Canucks Report at the Half Way Mark

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After 42 games, the Canucks are 23-12-7. The team managed to string together a 7 game win streak, on their way to posting a 10-1-2 record in December, their best month of the season so far.

The team has 53 points and remains at 4th place in the Pacific Division. At the quarter pole the Canucks were at 4th in the Pacific, but had played the most games in the league. Their hot December has allowed the team to remain in the same spot while other teams have made up most of the difference in games played.

The Canucks have been bit hard by the injury bug. Defencemen Alex Edler, Ryan Stanton, and Andrew Alberts are all out of the lineup with various injuries, forcing the Canucks to call up Yannick Weber and Frank Corrado to fill in. In addition, Alex Burrows is out with a broken jaw, while Roberto Luongo was out of the lineup briefly with a groin strain. The defencemen that have remained healthy have been rock solid. The play of Chris Tanev has been lauded by Coach Tortorella throughout this season. Along with Hamhuis, Garrison and Bieksa, the top 4 defencemen have been receiving a ton of ice time.

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David Booth has 5 goals so far this season – one for each leaf on this “clover”.

As I predicted in a previous post, the Canucks have improved their play as the season has gone on.

The team has done this despite the top line scoring cooling off, and the power play being ice cold. Currently, the Canucks power play is ranked 26th in the NHL. Henrik and Daniel Sedin have 3 points each in the last 6 games. Secondary scoring has come from everywhere in the lineup, and the makings of a 3rd line is starting to emerge, with Brad Richardson centering Zack Kassian and David Booth. Yes, that David Booth. He has 5 goals this season and his speed and strength fit well Kassian and Richardson’s size and grit.

The Canucks schedule is tough over the next 7 games: Kings and Ducks twice each, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Phoenix. With most of these games against solid, physical teams in the West, the Canucks look to prove that they belong in the Western Conference playoff race.

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

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Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?

The time between Christmas and the New Year is usually a time of reflection and remembrance. We think back on the events of this year, and of years past.

In the summer of 2011, Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak all died. All 3 were enforcers in the NHL. Known more for their skills with their fists than for their goal scoring prowess, all 3 suffered from depression and related substance abuse problems.

The fourth NHL player pictured above is Bill Masterton.

Although most NHL fans know of the Bill Masterton trophy, not many fans know much about his playing career. He was one of the few hockey players to complete a U.S. college degree and play in NHL. Although he was highly educated as an engineer, his skill and love of the game led him to play in the NHL. Masterton was the first player to sign with the expansion Minnesota North Stars, and actually scored the first goal in North Stars franchise history.

Masterton also holds the distinction of being the only NHL player to have died directly as a result of injuries suffered in an NHL game. On January 13th, 1968, Bill took a hard hit. His head hit the ice, and the subsequent head injuries caused bleeding from his nose, ears and mouth. He never regained consciousness and died 30 hours later.

Masterton was not wearing a helmet at the time of the collision, which was common for most players in that era. 11 years later players entering the NHL in the 1979-80 season were mandated to wear helmets. 18 years after that (nearly 30 years after Masterton’s death), Craig MacTavish retired, the last player to have played in the NHL without a helmet.

The Code is Dead.

After Boogaard’s death in 2011, it was revealed that he suffered from numerous brain injuries, presumably sustained in concussions throughout the many fights in his career.

Concussions in the NHL due to fights and other hits to the head have been happening for decades. The hits, clean or dirty, have robbed us fans of some of the best players in the game: Eric Lindros, Keith Primeau, Paul Kariya, Pat Lafontaine, Adam Deadmarsh, to name a few. Only within the last few years has the NHL truly been serious about getting rid of blindside hits and direct headshots in the game. Time will tell if the suspensions for headshots will make a difference in the play of the game.

Yet repeated headshots and related concussions are doled out nearly every game in fights, which are largely useless and serve no purpose.

I have no idea why fighting is still allowed in the NHL. There it is, I said it. Many players and fans believe that fighting is an integral part of the game. Yes, there was a time when fighting was somehow more useful as a deterrent to dirty hits. That time is over. If fighting still had a legitimate place in the game, how are so many of the players still being lost to injury, headshots or otherwise?

