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CANUCKS HOCKEY BLOG

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Preseason: Flames 2 Canucks 3

This is a late post, but unfortunately, my head didn't agree with the six beers I had at the game last night.

With most of their regular roster in the lineup, the Vancouver Canucks put together by far their most impressive game of the season. The Canucks outshot (39-23), outhit (18-7) and outskated the Calgary Flames, who also dressed most of their regulars, and won the game by a score of 3-2. Overall, it was a very good effort for the boys in Orca Bay blue (Brad Ziemer, Vancouver Sun).

"It was a great effort tonight," said goalie Roberto Luongo, who made a couple of big saves in the final minutes to preserve the victory. "We were in their zone most of the night. The guys played really well."
Luc Bourdon, who had a couple of rough outings this preseason, looked comfortable in over 17 minutes of ice-time. For the second game in a row, he didn't go out of his way to make the big hit or the big play.

"This was his best game so far, without a doubt," Vigneault said. "He seemed more confident on the ice with and without the puck. He was making better decisions and it was good to see."
Which most likely means a ticket to Manitoba for defenseman Patrick Coulumbe, one of the biggest surprises of the Canucks' preseason.

The Canucks play one more preseason game tonight against the Edmonton Oilers. Game starts at 7 PM; radio play-by-play on TEAM 1040.

Wade Flaherty will start, and like last Wednesday night's game, will face a full Oilers lineup.

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Friday, September 29, 2006

High On Hansen

While the boys over at HFBoards are pimping Jannik Hansen, the whole country of Denmark are hoping that he becomes the first Dane to ever play in the NHL (Copenhagen Post):

Jannik Hansen is the only Dane left with a chance of playing in the NHL when the season begins.

Veteran winger Kim Staal had to bow out in Nashville. And rising star Frans Nielsen couldn't make it in New York.

Now the pressure of becoming the first Dane to make a National Hockey League roster is squarely on the shoulder pads of Jannik Hansen.

No Dane has ever played in the NHL, except in pre-season and training games. Hansen hopes he can break the curse and be one of the Vancouver Canucks' final 23 players on opening day.

The right-winger is a crowd favourite in Vancouver, but pre-season cheers and success does not secure a place on the team - Staal scored two goals in four minutes in one game for Nashville.

It is a positive sign, however, that Hansen is travelling with the team for another game Tuesday night against the San José Sharks. Though he has played and trained all summer with the team, that one game may determine whether or not he makes Danish history.
Hansen has made the most of his preseason opportunities with the Canucks. He was one of the bright spots in Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, playing with Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows and scoring a goal. So far this preseason, he has 3 points (2G-1A) and a team-leading plus-4 rating.

It may come down to a numbers game - the Canucks already have 13 forwards on one-way contracts - but if Hansen makes it past the weekend, boy, Denmark will be one proud country.

*****

Tonight's home game against the Calgary Flames start at 7:00 PM. Canucks radio play-by-play is on TEAM 1040.

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Dear Alanah

Dear Alanah,

I read about your silly bet. Please, please, please don't let this be you (video opens in new window).

PS. You're welcome, Jeff.

J.J.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Intimidation


We all know that Roberto Luongo can steal hockey games. And if the preseason is any indication (Tony Gallagher, Vancouver Province) - God, I hope it's not, but anyway - then he's going to have to steal A LOT OF hockey games.

But while most point to Luongo's size and athleticism, his win totals and save percentages, how he's come up big in Team Canada colors, and how he almost backstopped awful Florida Panthers teams to the playoffs, Jeff Patterson, in a nice piece in this week's Georgia Straight, talks about something else Luongo brings to the Vancouver Canucks:
Dave Nonis probably didn’t realize it at the time, but when the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks acquired Roberto Luongo in June, he didn’t just get a good goalie. He also gained a huge advantage on every opponent the Canucks will face this season and for years to come. That’s because Luongo, although just 27 years old and only six years into his NHL career, is already messing with the heads of other teams and other players.

“He’s very good,” says Rory Fitzpatrick, who signed with the Canucks as a free agent this summer after spending the past four years in Buffalo and getting to know Luongo well as an Eastern Conference foe. “Every time we’d go into Florida, that was the main topic: you know you’ve got to beat Roberto and you’re not going to beat him on your first shot. You have to get people in front, and it’s going to be a second or third shot that you’re going to score on. He’s a big guy and covers a lot of space, and he’s one of the top goalies in the league, and I think the people of Vancouver are really going to like watching him play. And I know as a defenceman, I’m loving that he’s here.”

Fitzpatrick—talking, along with other players and Canuck management, to the Georgia Straight recently at training camp in Vernon—surely won’t be alone, playing with added confidence knowing that one of the world’s best netminders is there to bail him out. And it’s not just the blueliners who will benefit from Luongo’s presence. With the departures of Todd Bertuzzi and Anson Carter, there are questions about the Vancouver hockey club’s ability to score goals this season. But simple math tells you that if your team isn’t getting scored on as often as it has in the past, you won’t need as many goals to win.

