AFTER TEN: Where’s The Goalie?

628x471The Vancouver Canucks currently find themselves as one of the top teams in the National Hockey League. Though they are placed second in the powerful Pacific division, they are lucky to be in this position.

In their last ten games the Canucks drew a record of 6-3-1. If the team were to defeat the Anaheim Ducks Thursday night in the dramatic shootout loss, they would have established a franchise best of 14-6-0 in their first 20 games. However, there are clear reasons the Vancouver Canucks are not better than they are now.

Offensive mite has not been a problem this season is as they have tallied 61 goals for to place fifth in the rankings. The goals against the Vancouver Canucks is a throbbing problem though as they have allowed 60 goals against.

With these statistics, the have a towering issue in their roster, the goaltending.

Both Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack have had their great strengths and weaknesses. The tandem when looking at their save percentage, Miller has .900 and Lack closely follows with .894.

Ryan Miller in the eight of ten games he has played this November has allowed a total of 22 goals. Miller still finds himself as the top winning goaltender this season (tied with Montreal’s Carey Price and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne) with 12 wins but he has had the support of his teammate to save him from peril.

If Ryan Miller did not have scoring from his own end to save the game, Vancouverites would already be attempting to chase him out of town like they did successfully with former goaltenders Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider.

Though the competition has been stiffer than the October match-ups, the Vancouver Canucks, at the end of the day, are about to see a whole lot more of the Pacific division. If this team is serious about becoming a playoff contender, their back end will have to highly consider tightening up in the long run.

Caleb Harder

@cjaharder

Ryan Kesler Returns To Unwelcoming Fans

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On a night Ryan Kesler thought he would be embraced by the Canucks fans in Rogers Arena, he was greeted with jeers.

The Canucks organization decided to show a brief highlight reel of Kesler’s eleven years as a Vancouver Canuck. This was only the beginning of a terrible night for the former player. Every time Kesler would touch the puck, fans in the crowd would begin to boo him.

In an earlier interview on his return, Kesler stated that the jeering would fire him up. The boo’s however, did not. Ryan Kesler looked like a whining toddler on the ice as he dived, slid around, and threw fits on the ice when he did not have his way.

It appeared to be that Kevin Bieksa was no fan of Kesler’s play, as the new rivalry became quite heated. Bieksa was the heart and soul for the Canucks defensive play as he stood up for his teammates when they were down 2-0 after the first.

Before the intermission, Kesler and Derek Dorsett were ready to square off in a match that was immediately cut-off by the refs. Bieksa however was able to grab Ducks star forward Corry Perry by the jersey and swing a solid punch. Though it looked like multiple players on both teams would be thrown out for fighting after the period concluded, Kesler was the player who got slapped with a two minute minor for cross checking.

In the second, the Canucks got to a speedy start when Bo Horvat scored his first career goal in NHL. Horvat was the first teenager to score a goal for the Vancouver Canucks since Ryan Kesler scored his first on November 29th, 2003. The opening goal fired up the fans that did not stop cheering for a few minutes.

Kesler later on congratulated Horvat on his milestone during a face-off saying, “good job.” The goal led to the opening of floodgates as Jannik Hansen and Radim Vrbata scored back-to-back goals to give the lead in the second.

The Anaheim Ducks however answered back to tie up the game. In overtime, the Canucks defense collapsed as Chris Tanev had two opportunities to score, but decided to hold onto the puck. This lead to almost three minutes of the Ducks striking hard as the Canucks slowly moved around. Fortunately, Eddie Lack had a solid game against the Ducks and held his ground firmly though he allowed three goals against.

In the end the Vancouver Canucks surrendered in the shootout. Ryan Kesler in the end left unsatisfied from the city he once called home.

 Caleb Harder

@cjaharder

 

 

#TICH: Roberto Luongo Sets Club Shutout Record

Another edition of Today in Canucks History or simply hash-tagged #TICH, our feature is about a streak of  ‘goose egg hockey’ played by Roberto Luongo.

November 12, 2008: After posting three consecutive shutouts, Roberto Luongo set a Vancouver Canucks club record of 222:36 of shutout hockey until he was scored on by the Colorado Avalanche.

The road to the Canucks’ shutout record

It started on November 4th when the Vancouver Canucks beat the Nashville Predators 4-0 at Rogers Arena. A night where we saw Kyle Wellwood score 2 goals and Roberto Luongo had 24 saves to post the first shutout of the streak.

