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CANUCKS HOCKEY BLOG

Friday, March 31, 2006

Till Next Year

These Canucks/Wild games are so exciting that the season series finale had to go into extra time. And a shootout.

The Canucks lost, but at least they gained a point. I'm completely thrilled about not having to watch the Wild again until next season.

Check back in the morning for a full game recap.

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posted by J.J. Guerrero, 10:12 PM | permalink/comments (0) | AddThis Social Bookmark Button | Share on Facebook | Hype It Up! |

Mama Said Knock You Out


As if the Vancouver Canucks needed more motivation for tonight's game against the Minnesota Wild, listen to what Wild forward Nick Schultz had to say:

"It would be nice, definitely, to be a factor in them not getting to the playoffs," Schultz said. "You play them enough, you get sick of them. It would be nice to finish off the season, they come down and they're two points out, and you beat them. At least you've got something like that to look back at."
With only nine games remaining on the Wild's schedule, any combination of five points gained by the Canucks or the Edmonton Oilers, and lost by the Wild will officially eliminate Minnesota from the playoff race - a Canucks win tonight can drop that magic number all the way down to one point.

Now here's Minnesota captain Wes Walz:

"We want to knock these guys out of the playoffs,'' Wild forward Wes Walz said. "We have a good rivalry with this team and we're not going to fold up our tents and pack it up. We're going to play hard all the way through.''
I say let's knock them out first.

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Daily Prayer to the Hockey Gods

Dear Messrs. Hockey Gods,

First of all, thank you again for listening. A reader pointed out that asking for the Edmonton win might have been the wrong thing to ask for. In looking at today's standings, I think he may be right - oops! - but it's good to know you're still on my side, big guy(s).

For tonight, I hope you can give us another Canucks win (of course) and a Stars win. The Flames and the Avs are playing each other tonight; honestly, I don't care who wins that game as long as they win in regulation time.

Thanks a bunch!

J.J.
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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Daily Prayer to the Hockey Gods

Dear Messrs. Hockey Gods,

Oh wow! Ask and ye shall receive, eh? A reader has asked that I continue to do this until the end of the regular season, so it looks like we'll be chatting some more over for the next little while.

Now, you and I both know that Sean Avery is an idiot, and while it's not like me to ask for him to slip in his hotel room and break an ankle or something like that, I'd like to at least ask for an Edmonton win tonight and push Sean's team further out of the playoffs. I mean, we don't really want his antics in the postseason anyway, right?

And for good measure, can we also get a Phoenix win over San Jose?

Merci buckets,

J.J.
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Canucks 2 Wild 1

The game was a bit boring, but the ending sure made up for it. Anson Carter scored the game-winning goal with only 6.1 seconds left to lead the Vancouver Canucks to a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild. The win moved the Canucks four points clear of the playoff cut-off line and only two points behind the Calgary Flames and the Colorado Avalanche for the Northwest Division lead.

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

  • Anson Carter's goal was his 30th goal of the season and the first time in his career he reached that mark. The game-winner - his 7th of the season - is also a career-high.
  • Daniel Sedin also set a career-high with his 21st goal of the season.
  • Brendan Morrison, Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi didn't figure in the scoring, but it wasn't for a lack of chances. Todd and Markus, especially, buzzed around the Minnesota net frequently, and all three combined for 13 of the Canucks' 31 shots on goal. Todd was running over guys all over the ice as well. Welcome back, Todd version 2002.
  • Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows continued their energetic play and created their own share of scoring chances. Both spent a good part of the game with Bertuzzi on their wing.
  • I liked how the Canucks rolled their defense. Keith Carney again led the back end with 25:04 minutes of ice-time; Mattias Ohlund logged 23:56 minutes; the rest of the group logged between 16 and 19 minutes.
  • Except for giving up the lone Minnesota goal, I thought Alex Auld played a solid game. He allowed one less goal than Fernandez, which I suppose is really all that matters - but I was still surprised that he was named one of the three stars. He really needs to stop giving up the odd garbage goal.
  • I thought Keith Carney was well-deserving of a star last night. He was good defensively and was efficient in moving the puck up the ice. He also looked to be communicating with his defensive partners a lot - I like how he has added that to the defense.
  • Coincidentally, the Canucks only gave up a couple of powerplay opportunities last night and didn't allow the Wild to score on either one. Since adding Carney and Weinrich to the penalty-killing units, the Canucks have only allowed eight powerplay goals in 53 chances (85% PK rate). Prior to that, the Canucks were only killing penalties at an 82% clip.
Next up: Minnesota (last time this season) on Friday.