“I think it changes your mindset a little bit,” veteran centre Brendan Morrison says. “Clouts [Dan Cloutier] was an extremely competitive guy, and when he was on his game and playing his best, he gave us a chance to win every night. I think with Roberto that’s magnified just because he has the ability to steal a game every night, and there are few goalies who can do that. I think having him back there is going to provide the rest of the team with a little more confidence. He’s intimidating simply because when you look at him in the net, there isn’t a lot of net to shoot at. I think he gets in the head of opposing shooters and gives us a leg up right away.”
That's huge considering he has to face the likes of Joe Thornton, Jarome Iginla and Marian Gaborik a few times during the season.

I'll tell you this. With Luongo in net, I'll probably stop cringing whenever an opposing player takes a shot from center ice.

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10 More Players Cut

From canucks.com:

Vancouver, B.C. – Vancouver Canucks Senior Vice-President and General Manager Dave Nonis announced today that the Canucks have reduced their roster by 10 players. The Vancouver Canucks roster is now at 25 players.

The following players have been assigned to the Manitoba Moose:

Bouck, Tyler Right Wing
Brown, Mike Right Wing
Edler, Alexander Defence
Goren, Lee Right Wing
MacIntyre, Drew Goaltender
McIver, Nathan Defence
Reid, Brandon Centre
Schultz, Jesse Right Wing
Tremblay, Yannick Defence

The following player has been assigned to his junior team:

Grabner, Michael Right Wing
With the exception maybe of Tyler Bouck and Jesse Schultz, it's not a surprise to see anyone from that list start this season in the minors. Bouck, who came to camp as the Canucks' best-conditioned player, was outplayed by Alexandre Burrows and Rick Rypien; one of those two will fill Jarkko Ruutu's role, and based on a few preseason games, may be effective doing so. Schultz, who was penciled in to replace Anson Carter's offense, simply isn't ready to compete with the faster and more physical NHL game.

Brandon Reid showed everyone that he still has the speed, flash and dash from the last time he was in a Canucks uniform three years ago. But he also showed that he has the same finish as back then as well - that is, not a lot. He'll still make spot appearances in Vancouver throughout the season as a call-up.

Michael Grabner also made a big impression on the Canucks. After sticking him in a room with Markus Naslund during training camp, Grabner showed glimpses of his speed and skill that made him the 14th overall pick in the 2006 draft. He was one of the team's best forwards in a 5-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks a week ago; the Canucks dressed him for a couple more games after that then signed him to a three-year entry level contract.

The biggest beneficiaries of this latest round of Canucks roster cuts are the Manitoba Moose (Ken Wiebe, Winnipeg Sun).

Starting goalie, check.

Pure goal scorer with something to prove, check.

Consummate power forward who won’t hang his head while playing in his hometown, check.

Dynamic centre coming back from Europe who has been dominant at this level and longs to return to the NHL, check.

Potential No. 1 defenceman to run the power play, check.Stud rookie blue-liner and punishing sophomore defenceman, check and the odd cross-check if you happen to be standing in front of the Moose net.

It was a tough day for the psyche of several players assigned by the Vancouver Canucks to the Manitoba Moose but there’s no doubt the American Hockey League club improved exponentially yesterday.
By the weekend, the Canucks will re-assign 3 or 4 more players. Crunch time for Josh Green, Jannik Hansen, Rick Rypien, Tommi Santala, Rory Fitzpatrick, Luc Bourdon and Patrick Coloumbe.

[update: 09/28/06, 7:41 PM]

Last week's poll results:


There is a new poll on the side bar. Don't forget to vote.

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Marketing Makeover

I guess sometimes miracles do happen (Adam Proteau, The Hockey News):

Wednesday in New York, deputy commissioner Bill Daly and the NHL’s marketing team will be meeting with a number of high-profile agents to discuss its strategy on how to market the league’s star players.

“They maintain they are creating a new direction,” said one agent who will take part in the two-hour meeting. “The players will not be hidden anymore. They’ll be front and center.”

It’s about time.
No kidding. Which genius thought that the best way to re-introduce the game and its players after a year-long lockout was by using no-name actors?

Scott Burnside (ESPN) mentioned recently the league's plans to scrap the "Art of War" marketing campaign.

After the widely panned "Art of War" campaign that launched the new NHL, the league has come up with a new strategy with the league's star players as the focus.

Among the league's initiatives this season will be a series of 75 mini-features produced by NHL Productions that will be available to broadcasters across the NHL. Ed Horne, the president of NHL Enterprises, told ESPN.com that having re-established a relationship with the core fan across the NHL last season, the league is focused on expanding that bond to the casual fan.

