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CANUCKS HOCKEY BLOG

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Nonis Sounds Off

Count Canucks GM Dave Nonis on my side as one of those opposed to the NHL's unbalanced schedule. At a BC Chamber of Commerce event yesterday, he sounded off:
"I hate the schedule," he said, answering a question from the floor. "It does nothing for us.

"We should play every team in the league at least once. We all pay the same dues and right now the western teams are getting it right in the teeth for no good reason. We fly as much as we ever did and the eastern teams don't do a bloody thing."
Then he added:
In an example of NHL scheduling, Vancouver fans had their first chance to see Washington's Alexander Ovechkin, last season's top rookie, on Friday. Crosby and the Penguins didn't play in Vancouver last season and won't make a trip to GM Place this year either.

When the league announced the unbalanced schedule, the theory was it would help to build division rivalries and allow for more compelling television matchups.

Nonis disagreed.

"Rivalries are built through playoffs," he said. "I know the reasoning behind the schedule, I know why they did it. I don't necessarily agree that it is a good thing. It doesn't save us any time, we're not saving any money on travel and I know our fans want to see us play every team at least once."
The scheduling issue will probably be raised when GMs meet in Toronto Nov. 7.


"I think a lot of teams want the schedule changed," Nonis said. "I think the league always wants to do what's ultimately best for all the teams. I believe they'll revisit it. Whether they'll change it, I don't know."
I hope they do.

I heard a rumor a while ago that one of the biggest advocates for the unbalanced schedule was ex-Philly GM Bobby Clarke. With Clarke no longer around, that's one less voice opposed to switching back to the old format.

(Postscript: As you can see from the above links, Nonis also talked about the lowered age of free agency, among other things. I want to talk more about that later.)

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

On Nazzy and Mo

After Friday's game against the Capitals, I thought maybe that Markus Naslund looked like he was playing hurt. Tony Gallagher mentions in today's Vancouver Province that he's not:
It is his teaming with the city's highest profile physiotherapist that has allowed him to recover from his longstanding groin problem and be able to exert the effort required to lead a team that must survive on hard work.

Naslund has been following the theories, theses and pointed suggestions of Rick Cellebrini, the Alex McKechnie associate and same man who has helped Victoria's Steve Nash reach the extraordinary pinnacle he enjoys in the NBA with the Phoenix Suns.

"It feels as good as it's felt for a long, long time," says Naslund when asked if he feels he's finally overcome that groin problem that made last season so difficult for him and cost him the opportunity to win a gold medal at the Olympics because of his commitment to his employer. "I'm so grateful for what he's done for me. It's been a huge help."
Good news.

On the other hand, the news isn't so good for Brendan Morrison, who I thought played his best game of the season on Friday. Ben Kuzma (Vancouver Province) notes that Morrison's hip felt sore after the game:
Even though Morrison had a strong outing -- and his shootout goal gave the Vancouver Canucks a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals at GM Place -- the centre admitted not all is quite right with his surgically-repaired hip.

"It's getting better and it's kind of give-and-take, but actually tonight is one of the sorest I've been this year," said Morrison, who had a torn labrum muscle repaired last May but is still enduring stiffness.

"When I got going I felt fine, but it's when you stop."

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Alexander The Gr8


When Tracy and I walked into GM Place last night, there was a special buzz in the air. It wasn't because the Canucks were finally home after spending most of the first month of the season on the road. It wasn't because the boys in Orca Bay blue were 6-4-1 despite playing 9 of their first 11 games away from GM Place. It wasn't because Roberto Luongo has come as advertised, hovering around the league leaders in wins, shots faced, save percentage and goals against average. Or that the brothers Sedin were among the league leaders in scoring and plus-minus rating. Or that Henrik was leading the league in assists.

It was because Alexander Ovechkin was in town.

It was because the Gr8 one, with whom Canucks fans have had somewhat of a lovefest with since last summer's NHL draft when he embraced the city and its fans, was playing his first game in Vancouver.

With all due respect to the other star players to have come to GM Place over the years, it's not often the city goes ga-ga over a player on the visiting team. The buzz last night was similar only to very few others at the Garage. Like when Michael Jordan first came to visit or when Wayne Gretzky beat Kirk McLean for his 802nd career goal or when Mario Lemieux returned from Hodgkin's Disease in 2002.

And now Ovechkin. And he didn't disappoint.

For the most part, the Canucks held Ovechkin in check last night. The Canucks made sure he didn't have the puck a lot and mostly succeeded. Regardless, there was a noticeable sense of anticipation whenever he had the puck. There was a sense that something special was going to happen on his every shift because he is that good.

And according to his coach, he's as good a person as he is talented.
Hanlon, who reckons he must have been the most-interviewed coach in hockey last season -- all questions about Ovechkin -- is facing another wave as the Caps tour the West, in cities that have never seen the Russian play, and might not for another couple of years.

