The Curse of the Predators

I will not be at the game on Thursday night at Rogers Arena. The Vancouver Canucks will be facing off against the Nashville Predators. In fact, like I wrote in the previous blog, I will probably cross the Fraser River and watch the game in the suburbs. Since the existence of the franchise, I have never seen another team beat them while I am watching a game, in person, that involves the Preds. In short, I’m cursed.
Whenever I tell people about the this ‘curse’, I usually get a chuckle. In fact, I’ve had a few people down right not believe me. However, I have some examples of how this curse is closer to the truth than the myth.
I am either the Predators' good luck charm or I am a curse to any team they play when I am present for the game.

I am either the Predators’ good luck charm or I am a curse to any team they play when I am present for the game.

Dec 22, 2009: The Vancouver Canucks had a home game vs the Nashville Predators. I decided to watch a movie with my then 12 year old daughter that night. The Canucks were up 4-0, as soon as we got out of Scotiabank Theatres downtown and passed by Earl’s Restaurant near the movie theatre and Patrick Hornqvist ruined Luongo’s shutout near the 15 minute mark of the third period. I glanced at the TV, the game was on, the minute I saw the screen, Preds score. We later proceeded to meet up at La Bodega for a birthday party and I told my spouse about the Earl’s incident and he shook his head. Although not at the arena, being in the downtown core was enough to give the Preds a little luck.
March 20, 2011: I was in Toronto on business. I arrived a couple of days early and on the Sunday, a friend and I drove down to Buffalo to watch this game. These were when the 5PM starts started to show up in schedules and I forgot. So we arrived at the (then called)HSBC Arena part-way through the second period. The Sabres were up 3-1. My friend mentioned, I guess we chose a good day, the boys are up! So after a couple of beers and a period after, Blake Geoffrion decided to make a fool out of me and score two third period goals to complete his hattrick, to send the game to OT.  I was shaking my head. I had yet to tell my friend about my “Predator Curse”. As a joke, I said, I betcha Erat will score just to make my day. Guess who scrored? 4-3 in OT, the Sabres lost.  So en route back to Toronto, I told my friend of how the Nashville Predators always win when I am in the arena watching. He threw his hat at me and called me “Nashville’s Good Luck Charm”.
May 7, 2011: It was the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Game 5. The Vancouver Canucks were up 3-1 in the series and my spouse told me it was time to ‘break the curse’. He told me I was going to this game with him and the Canucks will advance to the next round. I thought about for a few days, and well, I reluctantly accepted and attended the game. Well, let’s just say, Joel Ward was determined to make sure my curse was in tact. Tied 2-2 after the second period, just over a minute into the third, Ward makes it 3-2 for the Predators. I had to close my eyes and shake my head. The first thoughts going through my mind were, “I wish I said no to Chris. Why am I here?”. He killed any sort of hope I had in about four minutes after he scored his last goal and scored to make it 4-2. Kesler made a late attempt to try for a comeback but fell short 4-3.
By that cup run, I have been to about 20 Nashville games in a few different arenas including the ACC, the then-called Gaylord Entertainment, Complex Rogers Arena, the Saddledome, and as well as that woe-ful day in Buffalo.  All the games with me in attendance? The Predators have won. So when it comes to the January 23, 2014 game vs. Nashville for the Canucks, my spouse is taking a very good friend of mine instead. I will not be to blame if the Canucks somehow manage to lose that game. I will as far away from Rogers Arena as I can muster and away from giving any winning vibes to the Nashville Predators.
Justine Galo

Top 10: Torts-less In Oiler Country

In a night where the Vancouver Canucks won’t have head coach, John Tortorella, behind the bench until the end of the Olympic break for game situations, they take on the Edmonton Oilers with their new netminder, Ben Scrivens, between the pipes.  Mike Sullivan makes his Canucks debut as head coach during Torts’ 15 day, 6 game suspension.
Tonight is a night the Vancouver Canucks need to play catch up and make some ground on the teams that are leading the Pacific Division and the Oilers, more often than not, are a sure two points. Here are 10 things I picked up during the game, via twitter, television and whatever other media you can throw my way.
  1. Hashtag of the night #FreeTorts: Many of Canucks Nation not happy with the suspension for head coach, John Tortorella, and have started a hashtag about it. I’m sure it will be kept on until the return of the charged-up leader.

    John Tortorella's suspension has Canuck Nation united in #FreeTorts

    John Tortorella’s suspension has Canuck Nation united in #FreeTorts

  2. Ironman Streak Dies: Henrik Sedin did not start a game for the first time in about 10 years and 679 games. Have a seat Hank, you deserve the rest. The boys got this.
  3. Kellen Lain: If you play him more than two seconds, he shows he can score a goal with some ice time. Lain gets his first NHL goal in the first period.

    Lain scored his 1st NHL and logged a career high in TOI. (photo credit : Vancouver Sun)

    Lain scored his 1st NHL and logged a career high in TOI. (photo credit : Vancouver Sun)

  4. Boom Boom is Back:  Kevin Bieksa continues to show he can still go toe to toe dropping the gloves with Jones. Juice has been fiesty lately and fighting in almost every single game since LA.
  5. Tweet of the Night :  @kb34myhart The last time Burrows scored was before Hank’s ironman streak started– Poor Burr, just can’t buy a goal.