If you want to watch a fight, the UFC has plenty of blood for you. Knock yourself out. I’m sure that the pro-fight fans will have something to say about this. To save you all some time, no, I didn’t play in the NHL. I haven’t played at a high level. I merely enjoy watching and playing the game.

If it took the NHL nearly 30 years to get all their players wearing helmets, which we can all agree is a good idea, how long will it take before the NHL seriously looks at all aspects of head trauma, including fights?

Happy New Year, hockey fans.

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Top 10: Big Bad Bruins Bruising

Not since Game 7 in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals have the Boston Bruins come back to Vancouver. It was a much anticipated game and was the biggest topic when the Canucks schedule was released in the off-season. Anyone who lives in the 604 who say they didn’t think it was that big a deal, book an appointment with a cosmetic surgeon and get your nose sawed down, liars.  There was a lot of material to pick through about Saturday night, so where do we start?

Bruins come to visit Rain City. Iginla and Kesler have at it early in the first period.

Bruins come to visit Rain City. Iginla and Kesler have at it early in the first period.

  1. Dan Cloutier’s Ghost: Jannik Hansen scores on Tuukka Rask from just past centre ice.It took a strange deflection off Chara’s stick and into the back of the Boston net. Rogers Arena erupted and soon “TUUUUUUKKKAAAA” was being chanted.  
  2. Mount St. Tortorella Erupts: In the second period, after the tying goal, Canucks coach decides to give a “pep talk” to his team and get them going. It worked.
  3. Workhorse: 39 saves out of 41 shots on goal effort from Roberto Luongo. This was after shutting out the Oilers the night before.
  4. “Barbwire” Taunt Moment: Brad “Barbwire” Marchand had the taunt of the night. Kissing your ring finger and a “Raising the Cup” blurb would have made Vincent K. McMahon happy. There is life after hockey for the Stanley Cup “Champian”
    "Barbwire" Brad Marchand kissing his ring finger as a poke to the Canucks and their fans at Rogers Arena.

    “Barbwire” Brad Marchand kissing his ring finger as a poke to the Canucks and their fans at Rogers Arena.

     

    Looks like he could make a great 'heel' in the WWE. How about that spinner belt, Brad?

    Looks like he could make a great ‘heel’ in the WWE. How about that spinner belt, Brad?

  5. Tonka Tough: Jerome Iginla dislocates his ring finger in a first period fight with Ryan Kesler and came back in the second period to play the game. He also got in a short altercation with Canucks Dman, Dan Hamhuis, later on in the game. I have always liked Iggy and Saturday showed why he is my all-time favourite Kamloops Blazer.

    Iginla's ring fingers appears to be dislocated. Tough as nails, he came back and played the rest of the game.

    Iginla’s ring fingers appears to be dislocated. Tough as nails, he came back and played the rest of the game.

  6. St.Michael: Mike Santorelli keeps adding more depth to his game. He is proving to be a gem of a pickup in the off-season with the way he has played here in Vancouver. He was a huge part of the Canucks win on Saturday night.
  7. Bear Hunter: He does it in the off-season and he did it here on Saturday with a beauty of a tally. David Booth responded with a “this is why we signed you” type of goal after Torts’ blowup at the bench. We need to see this more consistently. He’s too talented of a player to not play like this. This goal was the catalyst for the 6-2 on slaughter of the evening.  
  8. Old School Mentality: This is in a good way. Bruins Coach, Claude Julien, came out and publicly chastised Brad Marchand in saying those antics will not be tolerated. He also said of Marchand to be too good of a player to act the way he did.
  9. Library is Closed: On Saturday night, the vibe was electric! THAT is how Rogers Arena should sound like each and every night. Well, as close to it as possible. It’s too bad, and often times too hard, when you play teams like the Oilers and Flames.
  10. We’re Going Streaking: The Canucks have now won 7 in a row. They have caught up 9 points on the San Jose Sharks and have moved into 6th place in the Western Conference. If they can sustain the level of play and keeping finding ways to win games, expect to see them in the post season.
Even with being the hottest team in the NHL at the moment, the Canucks are still looking up from 6th place in the Western Conference. However, the team is getting contributions from the most unlikely of sources (or so what thought at the beginning of the season) like Mike Santorelli and Brad Richardson. There were many positives to take away from the Bruins game, but as Kevin Bieksa has pointed it, it was two points, not a Stanley Cup. So it is time to move on and focus on 2013/2014 and not 2011.
In conclusion, the Canucks are undefeated in December and aren’t looking to slow down any time soon. I am hoping it continues, because their play of late has been, “beyond good” (Thanks, Milan).
Justine Galo