"If I had to lie out the side of my face and say he's a great kid and he really wasn't -- if he was getting all these goals and was selfish, and he was mean-spirited -- I'd get ticked off answering questions about him," Hanlon said.

"But this kid is a legitimate great guy, and you're just happy to be able to speak about him.

"We're proud of him, and with 70 points last year and [playing] .500 right now ... we're not coming into cities like Buffalo is, at 10-0 or whatever. This is what we're selling.

"I think the people see [in Ovechkin] somebody that approaches every day like he's 10 years old playing hockey. When you see him walk in the room, it kind of reminds me of a peewee hockey player on his way to his first travel tournament.

"He brings that attitude every day. Even after games where we've had a tough loss, he brings a level of enthusiasm to the room the next morning that really makes a coach's job easy."
Alongside Sid the Kid, he is the face of the NHL and he loves it.
Not only was Ovechkin a hit at the NHL awards gala in Vancouver last June, the Moscow native carried the goodwill to the entry draft stage where he warmly welcomed the Caps' first pick, Nicklas Backstrom, and willingly did the corporate schmooze with league sponsors.

It's like the 21-year-old Ovechkin is a pied piper. Countrymen Ilya Kovalchuk, Maxim Afinogenov, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Semin are following suit by not masking their emotions.

Quick, somebody call Gary Bettman. Get this guy's mug on billboards. And get the commissioner to change a ridiculous schedule that has the phenom visiting here just once every three years.
Which brings me to a sore point.

I've never been a big fan of the unbalanced schedule. And it stinks that we won't see the Gr8 one again for at least a couple more years. He's the kind of big talent that justifies paying big bucks to watch hockey games. He's the kind of ambassador the NHL has been looking for to promote the game.

Yet 10 teams - one-thirds of the entire league - won't see him live this season.

Caps teammate Olaf Kolzig agrees with this sentiment (via Terry Frei, ESPN):
Kolzig said he "totally" understands the frustration over seeing Ovechkin only once every three seasons.

"It's the same for us," he said. "It's always a nice change of pace to get away from the East Coast and come out to some great cities like Denver and Phoenix and L.A. and Vancouver. When you're only doing that once every three years, and Raleigh [four] times and Sunrise, Florida, players can get stale, so I can understand their frustration. I hope they go back to the old format."

And the fans in the West are missing a rare combination of maturity and talent.

"You see so many young kids come in the league, and the skill is there, but it's the maturity level that takes a while to develop," Kolzig said. "Alex, from day one last year, just wanted to fit in with the team so badly. He wanted to room with a North American guy, wanted to learn the language, wanted to learn the culture. He was part of the dressing room from day one. There was no sitting off in the corner by yourself and taking everything in. He dove right in and became part of the team, and I think that contributed to how he played last year. He felt comfortable on the ice."

All of this cuts both ways, of course. The fans in the East don't get enough opportunities to see, at least not in person, Jonathan Cheechoo or, for that matter, Joe Thornton any longer.

But at least, at this point, the West is getting the short end of the stick.
Now, there is talk that the NHL is looking into the schedule, but for one more season at least, they will stick with the unbalanced format. If they're smart, they'll eventually make the change and ensure players like Ovechkin will visit every NHL city every season.

I know I'm looking forward to the next time he comes to Vancouver; I just hope I don't have to wait until 2010 to do so.

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Capitals 2 Canucks 3 (SO)

The Vancouver Canucks needed 44 shots on goal plus a shootout to score three and beat Olaf Kolzig and the Washington Capitals. Kolzig stole the spotlight from Alexander Ovechkin, but it wasn't enough and the Canucks won 3-2 in a shootout.

Without their top defensive defenseman, Willie Mitchell, for the third game in a row, the Canucks held one of the league's best players in check. Save perhaps for a two-minute brain fart in the second period when they took consecutive penalties, they didn't give Ovechkin a lot of room to work with and limited him to just two shots on goal. For the game, the Canucks held the Capitals to 21 shots on goal, 16 of them in the second period.

The two Canucks goals came from Taylor Pyatt - his team-leading sixth of the season - and Jan Bulis. Bulis' line with Morrison and Naslund combined for nine shots, and it looks like now, the Canucks have some semblance of secondary scoring (Iain McIntyre, Vancouver Sun).

