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

Follow The Bouncing Ball

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Well that was one way to relax a slumping Canucks lineup. In the 3rd game of Hockey Day in Canada, the Canucks and Flames went to the 5th round of a shootout before the Canucks prevailed. The game featured a line brawl off the opening face off.

Kellan Lain Breaks 50 Year Old NHL Record

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Penalty summary from the first 2 seconds of the game.

24 year old Kellan Lain was playing his first NHL game on Saturday night. Most of his family flew into Vancouver and were watching, when he played for 2 seconds. He was then penalized 5 minutes for fighting, and a game misconduct as part of a massive line brawl that erupted, resulting in over 150 penalty minutes. The previous record for the fastest fight to start an NHL career was 12 seconds, set by John Ferguson, over 50 years ago. Clearly the teams didn’t read my blog post about fighting in the NHL.

There were many subtleties about the game even before the puck was dropped. In an NHL game, the road team submits their starting lineup first; the home team can then review that and submit their own starting lineup. Calgary’s starting 5 was: Kevin Westgarth, Blair Jones, Brian McGrattan, Chris Butler, and Ladislav Smid. Without their goaltender, that’s a combined weight of 1097 pounds. John Tortorella naturally responded by starting his 4th line. All hell broke loose after that. According to The Code, McGrattan had to answer the bell for injuring Andrew Alberts in the previous game between these teams. He is now square with the house as he shed enough blood that they needed to give him a new jersey and scrape the ice to clean the blood off.

And Then It Got Weird

At the start of the first intermission, Tortorella decided to go all Ghost Ops and storm the Flames dressing room. At the start of the season I was not a fan of Tortorella but I’ve become a big fan of his intensity, and how honest he is with the players and media. But this is just bush league. This happened after the 1st period, which took about one hour to play. Plenty of time to mull it over and think about things like a rational human being. The best part of this has to be that tough guy McGratton has to hold back Torts and Flames assistant coach Clint Malarchuk. Cooler heads prevailed, but Coach Tortorella will most definitely be disciplined by the league for this mess. The whole situation is an embarrassment for the NHL and hockey as a whole.

So what does it all mean? 

For all the moral victories, blocked shots, fights and bloodshed, the Canucks record in the last 10 games is 2-5-3. It’s all a wonderful distraction from the fact that the Canucks needed 5 rounds of the shootout to beat the slumping Calgary Flames. Yes – the Flames have been playing even worse than they normally play. Previous to this win, they had scored a total of 1 goal in their last 3 games.

First prize is the Stanley Cup, no one cares who comes  in 2nd place. We can only hope that the Canucks can get into the playoffs and get hot at the right time. If the team wants to go deep into the playoffs, they will have to remember the lessons they’ve learned at this point of the season.

UPDATE: John Tortorella has been suspended for 15 days without pay. This amounts to a 6 game suspension. Tortorella is to have no contact with the team before, during or after any games for the duration of the suspension. Calgary coach Bob Hartley has been fined $25,000.

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.

Canucks Report At The Quarter Pole

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After 20 games, the Canucks are 11-7-2. The team managed to post a 5-1-1 record on a long 7 game eastern road trip, ending with 3 victories in extra time – two wins in overtime and one in a shootout. They went 2-1 on a home stand, and have just finished a tough 1-2-1 California road swing.

The team’s 24 points are good enough for 4th in the Pacific Division, and 8th spot in the Western Conference, although the Canucks have played the most games in the entire league at this point in the season. When people say the West is the Best, they’re not kidding – the same 24 points would be good for 2nd place in the Eastern Conference.

The Canucks first line has been scoring, and they’ve got a healthy amount of secondary scoring from many of their bottom 6 forwards and defencemen. At 7-4-1, Luongo posted his best October ever as a Canuck. The team seems to have embraced Tortorella’s new systems and has been playing a high energy style of game that is fun to watch. The one thing the Canucks lack at this point is consistency.

In a previous post, I mentioned that if the Canucks can get through October with an even record, it should shape up to be a great season, and reiterate that now. On any given night the Canucks can play inspired and exciting hockey – a pleasant change from the last couple seasons where the team scored and seemed to sit on 1 goal leads.

So far, so good. As the season goes on, the Canucks should improve their play. Some Canucks threads this season include:

  • Tortorella’s high energy style of coaching, translating to Canucks play on ice
  • Re-signing and resurgence of the Sedin twins
  • Pavel Bure’s jersey retirement
  • Depth (or lack thereof) at any position
  • Ice time for top forwards and defencemen
  • Slow but steady development of Zack Kassian
  • Where is David Booth this week?
  • Great penalty killing, horrible power play
  • Local boy Mike Santorelli having an impact playing for his hometown Canucks

What are some of your early season compliments, gripes or stories this season?