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Comments/Questions: Feel free to post in the comments section or email me at gocanucksgo10 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Daily Prayer to the Hockey Gods

Dear Messrs. Hockey Gods,

Thank you for taking away Edmonton's one game advantage over us. I know you're going to think I'm crazy, but besides a Canucks win and a Dallas Stars win tonight, can you also arrange for a Calgary Flames win? (You wouldn't happen to know if hell has frozen over, would you?)

J.J.
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Sorry Dear, I've Got A Headache


The Vancouver Canucks' next "biggest games of the season" start tonight as they face the Minnesota Wild in the first of two consecutive games against the Wild at GM Place. The Canucks are 22-9-4 at home; the Wild are 13-17-5 on the road.

Minnesota did the Canucks a favor last night, winning 3-2 in Edmonton, and taking away the Oilers' game-in-hand advantage. The good people at Vancouver Canucks Op Ed have just one more tiny favor to ask.

***

Matt Cooke, who was hit hard by Dustin Brown on Monday, will be evaluated today and won't play tonight:
“He’s [Cooke] at home today with a headache and that’s basically it for right now,” Crawford said. “I think their will be more of an assessment done of him tomorrow. He’s going to do the psyche test I believe tomorrow than we’ll have a better update of where he is.”
Headache, concussion; po-tay-toes, po-tah-toes. The way the Canucks discuss their injuries, I'm surprised they didn't just say that Cookie had an "upper-body injury".

Anyway, the more I watch the video of the hit, the more it annoys me that the league basically chose to ignore it. It doesn't matter if it's a dirty hit or not. See Brown jump, see Brown hit Cooke's head with his elbow. That's the type of stuff the league needs to eliminate. Not just the petty hooks like the referee called seconds after the non-call on the head shot.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Daily Prayer to the Hockey Gods

Dear Messrs. Hockey Gods,

Please give us a Blue Jackets win, a Ducks win, a Wild win, and please, please, please no more three-point games. Amen.

Thank you in advance,

J.J.

[update: 03/28/06, 9:04 pm]

Dear Messrs. Hockey Gods,

I suppose two out of three ain't bad.

Thank you. :)
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Canucks 7 Kings 4

Thanks in part to Alexandre Burrows' hat-trick - well, his two goals plus a fluky bounce credited to him - the Vancouver Canucks beat the Los Angeles Kings 7-4 last night and moved back to eighth place in the Western Conference with 84 points.

With only nine games left on their schedule, the Canucks are only two points up on the the ninth place San Jose Sharks but are also only two points back of the Calgary Flames for first place in the Northwest Division. Nutty.

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

  • Todd Bertuzzi was such a monster last night, manhandling opponents and creating scoring chances, that it really makes me wonder where the heck that sort of play was for the first 70 games of the season. Todd has shown glimpses of that at different points of the season, but not more so -and more consistently - than in the last four games. Since that very forgettable game against Detroit, Todd has seven points (1G-6A) and a combined plus-7 rating.
  • When Todd plays the way as he has, opposing defenses focus on him, which then creates a lot of open ice for his linemates. Ryan Kesler, especially, has been a big benefactor of Todd's play. He has six points (2G-4A) and 12 shots during his current five-game point streak.
  • I actually thought that Alex Auld was only okay last night. He made some good saves, but a few of them were a result of not being able to control his own rebounds. Still, 34 saves on 38 shots was good enough to help the Canucks win the game.
  • Mattias Ohlund played one of his better games in a while. Not only was he solid on his own end, but he also filled out the score sheet nicely with three assists, three shots, two hits, three blocked shots and a plus-3 rating. He also logged 26:52 minutes of ice-time, just two seconds below Keith Carney's game-high of 26:54 minutes.
  • My seats are in the upper bowl so I didn't hear what some of the kiddies in the Canucks message forum are saying. Apparently, while Cookie was being helped off the ice, someone yelled out, "How's your f*cking nose, Cookie?" and was picked up on the Sportsnet feed. If someone can confirm that, that would be great. And if it is true, then curses back to whoever yelled it out.
  • I can't do a Kings game recap without mentioning my favorite player in the world, Sean Avery. (Please note the sarcasm.) Tough guy as he is, I found it amusing that the one guy he tried to goad into something during the game was... Henrik Sedin.
Next up: Minnesota on Tuesday.