Luongo started the shut out streak on November 4th, 2008 and it was ended on #TICH Nov.12, 2008. 222.36 of not allowing a goal.

Luongo started the shut out streak on November 4th, 2008 and it was ended on #TICH Nov.12, 2008. 222 minutes and 36 seconds of not allowing a goal.

 

Continuing the shutout streak on  November 6th, Roberto Luongo made 28 saves from 28 SOG as Bieksa notched the only tally to win 1-0. 

Two nights later, on November 8th, the Canucks beat Minnesota 2-0 with a 29 save effort from Luongo, blanking the Wild.

On the last game of the home-stand,on this day (November 12) in 2008, the Colorado Avalanche finally scored on Lu to tie the game, and more importantly, they snapped Luongo’s  shutout streak at 1:28 into the 3rd period. The scorer? Marek Svatos ties up the game to send it into a shoot out. The Canucks fell to the Colorado Avalanche that night in a SO decision. 2-1.

That was a nice streak for Roberto Luongo, and it was a catalyst to having him make his way to the Canucks club record books.

Here are a few of his other Canucks records:

Most wins in a season: 47

Most shutouts in a season: 9

Most wins as a Canuck: 252

Most shutouts: 38

Just a small reminder of how good Roberto was as a member of the Vancouver Canucks…

 

Thanks Lu!

Follow me on twitter: @Aviewfromabroad

The State of California:Two out of Three Ain’t Bad

After winning in Colorado 5-2 after being down 2-0, the Canucks headed to sunny California. A state that hasn’t been kind to Vancouver over the last three years. Last year, only one victory was recorded and it was in San Jose. The winning goaltender was Roberto Luongo. The only other victory over an NHL California-based team was at home was versus the LA Kings and Eddie Lack backstopped that one on April 5.

First stop San Jose

The Canucks carried some good momentum coming into San Jose with a come from behind win against the Avalanche in Denver. However, it did not translate into a good start or even a good game for the Vancouver Canucks in the Shark Tank.  Ryan Miller stopped 34 out of 36 SOG. The Canucks couldn’t get much offense going throughout the whole game. Only recording 19 SOG for the game, it’s a wonder how they came up with the victory. Much credit goes to Ryan Miller but Vrbata on the 2 on 1 with Daniel, opened up Canucks scoring with this glorious goal in the dying seconds of the 1st period.

The Canucks didn’t even skate well enough to draw many penalties from the Sharks this game. In fact, they had one power play but they made it count. Edler with a tally from the point.

With less than three minutes to go in the game, Nick Bonino scores the winner from a pass after a takeaway made by Alex Burrows. It was a beauty.

Ryan Miller steals one for his team in San Jose and the Canucks are off to Los Angeles.

Still Can’t Beat LA

 The Canucks are still trying to figure out one side of the same colour of the Rubik’s Cube when it comes to finding out how to win over the LA Kings. Ryan Miller looked human and Eddie Lack started the third period. Higgins managed to keep the Canucks not being shut out streak alive just over halfway through the third. Perhaps, Desjardins will look at finding a way to figure out this puzzle and the next time the Canucks face the LA Kings, the results will improve.

Another 19 SOG effort from the Canucks was not even close to being enough to compete with the LA Kings, who decided to show up and play versus Vancouver after dropping a game to the New York Islanders. LA brings their A-game when they want and they seem to really want when they face the Canucks. They seem to want to turn the switch on when it’s playoff time as well and have it resulting in two Stanley Cups in the last three years.  LA has mastered “The Switch”, maybe the Canucks should ask them how exactly they can do that.

Redemption in Anaheim

With much talk about the Ryan Kesler trade in this match up, the Canucks were now down in the OC to face the Ducks. Which team is getting the benefits of the trade early this season? I’ll break that down shortly but more importantly, as a team, they needed to bounce back after an atrocious effort in LA and for most of the game last night, it did. A much better effort for most of the game from the Canucks. They played what many of the experts call a “smart road game”.

With no Vrbata, Dorsett and Kassian, the Canucks had a very hard task ahead of them. Going into Anaheim to face the best team in the NHL with Hansen playing on the top line and the insertion of Nik Jensen and Defazio from Utica and Bo Horvat gets to play his fourth straight game.