The theory is simple, if fans are twigged to the stories of a player like Jarome Iginla or Joe Thornton or Evgeni Malkin, they might be curious enough to buy a ticket. And, so the theory goes, once the fan is inside the building, the game sells itself.
Weren't we saying that all last season?

The NHL is also trying to push itself into the consciousness of the American public by insinuating its logos and brands into movies and television series via the league's ongoing talks with West Coast ad agencies. The FOX show "Bones", for instance, features NHL merchandise in office shots. And on Denis Leary's critically acclaimed "Rescue Me," seen on F/X in the United States, Phil Esposito did a nice turn as a firefighter in the past season.

The NHL is also pushing its major sponsors to use its players in their spots, as well, while hip magazine FHM will shortly unveil it's first hockey-themed preview issue.
Jonathan Cheechoo of the San Jose Sharks will be one of the players featured in the TV spots. Eric Staal and Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes took part in the FHM shoot.

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Preseason: Canucks 4 Oilers 5

The Vancouver Canucks, who dressed the minimum eight NHL players, lost a gutsy 5-4 decision against the Edmonton Oilers, who had 14 players from their regular roster. The loss dropped the Canucks to 1-5 in preseason play.

After the game, Alain Vigneault was full of praise of Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows (Brad Ziemer, Vancouver Sun).
Alain Vigneault still doesn't know the makeup of his first two lines, but the Canuck coach has a good idea who might play on his third.

Vigneault was full of praise for Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows following Wednesday night's 5-4 loss to the Oilers. He thinks the two complement one another and is now looking for a third forward to join them on what he thinks can be a very effective third line.

"Those two guys seem to be clicking well together," Vigneault said. "Now we need to find another forward to complement them. Those two tonight were as close as the Sedins have been."

Kesler had a goal and two assists and Burrows, who was at his agitating best, added a goal and one assist. They skated on a line with Danish rookie Jannik Hansen, who scored Vancouver's last goal.

Vigneault wasn't as complimentary of Jesse Schultz and Marc Chouinard (Ben Kuzma, Vancouver Province).
One thing is certain in Vigneault's search for someone to complement Burrows and Kesler -- it won't be Jesse Schultz. After being trumpeted as a possible linemate for the Sedins following a 37-goal season in Manitoba, Schultz simply couldn't keep up, couldn't finish and was often too easily knocked off the puck.

"I don't know what happened," said Vigneault, who will cut eight to 10 players from his 35-man roster today. "I thought he had a chance, but just didn't play well enough.

"Sometimes with expectations, players have a tough time handling that pressure. I know he's a much better player than what he's shown so far."

(snip)

Schultz had company in the doghouse, where Chouinard has taken up residence. The Canucks are paying the former Minnesota Wild veteran $1.1 million US this year and next year.

After going 0-for-10 in the faceoff circle on Sunday against Anaheim, he was 6-for-11 on Wednesday but went shotless.

"Marginally better, but he's going to have to be a lot more effective than that ," said Vigneault.
In goaL, Wade Flaherty allowed five goals in the first two periods (Ben Kuzma, Vancouver Province) before Vigneault replaced him Drew McIntyre in the beginning of the third.
Did Flaherty just punch his ticket for the Manitoba Moose?

"I didn't think he was really responsible, but being the individual he is, it was time to show him the respect he deserves," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, who went with Drew MacIntyre in the third period.

"Young-player mistakes in the first gave them Grade A chances and five goals against -- I thought it was enough."

With the 38-year-old Flaherty once again in the crosshairs as the can-he-cut-it backup candidate to starter Roberto Luongo, the jury is still out because nobody is rushing to judgment.

But that isn't making Flaherty comfortable. He knows there will be goalies available on the waiver wire.

"They haven't come out and said anything and they've got options, but who knows what they'll do?" said Flaherty.

"I can't worry about that."
No, he can't.

More roster cuts are expected today. The Canucks' next game is Friday night at home against the Calgary Flames.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Preseason: Sharks 2 Canucks 0

There were good news and bad news in the Vancouver Canucks' 2-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks last night.

The good news was that Roberto Luongo, who played all 60 minutes, played his best game in the Free Willy jersey (Jason Botchford, Vancouver Province).

It took three games, a couple worrisome goals and just a tablespoon of public consternation, but Roberto Luongo got his groove back.

And he knows exactly when it happened.

During Tuesday's second period, with the Sharks pressing, Luongo lost his stick in the midst of making one of his desperate, acrobatic plays. He never lost his composure, stopping a tipped shot and sliding across the crease to save another one with his elbow at the side of the net.

It was a play that made Luongo stand out like a beacon of hope on a team still labouring this preseason to find its identity.

It was a play that gave him confidence and left him feeling more comfortable than he's ever been in a Canucks uniform.

"Making those two big saves in a row really changed the momentum for me overall," Luongo said. "I was really solid after that and it led to my best game so far.