My 3 Stars of the Game

  1. Olaf Kolzig (WAS): Stopped 42 Canucks shots (not including the shootout) and gave the Capitals an opportunity to steal a win.
  2. Brendan Morrison (VAN): Playing probably his best games of the season, Mo was dangerous on every shift and assisted on Jan Bulis' goal. He also scored on the shootout to seal the Canucks' win.
  3. Daniel Sedin (VAN): Daniel didn't record a point, but he caused the Capitals defense fits all night. He won a lot of battles in the corners, set-up Henrik and Taylor Pyatt for good scoring chances, and himself, threw five shots on Olaf Kolzig.
Other Things on my Notepad

  • GM Place is 11 years old, but with the new energy bar and the new scoreboard, it suddenly looks and feels like a brand-new stadium. The new scoreboard especially is freakin' amazing. I managed to take a brief video of it (and Mo's shootout goal) from my seats - click here to see it.
  • Kevin Bieksa logged a career-high 26:22 minutes of ice-time last night. And that was despite spending seven minutes in the penalty box for fighting Chris Clark. Bieksa really is one of those feel-good stories this year.
  • On the drive home, I caught a brief bit of the post-game show. Jeff Patterson (?) actually suggested that with the Canucks already down a defenseman (Fitzpatrick briefly left the bench after being hit hard against the boards), Bieksa shouldn't have fought Chris Clark. I disagree. Clark almost ran over Roberto Luongo - by my count, the third time the Caps tried to do so - and I applaud Bieksa for putting an end to it. And before we ask him to pick out our 6/49 numbers for tonight, he had absolutely no way of knowing beforehand the Canucks would give up a long 5-on-3 with Fitzpatrick out and three other defensemen in the penalty box.
  • Loo-kash Krajicek also played a great game. He was more positionally-sound and took away a lot of the Caps' passing lanes. When he had the puck, he looked smooth in skating it out of the zone or throwing out that first pass. His 28:16 minutes of ice-time was second-highest only to Mattias Ohlund.
  • I think we pretty much saw the best and worst of Jan Bulis tonight. He was determined to make up for a lousy game on Wednesday night and came out flying at the start of the game. Then he came out in the second period and took a lazy hooking penalty.
  • I know I'll get flamed for saying this, but Markus Naslund looked like he was playing hurt near the end of the game. He looked uncomfortable skating and had problems handling the puck and getting his shot off. I hope the three days off cures whatever it is that ails him.
About the game around the blogosphere

Fun With Numbers

The Canucks don't play their next game until Halloween night against the Nashville Predators.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Crazy Canucks: Episode 4

After a good road trip that featured three wins, some last-minute heroics and some unlikely heroes, it's the perfect time for episode number 4 of The Crazy Canucks.

We take a look at some amazing OT wins over St. Louis and Nashville, talk about the showdown in Dallas, and another impressive win against the Hawks before the boys finally come home for a few games. We’re still getting used to the new look for the Canucks, but these recent games have really impressed all of us.
Click here to listen to or download the feed. As always, don't forget to leave your comments on the site.

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Canucks 5 Blackhawks 0

It wasn't the Canucks' prettiest game - it was sometimes sloppy, actually (Jason Botchford, Vancouver Province - but playing a Chicago Blackhawks team without its no. 1 goaltender, three of its top forwards and one of its top defenseman, it was enough for a 5-0 victory. It was the Canucks' first shutout in more than two and a half years.

"You look at this on paper and you'll go 'Whoa, they must have dominated,'" said Brendan Morrison, who scored his third of the season. "To be honest, the only guy happy on our team is [Roberto Luongo]. He played well. And the Sedins played well. But we just gave up way too much to that team in the second and third periods. I don't know if we were playing the score or what but we got away from working hard."
They did slack a bit, but for those two periods, Luongo bailed them out. He stopped all 32 Blackhawks shots, 18 of them in the second period, and a lot of them coming in bunches. He was his best stopping Tony Salmelainen in two opportunities after Salmelainen got around the Canucks defense.

Both Sedins scored three points each, inclduing Henrik's first two goals of the season. But the better news for the twins may be that with each game, Taylor Pyatt is looking more and more like a great fit on their line (Brad Ziemer, Vancouver Sun).

The role of Anson Carter is now being played by Taylor Pyatt. Quite nicely, thank you.

All summer and into the fall, the question on the lips of Canuck fans has been, "Who is going to score those 33 goals that Carter provided last year while skating with Daniel and Henrik Sedin?"

The answer appears to be a 25-year-old former first-round draft pick who has never scored more than 14 goals in a NHL season.

Pyatt now has five in 11 games with the Canucks and is beginning to look like a great fit with the Sedins.

Pyatt scored Vancouver's fourth goal and assisted on its fifth in a 5-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on Wednesday night. He and the twins were all plus three on the night.

