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CANUCKS HOCKEY BLOG

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Jarkko Gone Wild

It looks like Jarkko Ruutu got over Finland's loss to Sweden in Sunday's gold medal game real quickly:


Or maybe he was just celebrating Mardi Gras.

Photo taken from the canucks.com message boards.

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Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

So far in 2006, the Vancouver Canucks' sport a very average 12-9 record. Of those nine losses, four were against the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets. Combined, the Blues and Blue Jackets have lost 42 more games than they've won.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda... wins against the Blues and the Jackets and the Canucks enter the last 23 games of their regular season 14 points clear of a playoff spot. Instead, as they get ready to play the Calgary Flames tonight, they are only six points clear of the ninth place Anaheim Mighty Ducks; they are also only eight points up on the 10th place Minnesota Wild and nine points up on the 11th place San Jose Sharks. Anaheim has two games in hand on the Canucks; San Jose has three.

Can the Canucks hang on? The folks at VCOE are optimistic. So am I.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Colangelo Brings Credibility

If news reports are correct, the Toronto Craptors just took a big step in the right direction. They have hired Phoenix Suns president and general manager, Bryan Colangelo:
Colangelo resigned Monday and is expected to join the Toronto Raptors as president and general manager Tuesday. He'll replace Rob Babcock, fired Jan. 26 by the Raptors.
Colangelo is the architect behind the high-flying Suns team. He was responsible for trading head case Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway's gimpy knees, and signing reigning NBA MVP Steve Nash. Colangelo's moves transformed a 29-53 team into 52-30 division champions and Western Conference playoff finalists, and won him the NBA's Executive of the Year award.

Toronto already boasts a promising lineup including all-star Chris Bosh and up-and-comer Mike James. And now with Colangelo at the helm, the team just got a lot better.

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Faithful Rewarded

The Detroit Red Wings are the number one team in the NHL right now and they have decided to reward their fans:
Playoff tickets costs won't be quite as painful this year. The Wings have cut prices 10% in all four potential rounds from 2004, season-ticket holders learned in a mailing received this week.
This comes about a month after the Ottawa Senators, the second best team in the Eastern Conference, announced that they have frozen season-ticket prices for the fifth year in a row.

The Canucks? Well, they have 17,000 season-ticket holders and another 4,000 on the waiting list. The team has never been more popular, not just in Vancouver, but all over British Columbia as well. Needless to say, while prices were frozen for this season, the chances that we get any more of a price break seems unlikely. Economics at its simplest.

Pointer courtesy of Abel to Yzerman.

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Bert Takes The Blame

The Calgary Sun has this scoop on the mood inside Team Canada's dressing room after their quarterfinal loss to the Russians:
Word out of the Canadian hockey team's dressing room is Jarome Iginla and Todd Bertuzzi were two of the hardest hit by the loss to Russia. Iginla sat stunned in full gear for more than 20 minutes before undressing. With tears in his eyes, Bertuzzi apparently apologized to all his teammates for his interference penalty that led to the game-winner.
Still think that multi-millionaire, professional athletes don't give a damn about the game? Think again.

Thanks to Kukla's Corner for the pointer.

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Canucks Olympics Update (02/26)

Final Olympic tournament totals for our Vancouver Canucks:


Full game results are available here.

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Gold Medal Game Musings

They are having the best season of their NHL careers, and today, Daniel and Henrik Sedin added to that. Team Sweden beat Team Finland 3-2 to win Olympic gold in Torino.

Henrik and Daniel each continued their strong two-way play and chipped in with four points each during the tourney. In a tournament featuring the best players in the world, they didn't look out of place and were every bit as confident as they have been over the first 3/4 of the season.

There shouldn't be any more questions. The twins have arrived.

*****

There was some debate prior to the Olympics about professional hockey players taking part in the Olympics. There were questions about whether a player's allegiance should be with his country or the team that pays his bills. Some don't think you can show allegiance to both.

For those who don't think the pros care about the Olympic games, all you need to do is look at the Finns' crushed and disappointed faces after the game. It was probably the first time I've seen Jarkko Ruutu without that silly smirk of his.

Part of what makes them professionals is how they compete and play the game at a high level every time they step on the ice. You can bet your loonie they care.

