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?

Top 10 of Number 10: Pavel Bure

All throughout that Saturday morning, from the minute I woke up to the minute I stepped out of my home, I thought about how many moments Pavel Bure has given to this city. Many are caught on camera and probably uploaded on youtube, but there were some that I simply remember sitting in my seat (most likely on the edge) at the Pacific Coliseum watching him live.  As I was riding on the Skytrain downtown to a short work meeting prior to the game, I thought to myself, “You’re one lucky lady.” I grew up in an era of Bure Canucks hockey. A player that was not only revered here in Vancouver, but all over the league and eventually found himself in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Bure Ceremony

Bure Ceremony

Here are my Top 10 Moments of No. 10, Pavel Bure:

  1. First ever game as a Vancouver Canuck versus the Winnipeg Jets: Pavel didn’t score that night, but he must have had five rushes or so up and down the ice. I skipped school that day, drove to TicketMaster at Pacific Coliseum and lined up for stand room only tickets so I could watch Bure that night. I also believe I skipped a volleyball practice, which resulted in my coach benching me for it. It was worth it. I saw exactly why everyone was such a buzz over this guy. He undressed defensemen, he shimmy’ed around opponents and skated faster, better and in more control than anyone I have ever seen before who played in the NHL.
  2. First NHL Goal: I don’t even want to talk about it, how about we just look at it. 
  3. Elbow on Shane Churla: Not one of his classier moments, but it was memorable for sure. Bure was no pushover  and although I do not condone it, the message was simple. He wasn’t one to be messed around with, he will push back. 
  4. Stick to Skate to Stick goal: The kind of goals you mess around with in practice. Bure added a little Pele to this goal and to top it off, it was short-handed. 
  5. Speed: There has never been anyone I have ever seen live that carried that much speed and so much control over the puck. What would spin most players out of control and hurling into the boards, made Bure a HOF’er.
  6. 1994 Double OT Goal vs Calgary: The pass from Jeff Brown, the rest… 
  7. Goal vs The Devils: Dipsy doodle and doh see doh. Bure danced around everyone in the Devils’ zone and scored. 
  8. End to End: There isn’t a Canuck player past or present that can do an end to end rush like Pavel, no one. 
  9. Calling His Shot: Pavel Bure gets a penalty shot on Damian Rhodes but he tells Koharski he’s going 5-hole and gets it. Babe Ruth, what? 
  10. Finally, Rocket to the Rafters: I’ve been waiting for this moment for so many years. It was about time.

The man’s career was one big highlight reel. I am one of the fortunate ones to see most of it from beginning to end. He will  always have his place here now in Vancouver, for that I am thankful. What stuck out the most that night, was when fans, even the younger ones that didn’t get to see him play, saw the videos of Bure highlights, the reactions of “oohs” and “ahhs” were almost like he was performing them live. He was that good.

Thanks Pavel and congratulations.

And then there were four...

And then there were four…

 

Justine Galo

@Aviewfromabroad