"Those two guys are a lot of fun to play with," he said. "They're tremendous passers, so smart with the puck and for me it's just a matter of trying to find some open areas on the ice and I know I'll be able to score a few goals."
Henrik adds (Jason Botchford, Vancouver Province):

"I love playing with him," Henrik said. "He's big and strong and he holds on to the puck. He fits really well on our line. I think he's played great [with us] from his first shift a couple games back. He's finally getting a chance to show he's a really good player."
My 3 Stars of the Game

  1. Roberto Luongo (VAN): Recorded 32 saves and the beneficiary of one quick Mick McGeough whistle for his first shutout as a Canuck.
  2. Henrik Sedin (VAN): Scored his first two goals this season and added an assist. Also had five shots on goal.
  3. Daniel Sedin (VAN): Sniper turned playmaker had three assists.
Other Things on my Notepad

  • Loved seeing Ray Ferraro do some analyst work for the pay-per-view telecast. IMHO, he's one of the best in the biz.
  • My vote for "player most likely to drive Vigneault nuts" is Jan Bulis. Frustrating how he'd follow up a great shift with a lousy, lazy one. He took a lazy penalty late in the second period and never played again after that.
  • For the most part, the Canucks played a disciplined game. They only gave up five powerplay opportunities to the Blackhawks and killed all of them. Going back to the home opener against the San Jose Sharks, the Canucks have killed 44 of 47 powerplays (94%).
  • Again, Luc Bourdon was hardly noticeable in the back end. Except for one bad pinch, I thought he picked his spots and played a solid game. He finished with 12:59 minutes of ice-time and a +1 rating.
  • Matt Cooke scored his first goal of the season thanks to some hard work around the net. His line with Kesler and Josh Green not only played a gritty game, they also combined for seven shots on goal.
  • With their three points, Henrik and Daniel now have 14 points each and are tied for second in league scoring.
About the game around the blogosphere

  • Waiting For Stanley tried to liveblog the game, but found it challenging with Blogger and Blogspot down most of yesterday (stupid, stupid Blogger).
  • More on the game from The Chief Canuck.
  • Isabella from Stick In Rink picked up some good lines from frustrated Blackhawks fans (frustrated may be an understatement).
Fun With Numbers

Next up, the Canucks host Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

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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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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Canucks 1 Stars 2

Jason Botchford (Vancouver Province) billed it as the battle of two top goalies.

It was.

Except only one goalie faced a lot of work.

Facing one of the top teams in the league, the Canucks came out and played a heckuva game. They forechecked and forced the Stars to a lot of turnovers and poured 34 shots on Marty Turco. On the other end, they did okay without top defensive defenseman Willie Mitchell in the lineup - Mitchell may miss more games with lingering headaches (Brad Ziemer, Vancouver Sun) - and limited the Stars to just 26 shots. By the 14-minute mark of the second period, the Canucks had limited the Stars to only six shots for the game. In the end, the only goals the Stars could score were a fluke goal off Kevin Bieksa's stick and one on an 80-second 5-on-3 man advantage.

Like many games this season, the Canucks' work ethic was there (Ed Willes, Vancouver Province); with a little more finish, they could have had a better result (Jason Botchford, Vancouver Province).

My 3 Stars of the Game

  1. Marty Turco (DAL): Many of his 33 saves on 34 Vancouver shots were of the great variety.
  2. Mattias Ohlund (VAN): Led a Willie Mitchell-less defense logging 27:16 minutes of ice-time.
  3. Mike Modano (DAL): Played big on the Stars' third period powerplays and scored the game-winner.
Other Things on my Notepad

  • Luc Bourdon stepped into the lineup and fared much better than his first two outings. He kept his game simple and made the simple play every time - he logged 9:58 minutes of ice-time and you didn't even notice him. That's a good thing.
  • Brendan Morrison had another strong game. I thought he was still fighting the puck a bit but he was good in everything else. He logged 17:28 minutes of ice-time, had three shots on goal and won 10-of-15 faceoffs.
  • Marc Chouinard has also stepped it up. Against St. Louis, Nashville and Dallas, he's won a combined 21-of-26 faceoffs (81%).
  • Josh Green had a strong game as well. For someone who was supposed to be a defensive player, he was probably the Canucks' best offensive threat besides the Sedins and even saw some powerplay time in the third period.
About the game around the blogosphere

Fun With Numbers

The Canucks finish off their 9-of-11 games on the road stretch on Wednesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Seeing Stars

The news isn't that good for Willie Mitchell going into tonight's game against the Dallas Stars (Jason Botchford, Vancouver Province):

In all likelihood, the Canucks will have to take on the Dallas Stars, whose forward group is as deep and as prolific as there is in the league, without Willie Mitchell.

The team's defensive stalwart and short-handed bull is doubtful for tonight after waking up with a headache -- a warning sign that he may have suffered a concussion -- following a crushing hit Saturday from the Nashville Predators' Jason Arnott.

It was determined Sunday that Mitchell required a neurological exam. If he misses the game, Luc Bourdon will be called in and could expose the Canucks' defensive depth, which looked as thin as the plot in a Lindsay Lohan movie the last time the rookie played.
Mitchell was the second Canucks defenseman in two games to be rammed from behind and into the boards. Remember that Mattias Ohlund was shoved into the boards by Ryan Johnson while Ohlund was chasing the puck for an icing call. Fortunately, Ohlund got up and finished the game (the refs also gave Johnson a minor penalty - because a check from behind is apparently as minor as a hook and a hold nowadays - and the Canucks tied it up on the ensuing powerplay); Mitchell wasn't as lucky.

