Core Of the Matter: Now or Never?

It’s true, the Canucks version of the “Core Four” is aging. The Sedins, Kevin Bieksa and Alex Burrows are the elder statesman on the team. They aren’t those upstart young guys from Alain Vigneault’s Manitoba Moose or a couple of 1999 first round ‘wonder twin’ draft picks. They are the leaders on this team and this playoff berth shouldn’t be one they take for granted. For all they know, it could be their best and last chance at a Stanley Cup.

This could be their last real chance for a Cup. Is it time to play like playoff beasts?

This could be their last real chance for a Cup. Is it time to play like playoff beasts?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 This was the question on TSN 1040 Radio’s Midday show. Sekeres and Price thought it would be something to chime into, and as I was thinking about it driving, it could very well be it for Bieksa, Burrows and the Sedins.

Three are 34 and Bieksa is 33. 2011 was four years ago and all were in the prime of their careers. This time around, they are battling Father Time along with the critics and their opponents. So how could this actually be good for these four and guys like Vrbata, Higgins and Hamhuis, who aren’t spring chickens either.

Knowing they are all nearing the twilight of their careers, I could see these guys giving it their all, especially Henrik and Daniel. They are going to have to play their asses off and as a former teammate once told the press, “Compete like bastards!” and reach the one award that has eluded them.

Their first round opponents have a young upstart line in Monahan and Gaudreau, steadied by veteran, Jiri Hudler. Their ability to score is strong and they are fast. Their defence is mobile and are offensively minded. The Flames will give it all they have against the Canucks. Although Willie Desjardins will be rolling four lines, and the younger members of this team will have the opportunity to contribute, the Canucks “Core Four” are going to have to do this…

And this…

And definitely some of this…

It will harder this time around, but if they succeed, it will be so much more rewarding.

@Aviewfromabroad

Vancouver General Hospital, So it Seems

Miller gets looked at by Mike Bernstein as he went down awkwardly versus the New York Islanders. Photo credit: Toronto Sun

Miller gets looked at by Mike Bernstein as he went down awkwardly versus the New York Islanders. Photo credit: Toronto Sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Sunday night, Hansen inadvertently bowled Miller down and now it seems Miller has a leg injury and he had to leave the game.  In the next couple of days, the Canucks will know if Miller will be out on the IR or just be day-to-day. Jakob Markstrom has been called up from the AHL in the meantime and perhaps he might even see some NHL playing time before the Canucks are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention (thanks Torts). There has been no time-table set for Miller’s return, or if he returns this season. Regardless, what a blow for the Canucks. Losing forwards and even defencemen are one thing, but goaltenders don’t grow on trees and one at the calibre of Miller’s have all been signed elsewhere.

Miller now joins:

C-Brad Richardson – Out with a foot injury and has missed 15 games.

D- Kevin Bieksa –   Broken hand has Juice miss 14 games.

D- Frank Corrado– Illness is what has kept Frankie out of the lineup and Biega was called up to replace him. He’s now missed 11 games.

C- Nick Bonino– Has now missed seven games due to a lower body injury. However, it looks like Bonino could come back to the lineup this road trip.

D- Alex Edler– has an upper body injury. He has now missed four games and is dearly missed on the first pairing of the blue line.

D- Chris Tanev– Edler’s partner is also out four games now with an upper body injury.

RW- Alex Burrows– sustained a lower body injury on this road trip vs the New York Rangers. He is listed as day to day but there is also promise of him coming back to the line up this road trip.

 

The already depleted squad now has an  injury in every position on the team. Luckily for the Canucks a couple of their wingers know how to play centre and have covered for both Bonino and Richardson while they are still hurt. Everyone who is injured, with the exception of Frank Corrado, are players on the roster sheet for opening night in October. That’s a third of the team. Since January 16, when Richardson went down, the Canucks have lost 58 man-games to the injury bug. At this point, Linden might have the come out of retirement and the pressbox to join the team if no one comes back soon. 

This is going to be a tough test for the remaining core players and the young guys. If Sunday versus the Islanders was an indication of how they are going to play, it looks promising. Until then, I’m hoping a speedy recovery to all the Canucks in the infirmary. Let’s get better sooner than later, and ensure a playoff spot.

 

@Aviewfromabroad

Three Up, Three Down: Winnipeg Jets Grounded at YVR

When I entered the arena last night, I felt a different vibe. I knew it was going to be good game. I just didn’t think it would be as good as it turned out. With a good number of displaced Jets fans, many former ‘Peggers, the 18,000+ seat library known as Rogers Arena, was going to be rocking just a little more than usual. From the start of the anthem, Jets fans chimed in with their famous, “TRUE NORTH” shout during O Canada. It was on. The first meeting between these two teams this year was going to be a back and forth tilt.

