Breaking News!!! The real reason Roberto Luongo struggles early in the season!

I know I know…another Luongo blog. But when you see what we’ve uncovered you’ll be glad we posted this.

Everyone knows that Roberto Luongo struggles early in the NHL season. Well we’ve uncovered the reason why, and it has nothing to do with his play! He’s a BC Lions fan! TMZ is going to be all over this!

This photo below provides proof that Luongo has invested in a body double that plays the first part of the season for him, while he watches his beloved BC Lions down the stretch of the CFL season. Luongo, photographed here, still sporting his Stanley Cup playoff beard is seen here at the BC Lions game last in the crowd. Obviously with Russell Crowe in a suite, just mere feet away Luongo was trying to blend in with the crowd.

So Canucks fans, with the BC Lions poised to make an appearance int he 2011 Grey Cup, it could be December before we see him round into form. You be the judge…Enquiring minds want to know!

Micro-analysis: The joys of living in a hockey town.

Four games into the 2011-2012 NHL season and already talk shows and fans alike are micro-analyzing the Vancouver Canucks.

Ok, if we’re completely honest, it never really stopped did it?

If I’m really really honest, i’m just not into the new season yet. Those of you who know me I am also a CFL freak (Canadian Football League for those NFL folks out there) and my BC Lions are the hottest team in the league at the time of this blog. So with the battle for playoff position brewing and Vancouver hosting the 99th edition of the Grey Cup this season, my attention is admittedly elsewhere. *Shameless plug warning* I also run BCLionsDen.ca, if you would like to check it out.

There are other reasons why the Canucks don’t have my undivided attention yet. The the mental drain of last year’s playoffs and the way things ended last year have been tough to get over. I’m almost there, but not quite. Off-season, we hardly knew you.

I’ve watched parts of every game this year. I’ve been impressed with Cody Hodgson, the Sedin twins are once again displaying outstanding regular season form, and Luongo is once again struggling through his annual October tuneup. Is it the playoffs yet?

I’m a big sports radio guy. I pretty much listen to sports radio all the time in the car, usually the TEAM 1040. I understand this is a hockey market and that the ratings, advertisers and callers dictate that hockey rule the airwaves 90% of the time. But over the first four games of this season, I’ve gotten to thinking how the sports radio hosts on those town have an affect on the hockey fan in Vancouver.

Already they’re talking about how the Canucks aren’t tough enough, how Luongo isn’t good enough and how Marco Sturm is a bust after four games. The “experts” are riling up the masses and fueling the micro-analysis that exists in this rabid hockey town and that’s their job.

Of course social media has given everyone a voice. Bloggers blog, fans tweet, all with their own critiques and opinions. Some are very rational, some not so much, but such is the world of the fan today. It’s certainly provided fans and media with a voice they never had in the past.

In an 82 game season, there are going to be slumps and streaks, peaks and valley’s. As a long time Canucks fan of over 30 years, I’ve see a lot of bad hockey teams. I’ve seen teams that weren’t supposed to do anything excel, and teams that were just crash and burn.

I’ve also learned a lot from the players over the last few years and how they don’t get too high after a win, and too low after a loss.  I’ll admit, I’m not the best fan come playoff time. I’m heavily invested and affected by the outcomes. I wish I could have the calmness and patience of the team, who has much more at stake in the games than I do as a fan. It’s a game by game process with the ultimate goal of making the playoffs and winning the last game you play. That thought process worked last year and the team fell short, but it’s the best process to follow for both players and the fans.

There should be no panic in Canucks Nation, yet you wouldn’t know it listening to some of the radio hosts in this town and the flames they fan with the fans. I always find it amusing when talk show host fill the airwaves with negativity and then in the next breath accuse the callers that interact with of overreacting etc. Some of them should look in the mirror.

I know my passion will come back, it always does. I know that come playoff time I will be glued to every face off, every goal, watching nervously. I do have the “Heart of a Canuck” and that heart will always belong to the green white and blue. Whether Luongo lets in a soft one or Daniel goes four games without a goal.