Josh Green, who was hit with a puck on Saturday night, is questionable as well.

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Previous Poll Results

Here are the results from the previous poll:



Good to know that only 15% of you have jumped off the bandwagon.

There's a new poll on the sidebar. Don't forget to cast your vote.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Canucks 4 Predators 3 (OT)

On Billy Ray Cyrus night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center, the Vancouver Canucks gave the Nashville Predators an achy-breaky heart.

For the second game in a row, the Canucks overcame a late third period deficit and won the game in overtime. They won by a score of 4-3.

The Canucks scored four goals, none of them from a Sedin or a Naslund (Jason Botchford, Vancouver Province).
The results of splitting up the so-called Pickup Line of Markus Naslund and the Sedin twins were immediate and electric. Faster than Billy Ray Cyrus's singing career, the Canucks had the scoring by committee they claim they have longed for.

The first beneficiary was the publicly beaten up Bulis. He has held from the start of training camp that he could morph into an offensive threat if he ever had a chance to play with one of the Canucks playmaking Swedish forwards.

He made good on his promise on the first chance he got this season, whipping a wrister past Tomas Vokoun off a sweet cross-ice feed from Naslund on their first shift together this season.

The second beneficiary was Taylor Pyatt, who dug out a puck from the side boards and then found out how easy it is playing give-and-go with Daniel Sedin, who was placed perfectly behind the net. Sedin hit Pyatt, who flipped in a wrist shot as he was skating into the slot.
As is becoming the theme for the season, Roberto Luongo kept the Canucks in the game before their work ethic took over and they made the most of a couple of late opportunities (Ed Willes, Vancouver Province).
OK, if they don't win a game where they get goals from Jan Bulis, Taylor Pyatt and Lucas Krajicek, they might not win another game this season. But the point is, the Canucks are putting themselves in a position to win, then finding ways to execute.

For the Canucks of Marc Crawford's last two seasons, that task was more difficult than finding Jimmy Hoffa's body. For these Canucks, it's becoming part of who they are.

"We know [Luongo] is going to keep us in the game," said Henrik Sedin. "As long as we're down just one goal we can find a way to score. It's a good feeling."
It sure is.

My 3 Stars of the Game

  1. Roberto Luongo (VAN): Kept the Canucks in the game until Morrison scored late in the third period and Krajicek scored in overtime.
  2. Kimmo Timonen (NAS): Was absolutely huge on the Nashville defense. Led all Nashville skaters with 27:43 minutes of ice-time - 9:09 on the penalty-kill - and five blocked shots.
  3. Paul Kariya (NAS): His speed gave the Canucks fits all game long and he was dangerous in more than 20 minutes of ice-time. He had one assist and six shots on goal; his linemates Jason Arnott and Martin Erat added seven SOG. Honorable mention to Tomas Vokoun for making 42 saves.

Other Things on my Notepad

  • The penalty-kill came up huge and killed off all six Predators powerplays, including a near-minute long two-man advantage in the second period.
  • Willie Mitchell left the game in the third period after being checked from behind and into the boards. The good news is that, publicly anyway, Alain Vigneault expects him back on Monday.
  • Lukas Krajicek and Kevin Bieksa had good games again last night. Krajicek, of course scored the winning goal in OT, but he is also developing a nice all-around game. He seems to be more conscious of his defensive responsibilities and is learning when to pinch in on the play. Similarly, Kevin Bieksa is just turning out to be a nice all-purpose defenseman.
  • Three of the Canucks' five wins this season have come in overtime - they lead the league in this category.
About the game around the blogosphere

Fun With Numbers

The Canucks continue their road trip in Dallas on Monday night.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Canucks 3 Blues 2 (OT)

Nazzy tied it with a slap shot.

Sami won it with a wrist shot.

Role reversal much?

I'll give a full recap in the morning. For now, I go out and drink. Some more.

[update: 10/21/06, 9:17 AM]

Brad Ziemer (Vancouver Sun) called it the Misery in Missouri - rightly so after the Canucks lost four games, and perhaps their playoff spot, to the Blues last season. I'm just glad it's over.

The Canucks broke out of their serious offensive slumber late in Friday night's game as they spotted St. Louis a 2-0 third-period lead before storming back to beat the Blues 3-2 on Salo's buzzer-beater in overtime.

The Misery in Missouri is finally over for the Canucks.

Salo's blast from inside the blue line cleanly beat St. Louis goalie Curtis Sanford, who had held the Blues in the game the entire night. Despite the fact the seconds were ticking down and the game seemed destined for a shootout, Salo made a quick move to give himself a clear lane before unleashing his shot.