"The way I played after that is really where I want to be to start the season. It was a nice feeling to have. I really felt comfortable out there."

Luongo has long been billed as a guy who will give the Canucks, on almost every night, a chance to win. On Tuesday, on a team that didn't score, he lived up to his billing.

"That's what you want from your goaltender," coach Alain Vigneault said. "In the third period he had three huge saves to make and he made them. He gave us a chance to be in that game. He did his part."
27 saves on 28 shots? Yup, Luongo did his part.

Unfortunately, the offense didn't. They threw 25 shots at Vesa Toskala - nine of those shots from Brendan Morrison, Daniel Sedin and Markus Naslund - but couldn't get a single one past him.

The Sedin-Sedin-Naslund combination was again the Canucks' best line (Iain McIntyre, Vancouver Sun), though that's really more an indictment on how the rest of the team played.

Playing with Daniel and Henrik Sedin would be good for Markus Naslund. You could plant a cactus in the slot and the succulent would score 15 this season with the twins. The question: Is playing Naslund with the twins good for the Vancouver Canucks?

The Swedish three owned the puck on many shifts Tuesday but did not score against the San Jose Sharks. The Canucks, therefore, lost because nobody else scored either. Nobody else looked even in danger of scoring while Vancouver's best three forwards were pooled in one unit.
Alain Vigneault has three more preseason games to sort out his line combinations.

The coach, Alain Vigneault, said he'll audition Jan Bulis with the twins sometime during the Canucks' last three pre-season games, and also give Brendan Morrison and Naslund another chance to play together.

But he made it clear he does not believe playing Naslund with the twins necessarily makes the Canuck attack one-dimensional.

"I expect us to get better," Vigneault said. "I talk about us getting balanced scoring; I don't want us to be a one-line team. We should be able to generate chances throughout our forward lineup."
At least one guy who has been generating chances is Brendan Morrison. In three preseason games, Morrison has two points (both assists) and nine shots on goal (2nd to Daniel Sedin for the team lead). With Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi on his wing before, his job was to give the puck to either winger and be the defensive conscience on that line; this preseason, with Naslund playing on another line and Bertuzzi playing on another team, he seems to be more willing to take on a greater offensive role.

Grant Kerr (Globe and Mail) asks:

Morrison, Bertuzzi and Naslund once formed Vancouver's most dangerous offensive line, nicknamed the West Coast Express. That changed somewhat last season, when the Sedins and Carter emerged as genuine threats.

Now, with a new coaching staff and a remake of half the roster, no one's sure of the line combos before the NHL regular season begins Oct. 5.

The only certainty is the Sedins will play together.

Vigneault has gone so far as to experiment with Naslund alongside the twins, leaving Morrison the odd man out at times.
So far, it hasn't mattered and Morrison has been productive anyway. But as eight goals in five games indicate, the Canucks need the Cookes, Keslers, Pyatts and Bulis of the team to step up and be likewise.

*****

Tonight's game against the Edmonton Oilers starts at 6 PM. Canucks radio broadcast on TEAM 1040.

Wade Flaherty is expected to play the full game; another round of roster cuts is expected after.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The First Ever CHB Podcast

Radio Zoom

In the interest of expanding horizons and trying something new, I accepted an invitation from the crazy fun, blogging and podcasting Bollwitts, John (audihertz.net) and Rebecca (miss604.com), to participate in my first ever podcast last night.

John and Rebecca are great. Some of you have probably already heard their regular
Radio Zoom podcasts, and if you have, then you know just how good they are at what they do. They made me feel comfortable during the recording and made the experience a lot of fun.

Thanks guys! Can't wait to do it again.

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Your Favorite Canucks Memory

In his latest post, Plummer, one of the Canucks "official" bloggers, talks about the latest Canucks slogan - "We Are All Canucks" - and reminisces about his favorite Canucks memory.


Undoubtedly, I have many favorite Canucks memories - the 1994 Stanley Cup run, of course, which happened only a couple of seasons after I started following the team; Jovo pointing to the heavens after scoring a goal and dedicating it to his deceased daughter (see picture above); the Druken goal against LA; Gelinas', Pavel's, and Daniel's four-goal games; Trevor's shorthanded goal in game 7 against St. Louis; Nazzy's deke on Cujo; Bert's hits on Jackman, Chelios and Phaneuf; and many, many more.

But one memory that sticks out for the pure euphoria it brought that moment was Matt Cooke's goal in game 7 against the Calgary Flames. Down by a goal with only two minutes left in the game, the Canucks went on a powerplay. Jovanovski's penalty took them off shortly after, but with 30 seconds to go, Naslund took the puck from center ice, skated down the left-wing and drove the puck in front of Mikka Kiprusoff. Matt Cooke, driving to the net after Naslund, then tapped in the puck. Tied game with 5.7 seconds left in game 7.