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Technical Difficulties

For some reason, Blogger keeps crapping out every couple of minutes. I have to leave for work so I'll post my full game recap later today. In the meantime, let me share you this photo - I've been waiting for an opportunity to post it.


Atta boy, Alex.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Pot. Kettle. Black.

After Andy Murray was fired as the Los Angeles Kings' coach, Sean Avery fired some parting shots through the media:

"Why did you guys get brainwashed by that guy?" Avery said on Saturday. "Do some work on your own now. Come up with some original [stuff] instead of letting him script everything for you.
Avery, of course, knows all about being brainwashed. He claimed as much during the NHL lockout:

"We were brainwashed," he tells the Los Angeles Times about the decision to follow the union's advice during contract talks with the owners.

"We burned a year for nothing. We didn't win anything. We didn't prove anything. We didn't get anything. We wasted an entire season."

Avery places the blame for the situation squarely on the shoulders of union boss Bob Goodenow, who he says "embarassed" a lot of players.

"I am furious at Bob (Goodenow)," Avery tells the newspaper. "Bob thought he was bigger than he was. Bob brainwashed players like me."
Pot. Kettle. Black.

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Crown 'Dem Kings


The NHL scoreboard didn't do the Vancouver Canucks any favors last night - the Edmonton Oilers won; the Colorado Avalanche still got a point; the San Jose Sharks won in OT. Okay, the Calgary Flames lost so I guess that's something.

But going into tonight's game against the Los Angeles Kings, the Canucks are in ninth place, only one point up on the tenth place Kings. The Kings hold a game in hand.

The good news is, thanks to winning two of three games from the Oilers last week, the Canucks still control their own playoff destiny. They are also still within four points of the Northwest Division-leading Flames.

They're certainly optimistic:

"It's not doom and gloom in the locker-room," insisted Canuck winger Anson Carter after Saturday's 3-2 setback. "We're not devastated. We still control our destiny.

"We still play L.A. a couple of times, we still play Anaheim a couple of times, we still play San Jose a couple of times. We have another game with Calgary. So we're meeting teams in the hunt."
The Kings are in the same position:

"We have to win at least two of three, and the two we have to win are Vancouver and Edmonton," assistant captain Craig Conroy said. "Those are four-point games. This trip we'll let us know where we stand."
Marc Crawford knows his team needs to get even better:

"We didn't get it done," he said. "We had a decent effort. Our guys played hard. It was very close and it went their way.

"We're heading in the right direction and we have to keep our determination and our work ethic at this level. Hopefully, on top of that, we'll improve our execution."
Hopefully, we'll crown 'dem Kings tonight.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Canucks 2 Oilers 3

So much for that best-case scenario I was hoping for. The Vancouver Canucks dropped a 3-2 decision to the Edmonton Oilers last night, and dropped to eighth place in the Western Conference standings. With the Los Angeles Kings' come-from-behind win against the Nashville Predators, the Canucks are only only one point up on the ninth-place Kings.

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

  • Despite the loss, I thought that was one of the more entertaining games of the season. The game was rarely played in the neutral zone and there were lots of skating, lots of hits and lots of scoring chances. Both teams played aggresive games until the Oilers started to trap and defend their lead in the final half of the third period.
  • Both goalies were great on this night. Alex Auld and Dwayne Roloson made some excellent saves to keep the game close for their respective teams. Auld finished with 26 saves on 29 Edmonton shots; Roloson stopped 23 of 25 Vancouver shots.
  • One of the positives from this three-game series against the Oilers is how Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi seemed to be reinvigorated. For the third consecutive game, both were among the Canucks best players - Markus challenged the Oilers defense and had six shots on goal; Todd finished his checks and went aggresively to the net. Both recorded two assists and plus-2 ratings for the night.
  • Ryan Kesler had another good game. He started the night on Naslund and Bertuzzi's line, recorded three shots on goal, threw a couple of hits and scored the Canucks first goal. Over the three-game series, Kesler had a total of four points (2G-2A) and a plus-3 rating.
  • I liked how the defense joined the rush and jumped in on the play all night - basically how they played before the injuries to Jovanovski and Salo. This led to a few odd man rushes in the first period - I think the Oilers had a couple of 2-on-1's and at least a couple more 3 or 4-on-2's - but they adjusted after that and picked their spots more.
  • The defense, however, had a hard time moving the puck up the ice when the Oilers started to trap. It really showed how much they miss Jovo and Salo. Will the Canucks sit Bieksa and play Baumgartner against the Kings?
  • I thought Sean Brown played his best game as a Canuck. He logged 17:16 minutes of ice-time but was barely noticeable - a good thing for a defenseman.
Next up: Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