While it’s great that people are passionate about the Canucks, fueling the success of sports talk radio in our city, the only thing that really matters is what happens come playoff time. So sit back, relax and watch the story unfold game by game in hopes that come playoff time the final result will be different.

Or, you can just keep micro-analyzing every little thing that happens and drive yourself insane. ;-)

Go Canucks go!

NHL blows it again. Perception is everything and once again, they look bad.

So Aaron Rome was suspended for four games by the NHL and its new interim disciplinarian Mike Murphy. I like most were pretty shocked at the number of games. I figured the league would give Rome at least a game and probably two for the late hit.

It wasn’t a blindside hit; it was a late hit with a very unfortunate result. But Nathan Horton is done for the series with a severe concussion and in some respects it may be fair that Aaron Rome misses the remainder of the final as well.

I accept the suspension as a fan, but I what I cannot accept is the part of the process that was used to arrive at the decision. This from the NHL transcript of the decision:

Q.  Is there a formula equating playoff games to regular-season games?

MIKE MURPHY:  Yes.  It’s more severe.

Q.  Is there a number?

MIKE MURPHY: No.  I wish there was a number.  There’s not.  You have to feel that.  I know in the past when we had a playoff suspension, I remember the Pronger elbow going back, the Lemieux hit going on, that was two, Pronger was one.  I spoke to the gentleman who issued the two.  Wanted his formula, talked to him about it.  I’m talking about Brian Burke.  I don’t like to mention people who I deal with.  He was one gentleman who I did speak with. There’s a lot of other people I spoke with, too, not just Brian.

Excuse me?

The NHL is truly stupid sometimes. How does it look when you go to another team’s GM, a GM that was fired by the Vancouver Canucks and ask him his opinion on a suspension? Employees of other teams should never be consulted on discipline issues, period. The optics of that move are absurd but until last night with Nathan Horton lying concussed on the ice, the NHL has never cared about optics. So should fans now be wondering if Colin Campbell was “consulted”? The man that excused himself of his role prior to the start of the series, saying it had nothing to do with his son playing for the Bruins? Sure, I’m getting the conspiracy thing going, but the way the NHL runs things they really don’t give you much of a choice.

I do believe that Burke was probably neutral in his recommendations to Murphy but the NHL has to be smarter in the roles that conflicting parties have in these decisions.

Before I start getting blasted by profanity laced comments and being labeled a homer, read above again. I accept and to some degree agree with the suspension based on the fact that Horton is “out for the series.” In the future the NHL better give a little more thought to who it “consults” on discipline issues. If they can’t do it within their own league office circles and not consult GM’s of other teams then that is a major flaw in the process and one that makes the NHL look bush league…again.

 

 

For all the marbles: Canucks and Bruins Stanley Cup Final Preview/Prediction

I’ve been running this site since 1996 so I have yet to have the privilege of covering a Stanley Cup Final. Years of hoping and waiting have finally ended, and here we are with the Canucks in the finals for the 3rd time in their 40 year history. It’s been an exhausting playoffs and it seems like forever since they started. The NHL’s brilliant plan to wait so long to start the final haven’t helped but here we sit on the verge of the biggest playoff series in Canucks history.

So here we have it, our last preview of the playoffs, as we take a look at the Canucks and Bruins, for all the marbles.

Canucks and Boston - Photo Credit: Richard Lam/Getty Images

Canucks and Boston - Photo Credit: Richard Lam/Getty Images



If the NHL wanted two of the best teams in the NHL, they certainly got it. That said the two teams are built very differently. Vancouver built on depth and speed and the flexibility to play multiple styles. The Bruins are built on toughness, hard work and solid defense. The Canucks have proven over the course of the regular season and in the playoffs that they can play any style you want to, and they attempt to dictate what style their opponents play as well. Can the Bruins play multiple styles and adapt to a faster Western Conference? They did in the only meeting between the two clubs this year, leaving Rogers Arena with a 3-1 win.

The keys to the series:

The Canucks are the favourites in the series and with good reason. We all know they ran away with the President’s Trophy and have been picked by many to win it all. To beat Boston, the Canucks are going to have to use their speed to make Boston’s defenders chase them. Puck movement, getting to open spaces quickly and efficiently will be crucial to Vancouver’s success.