 

Top 10: Canucks-Friday Night Oil Spill

 

rsz_game02hallIt is pretty evident, the Canucks and the Oilers don’t like each other. In fact, it got so ugly between the teams this year, the two franchise official twitter accounts went at each other publicly during a night the two teams weren’t even playing one another.
Perhaps, most of the hate this season started on September 21. A pre-season game, when Canucks forward, Zack Kassian, broke Sam Gagner’s jaw with a reckless hit and was subsequently suspended five games. Last night was the first time Sam Gagner faced off against the Canucks since that injury. Here’s a look at that play.

No, it wasn’t pretty. Yes, Kassian got a just suspension for it. Meanwhile, the Oilers, their fans and Sam Gagner haven’t forgotten or forgiven. So what does Zack Kassian do? He mocks Sam Gagner during a skirmish on the ice about the addition to the bottom of his head gear. The enforced chin strap that dangled to protect his jaw.

This became such a huge topic. It even took a life of its own on twitter, on blogs and both teams respected Facebook pages. Even members of the Oilers media started getting really sensitive about the chin-strap incident.

@TSNRyanRishaug: Can confirm that at no point did Kassian reach out to Gagner after he shattered his jaw, No apology at all. Then that tonite, pretty bad.

Absolutely, not cool nor ‘classy’. However, people forget, even hand gestures on the ice are part of the ‘trash talk’ package. I’m pretty sure even Gagner wasn’t exactly “Silent Sam” throughout the night on the ice. Words get thrown around and a hand gesture or two might be exchanged, but that’s always been a part of the game. Maybe if Sammy kept his mouth shut, Kassian might not have ‘gone there’, but he did.

There are enough blogs to systematically break down the art of hockey trash talk regarding last night’s incident between Kassian and Gagner. I want to share 10 things that stuck in my head about other happenings around the game last night.

  1. Shutout #65: Roberto Luongo gets his 65th shutout of his career with a 19 save effort against the Edmonton Oilers. First of two games back to back this weekend the Canucks net -minder not only seems to be focusing on the task at hand, but working to solidify his spot on the Canadian Olympic roster.
  2. Foot in Mouth Tweet winner:

    Dan Tencer So, Vancouver is still trying to pretend that Zack Kassian might be a player? Ok, then.

  3. Best Reply to Foot in Mouth Tweet winner:

    @taj1944 EDM is still trying to pretend that Oilers are a NHL team? RT @dantencer: So,Van is still trying to pretend that Kassian might be a player?

  4. Tortorella-ism of the Night: “Who cares what Mike Milbury says. No disrespect to Mike, but we can’t worry about what commentators, and all these guys outside the game, say about our players.” I love Torts. So much more enjoyable to listen to over AV’s constant cliches.
  5. Swedish Thuggery: You know you’re bad when your fan base (and much of the league) are calling the Sedin twins “sisters” and your team gets pushed around by them. –Torts: “See Danny run a guy over tonight.” Indeed he did, Johnny, indeed he did.
  6. Beastmode: Not really a big fan of the nickname for Kes, for me, it belongs to Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks, but the Oilers felt Kesler’s presence all over the ice, the boards and on the scoresheet. 3 shots, 4 hits and 2 assists at a +2 rating for the night. He has been the hottest Canuck in the last 10 games for sure, and possibly the last 30 days.
  7. Call me Don Draper, I’m THAT Cool: Chris Tanev continues to amaze me with his poise, his patience and his growing ability to read the play and make the right decision on how to counter it. Jim Hughson brought up Bieksa’s comment about how Tanev could play with a cigarette in his mouth, he is that cool.
  8. Don Cherry Hooked on Phonics award: Craig Simpson calling Dubnyk DUHB-NIK instead of DOOB-NIK on air. Really Craig?
  9. Hairdo of the Night: Dallas Eakins with his Brandon Walsh 90210 coif. He’s more worried about his hair than the fact his team is in the running for another race to the 1st over-all pick.
  10. Trash talk of the night: Zack Kassian. I don’t want to explain it to you, I’d rather show you. 