More Bertuzzi Mail

Fortunately, this one doesn't involve suspicious white powder and the story has a happy ending. Greg Douglas (Vancouver Sun) shares it with us:

T.C. Carling, the Canucks director of media relations hadn't heard about it, nor had Debbie Butt, director of community partnerships. But then, it didn't surprise either of them that Todd Bertuzzi would keep this story to himself.

MOJO Radio's Shane Foxman asked his audience earlier this week to relate run-ins - good or bad - that they might have had with with local athletes away from the playing field or hockey arena. Foxman's producer, Stu Walters, put a call through to Foxman from a guy who said his friend - a postman - happened to be in a mall parking lot where a young lady was having trouble starting her car. The postie couldn't figure out the mechanical problem and offered to phone for a tow truck.

Without identifying herself, Julie Bertuzzi said she'd already called her husband and within minutes, he showed up. Todd thanked the postman for being so kind to his wife and asked what he could do in return. The postman said he had a little boy who would love to have Bertuzzi's autograph.

Bertuzzi took down the guy's working address and said he'd be in touch. The next day a rather large package arrived with an autographed number 44 jersey, a signed hockey stick and two tickets to a Canucks game. There wasn't any chance that a 'Return to Sender' sticker would surface on this occasion.
Who said good deeds go unnoticed?

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Game 3 Preview


Though the Vancouver Canucks have won the first two games of this three-game set against the Oilers, they need to be wary. The Oilers controlled the latter half of Thursday's game, especially the overtime period, and will be coming into tonight's game trying to get themselves back into the playoff picture.

Markus Naslund recognizes this:

"They're a desperate team and we know that."
So does Matt Cooke:

"We had to start somewhere. But we went into Edmonton fairly confident we could win. We just had to play the way that would make us successful. We hadn't really been doing it up until that point. That was the biggest change for our team. Now they're going to come out and give it everything they've got. They've got nothing to lose."
The Oilers don't but the Canucks do. If they lose tonight in regulation time, the Oilers will tie them in the Western Conference standings with 82 points, and with the Oilers still holding a game in hand, the Canucks will be back in the same precarious playoff situation they started the week with.

In a best-case scenario however, if the Canucks win tonight and the Los Angeles Kings lose to the Nashville Predators, the Canucks can build as much as a five-point cushion over the ninth-place Kings, their opponents on Monday night.

The second scenario sounds a lot better.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

The Road Trip Clip


A big thank you to Cory for sending this video clip of the CBC's piece on our Canucks road trip. Ditto to Shanel for putting together this piece, to Brenda for organizing the trip, to Fish for being a great Canucks fan, and to the rest of the crew for an unforgettable experience.

(* clip taped from CBCNews: Canada Now, March 22, 2006)

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A Tale of Two Fans

In our fine bandwagon city, there are two kinds of Canucks fans - those that jump off the bandwagon after a few losses and those that defend the team and the players to their deaths. A couple of articles that appeared in two different local papers this week illustrate this point.

In the Georgia Straight, CKNW Sportstalk host Jeff Patterson doesn't think much of the Canucks' postseason chances:

No matter how tough the plight of the Vancouver Canucks is these days, there remains a group of supporters out there with an unshakable belief: as long as the club wins a playoff spot, it is bound for glory.

These are the same people who were certain that Todd Bertuzzi would return with a vengeance, and when that didn’t happen they were absolutely sure he’d come back from the Olympics a changed hockey player. Now they insist that the playoffs will bring out the best in No. 44, that the big winger has been saving himself all year for the game’s greatest stage.

As supporting evidence for their case, these same fans point to the Calgary Flames of two years ago as a perfect example of what a team can do so long as it nails down a playoff spot. The Flames, they say, barely squeaked into the playoffs and then dispatched the Canucks, among others, on their remarkable run to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final.

This, unfortunately for those poor souls, is where the fantasy ends, as reality is about to hit them right between the eyes, smashing their rose-coloured glasses in the process.

