Second Place Is Not Enough?

Can Roberto Luongo go back to mid-season form in 13 games?

With the recent struggles of the Vancouver Canucks, the whole city is abuzz with a mild form of ‘controlled’ panic. Many fans and media alike are asking the same question, “What is the matter with the Vancouver Canucks?” Why are they not playing like the team we have been used to seeing dominate over the past season and half? What happened to the Sedins? Luongo is no longer focusing like he was from November to February! What is up with the team’s defense?

I’m not saying it’s not frustrating seeing games the Canucks should be winning but not. At the same time, as Tom Benjamin said in his blog here on Canucks Corner, there is nothing any of us in the stands, at home watching on TV or those listening on the radio can do about it. We can’t go to the players and give motivational speeches, that’s not our job. Our job is simple to cheer, grin and bare it and hope.

Some then question, why aren’t our stars playing like stars? Personally I find that our stars get over-analyzed by other blogs, media-types and every fan expert on every message board there is out there. Let’s hope the boys don’t read most of the criticisms going on out in cyber space that they have those little drops of doubt in their head that weren’t there before.  Seriously, how many times can we talk about how the Sedins aren’t point-per game players at the moment? We’re so spoiled sometimes, seeing back to back Art Ross wins by twin brothers and so we expect it every year.

I am a little concerned about the number of odd man rushes that the Canucks have been giving up. I count entirely too many the last five games and that is a trend that causes a small quiet (and muffled) alarm go off inside me. The worst part about it is, a lot of those opportunities either become good scoring chances and even goals on both Schneider and Luongo. The defensive game has become very loosey goosey the last little while and I would like to see that come to an abrupt end.

As far as scoring goes? Except for Ryan Kesler, maybe everyone needs to take more shooting lessons. Perhaps some of us fans should go out there and ‘show them how its done’! Can you imagine the lessons the guys could get from us? I am cringing at the thought. Let the players be the ones to ‘correct’ themselves. We have nothing to offer them in terms of how to play the game. All we can do is cheer.

We live in a city that is in anticipation for the playoffs, and we had concerns last year that the Canucks didn’t have anymore gas at the end. This year, we’re complaining that they might get stuck in this rut before the playoffs and we’re even subconsciously predicting a first round exit with the present play of our team. We’ve been spoiled from last year until we hit game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Canucks could not lose and when they didn’t look like they were going to make it, they found ways to win.  I think we have grown to expect that for this season.

Hammer and Higgins hugging it out.

What we should have expected is the perhaps the Canucks are feeling a little like a few of their fans. Playoffs on their mind and the season couldn’t end fast enough. I know that’s how I feel. It’s obvious with my lack of blogs, my lack of interest to going to all the games this season, that I am in anticipation for April.  Yes, they may lose a few more games, but I don’t see them losing all of them. The team isn’t going to win any top individual awards this year, they most like aren’t going to win the President’s Trophy. Heck from where we are standing right now, the Canucks aren’t even in line for first place in the Western Conference. They are still in 2nd place, for now and I don’t see them getting bumped out of it by anyone in the near future.

However, as we all felt from last year in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, second place isn’t enough.
Justine Galo

Twitter: @Aviewfromabroad

The Rematch: Version 2.0

The two combatants from the 2011 Stanley Cup Final meet up for the one and only time this current season. The Vancouver Canucks made their way to the TD Garden in Boston to try and get some redemption in a building that they did not perform well during their visits of last June. This wasn’t for the Stanley Cup, but it was for pride and more so, a little revenge. The Canucks had to come out with a lot more gusto than they did in their previous meetings.

Canucks back in June with a 4-0 defeat at TD Garden during the SFC.- Photo Credit: CTV.ca

After the Stanley Cup Final, many of the Canucks critics brought up the team lacked some testicular fortitude and did not fight back the Big, Bad Bruins. They were criticized that their game wasn’t suited to win a cup (Oh really? Detroit, anyone?) This game would be a measuring stick to see what the Canucks have learned from their Stanley Cup experience in June.