What sticks out is more than the importance of that goal - the Canucks, of course, unfortunately lost in OT anyway - it was the reaction of everyone around me at GM Place when he scored. Everyone was screaming, jumping up and down and high-fiving each other. Strangers were hugging strangers sitting in front of them and behind them. Some were crying tears of joy at the goal. There was a spontaneous and collective burst of ecstacy that, as we watch clips of it after (Cooke's goal at the 3:30 mark of the clip), was shared by everyone in the stadium, including players, coaches and management team.

It was unbelievable feeling and I'll never forget it.

What's your favorite Canucks memory?

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Pyatt's Potential

At the game on Sunday night, Tracy (aka my wife) was crushing madly on Taylor Pyatt, which got me thinking about a Grant Kerr (Globe and Mail) article last week, "Can big left-winger blossom the way Bertuzzi did when became a Canuck?"
It's hard to overlook Taylor Pyatt at practice when the new winger for the Vancouver Canucks swoops toward the net during a line rush.

The hulking player is a robust 6 foot 4 and 220 pounds, with wide shoulders and size 12 skates on his surprisingly quick feet.

He's hopeful the Canucks will provide him with an opportunity to succeed after he was found wanting by his previous National Hockey League clubs, the New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres.

The Canucks obtained Pyatt this summer in a trade with Buffalo, hoping the 25-year-old from Thunder Bay might be a late developer, just as forward Todd Bertuzzi was a few years back.
Tom Luongo from Sabre Rattling warns us otherwise:
...is not the next Todd Bertuzzi. He's not a leader or an agitator and he really doesn't have much of an 'on' switch, you know, the kind that makes Bertuzzi both great and terrible all at the same time. But, that said, he is a solid checking forward, if not overly physical. He must be paired with someone who plays with intensity. Pyatt played his best hockey in an Angry Goat Head when centered by Paul Gaustad, a guy who never takes a shift off. That's what I mean by his being a follower. Get those Bert comparisons out of your head and you'll see a solid, if unspectacular guy who has better tools than aggression. Pencil him in for 10-12 minutes of PK/Checking duties.
He had some good moments on Sunday night. Playing on a line with Brendan Morrison and Jan Bulis, he showed that he not only has nice eyes (Tracy's words, not mine), but he has some game as well.

Elliott Pap (Vancouver Sun) has more:
Soft-spoken Taylor Pyatt has often been labelled "Taylor Quiet" by critics who wonder why the big winger's play has seldom matched his imposing size.

Those doubts may be disappearing.

Pyatt turned in a solid two-way performance Sunday during a 4-3 preseason shootout victory over the Anaheim Ducks at GM Place.

On a line with Brendan Morrison and Jan Bulis, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound left-winger forechecked aggressively, created shooting lanes and screens. He had an assist and four shots on goal and the trio combined for eight shots.

"We created quite a few good opportunities and it was only my second game and my first chance to play with Brendan and Jan," said Pyatt, who finished a plus-1 in 14:40 of playing time. "I thought we had a pretty solid game."

(snip)

On Sunday, there was nothing hurting in Pyatt's game. In the first period, he wheeled out of the corner and feathered a soft backhand pass to Bulis, who scored to give the Canucks a 2-1 edge at 10:32.

In a second-period sequence, Pyatt fought off checks to set up his linemates. And on a power play, he created an effective screen and nearly deflected a Mattias Ohlund point shot home.

In the third period, Pyatt spun off defenders down low for another good scoring chance. He then brushed off a check by Travis Green to set up Bulis before firing a good wrister to force Ilya Bryzgalov to make a stellar glove save with the game tied 3-3.

It was a snapshot performance of what the Canucks hope will be a full-length feature this season

"That's my style to get in on the forecheck and be physical by finishing my checks and be able to protect the puck around the net and in the corners," said Pyatt. "And I've got to make plays and I had some pretty good opportunities.

"I thought our line had some pretty good chemistry."
They sure did. And if the Canucks are going to rely on a scoring-by-committee approach, Pyatt will be expected to chip in offensively more than he ever has been in his career so I hope he's got more of those games in store for us.

*****

Tonight's game against the San Jose Sharks starts at 7:00 PM. Canucks radio broadcast on TEAM 1040.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Preseason: Ducks 3 Canucks 4 (SO)

For their home preseason opener last night, the Vancouver Canucks iced their most veteran lineup yet against an Anaheim Ducks team that beat them 5-1 only two nights ago. Roberto Luongo played the entire game; and Markus Naslund, Brendan Morrison, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, and their top five defensemen all suited up. The result was a 4-3 Canucks shootout win.

Most notable last night was the play of the Sedin twins and Markus Naslund. Put together as Alain Vigneault tries to find a replacement for Anson Carter, the line combined for two goals, two assists and six shots on goal.

The play of that line last night is the topic du jour in the Vancouver media.

