could still end up being competitive but it will be difficult. Maybe it's because I haven't lived through 40 years of disappointment, but we have to be patient. As long as we draft well, we'll stay competitive. It wasn't too long ago people were labelling Hodgson as a bust, but history has shown that the World Jrs. MVP, and it should've been Hodgson, no doubt, go on to have good NHL careers. (Past winners include Eberle, Malkin, Ovechkin, Parise, Cammalleri, and Iginla). The Canucks and Blackhawks face-off Friday night. We'll have to see what kind of team we really have.
  14. With three regular season games under their collective belt, the Vancouver Canucks have a win, a regulation loss, and a 'tie' (overtime loss). Tonight during their swing through California, they rematch against the team that gave them the latter. Peter Schaefer gets welcomed to the 2010/2011 regular season by Kings phenom defenceman, Drew Doughty The Canucks travel to Los Angeles with their 40th anniversary home opener freshly spoiled by the visiting Kings. But whether revenge, or a somewhat restless fanbase is the motive, no one knows for sure. It's not that the Canucks are having a poor start, but rather, it's the heightened expectations for the club this season that might take it's toll. There are definitely positives to take out of their early record, including the fact that newly appointed captain Henrik Sedin appears to be adapting seemlessly to his new role. Another factor, perhaps equally as important, is that after surrendering the captaincy, Roberto Luongo hasn't allowed it to impact his performance negatively. Traditionally, Luongo starts slow and finds his rhythm in later November, but stopped 72 of his first 74 shots, and doesn't appear phazed by the role-change. The top line for the Canucks has been producing well, but secondary scoring has been challenged so far (all photos courtesy of Yardbarker) Analysts from the Team 1040 radio station spoke after the loss to the Ducks about the importance of picking up points during this "easier" section of the schedule. With the Canucks top line garnering most of the points thus far, the pressure is mounting for Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond, both of whom had career seasons last year. Ryan Kesler, who had 25 goals and 50 assists, deflected any negativity that might pervade their early drought. "We're getting Grade A scoring chances. It's just a matter of time before they start going in." Kesler received a promotion to the 1st powerplay unit with the twins. "We're still getting a lot of chances. That's the important thing." The Canucks continue to search for their fourth line identity, and are still trying different combinations to that end. Center Rick Rypien became the third pivot in as many games, replacing Jeff Tambellini, who only lasted one game in relief of incumbent Alex Bolduc, who is out with a high ankle sprain. Though Rypien is better adapted to a grinding fourth line role, he still isn't a natural center, and his failures in the faceoff circle ended the experiment last season to convert him. Jeff Tambellini hasn't fared much better, so the team might look to either Cody Hodgson, Mario Bliznak or Joel Perrault from Manitoba. With Hodgson or Bliznak, the Canucks would again be calling on inexperienced players to fill the void, making the cut of Brendan Morrison that much more curious. Willie Mitchell is hit by Alex Bolduc, who later suffered a high ankle sprain, in the Canucks' season openener. The Kings won in the shootout, 2-1 The Canucks expect a similar tight checking game against the Kings (2-1-0), based on their season opener. If their playoff matchup indicated anything, it's their uncanny resemblance to the Canucks, from team structure to player development. The main difference, not just this year but in general, are the expectations placed upon the teams. In a market dominated by NBA basketball and baseball, the Kings don't occupy the same sort of limelight that the Canucks do. It makes for an interesting case study between the weight of expectations on a professional team and results from such pressure. At the end of the season, don't be surprised if we see further startling similarities drawn between not only the Los Angeles Kings' ability, but also their point totals in relation to the Vancouver Canucks. While it is early in the season, one can't help but wonder if tonight we're witnessing a fore-gleam of another potential early playoff match-up. Ryan Kesler on 2nd lines opening three games: "We're getting Grade A scoring chances. It's just a matter of time before they start going in."
  15. As the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton gains it's full stride, several mini-dramas continue to unfold within the Vancouver Canucks organization. With another disappointing second round ousting behind them, the Canucks organization has rallied resources to ensure a better outcome. With additions such as Keith Ballard, Dan Hamhuis, Manny Malholtra and others, expectations for the club have never been higher (which, even by Vancouver standards is quite lofty). Though an unfair measuring tool, several publications, including the Hockey News, have the Canucks pegged to take the Western Conference crown, and others, to win the Holy Grail. Before I add my own diagnostics, let's consider some of the issues behind the scenes. "C" or no, Roberto Luongo is the consummate professional, always leading by example, a welcome presence in any dressing room The hot topic right now is surrounding the meeting on Monday that saw Roberto Luongo stepping aside from the Captaincy. Personally, I like this decision, but mostly because of the limitations it removes from the Canucks. Having your goaltender as captain is a novel idea, if mostly ceremonial in nature. But functionality is always a concern, and not having a captain that can talk to the refs during every event, call, or dispute is a handicap. For the most part, goalies are limited to their crease areas, save for during TV timeouts. They cannot be in and around all of the action, where most of the penalties, infractions and otherwise, occur. For that reason, it's difficult to say "I object" to something that you either a) didn't see or weren't close enough to hold an objective viewpoint. There's a reason Roberto was the first goaltender in over 40 years to hold the distinction: It's not very practical. For all the OTHER reasons, he was a good choice, and at the time, probably the best man available. Ryan Kesler would be a good choice for captain, but perhaps with one or two more seasons under his belt. Currently, Henrik Sedin is the selfless, team-first, lead by example professional that should take the reins. Watch for him to be named as such soon. The Young Stars Tournament in Penticton is quite a hit, with a number of stories being generated even as you read this. The freshly stocked Edmonton Oilers, who won't look much different on opening night than the way they do at this tournament, have their own drama unfolding. Disgruntled Sheldon Souray has been asked not to report to training camp. The Edmonton crew were too much for the Canucks to handle in their opening game on Sunday, which, given the situation, isn't a big surprise. With Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi all accounted for, they're sporting a good chunk of their regular season roster. One has to believe now that this Souray debacle will grow even more unattractive, with all efforts focused on moving Souray and his big cap hit. He's owed $9 M dollars over the next two years, and comes with a $5.4 M dollar cap hit in each... Best case scenario, the Oil find a trading partner with someone else with a large cap hit and a player that just needs "a better situation". Historically, most big-name players that find themselves in Edmonton either have a wife that doesn't like it there, or outgrow the city within a couple of seasons. Worst case scenario, Edmonton doesn't find a suitor, and are stuck this year and next with a useless salary. Unlike Chicago and Cristobal Huet, they can't just ship him off to the KHL (or CAN they?) and avoid the financial headache. "Hey Brandon, what do you do to beat the long Alberta winters?" '"-Meh, not much. Usually just fight..."' (photo by Yardbarker) So far in the tournament, Jordan Schroeder, unfortunately, has been underwhelming. Not to worry, though, as everything that he's done so far indicated a steady, upward incline, and the work ethic is definitely there. Perhaps part of the problem is that many Canuck supporters are starting to panic in the absence of Cody Hodgson from the camp. Schroeder's time is coming, but I truly believe it'll be after another year of conditioning as a pro with Manitoba. He'll more than likely get a cup of coffee with the big club at some point this season, but I'd be uber surprised to see him play more than 12 games this season. Aaron Volpatti might be this camps Sergei Shirokov, scoring two second period goals and adding a scrap during Vancouver's 5-3 win over the San Jose Sharks squad. " (Kellan) Tochkin made a great play, took a hit to make a play and I went in 2-on-1 and saw an opening on the near side and just shot," said Volpatti of his game-winner. Aaron Volpatti warms up for his two-goal 2nd period with a 1st period scrap with San Jose's Joe Loprieno Canucks fans are sure hoping that Cody Hodgson is like the first big-box Christmas present that gets put under the tree. It seems to take forever before you can open it, but it's potential entices you. It seems to make all the other presents appear like consolation prizes. Open it too early, and the surprise is ruined. In Hodgson's case, though, I don't understand why so many are expecting him to show up to camp and play soon. He was misdiagnosed by physicians early, and Canucks doctors finally caught the real problem. Let's allow the lad some time to heal, then see how he plays hockey after that. I don't know what Alain Vigneault was thinking when he downplayed Hodgson's injury early on, saying it was just a "teenager's reaction to a less than stellar performance at training camp" (last season). It would just be Vancouver's luck to have the best prospect in 15 years leave the organization because he doesn't feel appreciated by management or the coaching staff. I'm not saying Vigneault needs to walk on eggshells with him, but he should leave words like that up to the GM to voice. Cody will be fine, great even, he only needs time to heal properly. That Christmas present will be worth the wait. Cody Hodgson during 'better back days' playing in the CHL Top Prospects game (photo courtesy of Yardbarker)