The game itself was more than what many expected between these two teams. The atmosphere at TD Garden was electric. The Bruins and the Canucks entertained the crowd present, the ones watching on TV and I couldn’t keep up with my twitter feed to save my life and that was only the first period! There were fights, lots of chirping and even an ejection (later on rescinded).

The Canucks won this contest, but it seems they will never win the respect of other NHL fans, some media and others around the league, no matter what they do.

Hamhuis and the Canucks win in Beantown. -Photo Credit: Times Colonist

The Good

• Well it’s safe to say winning the game was a great way to leave Boston, since this team hasn’t done so very much in recent memory. A task that is definitely easier said than done.
• The power play accounting for all the goals. The biggest problem for the Canucks during the final series was they weren’t drawing the penalties, even the obvious ones, so they couldn’t put their power play to work.
• Cody Hodgson had one hell of a game. I really see a lot of good things coming from this kid, and I only see him growing. That Calder trophy race is starting to look more like Cody could seriously be a part of it.
• The Canucks out hit the Bruins 24 to 17 in the contest. A stat that many out there thought they would be beaten. Keith Ballard led the way with four hits, giving Alain Vigneault more reason not to bench him.
• The “push back”. Although the Canucks aren’t exactly the most ‘physical’ team in the league, they showed they weren’t going to be pushed around and off their game.

The Bad
• The blue line, for some reason, with the exception of Ballard and Alberts, seemed a little off today. Bieksa looking disinterested in that Marchand play resulting in a goal. Edler looked horrible on the non-call icing play that resulted in a Peverley goal.
• The second period. I am not sure what it is about this Canucks team and their seemingly troubled middle stanza. I always make a joke about the Canucks taking their “second period siesta”, but that didn’t change in this very important game.
• Playing to the whistle. You’d think the Canucks would learn by now that they aren’t going to get the calls a lot of the times that they should, so why stop playing until you actually know what the call is going to be? Pay attention to the game boys.

The Ugly or at times, The Confusing

• The first period melee between the two teams when Thornton decided to go after Burrows whom I’m assuming chirped at the Bruins bench with undoubtedly some ‘choice words ‘ words. It resulted in Milan Lucic jumping in, being thrown out of a game and left the Canucks with very few forwards to be eligible on the ice for a good amount of time.
• The Sedins on a penalty killing shift. I know it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t very pretty and in all honestly, I was a little nervous. The Sedins? Killing penalties?
• The clipping play of Brad Marchand on Sami Salo. Sami Salo of all people! We, as a fan base, have bets, which game he is going to be injured or if he will injure himself in the off-season. He didn’t need to be helped with a dirty play like that.

The game lived up to all the hype that happened prior through the media, the fans, and the crazy twitter feuds between both fan bases. It had everything and then some. It had all the fixings for a great serving of “hockey gumbo” but the biggest thing that has confused this blogger and social media enthusiast was…why wasn’t it on a marquee time slot and nationally televised in both Canada and the United States? CBC? NBC? WTH?

The Canucks got some pay back, the Bruins were still big, bad and bullying, but who outside the two regions really got a good look at it? I guess we’ll have to see if these two teams meet again in the finals.
Justine Galo

Twitter: @Aviewfromabroad

Through the Plexi-Glass: Shoot the Puck, Hank

Shoot the puck, Hank!

Dear Henrik:

It’s Art, remember me? You and I first hooked up a couple of years ago. I just wanted to write and tell you I’ve missed you. I miss your 29 goal season and your 112 point year.  I missed your tenacity to shoot the puck.  You shot the puck a lot when your brother, Daniel, went out with an injury. You shouldered the burden of the lack of scoring goals and took it upon yourself to get some of those for your team. You were on a tear!

Last season, you scored 10 less goals and didn’t shoot as much as you had to when Daniel was injured. I understand you’re the set-up man and he’s the finisher. At least, that’s what you guys were billed when you were drafted back in 1999. Thing is, I’ve seen, and the rest of the NHL has seen differently. You can score when you want but instead you choose to pass it to Daniel. Don’t get me wrong, I love the way you and Daniel work on the ice. You two have that twin thing and that in itself is something special and great to watch. However,  at times, there were open nets that you could have potted the goal, Henrik.  They were pretty much guaranteed goals, but you decided to pass the puck to Danny. Some of them could have made the difference in the game, Hank.