Here's Brad Ziemer (Vancouver Sun):
Finding a replacement for Anson Carter and his team-leading 33 goals is a priority as the Canucks head down the final stretch drive of the pre-season. The way the twins played Sunday night, they just might make anyone look good.

Daniel, in particular, was flying all night. He gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead at 3:13 of the first period when he converted a goalmouth pass from Henrik on a power play. Naslund picked up the second assist on the goal.
Jason Botchford (Vancouver Province) adds:
The Sedins are in the process of again reshaping themselves. They vow they'll be shooting more, especially Henrik. They promise they'll be more obvious leaders. They want to score 90-plus points. And to help make it all happen, they've brought some new tricks to the show.

Henrik's shootout goal was a backhanded top-corner beauty, the likes of which he's never attempted before in the NHL.

"I've been working on that for two years and I've never taken the chance to use it before," Henrik said. "It felt nice to score like that."

The Sedins have combined for four goals and four first assists in two games. That's half of the Canucks' eight preseason goals even though they've only played in two games.

"We've been able to create a lot of chances," Henrik said. "I really think we should have three or four more goals.

"I think we should have taken more shots [Sunday]. We made some extra passes."

On the Sedin goals, the second assists have gone to Yannick Tremblay, Alexander Edler, Naslund and Sami Salo.

Compared to the beginning of last year, the Sedins have made a quantum leap in almost every conceivable way.

"We've taken another big step like I think we've done every year," Henrik said. "Last season gave us a lot of confidence and we have brought that here. Now, we know we can score whenever we're on the ice. That's a huge difference, especially from our first year here when we went on the ice basically trying not to get scored on."
And speaking of not getting scored on, one small disappointment from the last night's game was the play of the defense. Not anyone in particular, mind you, but it was clear that the team is still trying to learn a new system. There were more than a few times the Canucks 'd' couldn't move the puck out of the zone. There were also at least a couple of times they coughed up the puck, resulting in Ducks scoring chances.

For his part, Roberto Luongo was much better. He still let in one softie (the first Ducks goal), I thought, but you can probably argue that he was screened by both his defensemen. Luongo stopped 23 of 26 shots, including some where the defense left him one-on-one up close against the shooter; he also stopped 2 of the 3 shooters in the shootout.

He'll get a chance to finetune his game even more soon. The Canucks' next game is tomorrow night against the San Jose Sharks. Game starts at 7 PM; the radio broadcast is on TEAM 1040.

*****

On a side note, I just want to thank Fred Johns and Something Cool News for the feature in this week's editiion. Something Cool News is based in the Tri-Cities (Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody).

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Roster Cuts

From canucks.com:

Vancouver, B.C. – Vancouver Canucks Senior Vice-President and General Manager Dave Nonis announced today that the Canucks have reduced their roster by seven players. The Vancouver Canucks roster is now at 35 players.

The following players have been assigned to the Manitoba Moose of the AHL:

Bernier, Marc-Andre Right Wing
Ellis, Julien Goal
Moran, Brad Centre
Rullier, Joe Defence
Ryan, Prestin Defence

The following players have released:

Dwyer, Gordie Wing
Kutny, Vladimir Wing
Rick Rypien, one of the surprises of training camp, is staying put for now, but sprained his thumb on Friday night and isn't sure when he can play again:

"It's kind of frustrating, but I don't think it's a big deal," Rypien said Sunday. "I just have to watch it and get back as soon as I can. Hopefully it's not too long, a week or under.

"My goal is to play some more exhibition games. There's still a long way to go yet before the regular season starts."

Even if Rypien doesn't get another pre-season sniff, he may yet survive the final cutdown. Canuck head coach Alain Vigneault indicated that Rypien has made the big club based on his performance to date.

"If the season would start tomorrow, he would be on this team," Vigneault declared. "I'm not quite sure where we're going to go with that because of the injury but, if I was a betting man, I'd bet we'll give him a chance to get healthy and then he might be with this team."
The next set of roster cuts is expected to be on Thursday.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Preseason: Canucks 1 Ducks 5

I missed last night's 5-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. That was probably a good thing:
The Vancouver Canucks had a defensive performance dreadful enough to make Luongo long for the good 'ol days in Florida in a 5-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. The Canucks are 0-3 in the pre-season and looked seriously overmatched against the Ducks.

Anaheim led 2-0 after 51/2 minutes, outshot the Canucks 28-8 through 40 minutes and played as if they were in a league above the Canucks. They may be. But Vancouver, under new coach Alain Vigneault and with Luongo in goal, is never supposed to be out of games.

The Canucks are supposed to be nothing if not relentless. So Friday, for two periods, they were nothing.
Yikes. It almost makes me not regret watching The Last Kiss instead. (Well, that and seeing Rachel Bilson's, ummm, big scene.)