  16. <img src="http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/j/ap/devils%20kovalchuk%20hockey--810173562_v2.rp350x350.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Ilya Kovalchuk was all smiles and cracking jokes when he signed a record-breaking 17 year pact with the Devils for $102 million. Even with a declining Martin Brodeur and the future in net uncertain, by signing the Russian sniper the Devils look to remain playoff staples for the next decade. That all came to a crashing halt today. Kovalchuk is now stuck in limbo as the NHL rejected his new contract today citing that both sides are trying to circumvent the cap. The NHL believes that neither Kovalchuk nor the Devils believe that he will play out his contract in its entirety, at which point Kovalchuk will be 44 years old. It's quite obvious that the NHL is making a judgment call on Kovalchuk. The NHL is essentially saying that 1) Kovalchuk can't possibly want to play in the NHL at 44 years old, or 2) that he can't play at the NHL level at 44 years old due to declining skill. It seems as though Gary Bettman has forgotten that up until this year Chris Chelios, at 48 years old, was a NHLer. For comparison's sake, when Chelios was 44 years old in 2006, he suited up in 81 games for the Red Wings, posting 11 points with 102 penalty minutes and a healthy +22 rating. <img src="http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/blackhawks-confidential/gary-bettman1.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">It also bothers me that Bettman is stepping in now. It's absolutely absurd. Where was he for the Marian Hossa contract? When Dale Tallon signed Hossa last summer, he was 30 years old and awarded with a 12-year contract, making him 42 years old when he retires. Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg will be 41 when their contracts expire in 2021. You don't even have to look to far beyond our backyard for another example: Roberto Luongo's new contract, which kicks in this upcoming season, will take him to 2022, at which point he will be 43 years old. Luongo's combined salary for the last three years of his contract? $3.618 million. Kovalchuk's contract isn't the first of his kind. Lou Lamoriello didn't set any precedents. All of these contracts were designed to circumvent the cap by lowering each players' cap hit. If Bettman is calling Lamoriello a cheat then he is also calling out Tallon, Ken Holland, and Mike Gillis, some of the brightest minds in hockey today. All of these contracts were designed to circumvent the cap to a certain degree. I would be very, very surprised if the NHLPA doesn't file a grievance. I would understand Bettman's actions better had this been part of the new CBA, but this is still the one that was agreed on since the lockout. This CBA has proven to be a failure: traditional non-hockey market teams are still struggling, contracts are longer and more lucrative than ever, and there still hasn't been the parity Bettman has been talking about. And what of Kovalchuk? Is he still a free agent? Do the Kings wait for the league investigation to be over or do they move ahead to Plan B? What about the Devils? Does Kovalchuk, one of the league's premier players, head to the KHL for greener pastures now? What's Bettman's plan? Where is this going to go? Kovalchuk's contract may have sent ripples across the league but Bettman's actions and decisions will make waves. This is going to be interesting.
  17. 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="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/ap/20100512/capt.d97d09ba4ee34ce2be0fddfb75f3c7e9-d97d09ba4ee34ce2be0fddfb75f3c7e9-0.jpg"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.
  18. With just one Canucks playoff game to dissect this week, Number Crunching takes a page out of the playbook of our road warriors and gives Game 1 the full court press with the best stats from the Round 2 series opener. And because we're just so darned nice out here on the West Coast, we decide to give a shout out to a long-lost friend who just couldn't be here with us. BALANCING ACT <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0110_hawks24_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">By combining on Vancouver's fifth and final goal of Game 1 against the Blackhawks, Michael Grabner and Rick Rypien became the 17th and 18th players, respectively, to tally a point during the 2010 playoff run for the Canucks - giving the Canucks the same number of players with a point they had in their entire 2009 playoff run. Through all Game 1's played in second round (i.e. excluding games played on Sunday), Vancouver not only leads all currently active playoff teams in goals with 30 (tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins) but their 18 players with a point also leads all teams still in the post-season. The Sharks and the Canadiens are right behind the Canucks with 17 players each with a point so far in the 2010 post-season, while the Blackhawks bring up the rear with just 14 players to have recorded a point. The Canucks also saw Kyle Wellwood and Michael Grabner become the 13th and 14th players, respectively, to tally a goal for them in this year's playoffs - giving them the lead among all active playoff teams in that category as well. The Red Wings and Penguins have the next highest total with 13 goal scorers each while the Flyers have the fewest among teams still alive with only eight different goal scorers. Last season, the 2009 Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins finished the playoffs with 16 different goal scorers and 20 different skaters who recorded at least one point. PLAYING KEEP-AWAY <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0110_hawks09_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">A big reason the Canucks managed to keep the Blackhawks' potent offense largely in check during Game 1 was because of their puck control. The Canucks committed just four giveaways in Saturday's contest - the fewest so far for them in the 2010 post-season. The low number of giveaways was actually a trend for the Canucks during the regular season at the United Center as well. In their two regular season contests played in Chicago, the Canucks combined for just five total giveaways. Vancouver's record during the regular season when they committed five-or-fewer giveaways in a game was 19-8-2. During their first round series against the Kings, the Canucks committed an average of 10.7 giveaways per game - the most being 16 (Game 6) and the least being seven (Game 5). ONE AND DONE <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0110_hawks08_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Roberto Luongo had one streak entering Game 1 on Saturday that he was more than happy to see come to an end. Luongo gave up just a single goal to the Blackhawks in the series opener snapping a streak of 10 consecutive games where he had given up multiple goals-per-game dating back to April 1 in the regular season. The streak of 10 games where he had personally given up two-or-more goals was the third longest single season streak for the netminder since he joined the Canucks in the 2006.07 season. Luongo's longest streak as a Canuck where he gave up multiple goals each game was 14 games from January 15, 2009 to February 24, 2009. Followers of the Canucks will remember that span took place upon Luongo's return from missing 24 games with a groin injury. His second longest streak was 11 games from January 8, 2008 to February 5, 2008. Luongo's longest streak of multiple goal games surrendered during the 2009.10 regular season was six games. He suffered through two such streaks during the regular campaign - first from January 9 to January 21 and again from January 25 to February 9. ON THIS DAY IN STANLEY CUP HISTORY (MAY 2) <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/01/205x115_3_13010.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Number Crunching is a fully fledged member of Canucks Nation but that doesn't mean we don't welcome fans from across the NHL to read this blog. Today, we offer this little shout out to any Number Crunching fans reading this from Toronto. We know your beloved blue-and-white was not invited to this year's playoff party (your invitation must have been accidentally sent to Boston) but here's something that will turn that frown upside down: 1967: With the oldest lineup in Final history, the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game Six to win the 1967 Stanley Cup. The Leafs' roster included 42-year-old goalie Johnny Bower and 41-year-old defenseman Allan Stanley as well as seven others at least 30 years old. Toronto center Red Kelly played his 65th game in Final competition, setting a Stanley Cup record later tied by Montreal's Henri Richard. (Courtesy of Total Stanley Cup - NHL 2010 Playoff Media Guide) Statistics and other information appearing in this blog are for entertainment purposes only and a sense of humour is recommended when reading. E-mail the author here or follow him on Twitter.
