Top Ten: Canucks make St. Louis Sing the Blues

After an amazing Olympic run by the Canadian men’s and women’s national hockey teams, it’s great to be back watching some NHL hockey. It’s great to be back watching our Vancouver Canucks.

Eddie Lack backstops the Canucks to 1-0 vs the Blues. Lack is also 3-0 vs the Blues this season. Photo Credit: Jeff Vinnick NHL/via Getty Images

Eddie Lack backstops the Canucks to 1-0 vs the Blues. Lack is also 3-0 vs the Blues this season. Photo Credit: Jeff Vinnick NHL/via Getty Images

Last night, the St. Louis Blues came to town and lost to the Canucks 1-0 in regulation. I wouldn’t consider it the most entertaining game, but it’s far from the most boring I’ve seen either. The most important part of last night was, it stopped the bleeding (momentarily). The seven game losing streak was snapped. Here are a few things I had go through my mind last night before, during and after the game with the Blues.

  1. Ryan Kesler Injury: When David Backes gave the injury report to the Vancouver media, it was a little upsetting to hear that Kesler is far more hurt than originally thought. Backes made it sound like Kesler might have suffered a broken hand from the Olympics.
  2. Ryan Kesler Trade Rumour: Still a big topic today, Kesler was rumoured (by Louis Jean @LouisJean_TVA) to have asked to be traded earlier on in the season. The rampant speculation as to why he wants to be traded range from personal family reasons, not liking playing for Tortorella, not wanting to be in Vancouver anymore due to team decline…the list goes on. The one constant for those said by Kesler, his agent were the reports are false and his agent even went as far to call it “BS”. GM Mike Gillis did not confirm or deny any sort of trade talks involving Kesler.
  3.  Kassian, Richardson, Booth: The most noticeable line out for the Canucks vs the Blues last night. Booth and Kassian both had their moments driving to the net, making some fancy plays and had a lot of jump in their game. All of that would not have been possible if not for the solid play along the boards and away from the puck to create space for them by Richardson.
  4. Olympians: So players from both teams were recognized pre-game for their Olympic participation and accomplishments. It was great to hear Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo great a rousing ovation for their contributions for team Canada before the Canucks, Luongo and Hamhuis got theirs. Swedish Canucks players, Edler and Daniel Sedin had solid games. Their Olympic play crept into their play for their club team.
  5. Eddie: Although spectacular when he had to be, Eddie Lack stopped 20 of 20 shots to get his third NHL shutout this season, the best save of the night had to go to another, Eddie, Alex Edler.
  6. One Was Enough, For Now: Jannik Hansen scored the only goal of the game. with a heads up pass from Sestito and a burst of speed from Hansen himself. Here is the GoPro view of it from Halak’s net. 
  7. Sedinery: Although it hasn’t come back to what Canucks fans have been accustomed to, I saw flashes of it last night with Burrows. I have full confidence, as does John Tortorella, this could be a spark to the last stretch of the team’s season. Daniel and Burrows need to score, regularly to get this on the right track.
  8. Diaz is the New Salo: Alex Edler has seemed to have calmed down again. I give a lot of that credit to the work and play of Raffi Diaz and his new found partner in Edler. Hopefully as this continues, we just might see All-Star Edler once again, instead of “All Star” Edler.
  9. Oh Captain, My Captain: Looks like Hank is back closer to 100%  in regards to his rib injury. He looked confident and rested out there. The Olympic break was just what he needed.
  10. Powerplay Tools: …and a Hammer isn’t one of them. I am not quite sure what the coaches are thinking when Dan Hamhuis on the PP with Garrison at the other point. Hamhuis does a lot of things a defenceman should do well, but QB’ing a PP isn’t one of them. I dare say even Bieksa would be a better choice in the matter. Perhaps rethinking the backend of the PP is something that needs to be revisited by the team and the coaching staff. Find something or someone that has more to offer from the blue line than Hammer…like a rifle like shot?
Hansen scores only goal in game on Halak.

Hansen scores only goal in game on Halak.

 

Not a bad way to get back into writing about our Canucks and a win after the Olympic break. Catch you on Friday in an all important game versus the Wild. Boy, when was that ever an issue in the last decade.

Justine Galo

@Aviewfromabroad

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