The defensive pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg will be assigned to contain the Sedin twins who returned to form against the Sharks. The Bruins have strong penalty killing led by Chara and goaltender Tim Thomas and if the Canucks are to be successful their five on five play has to be better than it was against San Jose where they did most of their damage on the power play. They have to generate more shots at even strength, more quality chances, and get Tim Thomas moving in the net.

If the series becomes a parade to the penalty box the Canucks chances are likely increased, as long as that parade includes both teams. The Bruins power play has been brutal in the playoffs and that’s being kind. The Canucks however have been very effective.

For Boston to win they need to control the Sedin line. The twins struggled to find space against Chicago’s Seabrook and Keith and Nashville’s Weber and Suter. They thrived against the Sharks who don’t have a defensive pairing of the ilk of Chara and Seidenberg. But the Bruins will also need to pay attention to Ryan Kesler, who will have used the lengthy break to get as close to 100% as possible and who almost single handedly led the Canucks against Nashville. Kesler may revert to a defensive role again, concentrating on shutting down the Bruins big line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton. But the Bruins roll four lines consistently, and the Canucks may be forced to do the same if they want to keep fresh legs out there. With Vancouver’s fourth line a revolving door, Alain Vigneault may have to find a trio he can stick with and give them more minutes. That will require relying on some youth, particularly if Manny Malhotra can’t get the green light to play.

Both teams sport pests that will attempt to get under the oppositions skin. The Canucks Torres and Lappiere will counter Boston’s Brad Marchand.

The biggest battle however will be between two Vezina finalists in Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas. In three career starts against Vancouver, Thomas has allowed just one goal. Not a large body of work, but it does indicate what impact Thomas can have in a seven game series. Luongo has been solid after a speed bump against the Hawks and despite some untimely goals at times has played a huge role in the success of his team. His performance in game 5 against San Jose was one of his best ever.

Both teams will attempt to get traffic in front of the net and the Bruins have the bigger bodies to do just that. The Canucks defense will have to be at their best to allow Luongo to see the puck as much as possible. The Bruins will have to contend mostly with Kesler and Burrows who will see a lot of Mr. Chara and will have to pay the price. The Canucks have generated fourteen goals from their defence to Boston’s eight and whatever team can get their back end involved will have a great advantage.

If you’re into stats, here is a nice little package compiled by James Mirtle at the Globe & Mail. By the numbers this could be an incredible final and a very competitive one. It could go down the wire but for some reason I just have a gut feeling the Canucks are a team of destiny. They have been the best team in the league almost from start to finish. They have demonstrated they can play any style they need to and in my opinion they are deeper than the Bruins.

The Bruins will put up a tough fight and the games will be close. But I think the Canucks find a way to win this series in six games and win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history and what an incredible end to an amazing 40th anniversary season that would be.

Little time to exhale: Canucks & Predators Preview

After an emotional and exhausting series against the Blackhawks the Canucks and their fans have little time to exhale. The second round of the march to the Stanley Cup will begin just two days after the epic series against the Hawks, and the Nashville Predators will provide the opposition when the puck drops Thursday evening at Rogers Arena.

Canucks fans may think the toughest task has been conquered with the win over arch rival Chicago, but if they think the Predators will be a cake walk, they should think again.

They may not have the biggest names you’ve heard of, but former Predator and current Canuck Dan Hamhuis warns that the team from the “Music City” should not be taken lightly.

“On paper it may not look like they have as good of a team as others, but they’re a very good team and we don’t want that to surprise us or fool us,” Hamhuis said. “They had 99 points during the regular season, and they’re in the second round for a reason. They’re going to be a very tough opponent.”

The Predators play an aggressive pressure style of hockey and their strength is on defence, led by the duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. There is also the matter of solving the goaltending of Pekka Rinne who has quickly established himself as one of the league’s top netminders.

The two teams split their season series, with each team winning 2 games.

Let’s take a look at we feel are the keys to the series for the Canucks to advance.