  19. We're doing the happy dance at Number Crunching this week after the Canucks completed a successful 4-2 first round series victory over the Los Angeles Kings but before we talk about Vancouver's next dance partner, we take a look back at the best numbers from round one in the Canucks/Kings series and in the NHL. NO EARLY BIRD SPECIAL <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr2310_quick_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Conventional wisdom and statistics suggest that teams scoring the first goal in a game will win more often than not but if the Canucks/Kings series was any indication, then perhaps scoring the opening goal isn't all that it's cracked up to be. In the six-game series between the Canucks and Kings, the team scoring first accounted for just one victory - that was Vancouver's 7-2 win in Game 5 at GM Place - while the team trailing first won five of the six games. It certainly isn't a statistic backed up by the rest of the teams so far in the playoffs. Through playoff games played on Sunday in the first round, if you take out games from the Canucks/Kings series, teams that trail first in a game have a record of only 14-24 (19-25 if you add the Canucks/Kings series results). The Canucks are a perfect 3-0 when trailing first in a game and are tied atop that category in wins with the Boston Bruins (3-2) through Sunday. While it's not a statistic the Canucks will want to tempt fate with in the next series, it should be noted that last year the Pittsburgh Penguins led all playoff teams with six victories (6-4) when trailing first and they went on to capture the Stanley Cup. SHORT-COMINGS <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr2510_kings07_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">The Canucks set or equaled plenty of positive team records during their first round series against the Kings but one they'd like to forget about is the number of goals surrendered on the penalty kill. The 10 goals surrendered by Vancouver's PK not only leads all playoffs teams through Sunday's games but equaled a record for most power play goals surrendered by the Canucks in a single playoff series. That mark was initially set back in 1989 in Vancouver's Division Semi-Final series against the Calgary Flames. The Canucks are now already half way to the franchise mark for most power play goals ever surrendered in an entire playoff season. That mark of 20 was set back in 1994 during the Canucks run to the Stanley Cup. During the 2009 playoffs, Vancouver surrendered just a total of nine power play goals in 10 playoff games played. PREVENTION IS KEY <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr2110_kings16_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Observers of the Canucks/Kings series might note that Roberto Luongo was not as big a reason the Canucks won the series as perhaps in other playoff series in the past but that may have had more to do with the fact his team was much better this year at preventing the number of shots he faced. The Canucks surrendered 166 shots in six games to the Kings during their first round playoff series, an average of 27.7 shots per game. That total is the fewest average number of shots per game in a playoff series since Roberto Luongo joined the Canucks. The following is a breakdown of the average shots against in each playoff series the Canucks have played in since Luongo joined the team. Note, however, that some of the numbers may be skewed because of lengthy overtime games in certain series. 2010 WQF vs Los Angeles: 166 shots against in six games - 27.7 average shots against per game 2009 WSF vs Chicago: 175 shots against in six games - 29.2 average shots against per game 2009 WQF vs St. Louis: 131 shots against in four games - 32.8 average shots against per game 2007 WSF vs Anaheim: 198 shots against in five games - 39.6 average shots against per game 2007 WQF vs Dallas: 240 shots against in seven games - 34.3 average shots against per game NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYOFF PERFORMER OF ROUND ONE <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr1510_happy_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">Mikael Samuelsson: Seven goals and 11 points in six games played. What more is there to say about Mikael Samuelsson that hasn't already been said? Samuelsson was Mr. Fantastic and Mr. Consistency in round one for the Canucks and came just shy of setting several new individual player records as a Canuck in the process. He tied Pavel Bure's record for most goals in a single playoff series with seven (set back in 1995 vs St. Louis) and his consecutive streak of goals in five straight games from Game 1 to 5 tied for the longest playoff goal streak in Canucks history initially set by Cliff Ronning in 1991. Samuelsson finished one point shy of a team record for most points in a single playoff series (record is 12 by Pavel Bure in 1995 vs St. Louis) and his 28 shots in the series were just two shy of Bure's record for most shots in a single playoff series (record is 30 by Pavel Bure in 1995 vs St. Louis). (Note: The 1995 playoff series versus St. Louis where Bure set those team records took seven games to complete). Samuelsson's 11 points and counting is already one point more than any Canucks player had all of last year in the playoffs. Henrik and Daniel Sedin shared the team lead in playoff points in 2009 with 10 each. PLAYOFFS SUPER STATS PACK (UPDATED THROUGH ROUND ONE) Spewing statistics can make anybody sound smart (I wouldn't write this blog if it didn't!). As a gift to Number Crunching's loyal fans (yes, all three of you out there) here are some stats you can share with your friends to make you sound like an expert too: The Canucks' record when... <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr2310_edler_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">A defenceman scores: 3-0 Mikael Samuelsson scores: 3-2 Daniel Sedin scores: 3-1 Pavol Demitra scores: 2-0 Steve Bernier scores: 2-1 They score two-or-more power play goals: 1-0 They surrender two-or-more power play goals: 2-2 They don’t allow a 1st period goal: 1-1 They don’t allow a 3rd period goal: 2-1 Don’t allow a power play goal: 1-0 When getting more power play chances than opponent: 2-1 When getting fewer power play chances than opponent: 1-1 When getting equal power play chances than opponent: 1-0 Highs and Lows... <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr2510_kings13_t.jpg" class="imageFloatRightFramed">Canucks Most - One Period Goals: 4 (APR.21.10 at LAK, third period) Goals allowed: 3 (APR.19.10 at LAK, second period) Shots: 17 (twice - most recent APR.21.10 at LAK, third period) Shots Allowed: 16 (APR.25.10 at LAK, first period) Canucks Fewest - One Period Shots: 4 (APR.17.10 vs LAK, first period) Shots Allowed: 2 (APR.15.10 vs LAK, third period) Canucks Most - One Game Goals: 7 (APR.23.10 vs LAK) Goals Allowed: 5 (APR.19.10 at LAK) Shots: 44 (APR.15.10 vs LAK) Shots Allowed: 32 (APR.25.10 at LAK) Penalty Minutes: 22 (APR.23.10 vs LAK) Penalty Minutes Opp: APR.23.10 vs LAK) Canucks Fewest - One Game Goals: 2 (APR.17.10 vs LAK) Goals Allowed: 2 (three times - most recent APR.25.10 at LAK) Shots: 22 (APR.25.10 at LAK) Shots Allowed: 26 (twice - most recent APR.23.10 vs LAK) Penalty Minutes: 6 (APR.19.10 at LAK) Penalty Minutes Opp: 6 (APR.25.10 at LAK) Canucks Largest - One Game Margin of victory: 5 (APR.23.10 vs LAK. 7-2) Margin of defeat: 2 (APR.19.10 at LAK, 3-5) <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr2310_ryp_t.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Individual Most - One Game Goals: 2 (three times - Mikael Samuelsson 2x, Steve Bernier) Goals Allowed: 2 (Michal Handzus - APR.19.10 at LAK) Assists: 3 (Daniel Sedin - APR.21.10 at LAK) Assists Allowed: 3 (twice - Jack Johnson, Drew Doughty) Points: 3 (three times - Daniel Sedin, Mikael Samuelsson, Pavol Demitra) Points Allowed: 4 (Drew Doughty - APR.19.10 at LAK) Saves: 30 (Roberto Luongo - APR.25.10 at LAK) Saves, Opp.: 41 (Jonathan Quick - APR.15.10 vs LAK)