  6. Kassquatch is Beast: Zack Kassian scored a goal, made a few Henrik-like passes and shows just how fast he can skate. At 23, he is still inconsistent, but we can see the flashes of power forward brilliance the kid has. Cody, whaaaa??? Oh yeah, Zack scored the game winner as well.
  7. Shutout Mucked Up: Luongo was brilliant in this game, but Sam Gagner pushed Luongo out of his crease. Lu had to dive back in, over Gagner, had the puck in his net. Now, if there was ever a goal to overturn, that would have been it. Seriously NHL officials, how is that not goalie interference? Despite that, Luongo stopped 28 of 29 shots and looks ready for Sochi.
  8. Scoring Woes Continue: The Canucks as a collective still have only scored 7 goals in their last six games with a 3-3-0 record. Their goalies have been spectacular without much goal support.
  9. Bottom Half Pickings: The Canucks aren’t winning against the top teams in their division yet, but they are collecting the ‘gimme’ points as they should to keep in the hunt. Sometimes, you need to work your way from the bottom up, and with the depleted line-up, as a fan, I will take the two points where I can get them. However, when facing team like Edmonton, more than two goals would be nice to see on the score sheet.
  10. MIA: Torts (suspension) Henrik- (Rib/Finger, DTD) Santorelli (Shoulder, IR) Stanton (Left Ankle, IR) Alberts (Head, IR) Schroeder (Foot/Ankle, IR)
 The Canucks won 2-1, but not without giving the fans a bit of a heartattack in the last few minutes of the third period. It set the twitterverse on edge and the cynicism came out in droves, it felt like a meeting of disgruntled divorcees bitching about how good they used to have it before the struggles came into their lives. However, the two points were the Canucks’ and all was well (sort of) in Canuck Nation once again.
Kevin Bieksa hits Ryan Jones before scrapping with him.  (photo credit: Edmonton Journal)

Kevin Bieksa hits Ryan Jones before scrapping with him. (photo credit: Edmonton Journal)

Up next is home versus Nashville. I will not be attending that game in person. In fact, I am even thinking of cross the Fraser River to the suburbs to keep away. I like this short two game winning streak the Canucks are on right now, so I will stay away. Those nasty Predators always seem to win when I am present in the building they are playing and it doesn’t have to be the Canucks, but I will tell you that story another time.  Tonight, I’m content. The Oilers still suck and the Canucks sucked less for a 2-1 win.
Justine Galo
@Aviewfromabroad

Sukh Purewal: Fixing the Power Play

It used to be the strength of this team: the powerplay. Gone are the days of the number 1 ranked unit in the league. It’s hard to fathom how far they have actually dropped. Heading into the Coyotes game, the Canucks were ranked 23rd in the league clicking at a success rate of 15.4%. That number is going to drop after an 0 for 7 effort against the Coyotes. Gone are Ehrhoff and Salo who helped make the powerplay what it was. But it is hard to believe that even with Henrik, Daniel, Kesler and Edler still around, and with the addition of Jason Garrison, how bad it looks. The team is struggling to get into the zone. If you can’t get into the zone, you’re not going to score. It’s simple.

What Glen Gulutzan is doing just isn’t working, and it seems like he isn’t really willing to change anything. Game after game we saw Dan Hamhuis on the ice as part of the first powerplay unit. No disrespect to Dan, but he is not exactly the type of guy who strikes fear into an opponent on the man advantage. We’ve seen Tom Sestito get powerplay action, Dale Weise has been out there.

The personnel and the way they set up doesn’t make sense a lot of the time. It’s frustrating when you see Henrik setting up on the left wall. Setting up on that side completely eliminates Kesler from the man advantage, and allows teams to zone in on Garrison’s shot from the right point and like I mentioned before it doesn’t help having Hamhuis as the defenceman on the left side.

With the first unit, the Canucks should set up on the right hash with Kesler and Garrison on the point. Let Daniel and Henrik do their thing down low and along the wall. Kassian, Burrows, or Higgins are all players who can make an impact standing in front of the net. With this set-up, not only is Garrison’s shot a threat, Kesler and Garrison can play catch at the point and considering they are both playing on their off sides, they are in prime position to one-time the puck at any moment.

I get that it’s hard to overcome some of the injuries the team has had. They haven’t had the personnel they’ve wanted. Missing Burrows has caused the team a lot of problems. He has missed most of the season thanks to a broken foot and then a broken jaw. The Sedin’s have struggled mightily at 5 on 5 without him, and that’s likely led to their powerplay struggles. Burrows will likely be back Saturday, and I believe he will be put right back on the top line and he will hopefully be able get the Twins going, both at 5 on 5 and with a man advantage.

Edler being injured for the last month or so has also caused the Canucks to experiment a little bit. We have seen Chris Tanev get a chance to play the point. Tanev’s shot has gotten better since he first came into the league, but let’s be real, it’s still not great. The team has missed Edler’s shot. He is a guy who can make the first or second unit better, depending on where he is used. He and Bieksa would do a great job quarterbacking the second unit. Edler and Garrison on the top unit would terrify all of the penalty killers and whichever Canuck has the unfortunate pleasure of standing in front of the net with those two unleashing bombs.

I understand that it is a tough fix but it is something the team should be practicing more. The Canucks struggle to score at the best of time. They’ve scored one goal in the last 200 minutes of game action. They have to take advantage when they go up a man. They Canucks are going to make the playoffs. Their goaltending, especially when Luongo is back, is too good for them to not. But unless they start scoring more goals they won’t make any noise. They need the powerplay to start clicking. That might mean pulling the trigger on a trade for a sniper. Their penalty killing is remarkable. If they could get the other part of their special teams going, who knows what this team would be capable of.


 

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