*****

Which makes me wonder how Bengt Gustafsson thought he could convince his players to throw a game. Which they didn't do, right?

*****

Ummm... during the medal ceremony, did anyone notice Sami Salo holding his right shoulder like it was about to fall off? Yikes.

*****

I feel bad for Markus Naslund. For selfish reasons, I was hoping he wouldn't participate in the Olympics and instead, rest his sore groin and prepare for the Canucks' playoff push. Naslund, of course, withdrew from the Olympics, and now, Sweden has won the gold medal.

Naslund hasn't had much success wearing the tre korner and winning an Olympic gold medal would have gone a long way in turning his luck around.

It reminds me of 2001 when the Canucks made the playoffs for the first time in five seasons, but Nazzy couldn't play because he broke his leg late in the season.

For the Canucks' sake, whatever he's done to piss off the hockey gods, I hope he's squared up.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Pass The Pipe

Abel To Yzerman dismissed this absolutely ridiculous rumor last week:
Mats Sundin rumours have surfaced today once again. Boston, Detroit, Chicago and LA are apparently the teams in the hunt. Names coming to the other way have been Frolov, Visnovsky, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Visnovski, Ruutu, Khabibulin, Leetch, Raycroft and Samsonov (if a long term deal could be worked out). This is something to watch as the deadline approaches.
On MOJO 730 this morning, the same bullcrapper who was passing the above rumor passed on another dandy - that the Pittsburgh Penguins are considering trading the rights to Evgeni Malkin at the trade deadline. Some digging around uncovered the following post on same bullcrapper's website:

There is something very interesting brewing. With Malkin`s stock rising exponentially as a result of his Olympic play, I talked to a person on the inside of that situation that confirmed there are whispers, just whispers at this point, that Pittsburgh may get “A Lindros-esque bidding war going for Malkin at the deadline.”

He said to me, “Malkin obviously can bring in some serious value. Value that may help Pittsburgh in similar ways that the Lindros trade helped the Nords go on to win cups in Colorado. It looks more and more that the Pens will remain in Pittsburgh, and if Malkin turns into the star he looks like he will become, the Pens will be faced with Crosby and Malkin near the max payroll. That doesn`t make sense for their marke. They would be better suited to grab three guys at 2-3 million and some prospects to lend depth. Just like Quebec did.”
Let me get this straight. The Pittsburgh Penguins, who are one of the worst teams in the league right now, and who need every marketable player to build a new arena and keep the team where they are, are considering trading the best player not in the NHL for some depth players.

They are considering trading a player who is potentially just as good as the next "Next One" because they might not be able to afford him a few years down the road. Never mind that someone forgot that Malkin's salary is capped at $984,200 plus bonuses - or the same $2-3 million that supposedly makes sense for Pittsburgh's market - during the first three years of his NHL career.

Living in British Columbia, I've always thought that our bud was the best. Apparently what they're smoking in Philly is much better.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Canada 0 Russia 2

It's days like today that I'm glad we have the best beer in the world to drown our sorrows in. Team Canada will leave Torino without a medal; Matty Ohlund bruised his ribs; and Sami Salo suffered a suspected separated shoulder.

Why do I hear Nelson Muntz and his cruel "Ha! Ha!"?

Wayne Gretzky willingly took responsibility for Team Canada's performance:

"I'll take, and deservedly so, the responsibility of us not winning," Gretzky told a news conference Wednesday after Team Canada's quarter-final Olympic exit at the hands of Russia. "That's the situation I'm in, the position I have.

"I feel tremendously responsible that we didn't win. And quite honestly, I'm going to re-assess where I fit and what I'm going to do in the future.

"Hockey Canada is wonderful, my country is great, and I love it dearly. But I'm also human, too. It's tough and it's nerve-wracking. It's not fun when you don't win."
I wouldn't be so quick to point the finger at him. It's easy to lay blame on his mix of players, especially when the best of those players were among those who struggled.

To all the armchair GM's out there, would you have left Joe Thornton and Jarome Iginla, two of the best power forwards in the game but were non-factors for most of the tournament, off the team for Sidney Crosby and Eric Staal? Would you have left Chris Pronger, All-Star and Olympic gold medallist but struggled on the big ice, for Dion Phaneuf? You can go on and on and on for every player on this roster - they were, after all, shut out for three of the six games they played - but hindsight is 20/20.