  20. In the 2010 NHL playoffs, Vancouver draws the 6th seeded Los Angeles Kings, whom they bested 3 games to 1 in their 4 game season series. Mason Raymond has the puck knocked off his stick by Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings April 1st, 2010 at the Staples Center When covering playoff series in Fantasy leagues, I will often refer readers first to the season series. It doesn't always tell the full tale of the tape, and there are always anomalies, but usually offers a rough, workable outline. I'm not a full on mathematician, but percentages and probability rate factor into most sports. I haven't seen the "Las Vegas line" for this series, but I'm assuming Vancouver is a favorite to win this series. Being a Western conference team, the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks were scheduled 4 regular season games. Using this as my reference point, the numbers indicate the Canucks won the lions share, 75% of the games this season. Here's a quick breakdown of those contests: Henrik Sedin signals to the bench prior to a first period faceoff against the Kings in Los Angeles April 1st(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Oct. 29, 2009 - Whether a fan of the shootout or not, it's here, and it favored the Canucks. Scott Parse opened scoring in the 1st period, and Mikael Samuelsson answered in the 2nd period. Samuelsson would also roof a beautiful backhand shot past Jonathan Quick in the shootout. Andrew Raycroft was an anchor in net, making 30 stops earning a .967 sv %. Vancouver wins 2-1. Nov. 26, 2009 - Wayne Simmonds officially registers himself as a pain in the Canucks side. The 21 yr old scores the Kings lone goal and forechecks with aplomb. Burrows, Henrik, Glass and Wellwood reply for the Canucks, as Luongo begins to overcome a slow start, improves to 8-8-0. Jonathan Quick makes 30 stops and records a .909 sv %. Dec. 14, 2009 - The Kings get a good taste of the Canucks 2nd line, who outworked a tired L.A. team. Ryan Kesler broke open the scoring 64 seconds in on a nice setup from Mikael Samuelsson and Mason Raymond. Sami Salo pounds one in from the point on a play made by the twins, though Alexander Frolov cut the lead with 7 seconds to go in the 1st period. Raymond finished off a nice play by Kesler and Shane O'Brien with 5 minutes to go in the third. Luongo makes 24 saves for a .960 sv % and improves to 14-10-0, as the Canucks win 3-1. Mikael Samuelsson hasn't been talked about much prior to this playoff series, but he should be a factor, especially considering Oct. 29th game (Images courtesy of Yardbarker) Apr. 1, 2010 - The Canucks wish that the 8-3 score listed in the newspapers was indeed an April Fool's joke leader, but it wasn't. Sports journalists have a hay day at Roberto Luongo's expense, quoting "His worst game ever" and "Career low" (.724 sv %) in their columns. A number of sub-plots also rose to the surface, including Vigneault's reluctance to pull Luongo despite the run-up score. Power forward Dustin Brown leads the way with a hat-trick, while Frolov, Kopitar, Stoll, Williams and Handzus contribute singles. Kyle Wellwood pots a pair, and Ryan Kesler scores in a losing cause. Jonathan Bernier earns the win with a .900 sv % and 27 saves. Without Willie Mitchell to help clear the crease, the writing is on the wall for the Canucks defense: Luongo must be protected (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Honestly, I can't think of a better lesson for the Canucks to learn from in their final regular season meeting with Los Angeles. "We can't sit back," said Ryan Kesler, one of the league's top defensive forwards, who had a breakout offensive year (75 pts). "If we change our game and become a defensive-minded team we're not playing to our strengths. We have who I think is the best goalie in the NHL and he allows us to take chances offensively." Based on the 2009/10 season, the law of averages argues that the Canucks should take this series. Roberto Luongo should be one of the deciding factors in this series, leveraging them above the Kings and their inexperienced goaltending tandem. The Sedins are rolling in hot and should prove too much for the Kings, who are going to have a very difficult time limiting Vancouver's cycle. Canucks in 6. Playoff series have a way of producing rivalries, and it seems inevitable there will be even less love lost between Vancouver and Los Angeles post-playoffs With files from Yardbarker, Getty Images and The Province, I'm Larenzo Jensen Need more 'Nucks? http://thecanuckway.com
  21. It is a contemplative week for Number Crunching as we look towards the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs for the 2010 Northwest Division Champions Vancouver Canucks. As part of our reflection, we take a trip down memory lane and revisit our mid-season award predictions and give our final thoughts on which Canucks should walk away this season with some hardware. WHAT IF DANIEL SEDIN DID NOT MISS 19 GAMES THIS SEASON DUE TO INJURY? <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar2410_burtwin_rr.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Henrik Sedin had a bad sense of déjà vu this past Thursday in Los Angeles (in addition to the bad taste left in his mouth from an 8-3 shellacking at the hands of the Kings) when - for the first time since mid-November - he looked over to his left winger and didn't see the familiar face of brother Daniel starring back at him. Despite playing in a career-high 19 games without Daniel this season (Daniel's previous career-high for most regular season games missed in a single year was seven while Henrik's is six), Henrik has managed to hold his own as evidenced by him challenging for the Art Ross Trophy this season as the NHL's leading point scorer. So just where would Henrik be had Daniel been by his side for all 79 games and counting this season? Henrik has been a point-a-game player so far this with Daniel out of the lineup scoring 10 goals and 19 points in 19 games with his brother on the shelf and while that pace would have been enough to match his previous career-high already, with brother Daniel in the lineup Henrik has been (naturally) even more dynamic. Through 60 games with Daniel in the lineup, Henrik is averaging 1.45 points-per-game with 19 goals and 87 points. If he managed to keep that pace for an entire 82-game season, Henrik would have finished this season with roughly 119 points. In that alternate reality, only three post-lockout players would have had more points in a single season than Henrik: Joe Thornton (125 points in 2005.06), Jaromir Jagr (123 points in 2005.06) and Sidney Crosby (120 points in 2006.07). WHAT IF THE CANUCKS DON'T WIN ON THURSDAY IN SAN JOSE? <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar2710_clowe_fps.