(snip)

This year’s Canucks, on the other hand, came flying out of the gate, winning eight of their first 10 games and picking up a single point in another. But even in those early games, there were warning signs about the team’s unity, its chemistry, and its ability to compete for a full 60 minutes.

And now with the playoffs just around the corner and the Canucks’ invitation to the postseason party very much hanging in the balance, the numbers suggest that even if the Canucks get their act together and win one of the final playoff berths, any kind of lengthy run is highly unlikely.
On the other hand, in the Vancouver Courier, Mark Hasiuk talks about a group of people that are a bit more optimistic:

As the Canucks skate perilously close to missing the playoffs, President Caron and his Booster Club are hoping to rally a skeptical city for the final stretch.

He's also frustrated by the city's bandwagon attitude, and his official status as the team's number one supporter makes him a lightning rod for criticism.

"When I come into work in the morning, if the Canucks are doing well, they're 'our' Canucks," says Caron. "But when they're doing poorly, they're 'my' Canucks."

Caron refuses to allow the team's performance to interfere with his support. "We are sticking with this team no matter how they're playing."
Two fans, two outlooks on the same team. If you read this blog regularly, you've probably figured out I'm more of the latter. What kind of Canucks fan are you?

To read the full articles, click here and here.

Postscript: I should note that Patterson wrote his piece prior to the Canucks' two wins against Edmonton. I'll be expecting a more positive one from him next week. :)

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Canucks 4 Oilers 3 (SO)

The Vancouver Canucks sure like to make things hard for themselves, eh? They came out strong, built a two-goal lead, blew it and fell behind going into the third period, before coming back to beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 in the shootout. All three Canucks shooters - Naslund, Ruutu and Bertuzzi - scored in the shootout.

The win gave the Canucks a two-point lead over the Oilers, though the Oilers still hold a game in hand. It also inched them to a sixth-place tie with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the Western Conference, only one point back of the Colorado Avalanche; the Ducks hold three games in hand over the Canucks.


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

  • The Canucks got off to another good start. They played with a lot of energy and controlled a lot of the play. They were great defending the neutral zone and gave the Oilers a hard time getting into their zone.
  • The second half of the game was a different story. Except for a few spurts, the Oilers pretty much controlled the last 30-something minutes of the game, including the overtime. The Canucks defense really seemed to tire as the game wore on, and the Oilers won most of the puck battles.
  • Alex Auld made some key saves, especially when the Oilers poured it on in the second period (they outshot the Canucks 15-5 in the period). The only goal he can be faulted on was Torres' from the point.
  • Fortunately for the Canucks, Dwayne Roloson wasn't quite as solid. I thought he looked out of position a lot and he went down often and early. For Saturday's game, I hope the Canucks remember to shoot high on Roloson's glove side.
  • Ryan Kesler was selected as the game's first star and deservedly so. Kesler logged 18:03 minutes of ice-time and was all over the ice. He started the game with Bertuzzi and Cooke, and assisted on Big Bert's goal to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead halfway into the first period; he finished the game centering Bertuzzi and Naslund, and assisted on Naslund's goal to tie the game with eight minutes left in the third period.
  • For the second game in a row, Naslund and Bertuzzi played like it was 2002-2003. They started the game on separate lines before reuniting midway in the third period. Bertuzzi's goal was his 22nd of the season; Naslund's was his 30th, the fifth season in a row he has scored at least 30 goals.
  • Brendan Morrison is really struggling to find his offensive touch. Tonight, he had a couple of chances from in close, but just couldn't finish. He's doing everything else well, but...
  • I'm surprised goaltenders don't have the scouting report on Jarkko Ruutu's backhand deke move yet.
Next up: Edmonton (one more time) on Saturday.

[update: 03/24/06, 6:38 am]

Vancouver Canucks Op Ed and James Mirtle have more on the game; The Battle of Alberta and Covered In Oil talk about the Edmonton side of things.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Game 2 Preview


Despite a solid win in game 1 on Tuesday night, some are not convinced that the Canucks have righted their ship. That's a good thing.

The Canucks can't allow one win to get into their heads and get complacent. Last night, the Colorado Avalanche and Anaheim Mighty Ducks played each other; the Ducks won in OT, both teams got points and both teams moved up the standings.

The Oilers are ready.