Instead, I prefer to acknowledge the guys who took time out from their NHL seasons - right before their respective team's sprint to the playoffs - to wear the Maple Leaf on their jersey and carry the weight of 31+ million Canadians on their backs.

I also prefer to acknowledge that when it comes to hockey, the rest of the world has caught on. A poster on Tom Benjamin's blog says:

I'm disappointed by Canada's loss but the days where Canada was going to win every game and tournament in hockey are long over. 5 different countries won medals between the 1998 and 2002 olympics and the only major country that didn't medal in that time won gold in 1994.

Despite the loss I'm not any less optimistic about 2010.
We shouldn't be either.

*****

As I mentioned above, Matty Ohlund and Sami Salo apparently suffered some injuries during their respective quarterfinal games. Nolan Baumgartner on the top defensive pairing? It certainly is possible. When the Canucks play Calgary on Tuesday, their defense can potentially consist of Bryan Allen, Nolan Baumgartner, Steve McCarthy, Kevin Bieksa, Tomas Mozjis and (insert another Moose player here).

Maybe James Demone will really make the cut now.


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Bring It

This one is from sacamano from The Battle of Alberta:
Wow. So this is what it comes down to: Canada vs. Russia, and only the winner has a chance at a medal.

No point in waiting 700 words to get this out of the way: I really like Canada's chances.
So do I. Let's. Do. This. The rest of sacamano's post is here.

Matt, also from The BOA, provides this picture:


GO CANADA GO!

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Different Rules of Engagement

In Olympic hockey, if the games are tied after regulation time, the rules of overtime and the shootout are different than in the NHL. Here are the differences courtesy of Kukla's Corner:

In case of a tie at the conclusion of regulation time in a QuarterFinal, Semi-final and Bronze Medal Game, there will be a 10-minute sudden-death overtime period played, following a three-minute intermission. The teams will defend the same goals as in the third period. The team, which scores a goal during this period is the winner.

In the Gold Medal game there will be a 20-minute sudden-death overtime period, following a 15-minute intermission during which the ice will be resurfaced. The teams will change ends. The team which scores a goal during this period is declared winner.

All sudden death overtime periods are played with four skaters on four. Women play five-on-five.

If no goal is scored during the sudden-death overtime, there will be Game Winning Shot (GWS) competition (shootout). Each team must select five shooters to compete in the GWS competition. If the score is still tied after the teams have had five attempts each, the teams continue to shoot in pairings until the shooter of one team misses and the shooter of the other team scores.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Canada 3 Czech 2

It wasn't pretty and they still got outplayed, but Team Canada at least finished the round robin on a positive note. Despite being outshot 33-16, they beat the Czech 3-2 and finished third in their pool.

Canadians from coast to coast to coast are breathing easier. A bit.

Team Canada plays Russia in the quarterfinals tomorrow. Puck drops at 11:30 am.

Dan Craig won't plant the lucky loonie. I hope this helps:


But you know what would really help? Leaving Bryan McCabe on the bench. Or the press box.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Golden Girls


Congratulations to the Canadian Women's hockey team for beating Sweden and successfully defending their gold medal. It looks like the dreaded flag-bearer jinx was a non-factor after all.

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To Win Or Not To Win

Please tell me I didn't just read this clip:


My first thought was that this was just more crap from the same network that hired Eklund as a *ahem* columnist, but the full article is, in fact, here. The site even has a poll on whether or not they should do it.

Tsk, tsk.

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Canada 0 Finland 2

I haven't seen the game yet. Due to family commitments, I had to tape it. However, I see that Team Canada has been shut out 2-0 by Team Finland. Should I even bother watching it?

How does Team Canada get shut out two games in a row? How can a team whose roster has combined for 3,029 goals and 7,934 points in the NHL - and that's just in the regular season - not able to put a single puck in the net?

Good thing the loss was of little consequence to Canada. They have already qualified for the quarterfinals and they already know they will play one of Slovakia, Russia or Sweden. But now, they have one game left - against the Czech - to get it together and enter the single knockout games with a bit momentum.