Kesler/Bonino Round 1

Both Kesler and Bonino assisted on the regulation goals. But it was the shootout where Bonino prevails and Ryan Kesler’s shots are still hitting the posts. However, isn’t Ryan Kesler an incredible two-way player? I miss that, and that’s the Ryan Kesler that played 11 years in a Canucks uniform. Anaheim is very lucky.

Winner of trade Round 1: Nick Bonino 

Canucks win in the shootout and Eddie Lack finally gets his first win of the season and first win ever over Anaheim last night.

Finally got to see some Lack Dancing. Photo credit: Vancity Buzz

Finally got to see some Lack Dancing. Photo credit: Vancity Buzz

Overall, the Canucks have a lot of work to do when it comes to playing teams in California. They have to find a way to throw more activity at the goalies. Shoot more pucks and pounce on more rebounds. Keeping it simple and effective, much like their Saturday night opponents, the LA Kings. However, I will take the points on this road trip. Six out of eight points starting in Colorado and 2/3’s of the state of California had the Canucks in the win column.

Some of us, however, are not convinced.

Are they contenders? No, and this isn’t 2011 either. Changes have been made and adjustments still needed. However, they aren’t that bottom third of the league as they were last season.  Resilience is a good trait to have. It helps pave the way to move forward. There is a lot to improve but unlike last year, they seem to listen and value their coaching staff and each other a little more and the last two periods in Anaheim, it showed.

Canucks Hope Springs Eternal

bonino The Canucks are off to one of their best starts in recent memory. After last season’s spectacular decline, this version of the team is a refreshing surprise. President Trevor Linden and General Manager Jim Benning have helped to create a team culture in their own hard working image. Head Coach Willie Desjardins has provided a calm sense of confidence, and each of the players seems to have bought in to an uptempo puck posession style that is fun to watch.

Having recently won in Colorado and in San Jose, the Canucks have surprised a few teams already with their resilience, clawing back from a 2-0 deficit against the Avalanche, and being down by a goal twice to the Sharks.

Is it over? Is the goaltending controversy really over?
Any initial reservations I had regarding Ryan Miller’s ability have been forgotten. It seems that the days of goaltending controversy are over in Vancouver, as even after Miller was lit up against Dallas, he returned to his regular self the very next game, backstopping the Canucks to a 4-1 victory in St. Louis. He has provided the team with some huge saves already this season, and preserved a number of wins, quietly and confidently. As much as this writer loved Roberto Luongo, the month of October was usually rocky. Miller has been the opposite – very consistent from game to game so far, and far fewer of those seeing-eye, hard luck, how-did-that-go-in goals.

In Edler’s Defense… Look at Sbisa
Was Alex Edler ever as bad as he looked for the last 2 seasons? Was he ever as good as he was 4 seasons ago? While the answer is probably somewhere in between, he doesn’t have to worry about being That Guy on defence any longer. Sure, Edler still breaks his stick on half of his slapshots, but Vancouver’s new scapegoat on defence is Luca Sbisa. Just like Kevin Bieksa, Keith Ballard and Edler before him, Sbisa is the guy with the black cloud over him so far this season. To be fair, he has had both good and bad moments. However, coming here in the Ryan Kesler trade, most people expected more of the big defenceman.

Forwards, March!
Goals this season have come from everywhere in the lineup. Aside from Bo Horvat and Tom Sestito, who have only played 2 games each, every single Canucks forward has scored at least one goal. When Kesler was traded to Anaheim, there were questions about who would step up into the 2C spot. Nick Bonino (who also came to Vancouver in the Kesler deal) has filled in admirably, leading the Canucks in scoring so far with 7 goals. Bonino has found great chemistry with new linemates Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins.

Last season under John Tortorella, the 4th line would be lucky to get 4 or 5 minutes TOI, and the Sedins would play well north of 24 hard minutes on many nights, reaching 25 or 26 minutes a number of times. Desjardins has been trusting in his team and rolling 4 lines every night, with guys like Derek Dorsett playing 10 minutes on average. The Sedins are rejuvenated, playing with a bona fide shooter in Radim Vrbata, while taking less ice time each night. This has the benefit of the Sedins being sharper now, and having more in the tank for later in the season.

Yes, it’s still early in the season, but in Vancouver it seems that again hope springs eternal. Let’s hope the Canucks are still playing this well in the spring.