Next game is tomorrow night against the same Ducks. It will be the 'Nucks first home preseason game.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Everybody In The Pool!

One of the best things about the start of the hockey season? Hockey pools! Already, I've participated in one online draft; in the next couple of weeks, I have four more online and live ones. If you're a hockey nut, you're probably participating in a few yourselves.

That in mind, I'd like to invite you to participate in the inagural Canucks Hockey Blog hockey pool. To keep it simple and fun (and with lots of opportunity to trash talk), I've set the pool over on TheCommonFan.com. The pool is free for anyone to join, and if "free" is not enough to entice you to join, I'm also going to give away a FREE CANUCKS REPLICA JERSEY (est. value $120) to the pool winner.

THE RULES:

  • Select a roster made up of 20 NHL players (forwards/defensemen, no goalies).
  • Collect 1 point for each goal, assist, short-handed goal, and game-winning goal - most points at the end of the regular season wins.
  • There are no trades or roster changes allowed when the season starts.
  • The tie-breaker (in order): 1) total goals, 2) total game-winning goals, 3) total shorthanded goals.
  • If there is still a tie after the tie-breakers, I'm going to put their names in a basket and hold a draw to determine the winner.
  • Please folks - only one team per person.
TO PUT IN A TEAM:

Everybody in the pool!

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Preseason: Canucks 3 Sharks 4

90 seconds, one shot. That's all it took for Roberto Luongo to let in his first goal against as a Vancouver Canuck.

Was it simply a case of nerves?

"You know, there were some nerves out there and I had to get the butterflies out," said Luongo, who admitted to feeling some rust as well. "It was my first game since April and here I am with my new team. I really wanted to make an impression. Obviously, there's been a lot of stuff going on for me. I'm trying to get all the kinks out of the way."
Better now than when it counts in the standings. The Canucks lost 4-3 to the San Jose Sharks.

Even without Anson Carter on their wing, the Sedins had great games. Both had a goal and an assist each; both combined for 12 of the Canucks' 33 shots. Their linemate? $1.9 million man, Ryan Kesler.

In the third, Vigneault finally gave up on Jesse Shultz, who was regularly knocked out of the play, and put Ryan Kesler with the twins. Kesler hit everything and cleared out lots of space. It led to two third-period goals, one by Daniel and one by Henrik, which tied the game at 3-3.

"In the third we started forechecking really good and we were able to get some pucks on turnovers and get some good chances," Daniel said. "I like playing with [Kesler], he's a really good player."
Have the Sedins found their new triplet?

The Canucks play tonight again in Anaheim. Game starts at 7 PM. Radio broadcast is on TEAM 1040.

If you were one of the ones having troubles with TEAM 1040's internet feed, Isabella from Stick In Rink has some advice:

Try putting http://meta.insinc.com/team1040/live.asx into your Windows Media Player. That's the direct link and I've been told it works well for people.
Thanks Isabella.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hey There Tough Guy

Gordie Dwyer wants to be the Vancouver Canucks' new tough guy. After an eventful Tuesday night in Calgary - he had four minors a 10-minute misconduct for 18 minutes in penalties - he's certainly proving that he's not afraid to mix it up. (Even if three of those minors were on one play. Against Jeff Friesen.)

Anyway, once upon a time, a certain Vancouver Canucks captain - yes, the current one - was apparently also not afraid to drop the gloves.


Markus - Thank God you turned into a goal scorer.

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The Debut


Roberto Luongo will make his much anticipated debut in a Canucks jersey against the San Jose Sharks tonight. Unlike last Tuesday's game, Alain Vigneault and company will ice a much more veteran lineup.

For Luongo, it's his first opportunity to not only dispel the "Vancouver is a goalie graveyard" theory (Jim Morris, CP), but also to get a good feel for the Western Conference game (Brad Ziemer, Vancouver Sun):

Like all good goalies, Roberto Luongo keeps a book on the National Hockey League's top shooters. Actually, it's not really a book.

"My black book is right up here," Luongo said Wednesday, pointing to his head. "Once I play against a guy or I see something on him, I always remember. I just have a tendency to remember these things."

The trouble is, Luongo's 'book' contains some blank pages when it comes to the NHL's Western Conference. Until now, his entire NHL career has been spent in the Eastern Conference. Ask him about Jaromir Jagr or Alexander Ovechkin and Luongo will tell you where they like to shoot from and whether they prefer to go top shelf or five-hole. Ask him about some of the West's top guns and Luongo is not so sure.

"Apart from a couple of guys who moved from East to West there's not many guys I know real well out here," Luongo said. "Obviously I have played with a few guys, but when you only play against them once every couple years you don't really tend to remember where they like to shoot or where they tend to go on the ice."

(snip)

Luongo said he doesn't think there's a huge difference in the shooters between the East and West (although it should be noted that eight of the nine top goal-scorers in the NHL last season played for Eastern teams).