 

Top 10 Honourable Mention: Dale Weise with a power play goal. The fourth line clocked over 10 minutes of ice time. Their presence was felt. They were rewarded and Weise capped it off with a nice dinger on the power play. Good job to Weise, Welsh and Dalpe.


 

The Canucks showed up last night. The Oilers did not. The Canucks were focused while the Oilers were distracted. However, the better team won, and the better team showed why they are fighting for a playoff spot instead of another “First Overall” draft pick. Yes, Edmonton fans, my team has yet to win a Stanley Cup. Yes, your team has five of them. I get it, you can count. I have some numbers too…

3- Goals Devan Dubnyk let in 5-hole last night. I almost mistook him for the Massey Tunnel.

0- Are the number of goals score by Eberle, Hall, RNH, Gagner and Yakopov last night.

2-0 The season series between the Canucks and the Oilers so far. Canucks are the two, in case you were wondering.

23- The number of years since the Oilers won the cup. Your most recent three “First Overall” draft picks weren’t even born. Taylor Hall (b.1991) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins(b.1993) Nail Yakopov (b.1993) Long gone are the days of Messier, Gretzky and co. Relevance, matters.

8- post seasons the Oilers have missed presently and consecutively.

25- Points in the standings. Good enough for last place in the Western Conference. Only Buffalo is worse with 23, but they have some guys on defence and Ryan Miller. First Overall Pick is looking like a possibility again!

In conclusion, I would rather be in the shoes (and the city) of the Vancouver Canucks than the Edmonton Oilers right now. Sure the Canucks might get ousted in the first round again, or they may not, but having that chance at the post season is a far better problem to have than what is going on in Edmonton. See you in January.
Justine Galo

@Aviewfromabroad

 

 

 

No success without a dependable fourth line

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In my first article back in October I talked about the Canucks bottom 6 not being good enough. A month and a half into the season, I can say I am content with the part of the bottom 6. The third line has been dependable. The fourth line hasn’t.

John Tortorella doesn’t have faith in his fourth line and is reluctant to put them on the ice. I can’t blame him for that. For the better part of the season, it seems like whenever the fourth line is out on the ice they are getting scored on or can’t get out of their own zone. The Canucks best fourth liner is Dale Weise. He’s hurt. Darren Archibald showed more in his 8 games up with the big club than Tom Sestito, Zac Dalpe and Jeremy Welsh have shown in their games, but the Canucks sent the big forward back down to Utica to room for David Booth.

Injuries have forced the Canucks hand all year. They had not, until Sunday, been able ice the line-up they had envisioned during training camp and arguably still haven’t considering Jordan Schroeder is out for the second time this season. Jannik Hansen’s return and Richardson’s move to the fourth line didn’t make a difference in how much the fourth liners played. Richardson has averaged 13 minutes throughout the season; he played under 8 Sunday night against Dallas. Tom Sestito has played an average of five and a half minutes so far this season, he played 30 seconds Sunday. Jeremy Welsh played just 2 shifts in the game, totalling 18 seconds. It’s not a recipe for success.

Like I mentioned in my previous article, teams that win the cup have dependable fourth lines that can at least go out there to give the top guys a little bit of a break. This year’s Canucks team doesn’t have the luxury. Last year’s team didn’t have that. Amongst forwards, the Sedins and Kesler are in the top 4 for average minutes played a game. It’s not sustainable. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but until the team upgrades the fourth line, it will be tough to make a deep run come April, May and June.