"I had just noticed we had seven seconds so I thought there might be time for one move and that's what I did and just found the open hole," Salo said. "The guy was right in front of the lane so I just tried to get that lane. I just decided to make the better play."
My 3 Stars of the Game

  1. Curtis Sanford (STL): If it wasn't for his 36 saves, this game wouldn't have been close.
  2. Sami Salo (VAN): Played 27:02 minutes and kept throwing the puck on net (he had five shots on goal) before finally putting one behind Sanford with 0.7 seconds left.
  3. Markus Naslund (VAN): In what is becoming a typical game for the captain, Markus played both ends of the ice and dove for loose pucks. And he tied the game with 26 seconds left in regulation time.
Other Things on my Notepad

  • When you watch highlights to this game, pay attention to Taylor Pyatt's goal. Doesn't it eerily look like the same kind of goal Anson Carter scored 33 times last season?
  • After 20 straight penalty kills, the Canucks gave up a couple of powerplay goals to the Blues last night.
  • More than half the game was played on specialty-teams, and while both teams took advantage of their opportunities (the Canucks more than the Blues), the game was frustrating to watch at times. Did Dave Jackson and Chris Lee have a quota they had to meet?
  • When you watch highlights to this game, pay attention to Taylor Pyatt's goal. Doesn't it eerily look like the same kind of goal Anson Carter scored 33 times last season?
  • One guy who seems to be getting better is Josh Green. Last night, he logged 14:07 minutes of ice-time - his highest total of the season - and in different situations, including the powerplay.
  • Trevor Linden drew back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch on Tuesday. Because the Canucks spent most of the second and third periods on the powerplay - they had nine of man-advantages - Linden only played four shifts in the last half of the game and only logged 5:48 minutes of ice-time.
  • Marc Chouinard only played 7:56 minutes, but at least was much better on the faceoff circle. He won 5 of 7 faceoffs.
About the game around the blogosphere

Fun With Numbers

The Canucks play tonight against the Nashville Predators. Puck drop is at 5 PM. BC residents can watch the game on CBC.

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Beating The Blues

Some questions going into tonight's game against the St. Louis Blues:

Can the Canucks put last season's Blues behind? (Jason Botchford, Vancouver Province)

Markus Naslund fully understands the dear price the Vancouver Canucks paid for getting swept in embarrassing fashion by the St. Louis Blues last year.

He's determined not to let it happen again, beginning tonight.

"It ruined our playoff chances," Naslund said. "I think we took them lightly last year and it cost us the season."
What if the Canucks took the Blues seriously last year? (Brad Ziemer, Vancouver Sun)

What if the Vancouver Canucks hadn't got swept by the St. Louis Blues, the worst team in the Western Conference, last season?

What if the Canucks had managed even a split of their four games with the Blues?

Let's see, they missed the playoffs by three points, so if they had earned four points off the Blues they would have been the No. 8 seed in the West and gone all the way to the Stanley Cup final instead of the Edmonton Oilers.
Can Brendan Morrison start putting the puck in the net? (Ed Willes, Vancouver Province)

As a former economics major at Michigan, Brendan Morrison is aware these numbers don't add up: $3.2 million and one goal and one assist after seven games.

But there are far deeper implications to Morrison's slow start for the Canucks this season and, again, they don't require any explanation to the eight-year veteran.

In the Canucks' current configuration, Morrison is expected to be the key figure on a second scoring line. To date, that line -- with Jan Bulis and a revolving cast on the other wing -- has produced exactly two goals this season, both on the power play.
Can the rest of the team? (Brad Ziemer, Vancouver Sun)

"Some of them are in major offensive funks," Vigneault said Wednesday, which was a travel day for the Canucks. "Why does Matt Cooke not have a point? Why does [Jan] Bulis only have one assist and Mo [Brendan Morrison] et cetera, et cetera.

"I think we have some guys who have offensive capabilities, but for some reason so far it's just not going their way. We're going to stick with them and help them try to get out of it."

The Canuck forwards have accumulated 35 points so far this season, 22 of which have come from the trio of Markus Naslund and the Sedin twins.
Who's playing with who? (Brad Ziemer, Vancouver Sun)

Vigneault fiddled with his bottom three lines on Thursday, but said that could change again before tonight's game against the Blues.

He had Marc Chouinard between Jan Bulis and Matt Cooke. That struggling trio has only one point among them this season. Brendan Morrison centred Taylor Pyatt and Ryan Kesler, while Josh Green skated with Trevor Linden and Alex Burrows. Tommi Santala was the odd man out and figures to be a scratch tonight.
Puck drop is at 5 PM. TV broadcast is on Sportsnet Pacific; Canucks radio play-by-play is on TEAM 1040.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bieksa Breaking Through

Gary Lawless (Winnipeg Free Press, subscription required) shares this story about Kevin Bieksa shortly after he left Bowling Green and joined the Manitoba Moose:

One night, over a few drinks at Earls, then-teammate Fedor Fedorov and Bieksa were having words that went a little too far. Fedorov called Bieksa outside and in short order the talented but unpredictable forward was being driven to the hospital while the rookie defender was back in the bar being treated to shots by his veteran teammates.