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">If the Canucks don't secure at least a single point against the Sharks on Thursday in their final road game of the season, it will mark the first time since the 2000.01 season that the Canucks will qualify for the playoffs despite having a losing road record during the regular season. Having a sub-.500 record away from home heading into the playoffs is nothing new for the organization however. Out of the previous 22 times the Canucks have qualified for the post-season, only nine times have they had a .500 or better road record heading into the playoffs. So how has a positive road record during the regular season translated into success away from the home in the playoffs? In years where Vancouver's regular season road record is at .500 or better (1991.92, 1992.93, 1993.94, 1995.96, 2001.02 2002.03, 2003.04, 2006.07 and 2008.09), Vancouver's combined road record in the playoffs is 26-24. In years where Vancouver's regular season road record is below .500, Vancouver's combined road record in the playoffs is 12-24. WHAT IF THE CANUCKS HAD NOT BEEN BLOWN OUT BY THE KINGS ON THURSDAY? <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr0110_lak_kopitar_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">With the Canucks being pounded on the scoreboard on Thursday in Los Angeles, they opted to take a small measure of revenge out on their opponents by dishing out 32 hits versus just 15 delivered by the Kings that night. The 17-hit differential in favour of the Canucks marked a season-high for Vancouver surpassing the 16-hit positive differential they had way back on October 5, 2009 in their home opener - a 5-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Overall, it was just the third time this season Vancouver has out-hit an opponent by double digits and good thing too considering the Canucks are 0-3-0 in those three games. Conversely, the Canucks' record this season when out-hit by double digits is 7-5-1. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/04/apr0210_ducks08_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Michael Grabner: Three goals and five points in four games played. After just one point in his first five games back in the NHL, Michael Grabner finally found his game this past week recording a three-game point streak from March 30 - April 2, highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick on Friday against the Anaheim Ducks. There may have been grumblings about Grabner being slotted right away onto the second line upon his return to the NHL - ahead of a 20-goal scorer such as Mason Raymond - but Grabner quickly put his critics to rest by having the best week of his NHL career to date. Grabner's emergence and the respective returns of Pavol Demitra and Mikael Samuelsson to the Canucks lineup now gives the Canucks three solid scoring lines heading into the playoffs. With Steve Bernier inching closer towards a return to the lineup as well, the Canucks could arguably be the deepest team at the forward position compared to all other NHL playoff-bound clubs. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar3010_juice_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Kevin Bieksa: One goal...err, almost, in four games played. In the immortal words of Dr. Evil: "Throwing me a frickin' bone here!" After not finding the back of the net since Vancouver's season opener back on October 1, 2009, Kevin Bieksa looked to have finally bumped the goal slump on Sunday when he was credited with a goal against the Minnesota Wild in the second period of that contest...or so he thought. Unfortunately, 17 minutes worth of intermission time and the work of some overzealous off-ice officials at GM Place on Sunday took away what would have been Bieksa's second goal of the season and gave it to Kyle Wellwood. (Remember when fans booed Tanner Glass earlier in the season for being credited with a goal that was initially thought to be Wellwood's? Ah memories.) To his credit, Bieksa still finished the week off with two assists (should have been a goal and an assist...just saying) and now has 18 helpers on the season. A LOOK BACK AT NUMBER CRUNCHING'S MID-SEASON AWARDS Back in late December - when this blog was in still in its infancy - we came out with our Special Mid-Season Awards Edition where we gave you our picks for the Canucks award winners had the season ended at the same time the 2009 calendar year did. Here's a look back at those picks and what our final thoughts are now: <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar3010_burbieksa_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Most Exciting Player Mid-season pick: Mason Raymond Year-end pick: Alex Burrows Analysis: After 39 games gone by in the season, only one player - Henrik Sedin - had more goals on the team than Mason Raymond who had already shattered his previous career-high with 17 tallies. Raymond's production has dropped since then with just seven goals in his last 40 games. But even with that said, it is clear Alex Burrows is the runaway pick for this award. His back-to-back hat tricks just a week after that blog was published was a sign of things to come for the Pincourt, QC native who looks poised to finish the season with the most goals on the team. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/032410_VAN_ANA_205d.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Fred J. Hume Award for Unsung Hero Mid-season pick: Willie Mitchell Year-end pick: Andrew Raycroft Analysis: Perhaps this award should still go to Willie Mitchell considering Vancouver's struggles at the defensive end of the ice since his absence. Number Crunching is good, but not good enough to predict Willie would last just over two more weeks after that blog was published before being shut down (we assume) for the rest of the season due to a concussion. However, it's hard to argue with what Raycroft has done in the second half of the season. Since that blog was published, Raycroft's highlights include stepping into a 3-0 deficit in Toronto and helping the Canucks pull out a 5-3 win back on January 30 and clinching a playoff spot for the boys on April 2 in Anaheim with a 5-4 shootout victory. His nine wins (and counting) this season are the most by a Canucks back-up in the Roberto Luongo era. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar2710_scrappy_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Babe Pratt Trophy for Most Outstanding Defenceman Mid-season pick: Christian Ehrhoff Year-end pick: Christian Ehrhoff Analysis: He's been Mr. Consistency on the back-end all season. His 14 goals and 43 points lead all Canucks defencemen in those categories while he also has an eye-popping plus-33 rating. The Canucks can only hope his tweaked knee at the end of Sunday's win over the Wild at GM Place is nothing serious. <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar2710_face_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Cyclone Taylor Trophy as Canucks MVP Mid-season pick: Henrik Sedin Year-end pick: Henrik Sedin Analysis: We figured he would runaway with the team's scoring lead, but we never thought he'd be close to running away for the NHL's scoring title as well. Henrik is not only a shoe-in for the team MVP, he deserves serious consideration for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP as well (Ken Campbell...I'm looking at you). <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar2710_luclowe_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Molson Cup Winner Mid-season pick: Roberto Luongo Year-end pick: Henrik Sedin Analysis: Somewhere between our Mid-Season Awards blogand now, the Canucks official Media Game Notes package stopped listing the full points standings for the Molson Cup - which is given the player with the most three-star selections at the end of the season. What we can tell you is that Henrik has won the monthly award three times (October, November, March), Luongo twice (January and February) and Kesler once (December). Our initial thought when picking Luongo mid-season (even though Henrik actually led the standings at the time of that blog) was we felt as good as Henrik had performed to that point, Luongo would be a difference most nights for Vancouver down the stretch. Let's just say we were right about that...but not so much in the way we thought it would work out. Statistics and other information appearing in this blog are for entertainment purposes only and a sense of humour is recommended. E-mail the author here or follow him on Twitter.