The Sedins must contribute more:

Daniel and Henrik Sedin didn’t have a horrible series against the Hawks. Daniel did finish the series with 7 points (5-2) while Henrik finished with 5 assists. But clearly if the Canucks are to keep advancing they twins have to more prominent.  None of Henrik’s points came on the power play while just 2 of Daniel’s did. This is where the twins have to be effective. They will also have to more effective 5 on 5. Dave Bolland may be gone but the twins will likely see a lot of Weber and Suter whenever they step over the boards and don’t be surprised to see Jordan Tootoo or Mike Fisher in the twins face whenever possible.

Luongo versus Rinne:

Roberto Luongo got rid of more than a monkey off his back with the win in game 7 against Chicago, it as more like an elephant. After two tough games where he could have sued his teammates for lack of support and surviving the switch to Cory Schneider in game 6, Luongo persevered to have a strong game 7 including a huge save in overtime while the Canucks were shorthanded to give Burrows a chance to get the winner. It will remain to be seen if this lifted weight will allow Roberto to get back in the zone that he enjoyed for much of the regular season, one that saw him named a finalist for the Vezina trophy.

The problem with that is the guy at the other end was just as good. Pekka Rinne is not only a co-finalist with Luongo for the Vezina, he’s also become one of the best young goaltenders in the league and has the ability to steal games all by himself. With the scare the Canucks got going up against Corey Crawford in round one, they will need to find away to get to Rinne who is seldom shaken off his game. That said he didn’t have the greatest series against Anaheim, and some are wondering if he’s feeling the huge workload that many felt Luongo suffered from in playoffs past.

Coaching:

Barry Trotz - Photo: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Barry Trotz - Photo: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Few coaches have had the lifespan of Barry Trotz. He’s survived the lean years in Nashville by always getting the most out of his players and he hasn’t always had the best crop to work with. Trotz’s teams are defined by one thing work ethic and there is no doubt he has the Predators working as hard as ever this year. For a team that wasn’t known for scoring goals during the regular season, they’re also doing that, averaging 3.67 goals per game and 31.67 shots. Both of those totals are better than Vancouver’s

Alain Vigneault will need to find ways to get the Sedin’s free of the tight checking they will face. He’ll need to devise a plan to work the Predators down low and tire out their talented defense, much like they did when they were on their game against Chicago. He’ll also need to keep his team focused and sharp after an emotional first round that no doubt was a tough mental test for his squad. That pressure has been averted, but a slow start in this series will bring it all back again. Vigneault needs to find away to make sure it doesn’t.

Ryan Kesler:

Against the Hawks, Ryan Kesler was given the job of shutting down Jonathon Toews and for the most part he did an outstanding job. That task may have been handed to the injured Manny Malhotra in a perfect world, but Kesler accepted it openly and sacrificed his offense in the process. Kesler will still be used in that role, but there should be chances in this series to contribute more offensively as well and the Canucks will need his offense to help solve Rinne.

Intangibles:

Continue offense from Alex Burrows, more contributions from the third and fourth lines, better power play efficiency and penalty killing. All are important facets to ensure the Canucks advance to the next round. Did they learn a lesson against the Blackhawks? One would have to think so. The quick turnaround will be interesting. The Predators have been sitting waiting, while the Canucks just faced probably the most pressure they have ever faced as an organization. Will they be riding momentum come puck drop, or will they still be exhaling?

Nashville will be getting injured offensive threat Martin Erat back in the lineup. They have just won their first playoff series as a franchise and will be hungry for more. But will they have to face the same learning curve this Canucks team did to get to this point? They have the lineup to make things very difficult for Vancouver, and they’ll need a complete team effort to beat them.

Prediction:

Game one may be a tough one for Vancouver to get going in. They will either be flat from the effort expended Tuesday night, or they will be still riding the momentum and come out strong, knowing that what happened in the last season cannot happen again. Nashville has nothing to lose playing heavily favoured Vancouver and will be loose and rested. In the end the Canucks will draw on their experience from round one. If they stay healthy and play their game this series will be over on 6 games and the Canucks will be on their way to their first conference final since 1994.