Bieksa returned to Manitoba the next fall and quickly made a name for himself in the AHL as a tough, dependable, smart defenceman. This year he's doing the same in the NHL.
Is he ever. On a Canucks team that started the season with only three proven NHL'ers on the back end - Ohlund, Salo and Mitchell - Bieksa has been a blessing.

In seven games, Bieksa already has five points (1G-4A) whereas he recorded six assists in 39 NHL games last season.

But what has been nice to see is how dependable he has been. Vigneault has been playing him in all situations and Bieksa has logged at least 17 minutes of ice-time each game. On the Canucks' opening night at GM Place, and with Sami Salo out with a groin injury, Bieksa logged more than 24 minutes and had a career-high three points. The Sharks scored six goals that night; Bieksa finished the game with a +1 rating.

For the season, he has a +2 rating and has been on the ice only for three of the 26 goals scored against the team.

Not bad for a $500,000 player ($550,000 next season).

Later in the article, Bieksa adds:
"This is awesome. I'm an Ontario boy born and bred, and that's all you think about growing up there. I wanted to be a hockey player and this has been a dream come true.

"I was lucky enough to be drafted by a Canadian team in the Canucks and it's been great. The whole city is involved and it's just a hockey environment. The same was true with the Moose. That's an organization that expects a lot from its players, and the community does as well. It's an NHL city and organization with an AHL team."
Canucks fans are notorious for their lofty expectations. In my eyes anyway, Bieksa has so far met them.

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The Crazy Canucks: Episode 3

John, Rebecca, Alanah, Dave and I got together via Skype to record the third episode of The Crazy Canucks. Seven games into the season and we still don't know whether to plan the parade on Georgia St. or jump off the Lions Gate bridge.
Everybody’s here for this episode as we are now seven games into the 2006 season. We go through our first impressions of how the lines have been put together, who’s standing out, and who needs to step up. We can’t fail to mention something about the goal and the guy who stands in front of it to block pucks… or something like that.

There’s a lot talk about now that we’re seeing how this team is performing on the ice. A lot is happening on the bench, and based on some listener feedback, we dig a little deeper into the man calling the shots behind the bench.
Click here to listen to the feed or to download the episode.

Like the 'Nucks, we are a work in progress so please don't forget to leave us your comments, good or bad.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Canucks 1 Oilers 2

After the Vancouver Canucks' 2-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers last night, you can either blame the goaltending (Brad Ziemer, Vancouver Sun):

Early in the first period, Dany Sabourin looked like the second coming of Martin Brochu or Maxime Ouellet.

In other words, it was a horror show. Call it The Backup Blues, a movie Canuck fans have seen too many times.

In his Canuck debut Tuesday night, Sabourin was beat cleanly on the first shot he faced and two minutes later allowed another one as the Oilers got all the goals they would need on their first three shots and went on to beat Vancouver 2-1 at Rexall Place.
Or blame the lack of offense (Jason Botchford, Vancouver Province):

At least Dany Sabourin, playing in his first game of the year, had a reasonable excuse.

As for the rest of the Canucks, it remains unclear why they hit the ice flatter than a paper doll under a briefcase in a 2-1 loss to the Oilers, supposedly their heated rival. News that Roberto Luongo wasn't starting seemed to take the air out of their tires faster than police-issued road spikes.

In the first period of a battle of the backup goalies, the Canucks managed just five shots. In the second, they had four. Think Plasma flatscreen without colour -- without pixels for that matter. And, it's worth noting, this is a Canucks team that needed every one of 37 shots to manage just two goals in Monday's win.
I blame both.

My 3 Stars of the Game

  1. Ethan Moreau (EDM): Scored to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead just 51 seconds in.
  2. Steve Staios (EDM): 2 assists, 3 hits, 3 blocked shots and a +2 rating in 20:07 minutes of ice-time.
  3. Mattias Ohlund (VAN): Was the best of the Canucks' defensemen, settling them down after allowing two quick goals to open the game. Led the team with 6 shots and 24:30 minutes of ice-time.
Other Things on my Notepad

  • For the first time in his career, Trevor Linden was a healthy scratch and he was not happy about it. (Jim Matheson, Victoria Times Colonist and Ed Willes, Vancouver Province)
  • Once again, the Canucks were perfect (8-for-8) on the penalty-kill. They have now killed off 20 consecutive man-advantages.
  • Markus Naslund's goal was his 301st as a Canuck. He has now passed Trevor for the franchise lead. (Not a good day for Trev.)
  • I have to end on a positive note: overall, the Canucks did an admirable job at bouncing back from the two early goals and keeping the game within reach. Defensively, they limited the Oilers' chances and didn't give them many free shots at Dany Sabourin. It would have been the perfect road game had the offense also been able to contribute just one more goal.