TSN and NBC have full game recaps; the game stats are here.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Oh No, Jarkko

Finland beat the Czech Republic 4-2 in other action today to improve to 3-0 in the tournament, but the bigger news was Jarkko Ruutu's hit on Jaromir Jagr (video opens in new window):

Given Ruutu's reputation around the league, I'm not surprised by the immediate reaction to the hit. The game summary on the Rangers official website says:

Jagr was boarded by Finnish forward Jarkko Ruutu, who also plays for the NHL's Vancouver Canucks, at 12:03 of the second period. In a hit that appeared designed to injure, Ruutu crushed Jagr head-first into the boards as the Czech star was playing the puck.
Eric McErlain isn't suprised as well:

I missed the hit Jarko Ruutu laid on Jaromir Jagr, and it was classless -- not a surprise with Ruutu. In between periods, Joe Micheletti talked to Martin Rucinsky, and he wasn't pleased: "We all know Ruutu and that's the way he plays. And you know... hopefully we'll get some payback."
I'm glad Rucinsky didn't use the word 'bounty'.

I hate seeing incidents like this and I'm certainly disappointed, but to be honest, the hit didn't seem too dirty. That is, I don't think Ruutu hit Jagr with the deliberate intent to injure him. If you watched the Canada-Switzerland game, the hit was almost similar to those dished out by Seger (SUI) in the first period and Lecavalier (CAN) in the third. In those cases, both hit players who were in vulnerable positions; Ruutu's hit was the same, except in his case, Jagr was also injured and bleeding.

For what it's worth, Jagr was apparently not wearing a regulation-type helmet:

Jagr appeared to be wearing a thin, old-style helmet that he wore earlier in his NHL career -- a style the league no longer permits because of the amount of protection provided.

Being a Canucks fan, I've of course seen Ruutu play a lot and he's not a dirty player. He talks trash, he gets in opposing players' faces, he gives them an extra tug, maybe an extra shove, but he is also an intelligent player that knows where to draw the line. (Brian Burke always called him one of the most intuitive players he's ever had.) That's how he manages to draw penalties and that's what makes him one of the biggest - and best - pests in the league.

Unfortunately, in this particular case, Ruutu made a bad decision - he probably should have identified Jagr's vulnerable position - and he was rightly penalized. Hopefully Jagr's injury isn't a serious one.

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Canada 0 Switzerland 2

I was ready with all those "more holes than Swiss cheese" goalie jokes going into Team Canada's game today against Switzerland. The joke's on me. Canada was shut out 2-0 by a hot Martin Gerber.

It's not exactly funny ha-ha.

The Swiss have arrived in a big way in this Olympic tournament. Only a couple of days ago, they beat another gold medal favorite - the Czech - in what the Swiss were calling their biggest win in their hockey history. Today's win raises their bar even further.

Team Canada was uncharacteristically undisciplined. They took way too many penalties, many of the interference kind. The Canadians were able to kill all but one of the ensuing powerplays, but even one goal would have been enough today.

Team Canada threw 49 shots on Martin Gerber. They outshot the Swiss 24-1 in the third period alone - the Swiss had 18 shots all game - but Gerber was game.

If there was any positive to be taken from the game, it's that Team Canada wasn't necessarily outworked by the Swiss. For the most part, they played their game and had chance after chance after chance. They were simply beat by a hot goalie.

It could also serve as a big wake-up call for Team Canada, whose first two games of the tournament were against low seeds, Italy and Germany. Remember that the Canadians lost 5-2 to Sweden in the 2002 Olympics and played better from there.

TSN and NBC have full game recaps; and the game stats are here.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Canada 5 Germany 1

I taped CBC's feed of the game yesterday knowing that I would not be able to watch the third period live. Imagine my horror when I played the tape when I got home to see not Iggy and Bert and Rick Nash pushing the Germans around, but Emmanuel Sandhu falling on his ass in yet another international competition. Apparently, CBC had cut to the men's free skate finals instead of showing most of the third period of the game. So I missed the third period of Canada's 5-1 win over Germany, but got to see Jeremy Buttle win the bronze medal in men's figure skating.

From the parts of the game I saw... it's amazing to watch Team Canada and see how disciplined they are on the ice. Their work ethic is incredible, their shifts are automatic. Everyone is pulling their own weight and allowing others to do the same.