You’re the Captain, you’re an amazing team player and on top of that, you’re one of the classiest people in the NHL. It’s true. I don’t see too many others giving up three quarters of a million dollars of their salary to the BC Children’s Hospital Fund. That amplifies how much of a class act you really are. You’re also a fierce competitor on the ice, but sometimes I think you’re not selfish enough. I know you like to spread the points to your teammates but Hank, I gotta tell ya, you must shoot the puck more.  I think if you just potted those gimme’s that were presented to you, the team would probably have a better record and you’d being in the running to get your name on that trophy with my name on it again.

I hooked up with your brother last season, and I am hoping to have the name Sedin etched on my body yet again, but that will only happen if you start being a little more selfish, take it upon yourself to score more instead of always passing the puck. It’s okay to shoot, Hank, no one will think that you’re  selfish. In fact, I think it will just show that the captain is doing his part to help his team win.  Most of all, I miss you Hank. I missed our time together. We can have that again. Shoot the puck, see what happens.
Your pal,

Art Ross.
PS, There’s never been a Toronto Maple Leaf to win me and take me home for the year. Let’s not start this year, so please, and for the love of the Hockey Gods, shoot the puck, Hank.

 

(written by Justine Galo ) twitter: @Aviewfromabroad

 

(Aaron) Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day

Robo-Rome on a scoring tear.

At the end of last season, everyone remembered Rome for being that guy that hit Nathan Horton and got the longest suspension during the playoffs ever. At the beginning of this season, no one cared if Rome came back to the Canucks with the improved play of Ballard and a healthy (*crosses fingers*) Sami Salo.

In the last few games, Aaron Rome has become a twitter favourite with the hash-tags #Vote4Rome or #Rome4Norris by scoring three goals as well as helping out on a few for others along the way. Not bad for a guy that was Public Enemy #1 for the anti-Canucks fans during the Stanley Cup Finals. Is it just pure luck or is Aaron Rome a newly founded secret scoring weapon the Canucks finally unleashed?

A poster on here on CanucksCorner.com suggested Rome was ‘Frankensteined’ with some of Kesler’s DNA when he broke his finger and the new Bionic-Rome was the result. It could very well be what has transpired. After all, Rome had 1 goal during his tenure with the Canucks prior to what has happened this season. It’s a perfectly logical explanation.

Frankly, I don’t care what happened to get Rome going on the score-sheet, what matters is he’s getting on the score-sheet. Theories and all the half-joking aside, Aaron Rome has become the Canucks trending topic when they play and in my opinion it’s not all luck but seizing opportunities that were presented to him.

I’m not Alain Vigneault so I don’t see what these guys contribute to the team on a daily basis. However, he saw something in Aaron Rome to have some sense to put him as a point man on the power-play. Whatever it was Vigneault saw, it’s working. With each  passing game, Rome has no reservations shooting the puck, when in the past, he hasn’t always done so. Call it favouritism, call it a hunch, call it what you will, but Rome scoring is a good thing not only for the Canucks and also for the man himself. Oh yeah, Christian who? Rome has more goals than the Sabres German blueliner so far this season.

Whatever has Aaron Rome scoring and racking up the points on the backend, let’s hope he keeps it up. In doing so, this blogger is going to donate $10 per goal that Aaron Rome scores this season to the Canucks for Kids Fund. And for the fans out there supporting our new scoring sensation, keep doing so. I’m hoping to donate more than the $30 that’s already allocated for Rome’s goals.

So no pressure, Aaron, but I’m sure you can at least have me donating triple figures.

Justine Galo
Twitter: @Aviewfromabroad

Through the Plexi-Glass: Can You Pump Tires in a Goalie Graveyard?

As I was coming home from the game and gazed at my twitter feed, I saw of a lot of “Trade Luongo!” and a lot of panicking over a just under .500 record for the first few games of the regular season. Mostly, it was all about how Luongo lost the game for the Canucks and it was entirely his fault. So I’ve taken it upon myself to do some proverbial ‘pumping of tires’. Why you all ask? Simple, I have a good memory of how dreadful goaltending was in this city before the likes of Roberto Luongo.