From coach Craig Mactavish:

"We have to answer back and it's going to be a much tougher building now," MacTavish said yesterday. "We sent them out with some momentum and confidence, but that's playoff hockey and that's what this is."
From Shawn Horcoff:

"We need to be mentally prepared, better defensively and more disciplined," Horcoff said. "We have to be aggressive and stay out of the box because it's tough. The penalty kill is probably the area where you expend the most amount of energy and it just takes a lot of people out of the game."
The Canucks need to be saying the same thing.

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Peace, Love and Hockey


Hockey is the ultimate team sport, and Linda Conway is using that premise in her documentary "When Hockey Came To Belfast":

North Americans generally do not realize and sometimes forget that differences in religious beliefs could stop children from playing a game together. "When Hockey Came to Belfast", a documentary by first-time director Linda Conway, unearths the difficulties two friends from differing religious beliefs must endure simply to play hockey and to remain friends.

The message of the film is: "Peace one player at a time", and it is conveyed behind every aspect in Conway's depiction of every day life of the two boys. Conway is thrilled that the message of hope and understanding is being heard. The film is a tribute to all young Northern Irish hockey players and their parents, whom together give boys and girls a place where everyone is treated equal.

Like normal teenagers, the two youngsters the film centers on are no different in any aspect except the fact that Paul is Catholic and Andrew is Protestant. This friendship means that both of them take risks whenever they are together. The two boys became friends through the discovery of the game of hockey. The courage that these boys have shown is remarkable and is a testament to their friendship.
The Vancouver Canucks are supporters in this venture:

Inspired by the film, the Vancouver Canucks, the National Film Board of Canada and Belfast Giants owner Jim Yaworski brought the two Belfast boys featured in the documentary and their parents to Vancouver for a visit on March 16. Paul and Andrew got to attend a Canucks game at General Motors Place and meet Canucks coach Marc Crawford and the players.
Shane Molloy (Fox Sports) has the rest of the story.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Programming Change (Update)

I was excited to see the Canucks road trip piece tonight on CBC, but then I got this email:
Hey guys....

I just heard from Shanel that the road trip on CBC will not be shown on Monday. He thinks it will either be Tuesday or Wednesday. I will let you know what day it will be aired when he tells me.

Richard
Stay tuned.

[update: 03/21/06, 5:01 pm]

Update on the CBC documentary:
Hey guys....

OK, the final word from Shanel is that the road trip WILL be shown on Wednesday between 6:00 and 7:00 on CBC. It will most likely be shown between 6:20 and 6:40, but no guarantees. As for tonight, if they have time, they will run a promo of our trip for tomorrow night.

Richard
If anyone can tape and send a digital copy of the piece, I would be most grateful.

[update: 03/22/06, 7:07 am]

I'm bumping this up because, well... because I know y'all want to know :)
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Good News Giants

More good news for Vancouver Giants fans:

The Vancouver Giants begin their first-round WHL playoff series against Prince George on Friday and you can catch the whole series live on SHAW TV.

Also, it looks like the Giants' best season in their short history is not going unnoticed. The WHL announced its award finalists and all-star teams and several Giants are on the list:

  • Dustin Slade, Goaltender of the Year
  • Paul Albers, Defenseman of the Year
  • Don Hay, Coach of the Year
  • Scott Bonner, Executive of the Year
  • Slade and Albers were also named Western Conference first-team all-stars
  • Cody Franson and Gilbert Brule were named Western Conference second-team all-stars.
Award winners will be announced on May 3rd.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Canucks 4 Oilers 1

For one night at least, the hockey gods were kind to the Vancouver Canucks. They beat the Edmonton Oilers, a team against whom they lost all five previous games this season, 4-1 in Edmonton; the Calgary Flames lost to the Minnesota Wild; and the Colorado Avalanche, who already lost team goal-scoring leader Marek Svatos for the season, also lost team scoring leader Alex Tanguay for two to four weeks.

The win catapulted the Canucks past the Oilers and the Kings to a tie for sixth-place with Anaheim in the Western Conference.