Todd Bertuzzi had another good game. If he had Moore's lawsuit in the back of his mind, he certainly didn't show it. One shift that stood out was when Canada had a 5-on-3 man-advantage. Canada maintained possession of the puck the entire time and Bertuzzi was in front of the net during the same span. With the Canucks this season, Bert's spent more time in the half-boards playing passer than in front of the net where he can cause havoc for the defense and goaltender.

His play has actually drawn praise from the Canadian media. Kelly Hrudey (CBC) and Pierre LeBrun (The Score) both had good things to say about him, his play and his attitude. Bert had another assist yesterday to bump his tournament total to three in two games.

Luongo looked shaky and nervous, didn't he? He misplayed the puck a couple of times and just didn't look in sync with the defense. I don't imagine anyone but Brodeur will start the rest of Canada's games.

TSN and NBC have full game recaps.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Don't Feed The Bears

I've always wondered about the meaning behind those crazy bear sculptures found in various locations in the city. During yesterday's Speech from the Throne, I got my answer. The Kermode Bear - or Spirit Bear - is now British Columbia's official animal:

The Spirit Bear is a magnificent symbol for British Columbia.

It speaks to the majesty, uniqueness, and mystery of our province. It is a powerful presence and a thing of wonder that lives in a magical land of beauty, grace, and unbridled potential.

The B.C. Spirit Bear symbolizes the essence of the spirit of British Columbia. It evokes our unique Aboriginal heritage and First Nations’ special relationship with this land and all who live upon it.

The B.C. Spirit Bear is such a compelling symbol and such an inspiration, that your government will act to make it our official provincial animal.
Some history on the Spirit Bear:

Found only in British Columbia's northern forests, the rare "Spirit Bear" or "Kermode Bear" is widely recognized for its unique white colouring. A First Nation legend states that the Raven, their creator, made these bears white as a reminder of the time when the world was pure and clean and covered with snowdrifts and ice blue glaciers. Raven promised that these bears would live in peace and harmony forever.
Not only that, but they're damn cute too.


Maybe I'm reading too much into the symbolism of this, but that mask looks an awful lot like Alex Auld's, doesn't it?

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Canada 7 Italy 2

These early mornings are gonna kill me. For the next eight hours, Timmy will not leave my side.

Team Canada won their first game of the Olympic tournament 7-2 against Italy. Jarome Iginla scored two of Team Canada's goals; Dany Heatley, Shane Doan, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Joe Thornton scored the others.

The result wasn't unexpected, but Italy's showing perhaps was a little bit. Italy competed hard for 60 minutes and was full value even with the loss. They actually tied the game early in the second period before Canada went on a scoring spree.


Todd Bertuzzi was a force. He played a physical game and showed some good hands (he had 2 assists). He played with Iggy and Burnaby Joe on the powerplay and had some really good chemistry with them. If he played like that every night, even the most fickle of Canucks fans wouldn't be screaming to trade him.

Overall, it wasn't a bad game for Team Canada. They looked a bit tired at first, but got better as the game wore on. They'll need to be better against Germany, who if I remember correctly, trap more than the Minnesota Wild. I'll have the coffee brewing early for that one as well.

[Update 02/15/06, 7:45 am]: Added picture (taken during AB road trip).

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Reporting vs. Sensationalism

Tony Burman (CBC) has a nice article regarding the media's coverage of Wayne Gretzky's alleged involvement in the gambling scandal:
The original news seemed narrow enough. Early last week, New Jersey authorities announced that charges had been laid against Wayne Gretzky's assistant coach, Rick Tocchet, and two New Jersey men, including a state police officer. They were accused of running a nationwide sports gambling operation.

There was no suggestion that Gretzky himself had any involvement, but investigators said his wife had placed bets with this group - something U.S. authorities pointed out wasn't necessarily illegal.

Still, for the North American media, particularly in Canada, this was The Perfect Storm. "Scandal," hockey and The Great One. There are moments like these when the sport's near-spiritual status in Canada reveals itself.

By the weekend, there was media speculation on a variety of topics - ranging from whether Gretzky was "distancing" himself from his wife to what the impact on Canada's gold medal chances would be if he went to the Olympics in Turin.

But significantly, the original media report that propelled this story into the stratosphere, the one that was attributed to "unnamed sources," seems to have been wrong.