Jets’ Anthony Peluso decided to show how physical the Jets were going to be by getting the first three penalties of the game, in succession. As soon as Peluso was out of the box for his first stint, he gets a cross-checking penalty and then had to answer the bell with Derek Dorsett. Dorsett stood up for his teammate and ended up with an instigator penalty from that fight. The Jets are the most penalized team in the league and they don’t mind throwing their big bodies around with hit after hit. The Canucks were in for a physical match-up.

Numbers:

  • The Winnipeg Jets out-hit the Vancouver Canucks 31-12, with only Enstrom and Pardy as skaters without registering hits. There were three Jets players with 4 hits each.
  • Alex Edler lead all skaters with 26:16 TOI, playing on all 6 PPs and 3PKs.
  • The powerplay went 0/6, but the insertion of Clendening on the 2nd unit seemed to have revived puck movement. We could see a possible replacement to the ever so missed PP QB that the Canucks had in Ehrhoff. No goals, but both units looked good out there. It’s just time to get some finish.
Horvat and Ronalds Kenins celebrate after his tying goal versus the Winnipeg Jets. Two goals in three games for the Latvian. Photo Credit: The Province Sports

Horvat and Ronalds Kenins celebrate after his tying goal versus the Winnipeg Jets. Two goals in three games for the Latvian. Photo Credit: The Province Sports

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Up:

  1. Henrik & Daniel Sedin: In classic Sedinery fashion, the twins look like their 2010 selves last night. I was surprised how ‘quickly’ they were moving the puck. I was pleased to see Daniel took 4 shots and on the power plays, although no one scored, the Sedins dictated the movement and their movement of the puck was brilliant.
  2. Alex Burrows: How valuable has he become again? I’m still baffled how John Tortorella wanted him traded when he suffered two major injuries and wasn’t himself. Burrows was hitting, he was instrumental on the PK and caused great traffic for the power play. How about this goal, from Henrik and Daniel and on his knees, classic Burrows. 
  3. Alex Edler: Seeing Alex Edler playing some of the best hockey he has played in quite some time is a treat. His confidence is growing and in all truth, as much as I wanted him traded last season, I’m glad I am not part of the Canucks brain trust. He kept plays alive all through the game, and bailed out his partners a few times as well. With the unfortunate stick breaking in the defensive zone was just an unlucky play for Edler. However, in OT when everyone thought he was going to drop pass at neutral ice, he decides to channel in his inner Paul Coffey and carry the puck into the zone and shot it. Edler is finally getting to know what type of defenceman he is, and it’s great to see a coach encourage it again.

Burrows on his knees goal tying goal.

 

 Three Down:

  1. Dan Hamhuis: Not a good night for Hammer. He was beaten by a speedy Blake Wheeler for the Jets’ first goal on a breakaway. On the disallowed goal for the Jets, Hammer did not play his man tight enough and although it didn’t count, it left the shooter open. But a bad night for Dan Hamhuis is still better than good nights for some defencemen in the NHL.
  2. Chris Higgins: Higgins needs to find his finish. He had 4 SOG but nothing went in. Although he’s the only with these problems on the team, he’s the one that’s eating up 2nd line minutes not scoring.
  3. Willie Desjardins: Against a big hitting team like Winnipeg, you’d figure that Kassian would have worked in the lineup that night. With Dorsett out with a misconduct, many out in Canuckland were wondering who was left to stand up for their teammates? As big as Edler is, he doesn’t have the mean streak of Ohlund.  Kassian doesn’t mind mixing it up at all, and it made me wish at times, we kept Sestito around just for some backup.

Goal of the Game:

Luca Sbisa delivering the deep dish pass from Vrbata after doing a quick criss-cross to his forehand and rifles the OT winner past Pavelec.

Honourable Mention Goal by the young Latvian, Ronalds Kenins, from Horvat and Clendening. This goal has Jim Benning written all over it. Maybe he (Benning) is on to something.

Probably the best game I’ve seen for 60+ minutes from the Canucks against an opponent with some jam and in contention for a playoff spot. The Winnipeg Jets are proving they are a force to be reckoned with and the Canucks need to find ways to adapt their game to each team. Hopefully that’s a lesson they take with them when the face the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.

@Aviewfromabroad

 

Three Up, Three Down: January 5th

After the Christmas break, the Vancouver Canucks are 2-1-1 in their four games played. Nothing spectacular, but five out of a possible eight points isn’t so bad considering their opponents: Ducks, Sharks, Kings and Redwings. A much different cry than the October schedule that consisted of a good chunk of playing teams from Alberta. Based on last season, they would have been lucky to get two points from these four games, maybe three. However, there is no longer a John Tortorella or a Mike Gillis at the helm and just from being an observant fan, there is a different feeling from the guys we see on the ice. Despite recent struggles, they are fighting through it, instead of just succumbing to what befalls them.