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

  • The Canucks came out of the gate flying and kept it up for the rest of the game. Especially in the first period, they outskated the Oilers and drew four powerplay opportunities. For the game, the Canucks had ten powerplay opportunities; the Oilers had five.
  • I wouldn't get too comfortable if I were Marc Crawford's crew. It's not likely the speedy Oilers will give up that many powerplays again in the next couple of games. Or maybe they should. Despite being short-handed for the equivalent of almost one full period, including about three minutes down by two guys, they only allowed one Canucks powerplay goal.
  • Keith Carney and Eric Weinrich had strong games tonight. More importantly, both were visibly vocal, which seemed to help organize the defense.
  • Tonight was the first time I've seen Sean Brown in action. He replaced Nolan Baumgartner in the lineup and looked solid in 12:16 minutes of ice-time, including regular shifts in the third period. He finished with a couple of hits, a blocked shot and a plus-1 rating.
  • Alex Auld bounced back nicely after giving up seven goals against Detroit. He stopped 29 of 30 Edmonton shots and controlled most of his rebounds.
  • I got the feeling that Kesler and Burrows were motivated by playing with new linemates. Five-on-five, Kesler played with Bertuzzi and Burrows played with Naslund. Both provided good energy and even produced some scoring chances. Likewise, Naslund and Bertuzzi played with good energy. Believe it or not, Bertuzzi even threw a big hit.
  • One telling moment on how disciplined the Canucks were tonight - in front of the Edmonton net in the first period, Jarkko Ruutu - yes, Jarkko Ruutu - actually talked Josh Green into walking away from a scrum rather than taking a retaliatory penalty. Here's hoping they're just as disciplined on Thursday.
Next up: Edmonton (again) on Thursday.

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Towel Power


Some fans may be throwing in the towel for this season; Not me, I'm busting out my playoff towel. The Vancouver Canucks start a three-game series against the Edmonton Oilers tonight, a series that may determine their playoff fate.

Win two of the three games and the Canucks push themselves back up the Western Conference standings; lose two out of three however, and they can most likely start polishing their golf clubs.

At least the players are saying the right things.

From Markus Naslund:
''We're looking at this as the season,'' captain Markus Naslund said Monday of the Edmonton games, which continue here Thursday and Saturday.

''There are so many things that are making it even bigger. The way we've played against them this year, our pride should be on the line. We're in a really bad spot.''
From Todd Bertuzzi:
''We're in a situation that we've put ourselves in,'' Bertuzzi said. ''We know exactly what we have to do to get out of it.

''Confidence is a huge thing and playing better defensively and not giving up so many chances like we have.

''We're not in a position to watch other teams. We've got it right in front of us the way the schedule is.''
From Marc Crawford:
''The fact that you are ninth in the standings and out of the playoffs, it should serve as a point we can all focus on,''
The Oilers also recognize the significance of these games.

From Fernando Pisani:
"These next few games coming up are big games. Every point is crucial in the standings right now," said Oilers forward Fernando Pisani.

"It's like a playoff game. These next three games are going to be playoff-atmosphere games. We know it and they know it, and we're going to have to play our best hockey."
From Ethan Moreau:

"If there is a possible sweep out there either way, it's going to make a huge difference in the standings," Moreau said.

"We just have to play solid, keep doing what we're doing. We feel confident that with our team, if we play our game, we're going to be OK."
It should be a good series. Start waving those towels.

(* Photo taken from Canuck Heaven.)

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Keep The Coach

I'd like to know who Jim Kelley's sources are:

According to several sources, Crawford's post-game rant after a loss last week to Dallas led directly to the team's listless performance in a 5-0 loss to Nashville, a loss that has accelerated the team's slide toward moving out of the Western Conference playoff picture.
Did Big Daddy Crow's screaming lead to some Canucks' pouting? I just don't see how his post-game rant would lead directly to a listless performance. NHL players are professionals, not teenagers.

Anyway, to be fair to Kelley, he rightly points out that while the fanwagon are calling for Crawford's head, much of the Canucks problems are "as much, perhaps even more an indictment of the players". In this regard, I agree.

Crawford has coached the same way since his days in Colorado, where he won a Stanley Cup, to his entire stint with the Canucks. Playing his system, the Canucks went from Western Conference cellar-dwellers to Northwest Division champions.

And while this season hasn't exactly been the dream season some were expecting, it is important to note that the Canucks are still very much in the playoff race. This, while the Canucks experienced injuries to their captain and best player, their starting goaltender, their top three defensemen and one of their top energy players at various points of the season; this, while Crawford, on some nights, had to ice a roster with mostly minor-league call-ups.