About the game around the blogosphere

  • As always, The Chief Canuck gives us the good, the bad, and the ugly from the game.
  • Zanstrom from Waiting For Stanley is bummed out about the game, but at least got some free drinks from some mystery stranger at the bar. Nothing like free booze to help make you feel better.
  • the prez at Hot-Oil reports from the game, and despite the win, was a bit critical of the Oilers.
  • Ditto Andy Grabia from the Battle of Alberta. Tough crowd.
  • The ever-entertaining Jordi from girls don't love hockey posts her thoughts on the game and more.
Fun With Numbers
The Canucks' next game is Friday night against the St. Louis Blues.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Some Pavel For The Pre-Game

There's still close to 15 minutes before the puck drops for tonight's rematch against the Edmonton Oilers. In the meantime, enjoy this trip down memory lane (video link found on Sharkspage):


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Oilers 1 Canucks 2

Cam Cole (Vancouver Sun) called it a "credibility game":

There isn't a lot in it, yet. You hear that, and you tell yourself that the season is young, but when you watch a hockey game, whether it's in October or December or March, you still want to leap to conclusions based on what looks good enough, and what doesn't.

So take this for what it's worth: the Edmonton Oilers don't get outworked very often, and the Vancouver Canucks -- the Canucks! -- outworked them Monday night, in a 2-1 victory that flattered the losers.
After Friday night's debacle, last night's game was a treat to watch. The Canucks outhustled and outchanced the Oilers by a wide margin.

Sedin, Sedin and Naslund were dominant as usual - Alain Vigneault already said he won't mess with that line (Ben Kuzma, Vancouver Province) - but this time the Canucks offense didn't just come from the three Swedes (Brad Ziemer, Vancouver Sun). This time, they got help from the rest of the lineup.

Alain Vigneault moved Ryan Kesler to a line with Brendan Morrison and Jan Bulis, and the line produced some good results (Gordon McIntyre, Vancouver Province).


The newest version of the second line, with Ryan Kesler joining Brendan Morrison and Jan Bulis, was again held pointless. But not for lack of creating chances, not for lack of hustle and not for lack of backchecking.

Coach Alain Vigneault was so impressed, he had the three out to kill the final 40 seconds of the 2-1 game with the faceoff at the Canucks blueline and the Edmonton net empty.
Sami Salo came back from a groin injury and was one of the best Canucks on the ice. He simply did it all (Ben Kuzma, Vancouver Province):

On a night when the club hoped the blueliner could contribute, Salo did much more than that in a 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers at GM Place.

After sitting out one game to rehab a groin strain, Salo was solid defensively and opportunistic offensively. He not only scored the winning goal, he drew two penalties and helped limit the Oilers' top line to just two shots and one scoring chance in the third period.
And everyone else was just as effective: quiet Taylor Pyatt (Tracy has now started to call him "my baby" - should I be worried?) chipped in with his second goal of the season; Matt Cooke and Alex Burrows were rambunctious on every shift; Mattias Ohlund played as good as I've seen him play all season; Kevin Bieksa built on his career game from last Friday; and on and on and on.

Hopefully they can do it all again tonight.

My 3 Stars of the Game

  1. Sami Salo (VAN): After missing the Canucks home opener, Sami came back and made a big difference. He logged 23:11 minutes of ice-time, helped slow down Joffrey Lupul's and Ryan Smyth's line, and scored the game-winning goal.
  2. Dwayne Roloson (EDM): Stopped 35 of 37 Canucks shots, many of them good quality ones.
  3. Ryan Kesler (VAN): Didn't score a point but did a lot of the dirty work on a line with Brendan Morrison and Jan Bulis. He battled hard in the corners and in front of the net, and threw four quality shots on Roloson.
Other Things on my Notepad
  • The Canucks penalty-killing has come around since the start of the season and has now killed 12 consecutive man-advantages.
  • Because of his penchant for dangling the puck and not shooting, we have our own version of the Oilers' Ales Hemsky. His name is Jan Bulis. Shoot the puck, Jan!
  • About the only guy I was a bit disappointed in was Trevor Linden. Hard to criticize Trev but he looked out of synch out there tonight.
About the game around the blogosphere
  • VCOE was impressed at the 'Nucks' effort.
  • The Chief Canuck decided to go to the game on a whim and gives us his good, bad and ugly.
  • Loxy, the Vancouver-based Oilers fan, was hoping for that the Oilers would kick the Canucks' collective asses. Alas, it didn't happen.
Fun With Numbers
The Canucks are back on the ice against the same Edmonton Oilers tonight. Dany Sabourin is expected to get his first start as a Canuck. Puck drop is at 6 PM. TV broadcast is on Sportsnet Pacific; radio play-by-play on Team 1040.

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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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