  22. It was a good week in Canuck Nation if your name was Ryan and appropriately in this week's edition of Number Crunching, we pay tribute to the Ryans as we look back at the best and worst statistics in the week that was. Read on to find out who takes home this week's Number Crunching Player of the Week Award...could it very well be Ryan's for the taking? THE BEST OF KES <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/van6_031410.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The big news of the week for the Canucks came off the ice on Friday when Ryan Kesler officially put his name on a brand new contract extension that will see him remain in Vancouver colours until 2015.16. In honour of Kesler's new deal, Number Crunching presents the top six Ryan Kesler stats of 2009.10: 1. When Kesler scores, Canucks win. Vancouver's record this season when Ryan Kesler tallies a goal is 15-5-0. 2. When Kesler has been held point-less this season, Vancouver's record is only 8-13-2. 3. Through 72 games played, Kesler leads all Canucks in power play goals with 12 - four more than second place Mason Raymond who has eight. The 12 PPGs are a career-high for Kesler, besting the 10 PPGs he had in 2008.09. Coming into this season, he had scored just 15 total career power play goals. Incidentally, Vancouver's record when Kesler scores a PPG this season is 8-4-0. 4. Kesler's 13-game point streak from February 6 to March 14 shattered his previous career-high entering this season which was five games. Earlier this season, Kesler tied his previous career-best point streak twice. During his 13-game run, he tallied six goals and 15 points. 5. Through 72 games played, no other Canuck forward has had more average ice-time than Ryan Kesler's 19:51 per game. In terms of overall ice-time through the whole season, Kesler sits behind only Christian Ehrhoff (1,652:54) and Alex Edler (1,472:28) with 1,429:53. 6. No stat better describes Kesler's desire to have the puck than his 74 takeaways this season through 72 games played - leading all Canuck players. Alex Burrows has the next highest number of takeaways this season with 63 while Henrik Sedin is in a distant third place with 38. Kesler had 74 takeaways in all of last season. He has been the Canucks' leader in takeaways for the past two consecutive seasons and is on his way to making it three straight. OH JOHNNY BOY <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/032010Canucks205.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Kesler wasn't the only Ryan who had reason to celebrate this week as Ryan Johnson was all smiles after breaking an 82-game goal-less drought on Thursday against San Jose. Johnson entered that game as Vancouver's leader for longest goal drought. With Johnson finally getting the goal monkey off his back the new Canucks' leader in the category is defenceman Aaron Rome, who following Saturday's game against Detroit is now at the half-century mark in games played without a goal. The goal against the Sharks was also the fourth career game-winner for Johnson. Two of his three goals as a Canuck have been game-winners. He scored the GWG against the New York Rangers back on November 19, 2008 - his first career goal as a member of the Canucks. Johnson now has a game-winning goal in three consecutive seasons. BLINK AND YOU'LL MISS IT <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar2010_muddle_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Canucks have seen plenty of team and personal records fall this season but they probably were not too thrilled with the mark that bit the dust on Saturday against the Red Wings. Red Wings goals scored five seconds apart by Todd Bertuzzi at 12:34 of the second period and Pavel Datsyuk at 12:39 of the second period during Vancouver's 4-3 overtime loss on Saturday set a new franchise mark for fastest two goals by a Canucks' opponent. The previous record was seven seconds, initially set back on October 19, 1976 in the first period of a game against the New York Islanders when Bob Nystrom scored twice in seven seconds - 8:34 and 8:41 - in what ended up as a 6-1 Islanders victory. Over 14 years later, the mark was tied when the Flames' Joe Mullen and Doug Gilmour scored seven seconds apart in the first period in a 5-1 Calgary win on March 3, 1990. Just less than five years after that, the feat was once again repeated by the Rangers' Pat Verbeek and Niklas Sundstrom, who also scored seven seconds apart in the first period against the Canucks in a 5-2 Rangers victory on October 24, 1995. It seems safe to suggest that the all-time NHL mark for fastest two goals will never be surpassed, if it is even ever repeated. A pair of ex-Canucks had a hand in setting that record as members of the Minnesota Wild. Jim Dowd and Richard Park scored three seconds apart (19:44 and 19:47 of the third period) in a 4-2 victory by the Wild over the Chicago Blackhawks on January 21, 2004. FLORIDA FLASHBACKS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar2010_freeze_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">For the first time since becoming a Vancouver Canuck, Roberto Luongo reached the half-century mark in saves in a single regular season game when he recorded 50 stops on 54 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Red Wings on Saturday. Luongo's previous high for saves as a Canuck in a regular season game was 49 - set back on February 21, 2008 in a 3-2 shootout win for the Canucks over the Nashville Predators. Prior to Saturday, the last time Luongo was forced to make 50-or-more saves in a single regular season game was over four years ago on December 18, 2005. On that night, Luongo's Florida Panthers were out-shot 55-34 by the Washington Capitals but Luongo stopped all-but-two shots in a 3-2 victory. Incidentally, the 54 shots surrendered by the Canucks to the Red Wings overall on Saturday not only marked the most shots they have given up this season but also the first time they have surrendered over 50 shots in a single regular season game since the aforementioned game on February 21, 2008 against the Predators (they surrendered 51 shots that night). Vancouver's all-time record for most shots against in a single regular season game is 60. That was set back on February 25, 1971 against the Boston Bruins during the Canucks' inaugural NHL season. Vancouver lost that game 8-3. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar1810_wellhappy_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Kyle Wellwood: Two goals and three points in four games played. Kyle Wellwood has taken his fair share of shots for his lack of offensive production particularly near the start of the season so now that he's playing some of his best hockey of the year it seems only fair to give him his share of praise. The 26-year-old has not only found the net with more regularity since the second half of the season began, but his newly-formed line with Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen has given the Canucks a legitimate third-line scoring threat - something Vancouver really has not had much of on a consistent basis throughout the whole season. Wellwood's two-point (1-1-2) outing against the Red Wings on Saturday was his fourth multi-point game of the season - double what he had all of last year. With 22 points (11-11-22) on the season and 10 more games left on the schedule, he would need to average one point every two games to equal the 27 points he had last year in his first season as a Canuck. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/12/dec2009_ehrhoff_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Shane O'Brien: One goal and three points in two games played. First, let me preface this by saying Shane O'Brien (rhymes with Ryan) being tagged with this dubious distinction actually has absolutely nothing to do with his play this week. By all accounts, O'Brien was fantastic in his return to the lineup not only finishing with a plus-two rating but chipping in with three points and a rare goal as well. If the Canucks had their way however, they might just ask Shane to stick with piling up the assists rather than netting any goals himself. If there are two things Canuck observers have been able to surmise from watching O'Brien the last two seasons it's that: 1. O'Brien can only score against Central Division opponents. Counting his playoff goal versus Chicago last season, O'Brien has also scored against St. Louis and Detroit. 2. When O'Brien scores, the Canucks don't win. Canucks lost 7-5 in Game 6 against Chicago in the Western Conference Semi-Final and also lost 3-1 to the Blues back on December 20th of this season prior to Saturday's overtime loss to the Red Wings. The O'Brien curse, as it were, only began after Shane joined the Canucks. Prior to coming to Vancouver, O'Brien's previous teams (Anaheim and Tampa Bay) were not only 3-1-0 in games where he had scored, but O'Brien personally notched the game-winning goals in each of those three wins. The best news for Shane and the Canucks? Vancouver will not see another Central Division opponent the rest of this season barring a playoff match-up.
  23. Those chants were sweet to backup Andrew Raycroft as they were to me. The premium in the playoffs is goaltending because every game counts and a game stolen by Roberto Luongo could mean the difference between winning and losing a series. Since coming back from the Olympic break Luongo has been faltering, including an absolutely abysmal performance in Edmonton two nights ago, so it's nice to see that the Canucks have at least found confidence in their backup goaltending, ending a goaltending carousel that's featured Curtis Sanford, Johan Hedberg, Bob Essensa, Peter Skudra... the list goes on and on. Not that it should ever happen, but if Luongo falters in the playoffs at least Alain Vigneault will have some confidence in Raycroft to put him in net. A lot of people wondered why Vigneault didn't start Raycroft in Edmonton and then Luongo against a tougher Anaheim squad, but quite simply, I think it was because Vigneault planned to start Luongo every night until the end of the season, maybe save for the last game of the season if it was meaningless. I disagree with D13G0 DA SNIPUR here because I think the worst thing to do to a struggling goalie is staple him to the bench. Get Luongo more games, see more pucks, swallow the bitter pills, and hopes he finds his grove come playoff time. There's no point in giving Raycroft more ice-time if he's not going to start in the playoffs - at most he's an insurance policy the coaching staff can trust. All things considered the Canucks probably have the division title and home-ice advantage locked up in the first round. The Avalanche are five points away with nine games to play and aren't exactly on a roll, going just 5-4-1 in their last ten. The only difference the last game of the season may make is deciding which team the Canucks will have to play in the first round, and that could mean LA, Colorado, Nashville, or Detroit. Sorry Calgary fans, I don't think so. Just a side note, if the Flames miss the playoffs this year the Sutters will really have to look at themselves in the mirror. The Flames have been taken sideways steps at the most since their Cup run against the Lightning. That Olli Jokinen trade was a do-over (I didn't think he would mesh well with Jarome Iginla in the first place - they're too similar) and that Dion Phaneuf trade may end up hurting them too. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/ap/20100325/capt.10b40c62d7e3432a89a8f77c2c25b681-10b40c62d7e3432a89a8f77c2c25b681-0.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Raycroft, who earns $500,000, is set to be a UFA at the end of the season and don't be surprised if Mike Gillis ends the goaltending carousel now and gives Raycroft a brand-new multi-year deal worth roughly the same money next year. I think it's a foregone conclusion that Cory Schneider won't be sticking around because 1) he's a valuable trade chip and 2) he won't be starting here anytime soon. Several teams will still be in the market for a goalie and if anything Gillis will make his presence felt at the draft, where the Canucks don't have a second or third round pick. By signing Raycroft to a multi-year contract, Gillis and Vigneault will save themselves from the backup goaltender headache and really provide Luongo and the team with some stability. Goalies are developing such different styles and having Raycroft stick around for a little longer provides more familiarity between him and the five other guys on the ice. Congrats to Henrik Sedin hitting 71 assists, tying a career high, but also moving him to 99 points and the league lead. Given Henrik's current pace, he'll be finishing the year with 109.7 points, which rounded up to 110 will tie him with Pavel Bure (perhaps the best ever Russian scorer) for the franchise record. The Sedins do face an incredible array of goaltending talent in their upcoming games, with Evgeni Nabokov, Ilya Bryzgalov, Miikka Kiprusoff, Niklas Backstrom, and then Craig Anderson and Jonathan Quick. However, if they can pull off anything like Henrik's spin-o-rama backhand pass to Alex Burrows again (they will), the points will come. Props also to George Parros and Darcy Hordichuk for mixing it up on more than one occasion including a very spirited first bout. Michael Grabner was equally impressive with his speed, but as Chris Cuthbert pointed out he's been unwilling to go to the net. He reminds me a lot of a younger Mason Raymond - his wheels just turn too fast for him to think and react at the right time. Kyle Wellwood has really picked up his game lately and when Steve Bernier comes back this team will be really deep up front. (And I'm terribly sorry Daniel, but I don't believe you were just "throwing the puck at the net." That was a set play and Burrows was the fly-by screen. If Daniel was truly throwing it there for Burrows to fetch the puck should've been shot five feet lower. That puck went top corner blocker side. Take a look at Burrows' route and where his stick was. He wasn't even going to bother tipping it. All he wanted to do was tie up Niedermayer. Video here.) The Canucks weren't stellar last night even though the score does suggest we dominated. The Canucks had six giveaways last night and four of them came from our defensemen. As much as the Canucks were successful in pinning the Ducks in their own zone, the opposite was true as well and had it not been for Raycroft the score would've been much closer. On more than one occasion Raycroft stood on his head. The Ducks are an interesting story this year, as their offensive production has absolutely gone downhill. After scoring 245 goals last year the Ducks sit only at 205 this year. Everyone except for Jonas Hiller, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan (what a fantastic set of hands he has) seems to have taken a step backwards. The bad news is that Scott Niedermayer may retire at the end of the year, which would end his distinguished career on a low note. If the Ducks finish out of the playoffs it'd be the first time since 1996 Niedermayer has failed to reach the post-season and he's two points shy of 100 career playoff points. The good news is that should Niedermayer retire, the Ducks will have lots of money to play with and their young core is already in place. The Canucks visit the reeling Sharks Saturday night on CBC. EDIT: I didn't realize this until I saw this just now, but a fight broke up between a Ducks fan and a Canucks fan last night. I only saw the TSN feed and they didn't say anything about it. Anyway, Mozy did a bang-up job writing it up and I wholeheartedly agree with him.
  24. It is not quite the same as winning a Gold medal but a 3-1-0 record for the Canucks in their first week back is definitely reason for celebration in Canucks Nation. And another reason to celebrate is because Number Crunching returns for edition No. 12 as we look back at the best stats from the week that was in Canucks hockey. As always, find out who earns this week's honour as the Number Crunching Player of the Week. THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/01/jan3010_leafs10_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">If the Canucks manage to finish this season with a record above .500 on the road, it will be by far the most difficult path the Canucks have ever taken in franchise history to secure a better than .500 record away from their home arena. This season, the Canucks moved above the .500 mark on the road for the first time in their 32nd road game this past week after their 6-3 win in Detroit gave them a record of 16-15-1 on the road at the time (they ended the week with an overall record of 17-16-1 on the road). Out of the seven previous times the Canucks have finished a season with a record above .500 on the road, the longest it had ever taken them to initially move above .500 was six games. That mark was set in 2003.04 after the Canucks opened their road season 0-2-1 before winning their next three straight games away from GM Place to move above the bar for the first time that year. They would end up finishing that season with a 22-11-8 record on the road. In addition to 2003.04, the Canucks have also finished with above .500 road records in the following seasons: 1991.92, 1992.93, 1995.96, 2002.03, 2006.07 and 2008.09. FIRST TO 40 <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar0710_preds01_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">The Canucks recorded their 40th victory of the season on Sunday afternoon in Nashville and in the process set a new franchise record for being the quickest Canucks team to reach the 40-win mark. This year's team, which recorded the 40th victory in their 65th game of the season, narrowly beat out the 2006.07 team that recorded win No. 40 in game No. 67 that season. The 2006.07 team still holds the franchise record for most victories in a single season with 49 although this year's squad figures to give them a good run for that mark as they have 17 games remaining to try and net 10-or-more wins to break the old record. The following is a list of 40-plus win Canuck teams with the number in the brackets indicating the game in which they reached the 40th win of the season, respectively: 1991.92: 42 wins (71)* 1992.93: 46 wins (76)** 1993.94: 41 wins (81)** 2001.02: 42 wins (80) 2002.03: 45 wins (70) 2003.04: 43 wins (79) 2005.06: 42 wins (74) 2006.07: 49 wins (67) 2008.09: 45 wins (74) 2009.10: 40 wins and counting (65) *denotes 80-game season *denotes 84-game season THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar0310_well_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Detroit Red Wings typically offer a tough test for the Canucks each time the two teams meet but if you thought Wednesday's game in Motown was a bit of a cakewalk for the visitors, there is one key statistic that would back up that assertion. The Red Wings, who saw starting netminder Jimmy Howard yanked in the contest, did little to support either of their two goaltenders in that game blocking just three shots in the entire contest. The three blocked shots marked the fewest blocked shots by by a Canucks opponent this season. Prior to Wednesday's game, the fewest blocked shots a Canucks opponent had this season in a single game was six which had happened twice: San Jose (November 29, 2009) and New Jersey (December 2, 2009). Up to and including Vancouver's contest against Nashville on Sunday, the Canucks have had an average of 13.1 shots blocked per game. The Canucks, meanwhile, have averaged 12.3 blocked shots per game this season through 65 games played. The Canucks have a record of 7-6-0 this season in games where they have had fewer than 10 shots blocked. 149 TO 100 <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/03022010_van_cbj_raycroft2_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Congratulations to Canucks' netminder Andrew Raycroft for picking up his 100th career NHL victory this past week on Tuesday with a 4-3 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Raycroft became the 149th all-time netminder to 100 NHL victories and joins the likes of currently active goaltenders such as Phoenix's Ilya Bryzgalov, Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom, St. Louis' Chris Mason and Columbus' Mathieu Garon to have recorded their 100th NHL victory during the 2009.10 NHL season. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar0310_kes_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Ryan Kesler: Three goals and five points in four games played. If Ryan Kesler carried any frustration with him after narrowly missing out on an Olympic Gold medal in Vancouver just over a week ago, he clearly decided to take out some of that out against his NHL opponents. The Livonia, MI native was a one-man wrecking crew at times leading the Canucks in goals and points this week while in the process extending his career-high point streak to nine games (five games prior to the Olympic break and four games after). Honourable mentions include Alex Burrows, who proved two weeks off wasn't enough time to cool down his hot stick as he also had three goals this week, and Mikael Samuelsson, whose "demotion" to the third line didn't stop his goal scoring abilities as he also finished with three goals this week. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar0510_hawks01_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Roberto Luongo: 2-1-0 record with a 4.29 GAA and a .875 save percentage. Call it an Olympic hangover but there were times this week when the man protecting the Canucks' net looked quite dissimilar to the man who led Canada to an Olympic Gold medal just over a week ago in Vancouver. The Canucks' captain started his week off with a decent outing in Detroit stopping 28 of 31 shots in a 6-3 win but proceeded to have arguably his worst outing since Game 6 of last season's Western Conference Semi-Final on Wednesday in Chicago. Luongo was yanked after giving up five goals on just 14 shots to the Blackhawks in the first period - the third time in his last nine games that he has been taken out of a game for performance reasons. Discounting his performance at the Olympic Winter Games, Luongo has not managed to record wins in consecutive starts since a six-game win streak from January 16 to January 27. He has a chance to bump that slump this upcoming week after ending last week off on a high note making 33 saves on 35 shots in a come-from-behind 4-2 win over the Predators on Sunday afternoon.