In Crawford's case we would like to assert that there are some more meaningful reasons for management to do the right thing and perhaps fire Bertuzzi or Naslund (via trade) than fire a Stanley Cup winner (Colorado) who truly does know the necessary staples for success in his chosen profession, but the problems appear too deep for that kind of logic to take hold in a city that is supremely disappointed with its hockey coach, its hockey players and the idea that the collection at hand can even be called a working team.
Personally, I'm hoping that logic wins out.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Vancouver's Other Hockey Team

I know I don't spend a lot of time talking about Vancouver's other hockey team, the Vancouver Giants, but with the Canucks on a downward slope, I feel the need to post a feel-good story.

This past weekend, the Giants won one game and lost another, but the one win - against the vaunted Kelowna Rockets, no less - was enough to secure first place in the WHL's Western Conference:
The Giants have completed their most successful regular season in franchise history as they prepare to open the 2006 Western Hockey League playoffs next weekend.

(snip)

The Giants wrap up their 72-game schedule with a record of 47-19-0-6. At home the Giants were 24-10-0-2 while away from Vancouver they were 23-9-0-4. Ironically, the Giants scored the same amount of goals at home this year as they did on the road (126)!

Vancouver opens up their Western Conference Quarter Final playoff series against the Prince George Cougars. The Cats are in the playoffs for the first time in three seasons and will open the playoffs at the Pacific Coliseum Friday March 24.

Here is the first round playoff schedule for the Giants and Cougars:

Game 1 Friday March 24 @ Vancouver 7:30pm
Game 2 Saturday March 25 @ Vancouver 7:00pm
Game 3 Tuesday March 28 @ Prince George 7:30pm
Game 4 Wednesday March 29 @ Prince George 7:30pm
Game 5 Saturday April 1 @ Vancouver 7:00pm (If Necessary)
Game 6 Monday April 3 @ Prince George 7:30pm (If Necessary)
Game 7 Wednesday April 5 @ Vancouver 7:00pm (If Necessary)
You can click here for Giants playoff ticket information.

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Canucks 3 Red Wings 7

The Vancouver Canucks lost a 7-3 decision to the Detroit Red Wings last night; the Anaheim Mighty Ducks won 4-3 over the Columbus Blue Jackets. As of this morning, the Canucks are tied with the Ducks with 78 points, but the Ducks have played three less games. The San Jose Sharks also won over the Avalanche last night and are only two points behind the Canucks, but have also played three less games.

If there's any good news after last night's game, it's that the Canucks are still only two points back of the Avs and one point back of the Edmonton Oilers. Both have a game in hand over the Canucks, but the Canucks' next three games are all against Edmonton, and two of those games are at The Garage. If the Canucks gain at least four points, their playoff picture will look a lot different.
Game Recaps: canucks.com . ESPN
Statistics: Score Sheet . Stat Sheet
My notes from the game:
  • You knew it was going to be that kind of night when: the Canucks blimp lost power during the first intermission, the score board malfunctioned in the second period, and the shot clock stopped working in the third. Even the guy they chose to shoot for prizes in the second intermission missed five shots at the open net way wide right.
  • Some fans will look at the 11-2 powerplay advantage the Red Wings enjoyed last night and immediately question the officiating. The fact is, however, the Canucks were simply that bad. Far too many times, they turned the puck over in the neutral zone then stood idly on defense before taking their many, many lazy penalties.
  • Because the Canucks spent more than the equivalent of one period on the penalty kill (21:09 minutes), Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi each logged only 13-something minutes of ice-time. Somehow, they still managed minus-4 and minus-3 ratings, respectively.
  • The Canucks' top-four defensemen all logged more than 20 minutes of ice-time and combined for a minus-9 rating. Part of the reason was their inability to get the puck out of their zone. They miss Ed Jovanovski and Sami Salo and their ability to skate the puck up the ice.
  • Nolan Baumgartner only logged 9:28 minutes of ice-time and struggled. He was one of the guys that stepped it up when Jovo first went down, but his decreased ice-time with the acquisitions of Carney and Weinrich seems to have sapped his confidence.
  • More on the game from VCOE, James Mirtle and Abel to Yzerman.
Markus Naslund after the game:
"There's no doubt about it, things are real desperate," said Canuck captain Markus Naslund, who was a minus-four on the night. "But I'm confident that we'll make it. It doesn't look like it out there now, but we will find a way to get back to the winning ways. It starts now in Edmonton. We have three huge games here that are probably going to decide the fate of our hockey club."
We hope so, Markus.

Next up: First Edmonton game on Tuesday.

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