As I stated in my tweet: @Aviewfromabroad “Problem isn’t #Luongo . Problem is the wanna-be fans that bought into the “2nd coming” hype that was built about him. #Takeaccountability” I never bought into the whole “LuonGod” hype.

He is a good goalie, but at the same time, he was still just a human who will have his bad days like you or I. Unfortunately for Luongo, he is now in a market that actually gives a hoot of how he performs on the ice instead of about 4500 fans in Miami. I also understand the whole “with the position comes the scrutiny” baggage but when the baggage is more like the cargo space of a 747, how is one supposed to ‘carry’ all that without some self-doubt? It’s close to impossible, regardless of talent level. I’m not trying to psycho-babble you all the death, I’m just saying that perhaps instead of jumping on Lu’s case constantly, take a step back and let him breathe.

Luongo Waving to the Vancouver crowd. Will it be goodbye soon?

For me, I want to give Luongo some time to prove himself. It is a new season after all. Although for some, this just a continuation of all the bad games Luongo has played as a Canuck.  I want him to build up some confidence that has seemingly been lost and play like a machine more often than not. So far in this very young season, he’s not been great. To help him out as a fan, I thought it would be a good idea for me to “pump his tires” because despite all the hype and the bashing, I would rather have Roberto Luongo (as is) than Dan Cloutier, Corey Hirsch, Alfie Michaud, Troy Gamble, Petr Skudra, Bob Essensa, Kevin Weekes, Felix Potvin etc. etc. etc. Why, do some of you ask? I’ve seen awful, and it has been far worse than Roberto Luongo.

For those of you that don’t recognize some of those names, it’s because they didn’t last very long in this market. Let’s take Petr Skudra for example. He was one of Dan Cloutier’s backups. Did you know an angry fan actually used his name as an auction item on eBay? The description was to the effect of a Canucks’ back up goaltender, with a big five hole and no glove.  The starting bid was $1 CAD. I’m not sure if anyone ever even made a bid, but it was at the time, quite amusing. Oddly enough, I am waiting for some know-it-all ‘fan’ to put Luongo up for auction on eBay with the description of “Vezina nominated, gold medal winning goalie that can’t please a fan base no matter what he does”. I’d at least start the bidding at $5…out of ‘respect’ of course.

It’s good to know that I am not the only one out there that feels  Luongo is getting too much heat. However, I believe he can and should be better, but I’m not going to go off demanding Mike Gillis and his management and coaching staff try to trade him immediately. The thing is, I have this belief (and statistical history to back it up) that Luongo will pull it together sooner than later. Here are some from the twitterverse that feel the same way after the 4-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday Night:

  • @lyteforce: If Luongo were to reverse global warming, people would blame him for it being too cold. #Canucks #lousfault
  • @patersonjeff: Can dump on #Canucks goaltending, but how about forwards who have 1 even strength goal in last 10 periods. That don’t cut it
  • @j_carpenter_What difference does it make? if Luongo lets in 1 goal or 4..If the #Canucks dont score any they’re not gonna win..They will pull it together
  • @bobcam27-Luongo sure was terrible on the power play tonight. I don’t remember him getting a single shot on goal. #Canucks

We’re all good at playing ‘arm-chair’ GM from time to time, and I certainly will be the first to admit I do it as well, but how many times do so many of us have to put out virtual trades with the involvement of Roberto Luongo in them? How about we trade those guys that aren’t scoring? How about we trade the whole blue line? I guess because it’s easier to blame the goaltender, and particularly, Roberto Luongo. I’m asking you for a 20 game grace period to stop. Please.  For the next few games that Luongo plays, instead of going “Trade Luongo!”, perhaps a little encouragement might help.  The power of positivity is a pretty cool thing, even though I’m not a big time New Age follower, there is truth in it.

I don’t mind ‘pumping Roberto’s tires’ more often than not, a pumped tire usually gets you further ahead.  Not to mention,  it sucks to run on a flat. Besides, if you leave it deflated too long, it might just damage the rim and you’ll have to replace the whole wheel.

That’s how I see things…through the plexi-glass.