Last Thursday, U.S. media reports cited unnamed "sources familiar with the investigation" as saying that Gretzky had been recorded on a wiretap talking to Rick Tocchet about how his wife could avoid being implicated. The suggestion was that this wiretap was several weeks ago, before the charges were made public. This would have contradicted Gretzky's assertion that he had no prior knowledge of the illegal gambling ring.

But since then, "sources" in New Jersey have told the Associated Press that the wiretapped conversation was actually last Monday, after Gretzky had been informed by authorities of the charges. This would corroborate Gretzky's statements.
When this story first "broke" last week, I mentioned how I would reserve judgement until facts were gathered, and not mere allegations and speculations. True enough, more information regarding the scandal are now surfacing and it's beginning to look like some of the "news" that was reported was false.
In this environment, a single media report — in this case, one from a New Jersey newspaper few of us had ever heard of, citing an "unnamed source" — can assume a life of its own. That's what happened last Thursday.

At the CBC, we were unsure how to evaluate it. We felt we had to report it since it was certainly "out there," but we qualified the claim and stressed that it had not been confirmed. By the end of the day, we pulled back even further and included it as part of the many "rumours and innuendo" that this story was generating.

Other news organizations, even the next day, were not as restrained, and this probably helped contribute to the suspicions that were being linked to Gretzky at the end of the week. But it's a tribute to Gretzky, and to his reputation, that his strong denials of wrongdoing now seem to be widely accepted — in spite of media confusion.
This may be of little consolation to Gretzky, who has had to endure, and continues to endure, intense media scrutiny. At a Team Canada news conference held prior to the team boarding the plane for Torino, most of the questions he faced were scandal-related, not hockey-related.

I can think of only one reason why the media continues to seek Gretzky out in this matter - a scandal with Gretzky's name attached to it is certainly juicier than one with only Rick Tocchet's and a corrupt state trooper's. If the media wanted to cover the scandal story, fine. But they should really report on those actually involved, don't you think?

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Canucks 3 Wild 2 (OT)

The Vancouver Canucks broke a two-game home ice losing streak, beating the Minnesota Wild 3-2 in overtime. The win moved them back to second place in the Northwest Division and fifth place in the Western Conference. Daniel Sedin, with his 16th goal of the season, scored the game-winner in overtime.

Game Recaps: canucks.com . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
My notes from the game:

  • For about 57 minutes, the Canucks put together one of their better defensive efforts this season. They didn't give Minnesota a lot of room or a lot of chances (granted, the Wild converted on two of them). The Canucks only allowed 16 Minnesota shots on goal - at one point, the Canucks were outshooting the Wild 11-1 - as they were a lot better at getting the puck out of the zone. The 16 shots against was their second lowest of the season after the 13 shots they allowed to the same Minnesota Wild back in October.
  • Except maybe for the Wild's second goal, the defensemen weren't scrambling as much as they have in recent games. Steve McCarthy looks like he's playing with a lot more confidence than in the first half of the season. Mattias Ohlund and Bryan Allen were solid as usual. Overall, the defense also chipped in with 10 shots on goal.
  • The big line rarely played together last night. Naslund spent most of the night with Burrows and Ruutu; Bertuzzi rotated with Kesler, Morrison and Cooke. Again, I liked the results. Both lines were very much involved in the game.
  • Bertuzzi looks like he's squeezing the stick a bit when he's out there, don't you think?
  • Cooke and Kesler were probably the best of the forwards. Both threw their weights around and created havoc around the Minnesota net. Kesler is developing into a nice power forward type of player. Good speed, good hands and a good willingness to drop the gloves.
  • The only disappointing thing last night occured when Gaborik went down late in the third period and the mini-minor hockey kids started chanting "Suck it up, princess". And their chaperones laughed, seemingly indicating that this was okay. Cheering an injury is never okay. And the penalty was a legitimate call. Not even Ruutu argued it.
Next up: Two weeks off and then the Flames on February 28th. Go Team Canada!

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Head Out On A High

Going into tonight's game, the Vancouer Canucks are 8-11-4 against the Northwest Division. The only Northwest Division team with a worse record? Tonight's opponent, the Minnesota Wild, who have a 7-12-0 record against the division.