Over the last four games, here are three of the guys that have been solid for the Canucks and here three of the guys who have been struggling.

THREE UP

1. Ryan Miller– Despite having some rough games in the month of December, Ryan Miller has found his form since the holiday break. He has been tracking the puck well and despite the late in the game loss to LA, he stopped 37 of 40 shots the Kings threw his way. In the OT loss to the Anaheim Ducks, Miller posted 28 saves of 30 shots while being absolutely stellar in the game versus the Detroit Redwings, last Saturday. In the four games Miller has stopped 126 of 133 SOG. His save % is at an incredible .947. If not for the play of Ryan Miller, this could be a different four games for the Canucks.

Edler2. Alex Edler– He could possibly be nicknamed “Steady Eddie” for his play the over this four game stretch. He recorded three points including a PPG versus Detroit. His +/- rating is at a +1 for these four games and the ability for him to just calmly and confidently move the puck out of this zone, gaining centre before shooting it into the other end has been a night and day difference from last season’s version of Alex Edler. Edler is looking a lot more comfortable this year on the blue line than last. He and Tanev have been a solid pairing and a bright spot for the Canucks D.

3. Alex Burrows– Say what you want about Alex Burrows and his often agitating demeanor on the ice, he is probably the most coach-able person on the team. He is  versatile. Ask him to play on the penalty kill, he is money. Ask him to play down with Horvat and Dorsett, he gives that line some good chances at the net. Ask him to play on the PP as the man in front and suddenly the very quiet power play is making a little more noise. After such a terrible and injury ridden season under John Tortorella, it’s great to see Burrows back to being Burrows under Willie Desjardins. Hard to fault him for what he does on the ice. He doesn’t seem to do much wrong. Sure we could have Burrows potting a few more to the back of the net, but I’m just glad to see Burrows feeling confident in two-way play once more and on special teams, I can’t name one person that plays them as well as Burr.

As some guys are finding their grooves, and finding their games, there are other guys on the team that have been invisible, struggling that it costs the team on the scoreboard or just plays you see and all you can do is shake your head.

THREE DOWN

Kevin-Bieksa-and-tiny-Hamhuis-600x3001. Kevin Bieksa– It’s no secret I am not the biggest fan of Bieksa’s play on the ice, and although I have thought him to be serviceable, he’s not by any means a ‘franchise blue-liner’ that some fans make him out as, but everyone knows I love the way he stands up for his teammates. I admire the way he conducts himself with the media and the fans, and his work and contributions outside the world of hockey. Kevin Bieksa is a damn good teammate, but his play since the injury to Dan Hamhuis has been far from stellar. The casual clearings of the pucks and the untimely penalties have really been glaring. They are even worse to see when he was paired up with Luca Sbisa. Things have somewhat steadied with Stanton on the other side and Juice has fought his way back to a -2 after being -7 in his +/- rating. One thing I will say, Bieksa looked pretty good versus Detroit. He made some really timely plays and maybe, just maybe, Hamhuis will be back to get Juice back on track soon.

2. Chris Higgins– Like Mikael Samuelsson before him, Higgins is a streaky player. However this long streak of being goal-less and invisible is really adding up to about a calendar month, maybe more. During this four game span, Higgins has recorded only six shots on goal. Yes, the rest of the team hasn’t really been shooting much either, but Higgins has enough speed to get himself open and take more shots. I was expecting a better year from Higgins but as of now, he’s been more often quiet than not.

3. Nick Bonino: According to Raffi (yes, that Raffi, Baby Beluga, Raffi) on twitter, the “Bonino Phone” has stopped ringing. In fact, it has rang since Dec. 13th versus the New York Rangers in a loss. Bonino is stagnant in terms of point production. He has recorded one assist in last four games. He centres the 2nd unit powerplay and some of it can be attributed to the Sedin PP unit taking up 1:30 of the 2min PP time, Bonino’s unit hasn’t produced and has looked lack lustre. Bonino needs to find a way to start contributing to the score-sheet and fast, because the Canucks aren’t looking like they won that Anaheim trade at the moment or remotely feel they ‘broke even’ on the deal. One positive about Nick Bonino in the last little while is that his faceoff % has gone up to the 50% range from the 30% range he was recording earlier in the season.