  25. Canada captured an Olympic Winter Games record of 14 Gold medals in Vancouver and in honour of the Canadian Olympic Team, Number Crunching tries for a Gold medal performance in this first blog back since the Olympic break where we look back at the best of the Men's Ice Hockey tournament as well as ahead to the NHL's Trade Deadline on Wednesday. And of course, find out who takes home the Gold as the Number Crunching Player of the 2010 Winter Games. MEDAL HAUL <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/02/FEb2810_gold_rr.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Canada came away with a record medal haul at the 2010 Winter Games, but the Canucks didn't do too shabbily either with three players returning to the team each with a medal of their own. Roberto Luongo (Canada - Gold), Ryan Kesler (USA - Silver), and Sami Salo (Finland - Bronze) will each have something to show off to their teammates when they re-join the team in Columbus. Their respective performances marked the first time since the NHL allowed players to participate in the Olympics that the Canucks have had players return to the team with medals in all three colours. However, the three medals is not a Canucks record for most medals won at a single Olympic Winter Games. That count is five which was set in 2006 in Torino when Mattias Ohlund along with Daniel and Henrik Sedin returned with Gold medals while Sami Salo and Jarkko Ruutu returned with Silver medals. Overall, the three medals from the 2010 Winter Games brings the Canucks total medal count to 11. Below is a list of Canucks Olympic medalists since 1998: Roberto Luongo (CAN): 2010 - Gold Ryan Kesler (USA): 2010 - Silver Sami Salo (FIN): 2010 - Bronze Mattias Ohlund (SWE): 2006 - Gold Daniel Sedin (SWE): 2006 - Gold Henrik Sedin (SWE): 2006 - Gold Sami Salo (FIN): 2006 - Silver Jarkko Ruutu (FIN): 2006 - Silver Ed Jovanovski (CAN): 2002 - Gold Pavel Bure (RUS): 1998 - Silver Jyrki Lumme (FIN): 1998 - Bronze DEMO-NSTRATION OF SKILL <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/02/Feb2710_demo_rr.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Slovakia may have come up short of medaling in the Men's Ice Hockey tournament but as far as individual performances go, they certainly did own the podium in terms of points scored led by the Canucks' own Pavol Demitra. Demitra led the tournament with 10 points (3-7-10) while teammate and Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa finished second with nine points (3-6-9). Team USA and New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise finished third with eight points (4-4-8). Prior to Demitra, the last time a Slovak player led the tournament in scoring was in 1994 at the Lillehammer Winter Games. In fact, the top three scorers from that tournament were all Slovaks with Zigmund Palffy leading the way with 10 points (3-7-10) followed by Miroslav Satan (9-0-0) and Peter Stastny (5-4-9). That year, however, the Slovaks came in a disappointing sixth place despite winning their pool in the preliminary round. Demitra also became the first Canucks player since the NHL began participating in the Olympics in 1998 to lead the Men's Ice Hockey tournament in points. The only other Canuck to ever reach a top-three finish in points was Pavel Bure in 1998 when he notched nine goals in six games played helping Russia capture a Silver medal in Nagano. Bure finished one point shy of tying the tournament lead in points behind Bronze medalists Teemu Selanne (4-6-10) and Saku Koivu (2-8-10). SO LONG, FAREWELL? <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2009/10/oct0809_hans02_rr.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">With the NHL trade deadline coming at noon PT on Wednesday, March 3, there will be plenty of anxious Canucks players wondering if they will suiting up to face the Red Wings that night or hopping on a flight to parts currently unknown. While getting dealt is usually a shock to the system, there are five current Canucks on the active roster who knows what it's like to be moved on deadline day. Below is the list of current Canucks who have been involved in a deadline day deal: Ryan Johnson: Traded on deadline day 2000 from the Florida Panthers to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Mike Sillinger. Darcy Hordichuk: Traded on deadline day 2002 from the Atlanta Thrashers to the Phoenix Coyotes for a package including Kirill Safronov and the rights to Ruslan Zainullin. Brad Lukowich: Traded on deadline day 2006 from the New York Islanders to the New Jersey Devils for a third round draft pick. Willie Mitchell: Traded on deadline day 2006 from the Minnesota Wild to the Dallas Stars for Martin Skoula and Shawn Belle. Steve Bernier: Traded on deadline day 2008 from the San Jose Sharks to the Buffalo Sabres for Brian Campbell. As far as the Canucks as a team goes, since 1980 they have made 43 deals on trade deadline day although one was later nullified after the late Peter Zezel refused to report to Anaheim following a trade on deadline day 1999. The Canucks last made a trade on deadline day in 2008 when former GM Dave Nonis shipped Matt Cooke to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Matt Pettinger. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE 2010 WINTER GAMES <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/02/feb1710_luongo_rr.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Roberto Luongo: 5-0 record with a 1.76 GAA and a .927 save percentage. Pavol Demitra received strong consideration after his tournament leading 10 points but it's hard to argue against Roberto Luongo who in the end was the lone Canuck to leave the Vancouver Games with a Gold medal around his neck. Luongo opened the tournament with an 8-0 shutout over an out-matched Norway team and at the time, the general belief was that the win against Norway would be the only action Luongo would receive in the tournament. That quickly changed after Canada opted to ride Luongo heading into the elimination portion of the tournament. Luongo posted an 8-2 win over Christian Ehrhoff and Team Germany in the Qualification Playoff game and then recorded a 7-3 win over a powerful Russian team the next night in the Quarterfinal. From there, he made some crucial late saves in a 3-2 win over Pavol Demitra and the Slovaks in the Semifinal before coming up with a clutch performance in an overtime victory over Ryan Kesler and the Americans in the Gold medal game in what was undoubtedly the biggest game of his career. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/02/feb1910_twins_rr.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Daniel and Henrik Sedin: Combined one goal and five points in four games played A fifth place finish in Vancouver after winning the Gold medal in 2006 in Torino was definitely not what the Swedes had expected coming into the tournament and a less than stellar tournament for Daniel and Henrik probably contributed to their disappointing result. The trio of the twins and Mattias Weinhandl combined for just one goal in the tournament, that belonging to Daniel Sedin in a game against Belarus. In fact, out of the twins' five total points in the tournament, four of them came in that preliminary round game against Belarus. Both of Henrik's two assists in the tournament came in that game against Belarus while Daniel Sedin had one goal and one assist in that same game. Daniel also added an assist in Sweden's 3-0 win over Finland in their final preliminary game. Both Daniel and Henrik were shutout of the point column in Sweden's shocking 4-3 loss to Slovakia in the Quarterfinal game.