The Canucks' 8-11-1 record includes losing records against the Calgary Flames (2-3-1), the Edmonton Oilers (0-3-2) and a .500 record against the Colorado Avalanche (3-3-1). The only Northwest Division team the Canucks have a winning record against? Tonight's opponent, the Minnesota Wild - they have a 3-2-0 record against the Wild.

The stats are already aligned in the Canucks' favor tonight. Maybe, after embarrasing, back-to-back losses on home ice, the team has enough of a sense of pride to also put together a better effort and head to the Olympic break on a positive note.

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Kaberle Cashes In

Help me out. I'm trying to understand the madness behind some NHL GM's madness. Earlier this week, the San Jose Sharks re-signed Evgeni Nabokov to a long-term contract worth more than the New Jersey Devils did Martin Brodeur. Yesterday, the Toronto Maple Leafs re-signed defensemen Tomas Kaberle to a new contract worth $21.25 million over five years.

Maybe all the losing this season has made JFJ insane. $4.25 million per year for five years seems like a severe overpayment for Kaberle. Remember that the Leafs, in order to get under the salary cap, had to let go of Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk - two of its heart and soul guys - and prayed to the heavens Owen Nolan's monstrous contract wouldn't count under it. And in case you're wondering, Kaberle's contract includes a no-trade clause, guaranteed for the first three years of the deal. With Bryan McCabe slated to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, where would the Leafs cut in order to re-sign him? How does Ed Belfour, Mats Sundin or Darcy Tucker sound?

Kaberle's offensive numbers are good; unfortunately, the rest of his game aren't. Of his 45 points, 33 came on the powerplay; he also has a plus-minus rating of -2. But probably more indicative of his value is that when Bryan McCabe missed nine games in January, Kaberle recorded a very average six points (1G-5A) and a horrendous -7 rating. The Leafs were 1-7-1 in the same span.

A $2 million per year raise for this? Somewhere out there, while packing his bags for Torino, Bryan McCabe is smiling.

From Damien Cox (Toronto Star):
Kaberle's a nice player, clever offensively with an average shot, and often less than average in his own end. The Leafs have never won anything with him on their blue line, but then again, you could say that about dozens of players.

That the decision to overpay a one-dimensional defenceman more than Dan Boyle, Robyn Regehr or Sergei Zubov was announced on the same evening the Maple Leafs were going down to yet another defeat in a season gone seriously sour, however, was a linkage too symbolic to ignore.

That it is the only significant transaction the team has made all year while gradually tumbling out of a playoff spot by the Olympic break tells you an awful lot about the manner in which the team appears utterly adrift.
Now I'm smiling.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Canucks 1 Ducks 3

The Vancouver Canucks' four-game homestand started promising enough. But after a very good 7-4 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, one where the top two lines played as good as they have all season, the Canucks have now lost the last two. Both to non-playoff teams. Tonight, they lost 3-1 to Brian Burke's Anaheim (still) Mighty Ducks, and combined with Colorado's win against Columbus, the Canucks have dropped to 3rd place in the tight Northwest Division.

Game Recaps: canucks.com . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
My notes from the game:

  • The score sheet says the Ducks only outshot the Canucks by two (30-28), but this is misleading. Many of the Canucks shots were "easily-stoppable". More than a few were from long-range. They barely tested Ducks goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
  • I lost count of how many times the Canucks tried that long-bomb pass from blue line to blue line. You would think that after the play didn't work the first, I don't know, 50 times, they would figure it out. The Ducks kept reading the play and kept forcing the Canucks back into their own zone.
  • Alex Auld had a horrible game, lasting only 17:19 minutes before he was pulled. He let in three goals in 13 shots. I'm sure he's looking forward to the two-week Olympic break.
  • Maxime Ouellet actually played a decent game after relieving Auldy. He stopped all 17 Ducks shots in just over two periods and kept the game within reach.
  • I thought Markus Naslund played a strong game. Besides an undisciplined, retaliatory penalty late in the second period, he was skating and hustling on the ice. He scored the lone Canucks goal - his 26th of the season - and put seven shots on Bryzgalov. I'll have more on Markus later this weekend.
  • I can't say the same for Todd Bertuzzi. He was a non-factor for pretty much the entire game.
  • Trevor Linden didn't play much, but he stood out when he was on the ice, especially on the penalty kill.
  • If Dave Nonis is willing to play trade-sies with Brian Burke, I wonder what it would cost to get defenseman Keith Carney. The guy is solid.
Next up: Minnesota on Sunday.