Hopefully we can get the whole ship working on all cylinders as they were in late October, early November, once again,  but each line, each player needs to be picking up the slack more when they see teammates struggle, but with the Canucks having been out-shot 133-75 in these last four games doesn’t build a lot of hope in some of the fan base. These were top quality opponents. The Sharks, Ducks, Kings and Wings are no joke. Sure you can get away with it on the Oilers, Sabres, Flames even to an extent and the Coyotes, but if the Canucks wish to have any success in the Western Conference and specifically the Pacific Division, they need to start getting more pucks to the net, causing rebounds and making opportunities.

@Aviewfromabroad

Top 10: The State of Florida

Back to back games starting on Sunday for the Vancouver Canucks in Florida and then to Tampa Bay on Monday. Sunday afternoon was a hard game for many of the Canucks fans to watch. It was the first time in eight years the Canucks had to face Roberto Luongo as an opponent. Strange times  in Canuckland indeed. Vancouver won the game in a shootout with a goal from Nik Jensen 4-3 . The next night the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Canucks by the identical score.  Some of the happenings were definitely memorable and a few moments would have been left better off forgotten. So from the “Sunshine State”, here is CanucksCorner’s

Top 10.

1. Luongo may not be a Canuck anymore, but it would be hard to tell he wasn’t, if not for that Panthers t-shirt.

Luongo in his Panthers gear chilling with old Canucks teammates.

2. Alex Burrows scored three goals and had three assists in the two games in Sunrise and Tampa. The winger became the ringer we have come to know and love over the years. After playing 30+ games without a goal, he is scoring in bunches. Now tied with David Booth with five goal on the season in about half the games. Here’s one on the power play:

3. Nik Jensen has brought some youth and enthusiasm to the Canucks line-up. Scoring the shootout winner against Roberto Luongo and reviving his line mates, Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows. The line looked good in both games. Jensen has good hockey sense and seems to just want to nothing more than score. Good. This team could use a little more scoring these days. Here’s his goal on Luongo and the Haida hat winner video:

4. Love him or hate him, John Tortorella was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning Stanley Cup wining team in 2004. He and a few other members of that team were honoured in Tampa Bay last night, and the usually aloof Torts, was gracious and embraced the moment at the Tampa Bay Times Forum  from an appreciative crowd. The first 30 seconds of this reel sees Torts smiling and waving to the crowd.

5. Goat of the Tampa Bay game: Ryan Stanton doing his best Dan Hamhuis impersonation and scoring on his own goalie twice. Lack had no chance on those ricochets off Stanton’s body and the Lightning were up 3-0. Burrows scores two to battle the Canucks back and Hansen brings it within one with a shorthanded goal but still fell short 4-3.

6. Great Save!:Kevin Bieksa makes the best save of the night against the Panthers on Sunday afternoon. Really? Bieksa?

7. Tweet of the Night:I think Jason Botchford said it best:

This says it all down in Sunrise, FLA versus the Panthers, and all the goalie hoopla that went on over the last year and this past weekend.

8. .500 Hockey: It’s just not going to cut it with the Canucks playoff hopes dwindling. There are only 11 games left in the regular season. It would take a fall from the Dallas Stars, and an incredible and consistent resurgence from the Canucks to make the playoffs now. I don’t see it happening but with the way the team has spiralled since January, many of the bandwagon has now found  a new place to plant their behinds. Image courtesy of @CrownRoyal22
Look who's driving!

9. MIA: Ryan Kesler is rumoured to be missing action for about two weeks. This is not a good sign for the Canucks who are completely depleted down the middle. From the looks of it, Kesler won’t be back until the last week of the regular season.  The injury happened in Winnipeg and Kesler didn’t complete the rest of the trip. He went back to Vancouver to have the extent of his injury assessed. The infirmary is still full. Kesler joins, Richardson, Daniel and Andrew Alberts.

10.Good-bye Sweet Bromance: Probably the saddest thing about this whole weekend is not  realizing that Canucks aren’t probably going to make the playoffs, but the Bromance between Roberto Luongo and Eddie Lack  (at least as teammates) got some closure in that 4-3 shootout win over the Panthers. Thing 3 beats Thing 1 in a skills competition.

The road trip brought out some pretty good things and still glaringly bad things about the Canucks’ play. The good is, they are scoring more than just one goal again. The bad is, they are playing .500 hockey. This team should be winning but their defensive lapses keep coming back to haunt them. Three goals for, usually means a victory, but the Canucks just can’t seem to have a winning streak beyond one game. Let’s hope the last 11 games turn up some better fortune for Vancouver.

Justine Galo

@Aviewfromabroad 

PS: Since the luck of the Canucks haven’t been of the norm these days, I am going to do something out of the norm and attend the Canucks versus Predators game. For those curious as to why I don’t attend such games, here’s a little reminder to that very subject. [ The Curse of the Predators ]