"I haven't really played in a western type game, but from what I've heard the pace is faster so I'll find out tomorrow if the game is different or not," he said. "But as far as shooters are concerned, I'm sure everyone has their tendencies and it's only a matter of getting to know them."
I sure hope he learns quick. At $6.75 million per season, Canucks fans won't tolerate many off-nights. (Like the one ex-Canucks goalie Alex Auld had last night.)

* - Photo credit to the Vancouver Sun

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Preseason: Canucks 1 Flames 3

The Vancouver Canucks, er Moose, er Salmon Kings, may have lost their preseason opener 3-1 against the Calgary Flames last night, but unlike a lot of losses last season, it wasn't for a lack of try.

Here's Elliott Pap (Vancouver Sun):

If this first exhibition game Tuesday was all about discovery for new Vancouver Canuck head coach Alain Vigneault, here's what he discovered:

Wade Flaherty can still play goal at age 38;

Brandon Reid can still make things happen after two years digesting European hockey culture;

Teenage blueliner Luc Bourdon will be just fine if he resists the temptation for risky business and self-analysis;

Lightweight Rick Rypien isn't afraid of anybody, even hombres as scary and tough as Flame super sophomore Dion Phaneuf.

Anybody else, coach?

"I loved Kevin Bieksa's game," said Vigneault after the Canucks dropped a 3-1 decision to the Flames in Vancouver's first of eight pre-season outings. "I thought he was really solid, he moved the puck well and had a good shot from the point. It was a good start for him. And, up front, Josh Green caught my attention."

Flaherty was perfect in his 30 minutes of work, turning away 11 shots, and looking very capable of handling a light workload behind all-world starter Roberto Luongo.

"It's early, it's the first exhibition game but I felt good and I felt comfortable," said the Langley resident. "It was a good start."
How often do we hear such glowing comments after a loss? Heck, last season, how often did we hear such glowing comments after a win? If the players that are still here on October 5th compete at the same level as last night, the boys in Orca Bay blue just might have an okay season.

A couple of free agent signees made their debut with the Canucks.

One is Rory Fitzpatrick, who played with the Sabres last season. A couple of weeks ago, I asked Tom Luongo (no relation to Roberto) of Sabre Rattling on what we can expect from the guy they call Fitzie:

Solid #7 guy who can play the right side. Limited mobility, but physical and has a huge heart. Apparently he was really well-liked in the Sabres room and would be more valuable in the pre-lockout NHL than the new one. He's a guy whose effort you'll respect but who just doesn't quite have the tools to be anything more than a warm body in case of injury.
After listening to last night's game, Tom's assessment seems accurate. Fitzpatrick was okay in spurts; caught out of position in others. He had an assist on the lone Canucks goal and finished with a +1 rating. He also logged 22:44 minutes of ice time, second only to Kevin Bieksa on the team.

One area of weakness for the team last season was their faceoffs.

Enter Marc Chouinard. Here is some feedback on Marc courtesy of Roy Malhberg of Wild Puck Banter:

Has big upside, but hasn't shown anything yet. Had a hat trick in game 1 last year and I thought he was becoming the scorer the Wild desperately needed, but only scored 11 more in the remaining 81 games. Disappears for stretches of games and was an occassional healthy scratch. Good face off man...in a new system could become a decent 3rd line center.
Lo and behold, he led the Canucks last night with 10 faceoff wins and a 58% faceoff win%. In fact, the team did well on faceoffs last night outdrawing the Flames 58% to 42%.

(Actually another guy who sounded like he had a good game was Tommi Santala, but I can't seem to find any write-ups about him.)

And while we're still on the topic of last night's game against the Flames, George Johnson (Calgary Herald) made an interesting observation:

We need heroes. But heroes need villains. They can't operate without `em.

In the ongoing Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames' melodrama, one heightened by over-familiarity and that visceral seven-game playoff series three springtimes ago, hockey fans in this city have regrettably lost four men they gleefully cast in the role of black hats.

And, to be honest, with the Canucks in town and doing a pretty fair impression of the Manitoba Moose, it just doesn't seem the same.

Jarkko Ruutu (Boo!) defected to Pittsburgh. Ed Jovanovski (Hiss!) wound up in that sun-soaked hockey boneyard that is the Arizona desert. Coach Marc Crawford (Boo!) walked a short plank, packed up the hair gel (but not in his carry-on) and left for L.A. And Todd Bertuzzi (Hissssssss!) was jettisoned to Florida, away from prying eyes, happily prepared for early retirement.

Canucks that people here loved to hate.

These were the men who, from a Calgary perspective, helped transform Vancouver into a nastier, more absorbing rival than even the Edmonton Oilers. Games to look forward to. A rivalry that helped make the dull nights somehow bearable.

Come back, guys. All is forgiven.
Make sure you read the rest of the piece - it's an entertaining read.

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