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Much Ado About What Really?

In light of the gambling allegations that rocked the NHL this week, I think it's important we keep in mind something that Shane Doan said last night:
"There are so many speculations and allegations," said Doan, who will play for Team Canada in Turin. "Nothing has come out that's concrete. There has been nothing proven against anybody."

"People are trying to stretch and stretch. Every time you hear something said, it's speculation and allegation. That's what is disappointing."
Maybe I'm in denial or maybe I'm just sick and tired of hearing and reading about it, but I'll agree with Doan for now. With regards to Wagergate, I'll reserve judgement until I hear the facts.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Hair Follies


Can this season get any worse for Jose Theodore? First, his play has been criticized by everyone who follows hockey except for my fiancee. Now, it comes out he's not as pretty as he looks:

Montreal Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore has tested positive for a banned substance believed to be finasteride, sources told The Canadian Press on Thursday.

(snip)

A source said the substance is believed to be finasteride, a masking agent for steroids that is also commonly found in hair-restoration drugs and has led to a spate of recent doping cases. He said Theodore was likely to receive a therapeutic-use exemption because he has been using a hair-growth product prescribed by a doctor for years.
Here's a question for conspiracy theorists out there - what does Theodore need hair-restoration drugs for?

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The Mighty Northwest

Sacamano from The Battle of Alberta points out the possibility that all five Northwest Division teams will make the playoffs. A quick look at the standings confirm that - the only NW team not in the top eight right now, the Minnesota Wild, is currently in 10th place but only five points back of the Kings for the 8th and final spot.

Maybe Tom Benjamin is right. Maybe the Northwest Division is the best division in hockey.

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Canucks 2 Blues 4

Short recap today as the Vancouver Canucks lost 4-2 to the St. Louis Blues last night. What is it about the Blues that the Canucks can't beat them this season? The loss was only the Canucks' fourth at home this season.

Game Recaps: canucks.com . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
My notes:

  • That game was probably one of the sloppiest I've seen all season.
  • The Canucks' defense was atrocious last night. Yes, they limited the Blues to 24 shots - only the second time they've kept an opponent to under 30 shots in the last eight games - but many of them were on Alex Auld's door step. The defense seemed to scramble and be out of position a lot. Though I suppose we can't expect too much when half of the defense are normally full-time players from the Manitoba Moose.
  • No less than nine of the 20 players that suited for the Canucks last night played full-time for the Moose this season or last. The average age of the nine players - 24.4 years.
  • For what it's worth, eleven of the Canucks dressed last night are still under 25 years old. That surprised me because the Canucks are supposed to be a veteran team, right?
  • Morrison, Naslund and Bertuzzi actually had decent games last night. On more than a few shifts, they created some excellent scoring chances. They scored the Canucks' second goal and combined for 12 shots on goal.
  • The Sedins weren't nearly as dominant as they have been for most of the season. They missed Anson Carter and it showed. They weren't awful, but they need to play with someone who can finish.
Next up: Anaheim on Friday.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Anson Down


Us Canucks fans are already familiar with the revolving door of right-wingers the Sedins have had over the years - Trent Klatt, Trevor Linden, Matt Cooke, Jason King, Todd Bertuzzi, among others - and it's a definite compliment to Anson Carter that he has quickly developed a chemistry with them. As a result, of course, the twins are enjoying career seasons. And so is Anson Carter.

With 26 games left in the regular season, Anson needs just 22 points to equal his career-high of 60 back in 2001-2002 (with the Oilers).

Now, there's a report this morning that Anson hurt his foot against the Blue Jackets on Monday night. If he can't play against the Blues tonight, it will be the first time this season we'll see the Sedins play without the best linemate they've ever played with (and no, that's not a shot at Geoff Sanderson). And while we're already used to seeing them play with others, it will be interesting to see if they can continue to produce as well as they have without him.

Postscript: I know I don't do a lot of game-day preview type of posts - it's a time thing - but thinking about how I can improve this blog, I'd like to try and do them more regularly. Even if just to focus on one thing to watch for each game night. I'll see how it goes.

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